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Short Stories:

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Paradise Buried
By: Larry Bourland

00:00 / 05:29

I resided in a forgotten, yet impending ghost town just within the southwest border of Kansas. This geographical vortex, historically known for cataclysmic haboobs, is on the brink of total collapse, destined to be reabsorbed into miles of myriad sand dune formations.

My ranch comprised six A-frame wooden rooflines, barely visible above a sea of endless sand. Windows and a hayloft door granted me direct walk-in access to the old house and the barn. A brick silo stood alone a quarter mile from the barn, unexplored during my first three years establishing "Paradise Buried" as my new homestead.

Occasionally, a lantern light reflected from within the silo late into the night—not every night, only when I remembered to glance in its direction. Apparently, I had a tenant. No other evidence of life, no noise, no theft, no footprints. Curiosity got the better of me one afternoon, and with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand, I decided to welcome my heretofore unknown neighbor to my world. I had no pressing business, and crops weren't due for a few more decades.

To the rear of the silo, a wooden ladder was perched leading up to a window shaded by an old bed sheet. Yelling up at the bed sheet to gain attention, praying Rapunzel might appear, my insistent calling paid off when a grizzled voice yelled back, demanding why anyone was yelling at the break of noon. "Too early for some Jack?" I called out. "Hell no, mind your footing, the ladder is a might tender!" came his reply.

I learned his name was Jesse, age somewhere between 78 and 104. A retired recluse, hermit, mining buzzard who liked to keep to himself. He'd taken up residence in my silo about two years ago and said he hoped he hadn't been too much trouble. Said he'd be willing to move on if that were my wishes. We got properly drunk and familiar, and I found no reason to boot Jesse from his rather comfortable home. He'd not cost me a penny nor any anguish, and knowing someone was around made me feel secure knowing someone was around.

I appointed Jesse to be the Foreman of "Paradise Buried," provided him a stipend to attend to the sand and other things to be determined at a later date and time.

Jesse never had to answer to me nor had any chores or hours to be kept. An open invitation stood whenever he smelled the barbecue going off, which was about every night. We shared meals, drinks, lies, stories, opinions, and philosophies during our many dinners. Whenever Jesse was a no-show for dinner, I figured he was off adventuring as old coots do with what time they have left. It always did my heart good when I would see his lantern glowing in the silo late at night upon his return.

To paint you a picture of where "Paradise Buried" is—my driveway is a 26-mile gravel road with sheep, goats, turtles, Republicans, ribbon snakes, and cattle who sometimes roam through abandoned homes along the highway to town.

The town was named after some fella named Jonathon White, but the City Limits sign had been so weather-beaten and worn that all that could be read was "Welcome T Whit pop 2200” (dried up to its current estimate of 101 souls).

Main Street in T Whit had no traffic signals or street lights. When the sun closed for the day, so did T Whit. Main Street housed the unapologetically named City Medical Clinic, open only on Wednesdays. Busy as a beehive was Bob's Hardware Emporium, whose inventory of 1957 dust was second to none and run on the honor system, since no one worked there. The Postmaster was Stephen King’s doppelgänger except he never blinked. The only antique store was perpetually for sale, and its deathbed owner never allowed customers into his unlit mausoleum of forgotten works and suspected hidden bodies repository. Beverly's Beauty Shop-Tool Rentals & Craft Supplies was always busy, and the mini-market at Paulie's Save-Rite Gas Station and Repairs kept the town stocked in junk food and alcohol. Five restaurants, three bars, two churches, and a cinema had all failed and each been boarded up over 15 years ago. Every ranch, farm, and industrial business had gone belly up, leaving the folks of T Whit City with nothing but a future of impending haboobs.

I stayed on at "Paradise Buried" for a total of five years; I'd inherited it from a distant great-grand-uncle's barber whom I'd never met. But it was paid off, free and clear. I signed the property over to my Ranch Foreman Jesse, where he lives today, keeping watch over his sand from the silo. Me? I left and went elsewhere.

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