Big Boy Graveyard, Marquette, Michigan
Jennifer A. Howard

He has already taken her up Sugarloaf Mountain. The terrain now is different from when he was younger: the birches devoured by bores, their bark like paperbacks scattered in sheaves on the forest floor.

He has turned to watch this woman scrap the fence to follow him into the abandoned Lake Superior ore dock, its octagonal pools and concrete pillars more suited to some ancient metropolis than this mining town, now full with college boys who will leave. Unlike him, leaning over the engine of a car every day, feeling his way through the maze of belts and wires and wondering how he can describe the hold of this deserted peninsula to the woman he wants to stay.

He has jumped small cliffs with her at the Black Rocks, and they've floated in the still quarry past the Crossroads. They have tumbled, top down, along dirt roads toward hidden waterfalls and through sandy trenches under power lines lit by Northern Lights. Still, he knows his small waterways and dry dirt roads all lead to bigger rivers and paved highways elsewhere. He could end up showing her the way out.

But only here could she ever be kissed under the shadow of three Big Boys. That's the rumor, though he has never seen them. So he asks around, and then drives her down US41 toward Negaunee, turning just past the industrial park. They pass the trailer courts, realize they're on a bypass of sorts, and turn around. A man by a garage tells him to go back where they came from, take a right through a big puddle and they'll see them peeking through the trees. So he does, but nothing watches back from the woods. They ask again, interrupting a couple doing yard work who tell them to turn halfway through the curve. He tries.

Just when he hopes instead for a coyote to show her, or glimpse of the Dead River Basin, he catches the puddle and turns, blowing through it without four-wheel drive or any sense of which direction he's headed. When the Big Boys in their checkered pants appear on their right, he can't decide if they're bigger than he expected or smaller. But he parks and approaches them slowly, stopping under the hand of the one who has lost his hamburger. He's about to call her over, but she approaches him first, silent – small fingers already unbuttoning her own shirt, not even waiting for him to triangulate just the right place to love her.

Jennifer A. Howard's work has appeared in Norton's Flash Fiction Forward anthology, and in Redivider, SmokeLong Quarterly, Quarterly West and others.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Yooper Steez.

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