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Reginald Blisterkunst, Ph.D.
Among the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Pluto Wars

Greg Chandler
"Bee's Tree"
"Local Folk"
"Roland's Feast"
"Pond Story "

Doug Childers
"The Baptism"

Gene Cox
The Sunset Lounge

Clarke Crutchfield
"The Break-In"
"The Canceled Party"
"The Imaginary Bullet"

Jason DeBoer
"The Execution of the Sun"

Deanna Francis Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Dennis Must

Charlie Onion
"Love Among the Jellyfish"
Pluto Wars
"Feast of the Manfestation"

Chris Orlet
"Romantic Comedy"

Daniel Rosenblum
"A Full Donkey"

Deanna Frances Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Andrew L. Wilson
"Fat Cake and Double Talk"


The Baptism
Doug Childers

"He's gone!" the deputy shouts, like he's one of the disciples staring into Jesus's empty tomb. "Bubba! You bastard!"

I open my eyes in time to see scrambled eggs falling into my cell and jiggling on the floor. Then I look over at Bubba's bed—empty—and up at the window. Bars sawed off, window wide open.

"So that's why I was so cold," I say.

Bubba'd been serving a month for assaulting the deputy, and he'd only had six days left before he was a free man again. Apparently, he couldn't wait. He'd left the file under my pillow so I could use it once they put new bars up. Of course my Dad, the sheriff, finds it immediately.

"So you're in on this," he says.

"No," I say, knowing he'd never believe me. "Really."

He spits on my bed and throws the file into the spit. The edge is shiny from rubbing the bars all night.


You'd have thought Bubba would have done it like they always do in the movies, puffing his pillow up under his blanket like it's him asleep in bed, but he didn't. He's too tidy for that. He'd made the bed up before he left, and he'd done such a good job you could have bounced a quarter on it.

"If you don't want an extra month for accessory to the crime," Dad says, "you'll show us where your friend has gotten to."

"I don't have the foggiest idea," I say.

Dad nods at the deputy to take me outside.

"Put the cuffs on him," he says, once we're in the front office.

"Are you sure you want to—" the deputy starts to say.

Dad cuts him short.

"Put the cuffs on," he says. "We're going armed and I can't have a prisoner going around with his hands free."

The deputy makes me put my hands behind my back, and then he snaps the cuffs over my wrists.

"Now give me the key," Dad says, and after he's put the thing in his pocket, he reaches over and unlocks the gun cabinet and takes out two shotguns. "You take your truck up the back roads," he says, "and Junior and I'll check out the area on foot."

He hands a shotgun to the deputy and looks over at me. "Unless you want to tell us where he is right now, before we go through this crap. You may get a little time knocked off for it, you know."

"Don't have the foggiest," I say.

"Suit yourself," he says, pushing me toward the door with the shotgun pointed at my back.


There's a baptism down by the river, and I stop to watch the preacher ease a black man into the water, but Dad nudges me with the shotgun.

"Come on," he says. "You know where the bastard is. Let's go."

"Really," I say. "I don't know."

He grunts and nudges me again.

"You're born again, my son," the preacher is saying. "You are born anew into the life of Jesus." His voice floats over the water, booming and deep.

"Let's listen a minute," I say.

Dad waves the gun at me.

"Keep moving or else," he says. "I'm not above shooting my own son if the law requires it, you know."

We walk into the woods across from the jail, and Dad makes me call Bubba's name. Of course, nobody answers. At one point, a pheasant bursts up from a pile of leaves ahead of us. It seems to float for a second while it gathers force in its wings, and then it flies off down the ridge ahead of us.

"Look at that," I say.

Dad keeps walking. The bird's feathers are brilliant in the sun.

"You should have taken a shot," I say. "You could have bagged him."

"Official business," he says. "I'd have to explain using a firearm in the call of duty."

"Oh," I say. "Guess so."

We walk on for a while without talking, our feet making swishing noises in the leaves. Then we reach the edge of the woods above Sally's Sausage 'n' Eggs Restaurant.

"You know," I say, "I haven't eaten yet. The deputy dropped my breakfast tray when he saw the bars sawed through."

"We don't have time to stop."

"You've got to feed your prisoners, Dad. I'm sure there's a regulation for that."

"I don't want to be seen with you like this," he says. "You know how it makes me feel, having my own son walking around in handcuffs?"

"You could always take them off," I say. "I mean, I'm not going to run off or anything."

"I can't trust you," he says. "You've dishonored my family, and I can't trust you again. Ever."

"Look," I say. "If I could just get an egg and some toast, I'm sure I could think clearer about where Bubba's gotten to."

He considers for a minute and then sets the shotgun against a tree. He gestures for me to turn around and takes the handcuffs off.

"Just stick them in your pocket," he says. "And keep the key with them. I don't want your mother saying I locked you up permanently because we lost the key."

"Yes sir," I say. I jam the cuffs and the key into the only pocket I have in my jail uniform.

He looks at me and then takes his jacket off.

"Put this on," he says. "I sure as hell don't want people seeing you've got a jail number on your clothes."


Sally does a double take when she sees me and Dad walk in. His jacket is too big for me, and I feel like an idiot wearing the star badge over my heart.

"When did you get out?" she asks me.

"We're just out doing a little pheasant hunting," Dad says, setting the shotgun on the counter and resting his butt on a stool.

I sit down beside him and smile at Sally.

There are a few older people sitting together in the booths, and they get nervous when they see the shotgun going onto the counter.

"Do you mind if I put this behind the counter, Sheriff?" Sally picks the gun up. "It's scaring my customers."

He shrugs. "Whatever. Just doing a little pheasant hunting," he says, spinning around on his stool so he can see the old people in the booths. "Mighty warm out for March, isn't it?"

They smile uncertainly and agree that it is awfully warm.

"I'll have eggs, sausage, and coffee," I say. "And a slice of apple pie if it's fresh."

"Sure, honey," Sally says. "What about you, Sheriff?"

"Nothing for me. The boy's just hungry because we left home early, you know. Looking for pheasant."

I eat the eggs and sausage without saying much. It's the first meal I've had outside the jail in two months, and it tastes too good to waste words. After a while, Dad orders coffee and a piece of pie, and by the time we leave, he seems a little more relaxed. It makes me think of the way it used to be, when we went out cutting firewood for the stove. Dad would always stop off at Sally's and buy us some coffee and doughnuts, and after we'd gotten into the woods a ways, we'd sit with our backs up against a tree and eat the doughnuts and drink the coffee from the same cup.

I finish my pie and order another slice. Dad pays for the food with a battered ten-dollar bill and leaves the change on the counter as a tip.

"Sheriff," Sally calls out to us as we're leaving. "Aren't you forgetting something?"

We turn around and see her holding the shotgun up over the counter.

"Damn," he says, darting a nasty look at me.


"I really didn't mean any harm climbing into that old lady's house, you know," I say. We've crossed the street and are walking into the woods on the other side. "It was sort of a dare, you know, to see if I would do it."

"I don't want to talk about it," Dad says.

"I would've given the stuff back afterwards."

"I said I didn't want to talk about," he says.

We walk over a ridge and start down the other side without talking.

"You want your jacket back?" I say.

"Keep it."

"How about the cuffs—want me to put them back on?"

"No need," he says.

We reach the top of another ridge, and something runs through the bushes beside us. Dad grabs my arm and pulls me back behind him.

"All right, Bubba," he says, pointing the gun at the bush. "Come on out."

For a second, we stare at the bush. Then a dog comes out wagging his tail. I start to pet him, but Dad shoos him off with the butt of the shotgun.

"That dog looks a little like Trigger," I say. "Remember Trigger?"

"Sure, I do," Dad says, peeking into the bush. "Now just keep walking."

Dad kicks at the dog. It looks at me and runs off into the bushes. "Now tell me the truth. Is he out here or not."

"Listen," I say. "I really don't know. I just don't know."

He throws the shotgun over his shoulder and waves his free arm in front of him. "Let's go, then."


We walk in a big circle and come out of the woods behind the jail with the barless window in plain view below us. After he'd dropped to the ground, Bubba had stacked the bars up against the wall. The sun is shining on them, and it makes me think of a basket of breadsticks.

"All right," Dad says. "You've played your little games. Mind telling me where the hell he is?"

"The Hungry Ghost," I say, not looking at him.

"That bar up on 33?"


"How long you known he was there?"

"I don't," I say. "It's a hunch."

"Uh huh."

Ever since he'd landed in the cell, Bubba'd been going on and on about having a cold beer. Sometimes, he'd stand on his bed so he could look out the window, and all he'd talk about was how cold the beer was at the Hungry Ghost. I'd only been in the place once, when I went in to find the guy who was setting the old lady's house up for me to break into. I'd walked in by myself, and everybody'd stopped moving and just stared at me like I was a cop. "Aren't you the Sheriff's son?" one of the guys at the pool table had said. It was too dark to see his face clearly, and I'd ignored him.

Just as Dad and I were coming out of the woods and looking down at the jail, I'd thought about Bubba and the cold beer and I realized that's where he had to be.

"We'll take the truck," Dad says. "Just in case you're right."

He radios to the deputy about what we're doing, and we take off in the Blazer with the lights going and the siren blaring. Cars swerve onto the shoulder to avoid us.

"Don't you think the noise is going to scare him off?"

"This is an emergency, son. I know what I'm doing," Dad says.

After a couple of seconds, he reaches over and cuts the siren off.

We park at the back of the Hungry Ghost and Dad jumps out.

"You want me to stay here?"

"Come on," he says. "But put the cuffs back on. I don't want anybody thinking I'm giving my son special treatment."

I snap the cuffs over my wrists and hop out. Dad puts on a swagger and throws himself into the bar like he's looking for a fight. The door swings back on me, and I have to put my cuffed hands out to catch it before the latch clicks.

"Where the hell is he?" Dad snaps at the bartender.

There's a big mirror behind the bar with a naked lady etched onto it, and I can see our reflections under her hip. The bartender stares at us blank-faced.

"Do I have to rip this place apart," Dad says, "or are you going to work with me?"

Bubba's sitting at the end of the bar with a beer in his hand. He has his back to us, but I know it's him immediately. He's soaking wet from head to foot, and there's a big puddle of water under him.

"He's over there," I say quietly to Dad.

"What?" Dad looks down at the end of the bar and erupts. "What the hell are you doing, Bubba? Put that goddamn beer down and get in the truck. Pronto."

Bubba turns around and stares at us. He's smiling really big. "Howdy, Sheriff. Junior, how you doing?"

I smile at him and shrug.

"You know," I say.

"What the hell's happened to you?" Dad says.

"What do you mean?"

Dad points at the puddle around Bubba's stool.

"Oh, that," Bubba says. "I was baptized, Sheriff."


"I was sitting in the woods when you and Junior walked by," he says. "I was watching that baptism going on, and after you left, I decided I needed one too." He smiles at us winningly. "I have sinned, Sheriff, but now I'm clean."

"I ought to have that nigger preacher arrested for harboring a fugitive," Dad says.

He walks over to Bubba and pulls him off the stool.

"He says all men are worthy of God," Bubba points out.

"Is that right," Dad says. "Junior, give me those cuffs."

I reach in my pocket and get the key out. It takes me a second to get the first hand unlocked. I hold the cuffs out to Dad.

"Snap them on him," he tells me.

I hesitate for a second and walk over to Bubba.

"I'm sorry about this, Bubba," I say.

"Hey, man. Don't worry about it."

He has big wrists, and it's hard to close the cuffs over them.

"Can I finish my beer?" Bubba says.

"No," Dad says. "Let's go."

On the way out, Dad asks the bartender if he'd known Bubba was a jailbird.

"You know," the guy says, "the thought never occurred to me."

"Didn't the numbers on his shirt tell you anything?"

The bartender shrugs. "You know how people are dressing these days, Sheriff. There's just no telling."

"That's for sure," Dad says.


I ride up in the front seat with Dad, and Bubba rides in the back. The shotgun's on the seat beside me, but Dad doesn't seem to notice. We turn onto the main road, and Bubba starts telling us about the baptism. About how moving it was and how clean he'd felt afterwards. Dad cuts him short.

"There ain't a water that can clean a man's soul once it's sullied," Dad says in a sure voice, like he'd practiced the line before.

He glances at Bubba's reflection in the mirror. Then he looks over at me, and his eyes fall on the shotgun. For a second, I watch him consider whether I'm going to grab the thing and hold the both of them hostage or something. Then he gives me a sarcastic smirk and looks back at the road.

"Isn't that right, son?"

I look down at the badge on my chest and nod.

"I think he's right, Bubba," I say, as I reach for the shotgun.



About the Author

Doug Childers is the editor of WAG Magazine.


Graphic Design by D.A. Frostick 
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