My father was a fancy gentlemen who lived in Kent, England. He died like an animal out in Austin, Texas.
There I was, buryin’ the poor fucker.
Told myself there’d be time. There’s never time.
He never had no time for me so I didn’t make none for him. Now I know I should of.
But I guess that’s how spite works.
Fills you up all big like you’re a winner than when the high’s gone y’find yerself lower than before. With less time or none. ‘Cause there’s never time.
I remember the heat from that ball o’ plasma. Yes plasma, I know the science of it. ‘S plasma not fire.
I remember it scalding my neck and face for not wearing no oils. Like mama scalded me for not buryin’ my old man in Macon with his granddaddy. But she don’t know he hated his pops.
That was the second hottest day of 1861. The hottest was comin’ fast but how’s I suppose to know?
So as my arms burned from shovelin’ dirt and my heart thumped in the noon-day blaze and my lips cracked and my throat got that soar feelin’ when you workin’ hard. You might not know it if you’re young but I hope to God you learn it. Out there I’m thinkin’ about my brother and why he would slay family. I’m thinkin’ “How can I slay him?”
Yeah, I was lookin’ to slay him back.
This ain’t no sword and castle shit. We’re talkin’ retribution.
By time the moon came out and the desert show its stubborn way of goin’ from blazin’ t’freezin’ I was about done. Wouldn’t you know, I pondered spitting on his grave. I pondered about spitting longer than any man, woman, or child ever pondered spittin’ on any such thing.
“Nawh.” Walked away, wasn’t worth the spit.
I took my horse off a twisted tree, it neighed like it was more set t’leave than I were. “Okay, now.” Rubbed its face, hopped on top. Set off.
And I did go to Macon, by the way. Heard my brother’d been stayin’ down there.
Mosied up thinkin’ “He’ll be here and I’ll give him some rough words then it’s for the law to handle whatever.”
The boy wasn’t there. No matter how many shops I popped my head into. Even the big casino with the over-nice girlies didn’t know where he went so I visited the last person I though would have a clue o’where he was: his wife.
Dainty, is how I’d say she looked. Dainty.
Smiling at me, welcoming me into her tiny house. Her girl, Rita. Blonde. Big smile too. Thank God she looked like her mother. Didn’t have have our family’s big nose. I patted her head as she sat drawing with pencils, I think that’s what y’do with kids. Pat on the head. Her mom started fixin’ somethin’.
“No need. I ate at the Casino.”
She pouted. “I don’t want to hear of the Casino, heard enough from your brother.”
“Hnh. That right?”
“Yuh, if he wasn’t there he was working. Ignoring us.”
“Sounds like Paul.”
“Sounds like his daddy too.”
I glared at her as if I had the right or reason. What she said set a flare in my chest.
She blinked, swallowed. “Sorry. I know he passed.”
“He did. Passed with a mangle–” I looked at my niece. “Passed in a bad way.”
She pushed up her brow like I told her I lost my job rather than my pa. “And you you’re her ‘cause you want me to tell you why your own brother did show to the funeral.”
“Weren’t no fun’ral.” I snapped. “Weren’t no real burial. Men like him don’t get that treatment. They got buried by one the sons who hate’em the least.”
“So why have you visited?”
I looked at her like I knew she knew somethin’. ONly thing I really knew was she was better at hiding than I was finding the truth. She had that in common with Paul. Though his hidin’ was pyshical. “I need to know where Paul’s at.”
“Hnh.” I scratched my beard. “If you’d said. ‘Not sure.’ Or ‘he didn’t tell me.’ Then I think I woulda bought it for a nickel but ‘No Idea’?
She swallowed again.
“A man’s wife has ‘No idea’ at all where he gone to.” I leaned back and waiting for the truth to creep on out.
She wiped her hands on her apron, tried not lookin’ in my eyes. Kissed her girl and sent her off. Then she sat down. Clasped her hand together. I focused on her blue eyes.
“I trespassed in his study, las’ week, he gave me shiner.”
“I’m sorry for it.”
“Never mind that. When I trespassed I saw…..” She shook her had like she didn’t want it to be real. “A pistol and a metal wrentch.”
“I hope you mean funny weird ‘cause I don’t see the joke, Miles. Paul ain’t no engineer, ain’t no sheriff, no gunslinger.
I connected the dots she layed there, “What’s he have need of a gun ‘n’ wrentch for?”
She took a rag out her pocket, “What’s he need a bandanda, on top of that?”
I know the kinds’a men who got need of these three things, same kind who got too strong a need f’r money.
She placed it down. “Your momma’s comin’ here. She’s gonna watch over my girl.”
“Where you off to?”
“Same answer as wherever your going.”
“Then maybe I should fix you somethin’ to eat, Clara. You’re gonna need it”
She smiled. Stood up and brushed herself dont’ and actually pulled up her sleeves. If ever there was housewife ready for the road to retribution it were Clara Colton. I chuckled to myself.
“Ever shot a gun before, Clara?”
“My momma showed me some before she went.”
“Good, jus’ holler if you want me to show you more before we leave.”
Clara crossed her arms, “I don’t want the banging n’ clappin’ around my girl, she scared just from when the lights off.”
Couldn’t help laugin’ at that. “Now that sound even more like Paul.”
“I hope that’s where the blood ends.” She looked dead serious. Couldn’t blame’er. Reminded me – as I’m reminded now – o’when I met Clara’s mama. She was a straight-cut gal. I think she took me aside ‘fore Paul married Clara.