If I Ever Get Off This Mountain


Deddy always said “If I ever get off this mountain, I promise you boys I’m gonna carve us out a new life. One that don’t involve all this killin’.

He talked about building us a little house on a flat patch of land, where’s each of us would get our own room.  He talked about finding a good woman too, one that would stick around.

“Not like your Mama, that no good bitch.”

My Mama left us for some shit-eater west of the Chattahoochee when I was a baby. My brothers and me could give a rat’s ass, but you could tell Deddy missed her when he tried to sound hard. The sadness in his eyes always betrayed the gravel in his throat.

He never did find that good woman, so we was raised up in his image, and groomed for the family business.

In the sixties it was shine. From what I been told, we had stills set up all over this mountain, and when other runners came looking to set up shop, a beat down or two from Grandeddy’s hickory axe handle would be enough to send them packin’.

The seventies brought the war and the weed. Deddy was a young buck then, just beginning to run things, and the transition was not without bloodshed. Deddy bought automatic weapons from some bikers in South Florida to guard his crops, and maintained peace through superior firepower. Bodies were buried all over this mountain before word got out there was more than a piece of hickory waitin’ if you come to take what’s ours.

In the eighties, those same bikers that sold us the guns, taught my brothers how to cook methamphetamine.  Within months that evil shit put Deddy in the ground, and set us up to become the biggest suppliers of crank in all of Georgia-Bama Tennessee.

There were demons loose on the mountain, and that genie would never be stuffed back in the bottle.

I was the baby of five brothers. I come late so they always towered over me. I loved my brothers like a kid loves cowboys on the T.V. They were like the superheroes in the drugstore comic books–bigger than life. Just like Deddy, I believed they was made from steel. But the truth is, they were just boys made from skin and bone. Boys who believed the lies this way of life whispered in their ears. Boys that could bleed and die just like everyone else. They could easily get ripped apart in gunfights with GBI agents, or bleed out into the dirt after being shot and robbed by tweekers.

Tweekers we created.

One by one, I lost ’em all. I’ve got dead brothers in six counties all over North Georgia and Tennessee. The clay this mountain is made of, runs red from all the blood of my kin split in it.  There’s no one left standing now but me. I’m the only one saddled with the burden of my Deddy’s name.

I’m also the only one standing between these three garbage bags full of cash and the ATF outside that just showed up to seize it. Choctaw took one in the brainpan pulling the car around back, leaving me no way out. That little house on a patch of land Deddy promised sure sounds nice right now.

There’s enough money here. I could of made that happen.

“Come on out here Clayton, you got no choice! Toss your weapon and nobody else needs to get hurt!”

I pull the small tin star off my shirt pocket and run my thumb over the indented letters that spell out SHERIFF. I used to think this made me different. I thought it might free me my family’s legacy.  Now it just feels like a nine-pound hammer.  I let it drop to the floor and pull my Colt.  What was I thinking? I’ll always be my father’s son.

Deddy never did make it off this mountain and I reckon neither will I.

I suppose it’s time to spit in the dirt and get this thing done. It will be good to see my brothers again.

~ fin ~


Brian Panowich is an award winning author, a Georgia firefighter, and a father to four incredible children. His first novel, BULL MOUNTAIN (Putnam Books) topped the best thriller list of 2015 on Apple iBooks, placed in the top twenty best books of 2015 on Amazon, and went on to win the International Thriller Writers Award (2016) for Best First Novel, as well as the Pat Conroy Award (formally the SIBA Award) (2016) for Best Mystery. The book was also nominated for the Barry Award, the Anthony Award, The Georgia Townsend Book Prize, and was a finalist for the 2016 LA Times Book Prize. BULL MOUNTAIN was also recently selected for the coveted BOOKS ALL GEORGIANS SHOULD READ list by the Georgia Center of the Book, and has been the recepient of several foreign press awards. Brian also placed second for the 2016 Georgia Author of the Year Award in the Best Debut Catagory. His second novel, LIKE LIONS, is slated for a 2018 release followed by YEAR OF THE ROOSTER due in 2019.