Shaky came down off the Mountain today. He caught me out back sitting on the deck where I was shooting at empty bottles with my pistol and waving away the heat with my hand.
“What’s a little freak like you gonna do with all that pistol?” he asked me.
“I dunno,” I mumbled and I kicked another chair out for him to sit down.
“How’s things up on the Mountain?” I asked him.
He looked out over the trees then and sighed heavily, wiping the sweat out of his eyes. He just kept staring and I wondered was he ever gonna answer me. His eyes looked all far-away; like he was seeing something out there that the rest of us couldn’t see. And maybe he was. Shit. Shaky always had a way about him and he tended to know what was coming next; most times.
“It gets weird once you get up that high,” he mumbled. “I saw a spider building a web there in this crevasse and I just sat there and watched him work on it for about three hours; right up until it started getting dark.”
“Man,” I said. “What a way to spend your time.”
He laughed then; that laugh he has, like he knows more than you think he does and he’s just sort of stringing you along.
“Yeah,” he said nodding. “But that ol’ spider’s gotta eat, you know? And that’s just what it takes.”
“Well, why’d you just sit there watching him?” I asked.
“Thought maybe I could learn something,” Shaky told me.
He looked down at me and then back out to the trees. “I don’t know yet,” he said and he grabbed the pistol from my hand and sighted the barrel out to toward the horizon. “I had an old uncle who went to Europe back during the war. He ran off and hid out because he got tired of all the killing. He was in Romania for about four months before they got him and sent him back to Leavenworth.”
“Yeah.” Shaky was still sighting; his arm straight and taut. “He told me it was all worth it because he learned something while he was there…in Romania.”
“What’s that?” I asked him.
Shaky grinned as he squinted, one-eyed, down the barrel. “He said that nothing on this Earth comes close to the pure, smooth goodness of Gypsy Ginch.”
I smiled then and drained off the last of the bottle I was drinking. “Come on man,” I said. “Let’s ride on into town and see if we can sample some of the local stuff anyway.” Then I tossed the empty bottle up and out into the back yard. Shaky drew down it.
“Okay, man,” he said.
Then he pulled the trigger.