Tag Archives: Cormac McCarthy

The Highway.

26 Dec

They marched slowly, one with the cart tightly clutched in wrapped hands, the other with nothing clutched at all. The air was acrid and bitterly cold. The cold was, for that moment, the only thing either of them could be completely sure of. Survival? No. The very world before their wandering feet? Not even that, for with the falling snow all the world was a sea of whiteness. A fog of moving parts. Impossible.

Lanny and Kyle were careful.

“Dude, what are you doing?” Lanny asked.

“I’m writing my best friend’s name in the snow.”

Kyle was urinating.

“Jesus, is this the ‘great important, life-saving thing’ we had to stop for?'”

“Yes,” Kyle said, zipping his pants and returning to the highway. “I only got the ‘L’. Sorry.”

Lanny sighed and pulled the drawstrings of his hood. “It’s all right.”

They continued to move with an almost instinctual mindlessness, like infant turtles, just born, clawing, for whatever reason, toward the moving water.

“What do you have in your pack?” Lanny asked. They were hungry.

“I have, a can of…” Kyle looked through his bag. “I have three Hustlers and a book about cats.”

Lanny shook his head, as if to shake the words, and perhaps the truth of the words, from his head.

“You have what? Where is all the food? Where is all the food I gave you?

“I threw it at those dogs. Remember the str–”

“Yes, I remember the stray dogs. I remember you yelling things to them. You yelled–”

“–Neener neener, who’s got the biggest wiener, stupid snow-covered dogs?!” Kyle laughed to himself, holding his gut. To Lanny, the solitary sound of Kyle’s high-pitched, puerile laughter sounded almost sinister. Lanny shuddered against it.

“Listen. We’re not going to survive all the way to Denton if you don’t start taking better care of your supplies. Do you understand?”

“Yes, papa.”

“What?”

“What what?”

“What did you call me?”

“Papa.”

“I’m not your dad.”

“I’m not your dad.”

“All right?” Lanny said, confused, waiting for Kyle’s next words to somehow make sense of all this.

“Crap, look at the time! I gotta get going!” Kyle looked blankly at Lanny for a moment, then rolled over and began reading his Hustler. Somewhere in the dark, an animal yelped and then was stifled. Its last, struggling breath heard by two ardent travelers, almost invisible in the coming night.

The next day, Lanny woke at dawn. He set up the small stove, placed the metal cooking plate above the flame and began to make breakfast. Keeping the fire alive was difficult. The wind whipped aggressively over Lanny’s huddled frame and the fire likewise. However difficult, Lanny kept the fire alive.

“Is it time to eat middly-mo-bye-eat?” Kyle asked, his eyes the only thing visible through his hood.

“Why do you keep doing that? Why do you keep talking like that?”

“Because I’m slowly losing my mind.”

Lanny sat silent.

“Because I’m slowly losing my mind looking at your stupid, shitty beard.”

Lanny sighed and made Kyle a plate of beans.

“I love beans,” Kyle said.

“So do I,” Lanny said.

Squatting together around the still-lit stove, there, for a moment, was a tranquil silence.

“Lanny?” Kyle said, breaching the quiet that was.

“Yes?”

“Do you ever miss things?”

“Miss things?”

“Yea, miss things. From the past. From before–” Kyle looked around, as if to motion at the very world around them, “–before all of this.”

Lanny smiled to himself and did not meet Kyle’s eyes. Although his body rested firmly in the bit of snow Kyle saw him in, his mind and his heart had traveled far from this place. “Yes, I do. I miss lightly moving the hair from my wife’s face as she sleeps. I miss the look of the world when I wake up–bright and shimmering–full of life–as if somehow, overnight, god reached down and started it all over again. That’s what I miss. What do you miss?”

“I miss boobs.”

Lanny looked at Kyle, waiting for more.

“Boobs and Jersey Shore.”

Lanny put his hand on his shoulder. Kyle was crying.

From his whimpering voice, Lanny could hear Kyle saying “I just don’t understand why Pauly D would…” He struggled, his voice trembled with weeping. “Why he would let Mike, ‘The Situation,’ down like that. Why he wouldn’t take the…why he wouldn’t take the ugly girl away so Situation could get his…”

“His what?” Lanny asked.

“His sex on. So Situation could get his sex all over that woman.”

For the second time in as many days, Lanny shook his head and wished to be ridden of the words Kyle had spent on him.

The road to Denton was long and cold. The surface of the road itself had long been buried in a layer of white–a layer now so thick that the footsteps of the two weary journeymen could no longer penetrate deep enough to reveal its blackness.

They continued.

It was important in those times to remain warm, but more important to remain dry. Wetness could cause frost-bite faster than anything else. It could cause hypothermia and pneumonia. They stayed dry mostly through Lanny’s efforts. Kyle cared little for staying dry. He loved splash fights.

“Let’s go splash each other!” Kyle yelled, running toward the Trinity River.

“Jesus, no!” Lanny yelled, stumbling after him. The snow was high now, and its slick bottom caused Lanny to lose his footing. Kyle moved through the snow adeptly, as if he had been born in a world that knew no other kind of ground than this.

Kyle got close to the Trinity River and stopped. “Smells like doo doo,” Kyle said, his face contorted in a frown.

Lanny, breathless, got to his feet. “I know it does,” Lanny said. “I know it does.”

At nightfall, with no moon and no stars, as there had been no sun in the day, they slept. Sometimes a fire would be made. Lanny feared being spotted by the bands of marauders and road agents that marched the road at night–hunting.

This night Lanny laid as he always did–silently, wrapped in a tarp. Kyle lay next to him in similar fashion.

“Lanny?” Kyle beckoned, barely above a whisper.

“Yes?” Lanny answered.

“Love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Are you cold?”

“Yes.”

“Will we always be cold?”

“No.”

“I made a snow man.”

“That’s good.”

“He has a wiener,” Kyle said.

“That’s good. All men should have wieners.”

“He needed clothes, though, because it’s cold out, and I didn’t have any spares, so I put the rest of your clothes on the snow man.”

“What?! Why?”

“It’s cold.”

Lanny left Kyle under the overpass that night.

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All the Pretty Kyles

22 Jul

I didn’t post anything on Saturday. That was my first Saturday to not post since my blog’s inception in early 1998. I was busy working on a ranch across the border in Mexico. You see, I reread All the Pretty Horses last week. This book filled me with vigor for the outdoors, the southern sun, and calling jeans “trousers.”

The ranch has been around for hundreds of years, but it’s anything but antiquated. It’s an extremely well-kept ranch with a good mix of old with new. The hoses are made of stucco with reddish stone shingles. So nice. I take a moment and think about HGTV. Then, I meet with the hacendado, the owner of the ranch.

“Hola.” I say

“Hola, como estás?” He asks.

“Estoy bien.”

“We may speak in English if you’d like” the hacendado says.

“Very well. Thanks for having me out on your ranch today. I really appreciate you inviting me out here.”

The hacendado looks at me strangely. “There was no invitation. You were found by some of my vaqueros asleep by our well. You were covered in alcohol and black beans. You were wearing a woman’s clothes.” I forgot that me and my editor got pretty hammered the night before in a city east of La Vega. The editor made out with a man. [Editor’s Note: I did not.] The editor held hands with a man that called himself Ramon and wore frilly clothes. [Editor’s Note: Stop. My wife reads this.] The editor said that his wife was a big fat burro and that she doesn’t have enough mustache. [Editor’s Note: He’s lying honey, I promise.]

“How long have you owned this ranch?” I ask the hacendado.

“Oh” He pauses and leans back. A small, nostalgic grin spreads across his face. “My family has had this ranch for almost two hundred years. It is very important to pass things onto your children, and they to their children. Do you believe this is the truth?”

I have fallen asleep. The hacendado clears his throat.

“Wha! Jeez, sorry. So, how long have you owned this ranch?” I ask.

“Almost two hundred years.”

“That’s a long time. What is the most valuable product you export: the cattle or the dressing?”

The hacendado looks at me cockeyed. “Dressing?”

“The ranch dressing.” At this the hacendado laughs heartily.

“What’s funny? This is a ranch. You should make ranch dressing. I want some. On this salad, right here.” I reveal a large bowl full of a variety of vegetables.

“Where did you get that salad?”

“Doesn’t matter. Where’s the dressing?”

“I…we don’t make ranch dressing.” He pauses and shifts in his seat. “So, I suppose the most valuable product would be the cattle. I believe that the greatest wealth a man can have is the wealth he gets from the land under his feet.”

“I believe wealth can come from whatever you’re passionate about.” I sound smart.

“This is a good point.”

“Tomatoes, tomates.” I say. The hacendado smiles and nods his head.

“Tomatoes, tomates.” He replies.

“Potatoes, baños.” I say.

“I think I’m losing you now.”

“Can we go look at the ranch?” I ask excitedly.

“Yes, of course. But, I feel maybe we get you into a man’s clothes first.” I look down and see that I’m still wearing a dress. I think I can see my junk.

“Sounds good.”

After I change, we go out to the stables to look at the horses. On the way to the door I ask the hacendado where they make the ranch dressing. He laughs politely and looks over at me. I’m not smiling. I’m starting to think this ranch sucks. We enter the stables and I speak to the gerente, or manager, of the stables. The horses are of varying sizes, colors, and breeds–all healthy, all fine specimens.

“These are beautiful horses.” I say, doing a thumbs up.

“Ah, gracias.” The gerente responds.

I reach out and smack one of the horses on the hind quarters to illustrate how strong they look. The horse is startled and kicks the gerente into a pile of lumber. He doesn’t get up for a long time.

“Never stand behind a horse.” I say as I shrug my shoulders.

I’m asked to leave and am almost immediately escorted from the ranch. As I leave I see my editor apologizing profusely to the hacendado handing him release forms. He might of also been hitting on him. [Editor’s Note: My wife just called me.]

I love Mexico.

The End.

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