Fiction | December 01, 1992

Winner of the 1992 Editors’ Prize for Fiction

Baine Kerr’s rollicking story “Light Sweet Crude” watches the reportage of Desert Storm through the eyes of maverick emigres in a central American jungle village a place where another kind of struggle is unfolding.

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In January it never rains in Rio Jesus, so the storm had everybody edgy.  Randall would later swear his restlessness was inspired, a shiver to a nailscratch by God.  For days he’d worked without success reconfiguring  the dish to try to capture some reception, from somewhere.  Why should he want to go up again now and look at the blank visage of the antique 25 incher lashed to the rafters of the community shelter? It was getting dark fast and for no good reason he wandered out in the rain.  Then he saw it at the head of the path, a weird light pulsing faintly in the gloaming.  He quickened his step.  At the shelter the light was playing on the walls of rain that poured off the tin roof.  It danced on the glossy white hood of the Isuzu on blocks in a corner.  It illuminated a lamb tethered to a post and an iguana behind the lamb.  The lamb stared back in wonder.  The iguana closed its eyes.  The high pitched, curiously emphatic voice strained for an audience, but there were only the animals and now Randall wandering up.  “These are the times that try men’s souls,” said the familiar voice.  Soon, across a screen that blinked and leapt with distant lightning, there were charts with planes, bombs, targets.  Holy shit, Randall whispered.  He began to holler.  Pam.  LaDawn.  Mom and Pop.  Get a load of this.

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