“An excerpt!” he says to me.
“A hippo,” I reply, ‘cause I had no idea what he was talking about and figured we were playing word association.
I was never very good at word association . I don’t recall winning it once. I never could figure the scoring.
“You should put an excerpt in your blog,” he says more completely.
So the next five posts are excerpts from the first chapter of Trouble in Taos. It’s the story of Slimy Beach, a notorious gunfighter and gifted latrine digger as told by Walter Bego, his best friend. In 1934, decades after Beach’s death, Walter discovers a western novel written about his friend…
Slimy killed more men than any three gunslingers I’ve ever heard of. His twin double-barreled sawed-off shotguns looked scary as hell even lying on the bar. They looked even scarier flashing in Slimy’s hands. Even without them, no man in his right mind would get within horseshoe-tossing range of Slimy. He smelled worse than a skunk and was the most boring man alive.
No man in his right mind but me, that is. Slimy was my best friend.
I picked up the Slimy book. There weren’t a lot of pages, but they were nice and soft. Norry Basset gave me a wink. I wanted to punch him in the nose, but I winked back because bad things happen when small, eighty-six-year-old men punch large, middle-aged storekeepers.
I put my dime on the counter and, without asking permission, headed straight for Norry’s crapper.
“Walter,” Norry called, “why don’t you wait ’til the Sears and Roebuck catalog comes in before you use my toilet? The pages don’t clog up the works so much.”
I pretended not to hear him. There are advantages to being old. No one can say for sure what you hear and what you don’t.
Norry installed an expensive brass crapper back before Wall Street crapped on the country. It was one of the fanciest bits of seating I’ve ever been pleased to utilize, but it was too high off the ground for my taste. I guess a big man like Norry likes to keep his knees from cramping. It’s a good thing he didn’t have children. A three-year-old might fall right in a toilet that size.
I climbed up to take a seat and cracked the cover of my new purchase. The book had the usual illustrations of horses, saddles, and six guns you see in every western dime novel. I’d never seen Slimy shoot a six-shot Colt in my life. It wasn’t a promising start.
The text wasn’t any better. According to W. G. Chesterson Rawhide Colmes, Slimy was a large brawny brute with fists like railroad sledges. Such a statement indicated that Mr. Colmes probably acquired his “rawhide” from sitting on a barstool in Philadelphia.
I’ve been accused of being an ounce shy of pint-sized, but at five foot three, I had the clear better of Slimy Beach. Slimy’s railroad sledge hands were smaller than I’d seen on a few ten year old boys, and I imagine there were a few boys that age that could whip Slimy in a fair fight.
Slimy didn’t believe in fighting fair.
His perfidious reign of justice began when Beach was only fourteen. The rapacious giant, Mike Finn, forced his unwanted attention on Miss Purity Homebody, Beach’s beloved schoolmistress. Finn was an infamous brawler who routinely killed and maimed men with his bare hands. Young Beach traded thunderous blows with the titanic Finn before the exhausted villain reached for his gun. Beach drew his pearl-handled Colt 45 and spun the weapon twice in his hand – just to give his opponent a chance. Slimy Beach dropped that evil violator of feminine virtue with one shot through the eye. So the legend began.
W. G. C. R. Colmes, Slimy Beach, the Tornado of Taos, p.18
Well, the page was nice and soft anyway, but Norry was right. The pipes of the fancy brass throne didn’t sound too pleased after I flushed.
Just in case a flood was coming, I skedaddled as fast as an old fart can.