This story pays homage to Hemingway's story of the same title. It moves from 1926, 1940, 1960. Ron, the unseen character, not the author, calls the shots. Rex kills his boss Art. Rex is sent to kill Max but Max kills himself. Al kills the Swede. Max is sent to kill Al.
The greatest part of this story is the aspect of waiting. Just as in the Hemingway story, the guy knows he is going to be murdered and he waits for it. "Waiting's the worst of it." "...and Al watched him press the Smith and Wesson's muzzle there. Max fired once..."
The jumping around in time is somewhat confusing and, to me, it is not clear who the narrator is. There is a first-person female narrator a couple of times but the rest of the story seems to be third-person shifting.
Hansen is mostly a novelist but I've enjoyed these two short stories. This story was first published in The Iowa Review, sometime in the 1980s and then included in his collection, Nebraska.
02 January, 2013
The story is realistic in style, told in 3rd person point of view and past tense. It takes place at the end of the 19th century and begins with a sixteen-year old schoolteacher riding a milk train to Nebraska from Delaware. A man who has lost his limbs and ears is traveling in a sack when a doctor sits beside the schoolteacher and asks if she knows of the blizzard of 1888 and that "weather in Nebraska could be the wickedest thing she ever saw."
"Wickedness" was first published in Sonora Review and subsequently included in the collection, Nebraska, in 1989.
Wikipedia page about Ron Hansen
Santa Clara University web page for Hansen