Hello everyone, and welcome to this month’s Short Fiction Burst. Usually I present a piece of short fiction here. But this month I have something a little special for you. That’s because my horror novel, In the Dark of the Grove, has been released from Gurt Dog Press!
That’s right, it’s October 29, 2021—the day is finally here! To celebrate, I’ll be reading a couple chapters from the book. For more info on how to order your copy (ebook or physical) you can go to my website: jonwesleyhuff.com
In The Dark of the Grove
by Jon Wesley Huff
Dying ended up being more difficult than Herb Thomas had anticipated. He’d assumed the build-up to it would be the worst part. The drive to Silver Cove had been an uncomfortable mix of familiar and foreign. He hadn’t been up this way in nearly a decade. The once charming lakeside town had taken on a commercialized feel, with tall condos now partially blocking the view of Lake Michigan. He drove into the familiar parking lot of Silver Cove Beach, though he preferred the free parking along the roads of the quaint downtown. His wife, however, had always insisted on paying to park in this lot, since it was closer to the beach. She could spend twelve hours working in the fields, but she hated walking on sand. He smiled at the memory of her and their son, Kyle, running as fast as they could to the shoreline and the cool wet sand that awaited. The smile didn’t last long.
Herb’s wife had been gone a long time now, and he hadn’t seen his son in fifteen years. This time, he parked in the lot because he wanted his car to be easy to find. He snuffed his cigarette out into an overflowing ashtray—the result of picking the bad habit up again in the two years he’d been planning all of this. The build-up to this moment had been hard. The uncertainty of whether this was an act of bravery or cowardice plagued him. He never thought of himself as a brave man. Even the book, the greatest act of bravery he’d ever managed, was masked in illusion and art. He looked at the passenger seat, where his comp copy of Dunbar’s Grove sat. His last book, and his most important one.
Herb thought of his life. He thought of the series of mistakes and blunders that had left him with a family he hadn’t wanted, and finally to this moment. Why was it that now—just as he was ready for it to be over—it suddenly felt precious? One last time he allowed his mind to wander. What if he’d told his father he wasn’t going to take over the farm? What if he’d been able to write full time, instead of at night, when it rained, or when the fields were dead and frosted over? He put those thoughts away, as he slid Dunbar’s Grove into his jacket. It was long past time for that sort of daydreaming.
He mentally went over every detail again, craving the solace of knowing he’d done everything he could do. The agony of the last two years of planninghad left him utterly exhausted. He’d spent so many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to get his message across, but in a way that they wouldn’t know what he’d done. This kind of exhaustion wasn’t cured by even days of sleep. This kind of exhaustion crept straight to the bone and then rested heavy like a lead weight. He was only alive because his death would draw too much attention, given the talk that had started to swirl around the book. But his suicide? That would be a nice bow wrapped around everything. They’d put their guard down, at least at first.
The fact this entire plan hinged on someone—who had every reason to hate him—piecing together clues that were designed to be vague at best didn’t fill him with much confidence. That was, of course, assuming Kyle even bothered to return home. There was always the chance his son could leave it to the lawyers, and Herb wouldn’t have blamed him.
All of this, however, was just a prelude to the annoyance of dying itself. He walked a half hour down the shoreline, away from the ligh