Charley said goodbye to his friends, and I paid the bill. Just outside the door of the Blue, Charley and I again fell into conversation so I ended up accompanying him back to the courthouse. “I got the impression that you did not share Hugo and Bart’s inflated opinion of George.”
“No sir, Sonny, not a bit. He couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes like he did every other person in this town. George never served his country; he had it all figured out how he was going to miss out on that; from day one, he had it all figured out. All those years while he was holding down the fort, what he was actually doing was stealing away Randall’s fiancée.. Her daddy had the biggest spread in this county, and she was his only child. Pretty good catch, wouldn’t you say? Everyone likes to mention George’s good luck, but there was a man who made his own luck; he sure enough did; he was a con man from day 1, and it didn’t matter to him whether he was conning friends, not one iota. Do you know what a fulgurite is, Sonny?”
“Sure, it forms when lightning strikes the ground and fuses the minerals in the soil into something interesting. I’ve never seen one myself.”
“Something interesting alright, and what color do you imagine a fulgurite would be?”
“Dirt color, or sand color.”
“And how many times have you seen dirt that was as blue as a bluebird or the sky or a blue flower shimmering in the twilight?”
He stared at me as if waiting for something to click inside my brain: “It was a fake?”
“That’s right, Sonny: a fake. It took me years to figure that one out, that it was even possible to make your own fulgurite, and good ol’ George, he made his out of blue sand, a dead giveaway for anyone with a nickel’s worth of sense. The day I discovered the way it really was, changed my life more than any war ever could. Like I said before, George was a man who made his own luck. A person could get behind that, could really appreciate that, but when it adds up to pulling the wool over your own friends; now that’s where I have to draw the line. Yes sir, the wolf is an intelligent animal, but humans are supposed to be smarter.”
“Why do you think Randall did it?”
“Haven’t you been paying attention, Sonny? Randall didn’t do it; like I keep saying, it was never in his nature to kill a man or a woman. You can’t get around human nature; you have to meet it head-on.”
“But in the court documents . . .”
“Did you read them court papers, Sonny? Cuz if you did, you would know that all I ever said was I saw him with a gun. I was very disappointed in the people of this town. Randall was always a generous man, the sort that would give you the shirt off his back, but did anyone remember that? You shoulda seen them laughing at his testimony like he was a mad man.”
“If Randall didn’t do it, who did?” I asked.
“Where’s that shiny, modern brain now? Didn’t you tell me you that you are the sheriff of some county in Oregon?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then, you tell me who did it.”
I reflected for a while on human nature just like the man said, and suddenly it struck me: “It had to be you.”
“That’s right, Sonny. It was me; I was the goddamn perp.”
“But why, unless maybe George cheated you as well.”
“Knowing what I knew, that he cheated Randall every goddamn week, do you think I was dumb enough to offer myself up so easily? No sir, the truth is, it’s enough to know that the man who saved your life is being cheated. It was my duty to save Randall; it was my duty to remove that wart from the face of Mother Earth.”
“Doesn’t sound like you saved Randall; sounds like you ruined his life.”
“That’s because you don’t know the whole story, and maybe you don’t credit the place forks play in our lives cuz there’s lots of forks in our brains even in shiny modern brains, and there’s lots of forks in our every day lives. It has to be that way because the outside world is a reflection of what’s going on inside.”
“Now the day Randall showed up waving that pistol around, I already had it in my mind, the full experience, kinda like deja vu; I even knew what he was going to say; I was so confident that I said the words even before they came out of his mouth: ‘When the land trembles, a cheat will be dead.’ Yes sir, that’s what I said to him, and you know what happened then: He started laughing just like a crazy SOB: ‘Never knew you to be a magician, Charley. How did you come up with something so close to the real thing: ‘When the land trembles; shoot the cheat dead. Damn if you didn’t almost hit the nail right on the head, and damn if I have no idea what it’s all about. My luck ain’t never goin’ to change, is it!’
“When he said that, when he corrected my assertion, suddenly I knew, and for the second time in my life, everything changed. I knew as well as I knew my own name that this was more than deja vu because the whole story was already up here in the ol’ noggin in Technicolor: George’s fabulous lodge and buckets of money and Randall’s taking up with whisky, losing everything includin’ his life, and there wasn’t a blasted thing we could do about it, but now I had a second chance.”
“I was already standing outside when everyone rushed into the street after the quake—quite a ruckus: pieces of buildings falling off, falling all around us. No one heard the gun go off. Everybody assumed poor George had been struck down by flying debris. Gave me plenty of time to put the .38 back in Randall’s jeep.
“Normally in life, Sonny, you don’t get a chance to replay your hand of cards. There’s a lot of responsibility when you have the full weight of your future and other people’s futures sitting right there in your own hands, hands that came out of a womb just like everyone else’s. It’s a gift; it’s a curse. What do you do when you know the future; just what do you do?”
“You didn’t have to testify against Randall; you didn’t have to put the gun back in his jeep either, then maybe he wouldn’t have died in prison.”
“I never said he died in prison; he lives at the Lodge, the one I built, paroled 15 years ago. They had him up at the state mental facility for a spell and then along came Reagan: funding cuts. They let him out, and I took him in. He lives at the Lodge.”
“But that man said his name was George.”
“Randall is dead, but his body has been taken over by a fantasy George, a good man who thinks he built the Lodge and owns it. He’s happier than he ever was.”
“Yeah, but he still had to spend 20 years locked up. I did read the court documents; you didn’t just say you saw him with a gun, you said he was waving it around angrily. I don’t think you were a bit surprised when he was convicted.”
“Listen to Mr. Shakespeare if you’re lookin’ for truth: The fault, dear Sheriff, is not in our stars but in ourselves. Yes sir, men come in three varieties: the lucky man, he recognizes Lady Luck when she comes a knocking; the unlucky man wouldn’t know good luck from a chainsaw, that was Randall all over, and the third man, the man who makes his own luck: George was of that sort. Most of us are in the first and second categories, because it takes a lot of work to make your own luck, it sure enough does. And maybe Hugh Everett was right with his Many Worlds Interpretation; maybe I just jumped to a different universe, a universe where I was the sort of man who made his own luck; or maybe I just said to myself: If he gets off, Randall will never build that Lodge; everything will continue to be business as usual around here as he sleeps his way through life, so I put a bullet in George and married his widow and built that lodge, and that’s all she wrote.”
Nice story, Sheriff. Reminds me of the film, The Red Tent with all that rationalizing going on. Happen to see it?
No, never heard of it.
Then I suppose you’re just going to have to check out my blog. In any case, that was one seriously confabulated confabulation. I’m sure the truth was much more straightforward like: Charley wanted to get George and Randall out of the way, so he would have a shot at George’s widow and those buckets of money he kept mentioning. That’s a much more likely scenario, wouldn’t you say, Sheriff?
Are you related to Bob or something? You seem to have missed out on one minor detail with all your cynicism: Charley wouldn’t have known about the money or the Lodge if he hadn’t lived through it already.
I don’t think you’re paying attention to your own story, Sheriff. The widow was rich already. Remember, her daddy had the biggest spread in the county, isn’t that what you said? The most likely answer is always greed.
I’ll give you that point, Marcia, but I’m pretty sure he was telling the truth. Even Bob, when I told him the story, admitted the possibility that it could be true; something to do with entanglement, but I wouldn’t be able to lay it out for you since it’s beyond me.
Please, let’s not go there; let’s not even so much as utter the word entanglement; otherwise, we might incur major brain quakes while trying to understand what if anything entanglement has to do with the business at hand. Not saying that it doesn’t, but I’m more inclined to the belief that what we have here looks a lot like time travel as in the copper woman didn’t like the way things turned out, so she revisited the situation and made some changes. I wonder if she got what she wanted?
I think you’re just trying to make trouble, Marcia. Have you really never experienced a remaking of reality, a blinking out and blinking back in as Charley described it?
I have, but I figure it was merely a Single Event Upset in my own brain, the organ that is responsible for creating my personal reality. If a neuron gets damaged, then reality is in trouble: that’s a fact Sheriff that you’re going to have a hard time getting around. Bob was just messing with you.