<DIV><DIV><DIV></DIV><DIV><DIV><B>ONE</B></DIV><DIV><B>“Get your pants on,</B> Burden,” Eugene Boaz’s wife protested. She wanted to sound stern, to sound in command. But her voice faltered and the urgency drained, making her words seem silly. <I>Get your pants on … .</I> As she spoke, she struggled against Burden’s reluctance to pull on his jeans and her own desire to reclaim her mount a final time before sending him into the night—this <I>after</I> the headlights of her husband’s truck had swept across the front yard.</DIV><DIV>Only by good fortune had she caught those beams, betrayed by twin reflections drawing illumined fingers across the sheers of the second-story bedroom window. At that moment she had been straddling Burden. She had been straddling him for several long minutes before that also, her fingernails in furious motion as they teased across his chest and belly, her body bending backward in a sweaty, athletic arch. The ceiling’s troweled texture (“They look like clouds, don’t you think so, Burden?” she had remarked the first time they’d made love in this bed) had been a mere distraction to her eyes, the ceiling fan’s spinning blades no more than a lost detail as her loins slurped the glans pleasure swelling inside her. She had been absolutely pulsing—<I>pulsing</I>—swelling wetly, enveloping Burden in a way she hadn’t Eugene in years, her mind intoxicated by the humid bouquet of sexual perfume scenting the air.</DIV><DIV>But then the telltale halogen reflections had swept across the sheers and she had sprung forward so quickly she had nearly struck foreheads with Burden.</DIV><DIV>“Jesus, Pru, that felt good,” Burden said. “Do it again.” His words were slurred, his mind steeped in that same sexual perfume. A lazy, crooked smile adorned his face and his eyes were closed, his senses abandoned, lost somewhere beyond the bedroom’s pink walls. Instead of doing it again, Pruella had leapt off her moistened toy and scrambled for a T-shirt and floral pedal pushers.</DIV><DIV>“Eugene just pulled up. <I>Lord</I>, he’s home early! Get your clothes on, Burden, get them on now before he comes in and shoots us both.” Knowing that Eugene moved like a sloth kept Pru from becoming hysterical; still, it wouldn’t do for Burden to be so, so <I>goddamn</I> deliberate.</DIV><DIV>But Burden’s consciousness was a sail unfestooned from a mast; he was floating just above a tropical sea, his canvas edges skimming the waves, buoyed by the barest breeze. An indolent sun burnished a blue sky, lulling his sail-self nearly to sleep. He felt prepared for Eugene. He felt anesthetized for the task at hand. <I>Burden?</I></DIV><DIV><I>Burden</I>! Pruella pinched his cheeks, pulling his mouth into a narrow slit. She pressed her face to his, their noses touched. When she spoke he could smell her words, warm and wet and foul with sex. “Eugene’s gotten home!”</DIV><DIV><I>Yes, Eugene,</I> Burden thought. He appreciated the precarious turn the evening had taken, delighted in that turn. <I>So this is it.</I> At last, he thought. Eugene, 230 pounds of stimulus-response. Eugene, with muscles at the ready for the slightest provocation to demonstrate their power, simmering underneath curls of coarse black hair. The coital opiate spiking Burden’s blood dulled his sense of self-preservation, making him, for the moment, carefree. With deliberate ease, he slipped on a rumpled shirt then bent ass up over the edge of Pru’s bed and felt for his jeans, determined to take his time.</DIV><DIV>Pruella slapped his ass (she had done so many times this evening) to get his attention. Burden turned to her, wagging his ass like a censer, his impish smile telling her he liked the sting her delicate hand left on his buttocks.</DIV><DIV>It was then that she said, “Get your pants on, Burden,” as she handed him his jeans. “And get off the bed. <I>Lord!</I>” She pulled the bed sheets and cover to the headboard, creasing them under the pillows and folding them on top. She smoothed the cover as well as she could, then leaned over to a mirror and worried her fingers through sex-tousled hair. Henna strands caught fire in fragments of errant light, and she couldn’t help but smile noticing how vibrant she looked after a good fuck.</DIV><DIV>Burden pulled Pru from the mirror and ran a hand under her T-shirt, groping a breast and buying time. “Just once more,” he insisted. He thought of Eugene—surely he was in the house by now.</DIV><DIV>“Burden, <I>no.</I>” But she hadn’t the conviction of her refusal and her lips were soon to his, their tongues darting past parted teeth. Only the sound of the garage door jangling closed separated the two. <I>“Lord,</I> what am I doing? Get your pants on and get them on <I>now.</I>” Pruella pushed Burden away and hurried to the window. Why hadn’t she kept it open? <I>Jesus, the room reeks of sex!</I></DIV><DIV>“Pru?” Eugene’s voice bellowed from the kitchen. <I>“Pruella?”</I> Her name sounded as though it had been blown out a busted exhaust pipe.</DIV><DIV>Pru slid the window open. Moist air crawled over the sill and she could see rain puddles in the sidewalk and street reflecting lamplight and lighted windows from across the way. She turned back to Burden and cursed. His jeans were only to his knees and he gave no indication they’d be fully on and zipped up before her husband lumbered into the room. The sound of muffled footsteps carried from below, telling her that he was nearing the stairs. Pru took Burden’s arm and ushered him to the open window.</DIV><DIV>“Hold on, Pru, give me a chance—”</DIV><DIV>“<I>Shush!</I> He’ll hear,” Pru whispered tightly. She tilted Burden’s head and guided it under the window sash.</DIV><DIV>Burden stretched out a hand and clasped the window’s frame to buy a few moments more; surely even Eugene was only so slow. Yet even now the opiate of Pru’s sex was dissipating in his blood, returning him to his better senses and to doubt. He glanced at the bedroom door and then back at Pru. “Give me a kiss,” he pleaded. <I>Yes, a kiss would help,</I> Burden thought. “You can’t send me out without a last kiss.” His head gamboled and his lower lip jutted out in a wonderfully effective pout as he silently counted the risers Eugene’s feet were fouling, carrying him nearer.</DIV><DIV>“<I>Burden,</I>” Pru pleaded, but she kissed him just the same. “Now get, you,” she said, pushing him through the window. As he slid down across the porch roof the friction of its shingles worked Burden’s jeans over his ass. He splashed down in the wet grass unscathed, then turned to face Pru as he pulled his zipper closed. “Pru,” he called to her.</DIV><DIV>“<I>What?</I>”</DIV><DIV>“My shoes, I need my shoes.” With a silent actor’s dramatic flair he pointed to his wet, white socks, the only clothing he’d retained during their lovemaking.</DIV><DIV>“Oh, <I>shit!</I>” Pru scanned the bedroom for Burden’s sneakers, saw them discarded beside the bed table. She scooped them up and tossed them down to Burden. After he pulled on his shoes Burden lifted his face to Pruella, his eyes betraying a certain disappointment, almost dissatisfaction with how the evening was ending. At length he offered her a final kiss, placing it wetly on his palm and tossing it up to her. Pru caught the kiss. When Burden turned away, she wiped it on her pants.</DIV><DIV><I>“Pru?”</I> the exhaust pipe bellowed.</DIV><DIV>Pruella thought to close the window but preferred that it appear she’d been standing by the open window for many minutes, caught in idle fascination by the quiet, dampened Walterboro streets resting sleepily below her. Composing herself, she relaxed against the wooden frame and closed her eyes, relieved.</DIV><DIV>When Eugene opened the door, he did so the way a husband does who perpetually suspects he will one day open it to find his wife in bed with another man, which is to say with a mixture of apprehension, belligerence, and relief.</DIV><DIV>“Pru,” he continued more softly, “why didn’t you answer me?”</DIV><DIV>“What? Oh, hello, dear.” She held a hand out for her husband. “I must have been lost in my thoughts.” She drew a long breath as she took his hand in hers. The storm had exhausted its fury somewhere in hidden eastern vistas, leaving the late evening air cooler as the sky darkened from peach to plum; tea olives opened their many mouths, exhaling honeyed breaths; a dog bayed, and a conversation from next door—only one end of which could Pru discern—carried up through the open window. “I do love the smell of the air after a thunderstorm, it somehow makes all the fragrances more … <I>alive.</I> Don’t you think so?”</DIV><DIV>Eugene harumphed gruffly but all the same drew in a deep breath and imagined that under the smell of freshly scrubbed air and the delicate fragrance of tea olives he detected the odor of detergent. This was what he thought cum smelled like.</DIV><DIV><BR><BR><BR>Burden broke through the doors of Buck’s and entered a darkness different from that of the night. Three patrons, clumped like trash at the bar’s far end, tended to their drinks under a television bolted high on the wall. Only one of the patrons paid more than passing attention to the screen, and its volume was lost below Merle Haggard’s plaintive voice as he sang out from a small jukebox. The television threw its pale light across the room, dressing its walls and furnishings in a flickering palette of faded, mutable colors. Frankie stood behind the bar, conducting the drunken crescendo his three performers were slouching toward. Bobby Cort held First Chair, and it was his face that the television held most vividly alight, which was a shame. Cat Burrows, at fifty-five, ten years older than Bobby, thought he belonged in the First Chair. Blind Willie sat in a rounded, unkempt but not undignified heap, oblivious to his poor position or the televised chiaroscuro playing across his flannel shirt.</DIV><DIV>“What’ll you have, Burden?” Frankie asked.</DIV><DIV>Burden sat softly on the fourth bar stool. The seat of his jeans was still damp from his fall from Pruella’s bedroom window. “Corona.”</DIV><DIV>Frankie grinned, for Burden always ordered an import after having sex. Domestics meant he’d done without. Frankie pulled a Corona from the cooler, popped its top, and wedged a lime quarter in the bottle’s mouth. “How was it, good?” he asked as he set the bottle in front of Burden.</DIV><DIV>Burden shook his head in a manner indicating he could not say. “I’ll let you know once I’m done.”</DIV><DIV>“Interrupted? What happened, the old man come home?”</DIV><DIV>Burden cast his gaze mirthfully down toward the counter like a shy young boy.</DIV><DIV>“What quarter? Third? Fourth?”</DIV><DIV>“Overtime.”</DIV><DIV>Frankie grinned again. “Sudden death.”</DIV><DIV>“Not sudden enough for me,” Burden muttered quietly.</DIV><DIV>Frankie started to ask Burden to repeat himself when Cat called out from his seat. “Hiya, Burd.” He raised a sweating can of red and white in greeting, giving Burden an informed smile when he saw the Corona that Burden volleyed with a cheerful grin of his own.</DIV><DIV>Burden looked up at the television. Cheerleaders frolicked the way very responsible, very directed people frolic, forcing geometric shapes from apparently chaotic movements. “Who’s ahead?”</DIV><DIV><I>“Fucking Cocks.</I>” That was Bobby, spitting his words out on a spray of chilled bourbon. Of the five present, only he perceived Merle’s deeper meaning.</DIV><DIV>“Go Cocks,” Blind Willie said without inflection.</DIV><DIV>“Fuck your Cocks,” Bobby said. He loved the Game Cocks, but superstition demanded he bad-mouth them at every opportunity, lest Fate learn of his love for them and crush them to dust.</DIV><DIV>“After your wife finishes with me. Go Cocks,” Blind Willie repeated with unforced equanimity.</DIV><DIV>Bobby Cort shook off the mental image of <I>anyone</I> having sex with his wife, then said, “Well, it isn’t going to last, so don’t get your hopes up.” And it wouldn’t. No Game Cock lead—in itself a rare phenomenon—was so great that it could not be overcome by well-coached incompetence.</DIV><DIV>“See you in November.”</DIV><DIV>“Think so?”</DIV><DIV>Blind Willie sucked down more of his Bud. He never ordered imported.</DIV><DIV>“You interested in laying money on that?”</DIV><DIV>Willie turned and regarded Bobby Cort with impassive eyes. “Ten dollars.”</DIV><DIV>Cat hooked his toes under the bar rail and leaned backward on his stool till he had cleared Blind Willie. “Hey, Burd, you want to head out to Monck’s Corner in the morning? Cousin of mine up there—you remember Clyde—got himself a new motor. Wants to try it out on the lake.”</DIV><DIV>“What kind’d he get?”</DIV><DIV>“Johnson. Got one hundred and twenty-five horses just chomping to lead us to some fat-assed bass.”</DIV><DIV>“Good motor.” Burden upended his bottle to his lips. He brought the beer into his mouth in measured amounts, watching the tiny bubbles as they floated heavenward through the bottle.</DIV><DIV>“What do you say, Burd? You in?”</DIV><DIV>Burden brought the bottle down to the counter. “I don’t know. I got to make some deliveries tomorrow. Promised my dad I’d get them done before one o’clock,” he lied. “But you can sure bring me back some bass if you like.”</DIV><DIV>“I didn’t lay ten-dollar piddly ass amounts when I was in fourth grade, betting whether Skunk Johnson had the balls to look up the teacher’s dress,” Bobby said to Blind Willie.</DIV><DIV>“Okay, make it fifteen,” Blind Willie returned calmly.</DIV><DIV>“I wouldn’t screw my own wife for fifteen dollars.”</DIV><DIV>“He’s telling it straight,” Frankie said from behind the bar. “Offer twenty.”</DIV><DIV>“Can’t you deliver whatever you’ve got to deliver in the afternoon? We could get back by one o’clock. I’d help you. We could get it finished up in no time.”</DIV><DIV>Burden considered Cat’s proposition and was about to respond when the door opened. He turned and watched Eugene Boaz force his mass through the door’s slender frame, feeling as though he were witnessing a type of sexual violation. He also grew a degree cooler. He leaned into Blind Willie’s ear and said, “I been with you fellows last couple of hours. Hear?”</DIV><DIV>Blind Willie looked at the beer in Burden’s hand. “Drinking imported. Suddenly afraid when Eugene walks into the place.” He spoke his conclusion into his beer can, then said to Bobby, “Twenty’s as high as I go.”</DIV><DIV>“It’s a bet. Did you hear him, Frankie? You heard him, right? Twenty dollars. Clemson is going to whoop the ever-living shit out of your Cocks.”</DIV><DIV>“Your wife couldn’t do it, what makes you think Clemson can?”</DIV><DIV>“Would you lay off my goddamn wife?”</DIV><DIV>Eugene carried his mass to the bar and heaved it on the stool next to Burden. He smelled vaguely foul, as though he had collected the vagrant odors of the cities he’d made runs through in his rig.</DIV><DIV>“What’re you drinking tonight, Eugene?”</DIV><DIV>“Whiskey. Straight. And a beer.” Eugene surveyed the group. “Christ, <I>women,”</I> he confided as Frankie set a mug of beer and a shot glass on the counter before him.</DIV><DIV>Burden edged closer to Blind Willie.</DIV><DIV>“Know what you mean,” Frankie agreed, filling the shot glass with whiskey.</DIV><DIV>Eugene made a show of sniffing the air then hesitated, casting a suspicious glance toward Burden. He sniffed again.</DIV><DIV>Burden turned to him. “Cock or Tiger?” he asked as a distraction.</DIV><DIV>“What?”</DIV><DIV>“Cock or Tiger? Blind Willie put twenty on the Cocks.”</DIV><DIV>“Shit, tiger’ll whip a fucking rooster any day.”</DIV><DIV>“Amen, brother. Goddamn got that right.” Bobby raised his glass to Eugene. His beloved Game Cocks would lose, but not on his account.</DIV><DIV>Eugene leaned into Burden and sniffed again.</DIV><DIV>“Look, do I smell like shit or something? Did I maybe step in dog crap and don’t know about it?” Burden demanded, countering Eugene’s sniffs of suspicion the way a baboon might turn to challenge an attacking cheetah.</DIV><DIV>“Where you been earlier, boy?”</DIV><DIV>“Why I got to tell you where I been?”</DIV><DIV>“’Cause I asked.” Eugene brushed a hair-coarsened forearm against Burden’s naked hand.</DIV><DIV>“Been making deliveries all day.” Burden’s pinky finger twitched spasmodically, tapping the Corona lightly.</DIV><DIV>“<I>After</I> that.”</DIV><DIV>Frankie refilled Eugene’s shot glass. “Burd’s been with us past couple of hours, Eugene, watching the game.”</DIV><DIV>Burden took a sip of Corona, its flavor leeching under Eugene’s shadow. <I>Goddamn, Eugene</I>, he thought. Away from Pru, away from the moment, Burden didn’t have the courage to provoke him.</DIV><DIV>Eugene downed the shot and took a quarter of the beer into his rough-rimmed maw. He held his eye to Burden. His father had raised him to trust a bartender’s word, but he also believed he detected the faint odor of detergent. After a few moments’ hesitation he settled back on his bar stool.</DIV><DIV>Cat leaned forward and said to Eugene, “You want to go up to Monck’s Corner tomorrow morning, get some fishing in?”</DIV><DIV>“Can’t. I’m making a run at four to Ashville, be gone most of the day.”</DIV><DIV>“You leaving four in the afternoon?” Burden asked.</DIV><DIV>“Christ no, boy. I’m leaving four o’clock in the morning. You had a real job, you might know what a real man’s working hours were.”</DIV><DIV>Burden let the insult slide off his ego and sipped his beer. Its taste was returning. “What time’ll you be back?”</DIV><DIV>“Now what the hell business is that of yours?”</DIV><DIV>Burden didn’t press the point.</DIV><DIV>“Of course,” Eugene offered confidentially to Frankie, “I <I>am</I> planning on getting home by one tomorrow if I can; thought I’d surprise Pru and take her out for lunch some place nice.”</DIV><DIV>“Got something special going on?” Frankie asked.</DIV><DIV>Eugene glanced at Burden then drank the last of the whiskey. “Just keeping her on her toes. It won’t do to let a woman get too comfortable.”</DIV><DIV>Frankie tried to pour a third shot into Eugene’s glass but Eugene raised a blocking hand, finished what remained of his chaser, brought the mug down sharply on the bar counter, and stood. “Got to get home. Won’t be much sleeping done tonight.” He slapped Burden soundly on his shoulder. “Enjoy the rest of your game.” Burden offered him a smile of angelic benignity. Eugene threw a five-dollar bill on the bar counter and walked to the door. When he reached the door he turned and said, “I ever catch the prick fucking my wife, he’s going to wish he’d been born a nigra.”</DIV><DIV>“Why so, Eugene?” Frankie asked.</DIV><DIV>“’Cause a lynching ain’t nothing as much as what I’m going to do to that goddamn cocksucker when I catch him.” Eugene dipped his head in parting. “Ya’ll have a good night.”</DIV><DIV>Blind Willie turned to Burden and said, “You best stick with domestics, son.”</DIV><DIV>“Why’s that?” Burden asked. Having come so close tonight with Eugene, he was determined to have another go tomorrow.</DIV><DIV>“Because that imported shit’s going to get you killed.”</DIV><DIV>“What, Eugene? I’m not afraid of Eugene.”</DIV><DIV>“Well, you should be. I don’t know what this game is you’re playing, son, but one of these days you’re going to take it too far.”</DIV><DIV>Burden waved away Willie’s words.</DIV><DIV>“No, you listen to me: Pru’s using you for the thrill of it. Let Eugene catch you and her in bed; you think for a second she wouldn’t beg Eugene to beat God’s holy living shit out of you for what <I>you’ve</I> been making her do? That woman is poison.”</DIV><DIV>“Pru’s not so bad.”</DIV><DIV>Now it was Willie’s turn to dismiss Burden’s words. “And another thing, rile a man like that Eugene and he’d just as soon kill you as look at you.”</DIV><DIV>“Yeah, well, if that’s so, what’s he waiting for?”</DIV><DIV>“You know what I’m talking about, son. I’ve done delivered too many friends to their everlasting peace. I don’t care to do the same for someone as young as you.”</DIV><DIV>Burden stood and patted Blind Willie on the back. “Thank’s for watching out for me, old man, but I know what I’m doing. Oh,” he said, bending close to Willie’s ear and speaking softly, “I never play games.”</DIV><DIV><BR><BR><BR>Burden drove through the dampened streets. Above the quiet noise of the road passing under his wheels he could hear also the sound of Eugene’s footsteps as he trudged up the stairs and his voice, so full of menace and doubt, calling out to Pru and to whomever might be with her. <I>Poor Eugene,</I> he thought, <I>if you weren’t such a sloth this would have all been over with long ago. But maybe tomorrow you’ll do better.</I></DIV><DIV>When he reached the cemetery Burden turned into the entrance and pulled to a stop. For several minutes he sat there, studying the dark beyond the fence work. He could have just as easily started the van again and left, but he’d not been by to visit for what, a month, more? This sense of neglect provoked him at last and he stepped from the van, and looking both ways for approaching cars, he mounted the iron and stone fencing and touched down inside the grounds.</DIV><DIV>The early evening rain had gathered up the humid air and removed its heaviness, leaving the night cool and easy to stroll through. Cicadas sang unseen and bullfrogs grumbled from their freshly wetted lairs so they would not be forgotten below the bright full moon. Cooler breezes, discarded remnants of the earlier rain, occasionally hurried over the grounds and lifted into the trees, finding their voices in the limbs. Burden dug his hands deeper into his pockets when these breezes came up beside him to take him by his arms with their cold embrace.</DIV><DIV>Burden followed the clay road to the heart of the grounds. Massive oak trees, their backs broken and bent with age, towered above the graves. Most of the oaks were older than the least well-remembered soul interred below Burden’s feet, and had themselves taken on the afterlife’s tallow glow, their craggy faces bearing the impassive expressions of so many death masks. They wore these stolid expressions for good reason, for it had been their task to usher generations of souls into that undiscovered country. Rising on all sides, they protected Burden from the moonlight—protected him also from those mislaid souls who prowled these hallowed grounds. Frivolous-spirited azaleas pawed at the oaks, whispering rumors and telling tales out of turn, hoping to bedevil the separate lines of slumber and death and secret a departed soul through the gates, if only for an evening’s sojourn through the town square. Be <I>reasonable</I>, they entreated the oaks. Burden took no note of these quarrelsome voices rising all around. Instead, he pressed forward. When he reached the third crossroad he hesitated, kicked at the damp clay below his heels, and turned down the narrower lane.</DIV><DIV>Fifteen yards down the lane Burden turned again, walking a final twenty feet over the grass, passing many older headstones that rose high into the air, declaring the dearer value of their residents. He stopped at a simple granite marker whose verdant brass shone dully in the oakfiltered moonlight. The name it bore in raised letters was illegible through the night’s ebony veil, so Burden spoke the name for any who might not know who was hiding under this particular rectangle of sod. “Evening, Peedie.”</DIV><DIV>A gust of wind curled through the oak limbs, then died.</DIV><DIV>“Haven’t been by for a while … thought I’d stop to see how you were getting on.”</DIV><DIV>The fragrance of newly mown grass and the crisp odor of juniper strode upon a gentle breeze winding through the headstones. Burden ran his palms over his arms to warm them. He leaned back on a tall stone, felt a cold circle spread on his back where he pressed against its granite face. For several minutes he remained silent, absently listening to the breeze’s vacant voice.</DIV><DIV>“We came pretty close tonight,” Burden said. “Thought you’d want to know.” There was no answering breeze to his remark, so he closed his eyes against the fragile moonlight and remained silent also. There had been evenings, as a teenager, when he had passed hours alone under these same limbs, counting the souls in their coruscant larks, holding his cheek to the leaf-littered sod, listening with youth’s melancholy ear to the murmuring voices interred below. But those evenings were hours and a lifetime ago. Each passing year found him in these grounds with increasing infrequency, till at last he could fairly say he neglected Peedie. Well, it was no wonder Peedie had grown taciturn; Burden figured he would too if he felt he’d been abandoned.</DIV><DIV>“Blind Willie thinks we’re playing a game, you and I.” Again there was no breeze, only the mournful light and the feel of cold against his skin. <I>A game, is that what Willie thinks I’m up to?</I> Burden laughed sourly at the thought. “If this is a game I wish it was a game I’d lose pretty soon.” But saying this to Peedie, Burden heard the doubt, subtle but present, in his tone. It was this doubt, a presence he felt with increasing insistence each day, that kept him from coming to the cemetery as often as he used to. It was this same doubt that stole the peace he used to feel here in Peedie’s presence and made him fidget his feet through the grass and trace a fingertip’s greasy trail over the lichen-tinged headstone he rested against; it was this same doubt that made him cast anxious glances about in the darkness, a darkness in which he’d once felt comfortable. Finally, in a single motion he stood and twitched his shoulders, unwilling to linger even a moment more. “Look, Peedie,” he said at length, “I should be getting home. I’ll come ’round to see you sometime soon, in a couple of days, maybe. Sure I will. We can talk then if you want.” He turned his back to the grave and started to leave, then, twisting his body without shifting his feet, he regarded the plot a last time. In the darkness and from a distance he looked like a miniature oak curling toward the sky. “’Night, cousin.”</DIV></DIV><DIV>BURDEN. Copyright © 2002 by Tony Walters. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.</DIV><BR><BR></DIV></DIV> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Burden</b> by <b>Tony Walters</b> Copyright © 2002 by Tony Walters. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.