Knowing it's over
I had a pair of black boots, back then, cowboy boots, but they blistered my heels and I never got another pair.
Cowboys, my dad said, didn’t mow lawns.
When they wore out, the seam splitting and pulling away from the sole leaving my white sock showing to turn green to the grass, I tried to fix it with a needle and black thread. I didn’t say anything so I wouldn’t have to throw them away and forced the needle back and forth through the leather and the sole, pulling the thread up tight and tying off a square knot. It broke when I tried to walk.
Gonna have to throw those away, dad said. Get you some real shoes.
It was Jesus Christ and John Wayne, or Eastwood and Cooper anyway. That’s what it was back then, to be a man.
Man riding through the West on some old horse with a gun and a bedroll and trying to mind his own business but being pulled in, for justice sake and getting in a scrape, pinned down behind a rock and surrounded.
I’ve kept those books around, a few of them stashed on the shelf, cheap books in cheap-back covers with torn corners and dull brown and yellow colors. They’re crowded up to the edge of the shelf, for a decade now pinched against the wood wall by better books. The spines are sun-faded now.
My roommate sees me, under the little lamp by the side of the bed, reading a paperback western with yellowed pulpy pages and wants to know why. Man wets his bandana, wipes his face and takes another pull for the bottle of whiskey, knowing it's over now, reloading his revolver and waiting for them to rush in.
Read these as a kid, I say, sometimes I pick one up. Whenever I’m sick I read one.
Are you sick? he says.
No, I’m reading.
So it's a sort of childhood thing, he says.
Bootstraps, I say. Honor and a gun. Respect and justice. Wandering the American West. Sin and redemption and getting by and being buried with your boots on.
It's pulp, he says.