Heat and Light

Read Heat and Light for Free Online

Book: Read Heat and Light for Free Online
Authors: Jennifer Haigh
indoors. The female version, by all rights, should be ugly as homemade sin. But Amy Rubin is attractive, for her age anyway. He’s never dated or married a woman old enough to need reading glasses.
    â€œEverything all right here? You look like you seen a ghost.”
    She sets down Time and stares as though she can’t quite place him. Come off it, lady, he thinks. This is my company. You’re here on my dime.
    He extends his hand. “Kip Oliphant. Happy to meet you, Miss Rubin. Is it Miss?”
    â€œDoctor. Or Amy is fine.”
    Old maid, he guesses, and not happy about it. “Amy, I want to thank you for coming all the way down here. You were a big help to us.”
    In truth, the keynote had gone on longer than necessary. With the lights dimmed for her PowerPoint presentation, more than one shareholder had seized the opportunity for a nap. It had taken all Kip’s self-control to avoid hollering: Wake up, boys! She’s coming to the good part. And sure enough, in the end, the number roused them. It would have roused a corpse. The number was so staggeringly large that the room gasped audibly. Rubin had upped her estimate. The Marcellus Shale held more gas than anyone had imagined: by her calculations, a mind-blowing fifty trillion cubic feet.
    Now she glares at Kip like he called her a sonofabitch. “I’m a scientist. I’m always happy to talk about my research.”
    â€œLet me buy you a drink. It’s the least I can do.” He grins. “In a year or two, you’ll a bought me another ranch.”
    She flinches as though he slapped her.
    â€œThanks, but I can’t.” She stands, stuffing Time into her giant pocketbook. “I have a plane to catch.”

1.
    T he town is named for its coal mines. The prison guard is named for his father. Both feel the weight of their naming, the ancestral burden: congenital defects, secondhand hopes. Condemned, like all namesakes, to carry another’s history, the bloopers and missteps, the lost promise. The concessions of age, its bitter surrenders; the rare and fleeting moments of grace.
    At Deer Run Correctional Institute, on a Friday morning in May, Richard Devlin Jr. walks the length of F Block, making his rounds.
    â€œA man needs privacy,” Hops says from behind the sheet. “I’ve explained this before.”
    The sheet—bleach-smelling, washed thin—is stretched across the front-facing bars of his cell. It’s a stunt he’s pulled before, though never on Devlin’s watch.
    Devlin waits, his arms crossed. From somewhere behind him, an odd noise—a metallic chinking, like the tap of an ice pick—echoes through the corridor.
    â€œI’m talking about a human right. A basic need like food and shelter. I’m getting aggravated.”
    The prison is named for the road it sits on—years ago, a winding country lane scattered with red dog, bordered by forest and traveled mainly in buck season. Smoothly paved now, and widened, a fourlane highway the COs call Roadkill Run.
    Devlin says, “I don’t make the rules.”
    Hops steps closer to the sheet and speaks in a low voice. “Tell me one thing. You got a door on the bedroom at home? The baffroom?”
    â€œThis isn’t about me.” Devlin, too, lowers his voice. There is a certain intimacy to speaking through the sheet. They are emboldened by its presence, like a Hasidic couple making love.
    What the hell is that noise?
    â€œYou got a wife, boss? You let her see you on the crapper?”
    Devlin is practiced at deflecting such questions. In his ten years at Deer Run, he has never spoken of Shelby or the kids, never once. “Sorry, Hops. Didn’t know you had a wife in here.”
    From the next cell comes a stifled laugh. “Give it up, man,” someone calls.
    â€œAll right, fine. You win, boss.” Hops pulls down the sheet with a flourish. He is older than Devlin, by decades possibly.

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