The hand of Joe's father along the horse's coat on its neck, down to the ribs and belly and back up along its spine. His half closed eyes in slow and singular focus. He put his finger in the rope that tied the splint to the inside of the leg. This has to be leather. Replace it tomorrow but use more rope for tonight. This comes loose in the night it's finished. The splint went along the inside of the leg to the belly and at the belly attached to a support that pushed up into the horse's abdomen to take weight off the leg. You know, I think it didn't work with Nave because we should have fixed the other leg the same way and connected it with a harness in the middle. Take the good leg and the bad leg off the ground and it wouldn't put any weight on either of them. It can't run even if it wants to.
Won't let you. It'll break out of it. This way it doesn't know it's cripple.
Did it break it in the fall.
No. Richard rode it in the forest. Must've kicked something. He should have rode in the prairie beside the girls but he got right up on em to scare em. Something wasn't right in the way it was running.
It's not a bad break.
Just a crack I guess.
And the girls.
In the barn with Richard. He's got a gun on em. Maybe I shouldn't have left them with him.
Wouldn't make a difference. If they're any good at thievin, they're good enough to steel their freedom from you.
Wouldn't do em any good. I know where their people are at. I saw the smoke from their fire.
You think if you bring them their women unharmed, they'll leave town without gettin their eye?
Don't think they're a people given to vengeance. Find a town. Build a fire and settle down for a day. Take what they can and leave before people wise up. That's what they do. This time they stole too close to home. Thought they could lose us. Thought a river between us was enough.
And the man?
Should've never entered that house.
Don't see what else they expect to happen.
They could expect to kill you and be satisfied.
They won't. I was thinking about shootin them a deer. I think I can help the man with his wounds, too. They won't do nothin.
The man looked at the boy. He was not of the man's stock, but by and by he took from the man what he had to give to him and forged it into a will yet unrealized, but the capacity of which could be imagined. It came to him that before he met the boy, he had never encountered another made of the same stuff as himself. He said to the boy: Keep the horse fed well or over fed and retie the splint before you sleep tonight. Tomorrow take things very slowly. Read the situation. Don't let them follow you home. Cover your tracks and keep an eye on them until the whole lot of them is out of this country. Take enough bullets to cover the head count.
The girl there surrounded by all the darknesses of a night and what moonlight may seep through the cracks in the wood. Joe felt her there and after a minute he did see something in the shadow from which an image of her of sitting against the barn wall could be surmised. He felt around for the lamp hook hanging from the ceiling. He lit the match and brought it into the kerosene lamp and for a while the lamp only illuminated itself, until the fire caught strength and materialized in weak orange glow what was to be seen of the inside of that barn.
The girls rising to their feet in the warm orange glow of the kerosene lamp. Her eyes and her mouth and her skin electric there in the small world of the barn. Her skin bears the marks of a life in the rough, some of the scratches fresh, and the skin at her elbows undelicate and dark. Her dress something that only works from afar. In the light of the lamp it revealed itself to be a patchwork of discarded fabrics sewn together by unscrupulous hands. The hoop skirt something to hide what had been stolen and the shirt an inadequate container for sacks of flesh well acquainted with the hands of men, effect her body has on those who usurp it from her an important part of her place in the world she knows.
Bitch. Joe sat opposite the girls beside his rifle. He told them to strip.
The younger one looked up at her older sister. She put her hands on her sister's lower back and pushed her forward. In the girl's eyes swirled the nucleus of a world that existed beside Joe's, but was not like his, where the girl is defined by the notions of her held by those in her orbit, yet remains at the center. She reached behind her back and lifted her dress and pulled down the hoop skirt. Beneath that were shorts covered in feathers, and she pulled them down. The girl's gaze, which knows not hardness or softness but only bares witness to a life bereft of choice, hadn't left Joe since he entered the barn. The light reflected yellow from his iris reminded her of the pattern on a butterfly's wing the more she looked at it. The breathing of the milk cow and the feathers and wheat and dust in the air like mad ambers in the glow of the lamp and the howling madness of the night outside the barn walls. She turned her back to him and lifted her dress and pushed herself into his seam. Her bare ass and the dark hairs along her spine like something of the animal realm intruding on a feverdream to Joe.