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all the lovely judies

JESUS HARDWELL

3rd Prize winner of the 11th Annual Postcard Story Contest.

Slant rain and the wind stiff, Jon Tropp was tramping the woods, a five-acre birch and straggle pine and popple stand out behind his house, he was hunting partridge, late edge of the season, but his mind wasn’t on it and the ache in his hip started probing its needle, so he said aloud the hell with it, thumbed the catch on the .22 and whistled for the dog, it emerged snorting from a burdock thicket and shook the wet off and they started back slogging through the cold slap rain, muck sucking his boots when they reached the house a squirrel caught his eye, fat blacktail scampering the garage roof, Tropp gauged the lead, fired, let it be for the dog, scraped his boots on the step and went inside to the kitchen, his kitchen now, a week of greasy plates stinking the sink and a mousetrap underneath needing bait, hell with that too, he thought, and poured a tumbler of half milk, half whiskey, drank it in one go and reloaded, it was eleven in the morning, he spread the paper to the race news two hours later he was down in the basement room he never went into, the hatchet with him, fresh-filed, and he was swinging it, swinging and cursing and chopping at the mannequins, all the lovely judies Netta left, beating the hate out and his breath with it, then he sat on the sewing machine box and surveyed the destruction, he sat looking a long time, then he fetched a broom and cleaned it all up the best he could

Tropp believed in luck, just not for him, but that afternoon, rain still thrashing, he was barrelling the truck, headed for the track, he had a hunch he couldn’t shake, this unknown pacer name of Lonely Woman going long odds in a claiming race, seventh race, she’d be a mudder he thought, some young ones were, soon as it went bad they wanted to run, and keep on running, he’d learned that much, might as well make some money off it

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