: Bedrock :

an excerpt by Alexandre Mas


I honestly could not say what happened to this town. It used to be filled with lives linked to solid things like freight cars, wheat and rain. My father was a baker. He bought his flour from millers across town that got their grain from farms by the river. He was a sour man who left me with nothing but a temper and this storefront across from the rail house. As a kid, I'd lie on my bed in the room above the ovens and listen to the old, blue drone of trains as they'd rattle by and keep rolling, leaving just the stutter of crickets hopping into the grass strips between the rails. Now things were strange. The rail house had a restaurant with a name I didn't understand, “Adagio,” with no connection I could work out to food. The shop next door used to be in hardware, but now it was full of clothes that looked beat-up in every way except on the price tag. Every storefront on this block had something new in it, but mine. Even with the economy going to hell in a hurry, I had pups come in once a month to tell me I was sitting on a fortune and didn't know it, like I might peel up the floorboards and find so many bricks of gold I'd need four men with shotguns to walk me to the bank. The last one offered so much I couldn't speak to say no, and the need to answer was like dragging around sacks of sand.


And then there was the new boarder I took in for the room above the ovens. I'd been letting out that room for years, and after I closed the bakery for good I got most of my money in rent. Used to be only locals but lately it had been all sorts, like this new girl who drove up in a Volkswagen from Berkeley. She was small as a child with all her features pinched up in the middle of her face, leaving too much forehead and chin on either side. Her skin was dark like a Mexican's but she told me she was French, and she talked that way. Said her name was Natalie and that she was an archaeologist, but to me that was something you did in a place like Egypt, not here in Fresno County where all the treasure had long been panned, sacked, and spent. I greeted her gruff but instead of pulling back, she smiled up at me big and trusting, like it didn't matter what evil thoughts might be going through my head.