“Bad Blood” by Sheldon Lee Compton

Evan stretched across the porch swing while Cal slipped limp as a dish rag in a rain and wind slapped rocking chair. The house had been the brother’s for hardly a week. Long enough to stack some canned green beans in one kitchen shelf and a two-liter bottle of Coke in the refrigerator.

On the walls were the same pictures that had always been there. Crushed beer cans dotted the living room floor, tabs twisted off and flipped into darker corners. Neither had been upstairs. When the rooms became too small, drained of air, they moved to the porch.

Today a storm was coming. Sunlight pushed behind smudged clouds and a northern wind was constant through the hollow, climbing ridges and then dipping again into the valley between Elie’s trailer to the south and Mitchell’s house nearer to their own. The crackle of fall leaves from that wind already sounded like rain too thin yet to see.

After a time, Cal pulled himself out of the rocking chair, cornered through the open front door, and came back with the war picture of their grandfather. He placed it on the warped floorboards of the porch. It tilted momentarily, then came to rest. He looked to Evan who stared at the picture floored between them like a drunk in a bar fight.

Just before the best of the storm came, the two stood and placed a boot each across their grandfather’s face, clapped a hand across the others back, and started stomping.

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