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Tight around the first barrel, then she blazed across the arena and around the second. The crowd was already on its feet. Every time Ali rode, there was the possibility of her setting a new record. That night was no exception. She rounded the third barrel and leaned forward. 35 seconds. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new arena record! Ali Daniels shaved two-tenths of a second off the previous fastest time for barrels in this arena. She’s sitting pretty safe for first place. ” Again the crowd cheered.

Yes, sir. ” Five bulls stood together in a stock pen. The black one, two brown, one gray- and white-spotted, and one that was broad and yellow with a hump between its shoulders. One after another Ronny and a handful of high school cowboys took on the bulls while their instructor shouted out advice. … Move your legs, Ronny…. Kevin, bring your hand up higher over your head! ” Cody barely heard any of it. He was too busy watching the bulls, studying them, hypnotized by their fury. Those eight seconds, while the cowboy was on the bull’s back, were the picture of a battle he knew intimately.

A burning that flooded his veins and pushed higher, past his knees and thighs, into his gut, where it swirled and mixed and grew until it filled his heart and mind, and finally his soul. Not until it fully consumed him, not until it took up every spare bit of his young body, did he realize what had come over him, into him. Cody knew what hate was because of Billy Bloom in his second-grade class. Billy was bigger than everyone else. Bigger and meaner. He tripped kindergartners, and stole the ball from the kickball game at recess, and laughed at Cody when he got a wrong answer in math.

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