The Box Canyon Serial appears below, after Do-Over


by Gregory T Janetka

“Do-over!” he calls out to the cold Southern sky. It had worked in Wiffle ball and he had tried everything else, so what was there to lose?

“Do-over! I call a goddamn do-over on the last 8 years. I wasn’t ready!”

“Alright, but you only get one,” his father replies. “Are you sure you want to use it now? There’s a lot of game left.”

“Do-over!” he calls out to the cold Southern sky. It had worked in Wiffle ball and he had tried everything else, so what was there to lose?

“Do-over! I call a goddamn do-over on the last 8 years. I wasn’t ready!”

“Alright, but you only get one,” his father replies. “Are you sure you want to use it now? There’s a lot of game left.”

“Yes! Please. Now. I’m 31, I have no friends here and few left anywhere. I haven’t even kissed a girl in three years! Yes, by god, I’d like my do-over now.”

The sound of a herd of drag racing pickup trucks cut through the silence.

There was no response. His father had been dead for 8 months but he still expected to hear his voice.

He slumps his shoulders and begins to narrate his life in his head in order to get some distance and see himself as a character with a future. As long as he keeps talking then there is a story and as long as there is a story, he is alive and there are possibilities. But he has become bored by his own stories – how could he expect anyone else to take interest? A story unheard, unread, wasn’t a story. Someone had to listen, to read. And no one was there.

* * *

He goes into the local edition of a nationwide café chain. A thousand miles from the one he had worked in, yet much to his unease, everything looks the same. He sees himself behind the counter eight years earlier. He sees himself alive, with friends and youth and passion—and depression, anxiety and worry. The former gone, the latter remains.

Who were these half-shaded mirrors of himself? Was he just a mirror to someone now 39? Is that what they thought of when they sat in his café back in the Middle West? Everything is the same. In the absence of truth everything (nothing?) is true, or so said the poet.

He watches them—the girl is reliable and a pleasure to work with. The boy is shy as ever and refuses to do anything else about it (mainly because he has run out of ideas). There are no resemblances between them and him now. The days were dire, the nights on fire. He was never ready to leave this level yet spent the last eight years pretending to be an adult.
Nine years ago he had been in another duplicate of this café within a bookstore, but that time his mind was reeling under the effects of a mind-altering mushroom. Jess had led him through the two levels as escalators changed direction, Russian literature mocked him and Dr. Seuss laughed in the corner. He had taken the trip in an unhealthy state of mind and it was reflected in the rest of the night until he was tucked into bed, reeling from his first psychological death.

Jess had gotten married and had a son. The rest grew up and did the same. He, meanwhile, hadn’t changed. He was never ready for anything. And it was now.

◊ ◊ ◊

Gregory T Janetka
Gregory T. Janetka is a writer from Chicago who currently lives in the outskirts of San Diego. His work has previously been published in Foliate Oak, Flyover County Review, Gambling the Aisle and Deltona Howl. He is terribly good at jigsaw puzzles and drinks a great deal of tea. More of his writings can be found at


Box Canyon

The Box Canyon

A Serial in Eight Parts

Previous Episodes: 1

Episode 2
Gloria. Who liked to be called Glory. Pretty, and used to the flirty ways of the eastern school her father sent her to. Home for the summer and lording it over the local girls with her fancy dresses, stories of fancy balls in fabulous ballrooms and handsome easterner beaus with clean hands and clean clothes. Flirting and flaunting herself at the rough cowhands.

Maybe if her father, ‘The Colonel’, had not lorded the fact that he had been a Union officer and that the North had won the war over Southern ‘scum’, Sam might have been more interested in Glory. But her father’s blustering made Sam want nothing to do with the whole outfit and he planned to move on after roundup.

His disinterest galled Glory and she set her sights on him: waylaying him at the barn, asking him to ‘fix’ her saddle, help her mount, take her riding so she ‘wouldn’t get lost’. Her interest in ‘that Southerner’ in turn galled her father. And it had come to a head the night of the barbecue and dance hosted by the ranch.

Sam was in the barn saddling his horse to go to town and avoid the whole mess when Glory found him there and after a suggestive conversation threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. Sam admitted to himself that he liked it and returned the kiss. When the Colonel found them and attacked Sam with his quirt, Sam took it away and knocked the Colonel to the ground. Glory jumped on his back and tore at his face with her nails. By the time Sam and thrown her off, the Colonel had a derringer in his hand pointed at Sam.

Had the Colonel not been so busy calling Sam names, Sam would not have had the time to draw his Colt and shoot. The Colonel dropped his derringer and Glory ran to his side. Sam jumped on his horse and galloped off. He had no idea how badly the Colonel was wounded, and Sam hoped he hadn’t killed him. It didn’t matter much, because as soon as the crew found out what had happened, they would be after him.

Having no food, he found the trail that headed to the western line shack where there would be provisions stashed. Sam knew the line rider was at the ranch for the dance. At the line shack Sam stuffed some jerky and hard tack in his saddle bags.  He found a bedroll and some cartridges for his rifle and also took a pan, a small sack of flour, and some coffee. Sam was owed almost a month of wages so he didn’t feel bad about taking anything he found.

He dared not linger; with the sun they would be on his trail. The river was just a few miles west and Sam pointed his horse in that direction. He crossed the river and headed west, planning double back to the river and follow it north. Sam ended up taking two full days to get back to the river. Days filled with hard riding—a blur of rough country, hot days, and sleepless nights.

To be continued

Leave a Reply