Gale and Buzz Newcomb

Gale Newcomb lowered the receiver onto the cradle of the bedside telephone, then dragged her sewing chair to the closet, stepped up on it, and felt along the high shelf for her husband's pistol. She gently patted the coarse, unfinished wood, working toward the end of the shelf. When her fingers met the revolver's thick, blunt chrome barrel, they rested there, then moved delicately down to the pistol's rough metal grip. For a moment, she allowed her index finger to trace the cold crescent trigger, then quickly pulled her hand away. She knew better than to take the gun down, to hide it or throw it into the field. She pushed the cool steel way back, thinking that maybe her husband would have one extra second to think about what that gun could do to a body.

She stepped down slowly and dragged the heavy chair back to the sewing table, placing the legs in the exact depressions they had formed in the bedroom carpet. She vacuumed over the chair's lines, erasing them. When she had tightly wound the cord and returned the vacuum to its assigned place in the closet, Gale walked quietly to the kitchen and dug inside her purse for lipstick. A pair of cardinals sputtered in the camellia outside the window and two blue jays speared earthworms from the ditch bank just beyond. She applied the red gloss to her lips, then sat with her hands folded before her on the kitchen table, seeing nothing, and waited for her husband.

"Get your coat," Buzz Newcomb said, allowing the screen door to slam behind him. She glanced his elongated shadow moving up the hall toward the bedroom.

"Buzz," she said, "why don't we just lie down for a little while?"

She drew a deep breath. Her husband's form filled the doorway, his whole body seeming to expand and contract like a huge lung. "Getcha damn coat," he said, and she saw the gun, hanging low like an extension of his own hand.