away. He didn‘t remember much about it all, because it happened very fast an
d Billy had beenfast asleep. But here they were.
―You know what they say, boy. Don‘t judge a man before you done walked a mile in hisshoes.‖ Clay cracked the window and lit another cigarette. ―Boy, you sure can sleep. If they helda sleep rodeo you‘d win
yourself a buckle the size of a dinner plate.‖
―I never said you stole the truck.‖
―Well I appreciate that.‖ Clay picked up the amber plastic pill bottle and dropped it in hisshirt pocket. ―A friend loaned me the vehicle. Fella I once worked for by name of Cliff Hagan.‖
The name meant nothing to the boy. ―Where we going?‖
―Well, I almost give up on you ever askin‘.‖ Clay caught the boy‘s eyes in the rearviewmirror. ―Tell you what. Wiggle on up here an‘ ride shotgun. The ride‘ll go faster for both of us
The boy studied his father‘s profile. He was more gaunt than he would have pictured,leathery and etched with lines and crow‘s feet at the corners of piercing blue eyes that contrasted
with his curly, rusty-blond hair. He had a mustache that turned down a little on both sides of his
mouth. He didn‘t really look like a killer, and the boy wondered if that part was true. He had only
overheard his mother talking about it, but there were times when his mother said all kinds of crazy things.
―I got somethin‘ up here for you anyways. . . Seein‘ as this is your first elk hunt and all.‖
The boy wasn‘t sure he‘d heard right. An elk hunt? He loved fishing and hunting; after football, they were the things he cared most about. But all he‘d ever shot before
and a few hen turkeys he‘d snuck up on and ambushed with his friend Darren, who owned a real
.22 caliber rifle of his own. Darren would be impressed to know that Billy was going elk hunting,someplace far. If it were true.The boy pulled himself up and wriggled between the seats, to the front. The plains and skyspread before him seemed even more overwhelming from the passenger seat.
―See that there backpack layin‘ on the floor? Look inside.‖
Billy looked at the bag. It was new; it had a slick camo pattern and lots of straps andplastic buckles.
―There ain‘t nothing gonna bite you in there. Go ahead.‖
The boy unzipped the roomy main compartment and saw a pair of brand-
new boots. ―Arethese for me?‖
Billy took out the hunting boots, one at a time. They were brand-new, and also camo. He
studied them. ―They‘re Rockys.‖
―You bet. Size eight.‖
The boots still had some tags dangling, and they were stuffed with paper.