The Rowan House
Chad Simpson

All night he stared at my wife's tits like he was maybe retarded and before we left he walked over to the bar and said he wanted to show me something. I said, "I'm good," holding up the bourbon and melting ice chips still in my glass.

This guy called himself a Colonel. He'd asked me if I was sure when I'd ordered this particular bourbon on the rocks.

"Come on now," he said, waving me over with a fat hand, his eyes on my wife again.

He'd served us pork chops as thick as my wrists, cold asparagus glazed with a vinaigrette, sweet potato casserole, and pan-fried cornbread. For desert, chocolate cake smeared with raspberries. We were in his home. This was how he made a living. "You should know this," the Colonel said.

He'd twice been on The Food Network, but he didn't look exactly as he had in the videos of him we'd watched online. His chest was just as barreled. His hair was as white and wild, and his accent was just as thick. But half his face seemed pinched, like he'd had a stroke and it hadn't since opened back up. A few hours and several drinks after my wife and I first walked in the door, that half was looking a lot worse. Threatening, even. I followed him over to the bar.

The Colonel said something about the perfect mint julep. He used the word 'delicate' and put a firm green sprig on the bartop.

The original owner of the house had won a famous duel in 1801. Before Rowan shot the other guy through the chest, the two of them had been arguing about who was better at Latin.

I was thinking about this Colonel and his mashed face taking my wife from behind, making her scream in a way I never had. I was thinking about what it would be like to watch this happen. About what I might feel.

The Colonel set an ice-filled glass down next to the mint. He pulled a bottle of bourbon down from the shelf, retrieved a pitcher of simple syrup from the mini-fridge at my feet. We were so close I could feel a foul heat coming off him, I could see orange and red seasonings bright and congealed beneath his long fingernails. He brushed his arm up against mine, and when I looked at him, he was crying out of one eye. "Pay attention now," he said, his voice a whisper somewhere between mean and broken. "I'm teaching you something here, son."

Chad Simpson teaches at Knox College. He's the author of Phantoms, a chapbook, and has work in or coming from Orion Magazine, matchbook, The Collagist, Crab Orchard Review and others.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of J. König.

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