something inside himself that they didn’t have. Without it, they could
only want comfort.
“I’ll be along in a minute,” Waldreve said. “You go on ahead.”
Vance picked the rifle up and slung it over his shoulder. Sweat streaked
his face, and he looked beleaguered as an old man, the weight of the gun
causing him to stoop forward slightly as he shambled off to the barn.
Waldreve squatted beside the dead coyote. He placed a hand on her
flank. The body had yet to cool, and the marbling of warm grease and
blood was slick against his skin, and he felt it soak into his palm.
“Right here, you mean bastard,” he said, turning his gory hand up to
the big male in the pen. “Tomorrow I’ll do the same for you.”
The coyote only stared at him. All through the skinning, he hadn’t
made a sound, and now he sat stern and erect with the wind blowing
over his ruff and hackles, and his eyes seemed as eyes that had seen the
world since its inception and that would look on the place of the world’s
absence once it was no more.
Waldreve stood and cleaned his hand against his thigh. His chest
tightened. His heart strained, but he ground his teeth together, and the
pain steadied and then abated. He’d gone a little cottonmouthed, and
he swallowed and worked some phlegm up from the back of his throat
Under the lean-to, the rest of the coyotes mewled and yipped, still
smelling the blood from the bitch. When he left to go inside, they were
groaning yet, though the big male sat quiet as ever.
He ate a small supper of cold cut ham and day-old cornbread with Corella
and the boys. Philip and Vance had their wives waiting for them, but they
would stay the night in order to be on hand for the skinning at sunup.
“Vance told me what you did to that coyote,” Corella said.
The coyote . . . sat stern and erect with the wind blowing
over his ruff and hackles, and his eyes seemed as eyes that
had seen the world since its inception and that would look
on the place of the world’s absence once it was no more.