smiled now at the minister’s words, hips and hat brim wide as the length
of a pew, tutting her tongue over every hymn selection Evaline had
made. If Jake hadn’t been there, squeezing Evaline’s elbow, she would
have had a mind to slap the fabric flowers off Ida’s head.
“Ye are the salt of the Earth,” the preacher finished and stared directly at Evaline. she squirmed in her satin-lined dress.
But that was yesterday. Today, the sun rose on a world without Harlan in it, the service finished and the wake dishes washed and stored.
Evaline clutched Harlan’s urn, morning light filling the small chip of a
diamond on her ring. He’d offered to buy her a bigger stone years ago,
but what sense was there in that? She’d laughed in his face, warning him
not to touch the ring he had given her back when she was still just a girl
with a waistline no bigger than a chicken’s plucked neck, a twelve-week
Joanne in her belly, a college degree, and a job panning the dirt around
Kester County just like she’d done since she was a child. Harlan couldn’t
have afforded a bigger ring, anyway. Evaline always made more money
working for Kestract in a year than Harlan could make in a decade trying to squeeze fruits from the soggy fields. She’d never rubbed that in his
face, though. Not that it mattered.
She sat on the porch beside Jake, sipping coffee, calculating the viscosity of saltwater over waterlogged fields and dried cornstalks. She had
hours now, maybe less, before the spill went public. Roses grew in front
of the porch between the remains of lilac bushes she’d planted after her
wedding—Harlan killed those with overwatering last spring. Blight set
in, killing the enormous plants, their stalks blackened like someone set
a blow torch to each. Harlan took everything.
A vegetable garden sat frost-crisp out back. The soil wouldn’t survive
the salt or any of the other chemicals mixed into the wastewater brew.
Sodium and chloride, chromium, cobalt, lead. Evaline recited the metals drawn up from the bedrock and steeped into the frack fluid in her
head. As a child, reciting the periodic table had calmed her, made her
feel infused with elemental properties: strength, resilience, the ability
to dissolve completely and then return whole. She looked at her coffee,
wondering if the tap water was already contaminated. They were on well
water out here, and all of Kester on alluvial aquifers. She’d warned Harlan about this before he signed. She’d given him statistics and historical
accident records till she was spent. She’d screamed at him that it was her
job to know what a horizontal drill could do: she’d seen the full gamut