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.
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.