The Peach Stone

by Paul Horgan

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Using a point of view that shifts among the story’s principal characters, Paul Horgan presents their inner experiences on a silent, four-hour automobile trip from their home near Hondo, New Mexico, to the town of Weed, New Mexico. Each character responds in some way to one or more of the other occupants of the car, as well as to the tragedy prompting the trip: the accidental death on the preceding day of the Powerses’ two-year-old daughter. While playing near the back fence of the family’s small ranch house, where tumbleweeds had been collecting that Jodey had been meaning to clear away, the baby had been caught in a fire ignited by some chance sparks from the kitchen chimney. Now the Powerses, accompanied by the town’s schoolteacher for support, travel to the place where Cleotha was born and reared in order to bury the baby in Cleotha’s family plot on the side of Schoolhouse Hill.

In the story’s short closing section, after the arrival at Weed, the schoolteacher, Miss Latcher, briefly breaks down, and then the ceremony is held. Cleotha’s notice of a tardy schoolboy’s interest in the proceedings triggers her weeping, her first outward manifestation of grief that day, which causes the family to reunite around her after its short period of psychic fragmentation.

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