This past weekend my wife and I went out to dinner with another couple. I asked the guy if he was a native Houstonian (my standard ice breaker question). My friend answered, “Let me tell you about my granddaddy.”
Born up in Nacogdoches. The youngest boy. His eldest brother had married a girl and moved up to Muleshoe. In the Panhandle. Some while after the brother’s move, his wife killed him. My granddaddy’s granddaddy bought a gun. He gave that gun to his young grandson, my granddaddy, and admonished him, “You take this gun and you go up to Muleshoe and shoot that woman”. That grandson, my granddaddy, bought a train ticket to Farwell, and said his goodbyes.
Farwell, Muleshoe’s closest neighboring town, provided the boy with a wealth of information about his older brother. Many people knew of him. Some people feared him. More than a few hated him. He labored at the rail yard about one day a week. He got drunk every day of the week. And he beat his wife. And his kids.
Farewell – This boy didn’t travel to this one-horse s***hole to mourn his brother. But to avenge him. He hopped a freight train headed for Amarillo and jumped off at the Muleshoe junction. He inquired. He walked hesitantly toward his destination. He stopped…watched a rail thin woman carrying wash from perhaps a hand dug well to her rain filled stock tank. She saw him. She dropped her wash into the rinse tub. The well’s ferrous sediments bleeding out into the clear water. At close range…he spoke.
He (ashamed): I’m…
She (relieved): I know…
Neither had any illusions about what would happen next.
She recounted her drunken husband’s cruelty. The wind died. Dead calm. The low prairie grass. The insistent trill of a distant sand crane. Rare moisture in drops… washed out along the creases of swollen eyes. Profuse perspiration in rivulets… stained young, ruddy cheeks. Congealed mucus… in the breathing of two snot nosed kids. His brother’s. His niece and nephew. Squatting. Curious. Feeling protected in the dying shade between that tarpaper shack and off-kilter outhouse.
He noticed a tool laying atop a wooden barrel. Its umbra attempting to hide an irregular stain. The hammer. Visitor to the crime. He imagined those nails. Three cut nails. Accomplice to the passion. He envisioned them protruding from his brother’s resistant skull. This last thought, sobered him to his purpose. The young assassin’s hand recoiled as flesh touched revolver. Each chamber held a fate. Four smooth bullets.
Fare. You can’t go home. Not after this. Not after murder and vengeance and cowardice. It’s not deeds of family that haunt. It’s deeds you choose. My granddaddy traded a near-new gun for a fare to Houston.