I’m hunting the bones of the outlaw Leslie Cox. For a long time rumor was that Cox, a surly, dark-haired drifter from up around Fort White, Florida, was hiding out here in the Ten Thousand Islands, prowling its knotted creeks and salt marsh bogs, and just might turn up on your porch one evening to settle old scores. “Unless Watson killed him, which nobody believed, Cox was still there,” Peter Matthiessen writes in Shadow Country, his fictional re-jiggering of this region’s most hard-dying legend. Of course we’re talking ages ago. Cox, even if he did live out his life in this wilderness, is long gone now.
. . . . Whenever they look at me they see Civil War. Rape. The
great historical dismissive black boy walk away. When they shoot
me and leave me in the street for four hours facedown on the hot
summer pavement while my mother screams on the porch they
see sugar plantations melting in the distance.
Claudia Delfin has spent her life shuttling between El Paso and Juárez—for a time, under the thick fog of drugs and addiction, as a sex worker and minor gangster. She’s been clean for eight years and now works as a drug counselor for a local nonprofit, hauling addicts out of the same slums where she used to score and delivering them back to life, if they’ll let her.
It was dark all the time, and so it was dark when the ship’s captain crept into the corner where his young daughter was asleep. It was dark when he carried her out onto the deck and raised her up in the moonlight to better see him claim.
The August night tells me that I’m home once again, down from New York City, where I’ve lived since 1987, a long barreling Interstate drive away. In the garage, the Subaru’s cooling engine ticks and clatters. All around me as I stretch and unbend, the darkness of a Chapel Hill neighborhood resounds, a vast, pulsing rave of cicadas, crickets, and frogs, with the occasional hoot of an owl thrown in to terrify the small mammals.
A story from our Fiction Issue.
Full disclosure up front: I am a gay black man, a proud New Orleanian, thirty years old, five out of the closet, a decade on the down-low before that; bi-dialectal as every educated brother in this city must be, a code-switcher as needed; a poet in my spare time, in my unspare time a poetry teacher devoted to dead French guys and live black ones.
Selling fireworks has traditionally been the province of carny types and college kids, though lately there’s been a change in this small Mississippi slice of the industry. I had driven up from New Orleans, where I live, to join a group of twenty-going-on-thirty-somethings from Lawrence, Kansas, led by my friend Cyrus, to sell fireworks in these hinterlands.
He threw himself over her, his chest abruptly at her chin, his muscled legs thrillingly on either side of her like a sprung trap. She’d missed the rabbity ways of men, with their hard thighs and long feet. “Um, this is a canopy bed?” he murmured into her ear, nipping in a way that made her close her eyes. “And? You still have dolls, who are watching us.”