Just a little bit of the next thing. Thanks for reading.

Shiloh could be a pretty town in summer, Liselle said, if it weren’t for its tourist trap aesthetics. It was like a, whatchamacallit, one of those plants that draws in flies and then consumes them slowly, dissolves them down to their core enzymes until there’s nothing left, not even a lacy bit of wing. A Venus flytrap? Yes, she said, that’s the one. Isn’t there always a seducing Venus waiting to consume, and she drew him into the far western corner of her grandfather’s barn and they spent the rest of that afternoon behaving like coyotes, is how she explained it, and he did not disagree. That was in late summer of 1949, and Charles Sinnett never left Shiloh again.

If not for Liselle and Shiloh’s whatchamacallit aesthetics, he would have left years ago. The town would always be the same parched patch of downtown for him, barely changing after decades of worn-down prosperity. Liselle left almost two complete years after she drew him in, and when she did leave, he would swear he could feel his heart dissolve down to its core enzymes until all that remained was a knot where the rest of him used to be. His few remaining fleshy purposes were to eat, shave and bathe, and then only if someone reminded him to do so.

He was given a job at the Shiloh Clarion by accident when that newspaper’s lone reporter noticed him standing across the street jotting frantic sentences into a notebook in front of God and everyone else outside The Egg and the Fig Café, waiting for something to either draw him inside or brush him aside, and when asked if he wanted to work for the paper, he said okay. And he became an obituary writer, then a copy editor, then full-on editor, the leaps were just that ridiculous. He had a knack, said Omie McCann, the paper’s ancient publisher, and that was the only good thing he could remember that man ever saying to him. No one ever told Charlie Sinnett he had a knack for anything, and he held onto that like a compass. People seemed to like Charlie, were willing to tell him things they wouldn’t tell their parents or partners or priests. He didn’t hold that against them. He wasn’t trying to draw anyone in, didn’t care to absolve them of any sin. He met a lot of angry and sad people, had coffee and egg sandwiches with men who otherwise folded up like lawn chairs, women who sighed when asked about themselves. These were people whom he had no intention of further hurting. He had a knack, and he wrote all this into his notebooks and he sometimes thought about Liselle and how easily she escaped Shiloh’s gravity, and how all the footprints she ever made in town were likely washed away by rain by now, or dissolved into a crest of atoms by the steps of other people, and how, one night, he fell asleep trying to remember precisely how she looked at him when they dangled their feet over the Seidenberg Creek bridge or the lilt of her voice when she laughed at his knock-knock jokes or how her hand felt on the back of his neck when they sat naked in bed, and he realized she had become more of a symbol to him, an idol who finally forsook him, than as someone he would ever see again.

Of course, he knew she hadn’t drawn him in at all; they plainly wanted each other from the beginning, and he did not blame her for leaving. He was meant to discover his knack here, and she was not to be part of it. Not even in his most ambitious daydreams did she ever come back to him.

In the early spring of 1992, something else happened.


17 thoughts on “Shiloh

  1. D. Wallace Peach May 13, 2023 / 2:32 pm

    It’s wonderful to read some of “the next thing” from you, Stephen. I’m already hooked. Happy Weekend, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steven Baird May 13, 2023 / 3:33 pm

    Thanks, Diana. I wasn’t sure, but I don’t think I’m ready to quit writing.


  3. Layla Todd May 15, 2023 / 7:04 pm

    Love the note this lyrical piece ended on! ❤


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