By the glow of the headlights, Reney counted again. A calf was gone. A bawling cow trotting ruts into the fence line confirmed Reney’s count. She shoved her work gloves into the back pocket of a pair of Wes’s greasy coveralls. She’d slipped them on over her underwear and a Dairy Queen polo, and now static electricity popped as she climbed into the idling diesel to get the shotgun.
With new babies dropping by the day, neither the feral hogs nor the coyotes would be far off. The hogs had pretty much planted a flag and declared the rooted-up land around the river their own,
and the coyotes had grown brazen in the drought, killing two neighbor dogs and countless goats down the road. Still, she didn’t think it was hogs or coyotes. Her mule, Rosalee, was gone, too.
Shotgun cradled in the crook of her arm, Reney whistled, squinting toward the pale sliver of sunrise, hoping to see her mule’s big ears come bobbing over the hill. Wes’s sweet but useless stock dog, Rowdy Rotty, munched on a dried piece of cow shit.
When Rosalee didn’t come after a few sharp whistles, Reney killed the truck’s chugging idle and left the shotgun barrel to the floorboard. She took out the cattle prod and lead shank and started walking the fence. “Where are they, girl?” Reney said to the dog, who gave her quick lick. Reney hung wide around the momma cow in her manic vigil, all swinging udders and mournful cries, and nearly lost her boots in the mud suck crossing what was supposed to be the creek.
大多数每年春天河水吞噬大量of sandy loam. Scrub oaks crashed into the water like imploded high-rises. One good thing to come of the drought—they wouldn’t lose any more worthless land to the river. But less rain meant more feed bills—their leased thirty acres were grazed to the root—and that meant more beery moping out of Wes.
The first time Rosalee took a calf, Reney had been scrubbing green scum from a water trough when the mule’s slow, purposeful movement caught her eye. Reney stopped what she was doing and smiled at the silly creature, who made her way over to a baby calf napping in the sun. Suddenly, Rosalee snorted two times in the direction of the grazing momma cow. Before the cow could get over there, head lowered and bellowing, Rosalee took the calf into her mouth by the nape of the neck. Then Rosalee turned and ran across the pasture, baby calf a clenched ball. Reney never would have believed it if she hadn’t seen it.
It took Reney all morning to coax Rosalee away from the calf. She had to call in to work and sweet-talk Jack to keep him from cutting her shift. Luckily, Wes had been on his two-week hitch, and she’d mentioned the story only in passing when he got home, laughing about the calf accepting its fate as half donkey and trying to nurse. Wes didn’t see the humor. Though he’d not even been able to bring himself to dock his rottweiler’s tail, he promised that if the mule ever tried the stunt again he’d shoot her himself and sell her for dog food. Reney had hoped that, like so many other things with Wes, was bluster.
“我迟到了，韦斯。”雷尼（Reney）打开了迷你盲人，击中了闹钟，使两个白痴盘式骑师Midguffaw沉默。她想起了他们的标题 - “大笔，没有瓦莱！” - 从她妈妈首次结婚并将他们搬到德克萨斯州之后，她与Pitch的妈妈Nina一起观看了一场比赛表演。作为一个女孩，她一直注视着俄克拉荷马州 - 她留下的繁华山丘和深夜教堂的服务，她的曾祖母。As she got older, with the help of MTV and books, she kept her mind on anywhere but Bonita, never for a minute imagining she’d stay and, like her mom, be responsible for holding together a household that, most days, she’d just as soon burn.
她看起来一次拖车的窗口fore dropping the coveralls and sliding into her work pants. She sat in the crook of Wes’s body and pushed his hair back. He was still as handsome as he had been when they met at a party, her in Dr. Martens and flannel, trying too hard to not fit in, and him in standard-issue Wranglers. How quick he’d been to fling the snuff from his lip when she made a crack about it. Now, a can of Copenhagen and a spit cup sat on the bedside table, and she was late for work at the Dairy Queen, worried about a mule. She jostled him.
韦斯滚到他的背上,伸展双臂d legs as long and stiff as they’d go. Turning back into her, he wrapped her up and pulled her toward him. He untucked her shirt, buried his face in her back, and rubbed his chin against her. His goatee was long and he’d not shaved around it in a week, making him look like a billy goat with his big brown eyes. He made gnawing sounds up her ribs, across to her breasts, said, “Big bust, no whammies.”
“Get up. Unless you want to be without the truck,” she said, pulling away. “I’ve got to go to work.”
Wes didn’t notice the momma cow’s bawls when he stomped down the metal stairs. He bent to scratch Rowdy’s ears and kiss her head. Then he licked his thumb and wiped at a spot on the truck’s door before climbing in. Reney already sat in the passenger seat.
“Why didn’t you leave it running?” he asked. “Told you it’s hard on the engine.”
“Got to go over some stuff with Sammy at the Iron.”
But since he’d lost his job, Wes had taken to putting on his good boots and sitting at Sammy’s table as weekday mornings stretched into afternoons. Sammy’s grandpa’s grandpa, or whoever, had made a fortune in oil way back, and, like his father, Sammy had been set up with cattle and hundreds of acres of his own as a teenager. He carried himself accordingly.
She’d made the mistake of walking over one day when she got off early, and there was Wes, kicked back in his chair picking his teeth, hoping some of Sammy’s cowman shine would rub off on him. Reney endured Sammy’s ribbing when she ordered her tea unsweet and felt her face burn at Wes’s talk about his “ranch,” how he was planning to double the herd in the next year. Sammy egged him on, inviting Wes to talk smart. Wes, who’d never felt comfortable on a horse, even mentioned getting a couple of cutting horses before Reney excused herself to study in the truck.
When Wes came home after whatever happened on his last Wyoming hitch, he took his garbage bag of greasers from the back of the truck and put them in the fire barrel. Reney stopped short when she came onto the porch to greet him. “We can’t afford new clothes, Wes.”
“She take a calf?”
Wes shifted his cap, pulled the brim lower.
“I don’t know why you want a goddamn mule in the first place.”
“We’ve been over it, Wes.”
“She’s taking food from our mouths when she fucks with my calves.” As they approached the stoplight, he shifted down, softened. “Shit. It ain’t always going to be like this, Reney.”
A glass gallon jar at Reney’s feet knocked into the door. The day before, she’d bought half a tank of fuel for Wes’s truck with the tips she’d been saving. It didn’t matter how many shifts Reney picked up or how often she emptied her jar—he acted as if it were his calves that kept the bank at bay.
“Don’t kill my mule.”
“I know, Jack. I’m sorry,” Reney said.
Her boss raised a palm toward the clock.
“Hi, Liza Blue,” she hollered across the room. An old lady facing away from Reney in a red booth raised her hand without turning. “Morning, Ferrell,” she said to Pitch’s daddy. The old cowboy came over and made a big show of taking a red bandanna out of his back pocket and wiping the tobacco juice off his lips before he kissed her cheek. Then he winked at the cigar-store Indian and went back to his talking.
“I think Rosalee took a calf, ” Reney said, tying an apron around her waist.
“Again?” Jack asked.
Reney stopped her wiping and turned to him.
“I’ve got class tonight, but I’ll come in early tomorrow if it helps.”
“I appreciate you being flexible,” Reney said, her voice sharp. “And I’m sorry, Jack, but I understand you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
“Well, when you get things lined out for lunch, come on to the office so we can go over the schedule.”
The schedule for the next three weeks was set. And she knew that when she got back there, he’d have an unsweetened ice tea with lemon waiting and he’d ask her about her classes and she would lose track of time talking about her instructors and the reading and she would become embarrassed when she realized how much she was enjoying their talk. Last week he’d given her a nice leather-bound day planner with a matching journal and heavy pen.
Jack frowned. “I was thinking we could look at payroll again, this time in relation to quarterly sales.”
杰克的聚酯裤裤子从臀部挂着，他的短袖着装衬衫总是有咖啡或更糟的景点。她不确定他为什么这么打算他们的会议。She wanted to think he was a little like Pitch—that is to say, a little like a father—if Pitch showed up when he said he would, stammered more, and didn’t have brown, leathered skin from days spent on the back of a horse.