Some he knew, recognized from the slant of eye or the dip of shoulder, others he did not. A man cocked against a company truck. Hair slick, morning fog climbing down from the mountains behind him to swallow him. Another done professional of Eve and her family, the boy and the girl who died three years back.
Drove into town at midday and didn't come back. Deputy Calhoun found both of them behind the old Hobbs store with blue powder hanging from their noses like early morning icicles.
It was Eddie who tried to explain to Granny Barb what happened. He used words like "pills" and "snort" and "plague." Granny Barb said she took medicine but it never left her dead like her sweet grandbabies. Eddie stopped trying and Eve and her husband R.B. just never tried. They left Granny Barb to soak in her own confusion and pain while they plagued themselves long enough to forget why it mattered to start with.
Eddie stacked one patch of dolls into another corner. He tucked the comb in his back pocket and eased into his recliner. Nearly dozed off, his hand-held scanner blared out in the quiet. Static in heartbeats and then the cops talking in numbers. He listened for names in between the numbers. He knew most of the codes. He knew the codes for fatal wrecks and overdoses, gunshots fired and so on. It was a rock slide on Creed Hill blocking traffic. Nothing much happening this morning. Maybe later today.
Every doll had a name. Eddie named one for every family member gone. More dolls than he could count. Counting slaughtered sheep. But he tried, and finally went back to sleep in his chair, one ear cocked for static and numbers and the plague, always there somewhere outside his room. In the world.
PHOTO BY SHELBY LEE ADAMS