“Maybe you should think about haulin’ ass,” Tippy said pouring the fourth spoonful of sugar into his coffee.

“Or maybe you should shut the hell up...like we agreed.” Crick rose sharply to his feet, sending the chair flying backwards, and stomped away to the restrooms.

Mac raised an eyebrow from his comic behind the counter, his white paper chef hat slipping a little across his bald head.“Cindy?”

“Yup.” Tippy sighed.

“How long’s it been?”

“Long enough to get on that liquid diet he’s on.”

“Six months?”

“I guess....a summer anyways.”

“First six are the hardest.” Mac slid the hat back a little for balance then lowered his head down to the comic.

Tippy glanced out through the diner window , slowly stirring the sugar in. Fine snow was blowing sideways down 2nd, now. He could just make out old Cloris Farrety furrowing her way along, a riot of purses, tote bags and raincoats. She looked like she might be blown backwards, clean off the planet.

A door slammed and Crick stormed back across the linoleum floor, sending the white ballflying down the pool table as he passed, like he was trying to knock someone’s head off. “Anyways, it’s my home, ya ...” he paused as he righted the fallen chair, “...just ‘coz she ain’t there don’t mean I gotta desert the damn place. I will not give her the satisfaction." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small bottle of sherry. "We’ve talked about this, man.”

“What the hell is that?” Tippy was getting used to Crick’s drinking nowadays, but his choice of alcohol could still surprise him.

“This here’s a bottle o’ mind yer own friggin’ business,” he said as he swigged , eyeballing old Mac . “Somethin’ you wanna say?”

Mac had long since given up trying to enforce his laws on these boys, but it still guiled him no end. He didn’t have a liquor license and Crick knew it, not that the police would do anything anyway. The police were, essentially, Mac's brother Donny.  He shook his head anyway, almost imperceptibly, and went back to reading, or at least pretending to.

A gust of wind shook the front of the diner, knocking an old Christmas bauble from its nail up high on a sill. A blast of fine snow shot in under the front door. Tippy pulled the zip up on his lumber jacket a little higher and stretched his mind for a change of topic.

“Moulie got that 354 he’s bin’ gummin’ on about for...”

“You think I’m lonely or somethin’, doncha?” Crick said smirking and leaning his chair far back, slamming his boots down on the table, almost under his friend’s chin. He made ‘lonely’ sound like it meant weak or pathetic. “You think old Crick just can’t do without his l’il darling, that he’s out there in that big old ranch house, lost and crazy, like a stray dog with friggin’ rabies! Doncha?”

“I don’t give a hoot in hell what you do out there, son.”

“Yes, you do, you liar. You’re a terrible liar, Tippy, always have been. Always.” He took another swig and gargled it, before swallowing. Mac reached over and turned up George Jones on the tiny boom box.

“She wants the city, boy, she can have it. She wants the smog, and them stupid dip shits in their stupid dip shit suits and combed hair and city cowboy boots...,”he was shouting at the ceiling, now, like his ex-girlfriend was up therein the room just above them. Then he stopped and frowned. “Why do they wear cowboy boots in the city?”

“Yer right, we have talked about this.” Tippy stood, pulled his hat on tight and turned his collar up. All he could think about was getting away from this crumbling, angry man.

“She never been to the city...you know that, smart man? Never. Only one she been to is Caney City and that’s got 227 people. 227! Ha! She’s a hick, born and bred. Ain’t gonna last...” He suddenly put his feet back on the floor, like a message had just been beamed in, grabbed his oil spattered coat and made his way to the door in a teetering fashion and flung it wide. Fine snowflakes were sucked into the diner in a crazy swirl, and Crick was engulfed within seconds.   He sucked in the air like it was a beautiful spring day, and, satisfied, disappeared into the grey white.

Tippy didn’t even consider going after him.

“How old was that girl, anyways?” Mac said, looking out to where Crick might have been.

“19 or thereabouts.”


“Yup. Cindy’s a kid, and he’s right, she is a hick.”

“Nuthin’ wrong with growin’ up country,” said Mac,  removing the cut pies from the scratched perspex case on the counter.

“That’s true, but Cindy was....is...,” Tippy tried to find the word, one that was fair, “...she’s...gullible.”

He thought of the day Crick nabbed Cindy, and how easily she left the party with him. Taking candy from a baby. He remembered her face turn to him from the muddy passenger window as they burned out of the ranch in that grey sundown; beautiful and confused. He thought about her in Austen or Dallas, or wherever, looking for the way out of the old life, and being so lost in those terrible streets.