not for the year. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more determined he grew to cuthimself loose from Rudy. It’s bad enough going to a dangerous shithole like that as it is, hethought, without having to worry about what might happen if one of the other drinkers in theincreasingly hostile bars Rudy patronized took offense at his behavior. And it was almostimpossible not to take offense at a guy who jumps up on the pool table, drops his pants, and takesa dump while shouting “Turdball in the corner pocket!” Luckily, some tiny sober corner of Rudy’s alcohol-ravaged brain had still been functioning well enough tonight for him to maintainsome rudiments of a survival instinct, for he’d spent the entire evening drinking in a corner, onlyoccasionally getting that look in his eyes, which always faded when he half-stood and got a goodlook at the clientele.Ahead of him on one side of the road, eyes flaring yellow in the light of his high-beams, stoodsome sort of animal. “Coyote?” he thought idly to himself. He was dimly aware of Rudyleaning shakily forward in the passenger seat. “Watch shiss,” he said, and Shane braced himself for some prolonged vomiting. Instead, Rudy lurched over sideways, blasting Shane with avertiginously foul draft of alcohol fumes, and grabbed the wheel, hauling it hard right. He heldon stubbornly as Shane fought to correct, but it was useless. His foot jammed hard against the brake, he could only watch as the furred form in his headlights grew larger. Flashing through his brain faster than words came the recollection— – god only knew where he’d heard it— – that it’s possible to tell if a hit-and-run driver was braking or not at the time of impact, since brakinglowers the front bumper enough to catch the victim below the knees and hurl him over the car,rather than knocking him backwards. He wondered if the dog, for he could see now with perfectclarity that it was a German shepherd, was tall enough to come through his windshield. At thelast second, it started to turn to leap aside, bringing its head around with awful slowness. Then,with a resonating thump that he felt in his bones, they collided.His foot still mindlessly pressed against the brake, he watched in horror as the limp bodysailed up and away from his car, not tumbling at all, head twisted backwards at an angle that was painful to look at. A memory of his Little League days shot through his mind, of his dad tryingto teach him to throw a knuckleball, meant to travel to the plate without spinning. “
Hey, dad, I finally got it right!
” he thought crazily as Rudy’s gurgling cackle echoed in his ear. “Got’ im!10 pointsh!” Shane watched until the car’s spin swept the headlights away from the gruesomesight, and as the car continued to turn he kept his eyes locked on the darkness into which the doghad vanished. Only when the car had spun almost completely around was he able to break hisgaze, and braced himself for the impact. When it came, it was something of a disappointment.The car ran backwards off the road, jolting several yards over rough, steep ground beforesmacking into a tree with a solid crash. It wasn’t going all that fast at the time, but it was enoughto shatter the rear window and press him back into his seat as if an invisible weight had beendropped on him. The engine sputtered a few times, and died.The silence that followed was broken only by Rudy’s wheezing gasps, which Shane knewenough to interpret as laughter. “Good one, dude!” he choked out between laughs.