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“Long story, Muse,” he began, using his pet name for me. “You sure you’re up for it tonight? Pretty late.”
   “I can manage,” I answered.
   “Not a pretty story, and it’s gonna ramble, take a while.”
   “I have all night,” I said.
   He took a deep breath and blew it out.
   “You know my dad died when I was fourteen,” he began. “He drove trucks with my uncle Merle. They had started their own business when he went over the side. They were just getting started. My brother Matt took over Dad’s half, started driving trucks with Uncle Merle. Luke, the middle brother, was in college at the time, and Mama insisted he finish. She used the insurance settlement to pay for school, so she waitressed at the truck stop on the highway to keep us afloat.”
   He paused to sip coffee.
   “Pretty much left me on my own. Tried to keep up with stuff at home, do my homework, all the usual stuff. Then Lurlene came home. Her and her family had lived on the other side of us for ages, just down the dirt road. She was the youngest of three kids, all older than me, so our paths never really crossed beyond a howdy or a wave. She took off when I was ten or eleven, ran off with a farm hand from across town. Big scandal then, different times.”
   “Still a scandal,” I put in. “Even now.”
   “Well, she was gone for a few years and then she came back. Had two boys, the youngest still in diapers. Her folks took her in of course, her and the boys, although they could ill afford more mouths to feed. She took over the household chores so her momma could work the fields with her daddy.”