The bent, rundown shack, patched and cobbled with gray pieces of crating
and splintering brown pallet board, windows covered with ripped opaque
plastic, squats in a heap off Stout Street, coal smoke twisting out its
chimney like vapor from an ebony nostril.
Three children wail hysterically, run in circles, pull their hair, and
scream at their father, resting on his knees beside the dilapidated
rust-brown ’92 Plymouth Horizon, the driver’s door flung open.
A school bus squeaks to a halt and four children bounce off, stop in
their tracks, and stare open-mouthed at the scene.
Vane Sarge Walker pulls up in his beat-brown 2001 Chevrolet pickup. A
trained emergency medical technician, volunteer firefighter,
long-retired military serviceman, and recently retired Forest Service
ranger, he lives nearby on a fourth-generation family farm.
The Mount Vernon Volunteer Fire Department’s red-light-flashing,
chartreuse EMS vehicle approaches, the wail of its siren whining
faintly, building in slow crescendo as it roars down the twisting
mountain valley cut by the ancient Tellico River, which falls down the
mountain grade toward the village of Kituwah Falls.
The dirt driveway, strewn with clinkers—cindery particulate chunks of
burnt coal dragged out of the leaky furnace and tossed into the potholed
driveway—steal Sarge's attention.
A homemade doll mother Sizer crafted and gifted her three-year-old
Ashley the previous Christmas sits with its broken neck propped against
the largest clinker, the head mashed flat.
Jumping out of his pickup, Sarge purposefully fixates on the doll,
briefly ignoring the cacophony, takes a few seconds to collect his wits,
and then slowly turns to face the inevitable.
The toy’s face, black-button eyes fixed on eternity, glistens wet-red
in the short March dusk, staring directly into a gunmetal sky. A
dirty-black tire track ends at its chin.
Sarge can neither swallow the sob nor fight back the wave of salt water
cascading down the stubble on his cheeks before he turns to face the
disemboweled heap lying in the driveway beside the driver, wrapping,
then unwrapping his arms across his chest, choking between screams.
Poor Ashley. One more notch on the pill mill tree of shame, thought
This couldn’t go on. Someone had to put a stop to this…
We’re going to pull those sonsabitches out by the roots, come Memorial
Studying a raven circling high over the ridgeline to the east, he swore
Or die trying.
Excerpted from "Jellybeaners" by Gene Scott. Copyright © 2017 by Gene Scott. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.