Cloudmaker. Malcolm Brooks
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Название: Cloudmaker

Автор: Malcolm Brooks

Издательство: Ingram

Жанр: Историческая литература


isbn: 9780802146335


СКАЧАТЬ Now he’d hit forty for sure, the needle when he glanced at it appearing to tremble in place like a setter on point.

      He fiddled with the spark and got the backfiring down. The brake appeared near useless, so he pushed on the reverse pedal instead, let off and pushed again and got his speed down and his heart out of his belly and back in his chest where it belonged. He clattered across a rough span of washboard and veered around a buckle of frost heave and bottomed onto level ground.

      Two other boys scrambled out of the willows along the river, rods in hand and a mess of fish on a peeled branch. One was a real lunker, Huck could see it even before he’d closed the distance. Raleigh and Shirley, no doubt coming to the racket from the motor. Huck rolled to a stop.

      “Dodging the truant officer?” said Shirley. He was nearly eighteen, hadn’t made it past the first week of the ninth grade.

      Huck twisted in the seat. “Seen one?”

      “Ol’ Rolly here pulled this dern German brown out. You believe it? This dern far down. Gonna get it to town, sell it to the café. Care to give a lift? We’ll let you in on the haul.”

      “That trout ain’t the only thing in this river today,” said Raleigh.

      Shirley made a show of ignoring him. “Old Man Neuman’s rig, ain’t it? Been in the weeds two years at least. What’d you do, sweet talk him out of it? Trade a pie or something?”

      “A jug, more like it,” said Raleigh. He held the dead fish at arm’s length to keep the drip off his dungarees. Whitefish and that single, magnificent brown.

      Huck grinned. “Gas is down to five cents. Lots of cars coming out of the weeds.”

      “Running like a real top, from the sound of it.” Shirley fancied himself a real wisecracker. “Thought maybe ol’ John Dillinger was up here, testing ordnance. Machine Gun Kelly.”

      “Dillinger’s dead,” said Raleigh. “All them old boys is. Pushing daisies. Or locked up.”

      “Yeah, I know that, Rolly.”

      “I think we ought to get a second opinion.”

      “Don’t need no second opinion. Five cents, you said? This trout’ll bring what, twenty? That’d buy some gas. Think this crate can get us to Billings? There’s a girl down there who likes me.”

      Raleigh snorted. “This thing could be a supercharged Duesey and it wouldn’t matter a lick. I ain’t donating my trout to get you to Billings and back.”

      “Didn’t say nothing about back. All I need is to get there. Worry about back later.” Shirley winked at Huck. He tapped the Ford’s battered bonnet with his cane pole. “What’d it take to get this trap running in the first place? I know you got a knack, but young Rolly here is right. For once.”

      “Old Man Neuman tried to run hooch through it a few years back, when gas was pinched. Wrecked the floats in the carb. Ain’t done with her yet, but she’ll run smooth enough, I think.”

      “You know what I think.” Raleigh studied his dead fish again. The red spots on the trout’s long body had already faded and streaks of gray defiled the pale of its belly. “I think we should get a second opinion.”

      Shirley eyed the narrow tip of his bamboo, made it quiver in the air above his head. “Zane Grey here thinks there’s a body down there.”

      Huck felt the tremor in the motor. “A what down where?”

      “A body,” said Raleigh. “A dead dern body caught in a snag on the other side of the river. Couldn’t get to it with the water this high.”

      Huck looked at Shirley, and Shirley shook his head. “It ain’t no body, it’s an inner tube. I promise. A black tire tube with about half the air out.”

      “Second opinion,” said Raleigh.

      “How far off we talking?”

      Raleigh gestured with his swinging fish. “Two minutes. Right down there.”

      “Not no two minutes, though. Ten, more like. Look, the blush is already going on this brown,” Shirley began, but Huck was already ratcheting the brake with one hand, cutting the magneto with the other. The engine dieseled a bit and shuddered still, and he heard the dull hum of the river all the way up here.

      Shirley ran his eyes across the rusted shell of the T. “You sure this heap’s liable to start again?”

      Huck fell even with Raleigh, flashed a snake-oil grin. “Nope.”


      “Want a second opinion?”

      “Har har. You ladies is going to an awful lot of trouble for a gol dang truck tube.”

      They went down off the roadway across a swath of cheatgrass greening through the dead stalks of winter, the bitterbrush and sagebrush greening up, too, and the meadowlarks trilling everywhere. The Bull Mountains loomed like a fortress a few miles off, snow glinting yet on the high northern rims. Otherwise the world had warmed.

      They dropped into a wash and kicked out a cottontail, which raced ahead and cut and bounced pell-mell like a rubber ball and finally vanished down a hole. The rush of the water rose up louder with the close of distance, not a roar but a hiss, like midnight static after radio sign-off. Raleigh and Shirley walked upriver and cleared a willow brake and threaded their poles through the cottonwoods to get to the gravel along the bank.

      The river had already come down from its peak—Huck could see the runoff line a foot or so up the rocks on the far bank—but ripped along anyway brown and fast and high. He saw a butterfly flash in the sun, saw it flit and dip and dart. Mourning cloak, first of the year. That line of azure jewels down each black wing, that yellow edge. Then he saw the body.

      Half sunk and bobbing with the racing flow of the Musselshell, in a snarl of dead limbs and flotsam and jumbled planks lodged and upended, akimbo as the wreck of a raft. A torso in a dark suit with one swollen sleeve now visible, now not with the action of the water. A half-submerged cottonwood sweeper nodded and flexed, the root ball still partly attached to the bank.

      “Could be a tire tube. A big one, out of a tractor.” Had to be. No, a sleeve—there it was again and now gone. Huck squinted and stared and tried to convince himself his first sense had been true. The longer he looked, the less he could swear to.

      “Yeah, it could be a tire tube, but it ain’t. It’s a dern body.”

      “Tube,” said Shirley.

      “Corpse. Black suit.”

      “Okay, look at it. Look. Right . . . now,” he said, when the convex edge of this conundrum lifted again with the water, breached again in its eddy of foam and debris. “That is an inner tube.”

      “Huck? What say you?”

      The figure again went under. A pair of mergansers rocketed down the corridor, careened and splashed crazily to a landing just downriver. The hen had a topknot like a woodpecker’s. “I can’t, either way. Could be a tube, yeah. But. It could be a dern body.”

      “Now СКАЧАТЬ