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Quotes from Jan's writing

  • 1.  A pall lay over Wylie, a lonely hulk on the bleached and trackless landscape. Despite it must be afternoon, the snow gray day begged nightfall. Heat rose from Wylie’s heaving sides, vaporing against the frigid air. Shaw removed his gloves, dropped them at his feet, took up the rifle. The icy barrel on his bare hands threatened to skin them. He snugged the buttplate of the Model 94 to his shoulder, closed his right eye, aligned his left down the sightline. The sweet smell of gun oil that would hereafter sicken him. The rifle kicked. The bullet’s crackle broke over the cold, its echo eaten by wind. Wylie slumped. Blood spattered. Snow sifted from trees. The spent shell ejected. Out of habit Shaw caught it, and to be certain against suffering he slammed home a reload and fired again.
  • Stern Agony, Douglas Jan.

2.   Shaw watched in awe as she grooved to those pounding rhythms, mesmerized by the inner curve of her thighs sunlit through her dress. The arch and surge of her body like torch flame cavorting with wind. Shaw had no inkling, then, how Zella’s desires might differ from his own. But he’d begun to understand the suffering in hope. The rosy tongue that wet her mouth. Lips so hot, he bet her kisses tasted red.

Stern Agony, Douglas Jan

3.  There’s this other way war can be when there’s a mom in the middle of it. Weeks go by without a letter. Then some government car pulls in the drive and, moments later, the knock at the door. The dog almost knocks her over, because, somehow, the dog knows it’s him, but it’s not--it’s just what’s left. It takes a while for pride to find its way through such grief, to move beyond the gut wrench in that kind of sorrow. I suppose it’s hard for a mother to surrender when she’s in battle that way, with no weapons, no comrades, no rivals. Why him, Momma wanted to know, why my boy? What dignity is there, really, when it ends like this? And every time the rain blew against the windows after that, she told me, it sounded like the spray of bullets.

Yet a Few Days, Douglas Jan

4.  Itineraries of my city life had altered to farm-time. Instead of urban clocks, the days, the months, the years here were measured in rhythm of seasons, the equipoise of weather and husbandry, by suppertimeand notions of God.

Stern Agony, Douglas Jan

5.   She lit a new cigarette off the one she was smoking, used the spent one on her arm. She held it there, the smoldering cinder, pressed it into the tender flesh below her elbow. Unflinching, she dangled her burned arm to the side, sucked her cigarette into a glowing ash. She raised her arm again, turned it palm up, burned it again, her breaths like a speeding clock.
A solemn significance abounded, like in church right after the music. Shaw half expected someone to cough. From the driveway, he heard, or thought he heard, a car door. He hadn't seen headlights. Just then, a shift of air flattened the candleflame. 
Shaw retreated through darkness and up the stairs. He watched from his bedroom window, but couldn’t see the car. He went to bed, slept fitfully.
By morning she was dead.

Stern Agony, Douglas Jan

6.  Gramp’s stories, his anecdotes, were meant to teach Shaw, to instruct him in the ways of the world, and his wisdom moved Shaw’s mind meteor-like, trailing light and heat and meaning like an aftereffect that may not catch Shaw’s consciousness for months, even years, and then, like a comet, come around and dazzle him.

Stern Agony, Douglas Jan

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