- Vol. 01
- Chapter 06
Trading Post- He says to hold up some, here.
- What? Are you sure?
Bett turned her face away, sensing he would try to read it with that city know-how of his. Like a lawyer. She pretended to take measure of the low ridge of foothills, setting in the burning-off mist.
She knew exactly where they were. It was going to get hot soon. She knew not to be in it, at noon.
She glanced back at his car and made a mental note of the level of the tires; the fancy hubcap logo hidden by the long bunch grass that had wound round and round the radials, getting here. He wouldn’t be no good when it came to changing flats, she thought. She snorted involuntarily, while a hoverfly wavered by a rising mirror of light simmering above the post; the sun condensing what was left of the dew in the beer can. Flats. A racing line, to nowhere.
- What’s funny? Hardaman stuttered a bit. He found her live silver hair, her kerchief, the tobacco-stained hands, too surreal. She ignored him, so he studied the tall piece of wood topped with the shot-out can.
Hardaman’s brother, Robert, was two years older and the subject of his best drinking stories and several of his recurring anxiety dreams. They had been at one of their mother’s boyfriends’ houses— impossible to recall which—
and there was a group of them that had set up a similar post, out back, away from the sightline of the barn. There was no shortage of empties to find in the man’s carport. Hardaman had just hit the target four straight times with the air rifle at twenty feet, and the rest of the kids were still holding their breath. He handed the gun over, and watched his brother raise it to his face. He couldn’t associate the burning pain of the pellet in his thigh with his brother’s shot until he saw that Robert refused to look him in the eye. It had been seconds. Yes. He knew where he was with Bett.
She handed him the small plastic packet.
- Fix it up there with that stuff. She motioned to the electrical tape. He peeled off a forearm’s length then struggled to tear it. He finished it with his teeth, and clumsily wrapped the packet against the splintered wood. Bett snorted again. - Remind me not to take you out checkin fences.
She shucked off the well-worn piece of cloth that kept her hair away, and gazed at his handiwork. She stepped up to the can, and pressed the pad of her middle finger hard against one of the bullet holes. She pushed the bright blood up, smearing it across the kerchief. She tied it to the post, where it fluttered a bit, then hung.
- He’ll know we got this far, alright. She shooed him back, like the inconvenience he was to her, and walked back to the car.