Evaline told her that Harlan planned to sell the cattle and farm the Gillie
land. “It’s valuable land,” Evaline said, knowing already what Kestract
would pay for it if she found oil anywhere near it. She’d been wrong only
in that the price had gone higher than even she could have imagined.
She touched the gray pencil marks on the wallpaper beside the refrigerator. Joanne and Jake, each one’s height marked, up through their high
school years, when both refused to stand against the wall with a ruler
stuck across the tops of their heads anymore. In the corner of the floor,
saturated into the tongue-and-groove oak planks, was a round purple
stain from the jar of pickled beets she’d thrown at Harlan’s head when
he told her about the affair. First the affair. Then his death. The quagmire
of their marriage, of the town. All of it inescapable. Here were the two
worn bowls on the floor where feet had stood in front of the stove every
night for a hundred years, stirring, stirring. Upstairs, the room where
Joanne was born, and out back two placentas planted beneath grafts of
loblolly pines. Somewhere out east, Joanne’s real father, oblivious. There
were many things Evaline regretted.
Joanne rapped on the door.
Evaline called, “Since when you need an invitation?”
Joanne stepped in, her tennis shoes clean and white like they were
bought yesterday. They probably were. “What’s that?” She pointed at the
coffee machine spitting into the brown-tinged pot.
“Don’t start,” Evaline said.
“Where’s the one I sent you?”
“The thing with a thousand buttons?” Evaline opened a cabinet and
pulled glasses out onto the counter to pack. “Your father fixed this one
“The espresso machine does not have a thousand buttons.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Evaline handed Joanne a mug. “He had to prove
things could be fixed. Air conditioners, baby birds.”
“Glad you’re home, Joanne.”
Joanne took the mug but wrapped it in a sheet of packing paper. “The
movers are outside. Have you even started prepping?”
“I taped those boxes together.”
“They charge extra to pack it for you.”
“Since when does an upcharge bother you?” Evaline handed Joanne
another cup. “When is Kestract’s cleanup here?”