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Sitting on the Banks of the Sea

Sitting on the banks of the sea, sings the radio. She had a forty-four strapped around her body, and a banjo on her knee. He shuts off the engine. The radio goes silent.

He’s a big man, fussing about the back of the pickup truck. His raincoat blue, hood up, shining slick in the weird dim morning light. He comes up with a pair of grey workgloves and tugs them on. Rain trickles from his hood as he leans into the truck again. Long grey mustaches droop to either side of his flat mouth. He comes up with some brightly colored bungee cords and an armload of canvas sack.

The building over across the street is a long warehouse, a grey corrugated metal wall interrupted here and there by garage doors. Big letters in flaking paint say Bushnell Warehouse, Corp. over the doors. Down at the end there’s a slice of parking lot, a flatbed trailer with a load of rebar. He stands there a moment by a telephone pole, looking over the trailer. The rebar’s long and straight and black, piled neatly and wrapped in clear rain-beaded plastic. Raindrops splat on his hood. There’s a piece of white card nailed up over his head. 5+ Acres, say the sloppy black letters. 55K Lg Down. Another sign nailed to the next pole down the line says the same thing. He heaves the load of sack and cord over one shoulder and walks past the trailer, around the back end. Over past it up against the back wall of the warehouse is a pile of rusting sheet metal, tangles of steel cable, bent and broken rebar jutting at odd angles, streaked with orange and red. He rubs his gloved hands together, his mustaches spread by a small smile.

“Hey,” says a young guy in shapeless green coveralls, up on the concrete steps by the back door to the warehouse. “Hey! What the fuck are you doing?”

The big man straightens up, brushing his knees. “I’m the Anvil,” he says, peering up from under his hood. “Pyrocles. Open Mike around?”

“Who?” says the young guy in green coveralls.

“You go and find Open Mike or Twice Tom. Tell ’em the Anvil’s here.”

“You know Tommy Tom?”

“Yes,” says Pyrocles, squatting back down. “Okay,” says the young guy, opening the back door. Pyrocles is reaching under a corner of the pile to pull at something. Bends down to get both hands under there, wrenching it loose.

The back door jerks open and a short, heavy man in shapeless green coveralls steps out into the rain. “You white-shoe motherfucker,” he says, grinning. “What, come to fill your nose with an honest stink?” He’s wearing a blue meshback cap that says Vanport 15.

“This, this is good. I like it. Can I have it?” Pyrocles doesn’t look up from the long gently curved bar of metal in his lap. He’s stroking it with his gloved hands, worrying at scales of rust, knocking some free with a slap.

“That’s a leaf spring,” says Twice Tom. “From Peabo’s dead Buick, I think. No idea what the hell it’s doing back here.”

“Never went as fast as it wanted,” says Pyrocles. “I’d need to cut it down, but the rust’ll help with that. Also some cable.” He points back over his shoulder, still looking down at the bar. “I can just take a coil instead of trying to cut it here.”

“You got to tell me what you’re doing with it, first,” says Twice Tom, leaning on the metal railing.

“The cable’s just warm-up,” says Pyrocles. “Maybe a couple knives. But this?” He looks up from the bar, his hood falling back to settle on his shoulders. “This I’m making a sword.”

Twice Tom whistles. “And how long has it been since you made one of those?”

“A while,” says Pyrocles, looking down at the bar again. “Quite a while.” Rain shining in his close-cropped grey hair. “But it’s not like I forgot.”

Table of Contents

Darling Corey,” writer unknown, within the public domain.

Darkthorn    28 September 2008    #

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M.E. Traylor    6 August 2010    #

I like this detail of where he gets the metal. I’ve seen a lot of knife and old-school metal tool workers get their materials this way.

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