The Harder They Come by T. C. Boyle:
“It’s no joke, because it’s not just money they’re after, you know that, don’t you? Anything can happen. Bad stuff, real bad stuff.”
She didn’t answer. She looked beyond him, out the open door to the bay and the sepia blur of the city that was like some fungus sprung up around a band of pale eroded beach and hacked green palm. He pushed his plate away. What he wanted was a cigarette, and he’d actually reached for his shirt pocket before he caught himself—he hadn’t smoked in ten years now. It was times like this he missed it most. Smoking had given him something to do with his hands, the whole ritual of it, from sliding the cigarette from the pack to tamping it on the nearest hard surface, to cupping the match and drawing in the first sweet sustaining puff. The thing was, his hands had become too busy, manipulating up to two packs a day, his fingertips stained yellow with nicotine and his lungs as black as the bricks of the fireplace back at home. That was all behind him now. Now he was healthy. Now he rode a stationary bike and got out in the woods two or three days a week, keeping his hand in with part-time work for the lumber company, looking out for trespassers, squatters, marijuana growers—patrolling, if that was what you wanted to call it. The way he saw it, he was getting paid to go hiking, simple as that, best deal in the world.