“I do,” I said. “I better go.”

I hadn’t talked with Joyce since that first day in Kootenay and I remembered every word she’d said or written in her notes, as clearly as I saw the thing’s face in the nightmare and from its crosshatching of scars knew its endless history.

Just short of two hours, we reached a small town beyond a creek and a line of bare willows and cottonwoods. I saw the clock on the dashboard.

Bud shifted into lower gear.

“This is where we turn off — ” He nodded at the sign spotted with rusty bullet holes.



The main street was cracked asphalt with gravel laid over the potholes. The granite slabs of the sidewalks sank at a tilt and their edges had crumbled onto the pavement. The windows of the unpainted wood storefronts advertised baths with steam heat and meat lockers to store venison and elk. There was a boot repair, a miners’ union office, corner grocery, and a state liquor store.

A church with a short, flat-topped steeple had its double doors held together with a padlock and chain. Against a hill at the end of the street stood a school of sooty brick, with two swings and a wood backstop in the unfenced dirt playground.

I thought that maybe Ingot might be cheerful on a sunny day in June, but now it was black and white. I wondered if even in summer the air wasn’t stained with winter half-light. We drove the main street and stopped at a narrow shop with an amber, neon running antelope in the window. Greg got out and I climbed past the folded seat.

My legs were stiff from the jump seat, but the truck had a good heater. The cold air struck me and, for a second, my bones ached. I took my bag from the back.

“Thanks,” I said. “Good luck with the deer.”

“Good luck at the Lakeview,” Greg said.

“Hey, check out the waitresses,” Bud said.

“Yeah, tell them we’re on the way.”

“I’ll warn them.” They grinned and I raised a hand as they drove off, the last time I ever saw them. I then stepped onto the rough sidewalk and entered the small lobby of the bus station.

“Do you have a bus to Sleeping Child Lake?”

The man behind the counter looked up from his magazine, adjusting his glasses. He gestured over his shoulder at the schedule on the dusty blackboard.

It was the first time I’d seen the lake’s name written out. It was strange, like seeing your name on a list on a warehouse door and remembering you existed as someone outside yourself, that other people saw and knew you.