torchThe Booth Barn

by Matthew Fogarty

Every year we send one to the barn. Sometimes we get them from the hospital, ones who are sick, going to die anyway. Sometimes from the county jail. Sometimes they’re people passing through, drifters without families, no one anybody will miss. No one with Booth’s celebrity. And there are some that say every year, for this reason, it won’t work. But so far it hasn’t failed. 

We make a festival of it, last week of the summer. Bring in wood from Virginia. Bring in tobacco from Virginia. Lay it out in a field we call Garrett’s Field, now. Bring out the architectural plans, nail it together just like it was that night. The whole town gets involved. We have a band that plays the Battle Hymn and everyone grabs a rope and we raise the barn together, this year’s model of the tobacco barn where Booth died. We let it stand for a week, that whole week filled with events, memorials. And then on Saturday there’s the main event, the burning. 

It’s a lesson from history we don’t want to learn, the war between brothers and the death of the assassin, so instead we choose to repeat it. We send the guy in, sometimes he struggles, the order is given, and the barn gets lit. An hour later after the violence is over and the flames die down, we sit around the embers’ stillglow and tell stories and roast marshmallows and then it’s all done until next year, until the next time we raise the Booth barn and burn it down again.


Born and raised in the square-mile suburbs of Detroit, Matthew Fogarty currently lives and writes in Columbia, where he is fiction editor of Yemassee, and he also edits Cartagena, a literary journal. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Passages North, PANK, 14 Hills, Smokelong Quarterly, and Midwestern Gothic. He can be found at
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