Seth watched from the bed as Mom yanked pieces of clothing off her hangers and stuffed them into a black trash bag.  The smell of rotten flowers drifted on humid air from outside.  He watched Mom’s grimy feet pad their way into the bathroom, heard the hollow thunks of plastic bottles dropping into the bag.

Through a screened window he watched Jerry’s taillights recede up the gravel driveway.  As the engine’s rumble faded, he heard crying in the bathroom.

She was tying up the trash bag when he walked in.

“What happened?” he asked.

She looked at him and shook her head.  “Get your things before he gets back.  Quick quick, honey.”

“Where we going?”

She walked past him.  “Grandma’s tonight, probably Aunt Meredith’s in a couple days.”

A couple days?  Maybe they’d stay gone for good this time.  Maybe Jerry would get drunk and clean his gun meanwhile.  Maybe fall asleep in the tub.

Seth took a trash bag to his room and stuffed it with his best shirts, a few books, his pocketknife, and Daisy Rachel McClelland’s newspaper picture from when she went missing last week.

Daisy herself crawled out from under the bed.

“Are we going?” she asked, standing up.  The smell of old motor oil trickled into Seth’s nose.

“Yeah,” he said, “but to my grandma’s house.  Jerry hit my mom again.”  Though really he hadn’t heard any hits--just struggling.  

Daisy looked at the floor.  Seth said, “we’ll be back in a couple days.  You can come too if you want, or you can wait here.”

“I don’t WANT to come back in a couple days.”

He snorted.  “Tell my mom.”

Now she looked mad.  According to the news Daisy was fourteen, two years older.  An older woman!  “Alright, sorry,” he said.  “We’ll go from Grandma’s.”

She smiled her pale-gummed smile, touched him with her cold fingers.



Mom’s car wouldn’t start right away, so she took Jerry’s other one instead.  The bent hood stuck up in front of the windshield so Mom had to sit high and squint over it.

“He can get the motherfucker out of impound, all I care,” she said as the little car fishtailed onto the road from the gravel driveway.  Clear snot oozed from her nose.  “See whose name comes up on the registration!”     She let out a short, loud laugh.

Mom’s foot jumped from clutch to gas, spidery bruises showing as the hem of her shorts shifted.  She put a cigarette in her mouth and lit it while Daisy Rachel McClelland rustled in the trunk.  Out the windows, the rotten-flower air billowed past, and trees and shrubs stretched away, and in the clear sky the moon was cold and splotchy and gray like dead skin.


An hour passed on the dash clock before they coasted up the little one-way road that led to Grandma’s trailer.  Grandma’s van was in its parking space next to the square of grass so Mom parked sideways behind it.  An aluminum weather vane turned in the waves of warmth coming from on the trailer’s curved roof.

It was near ten o’clock.  Mom knocked on the door three times before Grandma greeted them wearing a pair of bike shorts and an oversized cotton shirt with the sleeves cut off.

“He called here yet?” Mom asked.

Grandma looked at Mom’s legs, turned around, went inside.  “Seth,” she said, “you wanna go fold your clothes in my room?” 

The bed in Grandma’s room smelled like fabric softener.  Perfume bottles were arranged on a wide dresser against an outside wall, and an old lamp shade tinted the room brown.    

He turned on the TV and cycled through the channels for news shows. 

Clinton health care plan.  Click. 

They could live with Grandma now, and Daisy could stay with them too. 

Commercial.  Click. 

She would watch him shoot his BB gun, and climb the big spruce outside, and pull her shirt up for him, and go for walks

Mother of Daisy Rachel McClelland at a news conference earlier today. 


“Her boyfriend isn’t with her there,” Daisy said next to him.  “Probably too embarrassed to have him on now.”


“Did you see what he did when they were in the studio a couple days ago?”

“I was at school.”

Daisy’s mother wept into a microphone.  Next, Daisy’s last school picture filled the screen.  It was the main picture they used on the news.  She sat grinning with her arms folded in front of a marble-gray background.  Seth had had the VCR recording once while it had showed on another news show; he sometimes watched the tape, paused it on the picture.  

Daisy shook her head.  “He called me his daughter on camera, and my mom looked at him like she wanted to kill him.  It was obvious.  So now everybody’s suspicious of him because they think he’s a weirdo.”

“Is he?”

She stared at the TV.  “I don’t really care now.  Mom said I had a crush on him.”

“Did you?” 

“No.”  A pause.  “Can we go?”

Voices rose and fell in the living room as Seth crossed the room, cranked the window open.


They slipped between rows of trailers, stepping over tow hitches, ducking under lit windows.  The night had cooled off but gnats were still out buzzing at Seth’s eyes.  He fell once and cut his hand on glass.  It bled for a minute and got to hurting pretty bad but Daisy said it was fine.

They sat on the cold bench at the little bus stop next to the main road.  Seth picked at his hand.

After a little while the Number 27 bus rolled up.  All the fluorescent-lit blue seats inside were empty.  The door slid open and Seth paid the youngish bus driver before taking a seat in the back row.

Out the windows country turned to town.  They took on a nurse and a teenage couple.  He found Daisy’s hand resting on the seat next to him and she let him hold it.  They passed smokestacks, an airport.  The teenagers got off at an apartment complex, the nurse on a little street fronting a neighborhood.

The bus was crossing a bridge over a freeway when Daisy told him to pull the cord.  He did.  The driver stopped the bus in front of an orphanage

Seth walked down the aisle on stiff legs.

“You’ll probably want to sneak in,” the bus driver said as Seth passed.  “Where’ve you been?”

“My grandma’s,” Seth said.

The driver blinked.  “Oh.”

It was warmer outside than on the bus.  Daisy led him to the orphanage’s side yard, where they waited in the shadow of a big willow until the bus drove away.  Down the side yard he could see behind the building, past the gleaming playground equipment, to the craggy blueblack of the mountainside.  Daisy led him back out to the sidewalk.  The other side of the street was walled off, and the street itself wound down and away in both directions.  Somewhere on the mountain a coyote sceamed.

Daisy headed right.  Her pajama pants looked stiff, like they were rimy with old sweat.  Seth’s shoes scuffed concrete.

After a while the sidewalk stopped.  Then the road cut into some trees.  Mom and Grandma would have found him missing by now, of course.  They were probably driving up and down, looking for him.  Mom could be calling Jerry.

“She won’t call the police, though,” Daisy said.

“No,” Seth said.


The sky between trees was full of stars.  “She don’t like them.”

Her arm brushed against his and worms crawled in his chest.  “Cool.  Just say she calls ‘em though.  They come out, and while she’s telling whatever story the cops start asking why she’s so beat up, why she’s staying at her mom’s house and all she got’s a trash bag.”


“And they find out Jerry did it.”

Seth was smiling now.  “Okay.”

Daisy looked at him with her sad, cloudy brown eyes.  “So Jerry gets locked up, nobody’s paying rent, you and your mom move in with grandma.”

“Right,” Seth said.

“Mom ain’t gonna have that.”

Seth said nothing.

Her voice was satisfied.  “Two days, tops, you’re back with him.  Cops or no cops.”

“She stole his car.”

“So what?”

“Whatever.”  Seth’s face burned.  He didn't like her goading him.

“Whatever.  Jerry’s the only one in that house who can stay gone for more than two days.”

Seth said nothing.

“He’s gone all last week, nobody says peep.  Your mom walks by that shed every day, doesn’t say peep.  She lets him do whatever the fuck he wants.”

Daisy stepped off the road and climbed a sandy embankment, then slid past a big tumbleweed.  She was among the trees, in their shadow, so she was soon gone.

Seth scrambled up the dirt.  Through tears he watched his hands clutch at weeds.  He ran a few yards up a dirt trail before Daisy came into view.

They left the trail and wove between trees.  She gave him a boost over a ridged wall of granite.  He felt her hand in his as he pulled her up, felt it holding.  They jogged down a steep, craggy hill, and Seth heard rumbling a little ways behind.

Her voice came over the rumble.  “Hide when we get to the creek bed!”

He fell over a short ledge and landed on gravel.  Elbows stinging, he ran out from the trees and saw the long dark line of the creek.  He veered left and ran back into the trees. 

Behind him, tires spun on dry earth.

Daisy leaned on him as he crouched.  He felt her breath on his collarbone as Jerry’s truck wobbled from the treeline and stopped next to the creek.  The moon reflected gray in the propped camper shell window.

With the engine still running, Jerry climbed out of the cab and walked around to the back, where he opened the tailgate.  He pulled a cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it, and looked up, and blew smoke.  He pulled a big black bag and a shovel off the bed.  The bag bobbed over his shoulder as he carried it around and set it in the dirt in front of the headlights.  His face was shiny.

He shut the truck off.

When he started to dig, Daisy said, “go to the back of the truck.”

Seth cut wide and approached the back of Jerry’s truck from a distance.  The warm tailgate handle sprang quietly.

Up ahead, the shovel cut dirt.

“Knife’s on the right,” she said.  “Under a black trash bag.”

The bag felt full of wet paper.  Through a rip he could see a paper plate clear with grease.  He worked his hand under the bag, felt warm metal.

Her face was so close.  “Middle of the waist.”  He could smell the stuff on her teeth.  “You’re strong enough.”

He peeked at Jerry before scuttling back away from the truck and into the trees.  With Daisy holding his hand he hardly felt the pine needles dragging at his face, the bruises swelling in his feet.

Jerry had both hands on the shovel when Seth pushed the knife between his vertebrae.  Jerry let out a little fart and his knees stopped working and he fell forward. 

As Seth jerked the knife around inside Jerry he saw Jerry pinning Daisy to the dirt by her hair, saw him pushing her face into plastic.

“Take the knife out,” she said.  “Sit on his back.”

Jerry yelled through his teeth as Seth did.  Jerry couldn’t twist around so he tried to reach back instead. His hands slapped at the sides of Seth's knees.

“Bleed him,” Daisy said.

“How much?”

“Seth?”  Jerry's voice was shrill.  “Seth?”

“Enough for the coyotes to smell,” she said.

“Seth?  Seth?”

Seth did.


Daisy said he could look in the bag.  Jerry’s wet voice was white noise as Seth reached in, touched the cool hair, felt the slick cool motor oil between his fingers. 

Her breath was in his ear.  “Think she’s called the police for you yet, Seth?  Where you think we’ll find her, Seth?”


Dawn came as they walked up the little road to Grandma’s trailer.  Jerry’s car was gone.

“Where the hell you been?” Grandma asked in the doorway, wearing the same shorts and shirt.

“Where’s Mom?  Is she here?”

Grandma frowned, thought for a second, got her car keys from the kitchen.  When she reached the front door she said, “stay with me, Seth.  You can.”

“Not yet,” Daisy said.

Seth said, “I just wanna go home.”

There were no police anywhere.  Daisy rode sitting in his lap.  The sun came in through the car’s windows, and her hands were warm, he felt them.


He was barely out of the car when Grandma drove away. 

Sparrows fluttered into the morning from the bent hood of Jerry’s car.  Daisy tried to lead Seth into the shed but he went into the house, through the front window.  He passed a folding chair and a sink half-full of dishes before entering the hallway.  He turned the knob on Mom’s and Jerry’s bedroom door.  It was locked.  He heard scurrying.

“Mom,” he said.

A pause.  More scurrying.  The lock rattled and the door flew open.

She’d been crying.

“Where were you?”  She took him.  “Oh Jesus. Where were you?”

“With Jerry.”

“Jerry?  What?”

“He sent me back.  He’s hiding.”

“Oh Jesus.”

“He’s in the hills,” Seth said.  “Next to an orphanage.”

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