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Child of the Flood

Child of the Flood, a novel by Dale Maharidge with photographs by Michael Williamson, chronicles the story of John Boucher, an 18-year-old who is knocked unconscious and loses his memory as a result of the post-Katrina flooding. An early draft appeared in the Fall/Winter 2006 issue of DoubleTake/Points of Entry Magazine; the following two chapters are more advanced versions. The novel, now written for young adults and adults, is nearing completion.

Child of the Flood


The wind began in Ghana and then moved across the vastness of the top quarter of the African continent. Picking up speed, the wind veered east, sucking up the Sahara sand in Mauritania until the airborne land was spat out into the Atlantic. From the space photographs, the African dust was like a red summer skirt flying from the hips of a dancing girl as it crossed the warm September waters. It marked the spawn of yet another big one in that season of many hurricanes.

That eye stared at them from the t.v. like the red grouper they used to catch, back before the fish were caught out and there was no more money in it. They heard it was coming in that house that PawPaw's grandfather built on what they thought was high ground. The house went through 1927. That was as bad as it got, so they guessed the house would stand when the wind first hit. They guessed wrong.

Now the wind was like the hoodoo spirit that came out of the St. Bernard marshes to the shack on stilts that PawPaw used for hunting alligator, where that old swamp ghost crushed him in the night with a weight that felt like cement blocks had been stacked on his boy chest. Only now the wind smashed every inch of his young man body, pressing flat the flesh of his hands that clawed at the roof edge. When he opened his mouth to howl, rain pricked his tongue. He remembered PawPaw's last words: "Man has fuck'thed with God! He has suck'thed at the teat of sin, and God shall have justice!" Then PawPaw swam for it.

The house was bucking. He felt like Jonah on the back of the whale when a two-century-old live oak smashed against the north side. He let go and the wind somersaulted him into the branches; he grabbed hold with one arm as he undid his belt to lash himself to the oak. The house went. As the tree cut free of the crumbling walls, the man's head grazed the roof edge. He was knocked unconscious.

The tree floated three miles into the swamp and came to rest against a levee. The man was still lashed by the belt to the limb, belly-down atop the trunk with his hands flopped in the water, stripped naked by the forces of wind and water. Come morning, he lay still. Afternoon came and went, and he remained in the same position. That evening, his first awareness was the sound of a motorboat and a voice that shouted, "Hey, this one ain't dead!"


A red windowless van pulled up to the shelter. Painted on the side, in two-foot letters: CIA. Below was written, "Christ Is Alive."

"You, you, you, and you," said a blond man with a girlish voice as he pointed to four of the six hundred men standing in front of the shelter that morning.

"And you." His finger aimed at a muscular young man with his head wrapped in a bandage; only one glazed eye showed.

The five men climbed in. They sat on the bare metal floor. The driver played songs with uptempo beats and titles such as "I Rock with Jesus," and "Groovin' on God." At a rest area the men were fed sandwiches from a blue ice chest. The bandaged youth ate alone and did not talk.

Night came. The land was drying, the air cooler. The men on the hard steel floor were now in fetal positions. At midnight, the van halted. All but the head-bandaged man piled out. He remained half asleep, aware of voices rising above the din of late season crickets.

"Let's see 'em!"

"Whatdeylooklike? Ohmygod."



"What 'bout that one?"

"He don't talk none. Think he's retarded or sumpin."

The bandaged man's single eye opened. Through the door, he saw a black woman with her head wrapped in a long red scarf wound tight around her ears.

"Honeychile, c'mon outta der. Wuz yor name, honeychile?"

The man took her hand. His legs were wobbly as he stood on the red Oklahoma dust. The woman looked at the man's fingers, so huge each seemed to have biceps. "Dem's a workin' man's han's." Her eyes rose to the tall man's squarish head with its strong jaw, yet his eyes were that of youth in his late teens. She rubbed her chins. The man stared at the woman. He wrestled to speak, but couldn't. A tear welled in his eye. She hugged the man.

"My, yo'r big but a young'n. I's gonna call you Manchile."

"Name's Denise," the woman said to the men. The newcomers were led down a steep stairs. The odor of men rushed out when the door opened. Forty earlier arrivals, lying on mats crammed in rows, standing in line waiting to use two concrete wash sinks, examined the five fresh faces. Then eighty eyes went back to what they'd been doing—downlooking. Denise led the five to mattresses barely a foot apart.

"Praise the lord, we found some mo' room," Denise said. She pointed to a mattress in the very corner. "Take dat one, Manchile."

The head-bandaged man fell asleep. The others were given sandwiches and hot tea. One newcomer, a lanky youth with a head shaved bald as a dried brown gourd, studied newspaper clippings taped to the plywood kitchen cabinets. A headline read: BLACK AND WHITE METHODIST CHURCHES UNITE TO HELP STORM'S VICTIMS. "We're bridging the railroad tracks that have historically separated our communities," Pastor Cecil Barker of Jude's A.M.E. Church said. The story said that St. Thomas, the white church, was providing its basement because it had more space than Jude's A.M.E. Another article: PRESIDENT PROMISES 'WE WILL REBUILD.' "You need to know that our whole nation cares about you, and in the journey ahead you are not alone," the president said.

At midnight, the head-bandaged man's eye opened. He focused on the light of a sodium yard lamp coming through the panes of the basement windows up near the ceiling. There was the sound of snoring and night breathing.


The bandage was removed at the end of the first week, when Denise drove him to the county hospital. "He's suffered a severe concussion," the doctor said, who wrote "John Doe" on the form for indigents. "It's a miracle he's alive. Is he over the age of eighteen?"

"I dunno."

His beard was thick and dark, and from a distance he looked like a man in his twenties. But his eyes were those of an innocent boy, the doctor noted as he examined a pronounced scar on his right temple.

"Sumptimes at night, he wakes up moanin', holds his head," Denise said when she and the doctor were alone.

"I'm sure he has severe headaches."

"An' he don' talk, but he keeps trying."

"That could be the result of physical trauma, but it also could be due to mental trauma."

The doctor gave Denise a bottle of Ibuprofin and that was the end of the man's treatment. He was slow at things and required a lot of sleep. The man always strained to speak.

"Manchile," Denise said one afternoon. "'S der sumpin you wanna say?" The man stuttered 'til he cried. Denise stroked his head. "Now der, Manchile, 's gonna be alright."

Denise put him to work in the kitchen. He was good at cutting vegetables, toting in sacks of rice and other food bank goods. Denise was the black church's point person at the white church and she spent twelve hour days there, cooking meals, shuttling men to social workers, fighting with bureaucrats to get them food stamps and FEMA assistance. There was always some missing piece of paperwork, some form that had been filed too early or too late. Twice she took the man to the agency.

"We can't do anything until you find out who he is, get some paperwork on him," the bureaucrat said.

"He don' know who he is. Where he's from ain't der no mo'," Denise said.

One afternoon the man was washing potatoes. The phone rang.

"Uh huh," Denise said. "I'll send 'im right up."

She hung up. "Manchile, dem menfolk, dey want two cases of beer brung up."

The man hoisted the cases on a shoulder, walked amid the men, all who shunned him. He went to an upstairs room. Ten white men, talking furiously, were at a long table. They didn't notice the man standing in the doorway.

"They don't fit in."

"They's different."

"They don't wanna work. They's just down there sittin' on their asses. Are we gonna support 'em forever?"

"An' they's sex crazy. Some of 'em went to Willy's last Saturday and they was fornicatin' in the bushes out back with the Smith girls."

"One of 'em's gonna do sumpin bad, I tell ya. People in town, they's afraid."

"Happens when you got niggers."

"Ain't all of 'em niggers. Some white ones."

"Even the white ones act like niggers."

"What's that one?"

All eyes turned with sudden realization to the man in the doorway.


"Oh, don't pay him no mind. He don't understan' nothing."

"He ain't white."

"Ain't colored neither. Some mix."

"Same diff."

The man's eyes darted to each speaker.

"Put 'em over there," the whitest-haired elder said. The man set down the beer. He lingered in the hall.

"We can't send 'em back."

"Why not?"

"Ain't nothin' left to send 'em back to."

The whitest-haired man noticed the man still in the hall. He closed the door.

That night, terror filled the man's eyes. At dawn there was an argument. Denise was one of four or five voices engaged in the heated exchange out in the church yard. The white-haired church elder, that had never before entered the men's living area, came down the stairs.

"Gentlemen," he announced. "Ours is a poor ministry. Try as we might—"

The elder stared at the man in the corner, eyes falling to those huge hands. His voice was high pitched and he spoke fast.

"—Try as we might, since the plant closed, our parishioners are barely able to keep this ministry going. We don't have the financial means to help anymore. A bus will arrive in one hour that will take you to Houston. We have been assured that you will be taken care of—"

Murmurs filled the room. The elder was now visibly frightened.

"Where we goiwn?"

"We have talked with the Union Gospel Mission—"

"Union Gosp'l!" the shaved-headed youth shouted. "I done been there! I come outta there with lice! They make you sleep two in a bunk! Some guys gotta sleep 'neath the bunks. I see guys get pissed on in the night!"

"I'm sorry," the elder said. He quickly exited.

Men talked worriedly as they loaded duffel bags.

"Dat Houst'n's one rough town."

"The cops are mean'r'n cat shit."

The silent man had nothing to pack. He went outside and sat against the trunk of a pin oak near the highway. He stared at the blue sky. The low winter sun warmed his neck. He scratched in the red dust with his hands and flicked off the occasional ant that climbed on his pants. In the distance he saw a yellow school bus throttling toward the church.

Then the shuffle of men, the pinging of the cooling bus engine. He felt a hand on his left shoulder. He turned to face Denise. Tears filled her eyes.

"'S time, Manchile. I don't like dis no more'n you do."

All men were aboard the bus, save for the bald man kicking heels in the dust. He held his belongings in a sack slung over his shoulder.

"Get on the bus," the church elder said.

"I ain't goiwn to no Houst'n."

"We can't help you any more here."

"Don't matt'r. Far as I walk today, wherev'r I stop, even sleep'ng in a ditch, 's gonna be bett'r'n Houst'n.

"Anyone else wanna come?" he shouted. "Alright then, take your chances on Houst'n." He laughed in the unsure and loud manner of a scared young man. Men watched from the bus windows as he took off down the road's shoulder, the bindle bouncing with each stride.

"C'mon, let's go!" said the driver.

Denise hugged the man.


"'S okay, Manchile."

His face turned red from strain.

"T-t-hank y-yy- ou," he sputtered.


He lay upon a narrow ledge where the bridge met the earth. Rain dimpled Buffalo Bayou, which runs like a brown water snake through Houston. On the slope below, a dozen people had not yet wakened. Some had sleeping bags, others used sheaves of cardboard. The man slept through the early morning commute happening a few feet above his head. Upon awakening, he studied the concrete and a pencil sketch of a nude woman with large breasts drawn by a prior resident. He got up and wandered downtown streets in the misting rain, arrived at a soup kitchen. He got in line. By noon the line had grown to two hundred. They were allowed in at twelve sharp.

The man sat at a table with a dozen others from New Orleans who hung together daily and shared stories.

"Been look'ng for work now four months," said Mabel. "I worked for the police departm'nt back in N'Orl'ns. Ev'ry day, I fill out appl'cations. Soon as they see you're from N'Orl'ns, they nev'r call. Plenty of part time $5.35 McDon'lds jobs, but no real jobs."

Fred, who sat across from her, grew excited.

"You work twenny hours, you can't make no rent on that kinda money."

Mabel continued, "Tex's people, they hate us."

Murmurs of agreement.

"They treat us all like murd'rers."

"They're just plain mean."

The room quieted.

"I want to go home," Mabel said. But her Lower Ninth Ward house was as if from a science fiction movie in which a giant hand had smashed it to blown pieces.

The man left. He walked in the rain. Dozens of homeless were gathered around the Union Gospel Rescue Mission. It had a cross of neon that said: JESUS SAVES.

He'd stayed here when the church bus dropped the men off. He saw two men stabbed in the shower room. The second week everyone caught shigella because a cook had shit on his hands and that meant days of bloody diarrhea.

"Ain't worried about that, Greenhorn," an old hobo in the next bunk had said. "That guy over there, lissen to that cough. That's tuberculosis." The old timer took the greenhorn to the bridge. "It's safer 'n healthier out here," the old man said.

Now it was months later. The man stared at the mission. Nearby was a van at the curb. The open sliding door partially obscured lettering that read



Two men in blue uniforms sat in the door.

"Hey kid, you need help?" asked one of them, a fast talker with black hair and artificially happy eyes. "I was in your situation 'til I chose to change my life. Do you want to change your life? I was into drinking and drugs, and the foundation saved me."


"The W.H.O. Foundation, W- H - O, Willingness, Hope, and Openmindedness. Come with us, you get three hots and a cot, a chance at change. That is, if you want to change—"

"Don't go!" a thin-bearded white kid standing against the wall of a building, said.

"You keep out of this," the dark-haired man shot back.

"They's scammers, a cult. You go, they treat you like you in prison! You sign your life away—"

The man walked on. At dusk he returned to the bridge and lay on his perch. He was tired. The headaches were lessening and the man was sometimes able to fall into real sleep, not the pained oblivion of the previous months. He dreamed.

Now he saw the black water coming at them from his spot in the bow, watching for cypress knees. PawPaw always ran the boat at full throttle from gator nest to nest gathering eggs to sell. "Can't be wasting time, we're burn'ng money." Once, the boy missed telling PawPaw to turn right 'til too late, and they struck a root. He flew headfirst into the water and PawPaw tumbled to the front of the boat. PawPaw's full white beard was bloodied. The old man lifted him by his shirt from the water and threw him to the boards. PawPaw pulled off his belt and lashed the boy. "Son of a harlot! Bast'rd born of sin! Worthless son of Satan!"

He awakened, heart racing. He was cold.


Days passed. At the invitation of Fred from the soup kitchen, the man moved a mile upstream where families lived in huts in the thickets. Fred and his wife, LaShonda, felt sorry for the quiet young man. They helped as much as possible. When the man found clothes in a trash bin, they gave detergent for him to wash them in the Bayou. The man put the clothes in a rucksack given him by the soup kitchen. Many afternoons the man spent time in a park where he read the Houston Chronicle recovered from waste barrels.

One afternoon the man was walking back to camp, with Fred, after lunch.

"I'm worried about TyShawn, growin' up out here," Fred said of the couple's six-year-old boy.

"Y-y-ou gotta," the man said, "get them off this riv'r." It was the most Fred had heard the man say.

"I know," Fred said. "I know."

As Fred wiped away a tear, he spied police cars at a bridge over Buffalo Bayou.

"What the—?"

The men broke into a run. At the center of the bridge, they peered over the edge. Two city workers had large metallic tank packs on their backs amid cops facing a group of homeless men.

"If you all don't leave, you will be arrested for violating Houston City Code section 32-28, 81-1529," said the lieutenant. "It is illegal to camp beneath a bridge, or any portion of any public property—"

"I ain't go nowhere to go! They turned me down for a loan to build back my house!" one man cried. His voice pitched higher. "They said I had a bad cred't score! We only missed one light bill! It was pay that bill, or feed the kids!"

This set off a litany of protest.

"They don't want us goiwn home."

"They just want white people com'n back."

The cops ordered the workers to fan flamethrowers, the kind farmers use for brush clearing, incinerating the sleeping bags and backpacks. The smell was acrid.

"You're burning up my shit! Let me get my shit!" a man shouted. He broke for his burning pack but officers tackled and cuffed him.

"It ain't right!" a thin man yelled at a cop.

"Where you think you are, som'place like Amer'ca?" a Vietnam veteran, whose wife drowned when their house went, said.

Fred whispered, "Let's get to our place!" They ran. One cop and a city worker were already there.

"Is this yours?" the cop asked. The cop was young, maybe twenty-two, white. Fred was breathless, trembling.

"Yes offic'r."

"You are in violation of Houston—"

"I know that, sir. All I'm ask'ng is that you let me get me and my wife's suitc'ses—"

"Burn it," the cop commanded. The worker was black, looked uneasy.

"Hey," Fred said. "What kind of fella are you? My wife's med'cine's in there. It's the only thing that keeps her from kill'ng hers'lf—"

"Shut up," the cop said. "Burn it!"

"You gonna let some kid cop boss you around?" Fred asked the worker. "Are you a man, or that cop's nigg'r slave? I'm begging you—"

"One more word outta you, I'm taking you to jail," the cop shouted. He turned to the worker. "You don't burn it, I'm gonna see you get writ up! Burn it!"

"Sorry, man," the worker said. A burst of flame ignited the shack.

"You son of a bitch!" Fred shouted as he grabbed at the flamethrower. The cop pulled his billy club and was about to smack Fred, not paying mind to the other man coming at him through the air. The man struck the cop belly level. They tumbled down the slope and into the Bayou. The man came up holding the cop's nine millimeter. He tossed the gun upriver. The cop spat water, came at the man, who socked him. Three cops, with guns drawn, were two hundred yards upstream and coming in.

The man hit center channel doing an overhand stroke.

"Swim, pal, swim!" Fred shouted.

Fred marveled. He'd never seen anyone swim so fast. Fred had his hands up, yet one of the three arriving officers tackled him. The other two trained guns on the swimming man, but he disappeared around a bend.

He now remembered swimming in his dreams. "Swim, Johnnyboy, swim!" PawPaw shouted from the boat. He hated that old man. He recalled the fights when he got old enough to argue back, big enough to hit back, but how he never did hit that old bastard, instead how he'd run off on the bayou trail behind the big house on those dirty moon nights; there was the scream of night bugs, the louder scream in his heart wondering why he'd been born, why he was still alive.

"We'll pinch him off!" a cop shouted. He barked into a radio to other cops downstream.


It was now nearly midnight. He couldn't stop thinking about the old man. I have a name and it is John, he thought. It was the most sure he'd been of anything. John remembered how cold he was as he clung to the roof. He recalled letting go, but nothing else. He was now colder than that day. They were certainly gone after all this time, but he'd stay put a while longer to be sure.

After rounding the bend, he'd climbed out of the Bayou at a storm-deposited mountain of limbs and tires and broken foam coolers left by winter's high water against a concrete wall, flotsam pushed up twenty feet against the wall that rose another fifteen feet. He'd burrowed deep into a space beneath a massive trunk, hiding by pulling three feet of garbage and limbs over himself.

He was lucky that there was no path on this side of the Bayou, the concrete wall was so high—they couldn't get to him from the road above. They'd brought in dogs. The cops yelled at a dog that wouldn't cross the water. They finally got another dog over, but the canine couldn't find footing in the tangle. A cop walked over the logjam, poking with a stick every few feet. This disturbed rats. John heard them scurrying below. One crawled up his leg. The cop was now right above him. The rat moved off when the cop's stick jabbed in, not deep enough to touch John. He heard the cop splashing into the Bayou, swearing when he hit a deep hole and had to swim.

He slept intermittently, kept waking from the cold. Finally, perhaps around midnight, he figured it was okay. John pushed at the limbs with numb arms, struggling free. He was so bone-cold that he could barely move. He picked his way down to the black water. He might drown making the crossing, but maybe that wouldn't be so bad. He thought: why am I alive? The water came up to his neck but somehow he missed the deep hole. Shivering, he kept to the brush 'til he got downtown. The rucksack, still on his back, contained wet clothes. He found a Dumpster filled with sheet plastic. He wrapped himself in it and lay behind the bin. He didn't sleep, simply waited for morning.

At dawn he went to Union Gospel, became lost amid two hundred homeless people hanging outside. He was hungry. He begged bread from a woman and ate with two chews per bite. He hunkered against a wall, collar pulled around his cheeks. A cruiser came down the street every half hour and the cops studied each loitering man for the one who'd punched their brother. John feigned sleep. At eleven, the W.H.O. van appeared. The two men in blue uniforms sat in the open door. John went to them, nervous, watching over his shoulder.

"You again," the black-haired man said. "You finally decided you need some help?"


"Great. Get in."

The fast talking man looked at his colleague, winking. "Wanna call it an early day?" A new recruit meant $25 each. If they waited for a second man, they risked losing their catch.

The van had no seats. The man with the fake smile sat sideways in the passenger seat, held a clipboard. He looked down at John on the floor.

"Name's Rick. Now we've got to sign you in. What's your name?"


"John what?"

John looked puzzled.

"Last name?"

"Uh. . . Manchild."

"Date of birth?"

"Uh, I d-don't remember."

"Son, are you retarded?"

"Uh, no."

"You have a drinking problem?"




"Denial, buddy. You gotta have a problem to be in the foundation. Let's put down drugs." Rick wrote furiously. "We're gonna say crack. How long you been 'dicted? Let's say two years. Now I gotta read some legal junk. Here goes: 'You understand that we operate under a charter by the city of San Antonio, and that you agree to commit yourself to our program for a minimum of ninety days. In exchange for work, you will receive counseling and meals and lodging and a daily stipend. You agree that you are a ward of the W.H.O. Foundation, and as such you cannot leave before your contractual commitment is completed.'"

Without taking a breath, Rick added, "Look, kid, we gotta read that mumbo jumbo 'cause the city was mad at us for bringing bums to town. They make us take you back to Houston after the ninety days if you don't join on. But you ain't going back. You're going forward. You're gonna start getting your life turned around. This is your lucky day."

John signed the form. He closed his eyes. He was warm for the first time in a full day, fell fast asleep.


The bunk house was a long clapboard building. Thirty steel beds were lined in rows. The walls were sterile white, the hardwood floor worn bare. The windows looked out on the compound surrounded by a ten-foot chain link fence topped with razor wire. There was a guard shack where the lane entered the compound, another where it exited.

John was sore all over. For the third day, he'd moved earth at the home of a dentist who contracted for labor with the foundation. The dentist paid nine dollars an hour per man. John and the other wards got the daily stipend of WAM, walking around money—three crisp one dollar bills, one pack of cigs.

The bunkhouse door opened. Larry, the foreman on the dentist job, filled the frame in the silhouette of dusk.

"Okay, all you weasels, out into the yard!"

Men groaned.

"You fucking foxes all think you're such hot shit," one man said.

"C'mon, off your asses. Ya'll don't eat until the work's done."

Two dozen men poured into the yard and stood like soldiers next to a dump truck. In the bed were tons of tree trunks, concrete aggregate, twisted rebar. The operator tilted the bed and the contents thundered to the earth. The bed lowered.

"Now fill it back up," Larry commanded. Larry stood watch, sipping a soda.

The weasels formed teams. John worked with Theo, a black guy from New Orleans, passing debris to Mexicans who stood on the rear bumper.

"This's bullsh't," Theo said.

"You're gonna get it tonight," Larry promised.

"Yeah, yeah."

It grew dark. The men worked by the glare of a sodium light. It took an hour to refill the truck. The exhausted weasels entered the mess hall. Some two dozen foxes had finished supper and were watching television. They looked down with superiority at the ragged men who were called weasels their first ninety days. They were foxes, after all.

Men stood in line to receive WAM and cigs. Mack, the chief lieutenant for Mr. Tagus, the camp owner, counted heads. When all forty-nine foxes and weasels were accounted for, Mack locked the door and removed the key. Supper was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, steaming corn. John ate two helpings. Then Mack shouted, "Gentlemen, it's game time!"

All weasels except John groaned. He didn't talk to anyone even though he now had the ability to do so—it was smart to keep quiet. He was growing more sure. But he was not yet strong. Everyone got in a circle. The weasels sat on one side, the foxes opposite.

"I want to call a game on Theo," Larry said smugly. "He had a bad attitude tonight."

"What'd he do?" Mack asked.

"Said the work was bullshit. Didn't pull his weight."

"Why we gotta do that?" Theo asked. "It's make-fuck'ng work." He looked hard at Rick. "You lied. You said I'd be paid. You didn't say I'd work like a nigg'r slave—"

All foxes screamed.


"Can't hack it!"

"How you ever 'xpect to become a fox like us? You ever been married?"

"That ain't got noth'ng to do with this."

"Answer. You were fucking around on her, weren't you?"


"C'mon Theo. You gotta to be honest if you're gonna get better."

Theo crossed his arms and closed his eyes. As the verbal assault continued, he buried his head in his knees. The game went on for an hour, 'til the men tired of it. One man was the focus of this nightly ritual, what the foundation called "therapy sessions" in brochures given to those who hired its wards, "vital in the men's rehabilitation from alcohol or drugs."

John fell into bed that night oblivious to the multitude of snoring in the bunkhouse. In no time, Mack rang the heavy iron triangle hung from a rope tied off on an oak branch. It was four thirty and still dark.

"We're burning daylight," Mack shouted.

"That cocksuck'r's watched too many John Wayne movies," Theo said. The men showered, hurriedly ate. Dawn's light was breaking as Theo and John and an older man named Lewis jumped into the bed of a pickup driven by Larry. They arrived at the dentist's house and used pickaxes and shovels to rip into a ten-foot hill that had slid in a winter storm. Larry sat in a chair and directed as he drank sodas.

John swung his pickaxe with fury, massive hands gripping the handle as if it were a twig. When Larry went for a bathroom break, Theo stood with hands on his hips.

"Dude, you work'ng like they's pay'ng you twenny an hour."

John merely wiped his brow, resumed wailing away at the earthen wall.

At lunch, the workers ate bologna sandwiches and drank Koolaide. John read the Houston Chronicle. Larry went out to the truck to talk by phone to his girlfriend. Theo watched Larry round the corner of the house.

"Fuck this, I've had enough," Theo said when Larry was out of sight.

Lewis laughed. Lewis was white but had a brown face from years of whiskey and homelessness. His wrinkles made exaggerated arcs. It was a face that reminded John of a Mardi Gras mask.

"What you laugh'ng about?" Theo asked. He angrily slicked back his hair blown by a breeze.

"You. You people. All you Katrina people act like you was the first to hit bottom. And now you think you should get treated special."

Theo flexed fists. "I ain't no old wino like you. I worked hard. I—"

"Don't go getting sore on me. I'm talking so you can learn from what happened to me. You gotta understand that this ain't so bad."

"What you talk'ng? I see the sheets in the office. Tagus's mak'ng a thousand bucks a day on us."

"So what'd you do before it hit?"

"I worked for Arco, in Slidell. Night manager."

"What you think the profit was that Arco made off you?"

"I didn't like them none neith'r."

"Listen, man. Me, I was a union truck driver up north. I owned me a nice house with a pool. Then it all went down the shitter, they shut the mills. I come to Texas with my wife 'n kids. I got work, short hall. Money was almost half what I made, but it was a job. Then I got a DWI, lost my license. I wasn't the best guy. The wife, she left, took the kids back north. I don't blame her. I—"

A sound at the side of the house—

The men hushed, fearing that it was Larry. A branch skittered off the roof, knocked free by the wind.

"—I bottomed out, got to be living on the street. Did that bullshit four years, three months, two days. Got into rehab. Did the twelve steps, the whole nine. Got me a job stocking shelves. Figured I'd work my way up. But they wasn't ever going to put me on full time, 'cause they'd have to pay benefits. I had no money for nothin'. One day I get pissed, quit. I can find work I tells myself."

Lewis tipped the plastic jug of Koolaide. He smacked his lips.

"But I didn't realize something, my young friend. Ain't no one was gonna hire a fifty-one-year-old. I know two things: drivin' a truck, which I couldn't do no more, and puttin' shit on shelves. I ended up back on the street. You can fight, or go with the flow. Next week, my ninety days is up, I become a fox. The cook, he's leaving, they want me to take his place. I'm gonna stick this out 'til I can get on the Social Security. This is the best I've had it in years. No rent, good eats, don't gotta watch my backside at night."

"Shyiiiit," Theo said.

"You fight it, it's gonna eat you up. A fella can only take so much. Then he breaks, like that branch in the wind," Lewis said, nodding toward the fallen limb.

"I ain't giv'ng up, old man. You ain't gonna see me here tomm'row." He reached in a pocket and pulled wire cutters lifted from the dentist's garage. Theo turned to John.

"Come with me?"

John wasn't ready. He shook his head. Theo's eyes fell to the newspaper. John had folded it to a story about a Katrina refugee in Atlanta who had killed his wife, two kids, committed suicide.

"I keep hear'ng 'bout that kinda shit," Theo said. "Stup'd fuck'rs. They oughtta just go shoot that son'b'tch in the White House."

"Talk like that, you gonna end up in Guant'namo," John said.

Theo was taken aback—John had never uttered so many words. But he quickly responded, "Couldn't be any worse than being at the foundation."

The men resumed hauling earth when Larry returned.

"Tomorrow, we finish the dirt," Larry announced at five o'clock quitting time.

Theo whispered, "who's 'we?' That fuck'r sits on his ass."

That night, Theo lay fully dressed under the bedsheets. At one o'clock, he slipped out to the backside of the bunkhouse. Soon as he made the first cut, there was a shrill blast—the fence was alarmed. Theo cut fast as possible, zippering up eighteen inches. He was squeezing through just as the guard rounded the corner.

"Runner! We got us a runner!" the guard shouted.

Weasels ran to the windows and watched Theo bound off. Larry and Mack jumped into trucks. A half hour later, the trucks returned. A police cruiser followed. A cop opened the cruiser door. Theo emerged with blood on his shirt from the fence and a bloody nose from the cop. He was handcuffed.

"You're going to jail," Mack said. "Least if we tell 'em to take you."

"What for?"

"Destroying property. You cut the fence. And violating the rules of your commitment. They take you, that's a month hard time, workin' the pea farm. You gotta choice. Finish here, or the pea farm. Your call. What's it gonna be?"

Theo scruffed the earth with his right heel.

"I'll stay."

"You're lucky we're being lenient. Thank you, officer."

Theo entered the bunkhouse.

"What you all look'ng at?!" Theo snapped. He muttered loudly, "I wonder who they's pay'ng off."


John sat in the bunkhouse toilet stall counting the stack of dollar bills—one hundred and eighty-three. He coiled the notes into a tight roll and wrapped it with a rubber band. He stuffed the wad deep in a pocket.

Lewis was now cook and got him on helper duty, so he didn't have to start work 'til eleven. He lay atop the sheets, hands behind his head. A morning sunbeam came through the window and warmed his right side. He remembered the cold of the logjam. He was feeling a lot more whole.

He went to the mess hall and cleaned and cut chickens. Tonight he was going to make a break. He was nervous and spilled gravy on his pants a half hour before the crews came in. He rushed to the bunkhouse. John changed and stuffed the soiled pants under the bed. He hurried back to the kitchen and poured pitchers of water, set them out. His work was done. Trucks came through the gate, the guards left the booths for dinner. John went to the bunkhouse. He had maybe five minutes before Mack counted heads. The yard was empty. John hoisted the pack and made for the unmanned south gate. John was just outside of it when he slapped at his pants' pocket.

"I'm the bigg'st fucki'ng dummy on this planet earth!" John said, realizing that he'd left the money in the dirty pants. He darted back, grabbed the wad. He made fast for the gate, was halfway when Mack emerged from the mess hall.


John bolted, came to an alley and turned down it. Dogs barked. There was a roar from the foundation's trucks peeling out. John's legs pumped furiously. He made the thoroughfare near the interstate ramps. John's plan was to jump inside a Dumpster, hide. The Denny's Dumpster wouldn't do—it was in plain view of customers. He ran to White Castle, threw back the lid of a bin recessed in a three-sided block wall, about to vault in when he took a quick look around the edge—a taxi was in the drive through lane. It was a Dodge, late model, lime green, with "ABC Cab Co." in curly black script on the door. John grinned at his luck.

John yanked open the cab's door. He pushed a box of books on the back seat out of the way, lay prone on the seat.

"I'm off duty," the cabbie said.

"That'll be five twenty-four," the woman at the window said.

"Pal, I'll pay you doubl'."

"I'm not on duty."


"Five twenty-four, pul-leez."

The cabbie fumbled in his empty wallet. "Hold on, I've got money here somewhere." The cabbie slurred words. John smelled alcohol, whiskey. John peeked, saw a cop car going fast down the road. The cabbie shuffled through the glovebox.

"Sir, there's people waitin' behind you—"

The woman saw a hand with a fistful of ones reach over the rear seat. The cabbie took the bills, got a bag of burgers and fries.

"Thanks," the driver said, turning to see who was in the rear seat. "You are a gentleman and a scholar. Well, I'm not sure about the scholar, but you certainly are a gentleman. I'm so hungry I could eat an armadillo. Or shit food like this."

The driver wore a classic cabbie's cap, was fifty-five or more, judging by the grey flying from the cap's edges. His face bone thin and cave-cheeked as a serious meth head, but he was too languid to be one, John thought. The car was moving and the cabbie still studying his passenger. They headed for the corner of the building.

"Look out!" John cried.

The cabbie jerked the wheel and just missed the wall. He didn't stop, turned into traffic; horns beeped. He headed up the interstate ramp. John sat upright. The two-way radio hissed.

"Car 318, you tell us where you are—"

The driver clicked off the radio.

"They can kiss my snow white ass. You know what those bastards did?"

The driver didn't wait for an answer.

"Gas has gone up, but they're making us stick to the contract. We have to buy our own gas and they won't raise our rates. Said that's our problem. On Monday they told us 'take it or leave it.' My comrades, those chickenshit motherfuckers, they took it—right in the ass. Yesterday, I made twenty dollars for a twelve hour day. The big boys, they're making out. Did you hear that Exxon made thirty-six billion dollars profit last year?"

"Yeah, I read 'bout it."

"And they say they don't make dough on three dollar gas."

The driver ranted on about his boss, a man named Chuck. John nodded and said an occasional "uh-huh." John figured he'd play along. He was used to humoring drunks. He'd spent his life playing along with PawPaw. John kept an eye out the rear window.

"So where you headed?" the driver asked.

"Fresno. Out in Cal'f'rnia."

The cabbie chortled.

"No, really."


"Jesus! I've been there, brother. I spent a lifetime there one summer a long time ago. Hot, man it's hot. There's this grand little novel called Pedro Paramo, about a man who visits a town of the dead, a place called Comala. It said it was so hot there that when people died and went to hell that they asked for a leave to visit Comala to get a blanket to bring back. Fresno's hotter than that. I thought for a long time that I was headed for hell, but I'm going someplace worse."

"'N where's that?"

"Back here in Texas. What's in Fresno?"

"Got a half sister there."

The driver chomped down the last of the palm-sized burgers, swigged from a whiskey bottle.

"You old enough to drink?"

"I'm old enough to be in the bigg'st jam in my life."

"That's old enough. Want a hit?"

John took a gulp. It was smooth. He looked at the label.

"Mak'rs', goddamn. You got taste, pal. Thanks."

The driver crooked the bottle in his crotch and turned the two-way radio back on. It instantly crackled.

"Car 318, you'd better pick up."

Long silence—

"Car 318, you're ass is in one huge sling. We've reported your unit stolen. You're up for grand theft auto."

"Who they talk'ng about?" John asked.

"Me. I took this car out this morning and haven't checked in all day. Guess you could say I liberated this old taxi. The good Lord meant for me to have it today." He cackled, patted the dash. John laughed deeply.

"Why are you laughing?" the cabbie asked.

"'Cause it's my damn luck to be runn'ng from the cops 'n jump into a hot car."

"What did you do?"

"This time, noth'ng. Times been when I was runn'ng for doing som'th'ng, but this time just for leav'ng a place. D'you know about the W.H.O. Foundation?"


John ran through the previous months, back to the night on the roof. "I hit my head when we was trying to get out, 'n I woke up like I was dead 'n in a dream, a dream that went on and on. Didn't know who I was, well, I did, but it was like there was a differ'nt guy on the outside, with the real me trapped way down inside, 'n that guy couldn't bust out. Kinda like a baby turtle that's been swallowed by a bass. You ever catch a bass 'n gutt'd it, 'n find a baby turtle in the stomach?"

"Can't say that I have."

"I had that happen a coupla times. Once, the turtle was still liv'ng, 'n I let it go, watched it swim off. That's me. I done busted out like that turtle. But I ain't sure no more if that fella's really who he was, or even what he is now. Like maybe I'm really dead 'n this is all a dream."

"Whoever you are tonight, have another drink."

John swigged.

"Name's Joe," the driver said. His right hand angled back over the seat.

"John," John said, shaking the cabbie's hand fast, eager for Joe to keep both hands on the wheel. "John Boucher. Joe, uh, Joe what?"

"Just call me Joe. Joe the Cabbie."

"Okay, Joe Cabbie. You been a good fella. 'N you're a genl'man too, maybe ev'n a schol'r. But I'm short on jack 'n this here's far 'nuf. You can let me out at the next exit."

"Brother, I'm not charging you."

"You told me you ain't mak'ng—"

"Nope, tonight's free. Tonight the big boys don't make any money, on me, on you. Tonight's liberation night. No more cab driving for me. No more a whole lot of shit."

They were past the western outer loop roads, in the hill country. Low trees flanked the road that rose and dipped. A three-fourths moon shone down.

"Look at that, so empty, so big. I hardly ain't nev'r seen the moon so white! 'N those trees, they're like bushes!"

"I come out here a lot. Drive around and think, wonder what it would be like to be free. I mean really free." Joe gazed at the open road.

"Free," Joe said. "Helluva thing, being free."

"Where we go'ng?"

"To hell."

They were quiet for thirty miles. They passed a parked Texas State Highway Patrol car. John held his breath as he sat back at the proper angle to watch the passenger mirror. The trooper's headlights remained stationary. Both men exhaled at the same moment.

"I don't mean to be tell'ng you your bidz, Joe Cabbie, but a lime green taxi out here, it's a car just begg'ng to be pulled ov'r. As PawPaw used to say, this car's hott'r'n a .45."

"I know a place we can hole up. Mind sleeping under the stars?"

"What you talkin'? That's all I was doing in Houst'n. But I'm hungry as hell. I gotta eat som'th'ng bef're we sack out."

"Can you hang?"


"Take these for now."

Joe passed a sack of shelled peanuts. After an hour, Joe took an exit at a Love's Truck Stop. Joe put in seven dollars of gas, using a credit card.

"Twenty-nine percent interest. Well, fuck them. They want payment, they can come scrape the sweat off my balls."

John went inside, picked up a tin of corned beef hash, a loaf of cheap white bread. Joe entered.

"What you want? On me," John said.

In the bright light of the store, John studied Joe. He was unnaturally thin, like one of those baby alligators that got its head stuck in a plastic six pack ring and grew up choked, unable to properly eat. The driver was a little taller than John, about six feet. His face was angular, with a knife scar under his left cheek. He seemed awfully street tough for a guy quoting books and talking in the perfect English of a really smart teacher John had his junior year in high school.

Joe picked hot dogs.

"Oh hell, they aren't healthy," Joe said. "But it's the only thing that sounds good."

"What's so bad 'bout 'em?"

"They're nothing but pig dicks, snouts, ears, ground up bones. But maybe they'll help grow my foreskin back."

The clerk, a twentish man, eyed the men warily.

"Ya'll ain't from around here, is you."

John pulled the roll of WAM.

"Been seein' other folks like ya'll," the clerk said.

"What's that mean?" John said.

"Oh, I jus' mean Louisiana, Mississippi folks on the road, movin' through. Seems like it's hard on a lot of you."

"We're doing real good," John said. "Ain't we?" Joe nodded as John carefully counted ones from the roll. They emerged in the dry air.

"Oh," Joe said. "We're going to need water." He took two empty plastic gallon jugs and ran to the bathroom. John studied the insects swirling like blown sand around the station's lights. John opened the rear door, eyed the box of books he'd pushed to the floor. On top was Confession, by Leo Tolstoy. He was thumbing through it when Joe came back.

"C'mon, sit up front."

John cleared a spot. He was stoked about seeing new country. They went down the two lane road. Miles later they saw the sign for R.M. 13390. This road was gravel, yet smooth. Joe drove at forty over the rolling dips, made a right at a crossroads. This road was rougher. A mile later, Joe turned down a crude dirt track. A house, black as cinders, loomed against the moon. All the windows had long been broken, and the jagged sockets seemed to stare.

"Creepo," John said. "Looks like a som'th'ng out of a movie."

"Nowadays I like being where people used to be more than where they are," Joe said. "I've kind of been like Moses wandering, only I'm not trying to lead anybody any more."

The taxi bounced to a stop behind the house. They slammed the doors.

"This is one of my special places," Joe said. "I've got others."

The air was crisp, despite it being so close to summer. John shivered. Lacey oak and stunted juniper grew around the ancient homestead. Joe swigged on the whiskey.

"'S okay!" John said in a pleasant but loud voice aimed at the house. "We're not gonna dist'rb you." In a solemn whisper, he added, "You gotta talk to ghosts, calm 'em down, then you're okay with 'em and they're okay with you. I think we're okay with 'em."

John held up the bottle. It was almost empty.

"Fear not," Joe said. He opened the trunk lid. It was stuffed with clothes, suitcases, books.

"Funny, you hit my age and you wake up one day and realize everything you own fits in the trunk of a car." Presently, he pulled a fresh bottle that he cradled so as not to drop it on the white limestone rock dotting the sandy soil. John followed with the bag of food, to a clearing.

John went off to find firewood. He stumbled into a prickly pear cactus, bent to feel the needles and stuck his finger. Everything was foreign. The oak branches he picked up were dry as old bones. There was the taste of aridity, more pronounced than when he'd been at the Oklahoma church. His nose burned from the dryness and when he scratched at it he had a nosebleed. He smelled iron, his blood.

John piled branches next to a fire circle, went for another armload. A freight train came out of the night. He stepped on to the railroad right of way. There was metallic thunder as the units raced past, blowing his hair wild. He went to the center of the tracks after the train passed, its clatter faint. He peed. The silence was now profound. John saw a flickering through the scrub. When he got back, Joe was tending a fire.

"Goddamn," John said. "Wood burns like paper!"

Joe fetched a branch and whittled it sharp with a Buck knife. Each man sat on a rock.

John turned the blade of a tiny keychain opener the cabbie gave him. He spied a hubcap in the brush and used a few stingy splashes of jug water to clean it. He nestled the hubcap into the coals, poured hash into it. Joe cooked hot dogs.

"I got a hard on in my tongue just smell'ng that hash cook'ng!" John exclaimed.

The men were ravenous and didn't talk 'til the hubcap was scraped clean and the hot dog plastic wrapper a sizzle in the fire. Joe laid on arm-thick limbs. The flames climbed. Joe opened the new bottle. Even though John had just met Joe, being with him was the most safe he'd felt in months. There was something about the cabbie that made a man feel okay, John thought, even though he had a rough look. The only time John felt this was around a preacher. A preacher man, a good one, he had that ability to make a guy feel okay without saying anything special.

"I don't want to nose into your bidz, Joe Cabbie, but I gotta ask. Was you ev'r a preach'r?"

"No. Why the hell you ask?"

"You got a preach'r kinda way about you."

"I've been a lot of things, but not that. I've had a philosophy about life," Joe said, pausing to take a hit off the bottle. "Retire early. And often. Most recently, for a good number of years, I was a union organizer."

John shook his head.

"Unions, no thanks. They ain't for me."

"You sound like the guys I tried to organize."

"I don't need no one taking care of my bidness. 'Sides, union guys, they's all corrupt."

"That's what most guys say. Union organizing in Texas, it's not easy. My first job was trying to organize a textile plant. Oh, that was a fight. The company had some guys work me over. I got my licks in but there was two of them. Then I was in Dallas organizing at a car parts plant. Lost that one, too. I ended up at the Texas state workers union. It's a whore of a union. I thought I'd shake them up, but I figured wrong. In Texas, union organizing is like trying to get a tried and true lesbian to fuck you. You can work at it a good long time and still end up with a dismal outcome."

"Why ain't you still at it?"

"It's a long story."

"My limo ain't com'ng for a while."

"For a lot of years, I thought if I just hung in there, things would turn around. People would see the light. You know, the pendulum would swing back. Only thing that happened is the pendulum kept swinging right—right into my head. Guess I just lost the spirit to fight."

Joe stared at the fire. In the silence that followed, John studied the diminished coals.

"Things are stacked against the little guy," John said. "I was work'ng the shrimp boats since I was big 'nuff to see over the pilot wheel, but them big comm'rcial farms over in Asia, they was tak'ng more 'n more mark't share. The price kept fall'ng. Time was they paid us three-fifty, four bucks a pound for a box of shrimp."

"How many in a box?"

"A hundr'd pounds. Then it dropped to a buck sixty 'n stayed there. Sheephead, the price went from fifty cents a pound, to ten, fifteen cents. We burned a hundr'd twenty gallons of gas going out. Gas kept going up, prices kept going south. Then there's gat'r hunt'ng. Leg'lly, you can only take so many, 'n you gotta pay the landown'r a share. If it's the big oil comp'ny marshes, you can jacklight 'em, but you gotta run from the patr'l boats 'n pay off someone to tag the hides, or you can't sell 'em. They were pay'ng fifty a foot last seas'n. Sounds like a lot on a sev'n foot gat'r, but it's like we was sell'ng 'em the hide off a rat's ass. It's a lotta work. You see what they want for gat'r shoes 'n purs's?"

"Big guys always make out," Joe said.

"Yeah, 'n what can you do about that? You fight 'em, they smash you like a bug. You're in the right, dead right, dead as a mackr'l. Where's that bottle of Mak'r's?"

"That's why you've got to organize, brother" Joe said, passing the bottle. "Folks today have forgotten is that there's strength in being part of something bigger. They want us to think as individuals so they can control us, they want us sitting watching American Idol. We're all brothers and sisters and if we stick together, we've got something. If we don't, we might as well burn the fucking country down."

"I ain't gonna argue with you, Joe Cabbie, not tonight, not sitt'ng here drink'ng your whiskey. I'll just say this, I don't see things chang'ng. 'N one other thing. Damn, you keep rem'nd'ng me of a preach'r fella."

"And I'll just say this," Joe said. "If I were corrupt, you think I'd be broke enough to be sitting out in the west Texas hill scrub with an escapee from a slave camp with a cab I stole sitting over there?"

John grinned. "Fair 'nuf."

John stepped away from the fire, eyed the belt of Orion, low in the sky this late in the season. His gaze turned to the moon and a dozen Mexican free tail bats darting in its light.

"I ain't felt this good in months."

"Me neither," Joe said. He looked at the stars. "If I had enough food and whiskey and water I'd be content to sit in this camp for months. I guess Joseph D. Farnsworth didn't plan well for his exit from the ABC Cab Company."

"So your name's Farnsw'rth?"

"Hell no. I've got four different IDs."

"How the hell—"

"Got them back when it was easy, learned how in college. Farnsworth's a kid who died at the age of two months in a little Iowa town called Ida Grove. I got his birth certificate and resurrected him, got an Iowa driver's license in his name. But now I've got to retire Mr. Farnsworth, that damn car thief."

Joe pulled his wallet and took out a driver's license. He dropped it in the embers. It melted in a burst of flame.

"So long, Mr. Farnsworth."

"A fella like you, you seem too smart to be driv'n a taxi. 'N I just don't mean book smart."

"I thought I'd learn about taxi drivers, try to organize them. But then something happened." He paused, sat back on the rock. "Pussy."

Joe's bony face looked up at John. The firelight made his deepset eyes dark as the windows in the old house. "I started fucking Chuck's wife."

"Your boss's wife?"


"That wasn't very smart. Maybe I should take back what I said."

"Smart? No. But as Graham Greene said, I'd risk the fires of hell for one great fuck. Mira, she's from Poland. Oh, so gorgeous, and young. Married Chuck, that old fat prick, for a green card. I viewed fucking her as doing my part in the great class struggle. Mira was a woman who needed liberation. I had to do it."

Joe smiled more widely. His teeth glistened from the fireglow. "Pussy's always been my downfall. That and this," he said, holding up the bottle. "That and this and weed. My great troika of trouble."

"Pussy, that's what gets half the straight guys in jams on this planet earth. 'N for the other half, it's the try'ng for it that gets 'em in hot wat'r. I done a married wom'n when I was sixteeen."

"When was that?"

"Two years back."

"You're one lucky young man."

"It was a sin, sure, but it wasn't the hellfires that worried me, it was her old man. Where I grew up back in the marshes, you mess around 'n get caught, you end up gat'r bait. But, Lord, it was hot. Nails in the back. She was a hungry wom'n. Told me that sex with her old man had gott'n like unload'ng a clothes wash'r. Sin, yeah, but if she was here now, lemme sin that way just one more time, Lord, then I'll be a good boy from here out."

"Maybe your sister has some friends out there in California she can hook you up with."

"I just hope Sis's okay."

"You haven't talked?"

"Haven't seen her in five years. But she 'n her son Sonny's all the kin I got in the world. Where you head'd?"

"I rightly don't know."

"I don't got a home no more eith'r." John stared at the fire. Joe sensed something huge in the bayou man's past.

"Think you'll ever go back to Louisiana?"

"Nope," John said rapidly. "The hurr'c'ne might be the best thing that happ'ned. Maybe I got a whole new life wait'ng for me out in Cal'f'rnia. You don't got nowhere to go, maybe you come with me?"

"Why not?" Joe said, a sudden gleam in his eyes. "Back to Cali. I should have been done with Texas a long time ago. To California."

Joe tipped the Maker's. John took a hit. The men were drunk and sleepy. John made a bed with clothes and blankets, curling next to the fire. Joe sat in a lotus position, meditating. Then he made a pillow by bunching up a shirt over one of the rocks.

John awakened at dawn. The fire had died to ash. Joe was gone. John went to the edge of the oaks to pee and spied Joe standing on the tracks, facing the faint orange horizon. John lay back down next to the memory of the blaze. A coyote howled at the dying of night.

An early draft of this novel appeared in DoubleTake/Points of Entry Magazine. Text copyright © 2007 by Dale Maharidge. Photos copyright © 2007 by Michael Williamson. Reprinted with permission.

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