The wide blast of the gun breaks into the spring of her shoulder. And she feels it in the bones of her chest. The spreading pellets in the sky like fistfuls of rain.
Later, he drives and she stares out the window at the running fields of twisted grass and the thin Ash woods of upstate. A natural hunting blind.
He spots dried mud under his fingernails while making a slow turn, from one narrow road to another. He has the urge, like the urge to drink, to pull over there, in the grass, and pick the mud out with his slim folding knife, which he takes always into the wild, the grasses, but has never used.
Did you have fun? he says.
Wish I'd hit something.
That isn't so bad, he says. He thinks about broad sky, and their thunder in it. Shrieking calls. Loud and without meaning. Plunging into the sky as into a block of solid blue ice.
And the road is as narrow as a fine line drawn with a pen.
What's worse? she says. She's watching the trees for movement. A bird. A rabbit. She imagines her dinner depends on it. Her life, and the life of everyone she knows. She smells rich soil, river chalk and red clay. And it all clings to their rubber overalls balled up in the trunk.
You hit something, he says. He is thinking about clothes small enough to fit between the pages of a book. And a person small enough to fit in his hand. You hurt it. Maybe killed it. You see it struggle. Fall. You watch it fall. You watch closely. It's wing is broken. But when you go looking, and you look for a long time, you never find a body.
She doesn't respond. She is thinking about what it means to provide, and the feel of the gun, cracking in her hands with all the solid presence of a newborn's first cry. Outside the window is a place as wild as any she has ever seen. Shadows as deep as pools. Trees as crooked and smooth as broken necks.
She sets her eyes free, uncaged animals, and they claw at the landscape as if they want to destroy it.
Something unfamiliar plays on the radio, drifting static as they move from the edge of one place to the edge of another, and she is about to speak, when, just above the trees, the jagged line of the sky, she spots a shutter of movement. The shutter of a body, and later she will swear on it, and it will become more clear and vivid in her memory. A naked man, tall and wet with long, loose limbs and a flabby chest, thin as a cigarette. Weakly cradling a small, rounded stomach. And his broad, crooked gray wings, bent out of his back, are beating hard, beating desperate, but failing. His whole, strange body knocking painfully against the glass sheet of the sky like a broken hand gathered into a fist.
A shape she recognizes.