James Braun Brings Readers Back to Winter

Magazine Review by Katy Haas

Everything is green and warm outside my window right now, but James Braun takes readers back to winter in his story “The Salt Man” from the Spring 2020 issue of Zone 3.

The story centers on two young sisters mid-winter. They are sent outside to wait for the salt man to come salt their roads before they’re allowed to play outside their yard. This is a dark piece. Poverty hangs heavy over the story. What once was green and beautiful has been covered by rocks. They have no heat in the house. Their neighbor loses fingers to frostbite. A woman cries on a couch while they go door to door asking if they can shovel driveways for cash to pay for a doctor bill. And the person they’re told will bring them a level of safety—the salt man—ends up being a source of danger in himself.

I enjoyed Braun’s writing style. There’s a level of flippancy with all the characters who view their lifestyle as ordinary. The story is short but holds a lot inside it. We’re able to discern as much meaning in what isn’t said as in what is clearly stated. And even though it is warm enough that I have my window open, a warm breeze blowing into my living room as I write this, Braun’s writing still makes a reader feel that inescapable cold of winter.

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