heard again the gasp and pant of waters from long ago, the cough of the
shoals and the surge of the current as it rushed away from him.
“What are you going to do, Pop?” Philip asked.
Waldreve put a hand on the door and stroked the wood. Then he
stepped back into the yard.
“You’re just going to let him go?” Philip’s voice pitched high and wor-
ried. “You can’t just let him go like that. Not after all the trouble he’s
“Shut up,” Waldreve said again.
He looked at his sons: the one with the rifle and the other standing
apart, his face gray and somber.
Philip seemed about to speak again but didn’t. Beside him, Vance
flipped the collar of his jacket up against the morning wind and turned
and walked back to the house. Philip watched him leave. Then he looked
at Waldreve and propped the rifle against the hutch.
“I’m going to leave this here,” he said. He patted the barrel of the rifle,
nodded and walked back through the yard after his brother.
Waldreve watched them go. They rose up the steps to their mother,
and then they all went into the house, the screen door clattering to
It felt good and necessary to be alone in the chill of the dawn now.
Waldreve’s hands and face were chapped and red with the cold, and the
dew had soaked into the cuffs of his trousers. It shone like varnish on his
boots. He felt clean and awake all over. The wind poured out of the trees
and dried the sweat on his cheeks. Inside the pen, the big coyote moved
closer to the open door, then stopped. He watched Waldreve, his head
moving slightly from side to side, and the damp flares of his nostrils
swelled in the bright, early air.
Waldreve picked up the rifle. It felt light and empty in his hands, the
cold, hollow barrel and scuffed stock beaded with dew. He threw the bolt
back and shucked a shell into the chamber. The coyote pricked its ears
at him. He stared at it for a brief moment and stepped away a few paces
to give it room.
It came into the yard. The pen held only the carcasses of the others
now. The ones who hadn’t been old and strong enough to carry the old
strong thing inside them.
Waldreve pointed the rifle at the coyote but didn’t shoot. The coyote
waited a moment, then slunk to the edge of the yard, where the woodline
began, and stopped. It looked over its shoulder at Waldreve and trotted