This story appears in the November 2015 issue of Playboy. Subscribe

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue playboy magazine.

An old country revenge story.

Roy Alison hadn’t killed a man in three years, two months and four days.

He backed the truck next to a box of a gas station, across from a cemetery, sign misspelled. Still a quarter tank of gas. Wouldn’t need that much, he figured. Stepped down from the truck, creaked the door closed, half-down window shaking in the hollow.

Avalanches too small to notice, loose gravel under his boots, carried him to the front door, a hole cut into the wall, metal shelves and dust inside. Sunlight dulling in the air. Strewn with newspapers, a mat that thanked you for shopping. When Roy walked in, the man behind the counter stopped talking to the TV, nodded hello. Slight man. Arms like sticks you’d use to spit-roast a squirrel. T-shirt with some saying on it, something clever, faded now from 20 years of coin-op dryers, wadded in the bottom of Sunday-morning laundry piles. A beard that was just coming in patches these days. A thick clump weeding up under the jaw, white and black. Gray wires thinning into twists around the cheeks. Nothing now but something to scratch. A man who took to just eating the smaller catfish bones as he found them because, hell, why bother. A baseball cap he said was lucky, torn mesh in the back, raised just above a crown of sweat on his forehead.

“Can’t find it, lemme know, son,” he chirped. “We ain’t got it, you don’t need it.”

Hanging loose over the T-shirt, a thin flannel with a pocket that no longer held anything, aging away at the corners, little holes where things used to be stitched together. The man wiped nothing from his chin, a leftover habit in a life of leftovers, went back to the TV.

Roy pulled a sleeve of orange crackers from a shelf of pine-tree air fresheners and cellophaned tissues, wiped the slick dust film onto his pant leg. Fumbled with the edge until he’d had enough of fighting it, flicked open a blade most people never noticed, slit the plastic like skin.

Barges of fluorescent tubes hummed above him, dangling in rusted metal trays, swaying for no reason. The same lights, the same hum he’d grown used to, locked up. The way you get used to things. The way time passes in clumps, then not at all.

The door to the cooler was already leaning open, wet fog inside clear doors, where he might have drawn a smiley face when he was a kid, traveling Arkansas back roads with his parents, before they’d died, before he’d spent his teenage years in jails and homes, before any of it. The inside fog now cool to the backs of his fingers, dragging along, the caked blood between his knuckles falling away as he wiped his hand on his shirt. He pulled a tall can of tea from the trays of bottles and cans, set the crackers on a shelf behind him, and opened the can. Took the tea, the crackers to the counter.

The leftover man asked if that was all.

“Got a map?”

“A map? Of what?”

“Of around here,” Roy said, looked out the door. “Athens. The county.”

The man shook his shoulders like a laugh. “Ain’t no map of around here I never heard of. Ain’t no point in that.”

Roy said all right. Just the can and the crackers then.

“You need to know how to get someplace? Going up to the lake?”

Roy asked what lake.

“Shady Lake. Few miles back. For the camping. Fishing. Nobody comes in here less I know them what ain’t going up to the camping and fishing. Course, Greeson ain’t far neither.”

Roy said he wasn’t going camping, slid a hand into his front pocket against his grandfather’s cuff links, round enamel fragments of home, of his grandparents together decades back. Roy took a breath, waited.

“Just passing through?” the man asked, waking up a little, getting that quick look on his face, the look Roy hadn’t gotten used to. The one where they’re trying to figure out whether to wait until you leave to call the cops or just shoot you right there.

“Supposed to help a man. A Mr. Rudd,” Roy said, figuring he had to say more, had to give the man something to hold on to, something to believe, even the truth. “My uncle set me up with a job.”

“That right?” the man asked, the name Rudd sticking.

Roy nodded. Said it was construction. Said he didn’t have all the details. Kind of a last-minute thing, he said, explaining.

“Can’t say I know any, what did you say the name was again?” the man asked, overplaying it.

“Rudd,” Roy said again. “Old Bridge.”

“Nope. No Rudds I know of. Might try up to Mena. Lotta folks up that way.”

Roy said he would, took his change, walked back into the outside as the man reached for the phone.

Roy found the sign that said old bridge and twisted the steering wheel to the right, turned the truck down the dirt road, flat with chicken farms on the left, a ridge up on the right, houses drifting couches and childless toys into the yards, car husks piling, collecting in browning clusters.

The road rutted so that you’d find yourself in a deep scar, testing the axles to pull out, the road pocked with gravel, last year’s beer cans bent and torn, gathering rain in the ditches, and the sharp, quick, routine pops under the tires, like shards of a widow’s crystal lamp that had gotten used to the breaking. Everything cut through with CCC roads, fire roads, log runs. Every so often an old storm-dropped oak nobody’d bothered to clear, lying there, waiting for coons and foxes, flaking kindling back into the earth.

Roy pulled in to the right, drove past the mailbox, a thin, flat gray from a black-and-white photograph, leaning into the road. The gray box, flagless, each number a sun-fade from a long-lost sticker, a faint scab of dirt, a suggestion. An address no one much needed anymore. Everything coming Current Resident or not coming at all.

He eased past chicken houses, aimed the truck upwind. Roy got to a gate, slowed the tires over the rusted-pipe cattle grate, gears dropping into the hill, the rise to the house that once looked out over something worth seeing.

At the top of the hill, he climbed out of the truck, seat springs coming back up as he lifted, door easing shut. He stood for a second, heard the whirry congalee of a red-winged blackbird from the edge of the field, the female chit-chitting in response. He stood next to the only other car around, a little red foreign thing, community college sticker in the back window, graduation tassel hanging from the mirror. Backseat, a spread pile of CDs, like a deck of cards spilled across the floor on some other family’s game night.

His grandmother had tried, he knew, after his folks had died. In between his six months here, nine to 12 there. The gap between them too great sometimes. The everything between them. His returning to stay with her, his asking about his grandfather. His mother’s father. The everything being tied up in that. The piece of family out there. The not knowing. The questions that didn’t have any answers but the looking for brought out. The needing to know. The other gaps—his parents gone, the years after gone—all holes that don’t take any filling. Like that movie he’d seen as a kid, that opening straight through the earth, through the heart and clear out the other side into the nothing of space. But this, his grandfather, the closing off of this, the man who’d done it. Boards across that gap. That hole. This was something that could be done. Not the staring down the hole into the nothing. But a doing. An ending to a thing. A sealing off, smoothing the earth after.

Roy Alison turned his neck till it popped, twisted his spine, shoulders, palmed someone else’s pistol in his back pocket and moved to the house.

The front porch, falling into the land around it in chunks. The steps, pieced together with yard-found stones and cinder blocks, porch planks coming to jagged ends where someone, years back, stepped a boot too heavy.

He moved up uncertain steps to the door as it opened, a woman in doctor’s office florals looking at him.

She asked was there something she could do for him.

He said he needed to talk to Franklin Rudd. “He available?”

She asked what was this about.

“My grandpa,” Roy said. “My mom’s dad. Moses Tomlin. Everybody called him Doc.”

“Why’s that?” the nurse asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, not expecting to get into this right now.

“Anybody know?”

“Nobody I’ve asked.”

“Got to be a reason,” the nurse went on, neck skin tightening, loosening, a map of rivers and roads no one much traveled now. “Don’t just make up names for people, you know.”

“It’s just his name. What people called him. Doesn’t mean anything.”

“Names mean something, sweetie. Everything means something, ’specially what they call you. Maybe he saved someone. When they were young,” the nurse said, starting to nod. “Maybe your grandpa and some kids were doing something, one of them gets hurt, your grandpa saves them. Busted arm. Snakebite. Something like that.”

Roy said sure, that seemed fine.

The nurse nodded, seemed to feel better. “So, you’re here to see Mr. Rudd. You the one Elwin up the store called about.”

“Maybe so, yeah.”

“Will he know what this is in regards to?”

“He should,” Roy said, looking past her and into the darkness. “I need to kill him.”

Wasn’t interested in leaving, she said. Paid until nine that night. She said if she left before then, they’d write her up. Roy showed her the gun, said her boss would understand. She said her boss was a dick, sat down in a high-backed chair next to the television that got two channels whenever the clouds were just right.

Mr. Rudd asked again.

“My name’s Roy Alison, Mr. Rudd. But I’m here about my grandfather. Moses Tomlin.”

“Never knew any Alisons,” Rudd said. “Where’d you say you was from?”

“Around,” Roy said. “Columbia County. That’s where I’m talking about.” Roy was standing to Mr. Rudd’s right side, was watching the front door across the bed, the nurse past the foot of the bed near the wall.

“Sure. I know Columbia County. Haven’t been there in a coon’s age. You here with that lawman was here?”

“No, sir,” Roy said. “I’m not with anyone.”

The nurse leaned forward in her chair. “He says he’s here to kill you, you old coot.” Then to Roy, “If you’re gonna shoot him, do it in the back. Back near the chicken stump. I don’t need all that in here I gotta explain.”

Roy suggested she shut the fuck up, and she did. “Mr. Rudd, I’m here about my grandfather.”

“I done said, never known no Alison. Not as to a last name, anyhow.”

“Tomlin,” Roy said. “Moses Tomlin. Everybody called him Doc.”

Mr. Rudd didn’t say anything for a minute. Outside, through the open kitchen window, birds Roy didn’t recognize squawked at each other, a flap of wings against body over and over, scramble of claws against ground. “You’re Doc’s boy?”

“Grandson. I’m Doc Tomlin’s grandson.”

Mr. Rudd nodded. Took a breath. “All right, kid. Get it over with.”

The kitchen wasn’t much. Linoleum chipped at nearly every corner, Formica peeling up at the edges. But it was about as clean as it could be. Roy looked across the table to where she’d propped the old man into a chair, like a busted piece of farm equipment you didn’t get rid of, might need some day. Untouched cup of coffee in front of him.

She’d said she wanted to hear. Said to tell the story. Said she’d scraped out caked turd from his folds every couple days for years, and if there was something to tell, by God, she wanted to hear it.

Mr. Rudd asked Roy if he wanted to hear it, hear what happened to Doc.

Roy said his grandfather was gone. What does it matter?

“Right,” the old man said. “What if it does? What if it matters? What if what happened that week–––”

The old man stopped. Held up his hand to look at it. Thinned bones wrapped in the wrong size package, something that will open soon enough, peeling away underground after everyone has gone. Cemetery fertilizer. Feed the trees.

“That car wreck,” he said. “That was you? Killed your folks?”

Roy said yeah, he’d been driving.

The old man said “Shit,” like a long, slight blade. Said he remembered now. “What was the family name? Did you tell me the family name?”

Roy said it was Tomlin. His mother’s father. Moses Tomlin. Doc.

“That’s right,” Rudd said. “That’s right. That’s the family.” Like an old math test Roy was having trouble with. “Doc Tomlin.” The old man tilted his head, tightened his eyes for a better look. “If you say so, kid. Can’t say as I see it just yet. So get it done. What are you waiting for? I got people I gotta haunt when I’m dead.”


“You said you came to here to shoot me? If you really wanted to shoot me, you’d have done it by now. You sure you know what you want?”

Roy raised the gun, his hand steady as loss. “Maybe I want to know why.”

“You want to know why? I thought you wanted to shoot me. Jesus, you sure got a life wrapped up in wants, don’t ya?”

“Tell me what happened that night. Bradley. 1955. Tell me why you killed my grandfather, left my grandmother a widow, my mama fatherless. Tell me why you did that. Then I’ll shoot you.” Roy turned to the nurse, said he was sorry, but this is what he’d come to do.

“Don’t have to apologize,” she said. “Ain’t nothing to me.”

The old man shifted forward in the chair, elbows and shoulders all angles and points. “You know for a fact I’m the one what shot Doc?”

Roy said he was sure.

“Okay. Guess there’s no point arguing that. You asking me why I shot him or why he had to be shot?”

“Stop stalling, old man. Just tell me.”

The old man nodded, reached for the coffee, pushed it farther away. “Doc Tomlin was my best friend. Brother, really. We were––––”

He stopped. Looked off somewhere past Roy. “You want to know? Let me ask you this. You ever talk to your grandmother about this?”

Roy bolted up, chair a crash behind him, his body a shattering of thunder and lightning into the old man’s face. “You say one thing about my grandmother, old man, and I swear to God I won’t shoot you. I’ll kill you. You will beg me to kill you. But I won’t shoot you. You say one more thing about my grandmother.” Roy stood up, palmed down the front of his shirt to straighten it. Set right his chair, growled a little scream like a cough and sat down. “Now, where were we?”

The old man stood, took a deep pull from his coffee, walked to the stove, foil cradling the specked burners, leaned against it, rotted wood after the storm, propped against what remains, suspended by stubbornness. “Go on, now,” he said to the woman. “Get if you’re gettin’.”

She said what if you get shot.

He said the boy woulda done shot him if he had a mind to. Looked at Roy, who didn’t move.

She held the card across for the man, said she was on the clock until nine.

He reached for the card, sliding his hip along the counter to move, wrote seven for her Out Time.

She said it was nine, said c’mon, couldn’t you put nine there?

“Clock says seven. You’re leaving. It’s seven. Ain’t no point making things up anymore. Ain’t a damn person left to impress.”

“You couldn’t write down nine?” she asked again. “That would have been just too much to ask? Two hours. A little help. We’re nearly family, Mr. Rudd.”

He said so what. Family.

She said family means, it means you never have to ask for help. That’s family, she said. All together. Never have to ask.

“Who told you that?”

“My daddy.”

“Your daddy’s a damn fool,” Rudd said. “Family don’t mean never asking for help. Family means never asking.”

The two of them across from the table, Roy asked the old man if the nurse was going for the cops.

“Can’t tell with her, but I ain’t counting on it. You want to leave, that’s up to you. Can always come back later. I’m heading up to Little Rock tomorrow, have them trade out my blood for some good blood. You can call my social secretary, have her set something up.”

“Mr. Rudd, I came here to kill you. I don’t figure either of us wants to spend too much time on this, so just tell what you were going to tell me. Then I’ll shoot you and you can go on and get to haunting people.” Roy set the pistol on the table in front of him, barrel aimed to Mr. Rudd’s left ear. “Go ahead. Take your time.”

Rudd nodded, crossed his hands in his lap. “It’s a dangerous thing to be loved by a king,” he said. “Old saying. Ever heard that one?”

“Can’t say I have.”

“Well, I got to tell you this part, and I can’t have you flying off ready to storm the beaches.”

“Just tell it.”

“Your grandfather and I, well, we weren’t kings, but it weren’t for lack of trying.”

“You’re not talking about small-engine repair? My grandpa’s shop?”

“That’s right. That’s right. He had that shop for a while. Lamartine or Waldo or some fool place.” Rudd leaned forward a little, pulled his chair closer to the table. “Ever hear of a guy called Karpis? Alvin?”

Roy said that sounded familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. Get on with it, he said.

“Karpis. Part of this Ma Barker gang or however the cops called it. Kidnapped a couple people back in the 1930s. A banker named Brewer and a brewer, a beer man, named something. Wasn’t Banker, but I can’t remember what it was. Hamilton, maybe, though that don’t sound just right.”

“If you’re about to tell me Ma Barker killed my grandpa, I’m going to be a little upset with you, Mr. Rudd.”

“Just hold on. I’m coming to the part you care about, the part about your people. You need to understand the who and the what to get to the why. See, the man who was pretty much running most of the county and some of Lafayette and Union too, that was a fellow by the name of Pribble. Jefferson Davis Pribble. Named after that Southern president and even more of an asshole. Well, JD gets it in his head, because he knew some people who knew some people with that Karpis crew, he gets it into his head to kidnap the daughter of the governor of Arkansas. Starts some fool scheme. Well, nothing ever came of that, you see? May well be JD finds out the governor didn’t have a daughter of the kidnapping age. I don’t know.”

Roy shuffled, started to say something.

“Just wait. I’m getting there. Man tells a story that’s 50 years old he ain’t told in 50 years, you got to give the man a little space.” Rudd angled out his elbows, pulled them back in like chicken wings refusing to snap. “Your granddaddy, my best mate, Doc Tomlin, now, you may not know this, but your grandfather had a head for plans. For being five moves ahead, seeing the outside of a thing. Not just playing the angles, you see? He knew the angles of the angles. Once saw him take 10 large from a timber company that took six months to know it was gone. Smartest man I ever knew, then or since. Had this idea, running an office for a job service place we had in mind. Over to Magnolia. Settling down. Getting out of all this.”

Roy counted the seconds to his gun on the table, the loose bullets rolling back and forth against nothing but gravity.

He waved his hand against nothing much. “See, there was a while there, we was both down in this hole, trying to find our way back up. Figure your granddaddy had the sense to settle down, the family, Lucy, the baby. Figured they’d be fine. We’d all be fine. But Doc was the worst damn card player I ever saw. Always looking to hit that inside straight. Like he had it all down. He gets on the wrong side of JD Pribble, who still has it in his mind to kidnap somebody. Plans to take this Nusbaum boy. Father a doctor from Chicago. Mother old money. Had a big place up north of Magnolia. Pribble wants Doc, your granddaddy, to work off what he owed by planning this, running point. Doc and him got in this big row about it, dragged on for days. I said it was a bad idea. This was, back summer of 1955. See, Doc and Lucy just had a baby not too far back. Belle of the ball, your grandmother. Wonderful mother. Never lost whatever it was most of them women lost moving from wife to mother. Never picked up all the other. Just the kind of woman a man like Doc Tomlin wants to do right by, you understand. While before, wouldn’t have mattered. Running hog crazy all over the county. But now. Well, the family. You understand.”

Roy said yeah. He remembered something about family.

“Well, there you go. No way around it. Doc figures he can’t do it. Have to find some other way to get this money paid back. Then come one morning, Doc’s having lunch at the Chatterbox up in Magnolia, when JD walks in, drops this package on the table and walks out. Wrapped up all in this brown paper. So Doc goes to open it right there. Silver hairbrush off Lucy’s dresser, still dangling strands of hair.”

Roy breathed, “Jesus.”

“Wasn’t no Jesus, son. Plenty of devil.” The old man slid his fingers around the coffee cup, looked into the bottom, grounds washing around like rotten tea leaves, slurped down the dregs, wiped his chin.

Roy asked what next.

“Your grandpa hightails it back to the house. Lucy, your grandmother, there. She’s fine, of course. Always would be. Woman, man. Always was.” He stopped. Looked at Roy. “Is? Always is?”

Roy got it after a second, what the old man was getting at, said yeah, is. Still is.

Rudd nodded. “Doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe it never did. But that’s one person can always take care of herself well as anybody, I figure. Still, these Pribbles. Ain’t no telling back then what they was capable of. Back then, anyhow. Doc tries to send her off somewhere for a while, until he can settle things up with Pribble. But she wouldn’t listen to him. And he wouldn’t listen to her. Said they could figure the thing out together. Lucy always said how it wasn’t that big a problem if money could fix it. Always knew what to say.”

Roy saw something in the old man’s eye, but didn’t know what it was.

“Couple days later, Doc’s still of a mind to do the Pribble job. Lucy had been trying to talk him out of it. I’d been trying. Told him this wasn’t what we’d agreed to, this wasn’t the plan. Our retirement plan. One night, that night, he’s coming back from meeting with a few of them up in Bradley. Couple Pribbles. Hutcheson boy. Another one or two, I guess. So he’s coming back and he picks me up to bring me back, ’cause I’d been staying around there to talk to some people about the lake, the one for the paper mill, and I figure I got one last chance to talk him out of this. One last shot. Turns out I was right about that.”

Rudd reached for his coffee cup, spun it around a little until it lay on its side, empty.

“I told him he had to keep Lucy safe. His family. Told him I could help him figure this out. But that was always his thing, the figuring out. Bank jobs. Payrolls. The looking at how all the pieces fit together. And that’s when he told me of this big plan he was hatching, how it would end the Pribbles. I told him he couldn’t do it. Said he couldn’t do that to Lucy. Said what did she think. We’d pulled off somewhere and maybe one car went by this whole time we were talking. He said he didn’t tell her, said it wasn’t her business. I said this wasn’t the life Lucy deserved. The baby. Then I saw it.”

Roy leaned forward, asked what the old man had seen.

“In his eyes. He says JD was right, that this was the only way, our future. I told him just step away from this one, leave it be. He tells me I shouldn’t worry so much, give my pretty face those frown lines. He said this was just a tiny thing, one job. I said that’s how it happens. Before long you’re back to burning houses and putting another judge in the ground.”

The old man looked off at the wall behind Roy, moved his sight along whatever was back there. Roy asked what his grandpa said then.

“Said I was sounding like Lucy. He looks at me then, whatever fool look I have on my face, sees right through me like he’d just figured out how to take down the bank from the inside. ‘Christ Almighty, you’re sweet on her,’ he tells me. Says is this what it’s all about. Starts laughing. Tells me to get on. Says just get on. I told him it didn’t matter what I thought, what I felt. Said he’d better do right by her. Told him he’d better hold on to what he’s got before it gets taken away from him. He just kept laughing at me, said you ain’t never got what you thought you was gonna have, that’s for sure.”

Roy asked what he’d meant by that.

“No idea. I’ve thought about that these, these however many years. Fifty? Sixty? I’ve thought about a lot of things. How I could have just let him be, go off get himself killed. That would have opened things up for, well, can’t say it matters now.”

“So what happened then?”

“I said he had to keep her out of this trouble and he said she was a grown damn woman and could take care of herself and just kept on laughing. I reached back for this gun I had, this little peashooter about the size of that one you got there, and he said now come on and I said tell me you ain’t doing it and he comes a step to me and he wouldn’t shut his mouth. Just kept on teasing me. Said was I gonna save all the women or just the ones that wouldn’t have me. So I shot him and there he was shot and I’d done it. I shot him. I did that.”

Roy knew Rudd had stopped telling him the story a while back. Now he was just telling it.

“We’d done these things for years and then we come outta that hole together and we coulda kept on but there I’d shot him. Because he had it all planned out. All them pieces fitting together. Because that’s what he’d done. And I wasn’t worried about him or me or any of it. Just the one piece I didn’t have a fool right to worry about, that could handle herself just fine. And he had all the pieces figured.”

Rudd reached behind himself to a hutch drawer, slid it open. Roy tensed for the gun that never came. Rudd pulled out what looked like a little stick of gum, slid it onto the table. “And what’s left of any of that. I panicked. Never looked back. Took things—make it look like a robbery, I guess. Held on to this. All that’s left.”

Roy met the old man’s hand halfway, held the tie pin, the blue circle in the middle, the dot of light centered. Roy took the gun off the table, clicked open the cylinder, shook the three bullets loose.

“You should know, your grandfather,” the old man said. “People talk. Say what they want. You get turned into something. You should know. He wasn’t….” The old man trailed off, scratched his shoulder as he talked. “Looks like you got something like him, you know. They say stuff skips a generation. I guess it’s the eyes. Something like his. Apples falling from trees and all that.”

Roy nodded along.

As the old man sat back down, settled in, Roy reached into his own pocket for the matching cuff links, the same dot of light in the center.

“Your grandma,” Rudd said. “She’s doing fine?”

Roy didn’t hear the back door hinge open, metal against metal, didn’t hear the slight give of the floorboards, Rudd saying something about pieces of a life, about the falling apart, the coming together.

“Hands on your head,” a voice behind Roy, the open doorway he’d let fall from his attention. He reached for the gun on the table, voice saying, “Hands on your goddamn head,” shotgun racking. Playing out in Roy’s figuring: spray pattern pops into shoulder, blade picking welted pellets from tissue. Kitchen wall dotted. Or a closer blast. Or maybe not birdshot like last time. Maybe a slug. Maybe more than the one man. The one gun. Roy counted the seconds to his gun on the table, the loose bullets rolling back and forth against nothing but gravity. And reaching under his chair, a spinning throw toward the shotgun. Played it out, the options. Maybe Rudd catches shot in the face, the neck. Roy put his hands on his head, watched Rudd, saw straight through him, through the wall behind him and down into the earth, all the way through. The empty channel all the way to the starless universe on the other side. The hole never filling.

“Lil Pete, you put that down. The hell you doing?”

The voice behind setting the barrel against Roy’s shoulder. “Mama said you needed a hand.”

Rudd shook his head. “Roy Alison, this here’s Lil Pete. Guess his mother did set out to send somebody back.” He waved the boy to the side. “Your mama must figure we’re still family after all.”

“She said tell you family means putting up with some jackasses now and again.”

As Pete set the shotgun against the table, moved forward, Roy reached out, for the gun, drove the stock into the man’s jaw, his arms back into the floor, falling down onto elbows, wrists. Table falling over, coffee cup breaking apart, cuff links and tie pin sliding away. As Lil Pete hit the boards, reached for a gun at his waist, Roy put a boot against the man’s gun hand, driving it into his gut. He put the barrel of the shotgun into the man’s shoulder, took a breath, saw himself blast a slug clear through, a gaping hole, through the bottom of the house, into the earth, everything filling with blood.