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This article is taken from PN Review 246, Volume 45 Number 4, March - April 2019.

Dollhouse on Fire Sheri Benning
AT THE JUNCTION, turn south on Highway 15. Before you reach the former town site of Amazon, turn east down any grid road. Continue until you can see Last Mountain Lake spark on the horizon. Lined with caragana trees planted in the 1930s to anchor the dirt, the fields left in stubble are deer-hide blonde; sky, arterial blue. Keep an eye out for whitetail, maybe moose. Don’t be surprised – a sharp-tail grouse might burst out nowhere, a flurry of dun feathers.

Dolls house

No one lives here anymore. This sour land, alkaline, should never have been pressed into cultivation. There’s an abandoned yard-site every section or so. Always in the back forty acres, an old barn leans into the pelt of thistle, spear grass, crested wheat, brome. In such a barn I was once badly startled when something coarse brushed my face – the frayed end of a rope tied to a corroded metal hook and pulley, likely where the farmer hung his animals to bleed out before butchering. If you decide to have a look in the house, its windowpanes long shot out, step lightly. Make sure the rotting floor beams can support your weight. You don’t want to fall into a dank basement cistern. You’ll notice that people leave behind the plainest things. A pocked iron kettle with a regally curved spout; a rain-bloated issue of The Ladies Home Journal; a pair of calfskin leather baby shoes, laces tied. I leave these objects untouched. But it’s up to you. If you get lost ...

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