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The Gypsy's Address

“Why not?” asked Cooked Goose.

 

“I can’t sing lyrics at the same time as blow.”

 

“Play it on your fiddle. Let’s tap a toe!” Brass encouraged, nodding up at an old violin on a shelf nailed less than level on a wall.

 

“Can’t.”

 

“Why not?” asked Cooked

 

“I wrote it for harmonica.”

 

Brass looked at Cooked. Cooked looked at Brass. As the eureka to this mystery neither possessed, they thought alike that the matter ought not be further pressed. It seemed sufficient that their travels weren’t addressed, but by this narrative, which tells the facts, though somewhat guessed. . . I’m extraintelligent, not God.

 

“So, you call this home,” Cooked remarked, looking about at the traps hanging from a wall, a few dusty books in a dark corner, the heavy quilt on the bunk above Alias and Cuddly.

 

“Much as life affords, that’s a crash, over in a flash,” McCoy replied. Unlike Hatfield’s thundering enthusiasm without law, McCoy did not cast words from his mouth, but floated them soft-spokenly, like an ark through the dark. He rose to take a charred stick from an ash bucket, walked over to his books to rip out a blank page, then drew Brass and Cooked a map at the center of the table:

 

“Your road and their road meet again here. Then it becomes a long straight stretch. Good thing you chained while I cooked something to savor. You’ll need them, ‘less lake water’s to your flavor. That’ll be to your left, here, a high ridge to your right. I’ve made it avalanche with a yodel. But it’s never reached the road. It’s coming, though: that ridge wants a drink and that lake wants to sink. So do that stretch on tiptoe. Don’t so much as rev your engines. Keep the RPMs down low. No jakes.”

 

“I’m going out to watch the trucks, though the need I don’t now feel,” Alias woofed. “Cuddly’s going with me so, if need, we can split with less ordeal.”

 

Brass Ass rose to the door. As the knob she was turning: “Thank you, Alias. As usual, your wisdom is discerning.”

 

Not long before Cooked Goose followed the pair out the door, volunteering to take the first cabin watch. This about the same time that Makin’ took the first truck watch across the valley. The night proved, anyway, uneventful, all pretty played out that day. . . Blessed sleep: though it looks like something’s been deadly it’s an appearance without authenticity. Which is good, ‘cause when the trav’ling one does is dreadly sleep compensates with simplicity. Only Penny belied, when it was his turn to sleep, that sleep isn’t life suspended. Tapping the heels of ruby boots is what his dreams pretended as in two lands of Oz, one emerald green, the other snow white, he repeated aloud: “I wanna go home.” Soon enough, however, it was time for crime, the sun rising above the horizon. You and I soar above, to watch a diplomatic scene between two dorks who were born to be mean, two billies who might well merit two pendulums in two pits, ‘cause when it comes to truces both could be lying hypocrites.

 

Hatfield stepped from his cabin, waving old under drawers for a white flag. Rather, one ought to say pale, for when it came to neglect of laundry Hatfield didn’t fail. McCoy, with not much will, since the man he’d rather kill, produced a pale flag the same as he stepped outside his shack. Meanwhile, Cooked tried to call his broker while Brass tried to call their shipper. Across the valley Makin’ rolled herself a cigarette with a page torn out of a third grade primer found beneath the mattress of Hatfield’s bunk. On McCoy’s chest was trained a .45 by a self-amusing Punc. Though brains were the targets he liked the best, a heart worked just as fine to put some “runt” to rest.

 

“Your blood will run like an ocean if some trick is your notion,” said Hatfield to himself as he watched McCoy hopping down the boulders to meet him at the gulch in the middle.

 

As McCoy glanced at Hatfield descending from his side he noted what tended to confuse: “Where did Hatfield get those shoes?” he thought to himself, then muttered, “You won’t live to tell what its like to feel your brain drainin’ and shrinkin’ if with words of pretend to offend is what you’re thinkin’.”

 

At the bottom between the two slopes was a slight gulley between properties, dug wider with spades at one time, on both sides, for emphasis. Each standing to his own side, ten to fifteen feet away, Hatfield and McCoy met, glaring at each other:

 

“What da you want, you worthless creep?” McCoy addressed.

 

“Had I your groveling gut I’d sell her,” Hatfield answered. “There ain’t nothin’ in the world more yeller.”

 

“Some things never change. With a white flag you greet, to come here and tweet.”

 

“I ain’t surprised either. With your lack of conscience it’s elementary to say things that aren’t complimentary.”

 

“You’ve got a brain the size of a pinball if think I’ve come to hear but folderol.”

 

“You’d think in the houses of legislature they’d make it illegal to have your nature.”

 

“For that remark you’ll beg my pardon, or your grave will fertilize my garden.”

 

“Were I you I’d be concerned that a hard lesson’s about to be learned.”

 

Sounding like a couple of truckers abusing Sesame Street at any large truck stop, this went on what seemed to the sun forever. In an old mirror Makin’ meanwhile practiced kissing, while Old Penny with his knife practiced missing, since it was so hard to do. But Hatfield’s logs, now McCoy’s, just kept splitting. As for the Punc, tired of aiming at McCoy, he practiced sitting. Strange scooped ashes from McCoy’s fireplace, then tapped her fingers at his table with patient grace. After some time the two peakbilly chatterbox enhancers of answers gradually came to remarks that the other reason for their meeting also fit:

 

“Your guests have a pig. Help me snatch it and I’ll split it with you half and half,” thinking McCoy might surrender half the full pig he already had for some peace.

 

“It ain’t no good. It’s got reticent loudmouth disease.”

 

“. . . You’re lyin’. I ain’t never heard o’ no reticent loudmouth disease.”

 

“That’s what they said,” nodding up at his cabin.

 

“They’s lyin. They’s just bein’ stingy, keepin’ that oinker all to themselves.”

 

“. . . I’ll think on it,” McCoy replied. He’d been stingy before, and lied to do it, so that made sense to him.

 

“Think on it! What does that mean? What’s to think about?”

 

“It means I’m goin’ to arbitrate, soze my decision won’t be arbitrary. Besides, you ain’t weighed a fair half your entire life.”

 

“There you go, another slight improper. For all your thinkin’ in thoughts you’re still a pauper.”

 

“Dealing with the likes of yourself is an abominable trade. Be as may, tomorrow mornin’ my answer will be paid.”

 

“Don’t think you’ll be the only one to put your brain to toil. But, unlike yours, my brain ain’t low on oil.”

 

Thus amidst those snow-covered peaks was the civil democratic. To split a pig in half wasn’t simply mathematic. Who believe in free trade might find Hatfield and McCoy inspirational, just as who believe in democracy might find their bickering quotational. Each now began to back off. Stepping forward into the gulch, especially to shake hands, was forbidden, though crossing the gulch was expected in the dark or some way hidden. When Hatfield reached his shanty at the top of his ridge he picked up his rifle leaning against a wall:

 

“This one’s for callin’ me a creep!” then fired across the valley. “Here’s another you can keep!” He shot again, then turned to ascend the steps up to his back door.

 

McCoy heard the bullet whistle past his shoulder and thud into the riddled wall of his shack: “Well, I’ll be a boil on my nose just as real if but suppose.” Raising his voice to reach Hatfield: “Your own near future you compose, about the day I tag your toes!” He grabbed his Winchester leaning against a barrel and shot back from his hip, his bullet smacking into Hatfield’s back door an instant after Hatfield shut it from inside. Either might have been glad they had no dynamite to practice politics.

 

“McCoy’s gotta think,” Hatfield informed Makin’ and the Punc. “Which means your friends ain’t goin’ anywhere for a while.” He pulled a deck of cards from a shelf, sat down to his table and dealt himself a hand of solitaire.

 

“I wanna play,” offered Makin’.

 

“Can’t. I’m thinkin’.”

 

The Punctuator sat opposite Hatfield, his elbows on the table, his forehead resting against his gun which he held in both hands, visibly exercising all too much patience:

 

“Thinking, huh? Any particular time you’ll be done?”

 

“You’ll know. Just listen.”

 

McCoy grabbed an old cardboard box of checkers and set up the pieces on his table.

 

“I guess Brass and I will be on our way,” said Cooked.

 

“Can’t.”

 

“Why not?” asked Brass, noticing the room had become a few shades darker as the wind began to whistle.

 

“I’m thinkin’.”

 

It wasn’t long before the shack began to shake. Penny quivered as he noticed a chill. He peered out a dirty window, attempting to clean it with his hand, and couldn’t see a thing but snow furiously whirling before his nose. Strange turned the knob on the door which then flew open, knocking her to her bum ten feet away as snow blew into the shanty. It was a struggle for Penny to push the door closed. Makin’ and the Punc, across the craggy valley, listened to the suddenly fierce wind.

 

“You’re right. We’re not going anywhere in that,” Strange agreed with McCoy, wiping herself off.

 

Though appearing to play their games aimlessly, Hatfield and McCoy now contended with one another. One played checkers, the other solitaire, so neither could win, lose or come to agree. Those two so alike, yet so contrary, enjoyed turmoil to such degree, in so many ways, they were nearly ordinary. As they mentally played against one another, the more one reasoned, using doubt, the more the other, to confuse, would blot it out. For several hours it stormed, the cause being that their thinking was so weak that they had to think more powerfully than usual. This to grasp thoughts as correct as the aim of the rifles they spent their days to perfect – neither managing to lodge a bullet in the other regardless of rounds each day spent through many years long. That, or they so loved being rude that to end it with a fatality would be wrong. That, or in the depths of their hearts they wouldn’t do what, to all appearances, they lived to pursue. But their minds we’ll not psychoanalyze, because their thinking is done, with it the sun, as stars now could be seen in clearing skies. Hatfield of a sudden pounded the table with his gavel:

 

“Yes! I’ve brought him to his knees! His thinkin’s blowin’ away with the breeze!” From beneath his bunk he grabbed a dirty old glass jug and pulled the cork. He slammed it on the table and gave it a thrust across to Makin’: “You first. It’s discontenting to see a lady thirst.”

 

Makin’ Wind took the jug, then a whiff that brightened her eyes. She took a glug, then two, then three, before Hatfield reclaimed his bottle with, “Ghostly genius, girl! Leave some for your honorable partner!”

 

Hatfield gave the jug a dandle above the table by its handle. The Punc, sitting on the same wood crate atop his chair, took it and gave a sniff which jerked his head back. “Ah, yes!” accompanied Hatfield as the Punc took a measured draught, then wiped his mouth with his sleeve as he stifled a cough.

 

“Another mean workday come to an end, to which I like to append entertainment,” Hatfield clovered before taking a swig that put him in the zone. He smiled sweetly, grabbed his hammer, gave his table a couple rough slams.

 

“I’ve decided,” McCoy softly spoke more to himself than his guests.

 

“Decided what?” asked Cooked, peering out the window again as the weather calmed. He walked to the table and sat down across from Brass. McCoy penetrated his eyes with a stare to see if he’d back down. Cooked didn’t. McCoy desisted, gathering his checkers back into their box:

 

“What I decide ain’t for debate and you don’t need to know. Hand me that white jug by the sugar, please,” directing Brass Ass with a nod. Strange stood to oblige, grabbing the jug from a kitchen counter of sorts behind McCoy. She handed it to him, upon which he set it on the table, then slid it across with enough force that Penny had to catch if before it flew into his thorax. “Drink.”

 

Penny popped the cork, smelled the contents with some dis-ease, then pulled a light amount into his mouth.

 

“Now you,” McCoy told Strange. Penny stood to hand her the jug. Upon her hesitation McCoy added, “It’s an agreement. Enjoy.”

 

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