By James Carlos Blake
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Come next week she’ll be Mrs. ” “Shit. ” The bartender brings the fresh drinks to the end of the bar where they stand. Double bourbons with branch. Hartung picks up his and drinks half of it at a gulp. ” “I aint the first to do it. ” “Me too. Larry McGuane married one used to work in that house in Fort Stockton. ” “That one of McGuane’s—” “He whipped her ass bloody and she swore to him she’d never again. Thought he’d straightened her right out. Coupla days after, she cooks him a big fine dinner to show what a good wife she’s gonna be.
And then looks around the saloon at the scattering of other patrons engaged in low conversations spiked with sporadic laughter. He clears his throat and says, “Let’s see if I got this straight. She says you knocked her up and so now she’s willing? Now how in the purple hell can a whore even know who—” “It’s not like that,” Youngblood says. “And I said to quit calling her that. ” Hartung leans and spits into the cuspidor at their feet and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He stares at Youngblood in the backbar mirror.
That’s Jimmy’s trouble,” Brando said to LQ. “He’s like you. ” I said. ” “Cowboy probably means it,” LQ told Brando. For a time after we first met, LQ had called me Cowboy because of my boots and the frontier Colt and the wide-brimmed hat I wore back then before I switched to a fedora—and because I’d grown up on a ranch, which was all I’d ever told him and Brando about my past. As he got to know me better he eased off on the nickname and it had been a long time since he’d used it. He was no cowboy himself—he came out of the East Texas piney woods, which made him closer kin to Southern good old boys than to any Texan raised west of Houston.
Under the Skin by James Carlos Blake