Waldreve hit him with a slashing backhand, and Vance’s head snapped
back and banged against the doorsill. He staggered but righted himself
as Corella gave a small shriek and rushed across the kitchen to him.
“It don’t matter none,” Vance muttered, pushing her away. Then he
said it again, his voice tired and crushed, though his eyes were steady
and clear. “It don’t matter none.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Corella asked, turning to Waldreve. “Are
Waldreve took a step back. He braced himself, drawing his fists up,
but he could see Vance had no fight in him, knew he’d never had any
fight in him at all, and he felt sick at the thought of how easily he’d
Vance watched Waldreve a moment longer and then wiped the blood
from his lips and left to go to his bedroom, brushing past Philip, who
stood shocked and numb just inside the hallway.
“I’ll be getting you up at daylight,” Waldreve said to him. “Best get to
He gave a curt nod to his son and then glanced at Corella. She stood
fuming, her eyes red and watery, her cheeks ashen, and in this way he
left her, passing through the kitchen and out the back door to stand on
the covered porch while the storm thrashed in the night, the rain sting-
ing his face as it blew under the eaves. Above the black ridgeline, the sky
flashed with palsied blue light. Waldreve felt the same electricity inside
him, an ionic buzz jolting through his blood.
Everyone he knew was a fool. Corella was soft and weepy, his boys not
much better. They were foolish and weak, and they didn’t have the same
thing inside them that he did. For all his life he’d kept it, and it had not
left him. He felt it fill him now like breath.
A jagged crack of lightning crawled down the sky. In the flash,
Waldreve saw beyond the yard to the coyote hutch. The dogs cowered
under the lean-to, bunched together for warmth. All of them but the
big male, who stood in the middle of the pen as the storm poured into
the valley, his body braced against the wind and the rain. He watched
the sky as it flared and burned, the clouds backlit by lightning so they
appeared as brainy coils. He did not move but stood poised in the midst
of the violent air as if pitted in dare or standoff.
“You’re a mean sonuvabitch,” Waldreve said. “But tomorrow you