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Danine, Part 5
by joseph   March 29, 2005

"You're going back there tonight, aren't you?" Jack asks me.

"I told you, I'm not sleeping so good, it relaxes me to go there. Besides, they're open until three," I say. I look toward Davidson's house, but I can only see the curtains. There's a slight ripple in one of them, in the room at the edge of the house, but then it subsides and there's nothing.

"Relaxes you? Place like that would just get me tense. No, sir. You're going there because of this dancer, this one with the tattoo, the one you gave money to." Jack pulls a quarter out of his pocket. We're flipping to see who gets to be on the riding lawn mower.

"Rebecca tell you that?" I ask.

"You told me that," he says, laughing.

"I gave her a dollar. That's what guys do."

"You give money to anyone else?"

"That doesn't mean anything."

"Going back to the den of sin," he says, still laughing, turning the quarter over in his hand. "This place'll be the downfall of you, my friend."

"What do you let Rebecca work there for, if you think it's such a wicked place?"

"Shit, she's trying to save up for college, and with just the two of us we need it. Besides, it's not a den of sin for her. But for you, that's a different story." For show, he holds the coin up and exposes both sides--a heads and a tails. There was a little casino in Wolf Point for a while, and Jack worked there for a year or so. Dealing blackjack. His face is flat and his wrinkles run deep, but his features are sharp. "You want heads?" he says.

"I'll call it in the air," I say. "And it's not about her." He flips. "Heads."

It lands in his fist. He takes it and slaps it hard against his forearm. It's tails. He grabs it and puts it in his pocket. "We'll switch off after lunch, okay?"

"Don't worry about it."

"And listen, be careful. What do you think we saw her riding with that bouncer for? She's like his girlfriend. His family's got all kinds of connections, right? Uncle's the sheriff? He kicks your ass, where you gonna run? Poor little piece of white trash like you."

"Fuck you. And I don't think that's gonna happen. I could take him."

"Yeah, you can take him."

"Besides, I'm married," I say, opening the double doors into the shed. Jack goes in and gets on top of the mower, switches it on. It roars to life, and the air fills with the smell of exhaust. Jack's face looses into a broad grin, and he tips his hat and rides past me, switching into high gear and zooming down the side of the hill. I grab a hundred feet of hose and get to watering the trees.

The morning just gets hotter and hotter, and I'm almost glad to be working in the garden and not out on the huge lawn with a hot machine between my legs. I pour water over my head and then stick my hat back on. The water runs down my neck and under my shirt collar, and it feels good. I wonder how long Davidson's lived here. The trees I'm watering are all young, and they've just been transplanted.

I take the hose and stick it in the dirt near the edge of one. Mostly I just stick it in there and let it run for a while I sit down and, with my back to the house, sneak a drink. The force from the water sprays up some clumps of dirt, and underneath I see something, something white and pale that the water is slowly scrubbing clean. I bend down and look--it's a hand, the fingers outstretched. There's a ring on the finger, and through the stream of water I can read it: Class of '88, Glasgow High. I reach down for the hose, put my fingers into the mud and pull it out, spraying myself across the chest.

It's a rock, is all, a fish-belly white rock, about the size of my fist. I reach down and pick it up, heft it in my hand and toss it over the side of the fence into the pasture. I hear a voice I recognize: the high-pitched voice of Big Hat. Over my shoulder, I see him walking up to the garden tractor and waving his arms over his head. Jack comes to a stop and turns it off.

"It's too short, it's too short, you're cutting it too short!" Big Hat says, still jumping up and down. Jack and I were wondering if he was a midget, but Jack figures he's just really damn short. A little under four foot six, Jack figures.

Jack looks at the grass, then looks at the mower, then looks back at Big Hat. Martin, I guess his name is. "That's the height it was set at. It looks all right to me."

"You didn't even check the height before you started?" "If it was set right last time, I figured it would be set right for this time." "Well, this is too short, look at this, it's completely fucking ruined. It's a good half-inch too short."

"Well, grass does grow. That's why it needs to be cut."

Big Hat doesn't say anything at first, just turns away and looks around, scans the grass like he's trying to figure out a way to put it back. "Don't talk to me like that," he finally says. "I don't need some drunken Indian coming up here and lipping off to me, all right? Just 'cause you're Rebecca's father doesn't mean shit with me, you better hope all this grass doesn't dry out and die or it'll be your ass, you understand me." Then he turns and walks back toward the house. He's still talking the whole way, though, but we don't know who he's talking to. "Don't ever talk to me like that," he keeps repeating. "Don't ever talk to me like that."

I look at Jack, who's staring down at the grass, then looks up at me. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a cigarette and lighter, cups his hand around the tip and lights it, then takes a deep drag, starts humming at the top of his lungs, but then that gets drowned out by the sound of the engine as he kicks it into life again.

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