The Masters Review Blog

Jul 17

New Voices: “Linear Histories” by Dan Tremaglio

In today’s New Voices, we are proud to present “Linear Histories” by Dan Tremaglio! “Linear Histories” follows a classics major’s encounter with a stranger outside his rented stonehouse at the edge of the desert, and her desire to document the history of the land in her will. Tremaglio’s prose winds and weaves through this memory and the memories it sparks with ease, as if floating down the river alongside our protagonist. Follow along below.

For three days we had floated a stretch of the Rio Grande up by the state border, a nice slow downstream bob peppered with occasional class three rapids. Overall, it was a very relaxed pace, very easy to drink endlessly through. Beers we towed behind the raft in a mesh bag where the grit and floating chunks of pumice could erode their bilingual labels. At sunset on the final day, we were almost home when we entered a narrow pastel-colored canyon. Soon after the walls closed in, petroglyphs began appearing a few feet above the water line, gold scratches in the pinkish rock.

This was when I was living with three other classics majors in a stonehouse north of Española on the edge of the desert. A long dirt road led down from the highway through the cottonwoods by the river and then out again into a lot of brown rock and dust and neurotic rabbits. The boulders that made that stonehouse were all big smooth grey and pearly ones that had probably come from the river by burro a hundred years back. The place had an unfinished feel to it, which I loved, and it was crazy cheap, which I required. I used to think certain things when I heard the phrase dirt floor, namely that it was made of dirt and left your foot bottoms black. But the dirt floor of our kitchen and living area didn’t do that at all. That dirt there was so well-packed and silky, it didn’t even seem like dirt but flesh. Seriously, when you walked across it barefoot, you felt like you were treading across some enormous lady’s belly.

Also notable was the old coyote mutt that came with the place. I say mutt because that’s how the landlord introduced it, but really it looked pretty unmutt to me, i.e. it looked just like a coyote. Big bushy tail. Skinny legs. Long snout full of needle teeth. Then again, it acted like a dog, so maybe the landlord knew what was what. Either way I adored this creature and would put water out for him and occasionally pork chops. He had a bunch of names, but the one that stuck wasn’t very creative, so I won’t drop it here. Sometimes when my roommates were out, I would leave the door open and he would come in and sleep on our belly-like floor while I read or worked on a translation.

Like all the houses in that neighborhood, ours had a barbed-wire fence that ran all along the property line. Unlike all the houses in that neighborhood, which had electric driveway gates that opened with garage door openers, our gate had just a padlock and a chain. This was a pain because every time you came or went you had to get out of your car to deal with it. Making it a bigger pain was the fact that I had only one key ring with all my keys on it, so whenever I pulled up to the gate I would have to cut the engine and take the gate key along with all the other keys over to the gate to unlock the gate lock and then go back and restart my piece of shit, which was a piece of shit and therefore not great at restarting, and drive through the gate into the driveway and shut off the car again and get out and rewrap the chain around the gate and relock the lock.

See? Major pain.

Point being, my roommates and I got in the habit of leaving the gate open during the daytime even though nobody else in neighborhood did that and our landlord repeatedly warned us not to.

And then one afternoon a car pulled in and honked three times.

At first, I figured the coyote was asleep in the road, which happened sometimes, but after three more honks I looked behind me and there the coyote lay, snoring in a square of light.

I got up, parted a curtain, took in the big black sedan idling in our driveway. The driver must have seen me do this, because the passenger window slid down just then, so I went out barefoot and hunched over to look inside. The driver was an old woman with short gray hair and dark leathery skin. She wore frameless glasses and looked miniscule behind the wheel. I crossed my arms, perched my elbows on the doorframe, said hi, sniffed a fresh baked bread smell.

She asked who owned this place.

To continue reading “Linear Histories” click here.

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