The Is of Things Melvin Litton Macro-Fiction

map The Is of Things

by Melvin Litton

Published in Issue No. 245 ~ October, 2017

This knows. This traces the broken web where each is lost to the many and little is known. And nothing is known once each is boxed in the ground, locked away and silent, finished with goings-on. But this knows, this was never boxed away but wrapped in a ragged cloth by the father’s hand. Born still, nixed in the womb, flesh kept warm in the mother’s blood, keen to the brother’s heartbeat, him born to wailing life and active limb. This the shadow twin felt only once the mother’s hand, then gently swathed and taken to the garden’s edge where a hole was dug and this placed, a stone laid over to keep this safe from hungry dogs and raking plow. Through as many seasons as a boy nears to a man this slept, the wrappings rotted with the flesh till the birdlike bones lay naked in the deep dark soil.

The house fell to rot, the garden to weeds. A rude hand removed the protecting stone and burned the house and barn and again the plow raked the land, the steel blade ripping the earth open to the sky. The sun-touched roots curled about the fetal bones and this mixed with the sap and rose like blood from a wound to join the wind-stirred dust in the whistling grass, twin shadow to goings-on, keen to the brother’s heartbeat and other breathings in the is of things. And there is murder to tell. Always murder and hatchings in the is of things…


The sun tips down the dusty sky to spill its last light over the broad horizon then drops like an empty bottle beyond the tall weeds. The wind blows hard at the end of day, leaving line and shadow ill-defined, all relic moments in the ruined dusk. Summer is gone and cicadas have quit their singing while their ghost-husks yet cling to stalks and stems. And the men who shucked corn this day have quit the fields and left their gloves curled on wagon seats till their labor resumes at dawn.

A large-girthed man in crumpled hat and soiled overalls stands before a drab house set in a clump of trees drained of color like the surrounding land. He eyes the road east empty for the past half hour then tosses back a long draught of whiskey he has brewed and dealt over a sum of years. He recaps the pint and slips it in his bib and swallows with a grimace, his whiskers bristling like bunched thorns on his furrowed jowl as his flesh reddens and his squinty eyes burn harsh as lye. For he feels neither warmth nor welcome for the one now turning off the road, dust feathering up from wheeled ruts as headlamps spider forth on either fender of the old Ford-T rolling to a jagged halt.

The engine dies soundless like the figure emerging half-torn in the wind, a leaner man in work jeans, flat cap, and dark wool jacket. Voices torn as well, cool and muted in the initial exchange, words soon heating.

“Came… want… full payment.”

“You’re a two-legged fool… paid you two weeks back.”

“Not so. You paid half on what’s owed. We drank on it… you said we’d settle in two weeks this very night.”

“Then you was half drunk ‘n are full confused.”

“No, not half drunk and not one bit confused. I hear you pulled this stunt before ‘n you ain’t pullin’ it on me.”

“What fool told you that?”

“My business. Now I want full payment.”

Full? By God, I say no!”

“Then damn your no!”

“Damn my…” The large man braces at the other’s approach then notes the hand in the bulged pocket and steps back. He stomps to the porch and kicks the door open.

“Come on in here, by God, I’ll show you. It’s writ in my ledger.”

“If that’s so then damn your ledger ‘n damn your lies…”

No lamps lit, wall-shadows rouse at their hard entry as both cross to the kitchen. The large man reaches for a shotgun leaned by the pantry. But his rival, equally wary, draws a pistol and fires, shattering bone and memory as mute reflex triggers a double-blast that briefly lights the room like a camera flash etching both forms in darkness.

Blank of eye and breath the victim falls facedown covering the shotgun.

A pool of blood oozes over the hardwood, enough to mop the floor.

A drawer opens and shuts, then another. Then a pause and a rattle of coins in a tin can and the rustle of wadded bills quickly pocketed. Footsteps pass down the hall and shortly return shuffling under a hefty weight. The door closes.

Outside the engine cranks up and the headlamps arc forth as the car makes a jolting turn and fades the way it came. The house stands quiet in the night. A lone coyote barks in witness.


Where to the murdered one? To the coyote’s cry, the waiting stars?

No, the shade remains gripped to the cold flesh like the hands gripping the barrel. And clings like a foul breath chilling the air. Clings even once the body is boxed away, so foul no one enters. A shade, not a shadow, for a shadow plays to the wind and moves beneath the bird wing, the sailing cloud, while a shade remains fixed like bloodstains in the wood. And there the foul breath remains.

For there is no such in the is of things, only fire, dust-fallings, and this…

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Melvin Litton’s stories have appeared in Foliate Oak, Floyd County Moonshine, and First Intensity; with others forthcoming in Mobius and Chiron Review. He has two published novels: Geminga, a man/raven fable concerning the Shining Path in Peru (III Publishing, 1993); and I, Joaquin, a fictional memoir of the Gold Rush bandit, Joaquin Murrieta, as told by his head encased in alcohol (Creative Arts Book Co., 2003) – both available in new editions from Crossroad Press. He is a retired carpenter and lives in Lawrence, KS, with his wife Debra. He also writes and performs songs solo and with the Border Band.