Road to Somewhere Else

“Time ago, my old man heard the radio in his teeth,” Wally Swanson says. He folds the legal agreement at the staple and glances at page two, pretending to read. “Thought he was lying at first. Then I’d hear him in the yard singing Johnny Cash the same time it was on the RCA. Crazy business.”

Wally peeks up at the methane company go-between, a middle-age man called Reboulet—he leans against his new pickup and grins.

“Even in the pasture,” Wally says. “Or fixing fence. Humming the same damn songs that were playing in the rig. Good stuff.” He squints at the paper, studying the spaces where the land man has typed revisions.

“How do those figures sit with you, Mister Swanson?” Reboulet says.

Wally ducks his head from the Wyoming sky, adjusts his mesh cap and his tinted glasses. He sees that the gravel of the county road thins to black near Reboulet’s pickup, which is parked on the quiet pavement where it intersects the state highway. In the other direction, the gravel draws a straight line to the northern horizon. Home is somewhere between here and there.

“Old man had damn fine hearing,” he says. “I mean top-notch. Took me a while to notice.”

“Sir?”

“He could hear the radio. Always singing along, but only with the one station. No magic. Just good hearing.”

“Oh.” Reboulet points toward the agreement, pauses, retracts his finger. “What about his teeth?”

“That’s the difference between you gas bastards and us locals,” Wally says. “Our bullshit detectors work.”

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