Friday, August 27, 2010

Son of a Gun

Photo by Jay Dusard

These are my cowboy sons. I gave them life, doesn't that count?

To catch you up on what's been happening at Barlow Ranch lately. Ruby, our beautiful prostitute turned respectable by marrying Leo, and the handsome, forgiving hero, live on a cattle ranch in Texas where they are raising their sons JJ and MJ with the help of Turk, the grandfatherly cook (with a mysterious dastardly past.)

Jack is Ruby's old one-night stand (JJ's father) who ditched her. He's the bad boy she pines for, who was in a gunfight defending Ruby's reputation and we think he's dead (maybe or maybe not. We shall see.) Her old "boss" Sam was furious when she dropped out of the tricky business he runs in the saloon, and accepted the good life at her rich, new husband's ranch. Sam's out to destroy her.

The Barlows have had all sorts of adventures—a tornado, a grasshopper plague, fires, threats, a-near affair, etc. and many successes—a school, church, sawmill, growth of the herds, etc. All these have been exploited or ruined by Sam's men. Leo is a Quaker and will not turn to violence against these violent attacks. (Leo and I are working through his qualms for a satisfying surprise ending.)

That's a tiny synopsis so you'll understand this scene.

Last night Sam sent his cronies out to vandalize their property and put the Barlows in mortal danger. MJ was awakened by the bad guy's jingling spurs and looked outside to see them, under the moon (one's a Mexican who wears a long Indian blanket over his shoulder, belted by his buscadero rig of criss-crossed guns over his chest) smoking their cigar-eets, creeping around. Half asleep, MJ didn't know what he'd seen. The next morning at breakfast this scene unfolds:

Excerpt from

Son of a Gun

Marty Halverson

The kitchen was warm from the fire and there was a fine smell of bacon frying and coffee steaming. Eight-year-old MJ was a good eater and he leaned into his food, downing an egg and five strips of bacon, plus a couple of hotcakes. Dipping a sugar cube in her coffee, Ruby sucked its sweetness and dipped a couple more. “Here, Sugarmouths,” she said to her little boys, who loved this morning ritual.

MJ could not have presented a more appealing picture as a wide-eyed, wandering, barefoot boy. His beaming, slightly bucktoothed smile would have melted the heart of a limestone head marker. “I saw some ghosts in the yard last night,” he said matter-of-factly to his younger brother.

“Did not!” JJ scoffed, alarm mixed with suspicion. “You never!”

“Did so. They was scooting ‘mongst the trees, jingling, like their death chains was rattling. One of ‘em had a long, dark cape flowin’ around him, and their faces glowed, light flickering by their eye sockets.”

“Mama.” JJ interrupted her musings. “Are there such things as ha’nts?”

“Don’t know, JJ. Your pa believes in ghosts, he says. I wouldn’t want to meet up with one.”

Turk was just starting in on a chicken. He was at his story-telling best with feathers flying from his greasy hands.

“I remember when Bud Thompson’s face was plastered with his own brother’s brains. Horse stepped on his head.” He had the boys’ attention.

Ruby muffled a gag. “Turk! You say the most unappetizing things while you’re fixing a meal!”

“Bud went to bed that night, and a ghost came calling, all empty headed and bloody. ‘Give me back my brains . . . Give me back my brains!” He wiggled his gelatinous fingers in JJ’s petrified face, and laughed.

“Turk, was that true?” the boy asked.

“Truer than an outright lie,” the old timer answered.


Today I sat in my computer chair (Dee and I both use a special brand of Bum Glue that keeps us stuck to our seats for hours on end) from 8:30 to 10:30, then from 11:30 to 3:30, and then again from 4:00-9:30 and of course my 12:00 midnight to 2:00 a.m. shift when I do a little of this and a little of that, but at least 30 minutes of editing the ten pages I wrote today. I've never worked so hard at writing (I can feel my brain stretching, and my eyes straining and my back hunching over) but I've never had so much fun writing in my life. The hours fly by, and I forget to eat, to go to the bathroom, to get a drink . . . I get totally immersed in my make-believe world.

My deadline for the manuscript is September 1. Then Dee and I are swapping manuscripts for a week, and we'll both edit the very different 200 page tomes we've each (hopefully) finished. After the re-exchange, we'll then go back to our separate corners and weep quietly over all the red ink bleeding all over our masterpieces, and have a last week to make the corrections. And then . . . AND THEN . . . we're going to CELEBRATE!

How would you celebrate the grand conclusion to an impossible goal?
Fantasize and give us some ideas.


Heather Scott Partington said...

I'm so happy you're so close to being finished. It must feel great (but I also know how hard it is to get through the last 5% of somethng--hang in there). I don't have any novel ideas for you to celebrate (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) but whatever you do, get some bum glue remover. :)

Diane said...

Great excerpt!

I think I would go somewhere. It doesn't have to be far, or expensive, just away from your work area for a fresh lookout on the next thing you'll be up to.

I cannot wait to read the whole thing.

Christie said...

I think you should go somewhere fantastic. Like San Fran for a weekend, or Seattle. You deserve it!

marta said...

mom.. i'm so excited for your HUGE accomplishment. i think it's so awesome that you've done what you've set out to do! so many people have 'write a novel' on their bucket list and never put in the hardwork it takes to actually do it. way to go. i can't wait to get a copy. (will you be the reader for the book on cd??) you and dad should treat yourselves to a trip to sun valley or new york city or somewhere super fun. or maybe just a nice massage for you and a weekend of detective movies. keep up the great work.

kenju said...

I'm loving your story!! and I doubt you'll have even one red mark!

I think I'd go on a cruise!

Kay Dennison said...