bard. There was a stamp on the bottom: best for
milking—seamless and stainless. Charlie read it
several times before turning it over and >lling it with
the hose. He moved quickly, afraid he’d lose his
nerve. There are just certain obstacles, he told himself, that stand between me and the rest of my life. It
is simply a matter of getting over and past them. He
went out to the paddock, gathered the kid up in his
arms, negotiating with its awkward legs. It was heavier than he thought it would be. Staggering toward
the gate, he could feel its warm breath on his neck.
It looked up at him. Bah!
Charlie stopped. What does she know, anyway, he
thought, looking down at the little white body, the
white eyelashes over the blue eyes, the soft hooves.
The kid’s knees were grass-stained from trying to
drag itself along after the herd. He felt a plan forming. What the hell does she know better than me?
That’s when he saw what he needed to do.
In the days before he left home, he had
walked around feeling like a dam with a million gallons of water pressed up behind him. Acting like
nothing was di=erent, taking Darryl on his midnight
beer run, making plans with his friends, all the while
the money he’d withdrawn sealed in an envelope in
his dresser drawer, a secret he held under his tongue
like a pebble.
The secret now was the kid, hidden away under a
locust tree at the foot of a hill in the back corner of
the farthest pasture, where Lucy never went. Alive.
Charlie was going to heal it. Prove Lucy wrong once
and for all. She had been so grateful when he told
her that he’d done it—she had even reached out to
hug him—that for a moment he felt a loop of doubt
in his gut. But just wait until it’s up and walking,
Charlie thought that night, lying on his mattress on
the ?oor, listening to the jangling of the bells. Wait
until I lead it up to the paddock, healthy and strong
on four legs. She would have to reconsider everything she thought she knew about him.
Every day he went down to feed it, sitting in the
shade where the kid had scratched out a shallow hole
in the dust. Propping it up with one >nger under its
belly, he managed to get it to stand. “There!” he said.
The kid looked around, pleased with itself. As soon as
he pulled his hand away, it crumpled. He tried again.
The sun ratcheted up the sky, pulling away the shade
of the tree. “Just another little while yet,” Charlie told
the kid, and the kid shook its ears in agreement.
Weeks dragged on. The heat would not let up.
Rain did not come. Every day, without fail, the sky
was cruel blue and cloudless. Birds panted in the
trees. The goats stood around on their skinny legs,
heaving like accordions.
“Fuck the sun.” Lucy stood on the porch of the
house in her bathrobe with a cup of steaming co=ee.
The outside cats were scratching at the door to be let
into the shade of the house, while the inside cats
were scratching to escape the oven of the living
room. Charlie worked behind Lucy, up on a chair,
washing the windows with vinegar. She said it
slowly. Fuck. The. Sun. Then stood there, tapping
her foot. He got the feeling that she was waiting for
him to apologize for it.
She went on. “The weather never used to be like
this. It’s freakish. You know, I think it’s got to be
more than just the greenhouse e=ect. I think we
might possibly be getting closer to the sun. And I’ll
tell you what’s scary. If it’s this hot now, what’s it
going to be like in >fty years?” She sighed. Charlie
felt a darkness close in around the edges of his
vision. Fifty years—where on Earth would he be in
“Well, it’s you kids I feel sorry for. A future like
that. My God, all we had to worry about was blowing
ourselves up. Now you—you’ve got problems.” She
crossed her arms, balanced her co=ee cup in the
crook of her elbow, and contemplated the yard.
Charlie crumpled the newspaper he’d been using as
a rag, sat down on the chair, and lit a cigarette, trying
to shake o= the darkness around his eyes. Why is
everyone always dooming me? The cats leapt up onto
the busted-out rockers and shit-riddled ?ower boxes.
He watched them, resisting the urge toss his boot at
them. Spoiled, he thought. Damn cats.
Lucy turned around and eyed his cigarette. “Those
things will kill you, you know. You should quit.”
“What for?” he muttered. “Gonna die anyway.”