The earth under the farmhouse was cool in the summer and Sal and Dory hid out there, lying on their backs staring up at the underside of kitchen floorboards and being watchful of Daddy's feet as he stumbled around the front yard chasing the nameless dog that came to beg for scraps and harass the cats.
"You can't do that!" hissed Dory.
"Yes you can. You don't know anything," whispered Sal. She shifted her arm up and stretched her back. "All you gotta do is tuck its head under its wing."
"That's bullshit," said Dory. "How's that supposed to work?"
"You watch your language," said Sal half-heartedly. She was secretly proud that her younger sister had taken so readily to swearing in recent months, but she also wanted to lord over her in the absence of their mother. "That's how they go to sleep."
"They just do that to block out the light so they can sleep. Don't they?"
"Maybe they do," said Sal. "But it still works if you do it for them."
Dory considered it.
"There's no way that's true," she concluded.
"Think what you want. I don't care," said Sal. "I'm getting out of here soon."
"Sure. I'll be sixteen soon. I might be able to go off to the war."
"As what? You don't know anything about nursing."
"As a journalist. Maybe. You know, go to the front with a notebook and talk to soldiers, take photographs--"
"You're an idiot!" Dory punched Sal in the ribs.
"Ow, shhhh!" spat Sal. "Daddy will hear you!"
"If he finds out we're here and gets angry then maybe you could interview him!" Dory giggled.
"You think this is a joke. Thanks. I'm telling you though, I'm sure as hell not staying in Nebraska my entire life, not like mother did. First chance I get I'm setting out on the highway and getting away from here and half a world away might not even be enough for me."
"Yeah," sighed Dory. "I know what you mean, but to go to war? Why something that could get you killed? Why not just Omaha or Des Moines?"
Sal flipped over onto her hip, scraping her shoulder against the head an exposed nail. She clutched the wound and gritted her teeth.
"You don't get it," she said grimacing. "I want to do something, not just live a life!"
They were quiet for a spell and listened to the chatter of the starlings that liked to perch in a row on the eavestrough. Daddy had given up on the dog and had climbed up on the old tractor and was sitting and drinking and moaning to himself.
"It doesn't have to be war," said Sal. "I mean, it's big and it's all the paper and the radio ever talk about. It could be anything really. Like I could climb those mountains in Argentina with a caravan of llamas--"
"Argentina?" asked Dory. "It has mountains?"
"Course it does." Sal squinted at her. "Or Hollywood. I could go out and be one of those people who move lights around."
"If you're going to the trouble to go out to Hollywood, why would you be an actress or something instead?"
"I don't have any sex appeal," said Sal. "All the actresses and actors have to have sex appeal."
"How do you know if you have it?"
"If boys whistle at you."
"You don't really know any boys."
"I don't want to be an actress! I just think it would be interesting to be there and soak up the limelight like a sponge just by being near it."
Dory contemplated this.
"War would be more interesting. You said you wanted to do something. Getting shot at while interviewing some grunt in a trench is more doing something than moving lights around--"
"Yes, okay, that's a poor example."
Daddy started sobbing audibly on the tractor.
"God," said Dory, staring over at him. "I wish he wouldn't make so much noise."
"No one's around," said Sal.
"It's not like mother was even nice to him," said Dory. "Men aren't supposed to cry. I don't want a husband who cries. Jesus."
Suddenly he screamed at the dog who was sleeping on his side under the shade of the tractor. The dog sat up and growled at him. Daddy threw the bottle at the dog and screamed some more. With its tail between its legs it slunk off towards the house. Daddy fell off the tractor and started chasing it.
"Daddy will see us!"
"Get!" said Sal pushing Dory in the opposite direction.
Dory squirmed to the other side but Sal caught her arm again on the nail and she screamed. Daddy stopped.
"Girls?" he asked. "Girls! What are you doing under there? You got chores to do! I can't keep this farm going by myself! You get of there do you here me?!"
Dory ran out the other side and towards the field. Sal pushed through like a soldier crawling on his belly under barbed wire. She made it out and started running. Dory hid behind the shed, unseen by Daddy. She motioned for Sal to join her, but Sal kept running. She ran all the way across the field, the dog followed her a bit then dropped off, panting in the heat and staring at her then back at Daddy who'd come round the house by then.
"Sal!" he screamed. "You whore!"
Sal kept running and leapt onto the pavement of the road that led to the highway. She silently thanked President Truman for all his personal efforts in paving rural roads. She didn't even think about which way to go as her heart pounded in her chest, and went east and away from the prospect of shifting lights around on movie sets. She did not look back--not at the farm, not at Dory, not at Daddy, not at the nameless dog.