Showing posts with label dollar fortune. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dollar fortune. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Dollar Fortune, fiction by Archer Sullivan

 There’s a man here in town called Micah Hollers.

He sits behind a little card table, a pole at either end holding a banner above his head that says, “I See” and every now and then he does see.

He sits at his little homemade booth in the parking lot of Arlen’s Grocery and Bait and sees your future or someone else’s future or maybe little confetti bits of time all shattered around him. He tells you what he sees and maybe you walk away wiser.

For this service, Micah Hollers charges one dollar.

What’s your name?” he asks me, when I lay a dollar on his table.

I answer. He nods. He’s already forgotten because he was never listening.

My name is Micah Hollers,” he says. “I see.”

I nod and wait for the magic to happen.

Micah Hollers doesn’t have a crystal ball and he doesn’t look at palms or channel spirits or any of that nonsense. What he does is, he taps one hand on the table—palm open—and then taps the other hand—a closed fist, knuckles down—in a rhythm like a slow, steady drumbeat. It doesn’t take long, less than ten seconds of tapping.

Palm. fist-fist. Palm. fist-fist. Palm. fist-fist.

And then he stops.

And he looks at me again but he’s not really seeing me. He’s riding time’s arrow, sure enough, his eyes are glazed over and his jaw slacks a little and he’s mouthing some words that eventually become loud enough to hear.

“—hole in the canyon. That’s where you’ll find ‘em. That’s where… that’s where…”

He trails off and his knuckles rap again and I begin to walk and he says, “All the glowing glowers, glowing all night long.”

And then it’s like I can see the shattering of time as it happens to him. He blinks and flinches like the arrow he’s riding shatters. His eyes roll around in all directions as if he’s following the splinters of an explosion. And then he closes them and his chest shakes with a wet chuckle.

His cheeks go pink and when he opens his eyes again he says, “That entropy is a killer.”

Yeah,” I agree and turn from the booth.

One time, Arlen was making bologna sandwiches behind the counter at the Grocery and Bait when Micah Hollers walked in and grabbed a cold cream soda and went into his seeing right there in front of the coolers. He talked about the rolling land and the rocks underneath and the big yawning crack that ran through it all and the layers and layers and layers of dead things everybody was standing on. Millions of years of dead things all underneath us. And then he came back from his seeing and told Arlen about the entropy being splinters. Infinite splinters.

And Arlen said, “Sounds like a bad time, Micah Hollers.”

And Micah Hollers had given him four one dollar bills and left with his cream soda and two bologna sandwiches.

So what’d he say?” Hank asks me.

We’re sitting on Hank’s porch drinking cans of beer and watching his kids play in the yard. There’s a boy and a girl and they have an old kickball and they’re taking turns kicking it against the side of the old sheet metal shed. It makes a sound worse than thunder that I think probably gets on the nerves of every single person down in this gully but it’s not my gully and they’re not my kids so I just watch and listen to the kick-booom-kick-booooom. Somewhere, further down the road, a dog barks.

I mean,” Hank says. “I get it if you don’t wanna talk about it. I hear sometimes Micah Hollers says things people don’t want others knowing.”

But everyone in town could guess why I wanted to talk to Micah Hollers. Everyone in town knew about Shelley. Knew how she was there one day. Gone the next. Disappeared like vapor with the night. Everyone had helped look for her, scraping around in the brambles and poking sticks into ponds, leading dogs around in the woods behind The Blue Moon Bar where she was last seen.

Nah,” I say. “It’s okay.”

I watch the kids for a minute and then I say, “He said something was down the hole in the canyon.”

The canyon?”

That’s what he said.”

Didn’t elaborate?”

He’s Micah Hollers.”


Hmm,” I say.

We watch the kids and listen to the ball and the dog.

But maybe the universe or… The Lord or… you know my Aunt Jean said ol’ Micah Hollers is a real smart man? Said he used to work for the government.”

Government,” I say. “Doing what?”

Hank shrugs.

I watch the kids kicking the ball.

Kick. Booooom. Bounce.

Just saying maybe he’s some kind of genius,” Hank says with a low chuckle like he can’t hardly believe his own mouth.

I sigh and say, “All I know is, I give him a dollar. He tells me about canyons and glowing stuff. It ain’t rocket science, Hank.”

And I know what Hank wants to do is ask me did he say anything about Shelley and where she might’ve gone off to.

Everybody wonders about it because everybody loved Shelley. She was easy to love. Smart as she could be. Pretty as a picture. Always helped out wherever she could. But, Hank was Shelley’s brother. Only person misses Shelly almost as much as I do is him and so I know he’s sitting there just dying to ask more about what Micah Hollers said.

Instead, Hank takes a drink of his beer and I do too.

Kick. Booooooom. Kick.

Well,” Hank says eventually. “Ain’t but two canyons around here.”

The ball bounces back and smacks the little girl right in the nose. She doubles over but she’s laughing. The boy’s laughing too. They’ve lost track of the ball.

There’s a high ping of hollow rubber as the ball gets away.

Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

I watch it roll under Hank’s big pick-up.

There’s Potter’s Canyon and there’s Harpie Gorge,” Hank says.

Harpie Gorge is a gorge,” I say.

Aren’t they the same thing?”

I shrug.

Besides, would Micah Hollers know the difference between a canyon and a gorge? Do you?”

I guess I don’t,” I admit. I watch the little boy shimmy under the truck and knock the ball out from under it toward his sister.

Kick. Boom. Kick. Boooom.

So what’re you gonna do?” Hank asks.

About what?”

Well, aren’t you gonna go look?”

In the canyon? It’s Micah Hollers. I just wanted to give him a dollar. Man’s getting old.”

But he said you’d find ‘em.”

Right,” I say. “Them. Not her. Them.”

Well, okay,” Hank says and takes a big breath and lets it out like he’s letting out the hope of finding her. He takes another one in and says, “So, what if it’s nothing to do with her? Maybe it’s something really good. Like some kind of buried treasure. A box of gold coins or a stash of old shine.”

I laugh.

Hank says, “Or bad, I guess. Could be bad. Like a stack of dead bodies or something.”

A stack of dead bodies?”

Hank shrugs and tries to take another drink. Realizes it’s empty, puts it down, opens the cooler between us, pulls out a fresh can, pops it with a hiss.

You want one?”

Nah, I’d better head on,” I say. “Probably had enough anyhow.”

I get up out of the chair and start down the rickety porch steps.

Kick. Boooom. Kick. Booooom.

But when I get back to my place, I do crack open another beer. A bottle this time, back-of-fridge cold. The weather is hot and the cicadas are buzzing and me and my beer both just sit and sweat at the kitchen table while I think about the hole in the canyon.

People can’t resist a mystery,” Shelley said to me once or more than once. “We can’t help wanting to know.”

Know what?” I’d said.

Exactly,” Shelley had said.

I watch beads of sweat drip down my bottle and onto my hand and my table. They seem a kind of magic. Little drops of clear clean water that appear from nowhere to live briefly on a glass bottle or a can and then drip or disappear again, back into the very air.

Things fall apart,” Shelley had said. This was another time. There, at the end.

And now I say, “Well, hell.”

And I get my flashlight. The old yellow one with the neon strap so if I drop it and it goes out, it’s easier to see.

The part of Potter’s Canyon that runs through our county is twenty-odd miles long. Harpie Gorge is shallower and shorter so I decide to start there. I park on a black gravel shoulder. Dusk is just about to fall and the light is a nice kind of bronze color, filtered through the trees like it is. The cicadas buzz. A few crickets get to humming as I climb over the guard rail and start my way down the path.

I wonder, after I stumble over a tree root and catch myself, what would happen if a body gave Micah Hollers two dollars instead. If you’d get twice the seeing. Probably not, I think, and keep on going down the path. It rained the day before so the sandy soil wants to slip under my heavy work boots.

I get to the edge. This is where the old gray-brown rock on either side of the canyon (or the gorge or whatever it is) was cut away by the little tiny creek that runs far below. I pause and listen and hear the tumble of cold water right there next to the buzz of the cicadas and the hum of the crickets.

I love that sound,” Shelley had said, there at the end. “I love that sound. This is how I want it.”

That was the very end.

Shining the flashlight up one way and then down the other, I find an okay-looking set of stair-step rocks. I clamber onto them, my flashlight in my mouth so I can use my hands to scramble. I’m holding the strap in my teeth and it’s swinging around like all hell, bouncing light around all over the woods and the creek.

We’re hardwired to find things out,” Shelley had said.

This was a little before. Right before the end.

We need to know. Ya know?”

I’d said I didn’t know but I was probably just being a shit, which is what she said.

And now I’m ankle deep in cold spring water, shining a flashlight around the bottom of a canyon because a man sitting in a parking lot who can see backwards and forwards and sideways in time took my dollar bill.

Hey,” Shelley had said. “Hey, it’s alright. Don’t cry now. It’s alright.”

And I wonder if I am slipping around in time just like Micah Hollers does. I wonder if talking to him broke something too fragile inside me. Some hidden, shining, shimmering part made of carnival glass. Made when Shelley went away.

I tromp through the water and onto the opposite bank, waving my flashlight around. I pick a direction and walk, my feet slipping sometimes, my bank-side hand reaching out for purchase on tree roots or lumpy bits of stone.

I walk into what I think is called a slot canyon. Water falls from higher up into a hole—cut by the water long before—and down into a little pond that then empties into the stream I’ve been walking through.

My breath is a little ragged as I slide my body deeper into the slot and think about how I’m forcing my way in like an animal when the water itself took probably thousands of years. I wonder if Micah Hollers has seen time on water’s scale, has known time the way water knows time, the way water doesn’t fear it or bow to it or try to look at it. It just is.

I wonder if maybe I drank too much beer. If maybe I’m being silly. No, I think, I definitely am. I’m about to give up this whole business but I’m shining my flashlight around and there, on the other side of the stone, is a hole.

My light hits the stone, lights up the rough rock. Sandstone, I think. Its gritted texture seems to chew up the light but when I shine it on the hole it just disappears. It doesn’t light up the stone within the hole. The light is just gone.

What I see when I get closer is that the hole is about as wide as my hand.

Hole in the canyon,” Micah Hollers had said. “That’s where you’ll find them.”

Find what?

Find what?

I get closer, shine my light right in the hole but it’s just black and more black. Just a mouth to nowhere. I search around the floor of the little slot and find an old bit of stick. I poke it in the hole. I shine the light on it and watch as the stick just goes away into the dark and then comes back out clean. In. Out. Like it didn’t go nowhere. My light can’t even follow the stick past the threshold. It’s just gone.

Like a magic trick but not a trick.


I think about that beer back at my place, sitting on the table, sweating itself half to death and me not really understanding why or how. And I think about Hank’s little girl with her smacked nose doubled over laughing and I think about Micah Hollers and those bologna sandwiches and his talk about finding things in canyons.

That entropy’ll kill ya,” he said.

I stick my hand in the hole.

When I was in third grade my teacher, whose name was Miss Bell and who smelled like vanilla, taught us about the five senses. She brought a shoebox painted black to school and she would turn around and crouch behind her desk and put things in the box. She had a little black fabric flap on the front where you could stick your hand in and feel what was inside. Every kid in class went up to her desk and felt something in the box.

I stick my hand in the hole.

I feel… nothing. Just a breeze. Just a cool cave breeze.

I pull it back out, look at my hand in the light. Just a hand, my hand. I put it back in.

I feel… nothing… and then the brush of something soft. Fabric. Warmth. A body.

When I went up to Miss Bell’s desk and stood there smelling her smell and looking at her pretty brown eyes and listening to the kids behind me giggle, I put my hand in the box.

What do you feel?” she asked.

It’s a hand. A hand grabs my hand. The hand is strong and calloused and it pulls.

I pull back.

It was a hairbrush in the box, I remember.

With my other hand, I shine the flashlight into the hole but there’s only darkness and this other hand keeps hold of my hand and I close my eyes because I know that I have stumbled into something that is not meant for me.

And I see the rubber ball. Bounce. Kick. Boooom. Kick. Bounce. Smack. And it slaps the little boy in the nose and he doubles over laughing. This is wrong, I think. This is different. The ball bounces backward. The ball stops.

And Hank hands me another bottle of beer. And somewhere, inside the house, a cat meows. And the can in my hand is sweating onto the tabletop and I pick up my flashlight and I leave.

I open my eyes and I look at the light in my hand. Green. Not yellow.

The hand pulls harder. I pull back.

I am thinking of Shelley and of the way her laugh sounded. The way she laughed so loud you could hear it even outside the house. The way she cocked her head back and pointed her mouth at the sky when she laughed like she even wanted the Lord to hear her.

Not at the end though. Not then.

Then her laugh was so quiet it just about killed me. So quiet when she said what she said. When she showed me she was who she was, even then.

Shelley had smiled at me. But I was crying.

Miss Bell had smiled at me and her teeth were all white and straight and pretty and she said, “Would you like to feel what’s inside the box?”

And I had nodded, yes I would. And I did.

It was a hairbrush, in there.

Bounce. Kick… Boooom. And Hank asks me if I want another beer and I say yes. And the dog barks down the road and he says, sit a spell, and I do. And I still sit there. This is another time. Another past. Another version of life. Another shard like the shard like the sharp shards that scrape at the mind of Micah Hollers.

Kick. Bounce. Kick. And I watch as the ball goes rolling down the drive and the kids both chase after it and somewhere a dog barks. And I get up to leave.

And the beer sweats in my hand. And I jump at the sound of a muffler on the road and the beer spills on the table. “Great,” I say. And I get up and get a rag and decide to watch TV, order a pizza.

Great,” I say. And I get up and get a rag and decide to go into town and get a bologna sandwich.

Great,” I say. And Shelley says, “Don’t worry about it.” And Shelley gets a rag and starts mopping it up and then comes over and kisses me, soft at first and then hard. Because in this other shard of time, Shelley is still there. And I am with her. I tickle her while I hold her and she cocks her head back and laughs and here, in my slice of reality, I realize I am crying.

Great,” I say. Another shard. “Just great.” And I get up and get a rag. And that’s when things fall apart. The crack that rests beneath the town’s feet, beneath the rocks and the stacks and stacks of dead things, shifts and everything lurches like the earth is made of water and we all tumble into darkness.

The beer tips. And I catch the beer before it hits the table and I laugh at myself, laugh in relief.

And the hand pulls back. This hand, my hand.

It is my hand, of course. You can’t go your whole life and not know your own hand when you feel it in the dark.

What’s in there?” Miss Bell asks me. And she smells like vanilla or like strawberries or like coffee with cream. And she’s wearing a red dress or a blue dress or a skirt suit with shiny earrings.

What’s in there?” she asks me. And I tell her it’s my hand.

What’s in there?” Shelley asks me. Shelley’s with me. On the other side, Shelley paid a dollar to Micah Hollars just like I did. On the other side, Shelley’s in the canyon, too. “What’s in there?”

And I shine my flashlight. It’s the yellow flashlight. The one I can see in case I drop it in the dark. I shine my light into the hole and I see nothing but I feel my hand and I say, “Let go.”

I’m not going to do it,” Shelley had said. We were sitting in the car outside the oncologist’s office.

Shelley—” I’d started to talk but she’d put her hand on top of mine and I’d stopped. Shelley did what Shelley wanted.

What do you want?” I asked.

I want to take my last good months. And then I want to go away.”

Away?” I asked.

Yeah,” she said. “And I need you to help me. Can you do that?”

I didn’t think I could. Shelley didn’t think I could either.

In the end, though, I did.

Let go,” I hear. An echo of my own voice.

No,” I say.

Let go,” I hear again, anxious now, the voice I have that sounds angry but is really scared.

No,” I say.

Let go,” Shelley says. Calm.

And I do let go.

I let go on this side and the other side. The calloused hand rasps my own as we both pull away.

I am panting and tears burn my eyes as I shimmy back out the little slot in the sandstone. It’s full dark now. The water rushes by my feet and the cicadas are finally done but the crickets are still going hummm, hum, hummm, hum.

I was the one who’d found Shelley. She’d told me where she’d be. She’d told me I might need to help her. She was weak, then. Not in her head, no. That frustrated her. Her mind so strong, her body so weak. Still, a body will always fight back.

It would not die, even when she tried to kill it.

Finish it,” she’d said, when I found her. “Finish what I started.”


Finish and then hide me where I said.”

I stared at her.

People love a mystery,” she said. “They don’t love this… they don’t love sickness.”

I do,” I said. “I love you.”

Things fall apart,” she said. “I wanted to do this by myself but I couldn’t.”


No,” she said. “You have to help me. Can you do that?”

I was crying. Shelley did what Shelley wanted. Got what she wanted.

It’s alright,” she said. “Hey, don’t cry now. It’s alright.”

The crickets were humming then, like now.

Hummm hummm hummmmm hummm.

This is how I want it,” Shelley said. “I love that sound.”

And then I did what she told me to do.

The lightning bugs are out now, too. I watch them. Watch their chaotic, random dance, and think it’s probably not really random at all. Think I probably just don’t understand things as tiny and complicated as lightning bugs. Glowing glowers, Micah Hollers had said. Glowing, glowing all night long.

And he’d smiled because he’d ridden the arrow of time and it had burst beneath him. Things fall apart. Time. Space. People. Doesn’t matter. Ring around the roses, we all fall down.

Somewhere on one of those splinters, Shelley still lived. She was standing here in this canyon now, listening to the crickets.

That’s where you’ll find em,” Micah Hollers had said.

He’d smiled because the infinite sharp shards of space and time are his drug.

I paid him to take it. And he’d shared it with me.

I sit down on a low rock and watch the lightning bugs. I watch them all night long.

Born and raised in Appalachia, Archer Sullivan now resides in Los Angeles where she is a real life Beverly Hillbilly. Her fiction is hard-boiled and country-fried.