Gallows Pole by Kathy Hoyle

In the dead of summer, while the whiptails hide in sagebrush shadows, and everythin blisters in the amber heat and there ain’t nothin but buzzards hummin for miles around, a hanged man dances on a gallows pole.

Ever day, we bathe in the sweat of the land, too weary to do nothin but suck on liquorice shoots and watch him as he tars and blackens in the sun.

When the first of him falls to the ground — leavin a smatterin of chicken feathers and a scorch mark in the dust — mama sweeps it all up with a hickory broom. She digs a hole in the mud with her bare hands, and buries it right by the hog trough, so we don’t catch the stink of it while we’re sleepin. She spits on the still-smokin heap for good measure.

By September’s end, there’s twelve of those mud heaps scattered across the backyard like freshly dug graves, and nothing is left of him save his soul swingin in the breeze.

When mama cuts that loose, we smother our mouths with our hands to stop the giggles as we watch him hot-tail across the prairie, a screamin tornado ridin his ass.

Mama lights a cigarette and rocks back and forth on the old porch swing, a ghost of a smile on her lips. Mmm mmm, now that fool done messin with me. She fashions a poppet from the hem of her bridal gown and lays it on the ranch gate – case he ever gets a notion to come back.

We braid each other’s hair and sing hand-clap songs and tell ourselves that, come next summer, we won’t even remember Papa at all.

Kathy Hoyle is writer of short fiction. Her work has featured in Literary magazines such as The South Florida Poetry journal, Emerge Literary Journal, Ellipsiszine, Lunate, The Forge and Fictive Dream. She has won The Bath Flash Fiction Award, the Retreat West Flash Fiction Award and the Hammond House Publishing CNF Award. Other stories have placed in competitions such as The Edinburgh Flash Fiction Award, the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize and The Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize. She was recently longlisted for The Wigleaf Top 50 and her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions and The Pushcart Prize.

Black and white photo of an old porch swing

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