Burning Bright: Stories
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“A gorgeous, brutal writer.”
—Richard Price, New York Times bestselling author of Lush Life and Clockers
In Burning Bright, Pen/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Serena, Ron Rash, captures the eerie beauty and stark violence of Appalachia through the lives of unforgettable characters. With this masterful collection of stories that span the Civil War to the present day, Rash, a supremely talented writer who “recalls both John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy” (The New Yorker), solidifies his reputation as a major contemporary American literary artist.
The fire was still going, kindling piled around the hearth. His mother sat where she’d been last night, wearing the same clothes. She was tearing pages out of a magazine one at a time, using scissors to make ragged stars she stuck on the walls with Scotch tape. His father sat beside her, watching intently. The glass pipe lay on the coffee table, beside it four baggies, two with powder still in them. There’d never been more than one before. His father grinned at him. “I got you some of that
mother’s funeral, Ruth Lealand thinks of jaguars. She saw one once in the Atlanta Zoo and admired the creature’s movements—like muscled water—as it paced back and forth, turning inches from the iron bars but never acknowledging the cage’s existence. She had not remembered then what she remembers now, a memory like something buried in river silt that finally works free and rises to the surface, a memory from the third grade. Mrs. Carter tells them to get out their History of South Carolina
she knocks on the door, the voice she heard on the phone tells her to come in. Dr. Timrod sits at a big wooden desk. Besides a computer and telephone, there’s nothing on the desk except some papers and a coffee cup filled with pens and pencils. A bookshelf is behind him, the volumes on it thick, some leather bound. The walls are bare except for a framed painting of long-tailed birds perched on a tree limb, their yellow heads and green bodies brightening the tree like Christmas ornaments, Carolina
remark to show that though he said little at least he was listening. But at night as she readied herself for bed, he’d always come in. They’d lie down together and he’d turn to kiss her good night, always on the mouth. Three, four nights a week that kiss would linger and then quilts and sheets would be pulled back. Afterward, Marcie would not put her nightgown back on. Instead, she’d press her back into his chest and stomach, bend her knees, and fold herself inside him, his arms holding her
under his nails, the same as when he planted tobacco sprigs in the spring. A song he’d heard on the radio drifted into his head, a woman wanting to burn down a whole town. He let the tune play in his head and tried to fill in the refrain as he pressed the trowel into the earth. “You can lay that trowel down,” a voice behind Jesse said. “Then raise your hands.” Jesse turned and saw a man in a gray shirt and green khakis, a gold badge on his chest and U.S. Park Service patch on the shoulder.