This might start to get a little boring for some of you. I’m copying below a bit of a rewrite from the beginning, with a little bit of the next scene. Here’s the thought:
– Bill was too much of an asshole. No way could you root for a guy who left a fellow for dead after framing him just so he could steel his money – and eventually his gal.
– I didn’t know where this was set. Old west? Deep south? Modern day? So I decided on pre-depression Kansas. Probably Morton, Stevens, Stanton, or Grant County – southwest Kansas.
So, now Bill is a little more someone to root for, albeit flawed. Thanks for indulging the restart – you can’t write a good story if you don’t start writing a good story…
Me and Rose was getting along fine in southwest Kansas in those days. We’d had a few good harvests in a row – this was the mid-20’s before the dustbowl. The boy was finally starting to warm up to me a bit. And it never occurred to Rose that I was the reason Efraim hadn’t come back from prison that day. Or that I was the reason he was in the joint in the first place – I’d set him up so good that even Efraim thought he’d killed that girl. Hell, I almost began to believe it myself. No, Rose never gave it a thought. But I did. Every god forsaken minute of every day and every night. I hadn’t intended to take it this far. I would set him up. Wait for him to get out. Kill him. Take his money. Run. And that would be that. The whole mess over with. But I couldn’t just walk away. When he asked me to give his love to Rose with his dying breath I realized that no matter what Efraim had done, Rose and the boy didn’t deserve to be alone, left with nothing. I decided to take that money to Rose. And then that would be that. But that wasn’t that. Because I went and fell in love with Rose and with another kind of life. A life where there weren’t no running or killing. Just growing food and tending livestock. And raising a boy and loving and woman and being loved. And it was all working out just fine. Until that one spring. If I didn’t do something about that federal Marshal who showed up, I’d lose this life I’d built. And worse, I’d lose Rose.
I could smell the fried chicken the minute I turned the corner onto our property. Rose’s fried chicken and biscuits was known across the county. I was so hungry after a day of following a horse and plow, I would’ve eaten a burnt squirrel. I stepped into the cabin and kicked off my boots – Rose would pitch a fit every time I tracked dirt in.
I sat down heavy at the table, “where’s Kurt?”
“I sent him out to mend the coop,” she said tersely.
“But ain’t supper about ready?”
“Supper’ll wait. You and me need to talk,” I did not like the sound of that. I loved Rose dearly but her and my ‘talks’ normally meant I’d done something wrong. And if the boy couldn’t hear it, then it likely involved something stupid I’d done drinking or some flirting in town that crossed the line and got back to her somehow.
I thought I’d nip this one in the bud. “Now, darling, I’ve not been getting as drunk as I used to and you know me and Jenny are just friends and last Saturday ain’t what it…”
“Shush, Bill. Just hush up and let me talk. This ain’t got nothing to do with whiskey or Jenny; though later I want to hear what you was about to say about Jenny.”
Damn. She knew me.
“Anyway, there was a man here today. A lawman. He was asking about your where-abouts.”
I interrupted, “you mean one of the Dobson boys? They know I turn the dirt in springtime.”
“No. Not a sheriff’s deputy. Some kind of federal lawman.”
I was stunned. I must have sat there quiet for what seemed like 2 hours though I expect it was just a few minutes.
“What’d he tell you?” Finally had control of my tongue. “Why was he looking for me?”
“Didn’t say. Wouldn’t say. Said he’d get a room in town and come back tomorrow. Told me to ask you if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you wait for him. Said he’d be here right early.”
“Now, you know I can’t be waiting around. We’ve had some good years, but if I don’t get that wheat in the ground by end April, we’re going be in trouble.”
“Bill,” she almost whispered. “I think you oughta hear what he has to say. He sounded mighty serious.”
“Then he can come find me.”
I stood up, kicked my chair back and headed for the door. Rose grabbed my arm as I was putting my boots on.
“Bill! Where are you going? What does that lawman want?”
“How should I know, Rose? Since Efraim’s been gone, I ain’t done nothing but take are of you and the boy! Aside from a nip now and then and a friendly game of cards.”
She looked sad all of a sudden, “since Efraim’s been gone? What about before?”
Tears streaked down her face. My throat got real dry.
“Rose. I told ya. I had some dealing go wrong with my business before I came back. But I paid all those debts.” She looked down to the floor. I hung my hat back up. “Know what? I bet this is some kinda paperwork foul up. I bet he’s a revenuer come to clear up some mistake.”
She wiped a tear from her face. “Can you just talk to him and straighten it out?”
She was so pretty and so fragile in the fading evening light. The flickering fire bounced off her blond hair.
“Of course, darling. Of course.” I hated to see her hurt. “I’ll straighten everything out in the morning.”
I leaned down and kissed her. Her lips so soft and warm. I reached down and ran my fingers along the hem of her dress while I kissed her neck. Her soft moans meant I was headed in the right direction.
With a bang, the door swung open and Kurt came stomping in. “Hey Ma, that fox shore enough is back. Woah, hey! Sorry. Didn’t know Bill was back.” The teenager shielded his eyes playfully with a dirty hand.
I stepped back and Rose straightened her dress.
“Don’t matter. We’ll kill that fox tomorrow. Get yer supper,” said Rose
I kept my gaze on Rose and looked down to her pretty legs, “yeah. Eat up and go on to bed. Me and your ma have some business to finish up.”
“Bill!” Rose hit me with her dish towel.
“Oh, darling. He is 15. He’ll learn all about the birds and bees soon enough. If he don’t already know more than you and me. Kids anymore ain’t so much kids.”
“Never mind,” said Kurt. “I’ll take my supper upstairs.”
He grabbed some chicken and biscuits and went up the stairs, still looking away.
“Kurt. No, you come back. I’ll fix you some…”
“Aw, let him go. Now we can pick up what we was doing.”
Her body was soft and inviting that night. After we’d finished, she lay in my arms stroking my stomach until I fell asleep. As I drifted off I thought about how lucky I was to have such a strong and loving family.
Next morning, I was up before the rooster. I climbed up on the ridge overlooking the road in from town. I wasn’t sure what I aimed to do but I’d brought my deer rifle with me. I looked through the scope toward town and waited. Waited to see that lawman before he could see me.