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**PRINT: A LITTLE MONEY DOWN, by Doug Milam, is No. 27 in our broadsheet series and marks our 8th anniversary. Milam's a frequent contributor and wizard of experimentally styled prose that still burns bright around the campire -- this issue comes with a new design, an excerpt from Susannah Felts' first novel, and more.

**WEB: WITHOUT GRACE, AMEN Rebekah Lyn Cowell
THIS WILL GO DOWN ON YOUR PERMANENT RECORD Pitchfork Battalion (Self, Dills, Tucker)

Rebekah Lyn Cowell

Cowell is a University of North Carolina philosophy grad and has short work forthcoming in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Muscadine Lines, Mud Luscious, and Prick of the Spindle. She writes when her toddler, Hannah, sleeps.

We stayed with our mother whilst he traveled, waiting for him to get a job that would bring us all together. Living in borrowed houses with plywood walls, shag carpet and peeling linoleum, waiting for our home, a mirage on the horizon.

By the time I left, my father knew I doubted him, and he couldn't bear the sight of me. But it didn't take me to reach eighteen to decide he was a liar. It began on that hot August night when I'd decided God, grace, and my father were all things I could do without.


We'd been waiting for a breeze from the river at the bottom of the hill -- situated there in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains -- a cool air that might rise. Nothing stirred the sheers. You could hardly think in that sullen heat, cicadas and crickets buzzing so.

Me and Michael stayed outside as long as we could, sitting in trees, wading in the trickle we called "our stream" -- the mosquitoes drove us in.

Supper was quiet; sandwiches, again. No one complained, no one ever complains about food.

The man that is my father didn't eat with us. He'd had his dinner in town.

While he sat in his chair in the living room, we ate, talking in hushed tones. His presence was subduing, his rule an iron rod.

There were times when he was happy, but moving to South Carolina put him on edge. For months anger boiled beneath the surface. That night my mother didn't tip-toe around his simmering, silent seething. Like dangling a bone before a mad dog she started in. She wanted to know when we were getting out of that trailer, what with it hitting close to 100 degrees mid-day, a metal box. A place she was expected to raise her family?

He jumped right in, started yelling before we could blink our eyes.

I only registered tones, the words white noise, even when he screamed so close to my face that his spit misted my cheeks. Even then I couldn't hear him, only the loud rushing beating whoosh of my heart.

I cried. I always did. Elizabeth called me a baby, and I guess I was. Elizabeth wouldn't cry. She'd get pale and all her freckles would stand out on her face like spots on a Dalmatian, but she never cried.

There was nothing to do when he was like that, drunk on anger. What could be the defense when it was called backtalk? He'd say I sulked, but I was drained. I always wanted to sleep after the rants. I couldn't smile so quickly after being bruised.

They moved into their bedroom -- barely out of eyesight, never of earshot.

My mother came out, tears on her face, bitter eyes. She'd strike like that.

Before laying me down to sleep, I stood up on my tippy-toes and checked on my hamsters sitting high up on a bookshelf in the narrow little excuse for a hall. Three cages: two females, one male, Abraham the daddy of all those babies I sold to the pet store at a buck apiece.

Money I'd save for one monthly riding lesson. Three times I went to a stable outside of Greenville, riding a Lipizzaner named Silver. My heart yearned after a horse. My father said I'd never get one, and I didn't.

For my 13th birthday he gave me a set of real iron horseshoes. Hope bloomed in my chest and I felt dizzy with anticipation. Was this his way of telling me I had a horse? That should get you started on that horse you want. Heartsick, I'd smiled thinly, then endured his retelling of it to congregation members. His punchline: my test in faith -- I had the horseshoes, and if I prayed hard enough God would provide the horse.

A boy in our church had an Appaloosa named Angel. Once he let me ride her. My parents never allowed it again, Steven 17 to my 13 -- couldn't be innocent. The line drawn when he'd stopped me in the long narrow hall of my father's storefront church on Main Street, telling me Angel had gone lame, and my mother rounded the corner and took one look at me alone with a boy and her mouth set in a sharp line. She grabbed my arm just above the elbow, bruising my flesh, dragging me along, hissing. Don't you be throwing yourself at boys!

She brought up my transgression at the Sunday dinner. My father looked at me and I didn't even bother looking back down at my plate, piled with the best food we'd seen all week -- chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetables, a buttermilk biscuit on the side. He started out with Proverbs and worked his way up to Revelations, the whore of Babylon my cautionary tale, and he wasn't going to have a daughter ruining her reputation, ruining his reputation.

The table sitting in silence, eating their food, mother sternly watching, and when I finally looked back down at my plate, all desire was gone, gnawing sadness left to fill its place. He issues his command. Stop sulking and eat!

After that I would never say another word to Steven, though I watched him, and sometimes one of his gray eyes would wink at me. Steven was mostly pensive, and I knew for a fact that his father beat him, beat his brothers. I also knew that his Aunt living with them was pregnant with his dad's baby.

Peering up there to check on those hamsters one last time was when it really happened. They were stretched out flat, their bodies arched as they reached their noses to the top of the cage, the glass aquarium framing supine bodies. Taking Abraham out with shaking hands, deep sobs shook my body. He was dead; nothing but a handful of fur as light as thistle fluff.

My mother lost it. She rushed at my father: you killed her hamster she says, this is all your fault she says, she's leaving and going back home she says, home to North Carolina she says, you've neglected your family she says, the church is more important she says, she's had enough.

My father on top of her, yelling back. Then he focused on me, standing with death in my palm, blasted me for having the hamsters in the first place -- I was selfish, ungrateful. I stood numb with grief and shock. My mother jumped in and he turned to her and I slunk off with my Abraham.

I wrapped him in a piece of blue calico from my mother's scrap bag. Elizabeth, sympathetic, followed me outside into the starless night, the stricken sky heavy above us as we bent to the task of burying Abraham.

Walking barefoot through the dry, dewless grasses, I stopped at a young dogwood tree -- standing at the crest of the hill, the hill which plunges into a valley, which falls into a stream, which flows into a river.

My father said I was bewitched by that river, spanking me every time I came home with wet hems, and muddy calves, proof of where I'd gone and a reminder of what he had forbade me. I was never scared of the water. The river's cool muddy bottom fed my thirsty longing for something other than the barren life. The river moved wherever it wished to go, and I'd enviously watch the sticks float around the bend to places I could not see.

I dug, my bare feet biting into the metallic shovelhead, my arch aching with the bruising pressure as shovelful after shovelful of dense clay was ripped from the ground. I cried while I dug. I dug a hole big enough for a dog before Elizabeth finally stopped me.

Bile rose in my throat when the first shovelful of dirt hit his body, covering him, obliterating him.

"Dust to dust, ashes to ashes," I murmured

I didn't want to go back inside, but I was scared of the endless night. The sky had deserted me, and the lights from the mobile home were more welcoming than the emptiness of the expanse over my head. I didn't bother washing, just changed my clothes and lay down on the bed face first where I sobbed myself to sleep, my oldest sister urging me quiet. I swallow my sobs, but I don't stop crying.