They came panting down the gravel roads that spiraled through the bottoms around the lake, packs of them hungry and gape-mouthed, yellow dogs by the hundreds. They loped along beside trucks, nipping at the tires, scattering back to the woods when someone leaned out the window with a rifle and cracked off shots at them. They climbed into garbage bins, their tails and hind legs wagging in the air, scattered trash and shredded black plastic around the trailers.
The dogs appeared right after Lijah and his brother Travis pushed an old Chevy truck down the gravel road and into their yard. Lijah had bought the truck himself, the first thing that was completely his. As soon as the black tires settled in the grass, Lijah leaning against the hood and grinning, the sound of barking echoed through the trees. The dogs poured into the yard from every direction, ears and tongues and tails flapping, and jumped against Lijah and his truck. He rolled with them in the dirt under the truck’s shadow, the happiest he could remember. Daddy stared at him through the tiny front window.
That had been weeks ago, and Lijah was still trying to get the truck to run. Through the screen door, Mama yelled for Lijah’s little sisters to stay on the porch. “We can’t take you to the hospital if you get bit by one of the damn things,” she said. Last night, they had heard the dogs moving around under the tall trailer, their high whines and thick, watery growls.
“I wanna pet one,” Donna said, lying on the porch and leaning over the side.
Elaina pointed. “Look at that one with the missing ear.”
His four sisters floated back and forth over the sandy boards in their bare feet, long hair and too-big dresses blowing in the wind. They were of the same palette, same muddy blonde hair and pale skin, same faded cloth of their second-hand dresses, edges bleeding into each other as they crowded on the porch.
“What if they bite Lijah?” Kristy yelled back to Mama.
Lijah looked at the dogs circling the Chevy, pissing on the new tires he’d put on that morning and rolling in its shade. “They won’t bite me,” he said.
Kristy went down the first step, one foot still on the porch. “When you get it fixed, will you take me to a movie?” she asked him.
Lijah put his tools down and walked back to the porch. He took out his wallet to see how much more money he needed for a carburetor. “What movie?”
“I ain’t decided,” she said, pursing her lips and tilting her head back to consider it. “But just me, not Elaina or Donna or Amanda.”
Amanda, oldest of the girls at twelve, rolled her eyes and didn’t look at her sister. “He’s going to take me to school every morning, and you all can keep riding the bus,” she said.
They all started then, yelling at each other about where they would go once Lijah had his truck, how they would go by themselves. Mama and Travis came out then, dressed in their cleaning uniforms. They each had a thin cigarette in their mouths, Mama chewing gum and smoking at the same time. “We’re gone,” she said, and kissed Lijah on the forehead.
The girls started in on her again, tugging at her arms and shirt as she went down the stairs, “Please Mama can’t we go play with the dogs for a bit can’t we please?”
Travis was laughing and got in the car. “I hope they bite your little asses,” Mama said. In a few minutes, she and Travis were gone, the blue Civic disappearing around the bend of the road. The dogs watched it go, but stayed where they were.
Amanda looked at her sisters. “Does that mean we can?” The girls shrugged their shoulders. They didn’t know.
They were looking at Lijah now, waiting for him to choose a side. “I gotta go to the fields,” he said. “Listen to your mama.”
He opened the screen door and went inside. His dad was in his chair, a beer in one hand and the remote in the other. His eyes were closed under his hat. Mostly, he stayed in that chair.
Sometimes, he drove to the bar to talk to his friends or got up the energy to fish. They’d stopped asking him about working again years ago.
Lijah stepped around the soft spot in the carpet where the floor had given out. “I’m going to work, Daddy.”
The man opened his eyes for a second, took a drink. “Where’s your mama?”
“She and Travis are working. They got the car.”
His daddy closed his eyes again.
“Them dogs are still out there. What are we gonna do about them?”
A talk show hissed out of the old speakers. Some flies rose and fell in the kitchen sink, more thrashing in the flypaper hanging in the kitchen window. His daddy’s eyes stayed closed.
“I’m going now,” Lijah said.
He went out the door and told his sisters to stay on the porch. “Daddy’s sleeping,” he said. “Don’t wake him up.”
“He’s always sleeping,” Amanda said.
Lijah walked across the yard, dogs scattering like quick yellow leaves. They followed him down the road, his shoes kicking through the white gravel. In his pocket, Lijah’s hand rested on the edge of his wallet. He only needed a little more. Oak and sweet gum and poison ivy shaded the road the whole way, the dogs crashing through the thick leaves and sniffing, their tails waving like flags.
The gravel road climbed out of the bottoms and ended at the highway. There was a dead dog here at the intersection, yellow like the others. Somebody had run over his head. The dogs paused to look at it. Lijah could see the gas station coming up in the distance. He stayed on the shoulder. Trucks passed and honked at the cloud of dogs trailing Lijah, bumpers shining in the sun. His truck had an old iron bumper that someone had welded together. There wasn’t much chrome on the Chevy. He watched the cars go by and thought he might paint the bumpers white, the body dark red. He could see that.
At the gas station, there were bins of watermelons outside. Trucks were pressed around the small building, most of their engines running, people in the back. The dogs spread out through the crowd, wrinkling their noses at the gasoline smell. Lijah’s cousin James was wedged into the back of a long-bed Nissan with seven other people, all of them wearing dirty ballcaps.
“They need any more pickers today?” Lijah asked him.
James shrugged. “Probably.”
Lijah walked into the gas station, one of the smaller dogs running in between his legs, and found the three men having coffee at their table by the window: the pea boss, the bean boss, and the okra boss. They were the oldest men he knew, great big sons of bitches with wide hands and shoulders. Their mouths were twisted, always smirking, their eyes buried in deep creases under their brows. They shuffled cigarettes, a little mound of creamers, and sugar packets around the table while they talked, speaking a language of earth and stones, blind worms burrowing, water swelling the ground. They talked of crops, the slow heartbeats eating the earth and rising until dirty hands gathered them up. They cursed and chuckled to each other. Lijah never knew what they were saying. He didn’t know anyone who did.
The clerk looked up for a minute, recognizing him and knowing he wasn’t going to buy anything, and tilted her big glasses back down to her newspaper. Then she noticed the dog burying its nose in a candy rack and came around the counter, swatting it with her paper and nudging it outside. Lijah waited by the bosses’ table until they noticed him and stopped their talk.
“Do you have any work for me?” he asked.
The three men smiled and drank their coffee. This was how they liked things. They spoke. The bean boss and the okra boss shook their heads. The pea boss pointed through the front glass, at the truck with James in the back.
“Thank you,” Lijah said and went out. He jumped into the back with his cousin and the rest. He tried to make himself small, but his arms and legs pressed against the others.
“You got in the right truck,” James said. “The pea boss is the only one still paying in cash.”
“What are the others paying in?”
“Beans and okra. Keep some of what you pick.”
“That’s what I said. Where’s your brother?”
“Travis and Mama are working together today. She got him hired at the plant.”
He rubbed an eye with his fist. “That pay well?”
“Better than okra.”
The pea boss came out, the dogs shrinking away from him, and climbed into the cab of the truck. He pulled out onto the highway and took off, Lijah and James pressed back against the tailgate, a trail of dogs chasing after them and slowly disappearing in the distance.
After a while, the pea boss stopped at a barbed wire fence. He got out and pulled up one of the posts so they could drive through. They crossed a pasture and went through another fence into the pea fields. White five-gallon buckets were scattered through the grass. The pea boss waved his hand at the buckets and wheezed deep in his throat.
Lijah shook the dirt out of his bucket and waded into the rows. The purple pods, long and segmented, were dark against the leaves. Ant mounds swelled between the rows. Lijah pressed them flat without noticing, stomped his boots and swatted his legs when he felt them on his jeans and surging for his skin. There wasn’t much he could do for it. Grasshoppers kicked off leaves and burst into the air every time a hand reached to tear off a pea-pod. Yellow ground hornets, big as Lijah’s thumb, rose into the sky or sank into the leaves. From the wood-line, dogs crept across the pasture and into the fields, dragging their bellies over the cool dirt and sniffing wetly around Lijah’s hands. They picked peas on into the evening.
Lijah thought of his truck, remembered the day he and Travis went to get it. They had stared at the rusted body, the broken back glass, the flat tires, standing there a long time and wondering how they would get it home.
Travis knocked on the door and couldn’t get anyone, but he’d found a bicycle pump on the front porch. “Get on it, big guy,” he’d said. They had taken turns that afternoon pumping up the tires so they could push the truck out of its ruts in the grass and start it rolling down the road.
Lijah leaned through the window so he could push and steer at the same time, looking at the trees and houses framed through his windshield. This was his. They had to stop three times on the way home to air the tires back up, Travis telling him he was an asshole for getting him to do this.
An ant bit Lijah on the hand, and he crushed it with a dirty thumb, its body becoming the same as the dirt. All around him, Lijah could hear pea pods thumping against the sides of buckets. Sweat slid down his face and stung his eyes. He blinked.
His cousin was beside him in the next row. “What are you gonna do when you get that truck fixed?”
“Get out of the bottoms.”
James grinned. “I know what you’re after. You going to see that girl we met. The one who lives in Bodcaw.”
Lijah smiled, remembering her. Overalls stretched tight over her chest. Thin fishhook hanging out of one earlobe, to keep the skin from growing back, she’d said, until she found her other earring. They’d talked until her dad finished pumping gas, when he came and put his arm around her and pulled her away from them. Then it was over, no chance to even ask her name.
“I could go any place,” Lijah said. “Remember how Uncle Jeff finally got that old car of his working and left?” He wiped his face.
James shoved back one of the dogs that was getting in his bucket. “He’s my daddy. I ought to remember him. Clean left, didn’t he?”
“Can you blame him?” Lijah asked, dropping another handful of peas into his bucket, wishing he hadn’t said it as soon as he did.
James stopped where he was and gave Lijah a hard look. “I sure can.”
They were quiet for a while after that. Finally Lijah said, “I could use the truck to get a job over in Bodcaw. Mama said the tire plant’s hiring.” He snatched at a pea and missed, tearing off a handful of green leaves.
“You worry about money too much. Bible says you ain’t supposed to do that, that you’re supposed to be like them birds and let God provide.” James pointed at crows beating their wings and circling each other at the edges of the field. They looked dirty.
“You ain’t read no damn Bible,” Lijah said. They didn’t say anything to each other after that.
When it was dark and they were tripping over the rows and bumping into each other, their hands pushing through the leaves blind, the pea boss whistled for them to come back with what they had. He waved a flashlight over the truck bed they’d been filling all day, dark purple pea pods curled around each other, red and veined under the light.
The pea boss measured the depth of the peas with his hands and arms, gauges he could understand. He crushed a few pods to paste between his fingers and stuck the whole mess in his mouth, chewing it, nodding and pleased.
He pulled out his wallet and started handing bills to everybody. Lijah noticed that it was less than it had been last time and put it away.
On the way back to the gas station, dogs chased the truck for miles, their eyes shining in the tail lights. When the truck came to a stop sign, they held back and panted, growling at each other, and waited for it to start moving again so they could keep chasing. A few more miles, and Lijah beat on the side of the truck for it to stop and jumped out.
“Where you going?” James asked him.
“Tim ordered a carburetor for me at the garage. He said he’d wait for me.”
The Nissan was already pulling away, dogs piling around Lijah’s legs and letting it go.
James looked back at him and asked, “You think it’s going to help anything?”
Lijah wasn’t sure what he meant. “Yeah,” he said.
It took him almost an hour to get to the garage, feet aching from standing in the pea field and from walking. Tim sat on his tailgate and held his lighter to a fresh cigarette. The flame lit his face in the dark, all black hair and dark skin around his eyes. He lifted his head when he heard Lijah’s feet on the gravel.
“You better have my money this time, boy. Been waiting since six.”
“I got it. Unless you raised the price on me again.”
Tim laughed and scratched his head, dark hair stiff and moving thickly around his probing thumb. “That ain’t an unreasonable idea. Come on in here.”
They went into the shop, and Tim motioned for Lijah to sit down on one of the benches.
He lifted his feet off the concrete and let them hang in the air, his heels still feeling the pressure of the road. The floor had whorls of motor oil on it, shining in the light and snaking off under tables, piles of tires, and tool racks. Tim came back with a white box, Holley printed across the sides, and opened it to show Lijah the silvery white metal of the part. Lijah thought how odd this would look against the rest of the engine, the film of old oil and dirt that coated it. He pulled out his wallet, bulging with small bills, and counted out the money.
“How many peas did you have to pick to get that?” Tim laughed.
Lijah shook his head.
“I’m gonna finish this cigarette, and then I’m gonna give you a ride home. Don’t argue with me about it.”
Lijah held the box in his lap, felt its corners digging into his arms he held it so tight. The shop door had been left open, and one of the dogs was standing half in the doorway, watching them. Tim threw a piece of bread from a bag on the worktable. The dog backpedaled into the dark, ran forward and snatched up the bread in its narrow mouth, and ran off again.
His mama’s blue car was in front of the trailer when Tim dropped him off, parked right next to his truck. Lijah thanked Tim and stood in the yard until he was gone. He opened the passenger door of his truck and set the carburetor inside. He spent a few minutes looking at the Chevy before he went in, the light from the telephone pole making the whole yard look white and shadowy, like their trailer was lying at the bottom of a lake. The light glinted on the metal reels and hooks of his fishing poles lying in the bed of the truck, shined on the tackle box and leaky blue ice chest beside them. He’d put these in the truck the first day he’d gotten it, so he’d have them when he went somewhere. A dog rubbed its head against his leg in the dark, and Lijah reached down and scratched it good under the neck. It looked up at him with wet eyes, its tail thumping softly against the fender.
Lijah went inside. The house was dark except for the TV flashing. Daddy sat in his chair, a juice carton on the floor beside him, face broad and eyebrows thick and gray under his hat. He blinked at Lijah when he came in and went back to watching. It was a home shopping program.
A woman in a white blouse was selling them gold.
“I got the carburetor today,” Lijah said. He sat on the couch.
“People buy this stuff,” his dad said. “How do people buy it?”
The woman stood in a bright room, splayed a hand covered in rings.
“Think I’m going to try to find another job if I can get the truck running. I’m tired of working for the pea boss, the bean boss, and the okra boss.”
“Your sisters will be working for them next summer. Mama’s tired of them asking for things we can’t give.”
Lijah went to the fridge and got his dad a beer, a Coke for himself.
“Your mama will kick your ass for taking her drinks.”
“This is the only one I’ve had today.”
His dad’s army jacket was lying on the floor. The girls must have been playing with it again.
The woman on TV had the whitest teeth, was laughing at something.
“Daddy, what’d you do in the army?”
The woman held up a long bracelet, looking sharp in the white lights.
“Fight,” he said.
Next, the woman showed a necklace, held it to her neck and let the camera zoom in.
“Cause they told me to.”
There were commercials after that. Then more gold. His daddy had fallen asleep. Lijah found a blanket on the floor and stretched out on the couch. In their room, he could hear the girls talking about something. Even whispering, their voices cut through the thin walls.
He woke up to a soccer game on TV that no one was watching. Mama yelled at the girls from the kitchen, and his daddy was standing at the window, staring at Lijah’s truck in the yard.
Lijah got up and walked to the stove, a thin square of linoleum separating the kitchen and laundry room from the living room and bedrooms. He put his arms around Mama, looking over her shoulder. She flicked a short knife, lopping potatoes into little chunks and frying them in oil.
There was a loaf of bread and some bologna on the counter.
“Hey boy,” she said, her voice reedy from smoking. “You got that truck working yet?”
“Not yet. Are you or Travis going anywhere? I need to look at the car again to see how all this goes together.”
“You got half an hour. We caught another shift.”
Lijah walked outside and found his four sisters petting a yellow dog, her stomach swollen and teats swaying as she beat her tail against the porch. The girls had a package of Christmas bows and were sticking them to her sides. The dog had her eyes closed and face tilted up at the sun, enjoying all this.
Travis was watching them. “Y’all are going to get sick from that thing.”
“Her name’s Mama Dog,” Donna said, still wearing her purple, one-piece pajamas.
A tick dragged its gray abdomen on slow needle legs across the dog’s neck. Lijah ripped it off and threw it into the yard. He brushed his hands on his jeans, wiping away the feel of it.
Lijah got the keys from Travis and pulled the car nose to nose with his truck, popped the hood, and hooked up the jumper cables. His battery was old and secondhand, like everything else. He had no idea if it would work. Lijah let the battery charge and looked back and forth between the car’s engine and the truck’s, checking to see if things matched. He thought he knew how it was supposed to go.
Travis and Mama came out just as Lijah was taking the parts out of the box and digging around under the truck for his wrenches. It was hot already, and the dogs barely moved when his hand bumped them. Mama unhooked the jumper cables from the battery and they said bye, leaving Lijah working on his truck in the yard.
It went on like this for weeks. Mama and Travis went to work every day in the blue car. When they got home, Lijah’s daddy came outside. He would walk around the truck while Lijah worked on it, running a hand over the body and staring. Then he drove the Civic to the bar, not getting in until late in the morning. While Lijah scraped his knuckles blue under the hood of his truck, his sisters floated back and forth to the lake, dragging lily pads into the yard and winding them like garlands around the legs of the trailer.
The dogs and Lijah learned together. As he bent over his truck and found leaky hoses and bad sections of wiring, the dogs spread out through the trailers around the bottoms, learning how to jump up and unlatch chicken pens, how to crawl through open windows, how to run from the shine of sunlight on gunmetal.
Late in the summer when the leaves were starting to turn, Lijah had been under the hood of his truck all day, making sure the plugs were connected right, the hoses were on, that it had water and oil. The sun moved across the yard and piles of dogs moved with it, keeping to the shade. While he worked, his sisters took a can of corn and their fishing poles down to the lake for a while, Mama Dog following them. They came back wet and muddy, dragging stringers of little fish through the dirt, brim and perch. The dog trotted behind them, licking the scales off the fish.
The girls went inside and got Daddy. They sat on the porch petting Mama Dog while Daddy cleaned the fish with a tiny brown pocketknife. He mounded up scales on the porch, then slit the fish bellies open and pulled out the kernels of corn that caught them, laughing at the faces the girls made and flinging the ropey guts to the dogs in the yard.
Over and over, Lijah thought he was finished, jiggled the key, and nothing. Then remembered and adjusted something else. It should run today, he knew. It should have everything.
When the sun was starting to fall out of sight behind the trees and the air was cooler, when his sisters ran in the yard between dogs who only sat and stared at Lijah, he slid into the seat of his truck, shoved the key hard into the ignition, and turned it. It whined. Nothing. He turned it again. Nothing. He pumped the gas with his foot—not too much, Tim had told him not too much—and turned it again, this time the engine exploding into life and sending birds up from the trees all over the yard. The sound echoed down to the lake and rippled the top of the water. It went all through the trees of the bottoms, sending dogs running to the house from every direction, their yellow paws pounding through the mud and leaves. His sisters jumped to their feet. His mama and brother, miles away at work, knew something had happened and looked at each other, smiling and confused. It was a hell of a sound, Lijah thought, loud and hacking and awful, the best sound he’d ever heard.
Lijah saw Daddy watching him from the porch, hands black from cleaning fish. Lijah couldn’t tell what he was thinking. The dogs kept pouring into the yard, so thick you couldn’t see the ground for them, all yellow skin and ribs and open mouths. They barked over the sound of the engine.
He put the truck into gear and let it rattle backwards into the road. The dogs moved out of the way. Lijah laughed and hit the dash with his hand. The tires turned and pulled at the white gravel, and he was going then, the front end listing side to side like a ship, his hands on the loose wheel. A flood of dogs filled his rear-view mirror, covering the road and running behind him all the way to the gas station. He counted his money and put a few dollars of gas in, all he had left.
Inside, the pea boss, the bean boss, and the okra boss were drinking coffee at their table. They looked at Lijah like they didn’t recognize him. He stared at the clerk until she came over to see what he needed. He put some bills down on the counter.
“I bought gas,” he said.
“Oh.” The clerk took the money and looked at it strangely. Lijah waited for something, he wasn’t sure what, and went back outside. The dogs had their noses up and were beating their tails back and forth, smiling at Lijah. He put his hands on the hood and felt like he could do anything.
The pea boss, the bean boss, and the okra boss came outside. They circled Lijah’s truck in their coveralls, big shadows pressing down on it and making it look smaller. They ran their hands through the bed, measuring it in picked vegetables. The pea boss smirked at Lijah and kept muttering to the others.
He pulled out of the gas station, liking the sound of his tires. He drove around the bottoms some before going home, the back of the Chevy filled with dogs, their claws scratching on the metal as they stood and fell, noses stuck into the wind. Lijah didn’t remember how they’d gotten in the truck. It was late when he got home, and the car was gone.
Lijah shut his door and locked it for the first time. Inside, his mama and brother were on the couch. He dropped his keys onto the table.
“Daddy at the bar?” Lijah asked.
Mama nodded. “Said he was gonna meet a friend about trying to make some money. Didn’t say when he’d be back.” She smiled at him. “We saw you got that truck running.”
Travis threw a cup at him, and Lijah laughed. “Yeah. It took a while, but I got it.”
“How’s it run?” Travis asked.
“You’ll get it running better,” Mama said. “I know you will.”
“If you two are going to be out here, give me that blanket so I can go lie down in the hallway.”
Travis balled up the blanket and handed it to him, along with a pillow from the couch.
Lijah spread out in the hall outside his sisters’ door, hearing them talking in the dark.
They had compromised, agreeing that Lijah would take all of them to McDonald’s. He knew they’d be up, running over him to get outside, in just a few hours. He thought he should take them somewhere tomorrow. Maybe just for a ride around the lake, but something nice for them.
He didn’t know how much longer he would be here. He could go to Bodcaw after that, maybe stop at the drive-through and ask if anyone knew the girl with the fishhook earring. Or see if the tire plant still needed help. He could go early and they might let him get a shift in that day. Or he might take the highway out of town, the same road Uncle Jeff had taken, hit the interstate and go and go and go. He rolled into his pillow, yellow shapes of dogs running back and forth behind his eyes, and started to drift off. He could do anything.
The next morning when Lijah woke up, the house was quiet. His daddy was back in his chair, a beer in his hand, TV on. On the kitchen table, there were brown grocery sacks. Lijah saw beer, cigarettes, Little Debbie cakes, and sacks of fruit. Where had it all come from? The girls were gone somewhere. Travis and Mama were sitting on the porch, smoking and not saying anything. Lijah walked outside. His truck was gone.
“Somebody borrow my truck?” he asked. He walked into the yard, not waiting for an answer. Dogs sat alert under the trees, watching him with their ears down. In the yard where his truck had been, his tool set, fishing poles, and tackle box had been dumped onto the ground. The tackle box had come open, the old lures and corks looking dull in the sunlight. He walked back to the porch.
“Where’s my truck?”
Mama took a long pull on her cigarette and shook her head. “Ask your daddy.” She and Travis got up and walked across the yard, following the road down to the lake. Travis looked back once and shook his head. Something had happened. This was them saying they were sorry.
Lijah went back inside, closing the screen door slowly behind him. His daddy took a drink, eyes focused on the TV. Wrestling was on, the volume off. Two men threw each other around the ring, the floor rocking under their boots.
“Where’s my truck?” Lijah asked him.
Outside, the dogs were clambering up onto the porch, pressing their noses against the screen and watching them.
His daddy didn’t take his eyes off the TV. “Sold it to a friend. Got good money for it.” He looked at Lijah and smiled. “In the fridge, we got some beer. Go get yourself one. You did good.”
On TV, one of the men hit the other with a chair over and over across the back.
“Get one,” his daddy said again. “You did real good.”
Lijah walked to the fridge and opened it, more full than he’d ever seen it. He pulled out a beer and went back into the living room. The can burned his palm it was so cold.
“Why’d you do that?” he asked.
His daddy was quiet, but Lijah waited, letting the pressure of the question keep building in the room. On TV, the wrestler was still down, the referee and announcer crowding around him, the other holding his chair up to the crowd and screaming into a microphone.
Not looking away from the screen, his daddy began to speak. “Let me tell you how to be a father,” he said. Outside, the dogs pawed at the screen door. “You have things you wanted to do, and you set them aside to hang tin and roof houses. You pick peas, beans, and okra all summer. You cross oceans and do what you’re told.” The dogs got the door open and sulked inside out of the sun. They came one after another, filing in and lying on the carpet, their noses turned toward Lijah’s daddy, listening. They pressed against Lijah’s legs. “You break your back every morning in fields. There is the sound of crickets, water dripping in the kitchen sink, wind blowing under a trailer, and you hate these sounds, but they never stop.” The dogs’ heads were resting in Lijah’s lap now. They covered him to his waist, weighed down the couch beside him, filled the living room and spread out through the house. Daddy kept talking, and Lijah closed his eyes. “You pick up cans, dig out copper, iron, and aluminum at the dump. You wear-out boots and there are always more. You feed your kids once. You always have to feed them again.”
Daddy looked away from the screen and coughed. “Pop that open and have a drink. You did good,” his daddy said.
Lijah opened the beer and took a swallow, eyes closed, hands shaking, truck gone and not ever coming back. He felt breathing on his neck and arms. He opened his eyes and looked toward his daddy—to scream at him, to tell him to count the peas he’d picked, to tell him to feel his knuckles still busted from the truck—but all he could see, panting and crying, their eyes wet and jaws trembling, were dogs.