Pub. Date:
Fire in the Hole

Fire in the Hole

by Kristie Betts Letter


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In a lightning-plagued mining town, a new bride turns to the alluring women of the brothel to heal her husband’s chapped skin while strikes electrify the very air around them. A woman is sent to rescue her maiden aunts from imminent collapse into a the man-made volcano of a burning coal mine that threatens to swallow their house. A man’s idea of real estate investment is a pre-emptive purchase of a gravesite, but he finds his plot is already occupied. Kristie Betts Letter’s surreal and shimmering stories root readers in the subterrain of powerfully-developed characters who struggle to remain above ground.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781938126765
Publisher: Engine Books
Publication date: 12/03/2019
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Kristie Betts Letter teaches Hamlet to high school students and plays trivia with her family in Colorado. Her poetry collection Under-Worldly (Editorial L’Aleph 2017) examines what lies beneath with what Cowboy Jamboree describes as “fantastic images of the subterranean grit.” The Massachusetts Review, The North Dakota Quarterly, Washington Square, Passages North, Pangolin Papers, and The Southern Humanities Review have featured her writing and Best American Short Fictions and Terrain Environmental Writing Awards have lauded it. In non-fiction, she’s published a teaching handbook for the Colorado Department of Education, critical articles about subjects such as Game of Thrones trivia contests, and even has a story about cancer in Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul. She's earned four NEH fellowships, several teaching awards, and was a 2017 featured writer at the Montana Book Festival.

Read an Excerpt

Shimmering gray in the sky. The cold air tastes like metal, even though you’re pulling through thousands of trees. "At least there’s no lightning, Miss," the driver says. "The Rockies are so close to the sky that fire just jumps right down." The ridge road torn from the mountainside barely keeps the stage upright. On the left side of the narrow road, the rocky ground plummets; only a few scrubby pines would stop your fall.

Keep your eyes up.

When the wind blows, be sure to hold onto something. Several fellows were swept clean off the mountain, they told you in Central City. When you get to Caribou, a bowl of land curves beneath three hills. Atop the hills, the land opens into eight mine mouths, while rough buildings and straight roads quilt the valley.

The tossing coach stops in the center of the fresh town. At a Denver parade, you met a man playing in Caribou Silver Cornet Band, a man who cobbled shoes for miners. Harvey Eben, a religious man, had a lung condition-which-was-almost-consumption, characterized by breathless attacks, kept him in the clear dry air. The dark thick mineshaft would have been the death of him. Yet he fit metal nails into boots in a in a high-elevation boomtown lit by near-constant lightning he took be constant judgment. He chose you.

The ring of course is silver, though you hoped for gold.

"Well, dear, what to you imagine God will bless us with?" Harvey asks the morning after.

"Could we get a cow here?" you ask.

He laughs. "My bride fancies a cow as a wedding gift.”

The dogs stalk around Caribou, all scrappy, all with extra-thick fur. They’re hearty, loud, seemingly indestructible except for those two mutts who get struck by lightening mid-mating. The preacher tries convincing people to disentangle the charred remains before burial, but no one’s willing. The lucky families with cows also have small barns. Harvey’s cabin(your cabin) just has the one room, the one building.

Harvey tells you about the Thompsons, who were used to Virginia winters where a roof overhang is plenty for livestock. Here during the winter, they had to bring the cow into their cabin, much to Mrs. Thompson’s horror. The poor creature kept getting its nose frozen to the ground. Mrs. Thompson said that living with a cow would surely be the death of her, but actually the opposite was true. The weight of snow and the gales of wind were more than Mr. Thompson’s carpentry could sustain. One night the roof fell in and would have killed the five little Thompsons where they laid but for the cow’s broad back, which caught the roof beams. The cow died a heroically and the Thompsons spent the remainder of the winter living with the Spensers.

Mrs. Thompson was heard to whisper that she preferred the cow.

The cabin is small enough with your body and his. Another creature would push you that much closer together.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“These stories will pull the reader in to a world that seems, at first, unfamiliar, until the human tragedies Letter renders so evocatively make it recognizable. A compelling read.”

—Susan Muaddi Darraj, author of A Curious Land: Stories from Home

Customer Reviews