The Steep and Thorny Way
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I nodded, and a tear slid down my right cheek with the burn of salt. My mother brushed my face with the back of her right hand. “Not everyone’s a part of that group, Hanalee. As I said before, it’s just a small, obnoxious percentage of residents causing the trouble. ” “We’re going to move, though, aren’t we? ” I asked. “The Klan, and even the eugenics movement”—Uncle Clyde swallowed—“they aren’t problems exclusive to Oregon, unfortunately. ” He laid my wrist back down on the bed. “But we are strongly considering a move, perhaps up to Washington, where you wouldn’t be faced with interracial marriage laws.
Your father would be appalled to hear the words coming out of your mouth right now. ” Laurence scrunched up his face, and without even hesitating, he raised the pistol in the air and cocked the hammer. At that, Uncle Clyde leaned his arm across the back of his seat and shot us backward down the driveway, swearing under his breath—something about “goddamned baby rattlesnakes not knowing when to stop biting. ” “WHERE’S JOE, HANALEE? ” ASKED MY STEPFATHER AS we rounded the bend to our house. I fidgeted, nudging the back of the front seat with the toes of my shoes.
Maybe it’s my fault that he died. I got so distracted with Joe, I didn’t warn your father about that terrible, premonitory pain. And if Joe would have just stayed with that boy without my bicycle attracting the deputy . . . Maybe that’s why your father’s storming into my house these past few nights. Maybe it is because of me, not you. ” I struggled to find my voice. “H-h-how long did it take you to recover from that premonition pain before you hopped onto your bicycle? ” “I don’t remember,” she said. “A little while.
I staggered backward from the kick, and my ears rang with a horrendous screeching that sounded like a crowd of keening mourners wailing inside my head. Beyond the cloud of dissipating smoke, Joe thrashed his arms about in the water and struggled to stay upright, but I didn’t wait to see if he’d recover from the shock. Instead, I tucked that gun back into my holster and hightailed it out of the woods. CHAPTER 2 LESS THAN KIND “HANALEE? ” CALLED MAMA FROM our backyard, beyond the Douglas firs that shot up to the clear July sky on the edge of our property.
I said, put that gun back into your holster! ” snapped Joe. “You almost fired it, didn’t you? ” I hiked up my skirt and struggled to fit the pistol back inside the leather casing. My hands trembled from coming so close to shooting that bullet. I couldn’t breathe quite right. “We’ll make this work. ” Joe stepped toward me. “We’ll stay safe. ” I lowered my skirt. “How? ” “I—” He stopped in front of me and rubbed his left thumb against the side of his face, while the lantern swung and squeaked from the rest of his fingers.