Trish Dudley was pissed. More than that, she was heartbroken. Worst of all, she couldn't admit to herself how hurt she was. She hadn't heard from Thomas since kissing him goodbye at the bus station three days ago.
"The question to remember, son, is – what is it that pleases you?" His father leaned in at his side. Ripe, golden rays of light streamed through the branches. Dust from the day's work settled into a peaceful stillness that felt like cleansing rain on weathered skin. The air was fresh again. Evening birds chirped echoes of gratitude under the open sky. Tony felt the weight of his father's hand on his shoulder, and forever remembered his breath in his ear. It would be the last time they saw each other.
The abduction had been far easier than he hoped. And not once, but twice, the young man stepped right into his hands. All Lopez had to do was wait and pick his moment. And when Tom poured a bowl of cereal at the table with his back to him, it was all too easy. One bop over the head with the butt of the gun, and everything kept falling into place.
Hunger was already a problem. Ethel considered herself as good as dead. That didn't mean she had to be uncomfortable in the meantime, or roll over and die, for that matter. She'd had enough sitting around and suffering ... On this morning, she had a purpose in mind, and that was to hunt some food.
Dawn lit the land when Tom reached the turnoff of the long gravel road. He was almost within sight of the family homestead, yet he never felt so far away. Frost still clung to the tall yellow grass, and his ears and nose were red from the chill – Big Piney wasn't called "Ice Box of the Nation" on its town welcome sign for nothing – but he felt sweaty with nerves.
It was Tuesday evening when Tom got off the bus at Rock Springs, Wyoming, almost 30 hours since its departure. The sunset cast long shadows in front of him as he walked to the shoulder of the highway with his luggage. Hopefully he would catch a ride from a friendly stranger before dark.
"If I don't hear from you after this, you're scum," Trish said with a wink in Tom's direction, handing her credit card to the clerk at the Greyhound bus station. Tom hadn't asked her to front him the $203 ticket to get home. She had insisted. He felt a little guilty for his debt to her. She had taken him into her home after his car accident, fed him, shown him some good times, given him a chance when she had no reason to, and now this.
The paw prints of the huge cat were clear as day in the soft mud of the pasture. They dotted off toward a stand of juniper trees in the darkening sky. There were drag marks speckled with tufts of white goat hair and blood.
A woman’s voice twanged a sad song on the country jukebox. It was nearly the only life inside the dusky barroom. Peanut shells and old John Wayne movie posters decorated the place. Initials of forgotten people were carved into the ring-stained pinewood of the bar and table tops. It sure didn't seem like it then, but it was heaven before me
Ethel's movements hurt more than ever as she licked the last drop from the upturned canteen. Her right leg was still propped on the rock it had been on all night, and every shift in her body hinged on the spike of pain that emanated from her broken ankle. The second night in the southwest desert had been longer than the first, but she'd managed a few fits of sleep. Now she was out of water, a dreaded moment she had tried not to think about before.
For a while all Thomas could do was wander from the slushy road to his wrecked car in the trees, then back out to the road. There was a numb shock to his mind. He couldn't quite believe the implications of what had just happened, let alone imagine what to do next. ... He was utterly alone in the silent, black moment. ... Six hundred miles away in the desert of the Utah-Nevada-Arizona borders, Tom's mother was settling in for a hard night as well.
Ravens spiraled playfully on the updrafts. Thomas could almost touch them as he dangled his toes over the sheer cliff, kicking his feet into the air rising from the valley floor. "Come play. Come play," the ravens seemed to say. ... Thomas imagined a shark trying to trick him into diving out of a lifeboat. The ravens were so friendly and playful it was hard to trust them, though he wanted to.
Where am I? Ethel wondered when she woke. The 72-year-old was cold and stiff from sleeping on the desert slickrock. For a moment she felt like she couldn't sit up. Her neck hurt to move. Even her eyes – crusted from the powdery dust of the land – struggled to open. ... Then she remembered the BANG under the hood and coasting to a stop on the shoulder of the road.
This story is a second chapter to last week's story, "The Lotto Winner."
Tom hung up the payphone and lingered a moment in the stale fluorescent light of the shabby booth. Things weren't going well with his mom. What happened between them? She didn't approve of his new lifestyle, that was obvious.
Ethel's heart skipped. She pulled the freshly lit cigarette from her lips and set it into the ashtray. It smoldered while she stared at the six numbers in the newspaper. They matched! They matched? Couldn't be. That kind of thing never happened to her. But they matched the lotto ticket in her hand all right.
Climbers are always trying to ascend a route in better style. The more courage and minimalism displayed the better. From a purist standpoint, even shoes and a rope are considered a degree of cheating. The ultimate ascent would be to climb a new route naked and ropeless. This is a tale of two chaps who did nearly that, perhaps due to the fact that their hubris was larger than their brains, though perhaps not quite as swollen as their livers after a night of heavy drinking.
The roller coaster stopped with a lurch. It had reached the top of the first humungous hill and jerked to a halt just as the front car – where Tom sat – purled over the crest.
Oh, God, I don't even want to ride this thing. Now it's stuck up here! he thought.
Everyday Jerry's wife poured over the classifieds, gawking at the photos of dogs and cats up for adoption. It didn’t matter that they already had three dogs and two cats in their one-bedroom apartment, and that he was allergic to them. Nothing would stop Sherry from adopting more.
Like a fortuneteller, the woman with the parrot came into my life as I was working at the bank one evening. She only looked about 60 years old, but her age was compounded by some unseen malady.