INTO THE CANE GRASS EXCERPT

 

She took the girl by the shoulders. “Okay, listen up, and listen good. If you want that future of yours, the one you’re always talking about, you’ll back that car up right quick. Over there to the shoulder, so it don’t get hit too, understand?”

Nat wiped the back of her hand across her forehead and nodded, sat there.

“Well, go on then!”

She scrambled to her feet and pounded away, and Brenda turned back to the man. He was an ox, that was for sure: belly bloated out against a thin, white T-shirt, coarse hair sprouting from the crack between his sweat-yellowed shirt and mucked up jeans. One of his legs twisted out to the side like a splintered branch, made her stomach turn. She tried to make out his face, to see if she knew him, she knew most of the drunks in town, after all, but had to look away when something red and glistening slid with a plop from the ruined side of his head. You poor stupid bastard. What the hell were you doing in the middle of the road on a night like this?

A brown shard of glass glimmered up at her from the tar: A half smashed bottle of King Cobra. Three feet back, a six pack of PBR, mostly gone, the empty plastic rings ticking up and down in the rain. She turned and spat. Of all the roads in Putnam County, you had to wind up on mine.

Nat parked a few feet back and an eerie wash of red light spread over the man, turned his blood black as oil. A lake of it spreading out. So much, Brenda wondered how there was any left in his body. The car door slammed, and Nat rushed back to her side.

“What now?”

“Grab his wrist. I’ll get the other. We’ll drag him up the hill by those palms. Dump him in that ditch over there.”