The Hanging

Even before LaRoche showed up in town and began to take his daily walks past our house, I started to hate the way Jesse smelled. When I heard the doorknob rumble I’d quickly plug up my nose. “Good evenin’, my love!” he shouted each night as he stepped across the threshold, caked so dark with dirt some nights that the whites of his eyes glowed like an animal’s. I’d try not to flinch when he brushed up against me—my shoulder, my cheek, my waist—smearing tracks of black on my skin and apron while the meat sizzled in its pan.

Those nights we’d chew our food as the falling light closed us in. I caught the occasional whiff of him—sweaty and like a vegetable that’s just turned. Outside our little window the town of Bodie stretched like a flat, scorched skin. I’d begged Jesse for that window. During the day I would stare through the panes and then, when the bigness of the view and the smallness of my life became too much, I’d look away. I spent my days like this—my eyes drawn to the window, looking away, looking out the window, looking away.

I hated California from the moment we got there but it wasn’t until LaRoche began strolling by that I began to dream up ways to leave.

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