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Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Short Stories Kentucky Runners (Part II)
Sunday, 25 September 2011 17:59

Kentucky Runners (Part II)

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It was night at the retired stable building at the Dew Red farm when Boone saw Stagger Lee again. This time, Stagger was right where he’d hoped he’d be.

Stagger Lee’s Escalade was scarcely visible in the back-pasture darkness—just nervous glints off its chrome. Boone parked his Buick and made for the sliver of light splitting the barn doors. His footsteps were silent through bluegrass thick as butter slices. He moved through darkness oiled onto the land.

Boone wedged through the barn doors and slid them closed again behind him. He mopped the sweat around his grin with his starched cuff. His tongue tried to peel the taste of cob webs, adrenaline and old manure from off his mouth’s roof. It only made it thicker.

Stagger Lee had just finished digging. He set the shovel aside at the end of the long, wide hole he’d made by the grooming stall. A lantern cast a haze on him, body like a cigarette ember, swaddled in dirt.

Boone’s brows cinched as he hid behind a post to watch. Stagger hauled himself out of the hole and went into feed stall. Boone waited until he heard trough water splashing from there before shoving a hand into his jacket and moving for the hole.

He stood on the ragged lip of dirt. He savored the moment before looking in: A moment of immense hunger, desire bloating his features and clenching his fingers.

Boone looked down. The hole was deep with emptiness.

“Just what did you expect to find?” Stagger asked, walking from the feed stall shirtless and dripping from slicked black hair, down around a scowl and over his ruddy hide.

“You tell me, boy.” Boone drew his pearl-handled .32 revolver and angled it at Stagger. “Where’s Andy’s gold?”

“Ain’t polite answering a question with a question.” Stagger pushed hands for his pockets. Boone clicked the pistol’s hammer and halted him cold.

“Don’t mess with me, you sad sack of shit. I will gladly perforate you. Considering the shame you brought your family, it would be a service to the community.”

“You’re asking me about my Pa’s alleged cocaine money in the same breath you’re lecturing me about shame?” Stagger hooked a grin and slid a pack of Lucky Strikes from his jeans. “They sure know how to grow ‘em in Lexington.”

“Whatever your daddy and I might’ve done, we didn’t sink to slinging dope on the street with coons, like you done down in New Orleans.”

“Nah,” Stagger slotted a smoke and lit it. “You had the decency to be dishonest about your trade.”

“We were investors. End of story.” Boone waved the gun. It milled up the glowing motes that floated the stable air. Boone smirked like he had planets bouncing on the end of that barrel. “Now show me to my fucking investment.”

“You didn’t make enough off of them off-the-book stud deals with the Japanese?” Stagger Lee tilted his eyebrows behind the visor of smoke as he took a drag.

“I made millions, but there ain’t no price tag on a legacy.”

“A legacy? That what they calling whores and Dom Perignon these days up at the Club?”

“Fuck you. I’m building a children’s hospital.” Boone’s features didn’t like where the conversation was going—they struggled to hold the shape of anger as sadness watered them down to pink fat. “100 beds. Latest radiology. Doctors with God’s own hand.”

“On account of the daughter you had.” Stagger ashed in the hole.

“Yeah. Had. And I don’t want another father going through what I did with Sharon.” Boone’s hand worked the gun. His eyes watered, nostrils flared. Misery poured onto his face.

“That’s a sad story.”

“You can’t know what sad is until you lived through it.”

“Freddie J got a sad story too.” Stagger frowned around his smoke.

“What’d you know about it?”

“I know you set him up for the double-dealing with the Japs and used his running to bait me into checking if Andy’s gold was still where Pa left it.”

“Figured that all out yourself, did you?”

“Nah,” Stagger pointed his smoke to behind Boone. “He told me himself.”

Boone twitched but didn’t turn. He frowned. Stagger Lee took another drag. Boone mopped his brow, cleared the tears from his cheeks. Stagger Lee blew smoke.

Boone turned his head.

The barrel of Freddie J’s shotgun looked big enough to swallow every thought teeming in Boone’s head from only inches off. Freddie J’s hair was neat as a magazine page but he wore a messy scowl. Boone felt a swallow kick the floor out of his throat.

“Goddamn it.” Boone said.

“Funny,” Freddie J said, “I been thinking the same thing for two weeks of being on the run.”

“Drop your iron.” Stagger Lee sauntered for Boone. Boone’s hand tilted down. The gun shook wet in his fingers.

“Not a chance.” Boone said.

“Then hurry up and use it.” Stagger Lee said. He didn’t wait to see if Boone would; just plucked the gun up like it were no heavier than a betting stub. He inspected it.

“For the owner of such a fancy gun,” Stagger Lee held the pistol between them. “You sure are a stupid man.”

Boone hung his head and shook it. It wouldn’t come loose of his body and fly away. He grimaced at this and curled into himself, flabby forearms on his belly, wrists to the pacemaker scar of his chest. “I had dreams. I had good dreams.”

“Don’t we all.” Stagger Lee blew smoke through Boone’s thinning hair.

“All I had to do was see some bad people got what was coming to them.”

“Tell me what I had coming to me,” Freddie J jabbed the shotgun at Boone’s cheek. “You look me in the eye and tell me what four generations of work on this farm earns me.”

Boone’s mouth hung slack. Stagger Lee put the gun under Boone’s chins. He reached into his pocket.

“You want that gold money, Boone?” Stagger Lee’s lips were drawn by a razor but there was a happy skip in his tone. Boone nodded, jaw touching gun metal. He wept.

Stagger Lee pulled out his Derby betting slip. He waved it. “Here you go.”

He threw it into the hole. Boone watched it flutter down, fighting gravity, finally flattening in the darkness at the bottom.

“You bet it all on that damn horse?”

“I bet it on our farm’s line of horse.” Stagger Lee curled a frown. “Now go get it.”

Stagger Lee pulled the trigger. Freddie J startled at the pop. Boone’s eyes rolled into his excavated skull.

Boone wavered like the smoke from the top of his head. Stagger put a notched brown boot to his back.

Boone went into the hole with his pistol following.

Freddie J watched him go, glassy and goggled with horror. Stagger Lee watched the end of his cigarette as he finished it.

“What do we do now?” Freddie J dropped the shotgun like it was cursed. He rubbed his hands. The dim and dust of the abandoned stable stuck worse.

Stagger shrugged and lifted his boot sole. He tapped out his smoke on it. “Shit, Freddie, Dew Red’s your farm now, far as I’m concerned. But if I were you, I’d bury that fucker but good.”

“My farm?” Freddie flinched at Stagger. “You’re giving it to me?”

“Already given on paper.”

“What about you?”

Stagger Lee pocketed the butt and headed for exit. He put his shoulders forward as if about to batter the barn doors down. He flipped a wave to Freddie without turning back.

“Nah, me, I got to run on.”

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Matthew C. Funk

Matthew C. Funk is a social media consultant, professional marketing copywriter and writing mentor. He is the editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a writer for FangirlTastic and Spinetingler Magazine. M. C. Funk's work features at numerous sites online and in print with Needle Magazine, Howl, 6S and Crimefactory. He is represented by Stacia J. N. Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

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