Excerpt from Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Damnation Spring

by Ash Davidson

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson X
Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2021, 464 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2022, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Herschbach
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Rich

He lay for a moment, Colleen's arm draped over him, heavy with sleep: three thirty a.m. on the dot, his body its own alarm clock. He held his breath, trying to slip free without waking her, but the moment his feet touched rug, she sat up. He groaned, getting his shirt on. His back ached from carrying Chub up to the 24-7 yesterday.

"Want me to walk on it?" Colleen asked.

"Maybe tonight."

He rolled his shoulder, laced up his boots. Out back, he let Scout off his chain and loped up the hill after him, into the white dark. His headlamp turned fog to gold. His heart knocked at his ribs. Like some young buck sneaking off to the joyhouse.

I'll think about it, he'd promised Jim Mueller. True to his word, Rich had thought of little else. The kitchen light glowed in the fog behind him, Colleen getting the percolator going, cracking eggs, dropping store bread into the toaster. She wanted another kid so bad it hurt to look at her. He longed to tell her, to roll the plan he'd been drawing up in his head out on the table like a map, but she wouldn't want to think about letting go of the remodel money.

Brambles snagged at his denims. Hack them down to nubs, dig them out by the roots, burn them: blackberries would survive the goddamn apocalypse. Couple more weeks and they'd ripen: Himalayans, long and fat as the first joint of his thumb. First of September they'd bust open and bleed in your hand, bring out the bears. Colleen would bake pies, boil berries down to jam.

Scout trotted ten yards ahead, tethered to Rich, even off his chain. Dog came with a built-in tape measure, same as Rich, who'd never strayed more than a hundred miles from this exact spot.

Years ago, back in the fifties, when Virgil Sanderson had hired the company's first sprayer—the new chemicals kept the brush down, made it faster and cheaper to log—the pilot had let Rich ride along. He'd barely fit in the tin-can plane, knees pressed to rattling metal. They'd lifted off from the mill road, bottom falling out of Rich's stomach. The pilot had followed the coastline, turning inland at Diving Board Rock. It was Rich's first and only bird's-eye view of his life: the small green house with its white shutters set back on the bluff at the foot of Bald Hill, the cedar-shingle tank shed. The plane's engine noise buzzed inside his chest, a hundred McCulloch chainsaws revving at once. They'd flown over 24-7 Ridge, the big tree herself lit by an errant ray of sun, glowing orange, bright as a torch, and, for an instant, Rich had caught a glimmer of the inholding's potential—an island of private land in a sea of company forest. They'd flown over the dark waves of big pumpkins in Damnation Grove—redwoods older than the United States of America, saplings when Christ was born. Then came the patchwork of clear-cuts, like mange on a dog, timber felled and bucked and debarked, trucked to the mill, sawed into lumber, sent off to the kilns to be dried. The pilot had flipped a switch and spray had drifted out behind them in a long pennant—taste of chlorine, whiff of diesel—Rich's heart soaring.

Rich followed the memory of the plane east, slid down the steep back side of their hill to Little Lost Creek, running fast at the bottom of the first draw. If Eugene dropped a twig in up at his and Enid's place, Rich could pluck it out here an hour later. It was roads that turned a few creek miles into twenty. Scout dug his snout in, drank. Rich took a running leap, felt a tweak in his right knee, leaving his doubt on the bank behind him.

Up and down the first no-name ridge, choked with alder and piss-yellow Doug fir—even smelled like piss when you cut it—second- and third-growth redwoods. Nowadays, even the fir that shot up to fill the cutover ridge-sides— trees he'd fit two arms around growing up—was worth something. His dad could have bought it up for nothing.

From Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson. Copyright © 2021 by Ash Davidson. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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