Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Fiction Fix: "Horseman"

Two things: 1) This is currently my new favorite, soon-to-be-forgotten House of Georges feature, and 2) I don't always have Fridays free to run husbandly errands, but when I do, I'll be sure to share them with you. Like today, for example, we had an appointment with the vet to get the cat and the dog vaccinated. Just so happens that our dog will be 14 on Sunday, and that in dog years tallies up to real freakin' old. There's been this homeless cat cruising around our property. He might keep coming around because the wife keeps feeding him, but who knows. Then, at the vet office today, there's your token picture of a puppy that was found on the streets, has had one round of shots, and yes, needs a home. So I got to thinkin'...

The wife has been pushing the keep-the-cat envelope, and there's no way to sign said free-agent puppy without the cat getting worked into the negotiations. But ultimately, it made me think about the kind of folk that abandon animals, and that made me think of a story called "Horseman" by Oakley Hall. It comes from the novel The Coming of the Kid, and was first published in 1985 by Harper & Row. "Horseman," like much of Hall's work focuses on the American West. He was somewhat of a mentor to Richard Ford (Editor's Note: Guess who we'll feature next week.), a marine in World War II, and a one-time finalist for a Pulitzer. He died in May.

The story is about, for lack of a better word, a cowboy, who gets himself into frequent trouble with booze and women (or lack thereof), and that doesn't sound like any dude I've ever met. It opens with the line, "In my life I have been a fool with liquor and a wise man with horses," which pretty much fucking rules as a story kickoff. Makes me think of someone in particular, though.

J.D., the narrator, tells the tale of a kidnapping, in which he must be the hero.

"I was riding with a bunch of turned-bad hands then, no better than the fellows next to me."

(Note: It just dawned on me that Mo'Clo' and T-Hen wore the same jersey number. Shouldn't we be hanging that one from the rafters? Ya' betta ax somebodaayyy!)

Later in the story, J.D. recollects about a hasty getaway he once made from some potential enemies:

"Flora asked who they were, and I replied that they were from Putaw Crossing, which was on the other side of Helix Hill from the Castle, and was a place I hoped she would never see, for it was a filthy place.

"Are those bad people, J.D.?" she asked me.

"Yes. Bad."
"How can you tell?"
"For one, they have got different ways of looking at you,

kind of sideways instead of straight on."

"But could you tell that from here?"

"So could you, which is why you asked about them."

Later, in enemy territory, J.D. is cautious.

"I was nervy as a spooked horse as I made my way through bunches of men who paid me no attention, and whores with their bogus smiles and winks..."

"They were a hard-eyed, sharp-jawed bunch, dirty-faced like they hadn't washed this month.

They were quick to nudge one another and have the laugh on someone else."

Hall's story is full of anxiety and dark emotion, blanketed with an omni-present goodness. It reads swift and doesn't disappoint, the good guys coming out on top, though dog-eared with an important lesson learned.

Kind of.

The Coming of the Kid can be purchased here.


Hercules Rockefeller said...

Great stuff, Bank.