The Bee Charmer of Beckett Falls
The Summer of 1945
I got two breaths left and a hole in my back, but I got something to say.
I was happy. I was aces and the reason was my sugarfaced gal Shawna. That’s her in the dirt. You can look, but I don’t want to. Not yet.
Shawna’s an auburn-headed hellion and I wish I had the time to piss on the teeth of the man that shot her, but it’s enough that he’s under my car.
Someone’s got to know. Someone’s got to know that Shawna and me were happy. We were happy and that meant something and it all started in Beckett Falls.
Beckett Falls was small-town, but the Hillcall Brothers’ Traveling Tent Show still rode through about three times a year. It was prairie dogs and gravel pits. Lace curtains and dirty handkerchiefs. It was a bother and a break-even for any roadshow.
The lone incentive for the Hillcall Brothers to stop in Beckett Falls was Blind Ed’s gas pump, the last for some hundred miles. We didn’t even stop in town. We set down half a mile east, stayed on the Mother Road and sent the lobster boy, the glass eater and a few grunts with fuel cans.
Beckett Falls could’ve been sucked up by a twister for all I had in it. It wasn’t worth a full show and it made me nervous. We gave it one tent and a single twilight. Gas up, chalk a few marks and go.
Far as I ever saw, Shawna Garrett was Beckett Falls’ one breath worth breathing.
I met Isaac on my first day at the Hillcall.
He’s the type of fella that always had a pant leg tucked into a boot and a furrow in his brow. Perpetually responsible for the world around him.
I didn’t know I’d end up loving the fool, but thinking back on that square jaw and the way he fit those Dungarees, I’m not astonished either.
Isaac didn’t ask about my past.
And if he did I would’ve left him.
I don’t know if skeletons should be buried or bleached by the light of loving eyes, but Isaac didn’t know a damn thing about how I got my scars.
Guess he should’ve.
Maybe if he did, I wouldn’t be choking on my own gore in the gravel of a know-nothing town on the way to get stockings and dental cream. I’m not anybody’s baby to save, but everyone could use a third hand now and again when there’s a vengeful, half blind scientist with a pistol outside the general store. Don’t say you haven’t been there or I’ll think you’re a bore.
Maybe if I’d told Isaac about the Doc, me and Isaac mighta had something.
We did have something.
But we coulda had more.
Everyone’s got a routine and mine didn’t include the girly show. I had better larking to do than let a pleasant jezebel earn my coin.
It was Harrison Fingerfoot that got me going the night I met Shawna. Harry made his way in the world painting pictures of people with his feet. He drew an especially fine Lincoln.
“Isaac, friend, have you heard of the fresh meat?”
“I haven’t heard tell.”
Granted, I didn’t say I cared either. The Germans surrendered in May, but that didn’t mean the boys were back yet. The Hillcall was short on roustabouts and I was helping stake the main tent.
At the Hillcall, I was a various-man and manager. I watched over set up and tear downs. I kept the mischief and high-hat pilfering to a minimum. I made sure Abbott the Twenty Inch Man didn’t pick the purse of the sheriff’s wife, that the Whiskered Woman didn’t shave for a honky tonk rendezvous and that Menagerie Tac wasn’t on so much of a bender that the lions got out or Pedro, the world’s oldest multiplying donkey, starved. I may not have been the heart of the Hillcall, but I was its right hand.
I didn’t have time to jaw.
“Shirl says there is a new burly-girl. Says the woman’s got no curve on her.”
“Chatting ain’t gonna get the tent staked, Harry.”
Harry looked around the plains conspiratorially, as if any of the twenty or so roughnecks milling about with hammers, canvas and sawdust were keeping notes on him.
“Harry, move your money-makers.” I pulled a kerchief and rubbed the back of my neck over sweat and a thick scar. Got that from a Dakota wildcat we tried to paint as a panther.
“Fine, Shirl has my lunch on. I was only reporting fine news to a fine friend.”
“That the Hillcall Brothers hired a flat fancy ain’t news, Harry.”
“Ahh, but she’s a bee charmer, Isaac. A bee charmer.”
“The girl, she uses bees in the act.”
It always disturbed my sensibilities that when Harrison smiled, his top lip disappeared.
“The act. The bump and grind. The show. The strip. She uses bees in the tease.”
“Harry, if that isn’t the tallest lie polished in horseshit I’ve heard all day, I’ll kiss your wife.”
“I’ll accept that, Isaac, seeing as we are confidantes. You can find her at Lady Fine’s tonight at eleven.”
“Shirl’s going to the strip?”
“Isaac, the whole of Hillcall’s going.”
And full-truth or my full wallet, they did. Near midnight or not, that tent was packed to revival-busting. Marks were up front, carnies shoved around back, shy folk loitered near tent ties and youngsters snuck heads under bottom-canvas, letting in a hot-fingered wind.
I was a step out of stage right watching through the exit flap.
A shadow stood straight on the stage, the new gal waiting for the curtain to shift. There was a humming, there in the soft glow with her.
I could see around the tent and straight through the front walk where Lady Fine stood in the moonlight, curls and sequins. She preferred to collect her own entry fees. There was what a person thought they paid to the woman with the hazel eyes and the low neckline, then they got home and found the second empty pocket.
Lady Fine had quick-working hands in all vocations.
Two vested monkeys and a top hatted mutt paced in front of the audience on crowd control.
The tent glowed red from roped up Oriental lanterns. Story goes that a prince gave those to Lady Roxie Fine. Hand-dyed with a drop of royal blood and the fringe’s made of tooth-tested gold. Sixteen lanterns. One for each bump of Lady Fine’s hips. Now that I think on it, it might have been an emperor. The woman had admirers.
The moth-eaten, velvet curtain heaved. Paused. Heaved. Then opened.
There stood Miss Shawna Garrett sass-naked, blurred by a veil of bees.
No introduction. No music.
A man in the third row, later found to be allergic, shrieked and fainted.
In my twenty-nine years, I’d seen bare footed farmer’s daughters, tall-shoed city women, painted faces, dirty nails, bare skin, cold cream, tassels, glitter, aprons and more than a few fine, foolish and fearful women. I’d seen all I needed to see to think that I wasn’t ever going to see what I saw, someone who interested me.
My Shawna gal stood pigeon-toed and reading. No mind whatsoever to the paid-in-full people of the tent. I looked at my watch. The curtain had opened one minute early.
I could hear Lady Fine’s get-on-with-it hiss from the back of the crowd.
Shawna Garrett was intent on finishing her page.
Shirl was misinformed. Miss Shawna had a flatter bust than most burlesquers, but she wasn’t curveless. A swarm of bees vagued the view, but the outline was there.
Collarbone to kneecap. A buzzing haze. There must have been thousands on her arms alone.
Later I learned that Shawna named and knew each bee. Though maybe she told me that to shut my mouth before bed.
The tent was silent, but for the feet shuffling and honeybees. Thick little bastards the size of a quarter that thrummed and jostled in front of her.
Shawna Garrett licked a fingertip and held it in the air as if to make a point.
The vested monkeys mimicked the gesture.
The wind rippled against the tent.
Audience eyebrows raised.
A man in a driver’s cap in the third row gripped the buttons on his shirt.
Shawna turned the page. The record needle hit and Django Reinhardt tipped on. Miss Shawna closed the book and dropped it.
Bees carried it offstage.
By the sight of a reliable man, all the bees dropped from her arms, caught that hardcover and carried it off stage. Jack London, if I read the spine right.
I saw the outline of a breast and hint of a rear while Shawna walked forward and the bees tornadoed around her. Miss Garrett swayed a hip here and graced a hand there. She used French eyes on folks.
Hotdog Tom handkerchiefed a blush.
My gal gave a low whistle. The bees tightened around her, sitting on her skin. It was the quietest I’d ever heard a packed cooch tent. Folks drawing in breath. Folks sweating. Folks intent to see if luck would spindle thin and the stinging start. Even Lady Fine, leaning on a tent pole, had a shine in her eyes.
The gypsy guitar built up.
Shawna posed upstage, a hand on the back of her head and one above her rear.
She’d knock her hips forward and the bees loosened and moved in a wave across her thighs, stomach and chest. She’d turn around and knock her hips back and the bees rippled across her backside.
Shawna owned the only shoulders this side of ever that dropped my jaw.
And she had this way of slow bumping her hips, right and left. Right and definitely left.
It was a bump.
It was a grind.
It was a bump and a grind and the slight bounce of her breasts and you’d want to reach out and put your hand on those hips and pull that grind into you, but there were the bees, and the bees followed the bumps, and only one hip was ever bare.
A violin weaved in and out of the guitar over the constant bombination of the bees.
Miss Shawna did a wiggling spin and when she did, I saw her bellybutton between all that flitting yellow and black.
I followed a bead of sweat from behind her ear, down her neck, over her spine and lost the sight between the bees when she arched her back. Then those hips to the right, to the left. Right. Then left.
It was the most terrifying, gorgeous thing I’d ever seen - and that’s including my trip to the Grand Canyon.
There were more than a few modest hats over belt buckles when the song ended.
The Wolf-Faced Boy would have dreams about gypsy guitar and gyrating for the rest of his days.
Lady Fine, being the competitive sort, would learn how to handle absurdly-sized snakes.
Shawna licked her top lip and bit the bottom and blew a whistle to break the silence. Those bees tightened one last time sitting breast to thigh on bare skin.
I’m not one to think of elegance, except when looking at the lines of her.
Shawna Garrett gave her bee covered back to the audience. She turned her head over her shoulder to give everyone a wink.
My Shawna shimmied and the bees covering her back and bottom fell away and folks all across the audience tightened their hands into fists and guffawed and before any one of them saw any full sweet flesh, that gal twisted forward.
Her front was still covered with bees.
Mind you, my view was of fine, naked glory, watching as I was from stage right.
Shawna Garrett gathered handfuls of bees from the front of her thighs and gently tossed them out of the tent.
She was three steps from the exit, three steps from me.
There were scars under her arms.
On the inside of her thighs.
Thick layers of scars.
Probably almost no one could tell, but I was close enough to see.
It didn’t matter. Hell, I had scars.
You get dragged seventy feet by a rampaging, mid-sized giraffe spooked by a mob of Mississippi mutts and you’re going to have a left side of permanent road burn scattered from shoulder to hip, that’s what I got.
Scars didn’t mean two bits.
Shawna’s second to last, she pulled her hair down. The shake of her head traveled south. Shawna shimmied her shoulders, her bust, then her hips and then everything was moving and shaking and the bees were sporadically leaving and the skin was showing and Shawna shimmied faster and the buzzing grew quieter and bees dropped off of her left and right until Miss Garrett, less than a day on the bill, stopped moving. She stood in the three smallest swatches of bees possible that kept town peacekeepers from pulling her off stage.
There were two of the hardest lawmen I’d ever seen, watching at the tent-back with soda pops.
People leaned forward. Crowded the stage. Everyone breathed ragged. I’d been white-knuckle clutching the tent flap without even knowing it.
That woman, she whistled and gave one last shimmy.
Every bee dropped away.
And goddamn it, Miss Garrett had an artistic agility that got her off stage before anyone saw the blue noted front of her.
It was in the collected sigh of every man in that worn out tent that Miss Shawna Garrett became the famous Bee Charmer of Beckett Falls.
Then came the roar of the crowd.
Two seconds after, Shawna stepped through the exit flap and I got a fistboat to the throat.
Self defense, that’s what it was. The first time I ever met Isaac, I punched him in the neck.
I was naked.
It was night.
Nobody was supposed to be at my exit.
My steamer trunk sat open behind him with my robe hanging from the corner. My bees crawled quiet on and in it, buzzing, but you couldn’t hear their trilling with the applause still so strong.
I’d rather be alone on a stage than a part of a crowd. You don’t know who’s standing next to you.
Then there was Isaac, blocking my way to my robe. How was I supposed to know he wasn’t a bad or idiotic man? The world is full of ‘em and they all seem to want me for something.
Make me a sandwich. No.
Give me a kiss. No.
Wiggle over here. No.
Give me your skin. No.
Well, that last one was the Doc and I didn’t have a chance to say no, did I? He took that without asking.
The Doc fed me every day, that’s about all I’ll give him. Didn’t talk. Didn’t say if he worked for the government. Maybe some hospital. Didn’t say if the tests were to help heal the Boys coming back from the War or if I was helping cure cancer. Only time I ever heard the fink speak was when he read to himself, out loud, after dinner. Plato.
There was always a new test.
The Doc specialized in bees.
I don’t know who he worked for, but I know I wasn’t the only one. Names were scratched into the wall by my cot. Dannyboy Blue, Big Bella, there were thirteen. Nobody’s going to notice when a tomcat or molly goes missing, right?
I didn’t even know bees were partial to me until the Doc came around. You don’t see many bees in the city.
Beat me to hell, if I could figure out what he was trying at. He’d use silver tweezers and a bee tail to sting my underarm. He’d leave it for a day. Stick a needle in it, draw out liquid. He’d shove a stinger so hard that it’d burrow in the skin. He’d cut it out a day later. Three days later. A week. He’d sting the same spot once it scabbed. He’d needle the bees full of a glass bottled, clear chemical, wait for six hours then sting me with them. He cut off pieces of skin. Stung them, too. Wrote down six journals of notes.
After my inner arms were three bruises deep and smelled like vinegar and eggs, he went to my inner thighs.
When you’re strapped down trying not to bite your own tongue in half, you get to looking at the fella doing the pricking. He had muddy brown eyes, thin rimmed glasses and a nick in his left ear. Clean hands. Always wore a tie.
I’d peg his experiments more Hitler than healer.
You’re not gonna find a soothing sting salve from my puss and blood. And I double-dog doubt that that clearcoat he was shooting the bees full of is for the betterment of society. I retched up my dinner after every one of those stings, then my knees gave out and I’d be blind for half an hour.
I once caught sight of a dark green jeep when the Doc opened the door to leave.
Here’s a two-cent tip, if ever you find yourself holding up a lamppost looking for a trick and a lonely looking fella comes along in a white Chevy and he tells you he’s a doctor and only wants to talk, well sisters, slit his throat if you’re able and steal his wallet if you can. Then click your heels as far and as fast away from him as possible.
Elsewise, if you get in that car expecting a greenback stack and a warm night, you’ll be outta the city and in some country barn laboratory before you realize you’re a lamebrain and your mama raised you better than that. Then you’ll get your warm night all right.
The blood’s plenty warm coming from the raw patch on the inside of your arm where he injects blended bee bodies.
And then does it again.
Hold your dinner down if you can.
Isaac barely did.
But that’s what happens when you’re in front of an au naturel woman’s robe and she slams her knuckles into your Adam’s apple.
I may have only been outta the Doc’s hands and in Beckett Falls for a month, but that’s long enough to friend up to the roadhouse toughs to learn how to punch.
It felt like I had a brick thrown at my throat.
I saw the boatman coming. I was going to the river and the river was dark. I couldn’t breathe and I was on the ground in an awful heap and my windpipe felt fuller than malt in a straw. I would’ve wrote my will in the dust except I couldn’t move my arm. Shirl could have my shirts because she’d use the buttons. Harrison could have my new boots; the man’d been eying them for a week.
I was full of snot and struggling to breathe.
That’s what you got when you surprised my Shawna.
A comforting hand on the shoulder could lead to a black eye.
She wasn’t so much high-strung as excessively cautious.
A diffident man might have asked her why, but she would’ve told me if she wanted to talk about it.
“Well, get up,” she said and kicked dirt at my chest.
I looked up and she had a green kimono on. Nice ankles. Saw up to the knee.
“Get your eyes off my legs or I’ll kick your jaw off and feed it to my bees.”
She wafted the bugs into her steamer trunk, closed it, then sat on it. It hummed a dirge beneath her.
I, apparently, was unwanted.
“Mmph,” was what I managed. I could feel my left arm again and pushed my fists to the dirt and tried to stand. I only managed to wobble onto my knees.
A bee hovered near my ear.
Another by my eye.
“Go ahead,” she said.
“Explain?” My throat let it out cracked.
I thought back to one of my old man’s stories. He once saw a friend punched in the throat in a chop suey house brawl in Frisco. Fella died. Muscle got torn and leaked down his neck. Choked on it.
“Who the hell are you?” she asked.
Even in a dirty robe in an empty lot, the woman looked like the Big Time.
I’m not shamed to say that once I noticed her handful of rusty nails, I was menaced.
I stood up with a grab on the tent flap.
“You go punching all of your bosses in the throat?”
“Only the pervert, prowling types.”
She whistled and the bees around me clustered over my heart and crawled over my shoulder. It took a whale’s weight of effort to not flick them off.
“I’d be right to smack you one,” I said.
“You’d be right if it was my ass.”
I barked out a laugh and spit some blood.
“We got off on the wrong foot.” I tipped my hat and my voice was hoarse.
“You might be right.” Shawna gave a nod.
“Name’s Isaac. Isaac Posby, manager of the Hillcall. I’d shake your hand, but you’re holding nails.”
“Good to meet you Mr. Posby.”
“Can you call your bugs off?”
She whispered and the bees set down on the locked trunk.
“Shawna Garrett,” she dropped the nails in a tin and stuck out her hand.
The gal had a grip.
That’s when the whole of the Hillcall streamed around and through Lady Fine’s tent to greet the new girl. A general mess of welcome wagoners clamored to the backside of the tent. Miss Garrett brushed the rust off her hands and greeted the crowd.
There’d be a crowd after every show, the next seven months.
The advance men would let the papers in on her act before the Hillcall got there. Grainy photos of Shawna with handfuls of bees and a halo to match.
Each town her crowd grew.
Lady Roxie Fine finally got a new, bigger tent.
While people were taking notice of Shawna Garrett, she was putting eyes on me.
Shawna Garrett said she loved me after I made her tea following a double show.
I still don’t understand it.
She’d been reading in the chow tent after her last performance, near one in the morning. The bees were crawling the cantina’s ceiling. They drove Cookpan Shirl nuts.
Shawna and I’d been having late dinners together for a month. I was up. She was funny. We sat together and knew when not to talk. It worked. Nothing else.
So I made her tea.
I made myself coffee.
I sat down, pushed the tea to her and started in on my fried baloney sandwich. Shawna put both hands around her mug and looked at me.
“Got something on your mind?” I brushed crumbs from the corner of my mouth.
She sipped the tea. Some kind of jasmine leaves Roxie Fine had stashed away.
“What about me?”
Month or not, I still had a yellow bruise on my neck.
“You made me tea and I didn’t even ask you.”
“What’s a good book without a warm cuppa?”
“Plain truth, Isaac Posby, I believe I love you.”
She said it right like that.
She put her Orwell down, got up and sat on my lap. Right there in the middle of the cantina in plain sight of every fool that worked at the Hillcall she sat on my lap and kissed me.
Life right then was the best it ever got.
There were moments that came close. Shawna’d smile at me and I’d smile. She’d lay on the bed and stretch her feet onto my lap. She’d make hoppin’ john and buy me books and play with my ear. She’d dance and sell jarred honeycomb after the show and she’d autograph it and with all those folks wanting her, she’d come back to me. Even made the best mashed potatoes I ever had, though I wouldn’t admit that standing over my dead mother’s grave. It’d break her dusty heart.
I loved her even when the frying pans went past my head or I found bees in my pants pockets or when I came home to a locked trailer, a note pinned on it saying “go away,” with her whispering curses and crying to herself somewhere inside.
I wasn’t a fistful of sunflowers every day either.
That’s life and it was mostly good.
And the crowds kept getting bigger.
There were plenty of people that followed Shawna from town to town. Usually they only kept to one state.
The man under my car, and yeah, I did enjoy the thump of him over my hood, followed Shawna that last month of our circuit.
Guess Shawna never saw him. Standing on stage, you got the lights on you. It seems like you’re looking at the crowd, but all you really see is the glare of the spotlight and a mob of dark shapes.
Hard to miss, in a navy blue suit and matching eye patch, but Shawna didn’t see him.
If Isaac had told me that he’d seen the Doc after every other show for the past month, maybe things wouldn’t be so trashcan.
But how in the hell was Isaac to know who the Doc was?
I never told him.
I can’t imagine I’m a bit of pretty with blood in my hair and bees all over. I can feel them. I can’t feel my legs, but I can feel my bees sitting everywhere else. Sometimes the best someone can do to feel at home is to have someone to hold, and my little fellas knew their home was about three gurgles and a blink from gone.
Pretty or not, from the dirt I could see Isaac. I could see him hitting the Doc and then getting out of the car to come for me and the Doc was pinned against a tree, but the Doc wasn’t down.
I’d made that mistake, too. Left the bastard alive.
He had a hand going for his pocket that Isaac didn’t see.
I got away from the Doc once.
He had me season.
Maybe three months. When I first found myself in Frankenstein’s barn, all silver counters and slivered wood, I was in a sundress. The next I knew it was late September and I could call bees. You get stung with a thousand of their brethren and you feel like kin.
I may have been a green-eyed street girl going in, but I could hold my own, given the chance.
The Doc finally gave me a chance.
Not all of the bees that the Doc had were dead. He kept a hive in a steamer trunk.
I would whistle to keep myself company and bees would come to me.
The Doc noted it in his journal.
But he didn’t notice the day I palmed the syringe and he was asleep the night I filled it with piss and sand. Don’t look at me like that. I had to fill it with something.
I waited for a day when the steamer trunk was open.
I was kept in a caged corner with a cot, a curtain and a piss pot. Doc’d unlock me and then chain me to a chair in his workshop.
He came for me.
Unlocked the cage.
I whistled for the bees.
They swarmed me until I blew them towards the Doc.
The Doc was wide-eyed. Even then he didn’t have three cents to say to me.
I stabbed him in the pupil with the needle and the gritty, yellow contents expanded his eye. He was screaming and, surprisingly, I wasn’t.
How could I tell Isaac something like that?
How could I tell him how proud I was that the Doc fell to the floor, crying and kicking?
Why exactly would I share that I wanted to bash the Doc’s head in with a chair, just to be sure, but suddenly got scared. Idiot woman. I saw him with an exploded eye and hundreds of bee stings puffing up his neck and blood around his collar and all I could think was run.
I called my bees, dragged the steamer trunk to the Doc’s car and lead-footed it until I was outta gas.
Blind Ed has a gas pump, but you gotta have money to use it.
Why the hell else would I be in Beckett Falls?
And Isaac may have crashed his car into the Doc, but the Doc wasn’t dead.
I had a way of fixing that.
My car ain’t looking so good because I drove it into the man who killed my gal. I loved that Chevy. Pure white, inside and out. Shawna hated my car and never said why.
I dropped Shawna off in front of the general store, parked and went for a clipping.
You don’t get many days off from the Hillcall and what you did get was spent doing errands and then moving on. We had a system. She’d get her hair done and I’d get a shave. I’d get our dinner and she’d get our necessaries.
I was waiting across the street with a sack full of fries and burgers when Shawna came out of the general store.
When the man sitting with the newspaper over his face stood up. A man who looked like he wanted to tie up a few loose ends.
I’d been starting the car when he pulled out the gun.
My Shawna, she didn’t run, she didn’t have time.
The world went loud.
A flash from his hand.
Her body jerked away from him.
The Bee Charmer of Beckett Falls, the one I shared my trailer with, who cooked me johnnycakes, who I smiled at in the shower, who I wrote my brother about, Shawna Garrett was on the ground and her chest was covered in blood.
People stared from store windows, but nobody came to help.
I didn’t know what I was doing, but the car was moving.
The man walked away with Shawna’s blood on his shoe.
I had shaking hands on the steering wheel.
He had gray hair and lit a cigarette.
I drove at him. Three seconds of kicked-up dust, an empty road and then I saw his glasses fall off when his palms smacked my hood and his back hit a tree.
The man’s mouth was open. His neck and face were covered in scars.
The man in navy now wore red.
I left the car running and ran to Shawna. Sparrows sang at the scrub by her feet and her skin was covered with bees.
Isaac knew better than to turn his back on a killer. For chrissake’s he’d worked with rabid elephants, corralled wild panthers, he’d gotten raises outta those tight fisted, irritable and illusive Hillcall boys and my Isaac knew better than to turn his back on a man with a gun.
But I was dying.
My chest was wide open and my insides were pooling outside and he loved me.
So he ran to me.
And I did the only thing I could do.
I had one arm that would move and nothing else worked right, nothing but my eyes.
Every woman worth her salt, should know when to pull a gun. If I’d had a gun instead of a pathetic pocket knife the summer this all’d started then neither Isaac or me’d be dying.
Oh well, and the well is deep.
I loved Isaac for the thoroughness he put in his actions. Watching him with a hammer was an act of God – all muscles and sweat and the sun beating that space between the shoulder blades. Seeing him clean a coffee pot could’ve been Michelangelo cutting marble. And buying a gun, well, Isaac didn’t ask why I wanted a gun, he just took three hours to make sure I got a pearl-handled beauty then said, “Yeah girl, it looks right in your hand, doesn’t it?”
And it looked even better raised in the air.
The day I met Shawna Garrett was the day I realized there was something more than work and sleep and fried baloney with Harry and Shirl.
Seven months can be a beautiful forever, if you’re with the right one.
And I was.
I knew that gal. I knew Shawna well enough to know the laundry wasn’t done and her undersuches were mismatched and that that hand of hers was reaching for the shooter in her purse.
That should’ve made me turn back to the car, but all I thought on was Shawna in a cloud of bees and blood.
I made it three steps away from her before I heard the crack and felt the fire in my left mid-chest. Ain’t no kind of good man that would shoot another in the back.
Isaac was on the ground.
My hand was propped up.
I sighted the Doc and then it was done.
You don’t own a swell little gun for seven months without learning how to shoot the thing.
The Doc was a sack of meat pinned to a tree with a hole in his head, a dangling arm and a gun at his feet.
It wasn’t enough.
But Isaac was with me.
He was enough.
“My turn to make coffee," I said.
He gave me his crooked-lipped smile and then he was gone.
I closed my eyes and couldn’t hear the bees.