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  • Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    by Craig Terlson

    A collection of short stories where the humour runs dark and the slipstream bubbles up.


    ...imagine if Raymond Carver called up George Saunders and Joe Lansdale, and they all went drinking with Neil Gaiman.

  • Correction Line
    Correction Line
    by Craig Terlson

    “… it's clear that Terlson is way ahead of the curve in terms of crafting an engaging premise that reaches for elevated territory and reinvents enduring archetypes of action and suspense.”  J. Schoenfelder

    "Sometimes brutal, often demanding and always complex, this novel will repay the reader who likes their assumptions challenged and is happy to walk away from a book with minor questions unanswered but the big ones definitely dealt with! It’s likely to satisfy those who enjoy Hammet and/or Philip K Dick and who like their fiction very noir indeed."   Kay Sexton


    "I love a novel that you can't put down, and this is one of them."  L. Cihlar

« Chapter Six - Fedora | Main | Chapter Four - Tequila »

Chapter Five - Truth

So chalk girl had a name, or an initial at least. I ripped the note off the steering wheel, slammed the truck door and cranked the engine. Drive. What the hell else was there to do? Lately, driving was the only constant in my life. The only thing that moved me forward.

I thought back to that day I had cut out from Harold and his Lime Green Slurpee. Or it might have been a Big Gulp, who knew, who cared? I had lived in the same town, with the same hockey rink, same bar, the same beer on tap, and the same shoe leather pizza. I stayed in the same place all those years, but I was still adrift, never really at home. After both my parents died and my sister left town for who the hell knows where, the sadness moved into a lingering depression, and then a deep apathy settled in and stayed.

I know a part of me longed for another time, any time, just not my time – I couldn't imagine an age that was any better than any other. I didn't long to go to a simpler time like the oldsters were always saying. The future wasn't that appealing either, with it's flying cars and pills that gave you a full meal in one swallow. But I wanted to live in some other time when life made more sense. Or at least something that was more beautiful, or maybe it was about more simple, or both. If I was honest, I didn't know what the fuck I was looking for. I just knew I had to get the fuck outta Dodge.

I didn't hit the road looking for adventure. I didn't have romantic notions of long twilight drives on open roads with stars shining down on me like God's pinpricks of truth or some crap like that. Truth was listening to the smack of a grasshopper nailing your windshield and brushing away his fronts legs with your wiper, or hitting a bump that used to be a racoon and now was part of the road. I was surrounded by life, fields of wheat, barley and mustard, creatures scooted through the long rows, birds overhead flew in arrow formations, swirling with wind. And there was death everywhere – hawks that plucked mice from the field, bobcats that ripped apart rabbits on the run, plants that withered and collapsed back into the very ground that birthed them.

I let my mind drift between those two states of being: alive and dead. Which one was I escaping from? I had done the alive thing for more than thirty years. I considered plowing into a speeding locomotive just to try the other state for a while.

I was in the midst of picking out which railway crossing when I met L.

It all came back, flooded in, the whole conversation, her face, those great lips, the smell of the bar in Clarksville. Everything.

     "You want to talk about it?"

     That was how she introduced herself.

     "You're assuming I have problems," I said.

     "We all do, but I think you have more than most." She sipped a glass of clear liquid. "But let's start with me saying that no matter what happens, you're not getting in my pants. Just put that the fuck out of your mind."

     "Fine with me." It had crossed my mind. "But what's the point of telling you anything? It could all be bullshit. A line of mistruth. I can pretend to me anybody."

     "Try me."

     I told her about my life the last few years. I started out trying to make it more interesting than it was – but then she reminded me of the pants comment. Right. So I laid it out. Bored as hell. Waiting for something interesting to happen, or someone to put a gun to my head, or possible do it myself.

     "What about you? What's your deal?" I asked.

     She drained her drink, motioned at the bartender and crossed her legs.

     "Similar story, maybe mine had a bit more rape and abuse in it. Fear creates a kind of boredom. So does anger."

     "So what did you do?"

     "Well, I thought about the bullet to the head approach. Until I met a guy who showed me the ultimate escape."

     "You're a junkie."

     "Sure, call it that. But not like you think. I met a man named Walt. He showed me a way to escape this plodding life, where one second follows another, and then that drips into a minute and hour, into a month and a year. Before you know it, you're in the rest home watching the Price is Right. And you actually give a fuck who wins the showcase."

     I laughed.

     "Never thought of it that way."

     I watched her drink for awhile.    

     "So who's this Walt guy? Can I meet him?"

     "Sure. But you'll have to get pissed first." She motioned to the bartender again, pointed to her glass and to me.

     A table full of shots and glasses of draft later, I fell into a wide crack in the floor – that's the only way I can describe it. I don't remember much of the journey through it, dark outlines of people, a lot of country music. As weird as it all was, the twangy guitars and vibrating mandolins made sense. I landed in the middle of a field – or I stood up in one anyway.

     It was high noon, just like in that old oater. I swore I heard a clock ticking, but it could have been a mind-retina burn from the movie. A tall figure came toward me, walking through waving prairie grass. A wolf trotted beside him. When he was just about on me, I saw that the wolf was just a dog, or at least part dog. Icy blue eyes stared at me like I would look good with a gash in my throat.

     I glanced behind me. Chalk girl had not followed me into the crack.


     The voice rippled through the air, a deep bass that I felt in my chest. I bent my neck, held my hand across my eyes and peered into a dagger of light.


     I couldn't figure out if he was talking to me, the dog, or just pointing out the obvious. Just then the ground swelled underneath me, I lost my balance as it rolled. Flat on my back, I felt a series of diminishing ripples move under me and away. It was like being on a small boat. Except I wasn't.


     I stood, my knees still a bit shaky, getting my sea legs, in a wheat field.

     "Where is this?" The field stretched out in every direction, not a building or a road in sight.

     "Straddle the line, your body, your blood, needs to be in both places."

     I was surprised when the giant man strung together so many words. I gave my most intelligent response.


     The dog moved toward me and I flinched.

     "Both places."

     I relaxed as the animal brushed up against me, nuzzled my hand just like the German Shepherd I had as a kid. Something flashed in the hand of the giant that Chalk Girl called Walt. I let out a scream that I didn't know I was capable of producing.



     I clenched the steering wheel remembering the pain. Was it the blade or the dog's teeth that sunk into my arm? And what happened after that?

     I was shaken out of the memory as I braked to avoid a couple of cars crossing the highway. They must have been on their way to an antique show. I never was a car guy, but I guessed these were from the forties, and still in mint condition.

     Now that I thought of it, which city were they headed toward that would have a car show? And why didn't I remember the highway being this rough before? I flicked on the radio to try and catch a local station. More country twang of course, but at least this had a bit of a swing to it.

     "Well there you have it ladies and gents, that new sound we've been hearing a lot of lately, from Bob Wills and a fine group of fella's called the Texas Playboys. Sweet sweet melodies."

     New sound? I recognized the name and was pretty sure the guy they mentioned had been dead for years, decades even.

     I leaned over to twist the dial, my hand stopping as I slammed on the brakes. The two antique car owners had turned their cars around and formed a barrier across the road.

     My truck squealed to a stop. Two men got out of each car. White shirts and suspenders, sharp creased pants with neat cuffs, all of them wearing fedoras, all of them smoking. But what most caught my eye was the tire iron one of them carried. Another slung a Louisville slugger over his shoulder, the third guy held clenched fists at his sides. The last guy held a fiddle, but not like he was about to play it.




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