“Now I’ve lost my place; let me see: When the land trembles, a cheat is dead. ‘Randall,’ I said, ‘better get yourself under control and put that gun away—'”
“Wait just a little minute, Charley, I was in court that day and every day of the trial, and I know what I heard: Shoot the cheat dead. That’s exactly word for word what Randall said. Lord knows, I’ve forgotten so much I hardly remember who I am anymore, but that’s one thing I’ll take with me into the afterlife, sure enough. Don’t know whether my legs will make it in time for the big send off, a long ways to go,” Hugo chuckled. “To look at me now, I bet you can’t believe I was as skinny as you, Sonny, back in them days, but sitting in a wheelchair for 50 years with no legs but the ones in my dreams, well . . .”
“Chicken fried steak every day doesn’t help,” Bart mentioned.
“A man has to have something to look forward to now that I’m retired, and there’s no one in this county can beat me at arm wrestling.”
“What are you retired from,” I asked.
“He was the history teacher right here in Pushroot for nearly 40 years,” Bart explained. “And I worked at the bank. Got a bit of shrapnel in the old noggin, but it didn’t affect my number skills.”
“This town treated us right; made sure we all had jobs and Uncle Sam did right by us as well making sure we got our educations finished up.”
“Sounds like It’s a Wonderful Life, ” I replied.
“One of the best damn movies ever made,” they all agreed nodding their heads up and down.
“What do you think about the World War II movies,” I asked, “Are any of them accurate portrayals of the way it was?”
“I go to the movies for entertainment. There’s nothing entertaining about watching actors wallowing around in the Guadalcanal or blowing each other up. What’s entertaining about that? Now Kelly’s Heroes, that’s a movie worth watching. Yes sir, if I had to name a WWII movie, that would be the one. You can’t beat a good Clint Eastwood movie,” Hugo replied.
“The Night of the Generals, that’s my all time favorite movie,” Charley said. “In the name of justice, one man can make a difference.”
“He didn’t do it all alone.”
“Of course he didn’t, but you take that one man out of the equation and nothin’ is what you get.”
“Patton, now there’s a movie you can get your teeth into.”
“What did you think of the slapping incident,” I asked.
“Cowards deserve worse than that is what I say. Look at me, look at Hugo; we lost a lot back in that goddamn war, but do you hear us whining about it? Hugo never got married on account of it, but do you hear him crying?” Bart complained.
“Now calm down, Bart, we were luckier than most having a town to come back to where everyone was supportive,” Charley replied, and then turning to me asked: “What about you, Sonny, got a favorite movie?”
“Doctor Strangelove is probably my favorite war movie, that or The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
“Doctor Strangelove? Never heard of that one.”
“It takes place during the cold war and addresses the issue of nukes and what happens when they fall into the wrong hands. It’s a Kubrick.”
“Director of Spartacus,” I replied.
Spartacus? Are you kidding? Of all the amazing movies Kubrick did, you had to come up with Spartacus?
What would you have mentioned: A Clockwork Orange?
I see what you mean.
“Sounds pretty dull to my mind.”
“It a comedy; George C. Scott is in it.”
“We’ll have to see that one. Our video store is pretty sparse; maybe Jimmy can get that in if we ask.”
About that time, the waitress showed up to take our desert order. Chicken fried steak is pretty filling, but who can turn down pecan pie?
“Where were we in the story,” Charley asked. “When the land trembles a cheat is dead.”
“When the land trembles, shoot the cheat dead,” Hugo corrected pedantically.
“Well I s’pose you’re right. I s’pose you’re right. Who am I to disagree? But the first time around, that’s what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t know why in hell you keep mentioning that blinking out and blinking in again like someone pressed replay. This young man is not an old timer like us, he has a shiny, modern brain, and he is never going to credit it any more than we do. Probably voted for that goddamn liberal in the White House. What’s more, he’s gonna think you’ve got a case of senility.”
“What about those dreams? We all have exactly the same dreams about the lodge. How do you explain that?”
“We’ve talked about it so much, we can’t help but have the same dreams.”
“I meant what I said, but the important thing is that Randall had no idea who he was gunning for anyway. He came into town hot but calmed down and then everything proceeded as predicted. We had a quake that sent everyone out into the streets and later, well not much later, George turned out to be dead, and that’s all she wrote.”
“Except you were the main witness against him, and now you act like he never did it.”
“I said what I said, but it never sat right with me having to speak against the man who saved my life.”