Jack and I, we both take off our boots and just wade into the stream barefoot. Jack's an Indian guy I've met before on a couple of jobs like this. Most of the other guys I didn't know, but they were all back at the house. I showed up late, and I guess Jack must have, too, because they sent us on the shit job. We're looking for rocks. And not just any rocks, but they've got to be the right size and all that, for this guy's driveway. He wants to line his driveway with rocks from the river, is one thing he's doing, and so while everyone else is back at the house pouring gravel and putting in some trees, Jack and I are out looking for rocks.
I couldn't believe this guy's house when I came up towards it this morning. I've never seen a house like that, except maybe in magazines. It was only one story, but huge and sprawling, with glass everywhere, except there were curtains over every last inch of glass, and you couldn't see anything inside. It was brand new, too, which was strange, since there weren't many new houses in this part of the state, not many at all. Everyone else, about a dozen guys in all, was working when I showed up -- I had trouble getting the truck started that morning -- and so I went up and knocked on the house, figuring that the guy would come out, tell me what he wanted me to do, and maybe even say hello, say that he remembered me from Thursday night.
Except it was the little guy with the big hat who opened the door, opening the door just enough so that I could see him standing there but not enough that I could see anything past him. "Is there a problem?" he said. I explained that I was late and was wanting to know what I should be doing, and he came outside and shut the door tight behind him. I wanted to ask him about that girl, if she was all right, but I didn't know if he'd like my asking very much, and so I didn't say anything about that.
"So that guy, he's the owner of the Dancing Bear?" I asked him.
He didn't turn around to look at me or anything, just kept walking back toward the driveway. "Yes," he said. I asked him what the guy's name was but he didn't say anything. He got to the driveway and pointed at the wheelbarrow and told me to go down to the stream and start bringing stones back up. "Make sure they're at least the size of a man's head, or thereabouts." Then Jack came driving up, and this guy told me to take him with me, and then he walked back toward the house and disappeared inside it.
"You want to give me a hand with this one?" Jack asks me, and I come over to where he is. He hands me his flask, which is a lot nicer than the plastic one I've got, and I take a drink. It's Canadian whiskey, sweet and real cheap, but it feels good hitting my stomach. I'm thinking that after a full day of hard work, and I get home and my muscles are aching, I'll take a long bath and be so exhausted I'll just drift right off. Besides, usually these things never lasted more than a couple of nights. Jenna always tried to get me to take sleeping pills or something, but I know nothing like that would work, and it's not like it happened real often or anything, just once every couple of years or so, since I was a kid. The first time I was up two nights in a row, then fell asleep in the middle of English class, and they couldn't wake me up and thought I was on drugs or something, but I got up the next morning and was fine.
Jack's older than me, and his skin is thick like leather, but when we both lift the stone he seems to have an easier time than me. I'm used to doing a lot of lifting, but I'm not really all that strong. Jack, though, I'd seen him before, he'd be the guy who'd always run over and do the real heavy stuff, like hauling an armful of fence posts or hoisting concrete blocks. I heard he used to be a cop, had grown up on the Fort Peck Res and then had gone down to Texas for a few years but had gotten in some kind of trouble and come back up to live on the res.
We get the rock out of the stream and over to the shore, drop it into the wheelbarrow with the others. We're both about to head back into the stream when a wave of laziness seems to wash over the both of us, and he reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a pack of smokes. He offers me one, and I take it. "I quit about three months ago," I say.
"Yeah, me, too," he says, and we both laugh. He pulls a lighter out of his pants pocket and tries to spark it but it's wet. "You got a light?"
"One thing in the truck that works," I say. "Should we bring these up?"
He shakes his head, and we climb back up towards the road. It's not a steep climb, just a few feet up, but getting that wheelbarrow up each time has already put a cramp in the back of my right leg, and it's nice to take a break. I get to the truck and push the lighter in as Jack sets himself on the gate and looks back up the road toward the house. "You know this guy?" I ask. The lighter pops out and I light my cigarette. It's been a long time since I've taken a drag and it feels good. I hold the smoke for a second and then blow it out as I walk toward the back of the truck. A wind comes up, and the yellow prairie grass flattens out a bit, then stands back up as the wind subsides. I pass Jack my cigarette and he lights his.
"Yeah, Davidson. Something Davidson. Mister Davidson, that's what I call him. That's what everyone calls him," he says. "My second daughter, she works at his place, that bar he runs. You been in there?"
"Titty place, right? The Dancing Bear?" I ask. I look in Jack's face, compare it to the waitress at the Dancing Bear, but I can't remember her face all that well.
"Yeah, all the Indians go out there, but they don't spend much, Davidson's not much interested in us, you know? And there's some Canadians that come down, but I don't know how he's got a house like that running that place. I think maybe he made his money before he came here. Moving to eastern Montana, opening a titty joint, that's something only a rich guy would be stupid enough to do." Jack lets out a long stream of smoke, which dissipates quickly in the heat. The sun is already drying my feet, and without being in the water to keep myself cool, I start to sweat.
"You been in there?" I ask.
"Once or twice, to pick up Rebecca. She works there most nights, you see, so it's a little hard for me to go, be sitting there staring at these women's tits with my daughter right there," he says, and we both laugh. "I think there's a car coming. We better look busy." I follow his gaze up the road, and I can see some dust rising. He jumps down off the gate, and I push a stack of rocks over, and we start restacking them real slowly. We'll have to take a load back to the house; my truck can barely carry the junk I've already got in there.
"Would you go in there otherwise, do you think?" I ask him, and he laughs.
"Shit, man, all those skinny white girls flapping their fake tits, I don't know, it's tempting."
"Where do they come from, do you know? Not from around here," I say, looking over my shoulder. I can see the car coming around the bend now, heading toward the house.
"Texas, Rebecca says, and California, pretty much. I guess Mister Davidson's got connections down there. But they only come up for a little while, couple of weeks, and then they go back. Or somewhere else, anyway. Rebecca took a couple of the girls to the airport once, they said they didn't know when they were coming back, didn't even know where they were going from here. Just trying to make enough cash to get by. We know the feeling, huh?"
"Shit, it's Calvin," I say, and the only reason I that at first is because of the car. Last night, as I was lying awake, I thought about him, and was trying to remember things about him from school. The one thing about Calvin was he was the first kid in our class to get his own car. His old man bought it for him, because cattle prices were through the roof right then for a little while, and Calvin's old man was probably the richest guy in this part of the state; his whole family, they were like the royalty of Glasgow. And so one day Calvin came pulling into the school parking lot with this seventy-eight Plymouth Fury. It was the biggest car I'd ever seen, with a deep blue body and a white top. And maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but here it is, that same Plymouth Fury, coming down the gravel road toward Jack and me. I take the last drag on my cigarette and throw it onto the ground.
"He works for Davidson, too. You know him?" Jack asks.
"Went to school with him. He used to drive that fucking car sixty miles an hour down Main and since his goddamn uncle's the sheriff he never got a ticket."
The car pulls by, and I can see Calvin behind the wheel, but he doesn't look at us, doesn't even slow down. In the seat next to him I can see someone, and as they pull past us I look inside the window and there she is, the dancer, only she's not in the pigtails anymore, but her hair is down and she's got sunglasses on. Her arms are crossed and she's staring straight ahead. Neither of them are talking, but I can hear country music pour out of the car as they go by. I stare after the car for a few seconds, watch it disappear over the rise.
Jack throws his cigarette down and walks back toward the stream. As I turn around to follow him, I know right then that I am not going to sleep tonight.