The Dog Stars (Vintage Contemporaries)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A San Francisco Chronicle and Atlantic Monthly Best Book of the Year
Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.
But when a random transmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to find something that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for.
growl. Look at this Hig. They never should have done it. He doesn’t sound unhappy. Bangley has reached up and switched on the LED headlamp banded to his cap. His cap is on backward. He shines it on the short man, the one in the cowboy hat, the hat now tumbled into a drainage furrow a few feet off. It’s a boy. Maybe nine. About the age. Melissa seven months pregnant when. Nine years ago. This boy is thin, hair matted and tangled. A hawk feather tied into it. Face hollow, a shadow smirched with
something moving inside that resembled a kind of happiness. I would never have named it. Not then. For fear. But I name it now. C’mon, Jasp. I speared the spade into the loose earth for tomorrow and turned for the hangar and heard the muffled clapping as Jasper shook himself and came trotting behind me. Couple days, I said. Maybe three. I pushed two gallon Ziplocs of Jasper’s jerky into the bottom of my pack. Long since over the nausea. My Uncle Pete told me, You can get used to stepping
expecting now to die. The gun already sighted on Dreds, finger already pressed on the trigger. Breathing hard. I hold there breathe. I will kill them. Fuckers tried to kill me. For Coke. Well. For a not quite daily Coke. Twenty four in a case, once a month, I bring it back. The week going without—a contrived measure of want to make the next run a treat. For me and. To up my value with Bangley. Face it. Landing at the families’ place with the Sprite like a god. One is whimpering, the blonde one.
tapered off, like turning off a faucet, drip drip. One visitor a season maybe, then none. Not for almost a year, then a band of four desperados that almost cleaned our clock. That’s when I started flying regular like a job. Now I don’t have to sleep on the ground. We have our system, we are confident. The Fear is like a memory of nausea. You can’t remember how bad it was or that you just about asked to die instead. But I do. Sleep on the ground. Under a pile of blankets in winter that must weigh
not looking across the yard he was sighting straight up at me. Fuck. The blast blew chips of sandstone from my snug rock all over the right side of my face. I jerked back. The second twanged in air just over my head. Fuck. Blinked. Stone dust in my eyes. Right side of my face now stinging too. Hand to temple. No blood this time. Fucking Gramps. That’s twice. Old bastard had my head bracketed. If I wasn’t more goddamn careful the next shot would be dead center. I could hear Bangley laughing. As