(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Buzbee is a seventy-seven-year-old man who has spent his entire life in a tiny community settled by his parents. Hollingsworth, his son, is only fourteen years younger; the two men have lived together primarily as friends for sixty-three years. One summer, Buzbee runs away to live in the thick, mosquito-infested woods alongside the bayou, and Hollingsworth posts an offer of a thousand-dollar reward for his father’s return.

Hollingsworth is lonely without Buzbee and has to fight down feelings of wildness, especially in the evenings when the two used to talk. The town was once well populated, but epidemics of yellow fever have killed everyone but Buzbee and his son. They have buried family and neighbors in cemeteries across the countryside and lost an edge of some sort because nothing again would ever be as intense as holding out against death. Even so, Hollingsworth is not sentimental about losing Buzbee. He does not offer a larger reward for his father because he does not want people to think he is sad.

Hollingsworth runs an old barn of a store, which attracts so little business that some cans of milk have stayed on the shelves for forty years. The Coke machine still has old-formula Cokes in bottles, and it is for these that a young bicycle racer named Jesse stops by. The first time that Jesse visits, Hollingsworth is speechless with excitement. He begins waiting for Jesse to appear, and even has the driveway paved to look like a snake in the green grass that makes a path straight to the store.

Jesse is slower than his teammates because he has an older bike. He begins each day by checking the wind; the slightest breeze means his ride will be harder, that he will slide along the roads looking for paths of least resistance. He is the only rider on his team to stop at Hollingsworth’s for a cold soda; the other cyclists are too serious about their sport to take such breaks.

One day, Jesse mentions Buzbee. He has seen the reward posters, and wants the money. He tells Hollingsworth he has seen a man who looks like him, describing an old man wearing dirty overalls crossing the road with a live fish tucked under his arm. Jesse suggests they use Hollingsworth’s tractor to run Buzbee down and lasso him; Hollingsworth suggests they use the neighbor’s wild hounds.

As the summer progresses, Jesse stops...

(The entire section is 963 words.)