Templeton, Missouri

And then there was the time that Ephraim Tate cut Slow Jack Blessing’s throat. Right in the middle of town and everything.

There’d been words exchanged, of course. Slow Jack might have had a drink or two, and I know Ephraim was three sheets because Ephraim hadn’t been right since his mama passed the winter before.

Any case, it was just another fight. But Deputy Tom was late this time. Whatever he was doing, I wonder if it was worth all that came after. Not just Slow Jack bleeding out in front of Amberson’s General Store. I mean the trial too, and Doc Stark and Molly Grogan and that damned old woman on Cyril Tate’s porch, and the hollow look in her eyes as she glanced us over. Like we were something sinful. I’ll never forget that. Not ever in my life.

The other thing I’ll never forget from that summer was that first thing. The knife going into Slow Jack’s throat. The blood pumping onto Ephraim’s hand, staining him and us.

Twelve years old. The both of them.

Christ Jesus, the things a small town learns.

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