The Emancipator Exits Oldtown
Craig M. Workman

Raymond A. Lincoln’s news from the doctor didn’t go as planned, except that he was sure he would die young, younger than his famous ancestor, just like his great-great-something ex-president distant family member, except without a bullet and a play. Raymond walked out of the crumbled, rusty doorway in the last non-regentrified scrap of Oldtown just shy of the last bus stop this side of anywhere. It was all he could afford. Shelia and the kids were insured; he had made sure of that. He had assured Shelia he sure was insured. She was sure he was insured. The tumors Dr. Welles found in his lungs but most especially in his head your lobes, Welles said, your lobes young man, your lobes are going to be the thing, the thing likely didn’t care about copays, full flavor, filters, one-twenties, greatness from Illinois, transmissions, life plans or plans to quit. They did probably, Ray figured, explain why he was sure he would die. That and the family history. Bullshit or not, he made himself believe it would have happened anyway. The M.D. from somewhere no one dying would ever give a fuck about laid it all down, and Ray should have checked out before the summer was over and I’m the best at this type of thing I’m a specialist why didn’t you come see me before you’re a family man what’s wrong with your stubborn so-and-so ass and Thanksgiving was three days ago. Ray strained as he had for weeks and he tried not to puke and shit his pants at the same time and he thought I’m the last direct descendant of our Finest President or that’s what my grandpa told me and I’m only thirty-three and I’m better than this and I really felt I was going to live forever what is this?

Ray sat outside in the overgrown boxwoods at the end of the non-corporate world near the entrance ramp to the subdivision to the [cheap, dangerous, run by a paunchy, kid-raping slumlord with a great car] neighborhood that would have been a dreamland if they’d lived there before blockbusting [not the video store], before the auto companies turned to rust and international goodwill, itching his throat and sucking on a Dapper Filter, the trusted brand of Lincolns who came and died before him. He twisted his ring once or twice before it began to spin freely on the callous his ring finger held in a knuckle-to-knuckle hourglass. Time for the next move. The call, the pissed off wife, the explanation and the pity, the fucking pity and more than anything, those looks that say you you you could have fucking not made this happen and thanks for nothing you and we’re glad you were going to go back to school for your mechanics blahbediblah license and we can use that by the time you’re dead and at least our car is leaking oil like Carl’s nosebleed on his first birthday and at least we’re insured. Yeah. At least we have that. Now everything is perfect. Family history my ass. You should have been something more.

On the second try, she picked up.


“Hey-o, Shelia-toe. Ok?”

“Ok. Everything alright for the Emancipator?”

“You know. Yeah. My phone’s about out of juice. Be home.”

Ray clicked the END button and dropped his phone in the thorny hedges. A blue and red bus with a dog on the side pulled up and squeaked to a stop. He checked his wallet. Three twenties, four singles and one of those irritating gold dollars in the ripped Velcro corner, those smooth coins named after Saca-some shit or other.

Sixty-five, he thought. I fucking knew it.

And then he was off the curb and away from the show.

Craig Workman is the 2012 recipient of the McKinney Prize for Short Fiction. He is an adjunct professor/lecturer of composition, American fiction and creative writing, an I-Ph.D. student, and a Doctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, Shotgun Honey, Literary Juice and Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. He currently lives in Prairie Village, Kansas.