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Monday, October 21, 2013

Trouble in Taos: Batwings and Strangers Part Three

This is the third installment of Chapter Seven of  Trouble in Taos.  Here's Part one, and Part two.  For those of you entering the Nine (should be Eight) Missing Words Contest, the scrambled letters to word five is SEUHO.

Howdy Estevo, I’m Lowell Sparger.”

Well Mr. Sparger,” said Estevo, “your first drink is on the house. Can I get you beer or whisky?”

Two-Bucket Joe muttered something about never getting a drink on the house, but most of Joe’s drinking came when someone else bought a round, so no one paid any attention to him, except maybe Flossy, who did something under the bar that made Joe twitch.

Sparger was still leaning on Estevo’s new doors, so offerin’ whisky and beer instead of mud was probably a good idea. The stranger pushed both the batwing doors in, just like the cowboy in the picture. It made me feel like I wasn’t in Taos anymore, but some made-up place that was supposed to look like the American West.

Is the whisky any good,” he asked.

Not really,” said Two-Bucket. Then he grunted as Flossy made him twitch again.

Why no tequila?” asked the guitar player.

Estevo’s afraid of worms,” said Two-Bucket Joe. He twitched again, but he didn’t look so much like he was in pain. It was almost as if he was enjoyin’ it.

I’ll have the beer,” said Lowell Sparger.

Two-Bucket opened his mouth, twitched, smiled, and never said a word about Estevo’s beer.

Estevo poured the stranger’s beer in an almost clean glass while everyone else paid attention to whatever they were drinkin’. Some were even polite enough to sip instead of slurp.

Yup,” said Slimy. “This reminds me of that time Uncle Ned didn’t say anything. Uncle Ned always said what was on his mind, like how there was water in the cotton fields one Spring. I wasn’t there that Spring, cause I wasn’t born yet, but I guess there was a lot of water. Water isn’t somethin’ you want in a cotton field, they say, at least Uncle Ned didn’t want it. That’s what he would say, except that time he didn’t say anything that really surprised us that time.”

Everyone froze. Slimy’s stink was only half of the problem, but how could we get him to shut up? He had a habit of shooting men that tried to do that.

He obeyed me when I asked him to move; it was time to see just how far this new friendship would go.

So Uncle Ned didn’t say anything about the fields or the cow horse what kicked him when he was only…”

I stood up.

Slimy,” I said. “This man here has a guitar. Wouldn’t you like to hear a song?”

Slimy looked up at me. I couldn’t tell if he was furious or just surprised.
Maybe he didn’t know either, but after three real slow heartbeats, he smiled.

Yah,” said Slimy. “I would truly like to hear a song.”

Estevo started to giggle. I think he was just too scared to do anything else. If anyone was going to take charge, it would have to be me.

Say, Mister,” I said. “My friends and I would sure like to hear a song or two. Do you know any? I mean, any other than ‘Dixie,’ ‘Green Grow,’ or ‘Tenting Tonight.’”

Or ‘Frère Jacques,’” added Jacques.

Oh yeah,” I said. “We know that one too.”

The stranger shook his head. “You’re telling me that you fellers only know three songs?”

Four,” said Jacques.

We all nodded except for Slimy. He seemed to be paying attention, but sometimes that was hard to tell with Slimy.

Well shoot,” said the stranger, “I know hundreds of songs. I’d be happy to sing for you fellers as long as someone buys my beer.”

How about mud?” said Two-Bucket Joe. He twitched again, looked up at Flossy, and muttered, “I’m not going to have to pay for this, am I?”

Flossy flashed her teeth in what I suppose was a smile. It was a scary sight, but it made Two-Bucket smile back.

The West was a lonely place in those days.

Lowell took his beer from the bar and brought it over to a table. He set the beer down, unslung his guitar, and started tuning it. A few of the fellers looked confused – was that supposed to be a song? Slimy was bobbing his head to it.

We finally get to the song on Thursday.  For now, here's my last (promise) yodeling video.