When the wheel is steel,
Diamonds turn red;
When the land trembles,
A cheat is dead.
“I wasn’t sure who was doing the conning, but one thing I did know was who the cheat in the story was.”
“Hold on there, Charley, you never said that before! That witch was just lying through her teeth; you know that. It couldn’t have been Hugo or me and not George. Yes sir, never a finer man walked the Earth than good ol’ George. Many’s the time I wish he was still around. No one could tell a joke like George.”
“Then what you know is as worthless as a plug nickel or a blue fulgurite.”
Bart turned to me: “You know, Sonny, that fulgurite was as blue as a, as blue as a . . .”
“Bluebird,” Hugo interjected.
“Bluebird, sure enough, or maybe the sky on a summer’s day. Never in all my born days have I seen anything like that, kinda like one of those blue flowers that shimmer in the twilight.”
“The twilight of your noggin, maybe.”
“It was an unnatural blue,” Charley replied frowning.
“Supernatural you mean, supernatural.”
“I concede the argument: It couldn’t have been our friend George; after all, he’s the one who held down the fort while we were off fighting the goddamn Heinies, while you were getting your legs blown off Hugo, while Bart was losing an eye.”
“Better 1 than 2,” Bart chuckled. “And Wilma always thought my scar made me look like a pirate.”
“How did he manage that,” I asked; “I believe the draft was instituted in 1940.”
“Yes sir; I can tell you’re a student of history. Most people these days don’t know that FDR signed off on the first peace time draft in the history of this country; I suppose he knew what he was doing, but out here we were living our lives come what may, and it didn’t make a hell of a lot of difference since we were all under 21, but when December 7th rolled around and the Nips attacked us in our own backyard; well now, Sonny, that was a different matter. Randall lead the charge; he wasn’t waitin’ around; he just up and enlisted and the rest of us followed in his footsteps except George; George checked the student deferral box. It wasn’t as if the rest of us couldn’t have done that, but right is right, and we weren’t going to get nipped by the Japs, not in out own backyard, no sir, not in our own backyard.”
“George was always the lucky one,” Hugo added like some kind of mantra.
“And put on quite a welcome back celebration,” Bart mentioned.
“What does it matter now anyway? George is in the ground and that’s on Randall. I’ve never been able to get my mind around why he did it except maybe he had combat stress,” Hugo replied.
“You mean post traumatic stress: that’s what they call it nowadays.”
“Sure thing, that must have been the reason what with all those hallucinations he was having.”
“How do you know they were hallucinations?”
“Come on, Charley. You know the copper headed gypsy was just one of those tales our parents put into our heads like a lot of things they told us, a lot of malarkey, that’s all it was.”
“And yet someone saw fit to name a road after this mystery woman.”
“That road was named after the snake,” Bart argued.
“Except we don’t have copperheads in Wyoming,” Charley replied effectively ending further argument. “When Randall showed up, he was angrier than a hornet, waving that pistol in my face. Now, I figured it was my duty to calm the man down even though I knew he wasn’t about to kill anyone. I’m a student of human nature, and I know that Randall didn’t have it in him to kill anyone ever; that’s what we call a pacifist in these parts—”
“—Except in the war,” Hugo interrupted; “You don’t come back a hero without killing a few; you should know that better than anyone, Charley.”
Charley turned to me: “Randall saved my life, not just mine either, got the Distinguished Service Cross.”
“I don’t know why he didn’t get the Medal of Honor.”
“Well you know it’s some fellow back in Washington, doesn’t know a thing about the reality; some fellow back in Washington deciding our lives for us; there’s a lot of politics in it; I guarantee there’s a lot of politics. Who can decipher what’s going on in the mind of a liberal except they want take away everything we worked our asses off for.”
“Who cares about a goddamn metal anyway! Doesn’t change the fact that I owe my life to Randall,” Charley replied.
“Doesn’t change the fact that Randall killed George,” Bart added.