mosquito-tongued machines whose reels of cable tickled the dust of the
bones of the first Gillies, buried a century ago here, their wooden crosses
as gone as their bodies.
“Red-tailed hawk,” Evaline said, pointing at a bird perched on a fence
pole down field, scanning for mice. “Remind me to mark it in the book.”
“What book?” Joanne leaned, trying to spot the bird.
“The book,” Evaline said. “I told you. Your daddy took to bird-
watching before he died.”
Sometime in old age, they’d become people who wrote down in note-
books the kinds of birds they saw. They’d puzzle out the species and
genus of birds by the angle of wing tips and degree of slope to the beaks.
“Getting old is easier than getting young,” Harlan had said. “’Cept for
the dying part.”
“You’d be dying less fast if you’d finished your drinks slower.”
“I survived war,” he’d answered. “Everything else is dying slow.”
For all his pain, Harlan had liked his birds. He drank less the days
he heard meadowlarks singing from the fenceposts or owls calling out
in the predawn dark. Leasing the land and selling the mineral rights be-
neath it had meant money—his money—would be there for things like
trips to ID birdsong in Costa Rica and haul long scopes into Colorado
forests, hoping for glimpses of snowy owls in flight.
With the money, they’d get an RV, drive far enough away that they
couldn’t smell the diesel or see the lights on the drill glaring all through
the night. They’d visit Jake and his family.
Harlan hadn’t lived long enough to hold a check from the lease,
“I need you to know something.” Joanne took a cigarette out of her
“You started smoking?” Evaline tried to snatch it out of her hand.
“Why’d you bring Daddy’s urn out here?” Joanne asked, dodging her
“If I left him, the movers might pack him.”
“You’re going to spread him at the old graveyard.” Joanne lit the cig-
Joanne sucked, the end of the cigarette glowing red. “I know about
Daddy,” she said. She cracked the window.
Evaline flicked the wiper blades, clearing frost and fog off the glass.