A grave denied
He smiled at her, and vanished up the trail. She was still standing there when she heard the distant sound of a truck door opening. The engine started, gears shifted, and the sound receded into the distance.
     
    When she became aware that she was straining to hear it, she turned abruptly and went into the garage, where her big red Chevy pickup sat, hood open, waiting for a tune-up after a winter’s inactivity. Nuts and bolts, spark plugs and oil pans and ball joints. Now there were things a woman could make sense of.
     
    She found a open-end box wrench and waded in.
     
    “Is he going to make me go back?”
     
    She jerked, banging her head on the hood. “Ouch. Damn it!” She peered around the hood.
     
    Johnny’s figure was outlined against the bright evening. His face was in shadow. “What?” she said, rubbing her head.
     
    “I heard him telling you that she got a lawyer. Is Jim going to make me go back to her?”
     
    So much for speaking out of the hearing of the children. She stepped down from the chunk of railroad tie she used to bring engines into arms’ reach and found a rag to wipe her oily fingers. “No one’s going to make you do a goddamn thing.”
     
    “That’s not good enough, Kate.” His voice rose. “I won’t go back. I won’t!”
     
    She tossed the rag into the rag barrel. “Johnny—” When she turned back to him, he was gone.
     
    “Great,” she said out loud. “Just great.”
     
    Mutt, sitting like a sentinel in the doorway, cocked an inquisitive ear, disliked the quality of the vacuum Johnny had left behind in the air of the garage, and padded off.
     
    “
Et tu
, Mutt?”
     
    So this journal writing isn’t so bad. Ms. Doogan kinda leaves us alone if we’re doing it in class, which is a plus. It’s not that I don’t like her or that she’s a bad teacher. It’s just that the textbooks are so boring. If they could get Greg Bear to write our science textbook I could stand to read it. Or Robert Heinlein, except he’s dead.
     
    Speaking of the dead. Jim Chopin came out for dinner on Friday, partly to talk to me about the body we found. I didn’t remember anything I hadn’t told him before but I remember from Dad how cops always like to check everything over again. Plus I think he might have been a little worried about me finding the body.
     
    Finding the body was weird. First time I’ve ever seen somebody dead. The other kids either, I guess. I thought Andrea was going to hurl. Betty was pretty calm but then she never gets excited about anything. Except maybe Eric. Van was scared but she held it together.
     
    I don’t believe in god or ghosts or anything like that. Still, that body was weird. There used to be somebody home and then there wasn’t. So there is something that makes us all us.
     
    Mostly I think Jim came to see Kate. He practically walks into the wall when she’s in the room, always looking at her, always smiling at her. Probably wants to sleep with her. Dad did, it was Mush City when she was around. I remember once Dad made her get dressed up to go to some party or other when she was staying with us in town. Man, she was gorgeous, she had this sparkly red jacket on and her hair was all stylin‘, she looked as good as anyone you ever see watching the Oscars on TV, and Kate can shoot a moose, too. She’s got two guns in a rack over the door, a .30-06 rifle and a twelve-gauge pump action shotgun. She says we’ll take the shotgun with us when we go duck hunting down on the Kanuyaq River delta in the fall and I’ll have a chance to shoot it then. She says I have to know how to protect myself in case something happens to her. I can’t imagine anything ever happening to Kate Shugak. But then I couldn’t imagine anything ever happening to Dad, either.
     
    Saw two eagles on Sunday on the way back from the outhouse. They looked like they were fighting. Kate said they were mating. They’d fly real high and then they’d sort of smoosh together and fall,

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