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Stamps: Stacey Swann

16/08/2009

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Olympus, TX

By Stacey Swann

Drive down in the dark, in the fog—thick whiteness against the headlights and the windshield. Follow the sound of gravel grinding under tires, the slippage of rocks shifting. The road is all texture and noise—smooth and quiet is the wrong way, will lead into a ditch. Cross over metal, the thump-thump-thump of the cattleguard. Downhill, through the gully, the gritty crunch now covered by the bawling of frogs and cicadas. Stop the car. Wait.

When morning comes, it is all trees—water oak, cedar elm, pecan and hawthorn—surrounded by scrubby underbrush. Not a hiking forest or conventional woods, it is scratchy impenetrability, making a fence acres wide with only the gate of the thin dirt road. There is pasture somewhere near, but not here. Here is just a small clearing with a large white house, guarded by a sextet of cottonwood trees. The new wind, which blows away any fog the sun left behind, stirs the cotton and rains it down on the house. Two stories with four large columns careening up the front, broken in the middle by a balcony with scattered wicker furniture. It is quiet and the parents, June and Peter, are asleep.

The house is bounded on the other side by the Brazos. Thick and brown, the mud penetrates the water until it forms a new molecule. The river isn’t Mississippi-wide, but it is too wide to throw a stone from one bank and have it reach the other.

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Stacey Swann is Editor of the literary journal American Short Fiction, and her fiction has appeared in Epoch and Memorious. She insists that anyone claiming G. W. Bush is a real Texan is talking out of their ass.

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“Olympus, TX” is part of the Stamps project. Click here to learn more >>

Author’s Note: This is the opening of Olympus, TX, my novel-in-progress. The land I’m describing is what I grew up on. To me, it is the heart of the novel and also the setting for about half of my short stories. (The characters are always strangers to me; I just plop them down in the place I know best and see what happens.) I’m not sure why I can’t shake this setting; perhaps because my parents sold it and moved out-of-state when I was twenty-three. Fun Brazos River Fact from Wikipedia: “The river also features prominently in a number of prison songs, because at one time it ran past nearly every prison in Texas.”

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