Nicholas Mainieri


Hector and I ride out from the slat-ribbed herd to find the lost cow. Morning lies red against the distant range. As the minutes pass the sky deepens, blue and empty as ever.

“I don’t see this damn thing anywhere. You?”

Hector stares skyward. He wears a bandana streaked with salt. “No.”

“What are you lookin at.”

“I look already. I don’t see it.”

But after we top the next rise we do find it, a dark heap on the flat below. The stink of guts and the hissing of flies. The earth has blackened around the cow, which has been disemboweled and fed upon. My horse objects, exhales forcefully, stamps in the scorched grass. The cow’s neck bends at an impossible angle, swollen tongue caught between its teeth. A fly dances on the cow’s open eye, but Hector has been speaking.

I catch cordero and lobo and desierto.

“You think a wolf did this?”

Hector makes a face. “Is just an expression.”

Right—there are no wolves anymore.

“One of us should go get Mr. Thad.”

Hector turns his horse and boots into a trot.

I call after him: “This is a shame, huh?”

But Hector only shrugs and disappears over the rise.

Nicholas Mainieri’s debut novel, The Infinite, will be published by Harper Perennial in the Fall of 2016. He can be reached through his website,