he guy who’d owned this house was a dentist,” Blake said, “and he went nuts and gave his cows root canals.” We’d left our fire burning and walked beneath the walnut trees lining the tennis court. “I heard there was a town up Monteagle Mountain,” Danny Price said. “But everyone left. Some of them died. There’s a kind of post office, still. Lot of theories about what happened and none of them good.” Danny Price—he was the oldest acolyte, and just loaded with knowledge. “In Mcdonald,” Mccall said, “a rich college boy and a cheerleader from Notre Dame High School lay together on the train tracks, middle of the night, hugging, and got run over. Lot of people thought it was an act of love.” This is so much fun, I thought. Last Labor Day there’d been a hayride. Last Labor Day I’d seen Mccall get hot and peel herself down to a sports bra, and then I got hot too. Last Labor Day I’d stuffed myself full of hot dogs with chili, and Danny Price told Blake and me ghost stories beneath the gnarled oak tree. But the ghost stories then were not true. Back in the spring, Allen and Susanne Whaley’s six-year-old granddaughter engaged herself with a loaded rifle and the thing went off. The adults this Labor Day drank more now, seemed to stay quite separate from their children. This Labor Day, we cooked our own hot dogs, even built our own fire. Tonight you could feel autumn gaining early. Step outside and feel like you’d emerged from a good bath and dried yourself off, threw on a set of new clothes. Dark poured in from the eastern mountains, and a burst of crows flung out of the pine forest, shot skyward, curled and nosedived and vanished into the forest again. The last sunlight threw itself over the tennis court. I was paying attention tonight. My senses were loaded in me like a bag of needles.
This rental house—the dentist’s old house—was a sprawling, one-story ranch-style sitting on thirty-some acres. The adults stayed fixed to the veranda, dancing. The veranda was a horrendous brown thing canopied by a ’70s-style vinyl ceiling.