"What are you doing down here anyway? Ain't you got enough sense not to go down to the bottom of the lake and sit down? And why ain't you working anyway? Middle a the damn day and here you are sittin' in the mud at the bottom of a lake. Mary's prolly home wondering where you're at while your sittin' here. Worried sick."\n \n"I saw you here fishing one day, when you told Momma you were going to Mr. Wright's to talk about buyin' a tractor."\n \n"I know that."\n \n"How'd you know?"\n \n"What kind of a boy sits and spies on his father while he's fishing? It ain't right."\n \n"Tell me why you never took me fishing with you."\n \n"When did you ever ask? All you ever did was run off by your self into the woods. You was gone all day most days. All summer it seemed. You ain't never offer to help me with the fields, or help your mother with the cooking or the cleaning even though you was the reason she couldn't ever have no more kids, but all you could do was run around the damned woods all day and go fishin' by yourself. You was always a selfish and prideful child and you never once was afraid of God and that's why I never took you fishin' cause you never was around to ask. Now, I'm gonna go home and get me some of that stew and you're prolly gonna sit here all day in the mud by yourself while your wife worries and your crops wither cause that's just the type of man you've become."\n\n[[next|OutOfTheLake]]
"Can I talk to you for a while?"\n\n"It's awful cold down here, and I imagine your momma's cooking supper about now."\n\n"She said she was making stew with the deer you shot in November."\n\n"That ought to be about the last of that deer, don't you think?"\n\n"Prolly so."\n\n[[next|DC.Dialog3]]\n\n
"The problem with you is, you never feared God. Maybe you belived in him, maybe, for a while, though I doubt that to be true, but maybe you did, but you ain't never been afraid of him. You ain't never been afraid of his wrath like you should have. You always thought yourself too smart for that, but the only thing you ever been too smart for is your own damn good. Too smart to realize how pigheaded and foolish you are. You got a lot of problems, son, but your biggest one is that. You ain't never been afraid of the Lord."\n\n"Is that why you never would take me fishing with you, cause I wasn't afraid of God?"\n\n"That's part of it."\n\n"What else is part of it?"\n\n"I don't know, son, lots of things. I just told you you got a lot of problems, God's just your biggest one."\n\n[[next|DC.Dialog2]]\n\n
He doesn't know the time. The air is still. The chairs are empty. Through the living room window he can see the road. Grey and white in the lightly falling snow. The clock ticks again. \n\nAgain. \n\n\n\n\nAgain. \n\n\n<i> It must be [[late|Upstairs]] </i>
In his clothes he walks to the water and in. He walks onward, deeper, above his head and on and as he descends it clears a bit and he thinks it looks much bluer than it should. \n\nHe descends further into the cold through the deeply muddy bottom and the stirring of the sand and mud from his feet cloud his view and turn the water from grey-blue to brown. The sky above the lake's surface casts little light to his depth and the water darkens as he advances and upon reaching the middle of the small lake, he [[rests|Rest]].
When he awakes he is covered in branches and moss. Someone has laid them over him while he slept. He hears the gentle breaking of brush in the distance. [[Something moving|DeerBoy]]. The ground is soft and black and the branches and moss cover him completely.
The flatbed truck pulls back onto the highway and Curtis raises himself into the machine. With the dozer in low, he drives it to the east side of the [[house|HouseDozer]].\n\n
Part 1\n\nCurtis turns off the loping diesel engine and spits in the [[dirt|Dirt]] and stares toward the fence row to the south of his property. The sun is low in the yellow sky. A truck downshifts on the highway, bleating like a deer. A few small snowflakes stir in the air.
Curtis sits indian style and pokes at the ground with his fingers, pretending at first not to notice him, then he smiles up at him expectantly as if he had been waiting for him to arrive. His father scorns him with his eyes and his look belittles Curtis in the same soft way it always had, breathlessly and without effort. His eyes are blue and keen and pierce the veil of the damp and scatter the fish and weeds in their path. \n\nHe is wearing his favorite jeans and the boots he'd bought on sale in the city. His skin looks yellow now in the strange light of the water and when he [[speaks|DC.Dialog1]], the lake stirs with his words which seem to struggle through the silt to reach him. They strain against the water to carry the weight of his father's tone, which is sandy and precise and colored with the slow midwestern monotone they all possess in his family.
Curtis steps into the trees. The dirt behind him falls away and he is alone. He walks slowly. The sounds of frozen leaves reverberate in the thin air. \n\nIn a clearing he sees the body of a [[deer|Deer]] bleeding in the sunlight.
He drives the short distance to the [[lake|Lake]] in silence and parks along the gravel road at its edge. The lake he swam and fished as a child.
He turns and walks away and Curtis stirs the silt with his boot. He looks up toward the sky and stares into the dim light. The fish swim around his body. The ground feels warm now and he suddenly feels tired and he knows his father is right. He lays down on his back to stare up to the sun and he lets the mud move over him. The water stills and the light dims and his wife's song sounds dully in his ears. \n\n[[Part 3|IntoTheWood]]
Curtis spoons the coffee into the pot with dirty [[hands|Hands]] and sets the fire to the stove. The water boils and drips through the grounds and he collects his [[cup|Cup]] from the cupboard near the table.
Putting on his heavy coat and gloves, he steps out onto the grass. The black coffee steams in the lid of the thermos. The yellow [[Caterpillar|Caterpillar]] sits covered in frost in the grass beneath the ironwood tree. His [[truck|Truck]], clean and red, sits beside it. He looks out across the field in the dull blue light of the morning toward the [[fence row|FenceRow]] and the forest beyond.
Curtis walks across the field of cotton ready to be harvested toward the wall of tall [[trees|Trees]] in the west.
He swings down from the machine and lands softly in the heavy mud. His neighbors say the soil was better in his [[daddy's|Daddy]] day. Tractors ran better and people worked harder. Not like today, they say. \n\n\n\n\n\n
Curtis drinks his coffee at the table and watches the light fade outside. The sun sets red through the window above the sink and he lowers his head to the table to rest and [[sleeps|Sleep]].
The [[forest|Forest]] here is thick and if you could see it from above, it would stretch on forever in every direction and around so that Curtis' farm would appear as a dot in the center of an endless wood. \n\n
Curtis washes out his cup and drinks clean water that tastes of stones. He pulls an apple from the bowl on the counter and eats it standing up. He hears the clock tick again. He can't count the time between ticks. The old clock he never remembers to wind. \n\n<i> It must be [[late|Upstairs]] </i>
The engine on the tractor groans and catches and idles and spits black smoke and he sets to work thinking of nothing and is finished with the task by one. He is hungry and tired and chilled. Birds take off from the tree in front of the house. He eats his sandwich on the porch and waits on the man from town to bring him the [[dozer|Dozer]].
The sounds move toward him, louder and faster, then falter and stop. He removes his covering and stands up. He is in a thick wood. A strong light is shining through the leaves and spotting the ground. It is evening. A [[deer|Deer]] lies bleeding near where he had slept.
There is dried blood in the dirt on the back of his hands and dried blood in the cracks of his skin. On the day he was born, his mother bled. She bled onto the quilt and onto the kitchen floor. She bled so much that they thought she would die and she nearly did, but she never succumbed though she could not conceive again after that. \n\nCurtis stares at his hands and thinks of this now and listens to the [[percolator|Cup]] steam.
He raises the blade until it is about two feet off the ground and slowly moves forward until it is just touching the wall. Paint chips flake off the siding. He presses the accelerator and the house is silent for a moment, then it begins to groan. It slides forward off the foundation and pieces of trim and glass break and fall. The walls collapses slowly under the force of the engine. He reverses and the front porch folds in on itself and water begins to run from underneath it. He moves forward again and again. Rooms shatter apart and the clock ticks. He pushes the house in piles into the hole he had dug for so many hours in that brittle cold and sets about to cover it over with dirt. \n\nThe End
The House Underground\n
He hears another step in the forest, then another, slow and regular, then quiet, and then a rifle's crack and a crashing through the trees. [[Something running|DeerBoy2]].
Curtis kicks the mud off his boots on the bottom step of the porch and leaves them outside the door. Boots stained with oil and cuts from thousands of tools and rocks. The kitchen is warm and yellow. In the bedroom, his wife is singing a low and hopeful song. She must not have heard him come in, she doesn't like him to hear her sing. A silver [[percolator|Coffee]] sits on the cold stove.
The boy raises the rifle to his shoulder and fires. The bullet strikes Curtis in the chest. He looks down at the wound and touches the blood and wipes it on his jeans. The sun seems to set in an instant. He walks a few paces and lies down in the leaves beside the deer. \n\nThe boy walks quickly to his body and recovers him in branches and moss. He sings quietly to himself as he does, a song about the glory of salvation in the kingdom of heaven. Curtis knows the song well. He sings along in a whisper until he is too tired to remember the words.\n\nThe End.
He sleeps peacefully until dawn and fixes himself a thermos of coffee and three eggs in the skillet with toast. The sun is rising. He opens the [[door|Door]] to let the cold air in.
He thinks he hears his wife singing, or something like it, as he walks to his truck. There are tools in the bed and a fishing rod behind the seat. He starts the truck and drives onto the [[highway|Highway]]. The sun is bright in the sky and the air is thin and clean.
She was a caring woman who looked after her son as a mother does but gave him room to be and so he would wander for long hours through fields and forests across highways and furrowed fields blooming in white cotton or covered in empty plants, wiating to be turned. \n\nShe kept their [[house|House]] tidy and when she wasn't cooking or cleaning, she was studying her bible with quiet and humble conviction in the orange chair by the fire in winter or in the evening breeze on the patio swing when the weather was warm and the days were long.
His parents were Kim and Robert Parson. They were born in the town before there was a hospital. Born in their homes by family. Their houses were much like his [[house|House]]. Small and white and seated on a slight hill overlooking the fields. Wood houses on patches of green grass beneath tall trees which shaded their homes in the summer. His father farmed the field beside and behind his home and Curtis farmed the field beside and behind his home and his [[mother|Mother]] did the cleaning and she worked in the fields some too.
A boy no older than eighteen unloads the heavy [[machine|Machine]] onto the gravel driveway and Curtis shakes his hand. The boy says the snow seems to come earlier every year and Curtis says he thinks so too.
In the bathroom he washes his face and hands in the sink and takes off his clothes, avoiding his face in the mirror. The tile feels damp. Outside the house, the wind stirs the cotton in the field and the snow thickens. \n\nHis wife's body lay in the bathtub holding their child with blood and sweat dried hard on them both. He had placed the child in her arms. It hadn't moved. The light over the mirror flickers. The cast iron bathtub looks so heavy. He asks her where she thinks he should go now, but she doesn't answer. The child doesn't cry. Curtis turns for the light and closes the door.\n\n[[Part 2|Part2]]\n\n
The white house looks sturdy and slight in the slowly falling snow. The light in the [[kitchen|Kitchen]] is glowing soft through sheer curtains, the color of the sunset.
He wants to crawl inside its body forever. \n\nFrom the woods behind him he hears the sound of someone walking and as he turns he sees a young boy in jeans and a flannel shirt. He is carrying a rifle and smiling gently. Curtis [[calls out|CallsOut]] to him.
He stands still and his boots sink into the mud. He looks around him at the grasses and the animals and at the distant bank and distant surface. He reaches into his pocket for something that isn't there, then takes off his baseball cap and pushes his fingers through his hair and replaces the cap and pitches it back and ever so slightly to the right. The way he always has. \n\nTall and lean, his father's form approaches him through the murk. His first instinct has always been to [[sit down|Sit]] in his father's presence and so he does. Into the dankness of the mud and silt.
When he awakes the room is dark and cold. The moonlight floats blue in the living room and casts itself around corners through the house. The [[clock|Clock]] in the living room ticks. His [[cup|Water]] is empty.
Robert Chambers