Everyone in town treated Wilson as a man. Not cause that was what she was, but looking at her you’d guess wrong what was between her legs. Her head rose out of shoulders wide at the base and stumped on top. Charlie said her neck matched a pork shoulder. Wilson thought that was close to the truth most days. God gives folks gifts yet it’s the smart folks what use them. Her arms were thicker than her neck, even, yet a hell of a lot stronger. Get a sack of Idaho potatoes, you got her gut. Chase a chicken, that's her legs. She'd out-lifted three-quarter of the guys on the three o’clock so beating, say, Charlie was a breeze. He had got it in his noodle he was going to beat her this year. Ha, ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha. Just ‘cause he’s aiming at a target don’t mean he’s going to hit it. ‘Cause by the time Charlie got himself up for the job, maybe she wouldn’t stand for it no more. Maybe Dol would come first and whoop her heart like she'd never been whooped. How ‘bout that? Could she even dare to dream a thing like that? She’d find out soon enough, huh? Wilson smeared the ring her beer bottle bled on the table. Dol said he'd bring her a glass but never did. He's got a lot in his head about now.
Dol led her on. They all did. Dol, Charlie, Julie, every darn one. They had good reason. Wilson could lift where God didn’t have no time to. Take Dol. Dol needed his strength to draw that make-up pencil across his brow. It was heavier than she’d ever know, he told her.
Take Tanya and Michelle. Where was they going to get reliable transportation to take them all the way out there? In what part of God’s plan would they be driving that chi-chi Midnight F-10 truck out past them mountains? Huh? Wilson’s part, that’s what part. When they was clowning with their five cd compact disc changer, sporting a remote control, who’d they have to thank? Uh, not Charlie. Charlie couldn't lift a ball peen hammer to save his life. Sure as hell not that mother of theirs wound up tighter than a bull snake just before she strikes.
Wilson, herself, niver needed no lifting. If she herself didn't amount to nothing it wasn't no skin off her back. And compared to the dreams of some, compared to the dreams of them girls, compared to the dreams of Dol, say, there warn’t no way she was going to. She spun her bottle. Fifteen or twenty minutes ago when Dol asked what could he could get her, he puckered his lips. Don't think Wilson didn't note it.
Tonight was the night Dol was going to ‘fess up. A person puckers on purpose, even if they don't know it. With all her heart she knew, pressing hard enough, she could draw blood from a stone. And she meant to. Speaking of stones, she scratched her nose. Her fingers smelt like sugar char of burnt cow hide and they would straight through to April. She never wanted to look another cow in the eye as long as she lived. The sadness there soaked in same as their burning. Jesus they're the lonesomest animal God ever put on this earth. She ought to go in the restroom and try that powdered soap Avery keeps in there. But it'll take off the top layer of skin and it's too cold for that. Nobody was looking so she stuck her fingers in her beer and sucked them dry. All them enzymes eat off the smell. She and Charlie’d been doing with carcasses all week. She had to put down every last one of them save that one at Charlie’s for quarantine. If she didn’t, the County would shut her down permanently and she'd never get to have her own head again. What a rotten business, it killed her.
Went like this: get the seventeen of them and line them up. Get one of them in through the post and leave the others by the fence. Out there waiting, their eyes fuming same as mud puddles. A shadow’d crawl to the rump as Wilson cleared the door, before shutting it on account of it making the others anxious, while leading the animal in. Once inside, the swallows seething above, Charlie would soothe it. The tail would swish from habit since, at that time of year, horn flies were mainly dead. The head would come in, the shadow would creep, the door would get shut.
Wilson would grip the hammer handle, raise it high above, aim. She’d land the blow in at the crook of the neck hard enough to lift her up, yet them necks’re strong and didn’t buckle. Right then Charlie would sink a bullet in before the knees caved, but every couple cows or so, the skull would be weak enough so as the innards would shoot out. The animal’d loll there like a mixed up retard. Charlie would tuck his gun in his belt, at which point the animal’d weaken, teeter, and then founder. Then it was hook the shoulders through, yank the pulley and haul her up. There was a lot of crap coming out after, and them not being a professional operation, them brains and crap’d make a foot hazard. What got Wilson was them oozy blank eyes niver closing and not seeing they was dead.
If a cow was anything like a human being, each of them’s outside listening to what’s done to the one coming before. There warn’t much variation and all of them got killt if they was out there in the pen. At the time of one coming in, they was maybe postulating of the future or where they just was, but not much before that, and now the floor and the mess under-foot. What they saw in the barn was niver as bad as what they thought it might be.