Tag Archives: Ewart

And Our Pushcart Prize Nominees Are…

Just in the nick of time, we’ve mailed our nominations for this year’s prestigious Pushcart Prize, which will honor literary works published in 2015 by little magazines & small presses throughout the world.

And our nominees are (in order of appearance):

“The Rud Yard” – short fiction by Vajra Chandrasekera
“She Used to be on a Milk Carton” – poetry by Kailey Tedesco
“The David Foster Wallace Empathy Contest” – short fiction by Wm. Samuel Bradford
“Spanish Donkey / Pear of Anguish” – poetry by Jessie Janeshek
“the things that are left behind” – poetry by Joyce Chong
“Ewart” – short fiction by Michael Díaz Feito

Congratulations & best of luck to our nominees– and thank you all for contributing your phenomenal work to our weird little zine.

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“Ewart” – Fiction by Michael Díaz Feito

In the jungle, Florida - Winslow Homer, 1904
In the jungle, Florida – Winslow Homer, 1904

“Ewart” is a spectacularly swampy slab of Southern Gothic by Michael Díaz Feito from our Fall 2015 issue.

{ X }

ān æfter eallum …

Beowulf

IT IS WRITTEN THAT A RIPPLING SPHERE OF MOSQUITOES often rose from that yellow sedge spot where N. Ewart Nance put up his cabin. A unique species, when underfed the wiry girls were themselves a glowing yellow. They purpled when glutted. Shifting in their spherical swarm, they swapped hues, off and on. They shed generations too. Unlike the average others, these mosquitoes led no three-day luxury life but had only the one. Up, then down. Their throng’s heart dropped out dead by each morning. Then the young and yellow leapt from the still sedge-water, rearing up like one open mouth.

Sustain—this ever-adolescent species kept a lumpy shade cast over the sedge. A point of origin, south of the Miami River.

{ X }

Ewart never named his homestead. Although he did consider himself that spot’s first inhabitant, he never christened it. He would not care for those who had, would, or will. That spot of yellow sedge has had many names: one in the Tequestas’ tongue, then Meados del Fraile, Coño de la Coja (briefly), Clarke’s Kill, Ooki-lakni, Panther’s Breath, Okeelacknee, Telegrams, Monmouth, and (after draining and ingesting it) Miami. Before the end of the nineteenth century, South Florida’s place names were transient like human life. This is meant in a literal sense. Names went into graves with namers and kin, swallowed all in perennial union by bog muck and waters. These swamps boil and lack phosphorus, so they do not preserve pristine skin-bags—no moaning faces visible, beatified. In and around sinkholes, you’ll only dig up brushfire ashes and teeth, peat-packed. Teeth irreverently strewn like Onan’s seed. But the water is clean.

That yellow sedge spot was mapped once in 1896 as Monmouth. In a local accent, Moan-mouth. That town was built, burned, rebuilt, burned in roughly the same spot. A prominent hotelkeeper named it for his favorite fruit pudding, and that was meant to evoke the tropics for tourists. Monmouth slouched by Biscayne Bay.

{ X }

Ewart, at age thirty, hides beside his mother on a backless pew in the Cumberlands. A sturdy woman. She grips his shoulder. A chafing of linsey-woolsey and calico—other shoulders settle close by them on the pews. Ewart feels smothered. He hunches his shoulders and tenses his arm, to signal that she grip tighter. She does. All these parishioners sweat from slogging through frost, so they stick together at the shoulders, fixed by foggy breaths and stamped-up ashes.

The church itself is only a gray box. Its ceiling runs low, low enough that most men reach up and rest their hats on the crossbeams. Another pew of broad-brimmed hats. Most men spit chaws on the floorboards. These form one sticky pool.

Ewart does not doff his hat. His head sits huge on a short body, and the hat tightly hugs just its upper slopes. To hide his face—miniscule features meekly clustered at the flat, chalky center—Ewart bends the brim. Somebody flicks the back of the brim. And again. An opening hymn is chanted. His mother chants loudest, nasally, and Ewart says, She whinnies only to outdo the others’ holiness.

This hymn dies down.

Most men spit chaws again.

Somebody flicks Ewart’s nape.

The preacher speaks at the pulpit:

On this most airish day, ladies and gentlemen, we are swept together like strands of twine today. A single thread tied in blessed God’s big hand. We are not separate ones. He has entwined us into a strong rope stained with the Blood. He has knotted us. Now, hear me. We came from somewhere far from Him, that is, sin. And nay, do not turn ye back like Lot’s wife! For there behind ye is surely Satan. The Lord our God tugs our rope safely through fiery flames, us upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. He tugs us over yonder, poor mourners, toward Him, toward Salvation! Knotting us together, tighter and tighter, as we turn unto Him. Verily, I say, He is fitting a single sacred garment of us, Salvation, for to leave our lone bodies behind!

His mother Winifred nods along with the sermon’s words. Her lipless mouth is only grayer cracks in the skin by the teeth.

Ewart tugs his arm from her grip. He does not want to leave his lone body. As he plucks his patchy beard’s bristles, the preacher reads a psalm.

Past the pulpit is one window. A redbud tree presses its panes. Six panes bloodied by the wintery buds like a picture of fire, and branches also gnash the panes.

Watching the preacher, his mother pushes her knuckles into his shoulder. Her wiry fingers wrap his arm again. A small fear simmers Ewart’s loins. He snaps together his knees to hide the hard horn. The preacher’s voice rising, most men weep. Somebody knocks Ewart’s hat and it flies into the pool of spit chaws. Continue reading “Ewart” – Fiction by Michael Díaz Feito