All of the characters in No Place to Pray live troubled lives that they navigate the best they can. With turbulent pasts, uncertain futures, and limited means, they do what they can to find their way into tomorrow. Sometimes that means doing things they know are wrong. Often it means deceiving one another. In this passage, Whiskey teaches his live-in girlfriend’s son LeRoy how to steal. Whiskey convinces Agnes (a white prostitute) that the ten-year-old is ready to go coon hunting. But his real intention is to have LeRoy slip beneath the lower edge of a pole barn in which a moonshiner stores his whiskey and steal it. LeRoy tears his pants and scratches his leg in the process. On the way back, they do stop to shoot two raccoons. This brief passage illustrates in microcosm the difficulties these people face and how their personal histories have brought them to where they are and the lengths they will go to to conceal their sins. Though we may condemn their acts, we come to admire their inner strength and determination.
The moon was high when they pulled in the driveway. Whiskey told LeRoy to go in the house so his mama could go to sleep and tell her they got the two coons and Whiskey was going to skin them before he came in. He told him she would want to know about the scratch on his leg and to tell her he got caught up in some brambles in the dark. LeRoy asked him where he was going to put the moonshine and Whiskey told him he was going to bury it. The boy went in the house and Whiskey took the stolen moonshine and a shovel and dug out a shallow trench in the soft soil in which cucumbers had grown and buried thejugs, camouflaging their grave with the sere, withered remains of the summer’s abundance. He took the coons into the barn and while he skinned them, thought of what LeRoy said about Huckleberry Finn and recalled when he himself lefthome.
They were sitting outside on the porch after Sunday dinner and Uncle George was going on again about how they got their name on account of their family was owned by kin of Jefferson Davis and that meant they carried with them the mark of Ham two times over. He told Whiskey again you got to mind your place and don’t never forget you a brack man and Whiskey had heard it one more time than he could stand and he got up out of his chair and said how the fuck could he forget with Uncle George telling him all the fucking time andbeing a brack man is just another name for a nigger and that’s all you are ever going to be, you dumb fuck, because you aint got the balls to be anything else. Uncle George came rearing up like he was going to slap Whiskey and Whiskey told him to go ahead and try and stood to his full height and Uncle George sat down looking like he was going to cry. Fuck you brack man Whiskey said and turned and walked off with just what he had on, walked off that porch and out of that yard and out of that town and out of Concordia Parish and never went back. He was sixteen.
Born and raised in rural Mercer County, PA, James Carpenter made his way through college working various eclectic jobs and, after graduating, taught middle and high school English. He then retrained as a technologist, eventually developing the Erica T. Carter software system that composed the poetry anthologized in the . Erica’s poetry has been published in several dozen literary journals and he’s presented Erica at international conferences, including at the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, and the e-poetry 2007 conference in Paris.
Carpenter spent fourteen years as a member of the affiliated faculty of , where he lectured in computer programming, system design, and entrepreneurship before retiring to write fiction. Since then, his writing has appeared in numerouspublications including The Chicago Tribune, Fiction International, Fifth Wednesday Journal, North Dakota Quarterly, and Ambit. His novel, No Place to Pray, is forthcoming from in September.
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