The Deepest, Darkest Part of the Woods Excerpt
It was the summer of the bicentennial, 1976, and the country was celebrating itself. The war had been over for more than a year and things went on as ever, the children playing in the Sullivan’s big back yard under skinny, century-old trees, the kind of trees with small round leaves that look like olive branches.
They drove around that summer because there was nothing else to do. Benji had just gotten his driver’s license and his father let him use his old VW bug, no air condition and a noisy engine, but it ran. They decided to look for jobs, so they drove around South Jersey scouting for places that might hire them, their shirts soaked through in the back and their legs sticking to the seats. They stopped at a bar called Kowalski’s off of Route 70. It was empty in the daytime, just a guy cleaning. He had long hair and a tattoo on his neck that said “Quang Ngai.” The man asked if they were 18 and shook his head “no” when they said they weren’t, and then he went back to mopping the floor.
Usually, Wendell’s job involved more typical, straightforward events – a heart attack here and there, or someone falling off a ladder. Every once in a while, a suicide, maybe, and those were the hardest. There was a man who ran the local bicycle shop who shot himself. He had no wife, no relatives, so they just locked up the shop and left it, as-is. When you walked by you could still see all the merchandise in the window, crowded in and piled from the floor to the ceiling. It’s a shame, Wendell thought, all those bicycles going to waste.