"Things have changed," she says, pointing out of your truck as it rolls over the bridge away from the airport. "Look at it."

"They've developed the whole north side of town," you say. "Built a golf course. But they just closed down the motorcycle plant."

"They're doing that down where I live, too."

"Closing shops?"

"Going to Mexico."

"They never shoulda signed that agreement."

Elizabeth Bergstrom looks at you, squints. "What do you mean?"

"The thing that allowed them to take the plants to Mexico."

"I thought they always did that.


"Know what's happening there now? Right across the border. They have these camps of girls that just work in the factories, and somebody's killing them, slitting their throats. Thirty, forty already. Right after their night shifts end. Girls of the Graveyard. Get it? And the Mexican police beat up a bunch of bus drivers who take the girls to the factory into confessing to the crimes, but they didn't do it, cause the killing kept going on. And the police they had to admit they didn't know who it was. The girls think it's ghosts."

"What are all the companies saying about it?"


"The companies."

"They're saying not anything. They're not the ones doing it."

Easing the truck onto the Interstate, you turn and see her fully. She is in an I Love Texas t-shirt, shorts; she's still thin, her hair short, tied into a small ponytail. Hard features, red nose - allergies. Tiny swaths of skin scarred below her eye, from the surgery. She had asked you if she could smoke, and you said you'd rather she didn't, but when you relented, she smiled and wave her hand. Forget it. She pulls out a travel pack of Puffs and blows her nose instead.

"You know what is weird about that night?" She is turned at you, sniffing back what hadn't slammed onto the tissue.


She taps her eye, touching the swaths. "I could still see out of it. It was completely smashed up. I don't know if it was cause I was high or what. I couldn't see out of it the next day. But after he hit me the last time I just looked up at him, I wasn't crying, but he was. Just bawling. But I don't think it was cause of what he did. I just remember those guys, your players, just standing there, that's how I knew I could see cause I saw them, just, I don't know, giving this, like, space, like they didn't want to get in there. This boyfriend I once had told me black people were like that, they're just used to so much shit, they're just desensitized, so they just watch, not even shocked."

"Sometimes they're like that. I'm sorry that happened."

"I don't understand black people."

"Neither do I."

"Where I live they stay the fuck away. They know where to go and where not to. It works better that way."

"Probably does."

"Whites are too afraid of blacks anymore."

"I think you're right."

"Do you?"

"Yeah. Yeah. We let em get away with a lot, maybe cause we're too worried about how they'll react. We're worried they won't listen. You know sometimes I don't think we even -"


But there is no way of putting it out there. You shake your head, drive on, pushing the truck to eighty.

"Why do you recruit them?" She's brought a leg up on her seat now, and she's turned toward you.

"What do you mean?"


"There's nothing wrong with it. I'm not going to field an all-white team. It's racist. And stupid."

"Why did you recruit a guy like Leon?"

"Because he was friends with a player we really wanted. His best friend."

"So Leon came here because of another guy?"

"They were a package deal. This kid, Jamar, he got a scholarship, Leon got one. We'd never done that before."

"But you did that one time."


"So Leon wasn't really any good?"

"He quit after a year."

"Was the other guy good?"

"He got hurt."

At this, Elizabeth Bergstrom gives a half nod. "You know, it was nice of you to give me a car. I wish I still had it. I have a piece of shit now. But I rented a little house off the money I got when I sold the nice car."

"Well, you'll be able to get another car if you want."

"Don't you feel weird about recruiting guys that don't belong up here?"

You look at her. "I'll admit they're a fish out of water at first, but you have to give these kids a chance. Everybody get used to everybody eventually. A lot of times, it turns out all right."

"You think so?"

"I can give you a lot of examples. Some of my best players, the best ones."

"That wasn't the first time I'd done that. My parents had kicked me out, I went to live with a friend. They paid us. I did it with a lot of players. A lot of them were those recruits, the people you wanted to come here."

"They paid you."

"They had money. Big bills a lotta times. They said guys gave them the money for winning a game or scoring touchdowns."


"Yeah, although once it was this rapper, Big Domino. Or Fat Domino. Something." She blasted more pollen-fed fluid into a tissue. "Or sometimes they'd just give us a gold chain of theirs and tell us to go pawn it. And once we'd do one thing they want something else, and they didn't want to pay for it. 'Just do it, bitch.'"

Elizabeth Bergstrom pitches forward, intimidating the dash.

"And when that didn't work they'd say they'd make you their girl. Or you were their girl. They said they had game tickets waiting, so you could go watch them. But they just wanted a little head. They were bad fucking guys. There were a lot of them."

You set the jaw. Deliver the look. "I didn't know they were. Bad guys. I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"They used to say you didn't want to know. Just as long as they kept it out of the papers."

"Well, that's -"

"If you knew what kind of players you had, the kind of people they were, or the kind of people they were allowed to be, you wouldn't want them on your team. You should know."

"I know."

"You really don't."

"No. I know I should know."

"You don't know that either."

She turns away, runs her hand along the outline of the window. Finally, she fishes a box out of her pocket, leans out the window, lights it, blows it into the wind. You follow the cluster of smoke in the rearview; it stays together just beyond the bed of the truck, then dissipates. Ahead is an exit, populated with fast food stops. She points to a sign. "Can we get a taco?

"Yeah. If you'll go in and get it yourself."

She pauses, then registers. "Oh. Right."

"Then we should talk the terms."



You pull in, offer money, and Elizabeth Bergstrom is not above accepting it. She is fishing nacho fries from the bag when she return. You drive again and she eats, not offering a fry, or the change.

"You think you'll be able to shut everybody else up?" she says.

"I don't think anybody else would talk."

"You thought I would talk."

It is just that, but you say it is not that, but just -

"You don't really know me."

Relent, blurred rows of corn set against thick trees suggest as you pass them. "Yes."

"But you know everybody else, so you think it'll be okay."

And Elizabeth Bergstrom, slim, stupid, racist, a shade above gutter trash, has uncovered it, the terrifying, brutal hole in your plot logic, that precisely what you lean on you has considerable give, and you torso shivers in sickness and dread, while Elizabeth Bergstrom, having done all but unclick the lock, steps away, gives the game back, and says with all the sincerity a stupid, menial person has: "That probably makes sense."