PseudoPod 662: Indian Giver

Show Notes

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Indian Giver

by Ray Cluley

Every man carries his share of ghosts, but there are those who listen to them more than others. That was Grady’s opinion, anyways. And most of those listenin’ didn’t much like what they heard; that was his opinion, too. So he wasn’t surprised to see Tom stumblin’ across the darkening yard towards him. If he was surprised at all it was only that it had taken the man so long.

The taming of the wild west was something Grady never saw—he was a proper lieutenant, not a glorified book-keep or ledger-maker (though there were plenty of those) —but even so, all he saw of the west was tired and worn down. Land and people. Native people, mostly, but Tom carried the same look himself right now. He had something in his hand that was supposed to be Tennessee whiskey but probably wasn’t. It would taste right, though. And they’d drink it down just fine. A tale of woe was best punctuated with whiskey.

Seeing Tom made him think of that Philly boy, of course. Stick a city man out here and it gets to him sometimes, that was true, but Grady wasn’t so sure that was the thinking this time. Still, those ruminations were likely to get him morose and melancholy when he was drinking, and it looked like he was going to be, so he tried to think of other things.

Tom saw Grady was sitting on the porch and stopped. He hitched his belt up, touched his hat. “Evenin’.”

“Evenin’, Tom. Been a while. Where you been?”

“The pen.”

“You’re spending a lot of time there these days, I hear. Keeping company with our noble savages.”

Savages. All Grady saw was farming folk with darker skin and longer hair, wearing expressions pressed on them by hard work. The white man had taken their animals and taken their land and they weren’t about to give it back any time soon.

“Noble savages,” Tom said, nodding. “Don’t see much noble civilized, do we?”

Grady looked Tom over. The last of the light was leaking from the sky but he could see enough in the dusk to know Tom was in a bad way, and drunk with it.

“Got somethin’ to talk about,” Tom said, showing Grady the bottle he held.

Grady nodded. He got up from his chair with a creak he pretended was the wood and went in for the cups.

“Alright,” said Grady, sitting back in his accustomed chair. There was another beside it, and a small table. They had the whole stretch of planks to themselves. The men inside were sleeping. Grady, though, liked to stay out late, watch the stars.

“It’s one of those stories that needs tellin’ because it’s heavy,” Tom said. “Tellin’ it makes it easier to carry.”

Grady heard a lot of stories like that. Carried a few, too.


He poured them both drinks.

Tom had a story to tell, but he kept quiet a while. That was fine by Grady. He watched the stars do nothing in the sky, and listened to the quiet sounds of men snoring and shifting in their beds behind him. Occasionally a breeze carried the smell of wood smoke and bacon grease from across the yard.

“North wall’s goin’ be extended,” Tom said eventually.

“What for?”

Tom shrugged. “Colonel wants to.”

Grady could have asked “what for” again, but didn’t like to waste breath he could whistle with.

Tom tipped his cup and took all that was in it, refilling as he swallowed. Grady offered his own cup for more. He didn’t want Tom’s nerves to soak up all the whiskey. “Slow down, Tom. It’s been a while since you and me shared a drink.”

Tom acknowledged that with a nod and poured. “Did a round up couple of weeks back,” he said. “Mountain flush out.”

Grady nodded. Drank. “That a fact?” He knew it was, but this was how it had to start.

“Went into the hills.” Tom counted them off on his fingers; “Me. Henry. Cody. Packard. James.”

Grady nodded. Five was about right.

“You wanna talk to me about James, Tom?”

“It got messy up there, sir. But I fixed it now.”

Tom was paler than the half moon above them, dark rings like smudged soot under his eyes. Tom hadn’t been sleeping well, that was how Grady reckoned it. He had questions, but he waited. He’d done his fair share of round ups. Companies went into the mountains looking for Injuns hiding out or just plain missed. There were a lot of them out there still, holed up in caves or just living so remote they were easy to miss first time round, even second and third. Course, the more Injuns they rounded up and persuaded west was best, the more they learnt where others were. Families wanted to go west together. These people had been tribal once and bonds were still strong.

“It was a small place tucked away in the crags,” Tom said, “screen of trees round it. Vegetable patch. Chickens. There was a well out front with a low wall.”

Tom paused to drink but really he was remembering. He wasn’t on the porch with Grady no more. He was somewhere in the mountains.

“The man, he’s big. Goliath big. Huge. And he’s wearing all this fur that makes him seem bigger. Hair’s long and all untied,” – Tom gestured with his hands – “down over his face. You seen ’em like that? Real wild looking, but with that look they all got, the one that says he knows they’re beat and never had no hope otherwise.”

Grady said, “Stamped down like trodden ground.”

“Yeah, that’s it. That’s how he looked. I gave my speech, just like always. Had my ledger, took a record of what they were leaving, told ’em they’d be reimbursed and paid a relocation fee just for going where the land was better anyways.”

Grady nodded, but he had his doubts about that last bit. To his mind it was like taking off someone’s feet then giving them a pair of boots. Even if they were given land, Grady reckoned it wouldn’t be long before someone took it back again.

“He wasn’t really listenin’,” Tom said, “but he started gatherin’ things from the yard. Like he’d been expectin’ us a while. Two young’ns—”

Tom’s voice caught in his throat. He put his cup down and said something to the floor Grady preferred to hear in church.

“A girl and a boy, both dirty ’n’ scraped a bit but smiling. They came out to see.” He stared at his empty hands as if wondering where his drink had gone.

“The others, they was all in the saddle, same as always. Cody, he had a smoke. James and Packard were talking about Philadelphia. They talked so much about a place they both lived in, I don’t know how they managed to say anythin’ new. They knew each other all but Biblical.” He tried to smile at that but it didn’t work. “Then Henry happened.”


“He did what was usual for him. We’d give ’em time to pack and Henry’d use that time to ride round ’n’ round their house. Said it put the hurryin’ on but really he did it ’cause he liked to rub people wrong. Henry can shoot, salute, ’n’ spit a little, but that’s about it, so he makes the most of a job like this.”

Grady knew the type and said so, but Tom wasn’t listening.

“Second time Henry comes round from back he’s got a woman followin’ him. She’s all dressed in deerskin and bird shit, got a cloth tied around her waist held full of eggs. Her hair’s long ’n’ braided ’n’ gathered up a bunch at the back. I remember that ’cause she was shoutin’ Injun at him an’ shakin’ her head and the braids were fallin’ loose. Henry just laughed, spurrin’ his horse a few steps to turn a circle so as he could laugh back at her face.”

“What did she do?” Grady asked, pouring them another drink.

“She threw an egg at him.” Tom laughed, but it was a harsh sound. “Got him, too.” He slapped his right hand against his left shoulder to show where.

Grady paused, cup hovering at his lips. He knew how a story with a bored young soldier and an angry Injun woman could end after something like that. And Tom had said it was messy. James said the same thing by doing what he did, tasting his own gun and putting a stain of himself on the walls of his bunkhouse.

“What did he do?” Grady asked. “Henry, I mean.”

“He crapped in their well.”

Tom looked out into the stockade, though there was nothing to see out there but cabins and they was only dark shapes in the gloom. He swallowed his drink down.

“He crapped in their well,” Grady said. “Well, sure.”

“He did that a lot. If they pissed him off some, or they took too long packin’, he’d crap. Got so I wondered if he held back for the occasion. Usually he’d crap front of the house, in the doorway or some place. No reason for it when it’s a home they’re leavin’ anyway, but he knows they don’t wanna see that as they leave. It’s spittin’ in a man’s wound. Even Injun knows that.”

Grady agreed.

“Henry’s got broken egg shell runnin’ down his chest, and a face that’s fiery fierce. He’s dismountin’ in a hurry ’n’ so am I but my damn boot tangles in the stirrup. Henry’s stridin’ at this woman, hand on his pistol, and she’s ready to throw another one, yellin’ at him ’n’ all us, and I’m thinkin’, shit, my money’s on Henry.”

Tom was talking in the present sense of things, Grady realized – they were getting to it now.

“I’m too far away to stop anythin’, but the big fella, he steps out from the house ’n’ grabs his woman’s wrist from behind, bursts the egg in her hand. Then he scoops the rest from her apron ’n’ lets them break as well. He’s calm, though. Sayin’ soft things to her. Henry calms down too, but not enough to let things be. Not Henry. He strides over to the well they have out front, drops his britches, and takes a crap perched over the edge.”

As far as bad stories went, this wasn’t one to lose much sleep over, Grady thought. Which only meant it weren’t finished yet.

“Henry finds it funny every time he does it, so he’s laughin’ even as he’s droppin’ his dirt. James and Packard, they’re laughin’ too. They’ve not been out with Henry before so it’s new to them, and James is as fresh as tit milk, but even so I reckon they was just easin’ down after the tension. Cody don’t say nothin’, of course.”

Grady knew Cody. Everybody did. Cody was likely the oldest in Tom’s group and should’ve been in charge, but for reasons no one talked about he wasn’t in charge. Those reasons were him leadin’ out after Willy Wilson and none but himself coming back. Wilson was a bad man with a greased holster and a fondness for other folk’s horses. Just one man, but Cody couldn’t put him down clean. That was a long time ago, but people remembered a thing like that.

“Cody keeps out of it,” Tom said. “By now the young’ns have come back out because of all the yellin’ an’ cussin’. The girl’s filled a cookin’ pot with things to carry out ’n’ she hugs it to her stomach, watchin’ her mamma stride over to Henry. He’s still squatting and straining and she shoves him! Sonofabitch damn near falls in! He makes a wild grab ’n’ gets some of the wall ’n’ some of her deerskin, and likely he lets another load loose, too, without thinking ’bout it, but then he’s laughin’. It’s the nervous kind a man has when he’s been scared. We all know it, and he knows we know it. So he slaps her across the face.”

Grady shifted but couldn’t get ready for it. This would be the messy bit.

“Sounded like a bear trap going off,” Tom said.

Right now. Blood, most likely.

“Henry’s pullin’ his pants up, yankin’ his belt, but that woman comes right back to push him again, you believe that? He keeps her off with a shove of his own ’n’ puts his hand to the grip of his pistol after. I didn’t like that, didn’t like any of it, but I’m still dancing around with one foot tangled up.

“The big man, all fur ’n’ muscle ’n’ hangin’ hair, he comes over and I think he’ll be like before, you know, calm her down some. He puts his basket down and he looks like he’s makin’ to restrain his squaw cause he puts a hand on her chest to keep her back and he puts another out for Henry. Like he’s keepin’ them separate. But he shoves Henry hard. Henry backs up a few steps and the well gets him behind the knees and over he goes, topples right in. Gone.”

Grady couldn’t swallow his drink for a moment. When he did, it choked a single cough from him. Tom didn’t notice.

“We don’t hear nothin’ at first when he falls. He’s surprised like us, most likely, and don’t scream or nothin’. There’s just a sound that’s thud and splash.

“We all start yellin’. My foot’s finally free but I’m hoppin’ round a minute. James dismounts with that flashy kick he has ’n’ runs over, Packard right there with him. Cody just turns a tight circle on the spot ’n’ says, ‘Hey’. Just that. ‘Hey.’.”

“The Injun fella, though, he ignores everythin’ but his wife. Holds her face real gentle with both his big hands, checkin’ her. Her cheek’s already swellin’ and her eye’s closin’ up. He grunts ’n’ kisses her forehead.

“By then James is there with his gun at the Injun’s face but looking at the well. He glances down, then back at the Injun, then down the well again. He calls, “Henry!” but if there’s a reply we don’t hear it. Maybe because I’m shouting at everyone to shut up and calm the hell down.

“James yells, ‘Henry, you down there? I can’t see nothin’ but dark’ and I think, of course he’s down there. Packard’s yellin’ for Henry as well. He’s got his gun on the woman. The only people makin’ noise is us. Even the young’ns standin’ there are quiet, though the girl’s got some tears.”

Tom stopped and took a ragged breath. He grabbed for the bottle of whiskey but knocked it down. Grady scooped it up quick before anything could spill.

“Only thing that tastes right,” Tom said.

Grady agreed. When he thought about it later he realized they weren’t talking about it the same way.

“James and Packard got nothin’ from the well. Injun fella looks down at James like there’s no gun between them. I’m reachin’ for ’em, thinkin’ I don’t know what, when for no reason I can gather other than he’s nervous or somethin’, James shoots the Injun square in the face.”

Grady wasn’t surprised, and yet… well, he’d hoped different.

Tom nodded as if agreeing with something and wiped at his neck. “A splash of somethin’ made a thick noise on my coat and it was on my neck and in my hair. And we’re all just starin’. The only noise comes from Cody. This time he’s sayin’ ‘Hold on, hold on’ like he needs a minute.

“The Injun, he turns back to his squaw with a hole where his eye used to be, a flap of cheek hangin’ down all blistered. He don’t seem to know it. Where he’s stood, James gets the full effect of that face and whatever he sees up close is enough to make him scared. And James, he lashes out at times like that. So that’s what he does.”

Grady said, “Christ.” Muttered it to clasped hands as he listened, like a prayer.

“Now the wife’s screamin’. Forever, seems like. James is beatin’ her man who’s on his knees now, only still up because of the way James is holdin’ ’im, hittin’ ’im, scared at what he’s done ’n’ what he’s doin’ ’n’ but doin’ it anyway. Packard’s yellin’ at the woman to quiet, just quiet, for God’s sake quiet.”

“And you?”

“Had my gun on James.” He looked shamed to say so. “Didn’t know ’til I was puttin’ it away.”

Grady was struck by a memory of Tom: four of them fumbling for a gun at Kathy’s, Tom the only one with wits enough to draw clear and clean. There’d been a stupid fight over cards—cards!—and Tom took turns aiming at each of those dumb enough to think a game worth killing over. Drinks were exchanged instead of bullets and Tom got something extra from Kathy, on the house. He’d remind him of that later, when this hellish business was done. Try to put a smile where there was nothing but woe.

“James steps back, blood to the elbow, and the Injun falls down. I can’t say face down no more on account he’s not got one. The woman rips at her own hair.  Two whole handfuls come away. She throws it down ’n’ jumps on James before any of us can see. She’s still screamin’ or screamin’ again, I’m not sure any more.

“Packard’s quicker than me. He gets her round the neck but he can’t get her more than a pace back ’n’ forth. She’s fightin’, clawin’ his face like a banshee.”

Harpy, Grady wanted to say. That would be the usual comparison. But screamin’ ’n’ all, he supposed banshee would do.

“Packard says, ‘Get them damn kids away,’ so that’s what I do. Took ’em into the trees. They don’t resist none. They’re confused ’n’ cryin’, both of ’em, cryin’. I’m sayin’ things but I don’t know what or if they even understand me but I keep sayin’ it anyways. I do that for a long time.”

Tom nodded to himself, tracing his thumb back and forth over the rim of his cup. Stayed that way a while.

“What happened while you were gone?” Grady needed an answer but he didn’t much want one.

Tom shrugged. “Don’t know. Don’t want to know. All three were bloody when they came back for me and it weren’t their blood. Theirs had drained away, making them proper pale-faces.” He snorted. It weren’t nothing like a laugh but was probably meant to be.

“We said we wouldn’t tell. Not ever. But here I am, tellin’ it to you.”

Grady nodded. He’d heard plenty of bad stories. Probably would for the rest of his days. This one, though, weren’t done.

“What about the children?”

“Brought them back here to the holdin’ pen.”

Something about that didn’t sit right, though. It was like wearing a new gun belt—it fit ’n’ all, and it held your guns, but until you broke it in it felt all wrong.

Tom picked up on some of that. “I put them with an old squaw who had more blankets than friends. She was happy to take them. Very happy. She didn’t ask about parents.”

Better, thought Grady. You’re breakin’ it in some. But that’s still not all of it.

Grady eased back into his chair, the old wood bending and creaking around him. “You want me to report this?”

Tom shook his head.

“I could go to Frazier instead of—”


“Well shit, Tom, what did you go ’n’ tell me a story like that for? I have to do something.”

Murder was murder, be it full-blood, half-blood, Chinaman, whatever. And two murders was two murders, and three was three, which was what it sounded like.

Tom looked away from the empty yard and met Grady’s eyes for the first time in a long while. “I ain’t done yet.”

It didn’t seem like he was going to be, neither, for a little while. Grady waited. He listened to the night. Heard its music and thought of dead men.

“We got back,” Tom said, “and when we did we swore our secret and went to our bunks. We sold Henry’s horse ’n’ gear over the river, told people he’d gone to town after a week in the peaks. None of us spent the money.” That seemed important to Tom, so Grady nodded.

“That night I dreamt of where Henry really went. Saw him fall. Saw the Injun lose his face. Cody ’n’ James ’n’ Packard dreamt the same but they didn’t tell me nothin’.”

“You’ll have dreams like that a while now,” Grady warned him. He had plenty like it himself.

“Every night,” Tom agreed. “And worse.”


“The water. It’s got blood in it.”

Grady said nothing. He looked down into his cup.

“It’s true,” Tom said. “I can’t have nothin’ but milk or liquor else I taste it in there.”

“What about the others? What about Cody?”

“I can’t say because Cody’s gone. I’ll get to that. James ’n’ Packard, they taste it.” He remembered James. “Tasted it. And we see them, too.”

“See who?”

Tom gave Grady a sideways look and took another drink.

“See who, Tom? Say it loud. Hear how damn foolish it sounds.”

“At the window sometimes, in the yard. Once,” Tom said in a quick whisper, “Packard woke to see the woman lookin’ down at him where he slept. She was standin’ on his bed. Her feet left muddy prints on his mattress.”

“Y’all talked about this?”

Tom nodded. “Cody gathered us up. Said he was seein’ the big man all over the stockade. Said he was going mad, wanted to let us know he was ridin’ out before he ruined it for the rest of us ’n’ said somethin’. Said he’d let folk down before and it near killed him and he weren’t doin’ it again. Packard, he saw the squaw. James didn’t give details but he said he saw both.”

“And you see them?”

“Behind every person I speak to. Standin’ there. Lookin’ at me.”

Grady checked around himself, slowly.

“You see them now, Tom?”

Tom turned away and stared out into the darkness of the stockade.

“No. I fixed it.”

“Well that’s good, Tom. That’s good.” Grady offered him something to smoke but Tom waved it away so Grady didn’t have one either.

“We went back to the place in the mountains. The four of us, drinkin’ whiskey for days because we couldn’t brew coffee without it havin’ the coppery taste of blood, no matter how strong we made it. When we got there it looked just as it did first time. Broken egg shells. Chickens scratchin’ around out back. Things were piled up and still there; tools ’n’ cookin’ gear and the like.

“It took a while to get courage enough to look down the well. When we did it was for nothin’ cause we couldn’t see. James suggested lowerin’ a light, but ‘What’s the point?’ I said. We was there to give the dead proper burial. Mighta been only me willin’ to say it, but no one argued. So we rigged a harness ’n’ down I went. It was my group and it was my idea and it was me who let things go so bad.”

Grady hadn’t been there so he couldn’t argue, but he thought Tom was probably taking more responsibility than was his. Sounded like there was plenty to go round.

“It stank in that well. You work a ranch or serve as long as we have and you get to know what death smells like, but this was different. This was bad; rank ’n wet and… bad. Like… Well, I don’t know what like. It was a rough well. A shelf of rock down there, too hard to shift, made a ledge next to what looked like a puddle but wasn’t. It was much deeper.”

He made a shape of it in the air with the drink he held.

“Henry was on this ledge, which explained the thud we’d heard. The other two, the Injuns, were at the watery bottom. They’d been weighted down, so I had to get wet to make sure they were there. I was worried they’d got out, see. And so were the others; Cody, anyways, cause he called, ‘They there?’, real anxious. Like they might not be.

“I said they were there and then I saw Henry’s fingers. They were bloody, and his nails were broken. I held the light up a bit ’n saw where he’d tried to claw his way out. And God Almighty, his son and all the rest of it, that shook me. I looked up at the others, three faces lookin’ down at me like I was in my own grave, and that shook me too, so I got the hell out.

“I said nothin’ about Henry. I didn’t tell them he only had a broken leg ’n a head wound like you’d get in a brawl. Didn’t tell them he prob’ly starved down there.”

Tom faced Grady. “Do you think if he’d known those two Injuns were down there with him he still would’ve starved?”

Grady was given plenty of time to answer the question but he chose not to. He wasn’t so sure Henry starved, not in that short time. Not with a belt and boots to eat.

“We got them all up ’n’ buried, anyhow. If the others saw Henry in pretty good shape, none of ’em said nothin’. We made simple graves, read a bit of God’s word, and came back here.”

“Here,” Grady echoed, doing away with the cups and passing the bottle. Tom kept it at his mouth for three swallows. He coughed a couple of times, handed it back.

“Quite some story,” Grady admitted, taking a pull of his own.

Tom held up his hand. “A bit more. Let me tell it all.”

“All right.”

Grady was leaning forward in his chair, bottle hanging between his knees. He was looking at Tom who was looking at the past. His features were drawn and weary, his voice heavy.

“I saw the Injuns again as soon as we got back. Saw them playing with their children. All I could do was open my mouth ’n’ point. Cody, James, Packard, they all said they saw nothin’, ’n’ when I looked back they were right. Cody, though, he was lyin’. Saw ’em a few times after, too. Now he’s gone. Told someone in his bunkhouse he was off to the same place as Henry. They thought he meant town. I reckon he was bein’ more phil’sophical than that.”

“What do the others reckon?”

“Well James shot himself, didn’t he.”

Grady straightened up. He knew that, everyone knew that, and he’d been waiting for it near on an hour now, but he still dropped the whiskey and to hell with it, let it spill. “Shit.”

“Yeah.” Tom mimed a grim suicide, shot his face with his fingers. “Looked that way, anyway.”


“Locked in his cabin. Right now, even as we sit here. Got furniture at the door ’n’ boards on his windows. Won’t come out. I told him I’d fixed it. He said if that was true, how come he’s lookin’ at the biggest scariest fuckin’ Injun he’s ever seen? Says the two of them are sittin’ with him, waitin’.”

“Waiting for what?”

Tom shrugged, like he was worn out. “Maybe it takes time. The fixin’. Maybe they’re waiting for what I gave ’em.”

Tom had told most of his story to the boards at their feet, but now he looked Grady in the eyes for what he had to say.

“I figured it out, see. They’re a family lot, these Injuns. You’ve seen it, sir. Not one of them wants to go west without the rest of ’em.”

An idea was fighting through the whiskey. “Oh Tom, what did you do?”

“I went to the old lady and said the parents wanted their kids back.” Tom was openly weeping now. “She didn’t like that, not once I’d given them her. They were already close, you see. A new family. You know how they are.”


“I took them from her and I took them to the mountains. Took’m home. Gave them back. We never should have taken them in the first place. None of them. We shouldn’t be takin’ any of them. They were here first. We should give it all back.”


“I made it quick, sir. And I buried them right next to their parents.”

He sobbed a while after that and Grady let him. When he fell into a fitful sleep in the chair on his porch, Grady let him do that, too.

In the morning, when Tom woke, Grady asked him to tell the story again. He had Frazier with him.

Frazier was old but an imposing figure, neatly groomed but in a way that said he didn’t give a rat’s ass if he got dirty. He shrugged his shoulders in a casual gesture that put his coat over the star on his chest, doing his best to be friendly. His moustache was grey-through and thick. It softened his words a little. “It’s all right, son. You can tell me.”

Tom looked at Grady. Grady looked back. Tom nodded. “Let’s do it somewhere else,” he said to Frazier, getting up. “This man’s heard enough.”

I have, Grady thought. And ain’t no one can take it back.

Frazier put a hand to his hat, nodded with the gesture, and moved aside so Tom could step down from the porch.

“He’s been drinkin’ nothin’ but whiskey for days,” Grady said, “So give him time to straighten his story out. It’s got some mighty strange kinks in it.”

“Will do, Father.”

Frazier was the only one still called Grady that. He took off his hat and ran his hand through his hair. It wasn’t quite yet the same colour as his moustache, not entirely, so he grew it long. He put his hat back on and with another nod, this time for Grady, he followed Tom down across the yard.

Grady watched them leave. Frazier’s horse was drinking from a trough in the yard and something about that drew Tom’s attention.

Then it all went to hell.

Tom screamed and he backed away so fast he fell. He scrambled back to his feet quick but still stumbled some. Frazier’s horse reared up, stamping its forelegs in the air, whinnying loud and shrill. Frazier had both his guns drawn but he was pointing them at the trough. Whatever he saw there was enough to stagger him, too.

Tom shouted at the water, “I gave ’em back! I’m sorry, y’hear? I gave ’em back!”

What happened next depends on who tells it, but Grady saw it like Tom leapt at the trough. Just dived right in and thrashed about in the water until he drowned. Some say he was pushed in, others that he was yanked forward, but pushed or pulled, nobody could say by who. A few suggested Frazier did it and it made his reputation more fierce than he was used to for a while. Grady, though, he’d seen Frazier at the trough and when that man’s hands were in the water he was trying to pull Tom out, not hold him under. Couldn’t do it, though. And Grady wouldn’t ever say what he saw holding on to Tom to stop him.

Occasionally, when the whiskey was in him, Frazier would add more to the story, but it was a story Grady didn’t much like to hear. There’s no giving a story back when it’s told, so if talk ever went to Tom or James or what Packard did to himself shut up in his cabin, Grady took his old bones elsewhere. He had ghosts enough of his own without adding more.

About the Author

Ray Cluley

Ray Cluley’s work has appeared in a various magazines and anthologies and has been reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Steve Berman’s Wilde Stories: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, Johnny Mains’s Best British Horror, and Benoît Domis’s Ténèbres series. He has been translated into French, Polish, Hungarian, and Chinese. He won a British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and has since been nominated for Best Novella and Best Collection. That collection, Probably Monsters, is available from ChiZine Press. He’s currently working on too many things at once. You can find out more at

Find more by Ray Cluley


About the Narrator

Jonathan Danz

Jonathan Danz

Jonathan Danz is a writer, voice actor, and digital marketer who exists in a parallel dimension suspiciously similar to West Virginia. When he’s not hammering stories out of unruly words, he can be found working his digital marketing day job or on his mountain bike or hanging with his family. With the help of his wife and daughter, he manages to keep track of his car keys, his priorities, and his mind.  He’s currently working on his next novel, Black Lily, about Clee Rivers, a young black woman in 1920’s Appalachian coal country with a knack for invention who must battle a corporate conspiracy across multiple dimensions to find her missing father.

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Jonathan Danz