Something strong was pushing her and me and, again, I wondered if Ray knew about it or cared or wanted it to happen, as an excuse to run wild or explode — the way I’d acted up, high on weed one night at Custer’s and told Wes I was taking Joyce with her baby to Sleeping Child Lake.

Friday after school — after Adkins made a special point of wishing me a good stay and positive experience at the Lakeview Inn and reminded me to give his special regards to Mr. Hamphill and to my Uncle Ernest the next time I talked to him on the phone — I was glad there wasn’t another note.

For dinner, I broiled a pork chop and had applesauce and canned corn with the last Danish beer I’d bought when my uncle had sent me the 500 dollars. Then, I cleaned up in the small kitchen above the theater’s red and green neon marquee, all the time half nervous Joyce would knock at the door, half hoping she would, half afraid of what I might do if she did.

“Bill,” she’d said, “I’m sorry,” after she kissed me and pulled me toward the bedroom while drunken Ray snored on the living room couch, maybe dreaming of Sherry or shooting an elk as he slept under his moose and deer heads and expensive rack of guns.

Joyce was affectionate and tender and attractive. And smart, like Tug.

It was funny, Tug was the outlaw ex-hippie who smoked marijuana and she was the paralegal who’d done work for Indians and the needy. She’d gone out in a boat on Sleeping Child Lake when she attended a law conference at the Lakeview Inn, before she’d got drunk on martinis one night at a party and Ray got her pregnant.

Through the jade-colored water, she’d seen the rock city like the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, but she did not seethe monster Birdie’s daughter and son-in-law had also failed to find on their wedding camping trip.

I liked Joyce’s baby, Charlie, who’d laughed as I tried to distract him and get him to eat the orange pudding. He’d giggled and waved the antler Sleeping Child the Indian boy had made me take, when I’d given him food money at the store by the Cinnamon River.

“No, it’s big medicine, Captain,” he’d told me, touching my open hand and I’d looked down at the closed-eyed papoose who smiled with a Buddha’s peaceful face and slept in his basket shaped like a boat.

Charlie didn’t want to give the antler back and when Joyce had put him down to sleep and returned the carving she’d told me about her trip to the deep lake before she suddenly sat on my lap.

I’d have asked Joyce out, gone only with her, if she weren’t married to Ray.

Somehow it didn’t matter that I was done with Ray’s mill or that Ray was a bad drunk and sleeping with Sherry and Joyce knew it, according to Tug.

I packed a bag and set out my wristwatch by my wallet and keys, then sat in my shorts on the sofa. I picked up the pennies and closed my eyes. The elk-antler carving lay beside the yellow book.

I took a breath and said, “Sleeping Child Lake.”

I tossed the three pennies six times, writing down the line after each throw and watching the building hexagram turn one way and then another like an eel, until the last three coins. I recognized the hexagram with relief and opened the I Ching.