The Beasts
Philip Brooks

In an untended playground, circled schoolgirls stitch flags. The teacher reads to the girls from a newspaper: stories of distant heroes vanquishing evil. A bird sings. The junkman's wagon rattles through the gates. He tips his cap and winks at the teacher. She quickly returns her gaze to the newspaper. You delicious peach, he thinks. He halts at the fountain to let his thin horse drink while he rolls a cigarette, tearing a rough square of paper from the book he keeps under his seat. The volume describes modern methods of pork production.

The Book of Smoked Bacon, he calls it.

In his cart lie remains of the smashed village clock: gears, bent Roman numerals, the long iron hands. The bell could not be budged by one man.

The headmaster stands at his window, looks down at the junkman who lights his cigarette and shakes the horse's reigns. The horse shakes his head and looses a shower of piss splashing over the cobblestones.

"My poor beast is uncouth," the junkman says to the teacher. The girls giggle. "God bless you both," says the teacher. The noisome cart gone up the road, the headmaster brings a telescope to his eye, focusing strictest attention upon the teacher's soft mouth as the dozens of small fingers draw needle and thread through bright-colored fabric.

Philip Brooks has had stories in The Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, elimae, Willow Springs and others. He lives in Ohio with his wife and son.

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