When Ollie found the body in the dumpster what he thought was: That’s George Hill. Somebody killed George Hill and put him in the dumpster, he said out loud. Ollie had driven the garbage truck for twelve years and he knew every dumpster in town. When the police arrived, he explained to them how a lot of people used this one. People from the shops on Main Street, kids wandering through the alley, people from the low woodsided apartment buildings across the way. He explained how he had been coming around the corner into the alley when he saw the white thing dangling out from under the lid and knew, without knowing even now how he knew, that it was a hand. Daniels asked him if he wanted to take the day off, and Ollie said no.
You were friends with George, weren’t you? Daniels asked.
Yeah, said Ollie. I knew George since first grade.
Why don’t you take the rest of the day off, said Daniels.
I’ll finish the route, said Ollie. I’m a bit behind now, a couple hours, I guess. But I shouldn’t run up any overtime because I’ve been fast every day this week so far. Won’t cost you any money.
Daniels made a sour face.
It might help him if you didn’t break his routine, said one of the cops.
Ollie looked at the cop. He was a tall kid with orange hair and a long delicate chin.
I’ll finish the route, Ollie said.
The cop looked back. He had a loose dumb mean smile. He had watery eyes. They looked at each other. Ollie climbed up into the cab and backed out of the alley, driving as he always did, not fast but not slow either, past the bumper of one of the cop cars with eight inches to spare, past the brick of the building on the other side with a foot and a half to spare, out onto the bright snowy street and back into the rhythm of the route. George Hill, he thought. Dead as clay. Someone beat the everloving shit out of him. In a dumpster like a bag of trash. George Hill who gave me his carrot sticks that whole year we were in third grade. Corduroys and the mud smell of the playground. And the sun is sharp on the snow and the wind can cut your head off if you stand up too tall. When they say that the earth spins, maybe this is what they mean. And no one notices. Look at the cars and the snowplow. Janet Henderson going shopping. None of them has noticed.
He did not cry but the raw and awful feeling rose up in him and he felt how far things could be cut back. And if they cut you back too far, what happens? But he was nearly invincible in the truck. In the liquid sound of the engine inside of the cab and the smell of the cheap old vinyl. In how the turn onto St. Clair pulls you towards the door and how there’s the shot between the telephone poles going into the alley there that feels perfect when you line it up right, like some kind of key going into a lock. How the hill behind the college pulls at you going down and the big engine lightens a bit, gets to relax. How the forks slide into the fork slots on the dumpster and how the machine settles in that moment when it begins to lift, like a weightlifter gathering his strength, and how the wheel feels compressed by all the years of your hands, and the three chips in the windshield and the crunch of the snow when you have the window open, and George Hill is dead.
Eric was doing drugs in the apartment with his friends when Ollie got back from work. Ollie joined them. He had a chair where he always sat, a red chair with black designs stitched onto it that reminded him of dragons, dragons and strange hills and some kind of overgrown flowers or vines. There was a whole world in that black on red to be explored. He sat in the chair and whatever drugs they had they shared with him, because he paid the rent and paid Eric’s tuition and Eric was the leader of their little group. And because they all thought Ollie was crazy and would beat the shit out of them. On the weekends and sometimes during the week they would sit around and eat the acid that looked like the plastic framework that had held boardgame pieces together when Ollie was a kid, before the pieces were taken out of that plastic and got lost. The guy who made the acid was a fourth grade teacher. Sometimes when he brought it by he would stand in the hallway and look into the apartment like he was lonely and Ollie would give him the money and he would hand Ollie the pieces of acid wrapped in tinfoil like always and they would stand. If you want to come in, Ollie would think, you should ask. But you never will and so you’ll just give me the drugs and I’ll give you the money and we’ll stand here in the doorway and then you’ll mumble something and go back to your drug stuff and your fourth graders and I’ll go back into my apartment.
When they were high, Eric and his friends had a game they would play where they would text each other pictures of body parts, girls’ or boys’, and try to guess what the part was and who it belonged to. A pink patch of skin holding little pores. Something pale, beginning to wrinkle, with thin downy hair. Ollie didn’t have a phone, so he sat and watched and felt what was happening inside him. Felt himself peeling away from the things his eyes saw or his hands felt. Or they would smoke some speed and go out into the town to find a party and Ollie would sit in his chair until they were gone and then take off his shoes and walk across the carpet to feel it, do slow pushups and feel the heavy stretch of the muscles that connected his chest bone to his arms, work his way like a delicate rock climber from one piece of furniture to the next without ever touching the floor. Feed the fish and watch their nervousness, watch the twitch of their muscles under their scaly skin, scrape the algae from the sides of the tank. Take the turtle from his tank and lie on the floor with that turtle on his chest, looking at that bald face. That green face.
At five his alarm went off and he rose and dressed and went into Eric’s room.
Time to get up, he said.
Jesus fucking fuck, said Eric.
You got class in three hours.
It’s Professor goddamn Marcus. English, and he didn’t give us any work.
You have two classes today and I can pick you up and put you at the table or you can get up yourself.
Fuck you, Ollie, said Eric and Ollie walked over to the bed and Eric swore again and rolled over and thumped heavily down onto the floor. He was still dressed. He crawled past Ollie’s legs into the hallway and then into the bathroom.
You got three minutes in there, said Ollie. And then it’s time to work.
Ollie drank his coffee and ate his breakfast standing, watched Eric’s head nodding up and down over his book. He put down his mug and slapped Eric on the ear.
You know, Ollie, you dumb son of a bitch, I could go live somewhere else.
Ollie slapped him again, hard this time.
Eric picked up his pen and pointed it like a knife at Ollie.
Our great grandfather, said Ollie.
No. Not this morning. There is, literally, some kind of crippled dwarf with a wrecking ball right behind my eyes. Do you know what that feels like? He is beating the shit out of my head with that ball. From the inside. Do you know what that feels like, Ollie?
Our great grandfather, lived in a sod house. He cut the sod out of the ground and stacked it up to make a house.
You dumb moron. He didn’t.
He owned cows, and during the bad times he spent his day cutting the pokers off of cactus and feeding that soft inside stuff to the cows so they wouldn’t die.
Spines. The things on cactus are called spines. And that entire story is bullshit.
He did all of that so I could drive the truck and you could go to college.
The crazy thing is that Dad made that whole goddamn story up one night, to get you off his back. He just made it up, Ollie. What about all the other things he told you? All the things about how Grandma was a gypsy and all that? About how his uncle was a bootlegger?
Truth is in the blood.
Truth is in the blood and you have it and I have it and that’s what our great grandfather did.
I don’t even know what that means, Ollie.
You can live anywhere you want, but if you want to live here you’re going to study. My head feels real bad too. Start taking your notes.
He walked through the darkness to the yard through the falling snow with his hands in his pockets. He didn’t dare let Eric see that he didn’t think that the stories were true either. He didn’t really think that much of anything was true, but he couldn’t let Eric see that. He didn’t dare. He didn’t dare let Eric not do his work. But Eric wasn’t a kid anymore. He only had two and a half years of college left and then he would probably leave.
Ollie walked steadily through the snow. He was not a tall man but he was a very dense one, as if something massive had been compressed by its own internal gravity to form him. A planet, maybe, or a redwood tree. When he was sixteen and their mother was still alive he’d been competing in a pro rodeo event over the Fourth of July and had been kicked in the head by a bronc. The scars were like the stitches on a baseball beneath the stubble of his hair. People believed that he had only been different after the accident but as far as he was concerned that was just a trick of their memory. He had always been the way he was, and he always would be. When he looked at the green face of the turtle on his chest, or at the strange protuberant eyes of the fish, or at Eric lying in his bed or at the face of the horse looking back at him as he was falling in that last instant before the bell rang that single drowning song in his head, he saw how they were all the same as him. And yet none of them was him.
At the yard he remembered George Hill. He stood for a while looking at the snow pouring down around the chain link fence and then went in through the gate. The garage had its smell and its feel but there was something different to it. Or maybe the difference was that there was no difference and there never had been. He punched his card on the old green box, 5:45, and looked up at all the other punch-in times. 5:45. 5:44. 5:45. 5:46. 5:45. 5:45. All the way to the top. Never more than one minute one way or the other. He squinted and then put the card back in its slot and took the keys off the board. He looked over at the windows of the office. Daniels was at his desk and Brian Murphy, the mayor, was sitting in the chair across from him. They were laughing about something, their faces red and wrinkled, like silent plastic laughing faces behind the glass. Murphy came by once a month in the early morning like this, pretending to be doing something other than what he was doing, which was taking a paper bag of money from Daniels.
Nickels and dimes, Daniels had said to Ollie one morning after Murphy had just left, dimes and a nickel. And every time he gets me, it sure does tickle.
And now Ollie saw George Hill’s face again. He touched the memory very carefully, built each detail strongly against the tide of forgetting. He saw him at recess with his green corduroy pants rolled up so they wouldn’t get muddy, white socks and those shoes with the velcro instead of laces. He worked on those details too, as he had worked on all the details of all the memories he had. Standing with his hands in his pockets not playing anything because he was too clumsy, the way the kickball sounded against the brick; Ollie turned and went to the truck, walked around it once to check the tires, climbed in and started the engine. He listened to it while it warmed up and he realized that he probably let it warm up for exactly the same number of minutes every morning. Yes. He didn’t own a watch and there was no clock in the cab, but he was suddenly very sure that if someone timed it they would find out that he let the truck warm up for the exact same amount of time every morning.
There is a burden to caring. It did not matter if no one else felt it because he couldn’t help feeling it. And yet it did matter. And the things he had seen people do. The memories he had worked on over and over again to keep them with him. How Jerry Sanders had driven across the line that time to hit the dog who was limping for the safety of the ditch, how Eric had made that girl show them her pussy that night, how Arden McAfee used to put cigarettes out on the back of his own hand, how Tom Baylor hit his sister into the irrigation ditch with the flat of his shovel, how Miss Muliken used to laugh at George Hill when he couldn’t spell, how Freed Schlessinger knocked that old guy’s teeth out with that bottle in The Long View, how Julia Drayton made fun of Eric until he’d get himself put in detention instead of being in class with her, how Chris and Laura Redtail’s dad used to forget to pick them up after winter basketball practice, how Ollie himself had broken Arden McAfee’s nose and dislocated his shoulder.
He though of George Hill in the dumpster and he worked on each of these memories and more, all of them he could find. If you forget things it’s like they never happened. And if you forget how they feel then you can’t care.
But there was something different now. Something different between George Hill and all the rest. A kind of anger. Because George Hill had never deserved any of it. The rest of us did shitty things to each other always, back and forth. But not George Hill. He didn’t have a mean bone in him, he laughed at the joke even when it was on him, he gave shit away to people if they needed it without ever caring if he needed it more. And now he was gone and the rest of them were left behind to chew on themselves and each other.
And it was when he was thinking about George Hill like this that he crossed the railroad tracks and the headlights found the strange marks in the new snow. A commotion in the whiteness and then some kind of shuffling dragging marks leading away from it, past the old tin shed and into the narrow alley between the shed and the long brick building that held the auto repair place and the welding place. He slowed the truck. The tracks were only a little bit filled in by the snow that was still falling. He stopped when he could see longwise down the alley, but it was too dark to make anything out. He knew what had happened, but his brain was telling him something different. George Hill, he thought, my brain’s trying to tell me that George Hill crawled into that alley. But I know he didn’t, he said out loud. His lips went dry. He knew that George Hill wasn’t in the alley. He opened the door and stood on the metal step and leaned the seat forward, took the long heavy tire iron from the metal clamps on the back wall of the cab. His shadow hung against the whiteness of the falling snow when he walked in front of the headlights. At the opening of the alley he stopped. Please, he said, don’t let it be him. He took a deep breath. He looked up at the blank sky, and the falling snow hit his lashes and made him blink. The feeling passed. The deer was fifteen feet into the alley. He could hear it breathing when he got close. It was exhausted but still tried to drag itself feebly away from him. Its back had been broken. Its back legs lay at strange angles. He could hear it breathing. Its front legs beat softly against the snow and it took great gasps of air. He grabbed one of the points of its antler with his hand and felt the ridges there, the very faint warmth that he did not know if he felt or imagined. He forced the head around and swung the tire iron and felt the impact travel up his arm each time he made contact.
He let the head gently to the ground and walked back out of the alley to the truck, pausing to pick up a handful of snow to clean off the iron. George Hill, he thought, I am still here and you are dead as dirt. He wiped his hand on the heavy canvas of his overalls. In the cab it was warm and quiet and he put his forehead against the steering wheel.
When he got home Eric was asleep. Ollie took off his boots and left them in their spot by the door. He hung his jacket and his overalls in the closet and then took a long shower. He fed the fish and the turtle. He took the turtle out of its tank and it explored the living room while he changed the water in its swimming pool. He watered the plant in the window, and spent some time cleaning the little white bugs off of it with q-tips. He sat in his red and black chair and listened to what was happening in the other apartments. In front of him the dog was awake, chewing something in the kitchen floor. He could hear the rattling sounds. Behind him someone was watching television, the court show they watched almost every afternoon, where people tried to get money from each other in front of the judge. After a while he heard the man who lived beneath them get home from work, slam the front door the way he did sometimes when he was going to pick a fight with his girlfriend. The man slammed another door in his apartment and then the fight started. It was still snowing and the darkness had come back into the world and Ollie listened to the argument until Eric woke up, You’ve never loved me, you only love my money. Tragic, fucking hilarious, because you don’t have any money. Then why don’t you leave? Leave this palace? Why would I? I’ll never leave, I love it here. When Eric woke up Ollie felt relieved, because he had been coming close to something he didn’t want to come close to. They made a frozen pizza and smoked a couple of joints and watched a show about the houses of professional basketball players and then a show about a guy who went around finding the dirtiest jobs in the world and doing them and then a show about celebrities playing practical jokes on each other. The pot dragged on him and all of these shows seemed to take place in a world that was not his, which was of darkness and snow and the bare walls of their apartment. Ollie went to bed and at five his alarm went off and he rose and dressed and went into Eric’s room.
And he knew there was more coming. He could feel it approaching, from all different directions. There was nothing he could do to stop it. Thursday afternoon towards the end of his route he saw the two Indians in the alley between Biernbaums. They had come down from a reservation in Montana a couple of years ago and could be good people to buy from and Ollie knew George Hill smoked speed with them sometimes. Ollie drove past and saw them sitting stoned and their hands were up on their knees and their hands were beat up and swollen, all four of those hands, one after another sitting up on those four knees. Those hands were like bruised little faces staring at him. One of the Indians was wearing a big silver buckle. George Hill had worn a big silver buckle, his high school championship team roping buckle. It showed two horseman swinging lassos and chasing a calf. Ollie drove and let those things sink into his mind. He backed the truck into place in the shed and walked over to the time cards and he felt the anger in him like a thick taproot. George Hill wouldn’t give up that belt buckle for anything.
Daniels was standing by the time card machine with Jerry when Ollie came up.
End of the week, huh? You must be tired.
But you can come in and drive tomorrow, can’t you, even though it’s your day off?
Ollie looked at them and they had those smiles on their faces.
Jesus christ, I’m joking. You got to stand up for yourself, guy. Don’t let no one fuck with your off-days.
Daniels waited for a minute, but it was obvious that he wasn’t done. Unless it’s me, he said.
Ollie held himself tightly and punched his card and because it was the end of his last work week of the month he took the card and put it in the steel box screwed to the wall that said IN on it. He turned to walk out of the shed.
See you tomorrow then, called Daniels and he and Jerry were both laughing now and Ollie kept walking.
When he got home there were a lot of people over. He took off his boots and went through the people to his room to change and then brought his coat and overalls back out to the closet and went into the kitchen for a drink of water. Eric was at the table with a spoon and a cereal bowl, crushing pills.
Hey there Ollie, how’s the trash business? Eric asked. His eyes were cloudy and there was nothing behind them.
Ollie went to the closet and put on the jacket that he didn’t work in and put on his boots and went back outside. He walked aimlessly at first. Then he began to make a pattern, walking all the way up one ally to the edge of the college campus and then crossing the street and walking down the next alley all the way to the highway and then crossing the street and walking the next alley all the way back to campus. He knew these buildings and these dumpsters. It was not snowing today but simply gray and he walked up and down until it was dark but the walking and the alleys didn’t make him feel comfortable and worn out like they usually did. He didn’t know what he was going to do with his day off tomorrow. Most of them he spent cleaning the apartment and shopping for the week. Sometimes he went to a movie. But right now none of that felt right, and something like fear had begun to build in him. What would he do tomorrow if things still felt this way? What would he do if none of the things he ordinarily did made him feel like they usually did? It was George Hill that was bothering him. He said it aloud. I know what it is. It’s George Hill that’s bothering me. They killed him. He didn’t deserve it. Other people, sure, but not George Hill. He stopped and looked across the highway at the hills. In the summer he liked to walk there, out of town past the fields with their cattle and up into the sagebrush. There was a trickle of water and a few cottonwoods. In the summer it was green and no one ever went back there. Just the cattle sometimes. But now the hills were all gray and the sky was gray and it seemed to Ollie that if you walked in that direction you would never reach anything. Just the grayness. What the hell, he said. What the hell. He pulled his collar up high and turned to walk home.
And at the apartment something was wrong. He knew that as soon as he opened the door. It was quiet and there was no one there but something was wrong. He went through the kitchen without taking off his boots and through the living room. He checked the bathroom and he checked Eric’s room. But the door to his own room was closed.
My mind, he said aloud, standing at the door to his room, is telling me that George Hill is in my room. But he’s not. He stood and looked at the door. There was a small sound from inside. It was a white door, and looking at it he could see very faintly the marks the paintbrush had left. He remembered the night he heard that George Hill had won the team roping high school championship. Ollie had been thrown in the bronc riding qualifiers that fall and had not made the championship. He was drinking a milkshake outside of Diary Queen when Tim Downy came over to the curb where he was sitting and told him that he’d heard that George Hill and Marvin Andersen had won the championship. Ollie had felt the pride go through him like sunlight. He had always liked George Hill, and now George Hill had won something. Ollie remembered how George Hill had always worn corduroys when he was a kid because he wasn’t from a ranch but from Georgia, and how that was funny, and how he spoke with an accent when he was a kid and how he gave Ollie his carrot sticks every day for that whole year. Standing at the door he worked his way through those memories one by one. He built them up fresh. And once, Ollie remembered, once George Hill gave him his socks because Ollie’s smelled terrible and had holes and hadn’t been washed in a long time. They threw Ollie’s in the dumpster and George Hill went home barefoot in his shoes and Ollie went home with socks that felt thick and new even though George Hill had been wearing them all day already. This was a memory he had not worked on in a long time, but here it was again. Funny how that could happen.
He looked at that white door for a long time and then he went into his room. It was dim without the light on and at first he wasn’t seeing right and then his eyes adjusted. There was a baby lying on his bed. It was asleep and had one fist clenched and raised over its head. It gave a small cry and went on sleeping. Ollie stood looking at it.
It was full dark outside. The neighbor next door was watching a show about all the different ways to trick out your car. Paint it. Raise it. Put a flat screen in the dashboard. Ollie sat in a kitchen chair next to the bed, watching the baby. On the floor next to him sat a cereal bowl with milk in it and a square he had cut from a clean teeshirt. The baby seemed to like to sleep with one arm or the other raised above its head with the hand making a fist. Sometimes it lowered one by its waist and raised the other. Sometimes it made sounds. He knew he would probably have to pick it up when it woke.
Then it opened its eyes and rolled them around without moving its head much and began to yowl. He licked his lips. Okay, he said. He got onto his knees beside the bed and made a point out of the center of the swatch of cloth and dipped it into the milk and lowered it to the baby’s mouth. The baby turned its head away and cried harder. He tried again, leaning over the bed on his elbows, but the baby did not want the milk. Then he realized that the smell he had been smelling was from the baby. The baby shit itself, he said. It looked over at the sound of his voice. You have a dirty ass, he told it. He looked at the baby and its diaper and then stood up and went to the little closet in the hall and got a towel. He got scissors from the kitchen and a roll of tape and stood above the crying baby again, trying to get an image in his head. Then he cut the towel in half and cut two round pieces out of the half.
He put the towel on the bed and picked up the baby, with one hand under its shoulders and the other under its legs and carried it gently into the bathtub. The diaper came open just like he’d seen it would, the little tabs pulling away just as he had seen, and the baby’s shit smelled truly potent but he had smelled a lot of things in a lot of dumpsters and it was a girl and it had shit all over it, and Ollie could remember once when he’d shit his pants as a kid and had taken off his underwear and thrown them in the alley and the way his mother had screamed at him when he told her he’d lost them. The memory came at him fast and out of nowhere. Another one that he had not worked on. How the fuck can you lose your underwear, Ollie? He felt his cheeks burning. I lost them because I shit my pants, he said to the baby.
He focused his eyes and then cleaned the baby’s ass, trying to be gentle, and then washed it and dried it with a towel. It wasn’t crying now but was watching him and he saw how strange his hands looked against it, brown and cracked and oversized, clumsy, like he’d never seen them before. The baby lay on the towel on the bathroom floor. It had little blue eyes and tiny fingers and toes. You poor stupid baby, he said. Then he took it into his bedroom again and laid it on top of the scrap of towel he’d cut up and tucked the towel into a diaper shape and taped it closed. The baby cried some more and he tried to feed it some milk and eventually it learned to drink the milk out of the cloth and it cried some more and he carried it out to see the turtle and the fish and it cried some more and then went to sleep. He sat in the chair with the lights off watching it, a faint shadow in the glow of the streetlight.
It was very late when Eric and the girl came in. Ollie heard the door open and heard their stumbling shuffling footsteps and their laughter. He stood and went out of his room and closed the door behind him. They stopped when they saw him. They were stoned or drunk.
How’s business Ollie? Eric asked.
There’s a baby here, said Ollie.
And here I didn’t even know you were pregnant.
I’ve been taking care of it.
Oh, said the girl. It’s like a fairytale. Big old Ollie taking care of my baby.
She giggled and Ollie stepped across the room and hit her. She bounced off the wall with her eyes rolling and whimpered at him and he hit her again. Eric put his hands on Ollie and Ollie threw him aside and stood over the girl. She was bloody. It had felt good to see her fly like that.
There are so many things you don’t want to know about, he said.
Eric said it would be funny, she said through the blood.
You bitch, said Eric. What about all that shit about how you needed just one night for yourself?
Goddamnit, she said, Eric, get him off of me.
Ollie pointed down at her. You never want to know.
The baby’s not going to die, you dumb asshole, said Eric. Not in one night. It’s good for you, too, learning how to take care of it.
They heard the sound of the baby crying in Ollie’s bedroom.
I could kill you, Ollie said to the girl. Easy.
You sick fuck, she yelled up at him. Her face looked like a big ripe plum now.
Go get your fucking kid, Eric told her. We’re getting out of here.
Go fuck yourself, she said.
But she got to her feet, using the doorknob of the closet to help her.
Go get the baby, said Eric. Ollie, I’m leaving. You’re on your own, motherfucker.
Ollie stood in the middle of the room while Eric got a coat out of the closet and put it on and waited for the girl. She came out of the room with the baby.
Your diaper didn’t work, moron, she said. There’s shit all over your bed. She put the baby on the couch and got a towel to wrap it in and then put on her jacket. Ollie watched the baby. It seemed exhausted and lay making a terrible face, looking around. Eric said something that Ollie didn’t hear.
I’m going to sue your ass, the girl said to Ollie.
You have class tomorrow, Ollie said to Eric.
Eric looked at him for a second and then began to laugh.
You have homework.
Jesus christ, said Eric.
Ollie stood in the living room and they took the baby and went out.
It was his day off. Ollie had slept for an hour and gotten up at five and eaten breakfast and done the laundry. He had folded the sheets and towels and folded the hourglass-shaped diaper towel and put it with the rags on the lowest shelf in the closet by the bathroom. He sat in his chair. The apartment was so silent. Outside it was snowing again. Ollie sat and he thought about a lot of things. He worked on a lot of memories. He could have kept the baby and taken care of it. No you couldn’t, he said. He listened to the nothingness around him. He watched the fish and the turtle. They had their own patterns, the fish in the way that they swept in rising coils around the walls of the tank, the turtle who lay for a long time and then moved a little and then lay for a long time more. They had faces and eyes too. He sat in the chair. For lunch he made a sandwich and drank a beer. He watched the snow. There was nothing through the snow, nothing past the snow, nothing above or below it.
The next morning Ollie turned right instead of left coming out of the yard. He drove down 19th Street to where the town spilled out into the land and then he began to drive up and down the alleys. He did not empty any dumpsters. He drove every alley in town and when he reached the far end he turned and retraced his path, up and down through every alley. It was just getting light when he saw the Indians. It had stopped snowing and the world was an even gray. The snow had sloped itself up gently against every building. The Indians were stoned and sitting next to each other by the kitchen door of The Cumbersome Griddle. They were smoking. It occurred to Ollie as he stopped the truck that they might be brothers. They looked very similar. He climbed out of the cab and stood on the step and leaned the seat forward and took the tire iron from its clamps. He went around the front of the truck.
Where did you get that buckle? he asked the one.
My mother gave it to me, the Indian said.
Tell the truth, said Ollie.
Fuck you, hillbilly, said the other Indian. Their knuckles were raw and broken and their eyes were bloodshot. Ollie lifted the tire iron and, as he stepped forward, between the moment he left the side of the truck and the moment he got to the men, he took each and every memory he had and let them all slip into the grayness and the feeling was like that of setting himself free.
When the cops pulled up to the end of the alley they saw the truck and the bodies and big Ollie standing there with the tire iron. One of the cops was twenty and the other was twenty three. The younger one had grown up here and the other had grown up eighteen miles to the east on a ranch outside of a town that didn’t even have a stoplight. They told Ollie not to move but he began to walk towards them.
Goddamnit, Ollie, you stay right there! the younger one yelled.
He did not stop. Even in the bad early morning light they could see the blood on the tire iron.
We will fire on you! screamed the older cop. We will fire!
He did not stop and one of the cops fired a warning shot, and they said later that they could not remember which one it was, and soon they were both shooting.
When it was over, they leaned against the car of the sheriff who had arrived and passed one of the sheriff’s cigarettes back and forth although neither of them smoked.
Goddamnit, said one.
He just kept coming.
I never saw anything like that.
Did you fucking see that? It was like on that show COPS or something. He just wouldn’t stop. Meth or PCP or I don’t know what.
How many times do you think you shot him?
I don’t know. I emptied my clip, but I don’t think I hit him every time.
I was shooting all the fuck over the place.
Yeah. I was like Bang, bang, bang, bang.
He made motions with his hands that didn’t really correspond with shooting, but got the point across. They were quiet for a long time. One of the bodies came out of the alley, being carried in a black plastic bag.
I think I shot him after he was already down, said one of the cops quietly. I guess after he was already dead.
I think maybe I shot him more than once when he was like that.
I saw, said the other cop. He looked up at the gray sky. I saw you shoot him, he said. Better safe than sorry.