Excerpt from The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Outlaw Album

Stories

By Daniel Woodrell

The Outlaw Album

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The Echo of
Neighborly Bones

Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn't seem to quit killing him. He killed him again whenever he felt unloved or blue or simply had empty hours facing him. The first time he killed the man, Jepperson, an opinionated foreigner from Minnesota, he kept to simple Ozark tradition and used a squirrel rifle, bullet to the heart, classic and effective, though there were spasms of the limbs and even a lunge of big old Jepperson's body that seemed like he was about to take a step, flee, but he died in stride and collapsed against a fence post. Boshell took the body to the woods on his deer scooter and piled heavy rocks on the man, trying to keep nature back from the flesh, the parts of nature that have teeth or beaks. For most of a week Boshell was content with killing his neighbor just once, then came a wet spattering Sunday, the dish went out and he couldn't see the ball game on TV, so he snuck away to the pile and cleared the rocks from the head and chest. Jepperson had died with a sort of sneer on his face, thick lips crooked to the side, his dead eyes yet looking down his nose in calm contempt. That look and Jepperson's frequent sharp comments had months ago prompted Boshell to put a sticker on his truck bumper that read, "I Don't Give a Damn HOW You Did It Up North!" Even dead, the man goaded a fella. The falling wet slicked his hair back from his greening face, and his lips seemed to move under the drops, flutter, like he had still another insult he was about to let fly. Boshell hunted a stout stick and thumped the corpse. Thumped the stick enough times to snuff a live man, thumped enough to feel better about the rain and the washed-out ball game, then went home to his wife, Evelyn.

She said, "Wherever'd you get off to?"

"Oh, you know. I just can't get to feelin' done with the son of a bitch."

"In all this rain?"

"I'm gonna have to move him. He's goin' high now the cold snap broke. Someplace further from the fire road."

"Well, his wife's got herself some company today over there, and they been sniffin' about, lookin' places." She pointed across the creek where there was a big metal barn, four penned horses, and a mess of guineas running loose, pecking and gabbling. Four people in raincoats and sagging hats stood near the horses, with their boots on the bottom fence rail and their elbows on the top. "Best wait 'til they leave."

"I'll try."

Only two days later Boshell checked the can for morning coffee and found it empty, so he went out to kill the man again, kill himself awake without any joe to drink. Bird droppings had spotted the rocks over the man, and one of the hands had moved somehow so that a pinky stuck from between the rocks. The little bit of the pinky that showed had been chewed at, nibbled, torn. Boshell pulled the rocks away until Jepperson was open to the October sky. He went back to his truck for a hatchet, a beat-up hatchet with a dinged, uneven blade and a cracked handle. He stood over the corpse and said, "Say it. Go on and say it, why don't you?" Then he sank the hatchet into the chest area and stood back to admire the way the handle stood up straight from the wound. The handle was directly below Jepperson's nose, and his eyes appeared to find it to be kind of funny business, having a hatchet in his chest.

"Glad you like it."

Boshell left the blade in the man's chest, then dragged the corpse to his truck. He tossed a tarp over the raised handle and all, but knew he wouldn't likely run into anybody, not where he was going. He steered the truck downhill going west, onto a creek bed with shallow puddles but no flow, and eased south over the pale and reddish rocks, the truck bucking during the rougher patches. He turned uphill below the old home place, the land now overgrown by brambles and deserted by residents, and parked on the slope. One wall of a house with an askew window could be seen still standing back in the thicket. Boshell's people had lived on this dirt until the government annexed it for the National Forest in the 1950s, and lazy old time had slowly reclaimed the place for trees and weeds and possums. He came here often, to sit and wonder, and feel robbed of all these acres.

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Excerpted from The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell. Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Woodrell. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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