Trouble in Paradise with Bobby Fix-It: Part One
The Series Continues
This is all great practice for me. I have a plan and this series of short stories is part of that plan. So thank you for supporting me in this new endeavor. I greatly appreciate all of you.
Now let’s see what Bobby Fix-It is up to this week in Wyoming.
I’m not sure if I believe in God. I’m not sure it’s important one way or another.
My saintly mother, God bless her immortal soul, was a true believer. She tried to influence her only son, but it just didn’t stick. I’ve spent too many days and nights in the bowels of the dark streets. I’ve seen the abused kids, the starving, the festering, the open sores of humanity, shuffling through life, using up good air, barely staking out five minutes of meaningful existence.
I’ve seen the gut-shot, the beaten-to-a-pulp, and the sliced-and-diced. I’ve smelled the urine and shit, all released as life left the earthly vessel, and I’ve stepped over pools of blood in a nursery. My mother would speak endlessly about the good of mankind but to tell the truth, I’ve rarely seen it, and that includes the times I grant myself permission to look in a mirror. It’s a good thing she’s dead. She was spared seeing what became of her baby Billy, little Catholic altar boy turned street mutt, gofer and dispenser of his own brand of justice far-removed from the teachings of Jesus.
So God and I have declared a truce of sorts. I don’t bother him with my shit and he gives me a long leash as I stumble through this blind alley of life. If he does exist he can’t be too damned happy with me. I’ve killed….numerous times….and I can tell you on the memory of my mother that I’ll kill again.
That’s just the way it is.
But there is regret, and there is a woman who keeps asking me to ride the wings of my better angel, so I guess there’s also hope.
I make no promises.
The Fire Pit
Those were my thoughts one afternoon while I killed a beer at the Fire Pit, my favorite watering hole in Jackson, Wyoming. The sign above the bar boasts of one-hundred and twenty brews to choose from, but I was raised on Bud and Bud it will always be for me. The owner of the Fire Pit, Ray Atkins, my friend, thinks I’m a barbarian for drinking “that swine piss,” but he’s always got one waiting for me when I wrap up a day on the Circle T Ranch.
So deep in thought I was, spurred on by a conversation that morning with the lovely Dawn, formerly Genna, and the future mother of my child.
“You can’t keep on killing, Bobby,” she said to me. “You are a good man. I understand why you’ve killed, and I agree, those you’ve killed deserved it, but our child needs to grow up in a safe environment where love is more prevalent than vengeance. We got lucky with you killing Joey Bannon. Nobody ever connected you to that killing, but we can’t count on your luck holding out. My fix-it man needs to keep a lower profile.”
My theological thoughts were interrupted when Ray sat down across from me. He pushed another Bud in my direction.
“How can you drink that shit, O’Dowd? Let me get you a micro-brew from right here in Jackson. You’ll ruin my reputation if you keep drinking that piss and tourists see it.”
Ray is a big guy, a former rodeo star until a bull gored his knee and left him with a permanent limp. He only stands my height, an even six feet, but he’s got me by thirty pounds at two-twenty and it’s all muscle. I’m glad he’s my friend.
Normally Ray is all sunshine and bullshit, but on that day I sensed worries and troubles. I decided to test the waters.
“Save the micro shit for the tourists, Ray. I was raised on Bud by my old man, and I’ll probably die with a Bud in my grip. Now why don’t you quit busting my chops and tell me what’s bothering you.”
“What makes you think anything is bothering me?”
“The first clue was you buying me this beer. You don’t normally do that, so I figure you’re leading up to something, so let’s get to it.”
He ran his fingers through his rapidly-graying hair and blew out a breath.
“I’m getting squeezed, Bobby, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
“Squeezed by whom and for what?”
He looked around the place. He was nervous, and that’s saying a lot for a guy who once rode on the back of thousand-pound monsters with horns.
“What I’m going to tell you can’t leave this room. Promise me that.”
“It’s Sheriff Wyman,” he continued. “He’s charging me five-hundred per month for protection. He probably does it to every business. Normally I can pay the charge but we’ve had expenses at home with my wife’s surgery and a few other things. I don’t know how I’m going to keep paying the freight and if I don’t, you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll make it hard on me.”
“So tell someone, Ray. Go above the Sheriff and tell the district attorney. This isn’t Philly for God’s sake. The mob doesn’t own Jackson, Wyoming.”
“Bobby, you’re fairly new here so you don’t understand. Jackson is a family town. The D.A. is the Sheriff’s cousin, and the top judge in town is his uncle. The Wyman family has been running this town for decades. If Wyman wants to put the squeeze on me there ain’t no one can stop him.”
It was an old story, as old as the country it was told in. Pioneering families laid down roots, power was accumulated, and sooner or later that power corrupted. I was mildly surprised it was happening in Jackson, but not exactly floored by the news. I tossed back the rest of my beer and stood.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Ray. I’m not sure what can be done about it, but let me think on it a few days and see if any ideas come to me. When’s your next payment due?”
“The end of the month. Ten days!”
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I slapped him on the shoulder and headed home to Dawn. She was pulling a pie out of the oven when I walked in. Sweat had formed on her chocolate skin. She was moving slowly around the kitchen, the weight of our unborn child slowing her down and robbing her of her athletic grace, but damn she was beautiful. I gave her a kiss, poured us both a glass of lemonade and motioned for her to join me at the table. I told her about Ray and his problems. She listened without saying a word, one of her many appreciated talents.
“I know you, Bobby. You want to splash the sheriff’s grits across the landscape and I don’t blame you, but please remember our talk from earlier. I don’t want our child growing up with death as part of her heritage. If you’re going to get involved, and I just know you are, then please find a way to fix this problem without killing anyone.”
My love had spoken, and she was right. I kissed her, kissed her belly and went for a walk around the property to do some thinking on the matter. It was a warm afternoon. The cottonwoods were whispering in the breeze and dust trailed me as I walked the path to the stream. Twenty feet in front of me a deer broke cover and bounded away while a blue jay screeched.
Ray is my friend. Friends help friends. Those were truths and could not be denied. It was a truth on the streets of Washington Heights when I was growing up and it’s a truth now in Wyoming. There is no wiggle-room in that truth. I was bound by it, but I was also bound by my promise to Dawn not to kill again unless it was a matter of life or death. So I had a problem.
My old man was a hard-ass, but a good man all the same. He rubbed shoulders with violence from time to time, was not a man to back down from a fight, and believed the strong were meant to help the weak. He told me one day that when faced with an impossible choice, the best a man can do is the action he can live with. I couldn’t live with walking away from Ray’s problem. I also couldn’t live with disappointing Dawn and by extension our daughter.
Thanks a lot, Dad!
A Plan of Sorts
I decided it wouldn’t hurt anything if I did a little surveillance on the Sheriff. He wouldn’t be hard to follow and, like most people in power, he would never in a million years think someone would dare to hunt him. I needed some leverage on the sheriff. If I couldn’t kill him I needed to give him a concrete reason why his actions could not continue. Not an easy task, but the only option I had.
The next day was Saturday and, as I climbed out of bed that morning to the sounds of rain on the thatched roof, I decided there was no better time than the present to see what the sheriff was up to. Despite my best efforts I managed to wake Dawn up.
“Be careful, Bobby and please, no violence.”
I kissed her and fought back the temptation to climb back in bed with her. I also kissed our unborn.
“Unless they bring a fight to me, Dawn, this will just be information-gathering. Go back to sleep. I promise I’ll be back in a few hours an unwanted man.”
I hoped like hell I could deliver on that promise.
My book on writing
We’ll Be Back Next Week
See, Bobby and I are reforming. No one died this week. Aren’t you proud of us both?
We will all return next week to Jackson, Wyoming. I suspect this series will end either next week or the week after that. I’ve done what I set out to do with these characters, and the time is approaching when they will take their story to the eBook arena.
Until next week, then, thank you and have a great writing experience.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)