Page 30 - the Noise December 2017
P. 30

excerpt from
The old white scar that bent Matt’s eye turned pink. A tear took watercourse along his cheek, and Jason knew by that old sign, his friend was just a mite upset. A deeply incised ragged gash, left by an Indian’s rawhide lash (so Matt said) made his face look pale as ash — when it turned pink and the tear duct ran, you dropped the subject.
Jason never was real sure if Matt had lied about that scar, the day he snatched the girl from the Indian’s side and saved her head from a scalping knife, down in Sangre Glade.
“Matt, that ain’t jist all I got t’ tell — ‘Member her name, Miss Danielle? She called t’me from where she stood, ‘n this here part I ‘member good. She said, ‘Ou est mon abductor, Mattieu?’ By any chance could she mean you?”
Somemensay“no”whentheirfacereads“yes,”withMatthew’sface,noneedtoguess. He grabbed Jason, shoulder high and shook, “Goddamnit man, you lie! Not true!”
And water gushed from his battered eye like a stream from a mountain glade. “It ain’t, Kinkade? What does all that Frenchy mean, How-de-do?”
Matt turned on his heel in the tear-marked dust, nose rag to his eye and a mighty lust to kill old Jason Wade on the spot. He bit the street with his long hard stride and cussed till he came to the other side of town.
By the blacksmith shop, under the trees, stood his horse, flicking flies, twitching knees, prodding dust. Like the blade of a long jackknife he bent to spring and straddle the beast, snapped open in the saddle, wrung him round on two hind feet. Wild of eye and lashing mane, the black horse reared and streaked the sky with dull-glint hooves.
Matt, upright in the saddle, a chunk of hair in hand, lips near the tossing head, the twitch- ing ear, rasped a hoarse and sharp command: “Portero! To the Ditch! Andale!”
Down the hill, across the ‘royo, under tangled branches of the bean mesquite, jet back and shimmering through waves of heat, races dark Portero. Through the narrow, high- walled slot of Satan’s Gut, pounding hooves on sun-baked clay, ringing echoes o’er the still- ness of a Western summer’s day.
Matt peeled his shirt and wrapped it round the pommel, cooling sweat with the rushing air. Matt Kinkade, a lawyer now, man of money and know-how, bachelor still at forty-five — Why?
Envied by some, loved by many (especially the girls at the Golden Penny), gained respect and kept it by his wits. Never lost a case, it’s told, yet when he heard Jason say those words in French, flew to the mine, where he knew for sure he was boss — lord, call it what you like — of a mighty trench of gold.
Did it pay for past mistakes? A tear-filled eye?
Portero knew the old command, had galloped, walked and trotted the trail that ran down to the mine a hundred times or more. Through rain, sharp frost, white heat and storm of night, the black horse had been called to make the flight, “To the Ditch!”
In every season he had known the way — when the tall saguaro, with arms upraised, posed a pas de deux with silly crowns of waxy white, he’d walk and sniff the day; sneeze at palo verde pollen on the breeze, while Matt’s long legs swung free of stirrups, as he slumped with ease, in the saddle.
Today, a Sunday, with great tail winging out behind, he stabbed the trail with rhythmic stride, a coat of sticky, running dust spread ‘long his shining hide, his flanks a froth of foam, rust colored.
Coming hard onto the fork where it turns toward the creek of Sangre, Matt Kinkade was not quite ready for the horse’s willful quitting of a trail he knew so well. A wild turn to the right threw him sidelong in the saddle — hitting hard against a boulder, he grabbed the horse’s mane, and pulled himself to height.
Feeling a stabbing pain in his left shoulder, he yanked the reins wire tight with his right hand. Portero’s head went down in sharp demand for freedom, iron hoof prints, printing on ... Matt cursed in splendor, all the languages he knew —
“Aye que caballo, tan chignon! merde, black bastard, chinga tu cabron!”
Getting no results, he slammed his fist between Portero’s ears. The wet horse shuddered, shook his head and clattered to a stop beside the creek in Sangre Glade.
“Now what the hell are you up to, you wild, black fool? I said, ‘To the Ditch!’”
He felt the blood run down his arm, and tore his shirt from the pommel with an angry bellow ... “Goddamned ornery sonofabitch!”
“Hello” — a voice spoke from the ground.
Matt dropped the reins and spun around.
Two brown eyes as big as thistles looked up where he looked down. He pressed the
sweat out of his own, and stared. Those eyes were all the little face could hold — a pale, lean face, near eight years old — brown, velvet brown, deep as wells, and bottomless. Black lash- es thick as fur, shaded them from sun-flecks through the trees. Nonetheless, they sparkled bright with dots of light that held his gaze so ridged he could not blink.
And for the second time that day, his scar turned pink. Matt slid to the ground.
“Well I’ll be damned. What you doin’ here, young fella? Where’s your Ma? This here’s not a picnic spot — you wandered off, like as not. What’s your name? And who’s your Pa?”
He wound the shirt around his bleeding arm, turned and looked back through the trees. No twig snapped, no leaf stirred, all deathly still, except Portero’s breathing and the gurgle of the creek.
Yet he felt a cold, insistent chill against his naked chest ... a weakness bit his knees.
He turned to the boy, who hadn’t said a word or even made a sign he’d heard the ques- tions, “Well young man, cat got your tongue?”
The enormous eyes traced him up and down, quizzically, but unafraid. The eyebrows bent to build a frown, confirming some decision the little mind had made.
He pointed to Matt’s bloody arm and shirt, “You’re hurt, Monsieur Kinkade.”
Down the long, tangled wire of time, looped and coiled by memory, straight with hate,
the Ballad of Gutless Ditch by Katie Lee
The town is splattered on the hills as if birds had dumped their load among the rocks and cactus quills since time began. But after Kino and de Vaca came, some luckless miner gave the place the name of “Gutless.”
Gutless! — Why? Even the old loners who still live there can’t recall. The Territory of Ari- zona harbors a restless breed, shy of crowds ... and kin.
My tale begins the summer of 1888 — a very hot July. The sun is riding to high noon, and half the town is wetting down at the saloon, when two men push out the swinging doors and cross the street.
One is short, near bald, disheveled, somewhat crude. The other, handsome, dark and slender — his attitude, unsettled....
“How do you know, Jason Wade?”
“Know cause I seen ‘er, Matt Kinkade — seen with eyes like anyone sees, her hair a swin- gin’ with the willow trees, blowin’ in the wind, all stringy an’ high, standin’ by the pond, ‘gin the ev’nin’ sky. ‘N I’ll tell ya sump-thin’ else, Kinkade, it put ‘er dress clean ‘bove ‘er knees ‘n she din’t have no petticoats on, if ya please! Er mebe nuthin’ else ... well ... I ain’t too shore ‘bout that.”
“You’re loco, Wade.”
“I’m loco, am I? ‘F I hadn’t knowd you since we’uz kids so high I’d whang yer jaw, you so- nofabitch! I tell ya, I seen ‘er. Ya think that jist cause now yer rich ‘n totin’ gold from Gutless Ditch ya needn’t pay a friend no mind, that it, Kinkade?”
“You know better’n that, Wade, now hold your horses. I didn’t know her all that well, and after all, it’s been a spell since she left town. Just what the hell would she be doing back in Gutless, you know, Wade?”
“Not me, Kinkade.”
30 • DECEMBER 2017 | the NOISE arts & news |
illlustrations by Robin John Anderson

   28   29   30   31   32