Chapter Sixty-Two: The Plague of Bullets

Editor’s Note: as Vine approaches the 21st century, it’s not hard to feel as though the town is beset by challenges on all sides. Nowhere can stay completely cut off from the world forever. Christine thinks the turn of the century will see Vine fully merging with the outside world, modernizing completely, but gradually, like a frog boiling in a pot. How much say will the people of Vine have in the matter? How much say do they want? Consider, after the Hayes murders, the rise in gun ownership in Vine. Not just hunting rifles, I mean the people of Vine concealed carrying handguns. All of this happened in the summer and fall of 1999:

George Dietrich shot his neighbor Tim Franklin during a dispute over ownership of a honeysuckle bush that split their land.

Walter Polk shot Benjamin Kelly at the three-legged race at the Church of Vine Summer Soiree. The starting pistol had failed to fire and when Walter was examining the issue the pistol discharged.

Anthony shot Bill Jennings after Bill’s F-150 nearly T-boned Anthony’s Silverado. Apple Grove Ave heading north curved left major blind spots at the intersection of Cherokee Way and Enoch Street. The Elders had voted on new construction that would’ve made the intersection safer that morning.

John Hofsteder shot Terry Malone because the long-running Hofsteder-Malone feud finally came to a head. What were the Hofsteders and Malones feuding about all those years? Hell if John or Terry remembered. Neither of them had a wife or an heir though—and thus the feud was ended. 

Seth Ruth VIII shot Fisherman Fred out on the lake one Saturday morning while the two were out bass fishing. Well—that’s what everyone knows, but it’s not official record. Can’t mistake a pistol shot in the quiet of 5:30 a.m. and then an Elder returning from a fishing trip sans fishing companion. Well that’s just it, isn’t it. No one ever found out what happened to Fisherman Fred. 

The people of Vine went into the forest and shot the deer and cooked the deer meat and made the deerskin into textiles and they went to the lake and shot the ducks same deal needed meat for dinner and when they needed to they shot the livestock and when their cars stopped working they shot those while drinking whiskey in the woods and on their birthdays they would fire celebratory shots into the air and to defend their town from the Satanists or God forbid Satan himself they were willing to shoot then too and sometimes they shot each other but all sins can be forgiven once we accept Jesus’s Redeeming Blood into our hearts and accept Jesus’s sacrifice for us. 

It was the Church of Vine Fall Festival. I stood at the edge of the pavilion, overlooking the meadow of dandelions, fresh grilled venison burger on my plate. I overheard the Preacher talking to Shelly Davidson.

“Has God cursed Vine, Preacher?” Shelly Davidson asked.

Preacher spoke saying: “no, my child.”

“But all of this sorrow. But all of this misery.”

Preacher spoke saying: “God has consecrated Vine for us, my child.”

“But the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”

Preacher spoke saying: “Vine is consecrated for God’s chosen people, the People of Vine, and you are a Daughter of Vine, you are a Wife of Vine, you are a Mother of Vine, my child.”

Outside was not a sound but cicadas. Then, somewhere, a gunshot.

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