In the summer, when the humidity is an overcoat sticking to your skin, they say the old killer comes to east Texas. In between the crickets and the cicadas, the deadbeats firing off shotguns in the air at God knows who and God knows what and maybe God himself, you can hear the breath rattling inside an old man’s dusty lungs, sometimes right in your ear.

When that shuffle shuffle step hits your porch, you know it for true: the old killer’s come.

He don’t knock. Don’t want money. Just your years. And he’ll kill you for them. Anything to get a few back for his self.

My dad, says he saw the old killer once. Flash of a gaunt face through a bedroom window, looking back at him as if through death’s moonlit curtain. Blue eyes tinged with red spiderweb veins, barely perched in the old killer’s skull.

Gaze slid across me like a hound’s tongue, trying to decide if it wants to bite, dad says.

What did you do?

Not a damn thing. Went still as a crucifix.

Why didn’t he kill you?

Dad stuffs the tobacco in his mouth like it’s gauze plugging up an old wound. Smacks chapped lips.

Weren’t my youth he came for that night.