Trotter
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Mystery and (Polack) Manners

In “The Shadow Players,” one of 12 stories in Anthony Bukoski’s most recent collection, Lance Corporal Pete Dziedzic returns to his childhood home in Superior, Wisconsin, after a four-year tour of duty in Vietnam.  The year is 1967.  Physically unscathed by the war, he finds himself adrift.  His old girlfriend, tired of waiting for him, is now married.  He is reluctant to follow his father’s advice and work in the local flour mill, where the old man has labored for 40 relentless years.  Pete spends a lot of time avoiding his father, Al, who calls him “Glupiec” (Polish for “blockhead”).  He keeps a second-hand Rambler parked next to the family garage.  Although he doesn’t yet know how to drive, the car represents the possibility of escape from the bleak prospects on offer in Superior.  When his father becomes gravely ill, Pete sits day and night beside his bed and makes shadow figures on the wall with his hands.  One night he lights the holy candles and attempts to create a silhouette of the Black Madonna.  “A crown in a flicker of candlelight is not easy to make,” he thinks.  But somehow his father, drugged on morphine, seems to understand: “His hands rose into the air as if he were holding a chalice of wine, a wafer, a cup of morphine. . . . In the half-light, his hands ran gently over something only he saw.” ...

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