Saturday, October 2, 2010


I've been thinking about New Mexico. Since I can't be there now, I've started work again on my novel Butch, which takes place in New Mexico. I started it a while ago, and I want to get back to it. I read the first chapter last night and laughed. That felt like a good sign. Here's a little bit of it. It is a first draft, so be kind. We'll see how it goes. I feel like I need to go back to Taos and spend some time there to finish it.

Chapter One

Near Taos, New Mexico, 1918, or thereabouts. Space and Time being a continuum and all.

Butch McShane could shoot, sit a horse, spin a yarn, track a varmint or villain, and pleasure a woman better than anyone alive. Butch’s particular talents held little value for the new folks pouring into the Southwest like locusts to a barbecue, but the old-timers still appreciated and tolerated the likes of Butch McShane.

On that late night in April no one fussed much when Butch kicked open the door to Angel’s Heaven on Earth, while holding a pistol in each hand, and called, “I am here to rescue Miss Angel. Everyone out now or I will be forced to shoot you.”

The five or so men still in the saloon left quickly, backs to the wall, watching Butch as they scurried out. Butch had been known to take pot shots at more than just rabbits. Thirty-seconds later, the room was clear, except for the smoke, and Angel came from around the bar, hands on her cinched waist, blond curls framing her face and tickling the top of her bosom.

Butch walked toward Angel, guns still in the air, and leaned over and kissed her pearly white neck, and then her breasts--one at a time.

“Don’t be doin’ that unless you mean it,” Angel said.

“Darlin’,” Butch said. “I always mean it. I don’t have an insincere bone in my entire body.”

“Dammit, Butch,” Angel said. “Those were paying customers. Someday I’m gonna really be in trouble and nobody will believe it!”

“Just call me the cowboy who cried wolf,” Butch said.

“Cowgirl,” Angel said.

“Aww, Angie,” Butch said as she dropped the pistols onto the bar. “I was just trying to have some fun.”

“Sometimes you are more of an asshole than any man I know,” Angel said. “The law is gonna put you in jail if you keep doing this kind of thing. Just wait until I close and sneak in the back like all my other girls do. Now I’m gonna let the boys back in.” She started walking toward the door.

“Let me just take a trip up your dress first,” Butch said.

Angel laughed.

“I’ll be glad to,” she said. “After the boys finish their drinks. Now you can either stay here and be good or come back later and be bad.” She opened the door and leaned outside. “Come on in, boys. She promises not to pistol whip anybody.”

Doc Broome stumbled in first, followed by Merle Connelly and Johnny Jack. Butch sighed and turned back to the bar. This was not the ending to the night she had envisioned. She started to pick up her revolvers, but Angel slapped her hands down on them, pulled them away, and slipped them out of sight behind the bar.

“You can get them later,” she said. “You know I don’t allow weapons in my establishment.”

“Well, then,” Butch said. “I had better leave, since my body is a weapon. A weapon of love.”

Hearing all this--since Butch did not understand the concept of a whisper--Johnny Jack and Merle laughed as they climbed back onto their bar stools.

Butch leaned close to Johnny Jack’s right ear. “You remember, dontcha , Jay Jay?”

Merle and Angel stopped and stared at Johnny Jack, whose dark skin was turning darker.

“Hey,” Butch said. “He was a lot better lookin’ back then, and I was a lot less particular.”

With that, Butch staggered out of the bar. Or maybe she swaggered. It depended upon who you asked. Memories fog the truth, distort it, amplify it. Or expose it. But everyone appeared to be in good spirits, especially Butch, when she left Angel’s Heaven on Earth.

Butch's horse Rosey stood next to someone’s automobile, her black and white coat nearly fluorescent in the moonlight. Her white tail swept across her black rump. Butch patted Rosey’s almost all white face. Black circled her left eye, and white spread across her neck, barrel, and flank and down her left rear leg like a kind of jagged almost-horse-shaped white continent across the sea of black horse.

“I need to take a leak, Rosey. Then we’ll be on our way. Or maybe not. Where’s George? Have you seen George? Oh fer Chrissakes, I’m talking to a horse’s rear end.” She giggled. “Not so much different than talking with a man.”

She had come into town earlier with George, but he had business at the other end of this street a few blocks from the plaza. The nearly full moon lit up the ramshackle wooden buildings that seemed to lean one against the other. On the few occasions Butch actually noticed this particular bent to the buildings--like now--she wondered what actually kept them up. “Whiskey, of course,” Butch whispered. “We all need something to keep us standing.”

She breathed deeply. A romp with Angel would have been fun, but this night air was bracing, nearly knocking the drunk off of her. She gazed up at the clear dark sky. The stars shivered and winked. She could hear the whisper of the acequia madre even though it was some distance away. She grinned. The full moon, silence, and alcohol made her senses preternatural. A chorus of coyotes began yipping at the moon. The cottonwoods across the street and down a bit stood tall and nearly bare in the moonlight, like tangled members of a Day of the Dead tableau, or a Danse Macabre. Despite this, the air smelled of spring the way only New Mexican air can: like dust, peppers, and the color blue.

Butch started walking away from the buildings and into the night, forgetting why she was there, only wanting to get closer to the sound of the coyotes and the mother ditch. Then she heard a woman cry out in the darkness. Instantly she ran toward the sound, up over a silver rise and then down again. Running in the desert was just plain stupid; running at night in the desert was a death wish. However, Butch could never resist the cry of a woman in trouble. And she was drunk.

Suddenly, she ran into a brick wall--or a person. They both fell back onto the ground. Butch jumped instantly to her feet. Nothing or no one was going to catch her on the ground: not a scorpion or a rattler certainly.

The body she knocked into was a bit slower getting up off the ground.

“Are you all right?” Butch asked. Butch always talked in a kind of drawl. Not Texan. Good Lord, no. Not Southern. Kind of Mexican, Native American, and Arizonian all rolled into one singsong drawl. She reached her hand out. The man stood on his own, quickly dusting off his chaps with one arm; he kept the other arm bent at his side. He wore two ammo belts crossed over his chest like a Mexican bandito; a cowboy hat shaded his face from Butch

“You Pancho Villa or something?” Butch asked.

The man went to step around her. Butch moved to block him.

“I heard a woman cry out,” Butch said, noticing a black shape near a medium-sized palo verde whose yellow flowers looked bright white in the darkness. “That her?”

The man shook his head. “I was the one who yelled,” he said, his English accented. Mexican. Clipped almost. From the rico class?

“I was thrown from my horse and was trying to get my bearings. I stumbled over that--that body. I yelled.” He hesitated. “Like a woman. My voice...rises when I am...afraid.”

“Happens to the best of us,” Butch said. “I scream like a woman too. Nothing wrong with that.”

“But you are a woman?” the man asked.

“That’s a fact,” Butch said, “I am pleased to report.” She kept her eye on the Bandito as she went toward the body. She squatted next to it. A man. She found his arm and felt for a pulse at his wrist.

“He’s not dead.”

“Shit.” The English word out of the man’s mouth sounded desperate.
Butch stood and looked at the Bandito. “You wanna tell me something about this?”

“No,” he said. “I don’t know you. I don’t know him.”

Butch could see the man’s arm now in the moonlight. Part of his sleeve was dark.

“He shot you?” Butch said. “I didn’t hear a shot. Looks like it’s bleeding heavy.”

“He shot me some time back,” he said quickly, as though relieved to speak of it. “He and his compañero have been tracking me. My ex-wife and her husband took my daughter. I went to México to get her back, and her husband sent his thugs after me. After I made...fuss.”

Butch laughed. “A fuss, eh? I kinda like making a fuss now and then.” Something about this young man tickled her. Like Angel’s blonde curls.

“I did fall from my horse. And I did find this man tracking me. I hit him with a rock from behind. I don’t know where the other man is.”

Butch tried to remember if she had seen any strangers at Angel’s.

The man on the ground moaned.

“Come on,” Butch said. “I guess I better get you outta here. The doc is drunker than I am, so I’ll take you home. TomA and Trick will either cure you or kill ya.”

“I’d prefer the cure,” the man said.

“Wouldn’t we all.”

Butch and the Bandito hurried over the rise and down again, toward Rosey. Butch untied the horse and got up into the saddle. She reached her arm down and helped the man up behind her.

“I’m Butch McShane, by the way,” she said as she turned Rosey around. She gently kicked the horse into a gallop.

“I’m Mateo Cruz,” the man said.

“Yeah, well, hang on, Bandito,” Butch said. “We’re gonna get out of Dodge.”

A moment later, the darkness swallowed the trio.

1 comment:

kerrdelune said...

Hallelujah, a new Sister Kim book! How are the mermaids, sweet sister?

All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.