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
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.
was tying up the trash bag when he walked in.
happened?” he asked.
looked at him and shook her head. “Get your
things before he gets back. Quick quick,
walked past him. “Grandma’s tonight,
probably Aunt Meredith’s in a couple days.”
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.
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.
herself crawled out from under the bed.
we going?” she asked, standing up. The
smell of old motor oil trickled into Seth’s nose.
said, “but to my grandma’s house. Jerry
hit my mom again.” Though really he
hadn’t heard any hits--just struggling.
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.”
don’t WANT to come back in a couple days.”
snorted. “Tell my mom.”
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.”
her pale-gummed smile, touched him with her cold fingers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
called here yet?” Mom asked.
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.
on the TV and cycled through the channels for news shows.
health care plan. Click.
live with Grandma now, and Daisy could stay with them too.
watch him shoot his BB gun, and climb the big spruce outside, and pull her
shirt up for him, and go for walks.
Daisy Rachel McClelland at a news conference earlier today.
boyfriend isn’t with her there,” Daisy said next to him. “Probably too embarrassed to have him on now.”
see what he did when they were in the studio a couple days ago?”
“I was at
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.
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.”
at the TV. “I don’t really care now. Mom said I had a crush on him.”
“No.” A pause.
“Can we go?”
and fell in the living room as Seth crossed the room, cranked the window open.
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
sat on the cold bench at the little bus stop next to the main road. Seth picked at his hand.
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.
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.
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
down the aisle on stiff legs.
probably want to sneak in,” the bus driver said as Seth passed. “Where’ve you been?”
grandma’s,” Seth said.
driver blinked. “Oh.”
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.
headed right. Her pajama pants looked
stiff, like they were rimy with old sweat.
Seth’s shoes scuffed concrete.
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
won’t call the police, though,” Daisy said.
sky between trees was full of stars. “She
don’t like them.”
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
they find out Jerry did it.”
was smiling now. “Okay.”
looked at him with her sad, cloudy brown eyes.
“So Jerry gets locked up, nobody’s paying rent, you and your mom move in
gonna have that.”
Her voice was satisfied. “Two
days, tops, you’re back with him. Cops or no cops.”
stole his car.”
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
voice came over the rumble. “Hide when
we get to the creek bed!”
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.
him, tires spun on dry earth.
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.
shut the truck off.
he started to dig, Daisy said, “go to the back of the truck.”
cut wide and approached the back of Jerry’s truck from a distance. The warm tailgate handle sprang quietly.
ahead, the shovel cut dirt.
on the right,” she said. “Under a black
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
face was so close. “Middle of the waist.” He could smell the stuff on her teeth. “You’re strong enough.”
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.
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.
jerked the knife around inside Jerry he saw Jerry pinning Daisy to the dirt by
her hair, saw him pushing her face into plastic.
the knife out,” she said. “Sit on his
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.
him,” Daisy said.
“Seth?” Jerry's voice was shrill. “Seth?”
for the coyotes to smell,” she said.
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.
breath was in his ear. “Think she’s
called the police for you yet, Seth?
Where you think we’ll find her, Seth?”
came as they walked up the little road to Grandma’s trailer. Jerry’s car was gone.
the hell you been?” Grandma asked in the doorway, wearing the same shorts and
Mom? Is she here?”
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.”
yet,” Daisy said.
said, “I just wanna go home.”
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.
barely out of the car when Grandma drove away.
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.
pause. More scurrying. The lock rattled and the door flew open.
were you?” She took him. “Oh Jesus. Where were you?”
sent me back. He’s hiding.”
in the hills,” Seth said. “Next to an