: All the Way Down :

an excerpt by Kris Saknussemm


Casper's adoptive parents were figures straight out of the Great Depression, proud to say they survived on “shit and grit and mother wit”-both into their late fifties when they took charge of him, and how they finagled that he was never sure.  Perhaps because it was what seemed like another era and fewer questions were asked.  Or because it was in the South and attitudes were different.  He was after all a ward of the church. 


Whatever strings they pulled (perhaps too apt a metaphor), he came to accept them as just another part of the shadowy providence of his life.  They never seemed to have been young, so it was hard to tell their true age, and they were both exceptionally believable and indeed professional liars.  Although he came to love them, he also came to hate them.  They were more like animal trainers than family.


His lost dog father had used so many aliases over the years, Casper was never sure what his real name had been.  Calhoun, Brixton, Sheridan … Benny, Lucas, Amos … the man and his masks blurred … and with those “evolutions,” his wife's name underwent parallel changes. 


If pressed, Casper would've said his guardian father's real name was Mungo Appleton, and that he came from Dime Box, Texas.  His wife was called Miss Rosalie, but when she was telling fortunes, she went by Zantia.  When they started playing the church circuit together, she became Sister Rosalie.  As to her maiden name and place of birth, Casper had no idea.  He'd once heard whispers of a Scandinavian surname and a mention of the Dakotas, but she'd always dyed her hair to accentuate her gypsy image when she was younger, and kept up the habit even when they went religious.  Casper, who was still young Mathias at this stage, was taught to address them just as Poppy and Rose.