“Howdy stranger. Take a seat by the campfire, we got plenty of room.”
The girl tips her cap and smiles. Both the fire and the invitation are warm enough, but the man to her right doesn’t seem too happy about it. His stare stretches for thousands of miles, far enough to see the back of his own head. It’s bald and dirty, with a scar running across the middle like a zipper.
“Oh, don’t pay him no mind. He ain’t much for talkin’. But, if you make trouble, he’ll put two…”
The girl makes a peace sign with her fingers, before pointing them at her head like a gun.
“…in your skull.”
I tell her I’m not here to make trouble, waves, or even conversation. All I want to do is rest my aching feet. The girl sympathizes. She tells me her soles are so worn not even Jesus can save them.
Maybe it’s the pun that makes my shoulders relax, or maybe it’s her southern charm, but I drop my knapsack on the dirt with a great big thud. Guns, ammo, and whiskey spill onto the ground like a diary.
“You starting a war, sheriff?”
“Then you’re gonna need a good deputy.”
Maybe I will.
“The name’s Hope,” she says, breaking the silence. “Hope Lies. Funny name, I know. German, I think. The lying part, not the hope.”
I ask her the obvious. Well, does it? Does “hope lie?”
“I don’t know,” she says, “You’ve been traveling these wastes. Why don’t you tell me?”