Four hours later, he came back. We could see him walking the last long mile toward us, with all of Kluane National Park rearing up behind him as we passed the binoculars back and forth and laughed. He was on foot now, and he must have mangled that bicycle up pretty badly to have just left it lying by the side of the road. It was one of those silver fiberglass jobs, the kind you can carry with one hand, and he’d had to have spent a couple thousand bucks on it, at least. But there was something about being up there in the north country at that time of night, with the mountains all glowing that ghastly orange, that made you want to run for cover. It was tough luck for him that we were the closest thing to civilization for seventy miles in either direction, and I’m sure he could’ve guessed what men like us would think of someone like him.
And he was right. We’d already marked him as someone we hated even above and beyond everyone else who’d been gliding past us all summer, over all those gawking retirees in their campers and all the longhaired kids in California-plated SUVs. And it wasn’t just because of the bike, although I still can’t get over the stupidity of that. It was beyond stupid, even—it was like asking for trouble and knowing that he was asking for it, as if he really believed that nothing bad could ever happen to him up there. But you’d be surprised how many idiots try to bike the AlCan, and we would’ve forgotten all about him as soon as he’d ducked his head and ridden through us if he hadn’t been seen talking to one of the Native girls. Walt had been forced to hire them on because of some agreement the First Nation had with the province about government contracts, and we kept running tabs on everything the flaggers did, especially on the skinny one, who would have passed for good-looking even if we’d seen her walking down the street in Vancouver, and hadn’t been stuck staring at her for months in the middle of the Yukon.
I hadn’t seen them talking myself. I’d been a quarter of a mile up from the south check when he’d passed by, but Bill had come up fifteen minutes later to tell us all about it. Of course that meant that Foxy had to come down off his paver, which in turn meant that Cyrus had to drop his shovel—by then the only equipment he was still allowed to handle—and we once again had to halt the little progress we were making. They’d been flirting, Bill said, and she’d even run the tips of her fingers along the frame of the bike, tried on his sunglasses while he waited for the southbound line of cars to go through. When it’d been his turn to move, the kid had jumped his bike over to the side in a series of little hops, let the trucks and campers behind him go so he could continue telling her his itinerary. “Well, I’m impressed,” she’d said, putting the flat of her hand to her chest. When Bill told us that, we all imagined the flutter of her heart under our own palms, the small swell of breast on either side of our thumb and pinky, and the thought of her laughing, of stealing little glances at his biker’s calves had only made the tar and steam feel that much hotter on our arms and faces. None of us had touched her there or anywhere else, and she hadn’t been impressed by anything we’d done or said all summer. “What the hell?” Foxy flipped a gloved hand into the air. “What’s so great about him?”
“Of course she likes him,” I snarled—it was the way a foreman was supposed to react when his crew was pondering the nature of the universe instead of working, at least that’s the way Walt, my supervisor, had always reacted to my pondering. “Look at him and look at us.”
“I thought she had a boyfriend,” Bill said. He sounded hurt—either he didn’t like to think she was the kind of girl who had unfaithful thoughts, or he’d just assumed that one of us would be first in line when she did. By now, Cyrus had ambled up to the conversation and positioned himself next to Foxy like always, not saying a word. From the way the Prince George boys told it, Cy was a little slow.
“Well, I don’t see him around.” Foxy looked up and down the highway, craned his neck southward to search the brown-and-white slopes of Kluane. The fat one, who was the skinny one’s cousin, had a wedding ring, but none of us had actually seen either of them with any man, and so we were beginning to think this boyfriend didn’t really exist. We’d taken to calling him “Crazy Horse,” and we’d joke that we were being watched from the trees, tell each other to be on the lookout for flying tomahawks.
“I guess.” Bill’s jaw tightened. “But that guy’s just as white as we are, Vance.”
Foxy groaned, and I shook my head. “What does she give a shit?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It just doesn’t make sense.”
I spat at my feet. We were about a month behind, and I didn’t want to be up there any longer than I had to. I’d thought the job would be good for me, like it’d be all fresh air and country living, but it’d turned out to be the exact opposite, and enough was enough. “Look at him and look at us,” I said again, walking away without looking back, allowing myself to assume that the conversation was over and that they’d all go back to work. But it was a long time before I heard Foxy’s paver start up again, and an hour later Cyrus’s shovel was still lying in the dirt, the handle sticking out two feet into the southbound lane.
The problem was that most of them knew me. I’d lived in a halfway house with Bill, and I’d worked with most of the others on jobs up around Prince George. They’d all snickered when they’d seen me walking toward the bus the morning we loaded up in Vancouver, and it hadn’t helped when one of my boots came off in the mud that was to be the parking lot of the “brand-new Crossworks Mall.” It was bad enough that Walt—who wasn’t a foreman anymore, who now owned the whole damn company—had made us meet the bus at the other, far-better job site he’d won that summer, but then he’d made me breathe in his face before he’d let me onboard. I tried to forget about that, and I tried to forget about the Crossworks Mall job, that mother-of-all-overtime job that would most likely be done by the time we stumbled back to civilization, and so I actually was able to forget all about that kid on the bicycle.
But now here he was again, and as he got closer, the rest of the crew began filtering out of the trailers, all of us sitting on the dead, white tree trunks that lay in sections in the grass. I was in a much better mood than I’d been earlier, than I’d been in all summer in fact. It was like he was a tiny Cessna, and we were waving him in. There’d been so many evenings that we’d sat there, admiring our handiwork below and fantasizing about all the things we’d like to have seen coming up or down that highway, not to mention out of the flaggers’ camper. They’d parked it up there that first night, that rusted maroon pickup they’d towed it with still turned at an angle, facing toward our trailers like it was on guard duty, and although a dismounted bicyclist hadn’t ever been mentioned, he would do. “Make him sleep in Trailer A,” one of the Prince George boys called out. Trailer A was closest to the port-o-lets, but that hadn’t stopped a couple of crew members—the incident was still under investigation—from using the trailer itself as a port-o-let.
“Make him sleep with Geege,” Foxy said, and when we all laughed, I could see the kid tense up. We felt like giants then, the mountains rolling with the sound of our throats, like old, stone gods. Geege, who was the closet thing we had to a real giant, just smiled. He never took that stuff personally.
“Chain him to a tree.”
“Chain him to a paver.”
“Chain him to Geege.” More laughter. He was now only about a hundred yards away, and I could see in the binoculars that he was hurt. Flaps of skin were hanging from both his knees, and there was a long line of blood on his cheek. “Come on, come on,” someone was coaxing, and right then I caught a flash of what he must have been feeling, hearing our laughter and knowing it was directed at him, seeing the flat, empty blades of the pavers and graters staring out over the highway. It was that feeling you get when the pretend fear you’ve been nursing starts to bleed over into your real fear and you realize that it really can happen, and in the exact way you’ve always scared yourself with, even though you don’t remember scaring yourself with anything. I’d felt that once, the first time I realized I was going to a real prison, and at that moment I didn’t want to do anything but clap him on the back and get him a beer and poke good-natured fun at him all night long.
And maybe it could have happened that way, if he’d finally come to a stop in front of me, or Bill. But by then Foxy had already drifted that little bit out in front of us, waving his arms and shouting, “Up here! Up here!” like we were stranded and the kid was coming to our rescue. Then Cyrus began to join in, that toothless mouth of his flapping open as he hopped up and down and waved his whip-thin arms, keeping one eye on Foxy the whole time.
I’d known from the beginning that Foxy would be a problem, not because he was as tough as he looked, but because he wanted to be. The parts of his body that weren’t covered in hair were slathered with all the obvious biker tats—swastikas, screaming black eagles, flaming skulls and all the rest. On the bus ride up, he’d been talking real loud about all the drugs he’d brought, trying to get a reaction from me, as if we all hadn’t packed very carefully for this particular job. He’d dropped hints about being an Angel but no one had really believed it, except maybe for Cyrus. Even though Geege was more physically intimidating, I wasn’t particularly worried about him. It was Foxy who would be a pain in the ass, and it hadn’t taken long.
Despite all the promises he’d made about sticking around for a week or so, Walt had left after the first night, with no excuses or apologies either, no made-up problems at the Crossworks site, no “Gee, Vance, I’m sorry to stick you with this.” I actually liked him more for not lying. He’d just loaded up his truck and gotten inside, glared at me through the open window and told me not to fuck it up, that there weren’t too many chances left for me in the jar. “I know,” I’d said, and I also knew that Walt didn’t really care if we all got eaten by bears.
That morning had gone by like all first days do, the orders feeling strange and stiff in my mouth, the crew reacting to them in slow motion. By midafternoon, they hadn’t even lifted their heads to acknowledge me when I told them to pile these rocks over there, or smooth out this section here. Finally Foxy had driven up next to me on the paver. “Why don’t you shut the fuck up,” he said, loud enough so everyone could hear it. “I didn’t come all the way up here to get bitched at all summer.” Geege and Cyrus were standing behind his back wheels, his little foot soldiers, so I just let him go on. He’d come up here to ride this paver, get high, and hang out, he said, and I could hear the rest of the crew silently cheering him on between the curses, like he was some kind of street orator and I was some Roman tyrant. I remembered how Walt had handled me fifteen years before, when I’d been just another kid taking a year off from college and acting the same way. He’d just shrugged and walked to the passenger side of his truck, grabbed the .45 that he still keeps in his glove box. During our walk to the front gate, Walt had carefully explained how I was no longer employed at that job site and was therefore trespassing on private property. But Foxy and I were technically on public land, and I didn’t have a gun.
Later that night, I’d found myself staggering across the hillside toward the flaggers’ trailer. For some reason, I’d been nominated to make the first friendly gesture—someone had to, after all. The fat one was already standing outside the door, and maybe it was just the condition I was in, but the blade of the knife she was holding looked at least ten inches long. The pretty one stood behind her in the doorway. Someone from the crew yelled something, and even though I couldn’t piece together what the words meant, I could tell they were obscene by the familiar shape they made in the air. “Don’t listen,” I said, though neither of them were acting like they’d heard.
“To who?” the fat one asked. “Them or you?”
“Them,” I said. “I’m fine.”
“You’re fine?” The pretty one laughed, and I could see that she wasn’t so different from any of the other girls who’d laughed at me when I was drunk and they were not. It was all the same, even up there, where things between men and women were supposed to be simple.
“I don’t think I’ll listen to any of you,” the fat one said.
“Hey.” I sounded like I’d been accused of something, which I had, so I said it again, “hey,” but softer this time. All I’d wanted was to tell them that I was there to extend an invitation, that I understood completely if they didn’t want to accept it, and to not think of me as their boss. Walt was their boss, and he was a long way away, rumbling southward with his five-CD changer and GPS unit. “It’s going to be a long summer,” I said, and it sounded like more of a threat than the general observation I’d meant it to be. The fat one scowled, and the pretty one reached up to scratch her shoulder. “What I mean is that it’d be more fun if we all hung out.”
“Yeah? Fun for who?”
For some reason, my mother came into my head. She was shaking her head. You’re going to have a hell of a time in this world, Vance, she’d said. When had she first told me that? When had she not told me that? “For everyone,” I said.
“I’m married,” the fat one said. She cast a thumb over her shoulder. “She’s got a boyfriend.”
“Listen.” I bent forward, and the fat one put up her hand. I could tell she was about to tell me not to come any closer, so I took a step back, and all I could think to say was “We’ve got a ton of dope over there,” and then they looked at me just the way my mother had when I’d told her I’d quit school and was going to work with my hands for a living, except they didn’t seem to feel sorry for me, not even in that least little bit that I liked to think she had. I turned around and fell my way back across the field toward the trailers, my crew hooting and hollering whenever I went down. Their heads looked blurry and faceless, a lot like the way I’d imagined God looking when I was a kid, when I’d never imagined that I’d grow up to be this person—no one that you could really call a man, just a person who was falling to his knees in ankle-high grass and taking a long time to stand back up again. Neither of the girls mentioned our conversation the next morning. It was as if something had been settled, with no need to revisit it. Things were tough enough as it was—it rained the entire first half of June, and between that and the mosquitoes, a third of the crew left in the first month, hitching rides south or stealing the company cell phone from my vest pocket when I was asleep and frantically punching the buttons that spelled out their brother’s or wife’s phone number, begging for somebody to come get them.
The kid was in the grass now, and even as he was opening his mouth, we knew what he’d sound like, that the laid-back delivery he’d been working on for years would be cracking and flaking in his mouth. “Any of you guys got a cell phone?” he asked. It was probably the worst thing he could have said.
“Is it a local call?” Foxy asked, and this was every bit as cruel as it sounds, as if he were just returning the joke with another joke, as if everything was going to be all right after all. “Sorry kid, nope,” he said. He didn’t look at me, even though he must have been pretty sure it was in my chest pocket. “What happened to your ride?”
“No shit?” Foxy said, and even I laughed. “Fucked yourself up pretty good though, huh?” he asked. “Feel good?”
“Not really, no.”
Foxy squatted down, inspected the kid’s knees from up close, and everyone in the circle seemed to be leaning forward, on the verge of taking a step closer. The kid was standing straight and stiff, like he was in a doctor’s office and Foxy was about to ask him to cough. But Foxy just stood up and clapped him on the shoulder. “You’ll be able to get a ride to Whitehorse tomorrow,” he said, waving his hand toward the highway. “You’ll be all set.” The way he said it let everyone know that nothing about tomorrow was set. We might work and we might not. That kid might get a ride to Whitehorse and he might not, and if he did he probably wouldn’t be the same kid who decided months ago that he wanted to bike the AlCan. “You need a place to sleep?”
“I’ve got a tent.” The kid reached around and put a hand on his backpack. It seemed way too small to be holding anything he could sleep in.
“You can stay in one of the trailers.” The way Foxy put it, it wasn’t really an offer.
“Trailer A is nice,” someone said, and we all snickered.
“That’s okay. I’d just as soon camp.” There was desperation in his voice now, and I knew that his insides were shaking, that the weight in his stomach was dropping on and on and on, through all that open sky and into the deep, deep ground.
It was the provincial highway inspector who’d given us the first indication of how scary we were starting to look. He’d creep through the work area in his truck, keeping the windows sealed and taking notes while he was still moving. Sometimes he’d roll one down to jaw at me about our lack of progress, but even then he’d keep the engine running and the truck in gear, driving both the clutch and the brake through the floorboards. We didn’t know what he thought we were going to do, but it made us feel good anyway. Geege made him especially nervous, and Foxy would always cajole the big man to stare right at the guy until he was afraid to even look over his shoulder. The last time he’d shown up, Foxy had tossed a fist-sized rock into the back of his truck as he’d been pulling out into the highway, causing him to almost swerve into a coming RV. By that time, we were so far behind it didn’t matter.
There’d been a brief period, though, after we’d pared the fat off and the weather had changed, that we’d been really humming, in spite of the fact that there really was no boss anymore. I’d even allowed myself the fantasy of getting back to Vancouver before the fall, in time to get in on the Crossworks job, real work with a real crew, cigarette breaks in the cool September air. But of course Walt had stuck us with the junior varsity equipment, and two of the pavers had broken down, one throwing an axle and the other simply conking out in a way that mystified even Bill. That left us with only one working machine, which meant that we’d be stopped in our tracks for hours, all of us just sitting up on the hillside and watching Foxy take his sweet time driving around, groaning when he made obvious mistakes. Cyrus would wander behind him with a shovel, throw a heap of rock and dirt over the roadside every once in a while, but most of the crew would wander off to the trailers and sleep, if they could. My attempts to get replacement machines out of Walt had fallen on deaf ears, and so there’d been nothing to do but sit on a rock and wait. “This must have been what it was like in Vietnam,” I said to Bill one afternoon.
“No morale,” he’d agreed.
“No clear chain of command.”
“No unit cohesion.” We’d both laughed at that one. Bill could be worth having around sometimes, that was for sure.
“No, that was Woodstock.”
“Three months of peace, love, and paving.” We’d laughed, but once it became clear that we were in it for the long haul, we’d started looking a little longer and a little harder at the flaggers again. After all, none of us really believed that the whole summer would go by without something happening.
The kid’s tent turned out to be a tarp that he tied to some trees, and he took great care in setting it up, wedging his foot against one of the trunks and lashing it tight. “Look at him go,” Bill said. “Have you ever seen anything so stupid in your life?”
“No,” I said, and the worst part about it was the fact that he’d obviously spent a lot of money on the tent as well, and that he was proud of it. I’d personally spent many nights outside, mostly not by choice, and the thought of this kid going out and making things harder for himself, to set up some kind of experiment to see how tough he was, made me forget the guilt I’d been feeling from not jumping in when Foxy had lied about the cell phone.
“Hey, it’s Davy Crockett,” someone yelled, and we were all so focused on what he was doing that we didn’t even see the flaggers until we saw him smile and our heads turned to see that the skinny one was right up next to him, and smiling back. Then she too was squatting down, just like Foxy had, but nothing like Foxy had, and the worst part was not that she may have wanted to fuck him, but the way that her face twisted up in sympathy when she saw his poor, bloody knees. Her hand went to her mouth, and when she stood up she put her arm around his shoulder as if he needed help to hobble back to their trailer. Then all of our own scrapes and cuts and burns flamed up on our arms and legs, feeling fresh and new again, and when the fat one came over to yell at us, to call us assholes for making him sleep outside, asking if we had any human decency—or at least a first-aid kit—we just stood there, taking it all without saying anything back, wanting the night to come more than ever.
“You know what they’re doing in there,” Foxy said. An hour and a half had passed, and none of us had been able to take our eyes off the trailer. We wanted to be watching the moment it lost its shape, became nothing but a square, yellow window in the darkness.
“You think?” There was still doubt in Bill’s voice, but even he’d been watching.
“Squaw sandwich,” Foxy said, keeping his voice low. We were listening, too. Sound traveled up there, and we were hoping to catch any stray sigh or giggle we could. But somehow I knew that they wouldn’t be doing what any of us would do, and I was imagining something very different from the flying black hair and heaving brown bodies that were running through the minds of my crew. I could see all three of them sitting together, just talking about how beautiful Kluane was while the pretty one, or the fat one—it didn’t really matter, did it?— ran a wet, clean cloth over the kid’s knees, his aching feet sitting in the cool bucket they used to soothe their own toes every night after work. Whatever was going on in there, it was far better than the one pathetic threesome I’d been involved in, two East Vancouver junkies working me over in return for a little bit of what was in the doggy bag I had clenched in my fist. And that’s what was really killing me—not that the kid was rich, or good-looking, but that somewhere he’d learned how to be normal, how to sit in a room and have a conversation with someone without giving them the creeps. I remembered that one fall I’d been in school, of walking into classrooms and sitting next to girls who’d smiled back at me, of introducing myself to them at parties later on. As soon as I’d dropped out, I’d forgotten how that worked.
After a few minutes the yellow light went out and the camper disappeared. “Yeah,” someone said, or maybe it was just the sound of Foxy exhaling. We turned back toward the fire, and when we faced each other through the smoke we saw what the highway inspector had seen: wild, long-bearded men, the kind of men whose pasts you didn’t want to know, and whose futures you didn’t have to ask about. Our shadows were hunched over and ballooning up on the back wall of Trailer C, and it felt like we were about to conjure something up, an unholy blueprint of darkness and flames. I imagined Foxy pouring the last of the beer into the dirt next to the burned-out fire, leading us in smearing the mud on our faces before crawling through the grass until the top of the camper rose up into our field of vision. Then we’d all stand up, place our hands on the cool, aluminum façade and drive our legs into the ground. When the camper went over, we’d hear the dull crack of glass breaking somewhere inside, not the bright tinkling you hear on TV, but the real sound, dull and thick, and then everything would be still. Foxy would pull himself up onto the side of the camper, kick the screen door open with the heel of his boot before lowering himself inside.
Around the campfire, no one had moved for about five minutes. “So what’s up?” one of the Prince George boys asked.
“I’m game for anything,” Foxy said. But there was something about him saying this that wasn’t quite right, or maybe I’d just expected him to say something like the rugby coach I had growing up would’ve, or like Walt, who wouldn’t have had to say much of anything to have us moving across that field. Instead, Foxy just sat there, looking into the fire. For some reason, I remembered being fourteen and sitting inside my house, Buddy Gates yelling through the kitchen window that he was going to kick my ass, that I was a chicken, until finally my mother walked into the room with a book in her hand and a look of utter annoyance on her face. “Would you go and do something about this?” she’d said. “If you don’t, I will. I’m trying to read.” But then Buddy had gotten bored and left. A couple of years later, after his father had died and I was bigger than him, I’d gone over to his house and broken his cheekbone with his History of Western Canada textbook while his mother watched from the next room in her wheelchair and cried onto her food tray. There is always someone out there you should be afraid of, but the trick is to know who, and when.
A long time went by without anyone speaking. We drank the last few beers, shaking the empty boxes to make sure there were no more still hiding away inside, and the vast weight of inertia fell softly over us. Finally Cyrus couldn’t take it anymore. “We should try to do something to scare them,” he said, and I could tell by the other faces around me that I wasn’t alone in wondering just how much Cyrus had understood that night, or the whole summer, for that matter.
“What did you have in mind, Cy?” Bill asked. He said the words real slowly, like he was talking to a ten year old.
“I don’t know. Just something to freak ’em out.”
“Do you want to pretend we’re ghosts, Cyrus?” Now Bill was being cruel, and even though the Prince George boys didn’t stick up for Cy, they didn’t want to be around to hear Bill rip him to pieces either. They began drifting away one by one, and pretty soon they’d built their own fire near trailer B. We could hear them laughing, but at what we couldn’t tell.
“Fuckers,” Foxy said, and since he was still staring at the camper, I didn’t know if he was talking about the deserters or his imagined orgy. He turned to Geege, who was the last Prince Georgian left, other than Cyrus. “Will you go over there and tell those guys to shut the fuck up?”
Geege laughed, emptied his bottle before throwing it in the fire. He nodded at me and Bill and began walking off. “Have a good night boys,” was all he said, and we listened to the sound of his footsteps in the dirt until they were gone, stared into the fire and watched the flames wrap themselves around the brown glass of his bottle. It wouldn’t be long before we’d be working again. I thought of lowering myself into that camper, of standing in the overturned insides and finding somebody moaning at my feet. I wouldn’t even touch them. I’d just crouch down real close. “Do you get it?” I would ask. “Do you understand now?” I wouldn’t even be angry anymore. But I also thought of my legs dangling uselessly in the dark, flailing away, knowing that there was something long and sharp down there that I couldn’t see.
When we got up the next morning, the kid was already gone. He must have taken down his tent in the near-dark of the early morning, had started walking south before the first of the Prince George boys straggled out to his paver and turned the key, the sound of the engine choking to life, waking us up like it had every day for the past three months.
About a week later, just after lunch, an oversized silver-and-blue pickup pulled over to the side of the road at the south check, and Bill watched the skinny girl lean her whole upper half in through the passenger-side window. Whoever was inside drew her forward and upward until the toes of her boots were hanging in the air, and when she dropped back onto the dirt, she was brushing the hair back out of her face and laughing. At first Bill thought the biker was back, but when the truck pulled back into line and passed by him, there were two Native dudes sitting inside. He ran up to where I was advising Foxy on the best way to smooth out a particularly glaring rut left by the grader, and by then the truck had already pulled up onto the hillside. It was faced away from us, and so we had a good view of the two rifles—which we later identified as 30-30’s, nice ones, and brand-new—that were cradled in what was surely a hand-carved gun rack hanging off the rear window.
“Nice truck, huh?” Bill said.
I shrugged. “Expensive truck.” The fat one had shoved her flag and walkie-talkie into Cyrus’s hands and was picking her way across the ditch, breathing hard. It was touching, in a way.
“Yeah, they probably got their kids running around with no clothes on,” Foxy said. “But they got enough to buy a brand-new Dodge.”
“And rifles,” Bill added.
“Reservation fabulous,” I said, and Bill chuckled.
“What’d you say?” Foxy asked.
But I didn’t answer him. “You going to smooth that thing out or what?” I asked, and I didn’t look at him either, just held my breath as he walked away. By the time his paver started up, the driver’s door had opened, and a small-boned Indian man wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses was getting out. When both of his feet were on the ground, he kissed his wife on the lips and patted her on the hip. He looked quite a bit older than her, but it was hard to tell because of the distance. They held hands and began walking nowhere in particular, their heads lowered toward one another, talking quietly, and I was still watching them even after the passenger door had opened and Crazy Horse was stepping out to stretch his legs.
“Well, take a look at Big Boy here,” Bill said, and he was big. Not as big as Geege, but square and powerful-looking, clean-shaven with big hands. The pretty one hung her arms around his neck, spinning in a little circle around his feet, and we all looked away.
Eventually, the reunion broke up, and the girls went back to work. The truck remained parked where it was, and for the rest of the day we could feel the two men watching us as we worked, eyefucking us in the sideview mirrors, the rearview blocked as it was by the barrels of their rifles. At the end of the day, they took the guns down off the rack and all four of them took turns discharging them into the woods behind the camper. While one was shooting, the others would be sitting in lawn chairs outside the trailer, shouting and drinking, carrying on louder than we ever had. At one point, the pretty one swept her barrel around until it was pointing right at our fire. When some of us froze and some of us jumped to our feet, she laughed, they all did, and we could hear the sound of the women laughing and the men laughing all night long, almost until the morning.