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Authors: Jordan Krall

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Fistful of Feet

BOOK: Fistful of Feet
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FISTFUL OF FEET

 

Jordan Krall

   

 

Eraserhead Press

205 NE Bryant

Portland, OR 97211

 

www.eraserheadpress.com

 

Other books by Jordan Krall

Piecemeal June

Squid Pulp Blues

King Scratch

Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys (forthcoming)

Blow Up the Outside World (with Ash Lomen)

 

www.filmynoir.com

 

Copyright © 2009 by Jordan Krall

Cover art copyright © 2009 by Jeff Powers

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

   

 

PART ONE

Dig Your Grave……Calamaro is Coming

   

 

CHAPTER ONE

   

   The man named Calamaro walked across the Nevada desert, dragging a wooden donkey behind him. He pulled the donkey using leather reins that were wrapped around his wrists and palms. His flesh was already covered with burns from having dragged the donkey through the Dakota Territory and then into Nevada. It had been miles since Calamaro even felt the pain as his wrists and palms were simply numb.

   He had been wandering for a while, not entirely sure where he was going, though in the back of his mind he had placed Screwhorse as his next destination. He had heard that there was gold to be found there. Even if he didn’t find it, Calamaro knew that he could use the time to forget about his past.

   The desert spread out before Calamaro like a hot, dusty carpet. He wasn’t used to being in such a dry place. It made him think of the sea and the many hours he stood before it, staring at the horizon and basking in the sound of the waves as they lulled him into a meditative state. He missed the salt in the air and the sound of the waves as they hit the shore. Calamaro regretted ever having left New Jersey even though he had had no other choice.

   Then he saw the town of Screwhorse on the horizon in all its dirty, dusty glory.

   It had originally been a mining town but most of the mines were used up and those who didn’t wish to leave stayed on to make Screwhorse a destination town for those who sought to indulge their more unique vices.

   Calamaro dragged his donkey towards town and then saw the Indians. They had set up camp on the outskirts which was strange considering what he knew about the redskins. He also had no desire to come in contact with them as he was more than a bit frightened of their witchcraft. Most of his experiences with Indians had been weird ones and he had no desire to repeat those incidents.

   The leather reins were digging into his wrists and palms but he kept at it, wanting to get to town as soon as possible. There was no use stopping until he had a comfortable place to rest. He walked in the opposite direction of the Indian camp and walked behind one of the buildings where there was a herd of cattle grazing on a tiny patch of desert grass.

   Calamaro pulled his donkey close to the building, tied it to a wooden pole, and then walked past the cattle. He glanced at the animals and then one of them moved in close and bumped into him. Calamaro fell to the ground. More of the animals came closer until they were practically on top of him. He lifted himself up to his knees but was knocked down again. He looked up at the underbelly of one of the animals. Expecting to see udders, he saw something else.

   Tentacles.

   Thick, greenish-blue tentacles with tiny, wet suckers.

   Calamaro got to his knees again and crawled away. He had seen cattle like that only once before when he was a boy and had snuck into a neighbor’s farm. He had been trapped under the fishy-smelling cows for ten minutes but it had seemed like an eternity. It was not an experience he would like to repeat.

   After crawling underneath two of the beasts, Calamaro stood up and walked to the front of the building. The words
HOTEL BRONSON
hung over the door in large black letters that had faded from the wind and dust.

   Calamaro walked in and was greeted by a short man with dozens of wrinkles that criss-crossed his face. The man nodded and said, “Hello.”

   “You have a room?”

   The man nodded again. “I have ten of them.”

   “I just need one, Mr. Bronson.”

   “The name’s Kersey, not Bronson. Mr. Bronson owns the place. I just work here. It’ll be two dollars a night. Room is small but clean.”

   “That’ll do.” Calamaro dug into his pocket and then put the cash on the counter. “Just a friendly warning. Sometimes strangers tend to come through here and want to start some trouble being that Screwhorse is just a small little town in the middle of nowhere. I recommend you not causing any problems. We got some tough boys in town who won’t hesitate to give a stranger like yourself some trouble.”

   Calamaro gave Kersey a sly smile. “Trouble don’t bother me none.”

   “You say so.” He handed over the key. “Room’s upstairs. Last one on the left.”

   Calamaro nodded. He started walking up the stairs but then stopped and turned his head. “I hope you don’t mind I tied my animal to the post out back.”

   Kersey said, “I don’t mind.”

   Calamaro went to his room and sat on the bed. He moved his head towards the window and closed his eyes. The sunlight lit up the inside of his eyelids.

   He dozed off and quickly fell into a dream.

   Calamaro was in a bank surrounded by naked women who were covered in green dust and red tattoos. They were busy making bricks and did not notice him as he walked around the room. He got to the vault and opened it, expecting to find the gold that he was looking for. The women stopped working and looked at Calamaro. He stared inside the vault.

   There was no gold. Only corpses.

   When Calamaro awoke, the first thing he saw was the faded floral wallpaper of the hotel room. The corpse vault and the naked women quickly leaked out of his consciousness. He stood up and walked out of the hotel room. It was time for a drink.

   There was a combination bar and brothel across the street. There was a sign above the door that spelt out the name of the establishment in tall gaudy letters:
BETTY BLACK’S
.

   From outside the door, Calamaro could hear the familiar sounds of a saloon and brothel. He walked in and the noise stopped.

   Everyone turned and looked over. A black man near the door walked up to him and said in a smooth monotone voice, “Welcome to Betty Black’s.”

   Calamaro said, “You greet everyone comes in the place?”

   “Mostly everyone.”

   “I guess you probably make it a point to greet strangers, though.” Calamaro smiled.

   The black man grinned. “Can’t argue with that.”

    “Not here for trouble. Just a drink or two.”

   “Then enjoy yourself.”

   Calamaro went up to the bar and ordered a whiskey. The barkeep was an older woman with gigantic freckled breasts that were practically popping out of her dress. She poured his drink and placed it in front of him.

   “You want anything else? Some companionship maybe?”

   Calamaro said, “No. Just a drink will do for now.” He drank the shot. “You Betty Black?”

   “Yes sir, I am.” She leaned onto the bar, revealing more of her cleavage. “Why? You looking for me?”

   “No, just wondering is all since that’s the name of this place.”

   Betty nodded and walked down to the other end of the bar.

   A group of men behind Calamaro were laughing loudly as they played cards. The loudest of the group, a huge bear of a man named Nix Morrow, was shouting at a skinny, bald man named Ryan Hickory.

   “You sonovabitch!” Nix said. He flexed his muscles and flared his nostrils.

   Ryan said, “What? What did I do?” He cackled.

   “You’re cheating,” Nix said. “And why are you always laughing like a goddamn hyena?”

   “I can’t help it,” Ryan said, laughing even harder now.

   The third man at the table was young and short. He wore glasses and sat looking at his cards intently. Nix tapped the table and said, “Chaps, it’s your turn.”

   Chaps took his glasses off and rubbed his nose. “I know, I know.”

   Nix said, “You’re always so goddamn slow.” He pointed at Ryan. “And this son of a bitch always cheats!”

   Calamaro listened with amusement. The black man who greeted him walked over to the bar and asked, “How’s your whiskey?”

   “Fine as far as whiskey goes, I guess. Been in the desert so long I think my mouth is covered in dust so nothing tastes right.”

   “We don’t water the shit down like they do in other places. Betty takes pride in her liquor.”

   “That’s good to know,” Calamaro said.

   From behind them, Nix Morrow yelled, “Hey nigger!”

   The black man turned his head. “You know my name. Feel free to use it.”

   Nix said, “You gonna give me orders? I think you forgot who you are. I think you should go look in a mirror. Remind yourself you’re a nigger.” Ryan laughed at his friend’s remark. Chaps, on the other hand, was still staring at his cards.

   Calamaro turned his head slightly and watched as the black man stood there, unfazed by the comments. There was confidence in the man that Calamaro had never really seen before in a Negro. Most of them that he had known seemed to keep their bravado buried deep. Calamaro said, “That asshole knows your name but I don’t. What is it?”

   “Stacklee.”

   Calamaro nodded.

   Nix got louder. “Nigger, bring me a drink!”

   Calamaro stared down as his empty shot glass and said, “You know the man’s name. It might be nice if you used it.” He made sure to say it loud enough so everyone in the place could hear.

   At the table, Nix’s eyes widened. He rarely had to deal with anyone challenging him.

   Nix looked at Ryan. “You hear this? Some goddamn stranger walks in and starts protecting a nigger.”

   Ryan laughed.

   Chaps stared at his cards. He knew it was his turn and that some ruckus was happening around him but he didn’t care. He could not get yesterday’s events out of his mind. Before he came to Screwhorse, he was known as the French Horn Kid on account of his always carrying the instrument around, playing it at inopportune times. But yesterday the horn was thrown out of the window by that whore Angie and then trampled by horses. That day was supposed to be special since he had just lost his virginity. Then the whore had to get all uppity on him because he asked if she’d be willing to lick the wet spot on the bed.

   Chaps said, “What?”

   “I said what’s with this stranger sticking up for that nigger,” Nix said.

   “I don’t know.” All he could think of was his poor French horn.

   Ryan laughed and said, “Maybe he likes dark meat.”

   At the bar, Calamaro was staring at his empty shot glass. Stacklee was looking at him. “You shouldn’t have stuck your nose into this mess,” he whispered.

   Calamaro grunted.

   Stacklee said, “I can handle these assholes myself.”

   “I’m sure you could. Still doesn’t mean I enjoy listening to them.”

   Stacklee nodded. There was something about this stranger that he liked. Most of the drifters who passed through who either ignored him or treated him like a slave. This man was different. “What’s your name?”

   “Calamaro.”

   From behind them, Nix exploded again. “Nigger!”

   No one noticed that Calamaro had thrown the shot glass until it was practically lodged in Nix’s eye socket. The asshole screamed and fell backwards off the chair. Ryan laughed but quickly changed it to a yell of anger. Chaps kept staring at his cards, thinking about his French horn.

   Stacklee couldn’t believe it. It happened so quickly. That bastard Nix was crying like a baby with a shot glass sticking out of his face.

   “My eye! Shit!” Nix put his hands to his face. He pulled the glass out and threw it to the ground where it smashed.

   Calamaro slowly got off the barstool. Betty Black stood behind the bar, shocked and confused at the turn of events. She was always used to those three assholes causing trouble but never was able to do anything considering that they worked for that bastard William Lyons. She had never witnessed anyone standing up to them except for Stacklee and even that went no further than a verbal confrontation.

   She tugged on Calamaro’s sleeve and said, “Just leave!” He ignored her.

   Stacklee said, “She’s right. You should leave.” Calamaro ignored him, too. He walked over to Nix.

   Ryan grabbed for his pistol but before he could take it out, Calamaro pulled his gun and pointed it at his crotch.

BOOK: Fistful of Feet
5.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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