The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

58 Robert Gipe and Higher Ground Company

he was going to be OK. But then one night him and Mom had a bad phone call. And Dad left. I let him go. I knew where he was going. But then it started raining, a hard July rain. And Dad never came home. They found him at the bottom of 12 O’Clock Overlook. And that’s when the talk started, people saying he’d jumped. I don’t think he did. But everywhere I went, people stopped talking. So I knew they were talking about me. So that’s why I’m thinking I’ll never find my peace here. [ Pause. ] I don’t know what to do. I love that land, but it’s a curse. [ Reaches under the seat, pulls out a handgun. ] Papaw left me this, too. [ Turns the pistol over and over in his lap. ] I don’t know which is more likely to bring me to harm—this pistol Papaw gave me or that land. [ Puts his head in his hand, then raises up and looks at the audience. ] Why can’t we talk about these things? *** Scene Nine: Why Can’t We Talk CARLTON comes out of the Mega-Mart, pushing a buggy full of mason jars, sees JAMES sitting in his car with his pistol, becomes worried. CARLTON approaches the passenger side, gets in the car. CARLTON: What do you say there, buddy? JAMES: Yeah. Hey, Carlton. What are you doing out here at four in the morning? CARLTON: Needed to get me couple cases of mason jars. JAMES: For your sorghum. CARLTON: Right. And look here. Found a magazine on steam locomotives. [ Flips through the magazine with JAMES.] When I was a kid, I was very interested in them. I still am. I’d love to operate the one at Dollywood. I’d probably let ‘em pull my teeth with vise grips just to let me operate it one time. JAMES: Didn’t know you were into that. CARLTON: No way you would. Silence. JAMES: I need to decide what I’m going to do with Papaw’s land. Can’t get nobody to talk to me about it. Silence. CARLTON: I don’t know what to say. JAMES: It’s all right. [ Pause. ] Carlton, doesn’t this place ever get to you?

CARLTON: Of course. This place is a torment. A man can go on that Harlan County Topichouse for ten minutes—all that gossip and craziness—and who’d blame him for moving in a cave out here in the woods somewhere? [JAMES laughs. CARLTON pauses, looks at JAMES.] Can I look at your pistol, there? JAMES hands CARLTON the pistol. CARLTON sets the pistol down on the other side of him.

JAMES: So how do you make it? CARLTON starts to speak, then stops. CARLTON: You’ll think I’m foolish. JAMES: No, I won’t.

CARLTON: Papaw taught me that if you put flour on a bee, it made it easier to see, and you could follow it back to the hive. So I did that one time. That’s how I found my first bees. Papaw also taught me that you could take a chainsaw and cut the bees out of the tree, and I done that too. And I was carrying those bees home and the buzzing they made, it sounded like they was saying “staaaaaay.” Then I started hearing “stay” everywhere. I’d be helping my mommy in the garden, and I’d hear “stay” in the sound the tomato made coming off the vine. [CARLTON makes a gesture of picking tomatoes one after another. ] “Stay, stay, stay.” When my boy was walking ahead of me in the woods, the sound his feet made in the leaves sounded like “stay, stay, stay.” Then I seen the word “stay” spelled out in the skim on the sorghum. CARLTON looks at JAMES. JAMES: Wow. CARLTON: You think I’m a nut. JAMES: No. CARLTON: You just have to get where it’s quiet and listen. Hear all kinds of stuff. JAMES: So you think I should stay? CARLTON: I have no idea. [ Pauses, spits. ] You know who’s good for talking about these things? JAMES: Who?

CARLTON: Women. JAMES: That right?

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