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October 2013, vol 8, no 3

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Steven Carter


Labor Day

In the eyes of the world she doesn't have a lot going for her—to some, zilch. Overweight, squatty, she's also cursed with a grating, irritating voice and lank, stringy hair.

Her husband's a drunk, breezing into the bar now and then wearing a porkpie hat with a feather in it, ordering a to-go plastic pint of rotgut Black Velvet. He carries a gun.

But here she is—I see her in the gold-flecked bar mirror— methodically filling bag after bag of ice for the campground they run for the state of Montana a mile north of the bar. I watch her from the corner of my eye, tongue slightly protruding from one side of her mouth; she reminds me of a child concentrating on an art project. She carefully fills each bag with the exact same amount of chipped ice. This is what she does every day—sometimes twice, three times a day—during Swan Lake's high season.

She repeats this routine over and over in the mirror—almost, one is tempted to say, lovingly.

nobody looking—
a good old boy
drops the cowboy swagger




crane