Friday, February 18, 2011

All a Man Needs: Good Gun, Good Dog, Good Woman

From my novel ROOTED: 

Slade came to when he heard a deep voice drawl, “Afternoon, Miss Eleanor.”

Eleanor nodded to the man and quietly said, “Hello, Bullfrog.” 

The man laughed easily in his muddy boots and Case tractor hat. “Shoot, I didn’t know you knew they called me Bullfrog. In class you always called me by my name proper. I can still hear you saying, ‘Rodney Hollister, go stand in the corner,’ like it was yesterday. ’Course I spent most of fourth grade in that corner. Still, you were my favorite teacher.”

“That’s nice,” Grover said. “Now if you’re done reminiscing, I need your help.”

“Yessir.” Rodney looked over the scene. When his eyes set on Slade he said, “Excuse my language, but what kind of a sorry sack of shit you got there on the lawn?”

The words were hardly recognizable to Slade, so thick was the accent and the wad of chewing tobacco in Rodney’s mouth.

“And what happened to your cow?”

“What’s it look like?” Grover sputtered. “He crashed this pile of rusted junk into Lucy and killed her.”

Rodney inspected the scene with a critical eye and then spit a long stream of brown tobacco juice, barely missing Slade’s cheek. “Looks like she was shot in the head.”

“Of course she’s shot in the head,” Grover thundered. “I had to put her out of her misery. You don’t think I’d let her lay there suffering. She’d already been through enough.” Grover cast Eleanor an accusing look.

“You taking her down to Paulson’s meat house? Bet you’d get some good cuts off of this’n,” Rodney said appreciatively. “She’d make for a good-sized barbecue if -”

“Say another word about a barbeque and I’ll lease that hundred acres to some other farmer with enough sense to keep his mouth shut.”

Rodney looked down and mumbled, “Sorry.”

“That’s better. All I need you to do is get him over to the sheriff’s. Tell him,” Grover kicked Slade’s foot. “You tell Watkins he killed Lucy. I want him locked up.”

Even in Slade’s compromised state, the word sheriff was enough to put some life back in him. Slade opened his mouth to defend himself, but all that emerged was a gross gurgling sound followed by a thin line of drool that ran down his chin.

“Yessir,” Rodney answered. “After that, you want I should come back for Sarah Jane?” The barrel-chested farmer’s eyes gleamed.

Eleanor glanced nervously at her husband. “Grover, surely you’re not -”

“You best wait a day or so. I’ve got a few things to take care of around here.”

Rodney’s shoulders slumped noticeably. “I cleaned my truck out and everything. Put the Colonel in the bed.” He hitched his thumb at the hound in the back of his truck.

“It’ll still be clean when you come back out, so quit your whining. Take care of this for me, and I’ll make sure Sarah Jane’s ready for you.”

Rodney thought about it and then nodded. “I can do that.”

Shaking Rodney’s hand, Grover said, “I expect you’ll be respectful.”

“Mr. McQuiston, you seen how fine I treat my bitch pups. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you. Besides, all a man needs is a good gun, a good dog, and a good woman. I already got the other two. Sarah Jane might be a little ornery at first, but she’ll come around.”

Eleanor whispered furiously, “Don’t do this. Please, Grover, I’m begging you.”

Grover slapped Rodney on the back and said, “I know I can count on you.”

“Yessir.” Rodney spit again, this time striking Slade’s arm. Then he grabbed the sorry sack of shit around the waist and tossed him over his shoulder. At the truck he dumped Slade in the bed with Colonel.

Slade lay on his back with his eyes open, the dog panting and slobbering excitedly above him. He felt outside himself, as though everything was happening to someone else. Then Eleanor was at the tailgate, silent, faded and defeated. He wanted to be with her, that calm, sad woman. He wanted it to be true, her being his grandmother. He wanted her to nurse him, to be at his side wiping the blood from his brow once more.

But when she reached her hand out as if to touch him, the truck began moving and she was gone.

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