A Fresh Start
Donny lived way the hell and gone out in the boondocks on the east side. I could
smell the pigs before I got there. Chickens flapped outta the way when I drove up.
These were red ones. The one I threw away the other night was white. There was a fence around the house. I didn't get inside the gate before a woman's
voice, deep and scratchy for a female, but a woman's just the same, told me to stop
right there. "I'm here to see Donny. Is he here?" "Where else would he be?" The woman came out on the porch of the house. She was
rough looking, her hair pulled back in a tail, her dress faded, patched. "Can I talk to him?" "You a friend of his?" "He knows me." She went back in the house. After a few minutes, Donny came out. He was using a
crutch. I thought I looked bad. I almost felt sorry for Donny for a minute. Almost. He looked…..not scared, exactly……wary, maybe. "Whaddya want?" "Came out to ask what you were doing a couple nights ago. Guess I don't need to.
I heard you were in a bad way, but I needed to see for myself." He spit on the ground in front of me. "Doc Graham says I might not ever be right
again. Hope you're happy." "That's what happens. You know?" He didn't say anything. "I see you raise chickens." "Yeah?" "Got any white ones?" "Ma likes the red ones. Why?" "Just wondering. You know anybody that raises white ones?" "Yeah, lots of people. What the hell you need a chicken for?" "Don't. Already got one." Donny's mother came back out on the porch. "That's long enough. You go back in
and rest, Donny." He was a good boy; he did what his mother told him. "You," she said. "You the one that beat the crap outta Donny?" "Yeah." Watched her to see what she was gonna do. She looked like she might be
tougher than her son. She studied me for a minute. Then she nodded. "No need to bother with him again.
He's learned his lesson." She turned and went back in the house. OK.
Donny couldn'ta done it and his mother didn't seem the type. If she wanted to throw
a brick at you, she'd probably walk right up to you and smash you in the face with
it. I talked to Herbert. He'd already heard about the chicken and the brick. He said
he didn't have any information for me, but if he heard anything, he'd sure let me
know. And I should be sure and keep him posted if I found out anything. He even
offered to deputize me. I said no thanks. Ate lunch with Lynn, and then went to Sam's to get the glass for the front window. Ned was there, leaning on the counter, telling a dirty joke, by the sound of it. I
picked up a coupla paintbrushes and some turpentine while I waited for my glass to
be cut. "Hey, Bud, you painting today? Gonna be a pretty day for it." "Yeah, we wondered when you was gonna get to that. You been pretty busy." "When's that pretty little wife a' yours get to go home?" Ben, Dewey, and Jones. Hung out at the hardware store a lot. "Looks like maybe tomorrow," I said. Johnson, who was there buying something too, not just hanging out, said, "We was sure
sorry to hear about your loss." "Thanks." "Me and the missus lost our third one. Like to broke her heart. But the first one'd
be bad, for sure." All the guys nodded their heads and looked sorrowful for a minute. Sam brought out my glass and took my money. "Yeah….well, I wanna get this done before Lynn gets home, so I guess I can't stay and
talk too long….." "Oh, Bud, I forgot to tell you when you was at my place," Ned said. "That Jeannie was
asking about you the other day." Jeannie. Took me a minute to remember who that was. "When?" "The day after The Fight." "What'd she ask?" "She wanted to know who you were, where you lived, you know, just the regular things." The other guys seemed to think this was pretty significant, judging by the catcalls and
hand gestures. "What else?" "Uh…if you were married. Kids." "I suppose you told her everything you know." "Well, we were just talking. No harm in that." "Yeah, well, if it turns out she's the one threw a brick through my front window, I
might not be too happy." Silence. "You don't think it was her done that, do you?" "I wouldn'ta thought there'd be anybody in Bisbee that'd do a thing like that," I said.
Everybody nodded. "That Jeannie's a strange one, that's for sure." Hadn't even seen Pete down at the
end of the counter---he's pretty short. I moved down to where he was standing. According to Pete, Jeannie'd done strange things before. Pretty soon, everybody there
started remembering odd things about Jeannie, turned out they all knew a little something
about her. I found out more in an hour shooting the shit with the guys at the hardware store
than I woulda found out in a week of asking questions. Drove straight out to her place from the hardware store. Forgot the glass. Jeannie's place and Donny's were both old farmstead houses outside of town, with
outbuildings and pens, but they weren't the same. Donny's place mighta been untidy---equipment and supplies jumbled here and there
around the house and buildings---but you knew someone lived there and used them. Jeannie's place, on the other hand, seemed almost abandoned. The things in the yard
had all be there a long time, were rusted and overgrown with weeds. The posts in
the fence around the house leaned pretty bad. It felt….desolate. Dead. There were old animal skins tacked up on the outside of the garage. No car inside.
No answer when I knocked on the door. She wasn't home. Herbert was home, when I got back into town. I told him what I thought. He
agreed I was probably right. When I asked him what he meant to do, he looked uneasy.
"You know, it doesn't do to upset that girl. She's a little…..impulsive." "You're afraid she'll throw a brick through your window." He looked kinda shamefaced, but he nodded. "Well, she's already thrown one through mine, so I guess I got nothing to lose. You
offered to deputize me this morning. You still wanna do that?" He did. He actually gave me a tin badge to wear, just like in the movies. "Are you sure this is legal?" I asked. "Sure, I couldn't do it if it wasn't legal." OK, that was a stupid question. "So you can just deputize anybody whenever you want?" "Yes, of course, it's in the City Constitution. I thought you were a policeman once." "Yeah, in LA." "Well, you should know all this already. You can't tell me they don't need extra
policemen sometimes in the city. Gotta have more crime there than we do here." "Yeah, I guess so." OK. I was a deputy. Didn't feel quite the same as being a cop. Felt like I needed
a pair of six-shooters. Maybe a horse. My .38 and my Ford would have to do.
Painting didn't take too long once I got started. I didn't have to scrape; I'd
scrubbed the worst of it off, and the first coat covered well enough so the stains
wouldn't be obvious when Lynn came home. I could do the second coat any time. Still sleeping in the spare bedroom. My clothes were in our bedroom, so I went in
there to clean up before going to the hospital to have supper with Lynn. In the middle of the bed---dammit, right on the new mattress---Jeannie'd left me
another little gift. A big ol' rat, with a 10-penny nail sticking out of it's throat.
This message was pretty clear. I went downstairs to the back door. Looked like she'd used a crow bar to break the
lock away from the doorframe. Great. OK, she was making me mad now. Chickens are one thing, smashing up my house is
something else. She was going to jail tonight. I went back upstairs to get
my gun. It was gone.
"Well, I got a real nice Colt you can borrow, Bud," Herbert said. "Here, what do
you think of this?" It was big. .45 caliber, long barrel. I was used to my snub .38, that I could stick
in the waistband of my pants if I needed to. I wouldn't dare do that with Herbert's
gun. "Nice," I said. "Yeah, this is a special---holds 7 shots. Handy that way." "Yeah…..you don't have anything…..smaller?" "You mean like a derringer? Nah, nothing like that." "How 'bout a shotgun?" "Sure, I got a little utility 12 gauge, pump action; nothing special. Or I got a
real sweet Winchester lever-action rifle. Or, wait, look at this, this is a hell
of a gun, Bud---1873 Springfield forty-five-seventy, bolt action, long-distance sight---" "Fuck….," I said. It was damn near as tall as me. Took shells as big around as my
little finger, and about as long. "What the hell do you shoot with this?" "I think it was a buffalo gun. Or people, I suppose; I think this is the kind of
rifle Custer's men carried." I thought that might not be a very good recommendation, since they lost, but Herbert
obviously loved this gun so I didn't say so. Then he showed me his 40 caliber; and then he brought out The Big Gun---his 58 caliber
Zouave. I think he was disappointed that all I wanted to borrow was the little 12 gauge. "You come by sometime---we'll go down to the range and shoot 'em. Wait till you
hear the boom the 58 caliber makes." I said I would do that. I think I heard a rumor that people who keep big guns are trying to make up for coming
up short other ways. I don't know about that, but I've never met anybody with guns
as big as Herbert's. Drove back out to Jeannie's house. Still no car, no one there. I decided a deputy
could look around a little. All the windows in the house had curtains drawn. Nothing out of the ordinary in the
garage, besides a smell. At first I figured it came from the animal skins, but they
were old and dry. Behind the garage a ways was another shed. The closer I got to it, the stronger the
stench. I knew what the smell was. I'd smelled it before. Once you've smelled death,
there's no mistaking it for anything else.
"I'm sorry I missed supper, honey," I said, and kissed Lynn. "And before you even ask
me, I was with Sheriff Hanson. We found the Smith boy's body."

Part 6  Part 8

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