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Benjamin Smith | Allen Forrest

One dry afternoon at the height of the salmonfly hatch, in a cabin overlooking the Snake River, a real estate developer named Chevy Randolph ate psilocybin mushrooms for the fourth time in his life. Though he had always considered the dried mushrooms themselves foul on the palette, Randolph found it oddly comforting that the cabin’s owner, an enormous bearded semi-pro rugby coach from Seattle, commented that they reminded him of lichen, and treated them in a dessicator next to slabs of elk jerky. When it came to olfactory setting, it would be hard to beat the combination of game, earth and cedar that diffused throughout the cabin and out onto the porch. In between rounds of spinning records with his companions, and shooting wobble from the porch over the heads of applauding, flinching raft-paddlers in the gorge below, Chevy Randolph came to the conclusion that he had been taking the wrong approach to commuting. His entire professional career had been to entice the well-heeled to sleep somewhere else, that elsewhere being predicated on a city’s current neighborhoods, borders, county lines and country-club status. Some cities had well-established bedroom communities which his developments merely enhanced and expanded, while in others he identified lots bereft of transportation options and spun them as an ideal compromise to those who could afford not only a three- or four-pointed star to adorn the grill of a sedan, but also a punctual man to climb downstairs at dawn from his rent-controlled railroad apartment, kindle the engine and warm the seats.

Randolph tried not to spend this day a business trip. He had come all the way out to Idaho from Los Angeles to reconnect with friends. He had climbed the stairs down from the cabin to the beach to reflect on himself for a minute. Himself. Deep down in his heart, Randolph had always felt possessive of his developments, even long after they had been sold off. It was for this reason that he insisted on stipulating in all lease agreements and sale contracts that the new tenants maintain a pristine hedgerow of local shrubbery around the perimeter. Randolph-Scheuer’s lawyers dreaded having to tell puzzled tenants that Mr. Randolph was from the Van Halen school of contract law, and that the hedge clause was there as a bellwether in case someone began to cut corners on maintenance. With his feet in the sand and freshly hatched salmon flies drawing contrails around his head, Randolph decided that he hadn’t thought critically about why he insisted on maintaining hedges ever since he settled on the Van Halen excuse. It occurred he had simply been marking his territory, erecting borders and monuments around his domain. What he had always really wanted, was an empire.

Closing his eyes to let the sunlight filter through his lids as through a jagged kaleidoscope tube, Randolph let a memory sharpen at the fore of his mind. In it, he is digging one foot into a sandy tractor road on an Alabama July afternoon. A filthy shirt clings to his shoulders and his legs itch all over from briar pricks, but from one finger he bounces a five pound stringer of bluegill. Looming just out of reach so he can just reach it with his bamboo pole, a white sign is nailed to a tree. Tapping each letter as he mouths the word, little Chevy Randolph sounds out, “POSTED”.

About Benjamin Smith

Benjamin is a recent graduate of Tufts University with plans to teach English in Latin America. He is originally from Autauga County, Alabama.

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