|Excerpt from the Book:
I didn’t take Jack Sample’s watch. That would
be crazy. Walk around with a dead man’s watch. It wasn’t no Rolex but it did
have a chunky gold band that anyone could spot. The law would have seen it was
missing if they found him. Jack's arms was dark, from the sun, but under the
watch his skin was white. Like his legs.
Hannah, she wanted the watch, but I told her
no. If this was Sacramento, maybe, or Reno. But not up in the woods. People
would notice. “It don’t matter,” she said. “I’m dying anyway.”
“No,” I told her. “You’re only
a dying a little at a time. Could be years.”
Old Jack, he was on his stomach,
on Hannah’s bed. Buck ass naked. Still looking at the window like he was when
I come through it with the bat. I put the watch back on his arm. I had trouble
with the clasp. It went this way and that way. “It’s backwards,” Hannah said.
“What’s backwards?” I asked
“The watch. The time part.
Upside down or whatever.”
I went to fix but she grabbed my
arm. “Leave it,” she said. She started laughing. She started laughing but it
was her crazy laugh and in a minute it changed over to crying.
I didn’t take Jack’s watch but I
took his money. Four hundred bucks. All arranged, small bills first. All the
presidents facing the same way like they just come out of the cash register.
Money was different than a watch. It could spread out, like dead water when you
throw in a rock.
I messed it up before I put it
in my pocket. I had plans for that money. Give some to Hannah, for little
Charlie, and use the rest to get up to Arcata. In prison a guy from Humboldt
State came down to visit some of us in the art program. Said he could fix me up
with a place to sleep. Study art up there. This guy did time himself, way
back. Told me face to face, said guys like me better not go home after they get
done. Said home becomes a prison, prison becomes a home. Something like that.
I almost forgot about Jack’s
car. Had to be bright red. Parked in front where anyone could see it if they
glanced up from the highway. I went out to look it over while Hannah took a
bath to wash Jack off her. Mostly I wanted out. Out of the house. Jack dead
in there. Hannah crying in the bathtub. I wanted to clear my head.
I lit one of Hannah’s Kools and
walked around the car. Didn’t touch it, just walked around it. All the doors
was locked. Fucker locked it up tight. If Hannah had been ready with her money
he would have been in and out in five minutes. Maybe less. Might have only
stood on the porch while she went for her purse. Might have even let the engine
run. Made me think he had it all planned out, driving up Indian Hill. Moving
that cinnamon toothpick around in his mouth. Maybe thinking about her long
hair, down to her waist, almost. Maybe thinking about more.
Hannah, she kept herself up
pretty good even after little Charlie was born. My other sisters sure let theirselves go. All those babies left something behind. Not Hannah. It was
softball done it for her. In school she was pitcher for the girl’s team. Took
them all the way to state her junior year. Me and Gran, we followed the team
all over. Down to Chico. Up to Susanville. All over.
Hannah could run, she could
bat. Did it all. She could have gotten herself a scholarship but at the end of
the season she got caught messing around with Coach. Turned out a lot of people
knew what was going on but kept their mouths shut on account of Hannah being so
good and Coach being such a nice guy. What happened was Coach’s wife drove to
Redding to surprise him at a tournament there. The motel guy let her into his
room and she found some of Hannah’s things. Hannah’s underwear and the cream
she used for her lupus. If it wasn’t for that cream, Coach could have maybe
lied, but his wife, she found the tube, found where some of it had rubbed off on
the sheet. That’s what they said, anyway. The school didn’t fire Coach but he
quit. Someone told me he was working over to Elko, not coaching no more but
working in a casino. His wife moved away, back to Iowa or somewhere like that.
Hannah dropped out.
She kept playing softball for
awhile. On the county leagues, on the all girls teams. Hannah run her team
like it was the army for a couple of years. No beer until afterwards. No
swearing. Then her lupus got worse and she didn’t want to go outside no more,
at least not on sunny days. The doctor told her it was okay as long as she wore
the cream and long sleeves, but she didn’t want to risk it. She didn’t want to
leave little Charlie alone.