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Sure is hot.

It certainly is, said Mallory Jane. She rested her feet on a black heartwood stool

Hot as hell-oil.

Hot as an August night fire.

Smoke from her cigarette rose in the air. It curled like the letters of an old alphabet.

Where did you get that, Mallory Jane?

The cigarette holder was mahogany, pearl-handled. Tipped in silver.

Momma left this to me. It was given to her. Never told me by who.

Most likely your daddy.

Don't know the man, said Mallory Jane. Wasn’t worth knowing either. Momma said, waste of a bullet to blow his brains out.

Looks like it might fetch something. That cigarette holder.

Oh I couldn't part with it, said Mallory Jane. Not for love or for money

She was a pistol. Your momma.

She certainly was.

Sure is hot.

It certainly is.

Hot as boiled sugar.

Hot as a back road in summer.

A gold-green fly buzzed around Mallory Jane’s head.

They come in the heat.

They certainly do.

Like violets at springtime.

Tears at a funeral.

Tears at a wedding. You never been married. Have you Mallory Jane?

Ain’t enough silver in the hills or the mountains. Ain’t enough gold in the sea.

My Henry, he passed about three years ago. Gets lonely sometimes. ‘Specially at night.

I never get lonely, said Mallory Jane. I take after Momma. Don’t need a man, not for love or for money. I’d sell my soul first.

Not for love or for money.

Not for all the sapphires in India. Not for all of the rubies in Spain.

Don’t you ever need something to hold in the night? When you wake up and that space beside you is empty—don’t it hurt you inside?

Mallory Jane swatted the gold-green fly. It hovered and buzzed around her rosewater and gin.

Momma always said, money keeps, money stays. Men come and go and they ain’t hard to find. You got enough money and love comes cheap. Love, you can buy.

She was something, your momma.

She certainly was, said Mallory Jane.

Sure is hot. Hot as a man just caught in a lie.

As smoke from a pistol. It certainly is.