"A 300 pounder," Daniel said to Oscar as they bounced along. There were deep puddles in the frontage road from the rain. Jefe was squeezed between the two men. He looked down at his hands. The blood was dry and flaked off except under his fingernails, where it would stay until that night.
"The dogs chased it to the river," Daniel continued. "Then all the sudden the hog turned tail and I grabbed it by a leg and was telling Jefe, ‘I’ve got it’s leg, you stab it,’ and he grabbed the other leg, and said ‘I’ve got its leg, you stab it.’"
Oscar laughed, ran a leathered palm through the boy’s hair. "He’s getting smarter."
Daniel glanced at Jefe, nodded agreement. Daniel was Welsh, but in the last twenty years, he’d become Texan also. Jefe found his accent strange, but in a different way than his eyes, which he couldn’t meet for long. In the summer, people said, Daniel slept under the porch with his dogs, hunters, killers, all of them.
They rumbled through their land of oil and cattle, wide and flat and always. They rattled over the railroad tracks, past the four silos, sky-colored, mute. There were bright construction vehicles and utility trucks abandoned with their coiled wires and boxes. The ground was bare and rutted. The McFadden Mercantile was a long low wooden building. Oilmen leaned against the rail, in yellow-banded jackets and hard hats. They had vivid stubbled faces. Jefe followed Daniel and Oscar inside.
Along the walls of the McFadden were old dim photographs. Back then there were only the railroad tracks and the general store. There was no oil. There were Indians and alligators and mosquitoes big as hummingbirds. Now there were weathered tables and Mexican food or hamburgers, wrapped in butcher paper in a red plastic basket with fries. Jefe got the Mexican food, a plate of gray meat in gray sauce, refried beans and rice. He was suddenly hungry and tired. Adrenaline ghosted through his veins.
He had proved himself that morning. He’d done so without meaning to, and still could feel the bristled, thick hide of the boar against his body. The smell of its death hung like fog behind his eyes. The boar killed Haggis, Daniel’s favorite dog. Jefe exacted their revenge, hot blood up to his forearm as he slid the blade between those narrow ribs.
They ate and the oilfield workers thinned, filtering out again into the shallow day. The tables were sparse with cowboys, white-hatted and silent, and then they too went out again. A train passed. Jefe watched it strain and creak into the flat-line distance. The cars lurched by—gray and brown and green, rusting echoes of the world around them. One was covered in graffiti. The colors were bright and crisp. Half of the car was a girl’s face. She was beautiful, an emissary from the towerlands resplendent and roaring and immense along the Northeast coast. She had blue eyes and pale skin and black hair. In acrobatic text was a signature: Stess. Jefe watched her go. For the second time that day, he felt his heart in his chest. He closed his eyes. Soon, he told himself. He was a man now, and could indulge in thoughts like these.
Alex Orlovsky is a New York based filmmaker who lives in Tribeca.