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A Quiet Place of One's Own.
By Paul Hawkins

Category: General & Literary Fiction Books
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A Quiet Place of One's Own. By Paul Hawkins
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Set in 1939 rural Oklahoma, a lonely, eccentric man pursues the mystery of a murder as a way to atone for his own troubled past. Will a lost love prevent him from leading a simple, ascetic life?

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A man road his horse toward town, skirting the edge of the woods, only taking the road to cross a wide, lazy green river. Then it was back to the woods with him. While on the road he had been passed by a Model A packed full of stiff-clothed church-goers. The men wore black, the women long plain dresses. They clutched their hats to their heads. He hung back until the dust cleared. He remembered it was Sunday, but for the longest time days had meant nothing to him. He lived in a kind of grey cloud of a wife dead and his children now adults and fled, and him alone in the house. He noted the seasons, but not the days. He nursed his crop from shoots to market every year, but this year he had hardly bothered. He would sell his farm to the man who'd always wanted it. He wouldn't even pinch him on the price. He had one chore in town to complete and then he would be gone forever.

The man was named John Parker but was locally appellated “Park.”

Park was a tall, lean man of 45, but he looked older. He was tanned. He had short hair curly hair that was once yellow but was sun-blanched to a yellow-white. He was not your typical farmer. He wore an old suit vest and a sweat-stained fedora while out in the fields. And his blue eyes were the color of ice. Instead of bright they were most often flat and weathered, though he could force them into a façade of interest if his company required it.

He was riding into the small Oklahoma town of his residence, Titus. There was a new town and an old town. The old town had been located on the banks of the river and now rested in partial decay like a leaf in the mud; the new town sat three miles to the east, along the state road and the railroad. The old town's scant business district sat abandoned among reclaiming vegetation, but some outlying residences here and there along narrow dirt streets remained stubbornly occupied, with their occupants taking their trucks into town once a week for supplies, and in between waiting on the gasoline truck to fuel their generators.

The new town of Titus remained clean three decades after its birth. It benefited from the railroad and the state highway. A grain elevator rose above all other structures, and the depot resided along the town's main street in the shadow of square brick buildings. You could throw a stone from it and hit the department store, the bank, the post office, the county courthouse, and the city hall. Its main trade still came from local farmers, although every so often wildcatters would come through town and convince a farmer to let them sink holes, hoping for the next Wild Mary Sudick. It was everyone's dream to get oil rich. The man he was selling the farm to was convinced it sat atop black gold. Take his money, Park thought, and let him think that.

Park’s horse was dappled and walked slowly. It was evening and the man knew that he would spend the night at the house of a friend. He had thought of camping out, but damned if he'd camp out ever again - he had done it on cattle drives in his youth and that was enough. To this day his back did not forgive the memory of stones under his bedroll. A man needs some comforts. His friend would ask about his business and he would divert him by talking about old times (they had been school friends), and he would make the man nod off with drink. He told himself it was just to have a roof. And if necessary, he would allow himself to be a little eccentric - unlike most of them, he had been to college, and though his friend had gone to college with him, he knew Park to be a bit off.