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"They watched him like wolves."

In Larry Brown's Joe, a destitute family of five has encamped in the northern Mississippi woods, with a drunken father being watched warily by his famished wife and children.
The fire grew dimmer. The plate of beans before the old man steamed but he didn't notice. A candlefly bored crazily in and out of the night and landed in the hot sauce, struggled briefly and was still. The old man's head went lower and lower onto his chest until the only thing they could see was the stained gray hat over the bib of his overalls. He snuffled, made some noise. His chest rose and fell. They watched him like wolves. The fire cracked and popped and white bits of ash fell away from the tree limbs burning in the coals. Sparks rose fragile and dying, orange as coon eyes in the gloom. The ash crumbled and the fading light threw darker shadows still. The old man toppled over slowly, a bit at a time like a rotten tree giving way, until the whiskey lay spilling between his legs. They watched him for a few minutes and then they got up and went to the fire and took his plate and carried it away into the dark.
Such plain, simple language (a long paragraph with only four commas, and only two words with more than two syllables), yet so evocative.

January 4, 2013 in Books | Permalink

Comments

I've never heard the term "candlefly" before, but I love it.

Posted by: Paul Lamb at Jan 5, 2013 3:05:04 AM