THESE DAMP STONES, a novel-in-progress by Sheryl Monks
The store was the nearest place in Clinch to shop if you didn’t have a car. Or if you didn’t have gas money to drive fifteen miles into Iaeger, which is where she usually went when Wannace could take her. There was a Piggly Wiggly in Massey, but that was clear across Huff County. Clinch was just a skip away from Johnnycake, and Johnnycake was just a skip away from Iaeger.
The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time.
Seifert turned his attention to the television. “There’s a true politician for you,” he told Roland, gently pulling a silk handkerchief from his suit-coat pocket.
Roland slid a small door to one side and extracted a leather tobacco pouch, which he untied and rolled out on the flat surface of the counter. There were a couple of glass canisters of loose tobacco on the shelf behind him, as well as several less expensive boxes of cigars, raw twists and plugs, and a large assortment of rolling papers and cans of snuff.
Seifert unfolded the handkerchief to reveal a hand-carved meerschaum pipe engraved in the image of a bearded old man. It was a beautiful pipe with a coppery patina just beginning to highlight the crags and crevices of the old man’s beard. Seifert stuffed the handkerchief in his pocket, spun the pipe upside down and tapped it against one palm to dislodge the old tobacco inside.
“Turn that racket off,” Roland told Donetta, motioning toward the TV. She was bent over, reaching into the pasteboard box, her arms loaded with small cartons of baking soda, which she continued to shelve. Behind her a poster for Chesterfield Kings.
Dreama kept an eye on Condy as she rifled through a container of seed packets and then a box of sewing patterns. Thrown over her shoulder was a drawstring purse she’d made from a pattern Imogene Riffe had given her. Dreama had not learned to sew expertly by hand, but she could piece together simple patterns.
Inside the purse there were five booklets of pastel-colored Food Stamps, which she’d been receiving since January. One of her sisters in McDowell County had been getting stamps since the trial run Kennedy had initiated two years earlier. The miners’ families in West Virginia had made an impression on the young senator when he’d come campaigning in 1960, and he had not forgotten them.
She bumped Willard down to the floor and steered him around stacked bags of Poulin Grain feeds and Purina bone meal, cracked corn and layer feed. They wound around tables of baler twine, stacks of galvanized wash tubs, and a couple bins of moldering produce toward the shelves that stocked canned food items.
The wind picked up outside and slapped the screen door in its frame a couple of times, the little bell ringing wildly and then ceasing.
Seifert tossed the spent tobacco into the coal bucket beside the darkened potbellied stove behind him, and then leaned in close to inhale the new shipment’s sweet pungency. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, the corners of his graying mustache rising ever so slightly. “I don’t generally care for the aromatics,” he said, picking up a pinch of the tobacco and drawing it closer to take in its full effect. “But these Oriental blends make up for what they lack in flavor.”
Roland smiled, nodding appreciatively. “You’ll want to smoke this one here slow. I’m told it’ll start to burn hot if you smoke it too fast.”