Sail Cat Road, the sequel to No Good End, continues below. It is being posted tweet-by-tweet daily on Twitter (http://twitter.com/ttaylordude). I will post each chapter here (in chronological order). Thank you for your time.
A breeze raked a fallen pine fan across the roof. In the distance, beef cooked on a grill, the aroma following the wind.
Shewl Gantt met her brother at the door of the rancher outside Lafayette. Dr. Barrow hugged his sister. Gerald Gantt stood at the door. Jolene waited beside the car, hesitantly. Shewl looked at Jolene and her face broke into a look somewhere between a smile and shock. Jolene was like a mirror to Shewl’s past; the eyes, the mouth, the mannerisms, the way Jolene stood in the freshly mowed grass.
“Baby doll!” said Shewl. “You are too beautiful to be beat up like that.”
Dr. Barrow hugged Shewl and shook hands with Gerald on the porch.
“My brother is on his way with Gus,” said Gerald. “This is going to end badly for some people back in Alabama. You know that don’t you?”
“It ends how it ends,” said Dr.Barrow. “The people who did this should pay. Jolene has a decent person hiding inside that rage.”
“I’ve been down this road before,” said Gerald “Y’all can stay a few days. But I know my brother, and if this girl has his blood –”
“She has his blood. And yours too. You forget your past?” said Dr. Barrow. “I remember treating a lot of people you had trouble with.”
“I didn’t kill nobody,” said Gerald. “I had my share of scrapes, but I didn’t put people in the ground.” He would not look at Dr. Barrow.
A distant ambulance whined down near Breaux Bridge. Both men listened to it for a few seconds before Dr. Barrow turned back to Gerald. The years showed in his face. Pain pulled on him more than gravity, made him shorter, more bent and wrinkled. We wore his scars like skin.
“You put a few in the hospital, though,” said Dr. Barrow. “Several of them never came out. One is in a home up in Shreveport now.”
“He deserved it,” said Gerald. “And don’t say he didn’t. If justice comes outside the law, then that’s how it gets delivered.”
“So don’t be so hard on Jolene, then,” said Dr. Barrow. “She’s delivered a little justice just like her grandpaw and uncle. Invite her in.”
Gerald watched Shewl and Jolene getting along loudly beside Dr. Barrow’s car. They could have been mother and daughter to an observer.
“Shewl’s doing a good job of that,” said Gerald. “I’ll make some coffee. You still like strong coffee as much as you used to?”
“Make a pot. I’ll pour some in me,” said Dr. Barrow. “By the way, when was the last time you saw Gus?”
Gerald, slowed his enthusiasm. “Been a while. He was a boy,” said Gerald. “I hear he got shot up by that lake. And I reckon he knows that Jolene’s his daughter by now.”
“He does. Took him a while to accept it,” said Dr. Barrow. “According to Jimmy, he’s wrapped his mind around it pretty tightly.”
Gerald pinched his nose and adjusted his glasses. His swallowing was constricted by a dislike for Gus that had always been hard to hide. Gerald’s pained expressions were not difficult to read, especially for a man like Barrow. He understood pained expressions like an alphabet.
“Don’t really matter if he does or not. Fact is fact,” said Gerald. “That girl is family. Might as well move on from there.”
“She acts like people in the family as well,” said Dr, Barrow, smiling. “Take it all or don’t take any of it. Just how it is.”
Gerald opened the door to let them all in. He paused, staring at the floor as Jolene passed. She looked at him and stopped. He turned away.
“You look just like a different version of Jimmy Gantt,” she said. “Same rigid features. Same wrinkles. Same demeanor. Same detachment.”
“Not the same,” he mumbled in his gravelly voice. “May look the same, but I ain’t. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say it again.”
Dr. Barrow grinned from the foyer. “Truth is a bitter pill to swallow, Jolene,” he said. “Your Uncle Gerald has changed though.”
“How’s that?” said Jolene.
Dr. Barrow waited for Gerald to answer her question. He did not. Shewl stepped into the awkwardness to offer food.
“Jolene is a guest and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t dig up old arguments before she even knows us.” She pulled Jolene into the kitchen. “I hope you like frog legs, because Gerald and me gigged a mess of them this morning at dawn,” said Shewl. “Woke them with a sharp poke.”
“I know that feeling,” laughed Jolene. The humor avoided Shewl as she pulled the frog legs from the fridge and began to prep the frying pan.
“I love frog legs,” said Dr. Barrow as they walked away. “Show Jolene how they dance in the pan.”
Shewl shook her head and opened the refrigerator. A large cellophane bag of frog legs sat on the second shelf. Jolene eyed them nervously.
“You’ll never want chicken again,” said Shewl. “Can’t beat free groceries, even though they do come attached on each side of a frog’s ass.”
Gerald stepped out onto the porch with a cigarette, but didn’t light it. Dr. Barrow followed. They had business to discuss. The worst kind.
“This Alabama business will get ugly,” said Gerald. “I’d like to avoid it myself. But I won’t leave my brother hanging in the wind.”
“You never did,” said Dr. Barrow. He wiped sweat from his neck with a handkerchief. “You know who’s behind all of this mess don’t you?”
“I have a few ideas,” said Gerald. “Ritko was supposed to cover it. He’s lost his touch.” he paused. “Some other things have happened too.”
“Like what?” said Dr. Barrow. He knew Gerald was more involved in Jimmy’s life than he would ever admit, even to family.
“You like to keep you diploma unstained and that’s a smart way to work it. The dirty work is coming though,” said Gerald. “It’s on the way.”
“Ritko’s partner? The crazy one?” said Dr. Barrow. “Duware?” He probed Gerald but there was no information coming, just a hard, Gantt stare.
Gerald lit a cigarette and pulled a lung full, burning a quarter-inch ash at the end. He eased the smoke out, savoring the cloud. “Yeah,” he said.
The two men stood, backs to the door, watching the first thumps of rain on the Louisiana mud. Large drops pinged the car. Gerald pushed a bit of lose tobacco out between pursed lips and flicked it, then took another drag.
“Duware. Still roaming the earth,” said Gerald.
“It will change with Jimmy still roaming the earth as well,” said Dr. Barrow. “Surprised they are both still vertical.”
“I’m not,” said Gerald. “All the dinosaurs didn’t die at once. Some just petered out at the edges of the world.”
Sometimes men talk a lot and say nothing, thought Dr. Barrow. Gerald was just the opposite. He was just like Jimmy. His silence said a lot.
“It’s feels a little like the edge of the world here today,” said Dr. Barrow.
Gerald responded with only a nod, finishing the cigarette. Hamdog, Shewl and Gerald’s beagle, turned the corner of the house and ran into Gerald’s leg, rubbing his ear, eyes blind, cold and white.
“That blind dog has got to be pushing 15 years old,” said Dr. Barrow.
The dog leaned against Gerald, hopelessly blinking into the rain.
“Better roll up your windows,” said Gerald. “Going to be a hard one.” He held his hand out to feel the rain, but his mind was in Alabama.