They had to sit for a time after dragging the body so far in this
heat - two young women in sleeveless summer dresses, hugging their
knees on the hillside while the hot wind danced in their hair and
crept up their skirts and a dead man lay behind them. They both
looked straight ahead across the rolling fields of prairie grass,
and nowhere else.
"We should have tied him to a board or something," Ruth said after
a few minutes; "so he wouldn't get tangled up in the grass like he
Laura opened her mouth, then closed it abruptly. She'd almost said
they'd know better next time. She closed her eyes and saw big, raw
hands dragging through the grass, fingers curled, almost as if he'd
been trying to hang on. It was high summer and the grass was long,
whipping in the wind and wrapping around the rough fabric of his
"Shall we start?"
Laura felt her heart skip a beat. "In a minute."
But it was impossible to keep Ruth still for very long. She was
like one of those little birds whose wings beat so fast you
couldn't see them, darting here and there like they were always on
the edge of panic. She was trying to be still to please Laura, but
her hands were busy, almost frantic, shredding one piece of grass
and then another. "I have a headache."
"It's those combs. They always give you a headache."
Ruth took the combs from her hair and shook it free, lovely blond
curls falling down her back like liquid sunshine. Silly Ruth, as
old-fashioned in appearance as the name she'd been saddled with;
hair too long, skirts too short, and maybe that was what had
brought this whole thing to a head. She managed to sit for almost a
full minute, and then the fidgeting started again.
"Stop fussing, Ruth."
"Don't yell at me."
Laura heard the hurt in her voice, and knew without looking that
Ruth's lower lip was starting to tremble. Soon the eyes would spill
over. She hadn't yelled, exactly, but perhaps her tone had been too
sharp. That was wrong. Ruth had always been the fragile one, even
before her belly had started to swell, and you had to be careful.
"I'm sorry if it sounded that way. Have you thought of a name for
"Stop trying to distract me. We have to dig this hole."
"I just want you to be still for a bit. Rest."
"Rest?" Ruth looked at her as if she'd just uttered a profanity.
"But we have so much to do."
"Just this one thing."
And then Laura smiled and felt herself relax for the first time in
years. It was true. Kill a man, bury him - that was all that was on
their list today.
After a few seconds Ruth said, "Emily."
"Emily. I'm going to name her Emily."
"What if it's a boy?"
Ruth smiled. "It isn't."
Excerpted from SNOW BLIND © Copyright 2011 by P. J. Tracy.
Reprinted with permission by Putnam, an imprint of Penguin Group
(USA). All rights reserved.