You Could Only Know Us

Boyce Upholt

Winter 2018

Every evening, without fail, Fennimore Peterson took his seat in the tavern, ordered a whiskey, and read aloud the news of the world: a notice about a railway, the first one built in New Zealand; dispatches from Memphis, where troops were beginning to siege the city. Even in the months after the visitors left town, he never found word of what they thought we were, or what it meant. Constable Dolliver would stand in the corner, leaning on a beam, chewing his lower lip. His eyes stayed cold and steady. He was young, then, still impatient, and he often took his leave while old Fennimore had pages left to go.

Time churned on. Fennimore and his generation passed, and the constable retired. Our town grew: the empty blocks were filled, the roads tarred, the first snuffling cars appeared. And when they buried the constable—survived by his wife, and a shame, everyone thought, that the couple had no children—no one spoke of the wings. They just said that he was one in whom we ought to take some pride: our former sheriff and longtime clerk, a man whose steady work and quiet valor had been essential to our town’s survival in its early, tenuous days.

Boyce Upholt received an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and his writing has appeared in, among other publications, the Atlantic, the New Republic, USA Today and the Bitter Southerner. He is working on a book about the Mississippi River and its batture.

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