boldtype
short story    
 
photo of Ron Carlson At Copper View

On a warm blond October afternoon years ago, Daniel Hamblin jogged around the cinder track of his high school. His football practice uniform was stained with dirt and grass and soaked with sweat, and the heavy costume felt nothing but good on his young body as he worked through his third of four after-practice laps. He was a boy with words for things and in the rhythm of his run, he thought, I'm seventeen and I'm in love. Many things will happen this year to me for the first time. When he spoke this way, his buddy Qualls would say, "Right, boss." Around the oval track his teammates were strung at intervals, their cleats crunching the fine red cinders as they ran. All the forty red helmets were scattered in the end zone where these young men had tossed them, as was their custom before last laps. Daniel Hamblin loved this, the long shadows of the gymnasium falling across the track, the strength he felt in his lungs and legs, his sense of everything happening as he commented on it. "You old building," he said aloud.

It was always four laps, no stopping, and Daniel Hamblin ran four laps, always finishing among the first few players, picking up his helmet and going into the gym. There was a group of boys on the team who were always last, who shuffled so slowly around the track that they were inevitably lapped and lost to the sequence of things, purposefully really, and they picked up their helmets after three laps, joining the file into the gym. One of these boys was the center of the football team, a wry and popular guy named Deke Overby, who was also co-captain. He was a roughneck with a good head of red hair and a face of freckles which looked manly on him, and he was admired, as certain athletes are in the fall of the year, for strength and confidence and his wide open sense of humor. As the boys stripped off their soaked uniforms and hung their pads on the drying hangers and peeled off their jockstraps, Deke Overby kind of ran the room, calling questions to the various players about what they had done just now during practice or what was the deal with some girl they were seeing, and these were good things, not unwholesome, and it made the guys smile as they stood soaping in the steamy shower, and each boy was hoping Deke would pick him out and say, "If you tackle that hard in practice, two things are going to happen: you're going to hurt old Qualls here, and we're going to kick butt on Saturday at Highland," or some such.

Daniel Hamblin loved the locker room. He liked having his gear stowed and he favored pulling on his oxford cloth school shirts and standing there on his discarded towel in his boxer shorts, his thick black hair in wet disarray, buttoning the shirt. It would be dark by the time they departed the gymnasium, and he loved riding home with his long-time neighbor Qualls who also played defensive end and who was quiet and tough. They rode home with the windows down even as the nights had cooled, watching the lighted storefronts of their town pass by, not talking.

Daniel felt a new waking, a special distance from his life that made him feel part of a story, a character. It all felt like an amazing backdrop. "We're teenage boys involved in American high school football, driving home from practice." Qualls would shake his head and say, "Right, boss."

Tonight as Daniel Hamblin pushed open the heavy gym doors and felt the October air come at his neck, he heard his name. It was Deke Overby, one sleeve in his letter jacket, hustling up the locker room steps. "Dan," Overby said. "Listen, do you think you could do me a favor?" Daniel waved at Qualls across the street opening the doors of his Pontiac; he'd be right there. He was a little stunned that Deke Overby even knew his name and now they were talking. "My girlfriend goes to Copper View. Do you know Holly?"

"I don't think so," Daniel said. Everyone knew Deke had a very steady girl who went somewhere else to school. Copper View was out beneath the copper mine, clear across the valley.

"Holly's girlfriend Jackie is queen of their homecoming this Saturday and she doesn't have a date." Deke had squared his jacket and now zipped the front and thrust his hands into the pockets. "You're a nice guy. We gotta do the right thing. Think we could double? As a favor? I'll drive."

Daniel smiled; he wasn't sure what was being asked. "Sure," Daniel said "Sounds good."

"Great," Overby said. "It is. She's the queen of the damn thing." He tapped Daniel's head. "So be sure to comb your hair. We'll be the only two Cougars there."

 

Daniel Hamblin's friend Laura Sumner understood the arrangement. "It's a favor," she told him. "You're good to do it." They were sitting on the side steps of the old main building in the weak fall sun, having their lunch. Laura's mother made tomato sandwiches on homemade wheat bread and she traded these for his own bologna and mustard whitebread creations. When she unwrapped them, she had to peel them apart and re-align the bread. "A homecoming queen cannot go unattended."

"I guess," Daniel said. They had been meeting for lunch for three weeks, exchanging notes for two, and they had kissed on these old stone steps one week ago and every day since.

And. There had been a tussle. Three days before at Laura's house in front of the television, half on the rug and half on the couch, they'd had a moment. They had been to the school play which had been "Gidget," a bright thing to behold full of their classmates with thick makeup tans. Laura was reviewing the play for the school paper and she'd asked Daniel along. After a bottle of 7Up and twenty minutes of The Late Show, their embrace closed out the world, and they slid down, gracefully and awkwardly, until at one juncture when they had to shift, Laura said, "We're acting a lot like we're about to have sex." This took a moment to register in Daniel and when it did he was hurt, starting to apologize. She put her hand on his mouth. "Stop," she whispered. "We are." Her eyes were bright. "I hope." She kissed him. "But not here. My parents are right down there." She pointed to the hall. "Getting caught would spoil it for me." Her smile against his face caused him to smile, and they sat like that for a long moment, not exactly laughing, but close to it, happy to have this dear understanding between them.

Now on the old school steps, Daniel asked, "Is it going to make me something? Besides her date, I mean."

"Like King?" Laura Sumner said. "You can't step in at the last minute as a blind date and be King. There'll be a King, but he'll have been elected too, and with his own date."

Daniel fished in his lunch sack for the baggie of crushed potato chips, offering it to Laura. "They elect the King. It should be President or Chairman."

"Czar," she said.

They sat on the old side steps because they could be alone and look across the street at the little Favorite Pharmacy, a throwback edifice, its windows plastered with specials and discounts years old. Most days they talked about the people coming and going, what they were after and why, and when a person came out with the little white Favorite bag, Laura or Daniel would comment about how much better everything was going to be for that person very soon. "He's warts from neck to toe," Daniel said about a man all in khaki. "He's all bumps, can't sleep. Contracted wicked case of wartarama in the jungles of Arkansas."

"He's talking to the pharmacist right now," Laura picked it up. "Saying he's got a friend that is worried he might have a touch of wartsomething, like, a, wartarama!"

"Don't give me that," Daniel said in the voice of the pharmacist. "You don't have a friend now and you never will until you get rid of those warts. I can see them poking out of your clothing."

"You need this!" Laura mocked a commercial and held up her little lunch sack. "Wart-all-Gone!" One treatment and you'll be smooth as a baby's bottom."

"And then maybe I could get some sleep," Daniel said.

"Oh, you'll need something else for sleep."

When the man came out a moment later, they laughed because he was carrying a huge cardboard box of something they could not read. "That man is taking the big cure!" Laura said. "He feels better already!" Laughing, their heads fell together in a way that Daniel Hamblin loved, and their faces were close when they turned and looked at each other, and with their eyes open, they kissed. Then they closed their eyes and they kissed again. They stayed close and he could smell the dry clean scent off her face. He loved that it was so clear that they were both willing to kiss again. Finally, Laura sat up and took a few of the crumbly potato chips.

"At the dance, what should I call her?" he said. "Your majesty?"

"What's her name?" Laura said. "This girl, your queen?"

"Overby said her name is Jackie."

Laura Sumner, who usually was very funny about Daniel's hurriedly made sandwiches, stopped eating then and began to put her lunch away. Daniel watched her and said simply, "I'll call her Jackie."

 

It was a strange week for Daniel, the first strange week in his life really, because he realized that the feelings that pulled him this way and that were his feelings now, his responsibility, and this thought, which he had on Monday as he sat on the old steps on the side of the high school and Laura Sumner did not show up, made him feel terrified and powerful. Deke Overby buddied up to him at practice, pulling him into the first circle of guys there, hauling at his shoulder pads and talking to him like old friends, good friends, and this made him feel elevated and unreal; he liked it. He'd come into the coach's view somehow and his name was called more frequently. Laura Sumner did not show up Tuesday either, and he ate his stupid sandwiches and crushed chips alone watching the people file in and out of Favorite Pharmacy. He pointed at each as they emerged and said quietly, "You're cured. You're cured." He missed Laura, a feeling primarily in his stomach, a hurt. She was in his Biology II class right before lunch and the fact that he saw her there, knew where she was every minute, and then that she didn't join him on the steps, made a new place for him in the cool north shadow of the big building of which he was sorry and proud. It was a lonely place now.

He rode home from practice every night with Qualls and they stopped at the Blue Bird and ate the 49 cent cheeseburgers, three or four of them with the vanilla shake, fries, and icy cokes, sitting on the old wooden picnic tables under the Blue Bird's buzzing fluorescent lights. Qualls had a system: he unwrapped his burgers, unfolding the yellow paper and peeling the top bun off to remove the four pickle slices and stacking them on the paper. He didn't like the pickles. The boys ate and watched Qualls' pickles stack up. Daniel's hair dried. When they talked, they talked with their mouths full, and if Qualls was through removing the pickles from his sandwich, he gestured with it when he spoke.

"So, you going with your buddy Overby this weekend?"

"I'm escorting the queen of Copper View's Homecoming."

"That's where his wife goes."

"That's what he said," Daniel replied. "Why does everybody say that?"

"That's what he calls her. They're way into it. He stays out there some weekends. There's a ring. He hasn't told you this stuff? I thought you know the color of her underpants by now; you guys are such good buddies."

"Come on, Jeff. I'm just doing him a favor."

Qualls balled the yellow burger paper tightly in his fist. "Well," he said, standing up now and stepping out of the picnic table, "It hasn't hurt you in practice."

"Jeff..."

"Hey," Qualls plucked his paper shake cup from the table and drew on the straw, "If you start against Fairmont Friday night, you and Overby will be way even."

On Saturday, Deke Overby picked Daniel up at six and they drove across the valley toward Copper View. Deke was driving his father's Oldsmobile, a huge car featured with plenty of Chrome; he'd washed it up and the heavy car shined in the new evening. Deke smelled of aftershave. His hair was combed over severely and his sportcoat was folded over the front seatback. The radio was playing on KNAK, the cool station. Daniel liked this and he could feel the world pulling at him.

It was a pleasure, the world calling him, and he listened to it. He had started in the game yesterday against Fairmont, and Qualls had played second platoon end. He'd done well, stepping in the expanded role with a toughness that surprised him at first. Every time the Fairmont line would roll his way, he'd fend them off one by one delaying the sweep long enough for the linebackers to come up and crush the play. It was more contact than he'd ever had in an afternoon, and late in the day at the end of the third quarter when the shadow of the Fairmont Science Building fell across the south end of the Fairmont football field, which was lush and torn up, Daniel felt a happiness fill his body, his shoulders and his hips, his wrists and his knees, that was beyond thinking, beyond his words for it. He could not have identified or expressed it, but it came off him in waves. At first he had wondered if Laura Sumner had made the drive, was at the game, and then thoughts of her -- and everything else -- dropped away and he was taken by the work before him. He had been waiting to find out what running and diving and rolling and getting back up were all about and now he just committed them all again and again. When the game ended there was still more in him; he could have played and played. Everyone knew he had made a mark and would start the rest of the season.

This had all happened in a week, this step, whatever it was that had him now in his new gray tweed sportcoat with Deke Overby headed out of town. Laura Sumner had come by their stone steps finally on Friday at the end of lunch. He'd sat there every day savoring something bittersweet he had no name for, something real though, a little loss. She stood above him in a blue and gray kilt, the gold pin in it maddeningly beyond his comprehension. There was a matching gold pin on the heart of her gray sweater.

"Hello," he said. When she didn't answer, he said, "I already ate all the chips. Sit down?"

Laura sat down and hugged her knees. They watched the front of Favorite Pharmacy until two women came out closing their purses and talking. The two women got in a white Ford pickup and drove away. Daniel looked into Laura's face, her eyes, and the hot glance held until her eyes teared. They heard the bell ring deep in the building, but neither Daniel nor Laura moved. After a while the second bell rang. "Now we're late," Daniel said.

"You're late," she told him. "I'm going to give it all a rest." She stood and walked down the stairs toward the parking lot in the rear.

"I'm doing it as a favor to Overby," Daniel said to her.

"You know that and I know that."

She stopped below him and once again folded her arms. "Well," she said up to him before leaving him there. "That's everybody."

He knew from the feeling that then rose in him, the space that opened, that he was in love with Laura Sumner, and it wasn't all a good feeling, some of it made him feel older than he ever wanted to be. For the first time in his life, he put his forehead in his hand and closed his eyes and sat still.

 

Copper View was a rough little town of small houses on dirt lanes. Everything needed painting and nothing would be painted, because the copper mine was slowly and inevitably moving down the mountain. The IGA grocery was boarded up and the little string of shops on Main Street looked sad. In the early evening, the place had the look of an ancient village, the green weeds growing to the street, the hedges unruly, and the huge poplars and cottonwoods just beginning to change. Deke Overby pulled the big Olds onto the gravel margin in front of a tiny house overgrown with roses and sego lilies. Holly appeared and at first Daniel thought she was somebody's little sister, a short blond girl in a strapless blue satin dress. Then she pulled Deke into a serious kiss, practiced and resolute, there on the walkway, the two of them folding together urgently. Daniel, three steps away, didn't dare approach. Finally, Deke put Holly down, and she looked at Daniel and said, "Oh, Jackie can't wait to meet you. This is going to be such fun. You are such an angel. Come on in!"

The house was in fact very small and dark. In the little living room a woman watched television and did not move as they passed through. In the small kitchen a young woman stood, arms folded, against the counter in a shiny red dress. Daniel looked at her in surprise. He hadn't prepared in any way for meeting this person, and stumbling through the narrow space had dislocated him enough that he quickly double checked to see if anyone else, his real date, was in the room. "Jackie!" Holly said. "This is Daniel." His custom was to nod as he shook hands, and he did this taking Jackie's lotioned hand in his and nodding. From that touch, he was unmoored. This person was something else. All girls were older than you were; he was used to that. But having never seen her in street clothes, coming across her in this ridiculous kitchen with its little windows run with vines, and beside her dark curly hair, a gold clock in a red rooster, and her red dress held to her somehow by the blue shadow between her breasts, a shadow he would not look at though he knew by the hard glow coming off the top of each side of it where it was at all times, Daniel had no chance to regroup, to consider Jackie a friend or even a person his own age going to a school dance.

The rest of the night was like that: a vertiginous drift. They got in the Oldsmobile and went up the hill to the old high school, a building in the Georgian Style, built a hundred years before. Jackie took Daniel's hand on the way up the steps to the gymnasium, seized it tightly, oddly, and she would not let it go. The ceiling of the small gym was a undulating landscape of streamers, hanging like thick moss, and a five person combo played slow jazz from one corner. Lights blinked in the waving dark, and Daniel couldn't figure out the motif. It was as if they were underwater.

Deke and Holly moved off immediately and locked into their embrace, which because she was so short against him looked only sexual, which Daniel could see it was. In the first hour a dozen couples came by and hugged Jackie, and the girls chatted happily with her, issuing little squeals about her dress, while the boys stood back in their sport coats and looked at Daniel. None of them spoke to him, although he greeted them all. He remembered Deke's words about being Cougars at the Miner's Homecoming. Jackie held his hand the entire time.

The coronation ceremony, too, unsettled him. The music stopped and someone, a man who might have been a counselor or a history professor, spoke into a microphone from a small platform at one end of the gym. He said some names. Then the music started again, a kind of ceremonial pomp, and a spotlight that only blinded the room shot from behind the man, creating a kind of hot corridor, and into this corridor first one couple walked toward the light and then another couple. These were the runner-ups. Their shadows crashed through the room crazily. Daniel heard Jackie's name and then his name as "escort," and suddenly they were out on the floor, now arm in arm, walking toward the light. He could see the little white faces outside the spotlight watching him, and even in the glare and through the music, he could hear them asking who he was, who is that with Jackie, who is that guy. He helped crown Jackie and someone handed her a rose that she waved. Then the King came up with his date, another girl with bare shoulders, and he was crowned and waved his fist to all the applause.

The King and Queen danced the next dance. Daniel stepped off the back of the short platform in the dark and for the first time tonight he was alone, and he thought of Laura Sumner, what she would make of any of this. He wanted to tell her about it, so she could see his role. It seemed stupid and wrong to have lost any part of his friendship with her over all this. He was doing Deke Overby a favor and it was everything but over now. He'd walked in the searchlight under the scary streamers.

Now he felt a tap at his shoulder and there were two guys there, big guys, one in a maroon blazer and one in a dark Sunday suit. "Who are you?" the boy in the suit said.

"Daniel Hamblin. I'm a friend of Deke Overby's."

"Who?"

"Holly's squeeze," the maroon blazer told his friend.

"What are you doing with Jackie?" The boy in the suit was upset about something.

"I'm her date," Daniel said. Something had made him decide not to give these two any help. "We're at the homecoming."

"You're out of place," the suit said. "You have crossed the line." He came forward into Daniel's face. "You make me sick."

The three boys were very close now behind the platform, but Daniel could tell there wouldn't be a fight. He understood that and considered offering a smart rejoinder and then passed on that too. What the hell. This was all too weird. He would save it, the blazer, the sick line, the whole story for Laura. There was something about knowing this would all be part of a story that made him happy and very confident. He had a distance and a safety they knew nothing about. They were in his story and he'd tell it on the old stone steps.

The music had been over for a while, and here came Jackie now, her tiara in her rich hair. "Hello, Blaine," she said to the boy in the suit as if she knew how they'd been talking. "Hello, Bobby." She took Daniel's hand again. "Daniel, shall we dance?"

The next hour was the deciding hour. As soon as Daniel took her in his arms, the evening changed. She filled his arms and moved very close against him. He knew how to dance, had known the seven things there are to know about dancing, but this was changing those notions. First, in the first minute, she took her right hand from his left and laid it along his neck, and after looking into his face for five and then ten seconds, she brought her head up and fitted it against the side of his face. Their modified waltz collapsed into a slow two-step which left him drifting against her legs, the muscles there, under the waving ceiling. He could also feel her hands clenched in the back of his coat, and her arms up over his shoulders and the swelling front of her as it worked against his chest with their every small motion. Lost in this, he pulled her closer too, his hands on the small of her back, but when he did, she started suddenly and pushed away. She looked alarmed and held him at arms length, still dancing. O.K., he thought, O.K., and he felt the saving distance come back.

"What are you doing here?" she whispered to him.

"Jackie," he said, "I'm only..."

Her head again rose to his shoulder and nestled there and her hands ran around his neck, tighter this time, her body, each contour now finding him, sending him. His eyes closed immediately, but then he opened them by will, scanning the crowd for watching faces as he felt Jackie's body in conspiracy with his own in the old gymnasium of Copper View High School.

His distance was gone in a moment and long gone. He was careful not to pull her or press his luck. Regardless, two or three minutes into their descent, Jackie again pushed away, her eyes wide, moving away from him entirely, and he had begun to feel the cool air against his neck where her hand had been, when she took his hand and pulled him steadily through the room and out the double doors. He didn't ask, just followed her down the stairs a flight and out the back school doors into the small faculty parking lot where the sandy yellow tailings spilled in a steep fan onto the asphalt. In two years the school would be parted out, the bricks sold to a gardening nursery in Salt Lake City, the doors to contractors, and the wooden gym floor itself to a company that used it all in two summer homes for movie stars fifty miles south above Provo Canyon. The price of copper would go up 12 cents a ton and, the mine would step down the mountain a half mile a year until every step, vine, and trellis in the village was buried.

Now, beginning to feel the grit under his dress shoes, Daniel was stopped by this young woman in her red dress. Her tiara, remarkably, was still straight. It was dark here even with the lamp above the back door of the school, and they could only see the edge of things. But he could see her face. She had a strange look on her face, which Daniel thought was probably a good sign, given the elevated state they were in. Her eyes were on his.

"Hey, Mister," she said and pushed him back onto the side of someone's Ford.

"Hey," he said.

Now she kissed him and kissed him again, taking the kisses like something both stolen and expected, her hands on the sides of his head and then behind his neck and up into his hair and then back on his face. He knew now, as he suspected in the gym, that he had given over any control of the night. Between kisses, their bodies close, she whispered, "O.K., Mister," and Hey, Mister," and "This here, Mister." When he opened his eyes he saw the insane alluvial fan behind them looking like a stopped landslide, a geologic reprieve.

It became overtly physical. Jackie hitched up her dress a bit and stood him against the car with authority, and now she was kissing him and tugging at his hair, and pressing against him, and now she ran her hands down the front of him, grabbing at him and whispering through what seems to him smiling teeth, "O.K., Mister, Mister."

The little pullings of his hair and some of her bumpings were tough and her hands where no one's hands, except his, have ever been, want to wake Daniel, but he was paralyzed. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen.

"Jackie!"

Even after her name was called again, Jackie didn't relent with Daniel. Then she was being removed from him. It was, of course, the boy in the Sunday Suit.

"God damn you," he said, and he stepped up almost to where Jackie had been seconds before. Now Daniel knew there would be a fight, and his mind was reeling sentences again, one being: Of course there was a fight. That's what that little faculty lot was used for on weekends. He loved his stupid logic, even though he was frightened.

"Hit him, Blaine!" Daniel turned to see the maroon blazer step in front of Jackie, her tiara still straight, and he turned again so that the fight could begin, so that Bobby can hit him in the side of the face, which he did. It hurt. which was awful for Daniel, but there it was again, the distance coming back, the logic; he hit me and it hurt. Life makes sense. Then Bobby lifted a knee sharply into Daniel and the logic too was gone.

They wrestled for a while and Daniel actually fought back some, though he knew his role was to lose this fight in such a way that Bobby could have his story too. Daniel was mad at moments, lost too in the anger, but never far below the surface. He hit the kid a couple of times, pushed his face, grabbed him, a tackle, and they both rolled and sat in the soft dirt slope, filling their shoes and pockets with the sour golden sand spilling down from the open-pit copper mine.

Such fights end when there's blood and when one of the members refuses to get up, and both conditions had been met within five minutes. Five minutes is a long time. Five minutes allows the person with the right emotional distance to compose and revise the entire story, make a crucial decision about the sexual parts of such a story and then adjust that decision and find and phrase the exact words for the event. After five minutes of fighting with Bobby, Daniel had been beaten. He knew he'd been beaten early, and then was certain when his face hit the asphalt and the skin on his cheekbone burned. He sat up in the sandy corner of the parking lot and shook his head. Five minutes before he'd been in an embrace with Jackie, now everyone was gone, and he listened to the grains of sand whisper down the slope and fill the cavities around his hands.

 

He stood by Deke's car on a side street down from the school to empty sand from his clothing. He shook his jacket and threw it on the hood. He removed his shoes and struck them against each other, and part by part, moving carefully in chilly fall air, he shook out all his clothes and put them back on.

The first time Laura Sumner had passed him a folded note, it was as they were leaving biology, and he thinks of that moment now as the first moment in all of this. It was a sheet of notebook paper folded up the size of a playing card. He felt it as something powerful, and he wandered heedless past his locker and his buddies, ending on the side steps of the school where he sat down and unfolded the paper with care. It was early in the school year and his life was opening. He loved being alone with that note. It was a high sharp feeling that he tried to keep. A week later they started telling stories about the customers of Favorite Pharmacy.

Now, his face hurt vaguely and he could still feel sand inside his shirt. He sat on the curb and thought of himself outside of everything. He was sitting on the curb when Deke and Holly came up.

"Where you been, Danny?" Deke Overby said.

"We looked all around for you and Jackie," Holly added. Her hair was all crooked now, mashed on the side she kept against Deke's ribcage while they danced. Daniel told them the story, an abbreviated version, to which Holly said, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense. She'd go home with Bobby."

"Is Bobby her boyfriend?" Daniel asked.

"Oh god no," Holly said. "God no."

 

There were two more episodes after the homecoming, but only one would work its way in Daniel Hamblin's story. The three of them, Daniel in the big back seat, drove the ten blocks to Holly's house, where there was a light on, and when they arrived, Holly said, "Mom's still up."

"No problem," Deke said. He made a kind of knowing nod back at Daniel, which Daniel, having never seen such a thing, did not know how to interpret. Deke nudged Holly and her head disappeared into his lap, and Daniel leaned back in his seat. When Daniel realized what he was listening to, he opened his door, saying sorry when the dome light went on and he walked slowly down the block. He walked in the center of the quiet street and he could feel and hear sand all about him. He walked until he came to an open yard where he could see a dog sleeping on an unfinished porch, and he turned and started back. Then he stopped and feeling his beating pulse in his abraded cheek, Daniel just looked up.

eke Overby would graduate high school with Daniel and opt to go on his mission for his church that fall. He'd get assigned to Tallahassee, and go out there with his missionary partner, a kid who was a year older who had graduated from Lincoln High. Deke Overby and Holly would get reported six months into it. She would have moved to Florida and set up a little apartment where he would visit her between conversions. It upset the kid from Lincoln. Such an arrangement runs counter to church policy and doctrine and Deke would get excommunicated and have to return home in shame, where he would marry Holly and have five kids.

 

When Daniel finally heard Deke honk and he walked back and climbed in the front seat of the big car, Deke winked at him and said, "Good thinking. I appreciate the privacy."

They started back with the windows down, but rolled them up when they hit the highway. It was cold. Deke was searching trying to tune in KNAK from out of town.

"What's the deal on Jackie?" Daniel asked.

"Nice girl. You're a good man to help out."

"What's her deal, Deke?" Sitting, Daniel could feel the sand he'd missed. "Is she crazy?"

Deke drove a while. The radio wavered and finally settled.

Look," he said. "I probably should have told you. Old Jackie had a man, long time boyfriend. From junior high. His name was David Dillon. Long time. And, he got killed last weekend, whatever, shot on the deerhunt. A terrible thing. You read about it?"

Daniel had heard about a boy accidentally killed in the Stansburys. It happened every deer season somewhere in Utah.

He looked at Deke Overby. There was nothing to say. He didn't want to know when they'd buried the boy, because he knew it would have been two or three days ago. He didn't want to ask anything. He had his distance now all right. He had wanted to chose it and not have it forced on him. The story of the night was all gone for him now. He had been so sure of it. He wanted like all young men to be out of the water when he told of his drowning, but that he saw now would never be the way.

o henry awards
Bold Type
     
     
    Copyright © 2001 by Ron Carlson. From At the Jim Bridger by Ron Carlson. Reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC. "At Copper View" originally appeared in Five Points, Vol. V, No. 1.