In the mountains they saw deer in the headlights and in the headlights the deer were pale as ghosts and as soundless. They turned their red eyes toward this unreckoned sun and sidled and grouped and leapt the bar ditch by ones and twos. A small doe lost her footing on the macadam and scrabbled wildly and sank onto her hindquarters and rose again and vanished with the others into the chaparral beyond the roadside. Troy held the whiskey up to the dashlights to check the level in the bottle and unscrewed the cap and drank and screwed the cap back on and passed the bottle to Billy. Be no lack of deer to hunt down here it looks like.

Billy unscrewed the cap from the bottle and drank and sat watching the white line down the dark road. I dont doubt but what it’s good country.

You dont want to leave Mac.

I dont know. Not without some cause to.

Loyal to the outfit.

It aint just that. You need to find you a hole at some point. Hell, I’m twenty-eight years old.

You dont look it.


You look forty-eight. Pass the whiskey.

Billy peered out at the high desert. The bellied lightwires raced against the night.

They wont care for us drinkin?

She dont particularly like it. But there aint much she can do about it. Anyway it aint like we was goin to show up down there kneewalkin drunk.

Will your brother take a drink?

Troy nodded solemnly. Quicker than a minnow can swim a dipper.

Billy drank and handed over the bottle.

What was the kid goin to do? said Troy.

I dont know.

Did you and him have a fallin out?

No. He’s all right. He just said he had somethin he needed to do.

He can flat ride a horse. I’ll say that.

Yes he can.

He’s a salty little booger.

He’s all right. He’s just got his own notions about things.

That horse he thinks so much of is just a damned outlaw if you want my opinion.

Billy nodded. Yep.

So what’s he want with it?

I guess that’s what he wants with it.

You still think he’s going to have it follerin him around like a dog?

Yeah. I think it.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

You want to lay some money?

Troy shook a cigarette from the pack on the dash and put it in his mouth and pushed in the lighter. I dont want to take your money.

Hell, dont be backwards about takin my money.

I think I’ll pass. He aint goin to like them crutches.

Not even a little bit.

How long is he supposed to be on em?

I dont know. A couple of weeks. Doctor told him a sprain could be worse than a break.

I’ll bet he aint on em a week.

I’ll bet he aint either.

A jackrabbit froze in the road. Its red eye shone.

Go on dumb-ass, Billy said.

The rabbit made a soft thud under the truck. Troy took the lighter from the dashboard and lit his cigarette with it and put the lighter back in the receptacle.

When I got out of the army I went up to Amarillo with Gene Edmonds for the rodeo and stock show. He’d fixed us up with dates and all. We was supposed to be at their house to pick em up at ten oclock in the mornin and it was after midnight fore we left out of El Paso. Gene had a brand new Olds Eighty-eight and he pitched me the keys and told me to drive. Quick as we hit highway eighty he looked over at me, told me to shower down on it. That thing would strictly motivate. I pushed it up to about eighty, eighty-five. Still had about a yard of pedal left. He looked over again. I said: How fast do you want to go? He said just whatever you feel comfortable with. Hell. I didnt do nothin but roll her on up to about a hundred and ten and here we went. Old long flat road. Had about six hundred miles of it in front of us.

Well there was all these jackrabbits in the road. They’d set there and freeze in the lights. Blap. Blap. I looked over at Gene and I said: What do you want to do about these rabbits? He looked at me and he said: Rabbits? I mean if you were lookin for somebody to give a shit I can tell you right now it sure as hell wasnt Gene. He didnt care if syrup went to thirty cents a sop.

We pulled into a filling station at Dimmitt Texas just about daybreak. Pulled up to the pumps and shut her down and set there and there was a car on the other side of the pumps and the old boy that worked there was fillin the tank and cleanin the windshield. Woman settin there in the car. The old boy drivin had gone in to take a leak or whatever. Anyway we pulled in facin this other car and I’m kindly layin there with my head back waitin on the old boy and I wasnt even thinkin about this woman but I could see her. Just settin there, sort of lookin around. Well directly she sat straight up and commenced to holler like she was bein murdered. I mean just a hollerin. I raised up, I didnt know what had happened. She was lookin over at us and I thought Gene had done somethin. Exposed hisself or somethin. You never knew what he was goin to do. I looked at Gene but be didnt know what the hell was goin on any more than I did. Well here come the old boy out of the men’s room and I mean he was a big son of a bitch too. I got out and walked around the car. I thought I was goin crazy. The Oldsmobile had this big ovalshaped grille in the front of it was like a big scoop and when I got around to the front of the car it was just packed completely full of jackrabbit heads. I mean there was a hundred of em jammed in there and the front of the car the bumper and all just covered with blood and rabbit guts and them rabbits I reckon they’d sort of turned their heads away just at impact cause they was all lookin out, eyes all crazy lookin. Teeth sideways. Grinnin. I cant tell you what it looked like. I come damn near hollerin myself. I’d noticed the car was overheatin but I just put that down to the speed we was makin. This old boy wanted to fight us over it. I said: Damn, Sam. Rabbits. You know? Hell. Gene got out and started mouthin at him and I told him to get his ass back in the car and shut up. Old boy went over and told the woman to hush up and quit slobberin and all but I like to never got him pacified. I started to just go on and hit the big son of a bitch and be done with it.

Billy sat watching the night spool past. The roadside chaparral, the flat black scrim of the mountains cut into the star- blown desert sky above them. Troy smoked. He reached for the whiskey and unscrewed the cap and sat holding the bottle.