"Belonged to his mama," she says, "but I'm the one's been feeding `em since she died." Her voice is whiney, wavery, sad.

Elec takes a final draw on his cigarette and thumps it to the parched white dirt. Then he idles off around the brittle-board corn crib where the hens are huddled. A cluster of crock jugs and rusty plows are banked against the back wall. He eyes a spalding lard jug, picks it up and sets it down, while listening for the owner's pickup, but hears only the forever cry of a hawk working the north woods between the house and the highway.

"Y'all ain't looking to get shed of none of these old jugs, are you?" he hollers.

"Belonged to June Bug's mama," the woman calls. "Ask him."

Elec elects the two hens tipping toward the far corner of the crib. He'd best take just the hens and go, he decides. Count himself lucky for pulling a fast one on the woman, who he wishes made his blood rise about half as high as the jugs do. That's what he'd like--that old feeling of being young and lusty again. He's 52, going on 90--that's how he feels.

He never leaves a job without something to carry home. He's slick like that. But he's moved too quick, this time, can feel it in his bones, should have waited till he got permission from the owner of the jugs and the woman and the hens to plow in the fiber optic cable through their yard. Not get on the man's bad side.

The hens suspiciously eyeball Elec, then scoot around the corner of the crib as though not to alert him to their fear. He darts back and eases around the front of the crib, meeting them, and they scuttle to the rear again, fluttering low over the banked jugs and plows. And once more his eyes are drawn to the crock lard jug that he could place by his kitchen door for a stop. He can feel the froth of words inside, what he will say when he tells about making the trade. But he can't quite picture who he'll tell, who will care.

When he had brought home the birddogging boat from Florida, on another job, Peg had shamed him by asking where he intended to dock it--maybe God would send another flood, she'd said. She hadn't got the point, the point being that the boat was old and interesting, and more importantly important in that he'd been able to trade the widow-woman out of it simply by poor-mouthing her. Words, just words, all that he was out-of-pocket for, all it had cost him. That he could do that was important.

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