She sits in the straight-backed cane chair by the table, smoking her third cigarette of the morning. The coffee is already cold. She's expecting him and if she listens hard, she can hear the truck before it barrels into the yard throwing up dust and gravel, screeching to a halt inches from the front steps.
Heavy boots and a slamming screen door announce his presence. "Goddamitt woman, what have you done?"
He comes within a foot of her before she stands to her full height and looks him right in the eye, daring him to hit her. She's not her sister, she's not going to be intimidated, and he should damn well know that by now. Still, the shotgun in the corner is within arms reach.
"You had no right!" He pounds his fist on the table instead of on her. "That's my boy, not yours."
"Think I don't know whose child he is, Arlo?"
"Well then, you might want to see to your sister. She's locked herself in the bedroom bawlin' her eyes out and he's in his room packin'. Like as not he'll be gone by the time I get back."
"Good. He's gettin' out of this godforsaken place and away from YOU." She takes a last drag of the cigarette and snubs it out in the coffee.
He wags a boney finger at her. "This is his home. This is where he belongs, here, in Harlan."
"Why? For what?" She throws her hands up. "To work himself into a stupor in that damn mine or better yet, to join your scam operation and wind up in prison or dead 'fore he's twenty-five?" Hands on her hips she stares at her brother-in-law and a half-grin spreads across her face. "He's better than you, Arlo."
"He is, and you know it. That's why you hate him."
"I don't hate him. He's my son." He's petulant, like a child. He's more of a child than Raylan is.
"Ha. How many times have you said he's no son of yours? Think he hasn't heard that? Think he doesn't know? You're a sonofabitch, Arlo. And an awful father. Let him go."
"So where'd you get the money?"
"It's none of your damn business how I get my money or what I do with it."
"I know you hate me, but how could you do this to Frances?"
"What? It'd be better for her to watch him die a slow death in the mines or have one of you kill the other?" She pulls another cig out of the pack and lights up, taking a long drag. "She'll get over it."
"She won't." Arlo shakes his head.
"Well then, she won't." Helen says, matter of fact. "He's got more livin' to do anyway. I'll take the trade."
Arlo eyes narrow. "Your own sister? You'd choose that boy over her?"
"Can't save her." Helen says. "Too late. Too many beatings, too much of your shit. She might not get over this, but you're the one started her on this road. It's your mess, not mine." She inhales and blows smoke at him. "I saw a way to save him and I took it. You gonna do somethin' about it or not?" She eyes the shotgun and he follows her gaze.
Without a word, he turns and walks out the door.
She sighs and sinks back into the chair. "That's what I thought."