Mad Dog & Englishman takes place on the hottest, muggiest day of summer, and climaxes with a tornado bearing down on the town. Prairie Gothic is set in the dead of winter, on a day when a blizzrd of epic proportions strikes. I thought it was time to give the residents of Benteen County a break, and demonstrate why a few people still live there. In Plains Crazy, it's a perfect spring day, except for the bodies and bombs that begin to pile up while Englishman struggles with his wife's increasingly bizarre behavior and Mad Dog deals with an unexpected reunion with his long-lost, first true love. This excerpt, perhaps, sets the scene:

Mrs. Kraus stepped out of Bertha's Cafe into the most beautiful morning she could imagine. It was time for her to clock in behind the reception desk over at the sheriff's office in the courthouse, but not before she took a moment to appreciate the glory of this rare and perfect spring day. Weather in Benteen County tended to extremes of heat and cold, punctuated by storms that seemed like the personal wrath of God, but in between . . . like just now, this morning. She took a breath and knew why she lived here, and would never dream of living anywhere else.

The rising sun turned the streets of Buffalo Springs into swaths of gold. They gleamed, resembling the fabled pavement for which Coronado had once come searching. Or maybe not, since the sun was also highlighting verdant clumps of Bermuda that pushed through cracks in the pavement, and a profusion of wildflowers that most folks would call weeds, blooming in Veterans Memorial Park across the street.

Mrs. Kraus was pleasantly bloated after a Bertha's breakfast special. She would have been drowsy if she hadn't accompanied it with several cups of Bertha's coffee, strong enough, it had been rumored, to dissolve an occasional spoon. The combination of cholesterol and caffeine induced a heightened awareness in her, an almost drugged state of well-being and alertness. She was acutely conscious of meadowlarks flirting in the park and the overwhelmingly bawdy perfume with which spring's flowers tantalized the gentle breeze. A honey bee buzzed her, briefly considered whether her flowered smock was sluttish enough for a stop, then rushed to the welcoming embrace of a clump of sunflowers between the sidewalk and the curb.

Fecund, that's what the morning was. Fecund wasn't a word Mrs. Kraus had found much use for in recent years, especially not since her beloved Floyd had passed on. But fecund, she realized, was the only appropriate description for this soft spring morning. Kansas, it seemed, was in the mood to procreate.

She stepped across the street and strolled toward the county courthouse. From a block away, and in this spectacular lighting, it looked like something out of a picture postcard. Up close, she knew, the building
and the government it housed were in serious need of repair.

She passed a pair of young Mexican men trying to start the county's mower so they could wade into those weeds across the street from the church. She wondered if they were illegals. Surely not, if they were working for the county -- though some of the supervisors were cheap enough to hire off the books and pay below minimum wage. Then she stopped worrying about it because the men were peeling off their shirts and their lean, bronze bodies rippled with youthful muscle. Firm butts did nice things for their blue jeans, too.

Mrs. Kraus mentally slapped herself upside the head. Fecund, she decided, might not be putting it strongly enough.


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