Gangrene

Fiction by Richard Holinger

“Don’t go gangrene on me,” is what I tell the foot, but it has no common sense. It blames the black and smelly on me.

“What you run into fenceposts for?” it asks.

“Well maybe it jump out at me,” I answer because the snowmobile has got no radar. New powder and not much moon and I wanted to drive to Hendersons woods even though or maybe because he told me to steer clear of them, but doin whatever another says is for those who never lived.

I drug my ass and frozen foot back here and made a oil drum fire next to the barn, but on the way the snow begun to fill up the boot that missed its laces. I blame the crash on Hendersons fence posts not used since he sold his cattle must be over thirty forty year ago.

The foot will have to go.

The foot will have to go. Learned enough to know that when I lost a finger chopping kindling and didn’t tell Pa. Know the look and odor and pain that tell come time to remove said body part.

“You a fool,” I tell it, and lift it onto the splittin stump. My eyes want to close on the glare off icy snow. Yesterday thaw pack down a two foot base. The drizzle last night give it a platform the god awful freeze today make harder than oak wood. The ax got live enough blade to detach that no good foot at the ankle so long as I get a good back swing.

Well I rise her up over my head and practice once, twice, three times to get the feel of it when what do I hear but a snowmobile sound like Hendersons roar up like Jesus Christ Himself to take a sinner up to Heaven.

He pull up fast as a bar bill after a drunks first whiskey. “Saw your snow machine abandoned over to the old cattle range,” he say so smug it about kill me to give him the time of day but I hide the foot behind the stump where I dont think he can see no more than a roll up pant leg and give out a “Howdy Henderson how they hangin?”

“What in hell you up to Sampler?” he ask like he at a kitchen table taking a cup of rye whisky Smithson make out back behind his house. He point to my leg. “Lookin for a suntan are you?”

“Too damn hot for my taste even in February. Need to give the leg some air. A thing you your leg will miss what with coveralls and long johns. Hell it only ten fifteen below. Why you dress up like a Eskimo?”

“So then you need none of my help.”

“It look like I need your help?”

“Looks like you are about to chop your foot off.”

“Maybe that a story you made up.”

“Nope.” Henderson turns his machine back on and I hear its low smoky voice more smooth than any girl I ever heard save that one whore in Green Bay.

“Guess again,” I tell him because maybe I want him to stay for least a little while.

maybe I want him to stay for least a little while.

“You need to tell me what you want me to do with your machine that’s hung up on one of my fence posts.”

“Be long to retrieve it after this wood get chop. Throw a pine branch or two over it and nobody ever give it a thought.”

Henderson revs the motor. “Might do that.” He leans into the turn and makes to leave.

Next thing I know the foot comes off and a oak branch helps cane me inside. Clothesline works a good tourniquet, and towels around the stump keep seepage down. When the sirens begin their far away song I figure Henderson that arrogant fool cant help himself. Wont never live it down god damn him.

<strong>Richard Holinger</strong>
Richard Holinger

Richard Holinger’s books released this fall include Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences, a collection of his essays, and North of Crivitz, a first book of poetry focusing on the North Woods and Upper Midwest, available at his website. His work has received four Pushcart Prize nominations, and his Thread essay received a “Notable” mention in Best American Essays 2018Not Everybody’s Nice won the 2012 Split Oak Flash Prose Chapbook contest, and a chapbook of innovative fiction was published by Kattywompus Press. Among other journals, his fiction has appeared in Witness, The Iowa Review; creative nonfiction and book reviews in The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Northwest Review; poetry in Boulevard, Chelsea. He lives an hour west of Chicago in the Fox River Valley.

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