from When the Wolves Quit: A Play-in-Verse
SPOTLIGHT CENTER STAGE- SUNDAY, 8:00 AM
this town is built on the vanishings.
it’s part of everyone’s story.
there’s a list for each name—
it’s tacked to the wall under the clock in the sheriff’s office.
the preacher disappears.
no one notices till the church service sunday,
when the pews fill up,
and the sermon never comes.
from the pews,
a rumble of whispers begin sometime in the silence,
and rumors swell like a new bruise.
smiles creep up faces. some frown
and some keep their lips
and only listen to what gets said.
the preacher’s brother took two elders
down the block to the preacher’s house and came back
saying there was no answer at his door.
inside his bed is unmade
and there’s probably a weeks worth of dust on things.
someone mentions the ghost woods.
that gets the congregation praying.
STAGE LIGHTS UP
ENTER STAGE RIGHT- THE PREACHER
yes, this town had a preacher,
young and tan in his day,
who used to preach of answers in arches,
answers in brick, in towers.
he’d spit sermons from the pulpit,
dressed in white
and black, weaving his hands
through the air in front of him
as if he was slapping the devil away.
some people said he took money from the offering plate
to fill his belly and pay his debts—
these city sharks kept moving,
finding him in the basements
of pubs, hugging barrels like the last
raft in water, in the alley
behind the station at midnight,
conversing with the lines of white
on the building, or at the grocery store’s
in at the fake
cakes and fruit come mornings.
all this, typical for small town scandals and men of god.
all that was left of him were slippers
and a bible,
and, of course, what part of him
he left in the wombs of the elders’ daughters.
last anyone heard, the deputy
found his clothes out by the rails
cut all to hell.
one of the elders says,
they saw a red beast pulling him into the sand.
and one of the believers says,
the clouds parted and god brought him
home in a chariot of gold, salt, and fire.
but like most followers, people eye the ghost
woods out at the edge of town and the sheriff
writes the preachers name on the list,
because that’s what happens when people vanish.
every night when people get to the talking,
the drunk says, one of the fathers put a couple
rounds in his belly and left him naked
at the bottom of the quarry
over near the fingertips of town.
when the mayor wants answers,
real answers, the sheriff lifts
the preacher’s name from the list
and all his deputies spread out
like an armful of geriatrics
with metal detectors, or the slow
creep of sickness through
a village. they round up the usual
suspects for questioning.
at the station, there are cut lips and bruises
swelling up under
eyes and accusations.
this is part of what gets said:
EXIT STAGE LEFT
ENTER STAGE LEFT – SOME USUAL SUSPECTS
when the guilty boys pass through the arbors
and valley rain,
it’s like the dusting off of grandfather’s
guns or the cutting
out of lover’s tongues.
each flick of the wrist
howls at the slice
in family attics.
all of this, hardly
for convenience, but for something
tugging at the place below
their gut when the night gets heavy.
the old woman at the other side says,
“you young men should cover your tracks.”
they had, though not in attics, but the bottom of the quarry.
that night, it wasn’t them who drove out
and stripped off
their clothes, wiped blood from their hands
and faces and took turns
throwing what they could towards the center.
by morning, they were back
in their beds, and the sheriff had started
knocking on doors
for other reasons.
on the fifth front porch,
the middle daughter knows about trucks,
pissed off boys trying
to prove some points and talk of a plan.
she wouldn’t give names,
but said she heard voices leaking
through the vents in the bathroom.
these ones never had reason to do what they did,
they took a life simply ‘cause it was there
to take and they didn’t like it…
the body isn’t found for years,
when the troopers try to pull
a truck from the reservoir and find what they let plunge.
by then everyone’s gone to wherever they went.
EXIT STAGE RIGHT