Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The world is full of stories. Stories of war, love, betrayal. Stories about la playa, the beach. Passion, desire, redemption. My stories lie between layers and layers of stories told every minute of the whole entire life of this planet, centuries of layers of stories. Witches burned, drowned, elaborate embroidery on their long dresses. Lost children and children lost, in grassy medians, on the sides of many, many roads, in ditches, in camps.

Early in the morning on March 3, 2002, I left the house and the things there still broken, the things I'd never now be able to repair, and drove westward, towards the Pacific ocean. I believed that morning, that my stories would come sooner, that once I'd left there, the house where many of them began and where even more of them continued, that I would, right then, begin the task of telling them. But that wasn't to be. Instead, I had to accumulate a few more, four years more of stories before I found this, a place to start.

2004, 2005, 2006

Spring Break

I've written many times about, and during, spring break. I was happier when the children were out of school, because they were happier when they were out of school. No rushed mornings, fights, worries about spelling tests, bullies. Less guilt.

Writing and children. And children. I stare, gaping. Moment after endearing moment passes while I stare. I'm missing it all. It's all so fast, I can't write it down, store it anywhere. Their smiles, growls, torments. Passing me the queen of spades. They've each planted hard, spontaneous kisses on some part of me, on the way to the tree fort, the bathroom. I must figure out some way to preserve this.

It takes all day, everyday, this collecting and storing, archiving. Observing, thinking, writing it down. Rarely do I succeed. I fail. How did I do it? I don't know. In between I fixed stuff - plumbing, gathered stuff - money and wood for fuel. Nights I crashed hard until one of them stubbed his toe or wet the bed or got up to wander around.

Homework, poems:

Oh mom, sweet mom, you fill my hart with joy.

I love you so very much I see the twinkl in your eyes.

I'm a better person because of it all, because I decided to get pregnant, first, with Josh and then with Chris. But who can add that row of numbers up?

Little boys, blonde. Each night I read to them. I placed a great deal of faith in stories. I was hoping for them, salvation, in any form. Such faith! But it's what I had. All the resources, for most of us there, were limited. They grew into fine young men.

And still, spring breaks I write.


I suppose, in its own way, spring is coming to eastern Oregon, two or three degrees at a time. What's blooming now? Well, the bleeding hearts have center stage. Then there's that whole army of bulbs which really never interested me that much, though I dutifully planted and replanted; tulips the size of a baby's fist, pink daffodils. I tended to watch for the things with less predictable returns: students from spring break, from detention, from visitation with their fathers. I was a teacher.

There's trout, too, in streams cracking open wide. There's a whole herd of cow dogs twitching, itching for a command to move.

There's been a sunset, or two, already, the skies clear enough of clouds to see. A thunderstorm, perhaps.

Somewhere, lightening has struck. Somebody saw it.

Somebody marveled. Somebody shot a jackrabbit running across the road up Virtue Flats. Just for the fun of it? Just, well, for the power of it. Because she owned a gun and knew how to shoot?

But it wasn't me, this year.

My first year there, I did this, in May, boiled water and poured it on the last bit of hard, ugly ice in the yard. Record lows that winter, somewhere in the 30s below. Without a wind chill factor, of course, since it's breaking rules to figure that in.

But what about the trout, you want to know, the cow dogs? Were they yours? Whose were they? Do you have more stories that we can read in our spare time, here, planted, as we are, in this black dirt valley where if we spit it grows. We really like dogs! So do you!

I lived in the mountains for nearly twenty years, up in the high mountain deserts of eastern Oregon, close by towns with names like Sparta and Halfway, with canyons named Burnt, by summits called Dooley, across from bars named Stockmen's, with roommates named Cowboy Joe and newspapers called The Herald.

I had a friend named Patti whose son was in first grade with mine. She was sturdier than I. One morning, after parking her car in line with the pickup trucks in front of my house, across the street from the bar and after making her way up my long, narrowly shoveled sidewalk, she came through my door and announced that a dog was dead in the back of one of the trucks, frozen dead, with her six pups, frozen dead also, to her teats.

Spring breaks, I would clean the gardens and haul it all to the dump, six thousand pounds, usually, not including anything larger than twigs that could be used for fuel. I made friends with men from the Stockmen's across the street, mostly old, who would lean on my fence and point out weeds, talk tomatoes. I was often told that I worked as hard as a man, which I took as a compliment because it seemed to be so. And so it is, isn't it?

Have you smelled sage after a rain?

2004 & 2005


blue corduroys white converse double knotted
oh baby please don't trip and fall
when I'm eighteen one egg splits divides
gosh I'm sick in the mornings
at nightschool my english teacher urges me on

I'm in love with jackson browne

I have a spinal
so much codeine back home I lie with the baby on the couch I
see black bugs crawl all over his face, one by one I fail each man in
my life with all my demands turn it down please I want to sleep the
baby's crying could you all please go home now I don't feel too

it's 1976 I have a long denim skirt made out of blue jeans by the most beautiful girl I've ever seen her name is Sheila she lives
with Gary in the crystal ballroom next door to the insurance company where I work for my father in law in Portland. I make up stories in my head about all the people that walk by, I have a volkswagon bus and three dogs, my father in law drives a continental and I am married to his son.

I'm in love with ponyboy Stay Gold

when I grow up I want to be a writer
I want to rock and roll I'm in love with Todd Rundgren I
know all the words to his songs but the kids who are my
friends don't like him they like Boston and Deep Purple
other girls call and invite my husband to their parties I take the
messages and thumb tack them to the bulletin board
I wasn't safe pure I did the unspeakable I loved women I
fucked other men drank too much sometimes got high kept my house too clean spent too much money on a private
catholic preschool read books that left me thinking crazy shit
fucking crazy shit

but I have a deal with the monster man

I upholster chairs and the couches in stripes and flowers and
checks I sew I quilt I embroider I crochet lace, tat, my Finnish grandmother is dead she leaves me her old work boots my other grandmother says I really should learn how to cook, her whole life all she's wanted is to be a writer

1986 I don't kill the deer but I help butcher there's not that much blood wrapped in white paper and white tape I sauté and bake huckleberry scones and catfish, grill steaks fresh herbs I grow them myself no more top ramen mac and cheese cereal for dinner

if for one minute everybody could be happy at one time.


Journal Entries

1970 – Seventh Grade


I think this is going to be my most favorite year yet. The first day of school was great. Kelly and Mindy and me all had new dresses and mine was the cutest. I can’t believe even more cute than Mindy’s. Mr. S. saw us while we were waiting in the lunch line and said we were really cute and starting to grow up really good and he said to Mindy, you’ve got something growing there and she wasn’t even embarrassed. Mindy is so cool. We’ve been waiting all summer to see him and he said this year we’re going to do the President’s test in P.E. starting in winter and I just can’t wait. I hope I do really good because we will get patches to sew on our sweatshirts that are from the White House.


We’re not going to have Mr. G. for a teacher anymore because he’s going to be the principal while Mr. Greene is sick. We get to have him until December while he does both jobs and then we get a substitute. I’m really mad. I’ve wanted Mr. G. since first grade even though everybody says he’s really mean he’s not he’s just strict and he makes the boys be quiet. He’s reading out loud to us after lunch a book called “I was a slave in Soviet Russia.”


I haven’t been to band for so many days in a row and I know I’m going to get in big trouble. It’s just so embarrassing to have to get up and leave the classroom during reading and language arts. Everybody thinks band is dumb anyway and it is because it’s just me playing flute and Vern playing trombone and this stupid sixth grader playing clarinet. Mr. Clemmens said what would it take to keep you people interested and I told him we had to play some music that wasn’t so boring. He brought in “Sugar, Sugar,” by the Archies which is a song I actually like but God Vern plays so loud and it just sounds so stupid with just the three of us. So I haven’t been back and my mom’s going to kill me.


Mr. G. is gone and even though he promised he would come down to our classroom he doesn’t and he acts different in the hallways. The first day I saw him I went running up all excited to say hi, and he said, slow down there missy. I was so embarrassed. I thought he would remember me more as being one of his best students but I guess he’s too busy being principal. We got this new teacher, Mr. D and he’s so mean I get a headache all day during class. Starting on the second day he decided that Mark Wright was going to be in trouble all the time. At recess I went over to him and I told him that Mark has been like this since first grade and he’s not bad unless he doesn’t get left alone and then he’s been evil mean sometimes, the worst time was in fourth grade. Mr. D. told me that this isn’t nursery school anymore and if I was so smart to teach a M.R. like Mark I would have my teaching certificate wouldn’t I?

So then Mark just got weirder and weirder. On Thursday he took his compass and was stabbing the pointed end between his fingers into the desk. He started doing it faster and faster and it looked like he was going to stab his fingers any second. Mr. D. made him get out of his seat and bend over facing the class and he hit him really hard five times with this paddle he brought with him. Mark’s face was all bright red but he didn’t cry but I could tell from the look in his eye that he’s not going to be easy to be around for awhile. It will probably be like in fourth grade when even the big boys were afraid to go on the playground at recess.

Mr. D. said we all better learn a new set of rules and that includes the girls, he doesn’t have anything against paddling the girls either he said and I guess that means even in our dresses which doesn’t seem very fair. I hate Mr. D.

He told Mr. S. that our class won’t be going to the gym anymore for rainy day lunch recess because we need to learn social skills and dancing. So he closes the window blinds and turns out the lights. We get to play whatever records we want. Mindy has the best ones because she’s the youngest and her brothers and sister let her bring theirs. I slow danced once with Ty. My favorite songs are Lola and Let it Be. I miss gym though and the boys act really weird.


Some of the girls in my class are getting really weird. They don’t wear underwear to school and since our desks are all in a circle facing each other they let the boys see. It’s so stupid. Mr. D. has paddled lots of boys but no girls yet. Ty and Mike Markle are mean now. Ty won’t dance with me anymore because now he likes Ivannah. I don’t care because usually I go to the gym on rainy days because now Mr. D. doesn’t make everybody stay in the classroom. Ty’s dad has a boyfriend living at his house but nobody’s supposed to be prejudiced. When I walk by on the way to school I don’t look so they don’t think I’m spying on them. Me and Ty are the only ones on our block in Mr. D.’s class.

Me and Dwyane and Scott are the best in math. We have mechanical pencils and get to print and not write in cursive. I don’t think Mr. D. even looks at our homework. All I do is hang out with Mr. S. Me and Kelly and Mindy go see him every recess and after school. He talks about everything with us and never tells us we can’t come see him or that he has other things to do. Sometimes he lets us go outside with him to the teachers’ parking lot and see his car. It’s a camero and dark blue. I feel bad every time he has to remind us not to write our names in the dust on his hood because it scratches the paint.


Things are getting really weird at school and I have headaches all the time. I think I need glasses or something. Kelly and Mindy are getting weird. They don’t always come and get me when it’s time to go see Mr. S. Their teacher sometimes lets them out early and they go without me. Mr. D. is being his usual hateful self. I’m not doing very good in math anymore because I don’t understand it. Scott and Dwayne don’t sit by me now because they understand it. I think Kelly and Mindy are mad at me because of creative writing class. We had to choose a line from I am a Rock by Simon and Garfunkel and write a poem with it. And then Mrs. Wear said mine should be in the book she’s making for the end of the year. My line is “and a rock feels no pain and an island never cries” and Mindy said that anybody could write a poem about that because it’s easy.


All I do all the time at home is cry. I hardly sleep because I keep crying. I hate everybody at school, everybody’s mean. Ty and Mike Markle are sniffing glue and they said Mr. D. doesn’t care and I bet he probably doesn’t. He is so mean I hate him. Mark Wright never came back after Christmas and there is nothing the same about 7th grade anymore. I don’t even like Mr. S. and I don’t care that he likes Mindy and Kelly more than me. He told me on the playground that I should think better of myself but he doesn’t even know anything. I didn’t even get the 1st president’s badge I got the 2nd and it’s all because of the softball throw.

1971 – Eighth Grade


This school’s okay but pretty small. There’s only one class for each grade and like twenty of us in each grade. Our class has twenty two people. Susan said it was always 20 kids until I came this year. I am the only new kid in this class since they were in 3rd grade, except for Carolyn who started last year. There is no hot lunch and we put our desks together and eat sack lunch. This is way better than hot lunch which I was sick of after seven years. The girls sit together and the boys sit together. On the playground the boys don’t play with the girls either, so that’s different, no boys in four-square so it’s not as hard to play. But I don’t think it’s as much fun either.

Then there’s only a few black kids here too. And since I used to be friends with lots of black kids that is different too. And here at this school, I am the only one who’s friends with the black girls, none of the other kids are at all. Susan says they only started this school last year so that’s why.

I like the work, it’s fun. We have memory work every morning. It’s Bible verses and Cathecism. I have another Mr. D. for a teacher but he is really really nice and even though he sometimes has to paddle the boys he does it in his office which is next to our room because he’s the principal too. I am really, really popular but I don’t know why. And I don’t really care anymore anyway. I’m try to be nice to everybody. My moms says to say hi to everybody and learn their names and it won’t be so hard at a new school. But I only like the black girls but only Carolyn is in my class the other three are in sixth grade so we only play at recess.

When I got to school yesterday there was a big sheet of paper on the bulletin board in Main Hall with everybody in the school’s name on it saying which part we get for the Christmas play. Mr. Warner is in charge of the play. He put me down for Mary. I went and found him and asked him why he wanted me to play Mary and he said I look like a good Mary. I told him, except I can’t sing so Susan should be Mary. So he switched us and Susan is really happy and I get to play all the guitar parts.

Mr. D. asked me what the A plus plus plus meant on my report card from my old school and I told him it meant honors, that I got an A with triple honors for my report on the history of black people in America. Mr. G. gave me that grade and it’s his best one. He came back to our classroom for the last two months but I wasn’t there. I stayed at home because I was really tired. I never see Kelly and Mindy anymore not even this summer. All summer I just read books like always and played basketball with my brother and worked on his soap box derby car.

I guess I’m not going back to public school because everybody here is going to Lutheran high school next year so I guess I’m going to and my parents said it’s my decision.

1973 - Sophomore

Everybody wants to know what’s wrong with me but what joke trying to tell them. I don’t even know, if you want to know the truth, so how could I tell them anyway? Everything’s so stupid, the same thing day after day. I did pretty good last year, high school was pretty exciting at first, there were some cool classes like biology and algebra, even though they were hard. And then Old Testament and German which I could have done with out. But nothing too hard I couldn’t get As like always.

Actually last year wasn’t as great as I’m saying. Yeah, the classes were okay but my mom is freaking out over what I don’t know and she hasn’t quit yet. I was really looking forward to high school too. I thought I would be able to hang out with my friends a lot more. But I can’t do anything right and I’m always in trouble. I have a lot of homework and my mom doesn’t get it she think I just screw off in my room. She still expects me to practice my guitar every day for an hour and help with the dishes and gets made when I tie up the phone. It’s not like anybody calls for her anyway.

So come to think of it, last year wasn’t that great after all and this year it’s even worse if that’s possible. My classes are dumb, New Testament, Modern Problems and German German German. Stupid language, I’d rather be learning Spanish so I could go to Mexico. I do not think for a minute I will ever go to Germany unless it’s a last resort.

Plus we got this new P.E. teacher who’s got some sort of problem with me and Kris just because we’re better at sports than she is. She’s got this big idea that we can beat St. Mary’s in basketball for the first time in a couple of centuries. Kris and I told her she’s full of shit, it’s never going to happen. Those girls have a real coach, a guy, who teaches them real plays. Besides, they don’t have to wait to use the gym for practice until seven o’clock after all the boys’ teams are done. Which is another thing I think is straight up stupid and unfair too.

So Coach Krueger, as she insists we call her, told me and Kris that she didn’t like our attitude and if we kept it up we’d be on the bench. I told her, go ahead and you’ll never beat St. Mary’s. But we’re never going to even make it through the season because Jolene’s going to quit because after she took her warm-ups off before the game and had forgotten to put her shorts on underneath. There’s only like five people watching the game anyway so I don’t know why she was so upset, but anyway, we lost our center. The last game was the biggest farce of all. We’ve only got this one play because ninny-brains won’t teach us more and won’t let Kris and I do our own and every single goddamn time I was bringing the ball down the court she’d give me the signal to do “play number 1.” Well how long do you think it took for the other team to figure that out? So after ten or twelve times of this crap I call the play and don’t you know their goddamn defense moved right into place like I personally invited them and I got so pissed off I just heaved the ball right into the guard’s face and naturally I got a technical and naturally I sat on the bench the rest of the game.



They'd watched her arrive, the high cheek-boned girl, and what they'd seen (bright, flowery couches, two dogs, two medium aged boys struggling with the weight of a wooden box of record albums) they decidedly did not approve of. What's she want living here, no kin? running from something, got to be. Minuscule amounts of information were jawed into pulp: the bookstore owner claimed she'd wanted to order a thesaurus in Spanish (for what, for why?) but special orders were Christmas only; an Albertson's clerk claimed she bought cheap jug wine and when the Welcome Ladies inquired as to whether her boys were enrolled yet, in school, she'd shrugged and said, no, they don't go to school, haven't, won't.

They'd watched her leave, watched her intimately conversing with the older boy, shoulder to shoulder, heads bent. Twenty below that week, they both rubbed their hands and blew frosty breaths while covering the load with blue tarps and bungee cords. So cold it hurt to do more than squint but still she tossed sticks to the dogs. When the Hamm's beer truck squeaked past on the snowy road, she'd turned her face toward them and they'd seen cheek bones, chapped lips and the eyes of her two sons staring back.

Outsiders had come and gone before, and whatever their particular high hope, it was always chewed up and spit out, not from any cruelty, necessarily, only matter-of-fact logic. There would never be any industry, tourism, culture, no commerce to speak of, save that which was already distributed, but the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed continued to flock in, only to flock the fuck back out. But never in the history had someone come and gone so quickly, two weeks, twenty below.

The weather, generally, could not be defied, it simply wasn't logical, and logic, goddamnit, had made their small town the prize they cherished, protected, from whining animal-loving, tree-hugging faggots and the mothers who'd made them that very way. Arriving anytime, winter, spring, summer, fall, didn't matter, winter, the torment, the utter fatal cold, could strike at any moment (snow on the Fourth, the latest frost late June and the earliest in August, middle, late, so BUY your tomatoes, it was only something to keep the OLDTIMERS busy, anyway).

Flocking in they all, everyone of them, flashed huge, white, big-city-health-plan smiles, full of bravado, full of plans for renovations and restorations and rehabilitations and sometimes it took YEARS before their eyes finally LOWERED while shopping at the store, ashamed, well, what WERE you thinking?

Someone said they'd seen her gathering wood at the mill where they threw the scraps out each day, the dump truck backing up in a sawdusty rush. By that time of year it couldn't have been much, popsicle stick-sized pieces, left over from the mousetraps the mill contracted. Three pairs of identical eyes, chapped hands, they scrambled, gathering, filling a wooden box, the kind that may have stored old record albums. Then, the fire, they'd watched that, the flue fire, idiots to not foresee that the hose would be frozen and the younger child throwing snowballs, high, high towards the chimney, the wailing of the fire truck. But it had gone out by then. They'd scrutinized for slumping shoulders, but discerned no noticeable difference.

Two weeks, dear mother of God. Winter lasted until the third week in May, plenty of time to trade observations. Seemed as though everyone seen'd her somewhere; she'd run into the Stockmens' around the 12th, slammed a couple down, hunched, jogging home through sleet; a silhouette at dawn (from the utility company manager who'd arrived to work as always at five o'clock in the a.m.) swaying? dancing? drunk, still? his scope-perfect view straight through her front window as he stood outside smoking, flowery couches in the background.

Filling up her rig with gasoline, cash, charge?

"Oh, cash. Honestly, how could you really think so?"

Washing her windshield, Paul had reckoned she seemed skitterish, yes I would say so, nervous, definitely, about something. Who knows?
The wife of the man of the cousin whose kid was the next ELVIS (did you happen to catch him on that Nashville station?) who'd, tragically, played Russian Roulette with a tad bit too much seriousness January the First after his gig JUST THE NIGHT BEFORE at the Elks, claimed to have spoken with her at the library (she was only reading, nice boys, they sat quietly) and said she'd looked up from her reading and asked, can a person make friends here?

Two weeks. She hadn't even tried. In their thoughts she tumbled off an unexpected dark and icy corner while crossing Cabbage Hill, the truck unexpectantly shifted from the weight of one sleeping boy upon another. In their thoughts she was one pushed out, forced, abandoned, running. But then, in their thoughts she never existed at all as they shot craps at the YOU AND ME CLUB weekly at the Elks, and in their dreams she copulated freely and produced dozens of high cheek-boned babies, none of whom subjected their fathers to interrogations, rebellions, or other forms of forced vicissitude.

In their dreams in the days that followed, and then the years, she grabbed their bent bodies tight, whether strung out or lit to the hilt, and smothered their screams with soft, hot kisses.

Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine, 1999

Los Gallos

Dallas acted like he was going to punt baby Eric like a football across the backyard. Instead, he dropped him to the ground. Lindsey screamed, “God, dad, you didn’t have to DO that.”

“Shut up.”

“I don’t have to shut up, you shut up.”

Eric was two. “Shudup, shudup!” he screamed. Eric’s pants were wet to the toes, and up his shirt, a rising full moon on his stomach.

“Get your butt inside,” Dallas commanded. He never yelled. He didn’t have to. The only time his voice ever changed was when it went a notch higher when he was joking. Like when he said things like, “Shut up or I’ll kill you,” or “Shut up or I’ll knock you out.”

“I hate you,” Lindsey yelled.

“I don’t,” said Annie. “I don’t hate him at all. Eric deserved it anyway.”

“I HATE YOU TOO!” Lindsey yelled again. Her face had reddish blotches.

“Get your butts inside,” repeated Dallas, “or I’m going to have to kill you.” He didn’t SOUND like he was joking.

“I’m going, I’m going,” whined Lindsey.

“I’m going,” repeated Annie. She watched her sister out of the corner of her eye to see if she was serious. Lindsey was. She elaborately stepped around scattered toys, making her way carefully and slowly up the steps. Annie followed.

“What about Gene?” Lindsey yelled again. “Hunh, dad? What about GENE?”

“Shut up.”

“You’re stupid, you know that, you’re stupid,” Lindsey screamed, slamming the screen door behind her.

“No he’s not,” Annie said, following Lindsey. “You shouldn’t say that, no he’s not.”
Jane walked through the door and dropped her big purse on the couch.

“Watch this,” said Dallas. He held a piece of paper on one side of Lindsey’s head. He blew in her opposite ear. The paper wiggled, as if in a breeze.

“Goes right through her,” he said.

“Way to go Lindsey,” Jane said.

“Shut up,” said Lindsey, pulling away from Dallas. He grabbed her knee and she slapped at his hand. “Dooooon’t Dad,” she giggled.

“Dad kicked Eric today,” she squealed, jumping up from the couch. “He kicked him across the yard.”

“So?” said Jane. “He probably should have kicked you too.”

“See, I told you, so?” repeated Annie, mimicking her mother perfectly.

“Well, I thought somebody would care around here,” Lindsey whined.

“That’s what you get for thinking,” Jane replied. “So I suppose that instead of cooking dinner you’ve been thinking?”

“Forget it,” said Lindsey.

“I cooked,” Annie smiled.

“Like anybody would eat it,” replied Dallas.

Dallas cooked. Mornings. At the prison he warmed up the prepared foods that came in long trays. His boss was a woman. Dallas hated her. She told him what to do all the time even though he already knew and didn’t need her telling him. Dallas tells Janie he’s going to quit, and once he does he will never work for another woman again. Jane agrees. “Women bosses are the worst,” she says.

The cable bill is twenty six plus the phone is seventy. Jane pays them in cash at the offices with her tip money. The electricity is one hundred and thirty four. She’s out of money for that. Since it’s winter Jane goes to the welfare for energy assistance. They want to see her bills. The paid ones for the phone and T.V. means she’s ineligible for assistance. Jane comes home and tells Dallas. “Well, fuck ‘em, then,” he replies. “I don’t give a shit.” The power is turned off five days later. The chicks and baby rabbits that Jane is raising in the barn, freeze.

They were to be her salvation, the chicks and rabbits. People give good money for home-raised meat. Jane keeps two fingers crossed in her pocket as often as she can remember. She tries to do this, all together, at least an hour a day. She believes this diligence will bring her luck. Jane has had a dream, to sell the chicks and rabbits and buy a pig. Her big dream is to someday buy a calf.

Dallas wants to move. “This town is bullshit,” he says. He wants to go home, where his mother lives, on the Colorado-New Mexico border. “Out in the desert,” he tells the kids, “no phone, no T.V., no stores, no nothing.”

“Nada!” he says.

“And none of them goddamn boys,” he tells Lindsey.

“What do you do,” he asks Lindsey a couple of days later. “Do you give off some kind of scent?” After school when they come by and line up in the empty lot across the street, Dallas goes to his pickup and takes his rifle off the rack. Sitting in the driver’s seat with the door open, he brings it to his shoulder. The boys scram.

“Jeez, dad, you’re so mean.” Lindsey yells, and slams the front door.

“I didn’t shoot at them did I?” says Dallas. “You should be thanking me that I didn’t shoot at them.”

Jane cleans rooms at The Bronco. She’s the manager. So is Tillie but Tillie doesn’t do nothing. “Goddamn power company,” Jane says. She wants a draw on her earnings. Tillie doesn’t offer. Jane doesn’t ask. “I’m going to fire that new girl,” Jane says.

Jerry owns the hotel and adjoining restaurant. Jane has one crooked eye. Over the past few years it’s started to run a lot and she has to use eyedrops. She got new teeth from the welfare but the dentist didn’t like her and gave her cheap ones and they turned brown right away. These two things are why she’s not waitressing anymore, where the big money is. Jane doesn’t know this. She thinks Jerry’s an asshole for no reason. He fired Dallas as cook. He fired Jane. He and his wife Eileen had moved from the valley when they’d bought the hotel. Eileen rarely made comments about Jerry’s business but she’d suggested that Jane’s personal hygiene would deter customers. Jerry wasn’t happy with Dallas’ cooking anyway, so he let them both go.

Dallas doesn’t drink anymore. When he makes it a year he’s going home. Dallas hasn’t been home in nine years. He misses the place. His other children are there. Two there plus four here. He realizes his other two are teenagers now. Maybe they have kids of their own. Dallas thinks about how he might be a grandpa. This makes him realize he doesn’t want to wait any longer to go home.

Jane agrees to sell the house. Welfare got them in it. Jane loves the house, but mostly she loves the garden. The garden is on the empty lot next door which isn’t really theirs but they have done all the work to it, cleared off the junk and garbage and made the soil real good. She could live off this land. She puts up a hundred quarts of food each year. And freezes meat.

Lindsey serves three hours of detention in one week. It pisses Jane off. “Quit picking on my kid,” she screams to the principal.

“We don’t single kids out, Mrs. Dinten,” the principal explains. “Lindsey continues to disregard our rules. It’s only fair to everyone.”

“I’ll jerk her out of here so fast your head will spin,” threatens Jane. “I’ll put your ass in jail.”

Annie sits waiting on the steps of her piano teacher’s house for her dad to pick her up. It’s her last lesson. She’s only had four. Annie gets the lessons because the teacher had noticed her talent at school. But now they were moving to their grandma’s. Annie didn’t care. When the piano teacher asked her Annie said, “I don’t care.”

Annie takes all the stickers the piano teacher gave her and sticks them on Eric. He likes it when she does this. He keeps taking her hand and putting it on his face. Then Annie adds felt pen around the stickers. Eric looks really cool.

Jane screams. “Like I don’t have enough fucking work to do around here already. Pack your goddamn bedroom up or I’m leaving your crap behind.”

The U-Haul is packed. Dallas got the pickup on the trailer behind it. Jane is cleaning up. They are going to stay at The Bronco and then leave very early in the morning. They would leave tonight but they have to go to Annie’s school for an open house. Jane felt so sorry for her she told Dallas they had to do it. “Whatever,” said Dallas, “I don’t care.”

Dallas just wants to get on the road. The last thing to do is to load the roosters, the prize ones, the fighters. He’s going to make good bank in Colorado. Somewhere around there it’s legal. Either that, or no one cares. Not like in Oregon. Not like in Oregon where there’s always somebody breathing down your neck. Telling you how to raise your goddamn kids. Like he should just let them run wild instead.

Fourteen prize roosters, each in their own cage. Dallas loads them into the pickup. He and Jane had brought them in from the barn and kept them in the kitchen by the gas oven to keep from freezing. They will be his salvation when he gets back home.



Later the younger boy would say one morning, dark still, less than eight hours of sleep between the three of them, that's the last time, mom, we're not going through this again, we're leaving, we have to leave this time, and she asked, are you sure? Because we could just get a motel?

They took that ridiculous route to the 5, thinking he could be following, that he had read their minds like he'd done before, down to Burns, first, then back and up and down and over to Eugene; she nearly forty and this boy, Lance, 15, cruising motels by the university, Springfield, out by the mall, nothing felt safe, and then for the next two days driving the I5-South, almost all the way to the end.

Camp Pendleton, everything's brown except the ocean and the sky, the sun hurts their eyes, sleeping on the floor and couch, she knows this can't last long, the younger boy looking sadder and more scared each hour that passes, she thinks her head will split wide open. But they're elated to see the older boy, her son, his brother, they've missed him so much. Pendleton, their refuge; daily she's ashamed of what she said to the recruiter when he'd first called.

Once he said, you know mom, I think I'm luckier than Lance is because I never expected any love from my dads so when I didn't get it, it didn't hurt me.

Advice, (warnings). Teachers counselors, friends, the police. The marine recruiter. You're going to have to be firm with him, make him straighten up and fly right, don't let him be a quitter, a wuss. Both her boys with broken fathers.

After boot camp he's at training when his sergeant calls her, demanding she tell him where his marine is, it's the first she knows he's missing. When he finally calls, he tells her how he walked off base, bussed to the airport, called his grandparents for a ticket. Well go back, she tells him, but he can't, he says, he's already smoked dope and he'll go straight to the brig. All he wants is out. Help me mom. The grandparents take him to a Rangers game, she pictures him in the hot sun, probably wearing his baseball hat, (ten years old, playing minor ball, begging the coaches to let him catch, and when they relent, the first pitch takes the mitt clear off his hand.)

The sergeant is impatient with her silence. Play God, he says, it's your call. Are you going to let him come running home to Mommy? Or do you want his U.A. to come out clean.

He's at Fuji on September 11th, and can't contact her for three days, but he's not even in any danger yet, that's months ahead. Oh, no, I'm sorry! Please come back. Don't die over there. I lied. I'm sorry. And while she waits and pleads and bargains, she pinches the softest skin under her arm, hard.