by J. Dodger
Last winter this boy name Cud found his way to my ranch, never mind
the name of it, down here in Magdalena, New Mexico. He was lookin' for
some work and a spot in the bunkhouse, and he never did tell me how
he made his way here. The boy wern't nothin' but tightly wrapped bones,
and his legs was twisted up something fierce. They bent this way and
that, and they didn't get much straighter down at his feet, which pointed
in like an arrow, tellin' him which way to walk. His shoulder had good
dip in it too, the right one did, and it sure was somthin' to watch
that boy hobble about. For all about him that was ugly, though, he was
a tall fellow, with brown skin, Spanish, I think, and there was somthin'
about those eyes of his. They was green. Those eyes made it so when
he walked through town, on the few occasions I went with em', I'd catch
the girls givin' em' looks up and down, though they wouldn't dare talk
about it to anyone, 'cause it ain't proper to fall in love with a cripple.
Those same eyes made me take to 'im, too, and I gave him a job. It's
always been my belief that you can't tell if a man's worth his salt
in the long run, being on horseback and wrestlin' with bulls twelve
hours a day, from a resume or anything else he can scribble down on
a piece of paper. No, that story was for a man's eyes to tell. I knew
he wern't gonna be no good cowboyin', not being twisted up like he was,
but those eyes convinced me he'd be good for somethin', if'n it was
just scoopin' up shit.
I was right, and I was wrong. He was good with shit, but he also learnt
how to handle a rope better than any cowboy I've seen, and he learnt
it in a week and on his own. We let him ride with us then, and he did
pretty well, so long as we kept him horseback and off his feet. He worked
that way with us for 3 years, hardly said a word to anyone. One day
though, we was pickin' up the calves and their baby sitters after droppin'
soy cakes down at the road where we planned to drive 'em to their winter
pasture, when we run across one calf that wouldn't move. She was shakin'
real bad and chewing on her tongue, and we couldn't make heads or tails
of what was wrong with her, so Cud just jumped of his horse, walked
over to her, and shot her point blank in the back of the head with a
.22 pistol. “There isn't any room in this world for one like that,”
he said, and he got right back on his horse. We just left her layin'
That night we were campin' out, having not finished the job, and I
asked Cud what he thought of the Bible, for no other reason than I was
tryin' to figure out what I thought of it myself. “Dodger,”
he said, “Lying is big business, you know. To make something ugly
sound or look beautiful. People are willing to pay good money to a man
who can do that.” He started to wheeze a bit and continued. “Bigger
business still would a man be in if he could make something as stupid
as magic and hokus-pokus 'motionally appealing enough for people to
genuinely believe it, and to shape their lives after the shameless lies.
I guess God is a hell of a business man, and that's all I really think
about that.” No more words were said by either of us after that,
we just tried to fall asleep. I was thinkin' to myself, though, that
he might be right, but that don't make it useless. I reckoned, and reckon
still, that I'd live any lie that made somethin' ugly shine for the
Cud up n' left the next day without tellin' nobody. I haven’t
seen him since, but he wrote to me once, sayin' that he was traveling
around the United States playin' some character in the theater named
Caliban, who, from what I can tell, ain't nothin' but a dumb fish. He
writes, too, poems and stories and what not, and he sends them to me
to keep safe. He told me he don't want no-one who sees 'em to know anything
about him, or what he looked like, and I promised I'd keep 'em safe.
I lied to the boy, though. It may not be very ethical, as Cud would
put it, but I ain't an ethical sort of man. The way I figure it, he
won't never know the difference, and though I ain't one to know anything
about writin', I know that any story that boy has to say won't mean
the same less you hear it comin' from his twisted up body, and from
his green eyes--eyes that he never learnt to see for himself.
How to Marry a Christian Woman
In my business I often take,
A frail and broken thing.
A toy, if you will, or a dress, and I make,
What before it never had been.
I wipe off the soot, and embroider a new.
Epoxy the wood, give it new color too,
And I spray the new thing with perfume.
“What a beaut, what a beaut!”,
The owner will say,
And her fat cheeks will grin as she snags it off lay.
Then she'll spread out my pay and my words won't break pin,
For the thing underneath remains ugly as sin,
But her mind is detracted from what/lies/within,
As she pays for the loss of the broken.
A note to the reader: Mr. J. Dodger was found dead at his
desk in Magdalena, New Mexico, two months after having written about
his time with Cud. He had shot himself through the head. There was a
scrap of paper found with his remains on which he had written: “Cud's
eyes were as bland as potato broth, and ain't no girl I ever known was
to look at 'em. I just needed someone to clean the stalls.”