me and greg are back at the construction site stripping copper wire when j-boy walks in and gives us the news: another beach has vanished. greg sez whatta you mean vanished j-boy sez they came in at night with dump trucks and hauled it all away. a truck rumbles by in the distance and we all duck our heads. then we're down at the scrap yard, j-boy talking to the broker and me fiddling with the coke machine. after i turn the change knob enough times 3 dimes and a tooth come out. as i hold to the tooth up to the sun a plane flies by, piloted a set of silicon computer chips extracted from quartzite carefully sifted from fine-grained sand particles. we get in j-boy's pickup and ride into the hills, cicadas loud as footsteps on burnt grass. j-boy veers onto a dirt road matchstick woods and marshlands all around us. we're out again and climbing the porch of a farmhouse. j-boy's hollering, both of us trying not to step on broken glass. the kitchen's dim as olive oil and j-boy throws a wad of cash on the blackjack table. i'm fishing for cigarettes and looking at the drawings of saints hung on the wall when i look into the other room and betty’s there, dancing— only there's no music and no partner. it's only betty, eyes closed, hands clasped over an imagined shoulder. betty's wearing an ermine scarf and sweating, its tail ragged as the edge of a sick blanket from years of use. i'm leaning against the wallpaper watching her when the old men comes up behind me. we'd been in rehab together for taking too much gummy vitamins and i can tell from the neon spittle on his beard that he's been dipping in again. old man starts telling me about how at the lake there's carps big as three of your forearms and too dumb to swim away from men like us you can just reach in an grab a handful of fish meat. betty is moaning, softly, and spinning in tighter circles. the old man goes into the kitchen pantomiming palming fish out of the water and soon the whole gang is out the door and following the sallow bean of a flashlight along a tractor path. the night's warm as a concussion and in a half mile we're at the concrete lip of a dam. the old man takes a handful of chex mix out of his breast pocket and tosses it into the lake. carp surface everywhere at once, their eyes like rough hewn diamonds. i reach in and try to grab one but they're slick as wet lightbulbs. everyone's plunging their arms into the wine dark water until j-boy hooks his fingers in his jaw and whistles. he pulls a pistol out of his waistband and starts shooting. there’s a ruckus in the water like someone dropped a cinder block from heaven and then fish parts are everywhere. there’s a scale on my cheek. the frogs have gone quiet and the heads of the bulrushes are brightening with dawn. from the bend of the reservoir we see the nose of a barge. it’s got a great big crane on it. the others dip but j-boy and i stay and smoke winstons and watch the thing float. it makes waves and the fish parts bob up and down like little oil wells. the barge gets to the dam and the crane's bucket reaches deep in and starts scooping out sand. soon there's a mound big as a skyscraper and the barge is carting it to the opposite shore. j-boy is dozing in the grass, his hands big and yellow. i pick up his gun. i put it down again. i ask him to take me home but we only get as far as mcferrin’s bend before he stops the truck and vomits out the window. i’m looking out over a hundred acres all clear cut and smoothed out for houses, roads running straight and curling into culdesacs and running straight again. the old man told me that, after lumber got too expensive the boys ran out of money and fled the county. milk thistle looms tall over the foundations of houses as a massive pile of sand shimmers in a heat haze.
evan evans (he/him) is a fishmonger from central kentucky.