Issue 35, Final Fringe

Shipyard Incidents

by Cat Ennis Sears Issue 27 06.20.2011

Alabama, 1932

The earth is starting to sink beneath their feet.  Lara tries to tell Otto, but he won’t listen. We’ve taken too much out of the earth, she says, with our mines, digging down deep and then turning what we find into Ford cars, into trains and railway ties, into big buildings, rifles and bullets. We’ve taken all the weight out of the inside of the earth and put it on top, and it’s pressing down on the soil. The earth is getting soggier, sinking and sinking. I swear I’m walking an inch deeper than I was yesterday, you don’t feel it, Otto?

No, he doesn’t feel it, he thinks she’s a freak, he says those words, fucked up freak. He hits her, but she doesn’t fall; she blinks and shakes her head, but she stays standing. He stands in front of the open door of the boxcar, close to the swamps tumbling by. Lara sees dead swamp trees through the open door, their gnarled fingers reaching out against a gray sky. She knows these trees weren’t always ruined. She imagines them with green leaves, rooted in dark, rich soil. Now they are bare and lifeless, their roots drowned in what once nourished them.

* * * * *

Lara is the fattest woman in the world, the signs say, though they have no way of proving that. Otto puts her on a big scale, the kind that’s used to weigh cows, and he has people guess her weight. Closest guess gets a candy apple. It’s always the country women who guess the closest, women who know weight, who have measured out pounds of flour and pork fatback, have carried the warm heavy weight of babies on their hips. This is the women’s weekend, the county fair.

Where do all these country women come from, Lara wonders, how do so many country women exist? Lara knows they look the way they do because they live in isolation, because they only come together like this once a year at the county fair. But to Lara, as she moved from county to county, every night they come together. To Lara, they are always gathered in tight gaggles, night after night. To Lara, they have no excuse for looking the way they do. They all look so out of date, wearing what look like their grandmothers’ dresses and floppy bonnets that tie underneath their chins.

continue: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Cat Ennis Sears

Cat Ennis Sears

Read More

Cat Ennis Sears recently graduated from Emerson College with a MFA in fiction, where she taught freshman composition and research writing. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, Bateau, Corium Magazine and the Printer’s Devil Review, been nominated for the 2011 AWP Intro Journal Awards and received honorable mention in a Glimmer Train short fiction contest. She is at work on a linked story collection, of which “Shipyard Incidents” is a part.