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Authors: Brad Land

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THREE DAYS AFTER Christmas I drive back to the memorial garden. Because I want to see this place alone. In the quiet.

The memorial garden like a grid. I turn in, follow the road to where I know Will is. Park my car and get out and it’s cold and bright. The flowers marking the graves like hands, these plaques with the names everywhere and I’m walking where I think he is but I don’t see his name, it’s nowhere.

   

IN THE OFFICE at the back, I stare at the different plaque designs on one wall. This skinny man with glasses clears his throat, he’s beside me.

May I help you? he says.

Yes, I say, I’m looking for someone.

Who?

My friend he’s buried here. I can’t find him.

The man nods. When was he buried?

Like a week ago, I say and he goes to a back office, comes out with a ledger, stands in front of me thumbing through it.

Last name? he says.

Fitch, I say.

First name?

Will.

Oh, Fitch, yeah. He turns the pages, runs a finger down and stops.

You couldn’t find him because he doesn’t have a marker. I nod but I don’t understand. He holds the ledger in front of me.

See here, he says, this is where he is and he’s pointing at this map with all the last names. So what you want to do, he says, is find Cantey comma Robert, take two steps to the left and you’ll be standing on top of him. On Fitch comma Will.

I want to ask why there’s no marker but I don’t. I thank him and go outside.

   

I FIND CANTEY comma Robert. Take two steps to the left. Nothing but dirt. A billboard in front of me says Jesus is coming. A leaf falls at my feet. I bend down to pick it up and it’s plastic, fallen from someone’s fake flowers, and I think it’s supposed to mean something but I can’t figure out what and I’m staring at the ground and I can hear Will talking, his voice rises, spreads in waves around me and I feel it hoist my arms and I open my mouth to breathe it all in and I am shaking, and I listen to my dead friend, my feet on his ribs, roots from a nearby oak woven through him like careful threads and he says that I must remember him, I must remember how this place, this soil, these roots hold him like this late-December day holds the dizzy light and dense air.

I put the leaf in my pocket, and at home, that night, I dream this: Will on the floor of the hall. Balled up. And we’re all there again: me, Brett, Chance, everybody. We kick him, but then he stands, and Brett’s still there but everyone else is gone, and we’re outside in the quad, we’re all huddled together, breathing the speckled light, spinning, eyes drunk with the day and the light, with all this, with this braided brilliant dance.

   

BRETT AND I go to the road where my thing happened almost a year and a half ago. It’s his idea. Because it’s his thing too. Even though we’ve never said it, we both know it.

It’s two days after New Year’s. Takes us a long time to find it and I don’t really know how we do but when we do we stop the car at the head of the road and sit there for a long time just staring. My heart is pounding and my hands are sweating.

So, Brett says. You ready?

I nod.

Yeah, I say.

I’m glad to finally see this place, he says. He squints his eyes. Looks down the road.

I’m glad you’re here, I say.

I wanted to be. You know that. He’s still squinting.

We open the car doors and step out and beneath my feet I can feel the same sharp granite. I bend to touch it, take one rock in my hand. Black and gray with the sharp faces that catch the sun. I look over at Brett. He’s bent down touching the rocks with a flat hand. Picks one up. Turns it over in one hand. Looks up at me.

I’ve been here before, he says. Still holding the stone. Stands up. I look over at him.

Not really, he says. But it feels like it. I could see it all along. He puts the rock in his pocket.

I turn from him and look down the road. Reach inside my pockets and pull out all the receipts the campus map the class schedule all the movie stubs the stone the matchbooks the green string the small glass bluebird the used lighters the plastic tiger cut from an Exxon gas card the Band-Aid all the change and crumpled cigarette packs the plastic leaf I got from Will’s grave. I hold them there in two hands and they spill through my fingers. I turn to Brett and he is standing with his arms crossed and looking down the road.

The sun lights the granite all the way down it is bright and glowing, the sun against our faces, the wind brushing the tops of pines that line both sides of the road. I hold my hands out and then I pull one arm back, throw everything and then I take the other arm and pull back and everything spills from my hands. The stone bounces into the ditch. The bluebird shatters. The lighters crack. And when everything else lands it is scattered and the wind comes through and holds the receipts the campus map the class schedule the movie stubs the matchbooks the crumpled cigarette packs the plastic leaf tosses them like bodies across the road.

Acknowledgments

Thank you.

Kenneth and Nancy Land. The most amazing parents. Brett and Matthew, who are also Lands, and also the best ever. Howell and Land grandparents. All of whom told me to do what I wanted. Mark and Pat and Zelle and Wilson Land and all their horses and dogs and fields. Deborah and Dow and Elizabeth and Julie Stanley. All other derivations of aunt, uncle and cousin, of which there are many.

   

These people helped a whole lot.

Sarah Messer, Laura Ford, Jason McLeod, Jynne Martin, Stuart Dybek, Cynthia White, Thisbe Nissen, Matt St. Louis, Rebecca Lee, Jason Skipper, Ken Autrey, Meggen Lyon, Mark Cox, Heather McEntire, Sarah Strickley, Michael White, Justin Lee, Lynn Kostoff, Eric Belk, Jesse Waters, Lia Purpura, Anne Barnehill, JD Dolan, Wes Powell, Wendy Brenner, Jennifer Abbot, Dave Monahan, Mac Baroody, Philip Gerard, Cody Todd, Denise Gess, Sebastian Matthews, Allyn McLeod, Brian DeVido, Jon Tuttle, Beau Bishop, Rebecca Flanagan, Roy Flanagan, Laura Misco, Lee Bryant, Stephanie Tewes, Janet Ellerby, David Hisle, Melissa Sanders, John Pritchett, Catherine McCall, Sarah McIntee, Laurel Snyder, Alan Wise, Nick Flynn, Eli Hastings, Terry Tempest Williams, Haven Kimmel, Arlo Crawford, Jessica Craig, Tom Perry, Dan Menaker, Libby McGuire, Robbin Schiff, Paul Kozlowski, Webb Younce, Annie Klein, Steve Messina, David Ebershoff, Janet Cooke, Mary Dolan, Amelia Zalcman, and everyone else at Random House.

   

Bill Clegg is the best and coolest agent in the whole universe.

   

Lee Boudreaux is the most genius of editors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

B
RAD
L
AND
studied creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he received his M.F.A., and Western Michigan University, where he served as nonfiction editor of
Third Coast.
He has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and now lives in South Carolina.

While all of the incidents in this book are true, some of the names
and personal characteristics of the individuals involved have been
changed in order to protect their privacy. Any resulting resemblance
to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Copyright © 2004 by Brad Land

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American
Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by
Random House, an imprint of The Random House
Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.,
New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House
of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Random House and colophon are registered
trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to BOA Editions, Ltd.,
c/o The Permissions Company for permission to reprint an excerpt from
“Song” from
Song
by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, copyright © 1995
by Brigit Pegeen Kelly. Reprinted with the permission
of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Land, Brad.

Goat : a memoir / Brad Land.

p. cm.

1. Land, Brad. 2. Youth—South Carolina—Biography. 3. South Carolina—Social life and customs. 4. Violence—South Carolina. I. Title.

HQ799.2.V56L36 2004

305.235’092—dc21

[B]

2003047067

Random House website address:
www.atrandom.com

eISBN: 978-1-58836-354-1

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