by Vic Sizemore
Two years after Oxy shut down Mom’s lungs forever, my stepdad Cecil called and asked if I would come and care for him while the coalmine finished killing him off. He’d managed to avoid suffocation down in Patriot Coal’s number seven, but the coal had collected slowly, a breath at a time, like silt in a creek bed. Now it was smothering him from inside. I knew he was bad off because all the pride he’d had to swallow to make the call, to speak up when he heard my voice say hello; we’d had our differences, almost come to blows more than once.