When she began to swell, Randall took his sister down into the woods and shot her twice, once in the belly, and once in the head. It was a small caliber gun, but it made an awful mess of her face. It was comforting in a way: it wasn’t his sister, gravid and beautiful, that he buried, but a mass of meat, warm and swiftly cooling. He buried her underneath the forest soil, in a stand of pale birches, and set a ring of stones over the grave. The walk back through the woods was long and winding and quiet. It had been one of their favorite walks, especially in autumn, when the leaves had fallen and the cedars and the pines spiced the air, when leaves burned distant in someone’s backyard, when the moss started to turn brown. He relished the walk, savored the memory of her, savored her absence.
The gun he cleaned carefully as he walked, inside and out, then snapped the firing pin, and dropped it into the river far below the green arch of the bridge.
He stood for nearly an hour, leaning over the railing of the bridge, mind nearly empty, watching the water spin and throstle past.
Cars passed him, wheels hissing on the wet pavement.
It was just dark when he got home, the sun slipping behind the mountains. His mother moved in and out of the kitchen, the living room, and the hallway between, her feet padding in quilted slippers.
“Randall,” she said, and ran to him, her hands out. “Where have you been, my bonny boy, and how?” She kissed him lightly, once on each cheek, then longer and lingering on the mouth. His hands moved sullenly up and down her back.