on, fellas! On your feet! Cleanup time, letâs go!â
It was still early when Kyle went off to bed, leaving his dad and Marie outside drinking beer and talking. He lay in bed wearing only his shorts, arms and legs spread wide to catch the slightest breeze. Crickets chirped noisily and an owl hooted, but mostly he listened to the quiet voices. They spoke about crops and weather and people he didnât know, about going to a swap meet on Sunday, about Kyleâs helping move something. Thereâd be long pauses when all he could hear were the night sounds, and he wondered if they were making out.
The phone rang just as he was falling sleep. Kyle heard the screen door slam.
âYeah, Sam,â his father said. âThey were here, too, last night. Scared my kid half to death.â
Suddenly wide awake, Kyle sat up.
were here last night? His father
? Why had he lied?
âSimmer down, Sam!â his father went on. âSam? Shut up and listen! Damn fools are just trying to scare you! You should know by now. They got nothing else to do except harass good honest citizens. Weâve done nothing wrong. We got every right to our guns! Read the Constitution!â There was a brief silence and then his dad said, âSam? Keep this up and youâll have a heart attack. All right! Weâll deal with it next meeting. Feel better? Now, say good-bye. Iâve got to go to work.â His father slammed down the phone and went back outside.
âOne of these days,â he said to Marie, âone of these days!â
âStop it, Ed, donât even
âOne of these days,â his father said, ignoring Marie, âthose ATF twits are gonna go
farâand thenâbam! Weâre gonna
to teach them a lesson!â
T HE PHONE RANG the next morning after Kyleâs dad had gone to sleep. Kyle ran to answer, wondering if it was his mother again, checking.
âHey, Kyle,â the voice said.
âYeah. Gotta make this quick. The old slave driver says I gotta fix the roof. Itâll take most of the day, but I can get away tonight. Wanna meet some of the guys?â
âSure, great! What time and where?â
âAround eight? Pick you up.â
Kyle fooled around with Prince part of the morning, cleaned Blackieâs stall, and hauled out hay for him. There didnât seem to be much else to do, so he took out his bike and pedaled toward town, stopping briefly at the bridge to see if Verity might be there; she wasnât.
Town seemed livelyâmore cars and pickups, more people. Maybe because it was cooler and a Friday. He left his bike in a rack, feeling odd about not chaining it, and went along on foot. He glanced into the window of Marieâs Diner. Most of the tables and counter stools were full. Mothers with small children walked by with shopping bags from the general storeâs sale. Through the darkened windows of the Idle Hour he saw the bartender wiping a glass and two men sitting at the bar.
For a long moment Kyle stared into the one-chair barbershop trying to make up his mind. Heâd had longish hair forever, but here people looked at him like he was an outsider. How could he go with Hiram and meet his friends if he looked so âL.A.â?
He opened the barbershop door, setting a bell tinkling, and waited for someone to appear.
An almost bald man in his fifties came out from the back, a mug of coffee in one hand and a doughnut in the other. âHello, young fella. Havenât seen you around. New here?â
âNameâs Kyle Klinger,â Kyle said. âYou probably know my father.â
The barber set his coffee and doughnut on a table full of old magazines and held out a hand. âCarl Bakerâthe barber.â He smiled. âOld joke. Sure, I know your dad. Good man. Know him well. What can I do for you?â
Kyle let out his breath, not realizing until
Jonathan Strahan, Joe W. Haldeman