The golden beer slid down Tony’s throat. It was the zing from the familiar snap of ice when it hit the roof of his mouth that reminded him that soon he would be free. His white nose flared and his breath smelled like an old man’s mouth from cheap booze. Cold beer pumped through the back of his throat until it went through his nose. The mosquitoes stopped flying around his mouth and he wiped his drip onto his sleeve. His memory was getting smoother and his joy at the Falls in the late monsoon rains in early September didn’t matter. He was wet from the cruel clouds. The red cotton plaid shirt that stuck to his sweat during the day of working the field trying to fill up the prairie dog holes so the cattle can’t break their legs in them was now a wet rag.
“Dad wants us to build a fence in the north corner by Snake River Road next week,” George said.
“You mean your daddy? The one and only daddy in the whole of Apache County with more horses and holes in the damn ground to keep us workin’ until the sun rots my only working hand? You talkin’ bout’ that daddy?” Tony said. “If daddy is payin’ for this drink then I will listen. Now, since he ain’t the ruler of my off time, and he ain’t payin’ or treatin’ I ain’t listenin…got enuf on my god damn mind that I came here to shut off rights about now.” Tony’s left hand had three fingers left after cutting a bulls head off and slipping the knife too quickly around its neck. It was the only time Tony got to be part of the special ritual of watching the blood fly into the air and around the rims of his sneakers. He held his left hand out in front of him and wiggled his remaining fingers. “I still think those fingers are there sometimes, like nothin’ happened and then I look and they’re gone.” After they were chopped off it left him thinking about how the blood from his family and the bulls were blended together.
George’s body looked thin in the rain. He was always a paler version of his Mexican father, Daniel, who rode the horses bareback as a son of a peasant farmer in St. John’s. George returned to the ranch to lend a hand to the family after his mother left. He raised his bottle to toast Tony’s need to get drunk. George didn’t have a younger sister disappear like Tony; and he still had his fingers. Although there were many close calls to lose his limbs, it hadn’t happened.
Tonight, during the deep rains in the White Mountains, while the coyotes lingered in a pack behind the smell of the Juniper bushes, he lost his desire to be his father’s voice when his friend wanted him to shut up. George in willowy moments thought about his mother. The soft cries from her bedroom window sounded like a violin that played in his mind over and over until the sobs stopped. It was noise at times like pink colors painting the branches of the tree outside his window with no control. He could only remember her with her eyes in a down cast gaze. She kept the world of her pain in the wooden floor that thumped from the wooden bed posts when his father decided it was time for him to use her. During the day she disappeared into the stairwell of the old farm house where it smelled of dead insects and rusted nails. In a 1950’s kitchen chair she placed in the corner, George watched his mother pull her knees up to her chest, duck her head in and leave. Her life was a series of wordless nights and days that she learned to place forks down with no noise. In a spotless house, under a music less roof, his mother layered her shoulders with three sweaters, covered her feet with two pair of socks, threw a mirror and eight hundred dollars into a pocketbook from her aunt and she left. She left the only son she had so she could breathe again.