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Texas Blood Money

Late August, almost dusk. The sky over Gabe Farmer's 3 long acres in Sulpher Springs, Texas was pink and orange, the color of the inside of the womb. A softly blond and gray-blue ring ran it's course around the horizon, hiding behind silhouetted mesquite bushes.

The Farmers were summer visitors, July and August every year going 7 seasons back. Quiet could be had, and land. Used for the church carnival and a balloon show in October, Family Life Ranch was a year round meeting house. Gabriel had payed for the house and land with an inheritance when his father, Robert Dunn Farmer, the Nissan dealer in Irving, passed in the early nineties. Robert had never liked Nissan as a company. "Rice Mobiles" he called them. He started in the early sixties when Gabe and his brothers were toddlers. Farmer Pontiac opened on the Beltline the year Dallas got the Cowboys. "Right Car, Right Price, Right Time" was his motto. If he were a tougher man or a more foolish one, he'd have had that tattooed on his chest. Every time the 'boys showed up in the Super Bowl, the Farmers became millionaires again. Thanksgiving was magnanimous and depraved, shellacked to the inside of their early log cabin-copy ranch complex. Glowing orange and brown and covered up in cigar smoke and brandy. Cartoon-like, sinful heaps of fresh and aromatic fowl and foliage and candles. In 1989, Robert had a stroke. He was told at the hospital that Pontiac was flat-lining across the plains and the coasts needed vehicles. They worked it out so Robert could rest his pension on used and slightly defected Nissans. Quality used vehicles with a budget friendly price tag. Right Car, Right Price, Right Time.

Robert succumbed to lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in the Fall of 1993. It was the year Dallas beat hell out of The Buffalo Bills, 52-17, in the Super Bowl. He would have loved to see that, but he was in and out all year until the day finally came. It was Gabe's birthday, November 5th. Robert's second eldest son, Robby, was killed in 1991 at a fight outside a bar in Fort Worth. It was a kind of dispute over money, someone brought a gun to a knife fight and that was all. It was just Gabe and Ike, the youngest. An artist and possible meth addict. Ike played in the beat scene revival in Deep Ellum in the mid eighties. Played Club Dada in the Private Affairs Off The Rack Beat Club, short sharp haircuts and Daltry sunglasses and tambourine. Button up form fitting man blouses and skin tight tailored pants and two eye shoes with leather strings. Pink blush and eyeliner and hair product. Sharp dressed creep with hippest shake in the city. They played big old Gretsch and Silvertone guitars, up right slap basses and washboards and harmonicas. White hot lights and blues. They recorded a wax single, already becoming an outmoded medium, and called it "Make Me Famous ('Cuz I Wanna Get Down)". It sold well in the record stores and got late night airplay and let them open for the Butthole Surfers and The Reverend Horton Heat. They sputtered out in the early nineties as a result of grunge and bad coke. Ike put together Th' Get Down Go as a final attempt to capture London in 1966 and transport it to modern Dallas. The scene split, far out Rockabilly and a new, muscular, aggressive and thoughtless heavy metal were winning out. At that point, Ike had already gotten into drugs and selling his guitars to get them. Thought he would write it all down and get rich one day.

Gabe worked in the filing office for his father for a full decade before he inherited the business. He promptly sold the dealership and bought Ike out of the deal. Paid his mortgage on his Lewisville single family 1/2 acre with half and put the rest in Sulpher Springs real estate. He was finally going to build his shrine to loneliness. This house was his and nothing invented after 1965 would come near it. His children were told they were not allowed to understand their father's actions. Rotary phone, jiffy pop and cut-out blue and green rabbit ear TV reception. Hank Williams records and a dog and a rocking chair that he wished he had built. His wife Cynthia and his small son and tall 10 year old daughter were auxiliary characters who seemingly never stopped talking or failing to clean up after themselves. It was a constant, out-loud yearning for the video store and the snow cone stand. A pizza for petesakes, it's Saturday Night and we are kids! Never one to concede, Gabe would offer them the alternative of 6 consecutive hours of silence and darkness and heat under the porch the next morning in exchange for movies and pizzas. They could not bring the dog. The dog was his own and the children loved her more than they did their father. They wished so much that Lily would be allowed to play with them in the lot behind the kitchen. When the children did take Lily with them to the field, they were extended the end of Gabe's belt. Once, his son Mitchell threw a small stone at Gabe, hitting him in the eye and cracking his sunglasses. The man walked over to his son, pinched his clavicle and spit on the boy's forehead. He said "You are not my son any longer, you monster" and pushed him into the dirt with the force of an angry grown man.

The original plan for the ranch was going to be that the Farmers would become permanent residents, keeping their suburban Dallas place for relatives to stay in. None of Cynthia's siblings had ever moved out of their mother and father's house in Richardson. After two weeks, Cynthia and the children hated the place. Hated the look of the town. There was one store and almost no pavement. The store sold guns and live bait and liquor in small bottles and beer in giant cans and magazines with fully nude young women on the cover performing fellatio. The family wanted to leave, but Gabe would always say that he loved it here and they can all go to hell or Dallas or both if they liked. After a few days, people at the store were asking about the family. Generally at first. Then, eventually, they had to pretend to idly inquire about the actual, physical whereabouts of the two kids and the woman. These were the customers, the man behind the counter, the old black and indian woman who used to know the man who lived in the barn room on Family Life Ranch when it was built. Then it was the sheriff, Doc Calhoun. The called him Ducky and he was a handsome, mid-thirties tough guy with merchant marine tattoos and a gray tinted pompadour. Mirrored glasses and a tight undershirt under his brown uniform. He came around to the ranch for some iced tea because he was out checking out a guy living on the lake on the next plot. Gabe was able to calmly and effectively explain the whereabouts of Cynthia and Sarah and Mitch. He had a receipt for a greyhound ticket stub back to Dallas, June 14th, one adult and two children. Every Summer henceforth, the family stuck around for a dozen or so days and then went back home, leaving Gabe alone until almost Fall.

1998 was a banner year for Sulpher Springs, some kind of anniversary of some city councilman's birthday party. The whole 6 block downtown was lit up like the Fourth of July from June first to August last. Gabriel arrived ahead of his family and bought a six pack of beer, a pound of bacon and a gallon of orange juice. He had brought the mason jar full of grain alcohol form Dallas to cut with the juice. This was a rich existence for a spartan, solemn man. He was like an owl all year and when he got to Sulpher Springs he hatched and laid his tense face muscles at ease. He strolled the yard with Lily, he read books he had started and forgotten. He relearned some of the old cowboy tunes he had picked up from Gene Autrey when he was being raised at an all day matinee. He and Lily ate pork and beans breakfast lunch and dinner and drank hot tap water and warm beer. His phone never rang. He wouldn't know if the thing was on the hook or not, he was a man on holiday. He was a Farmer with a farmer's tan, an old book, a badly out of tune Spanish parlor guitar and a good, sweet coon hound. He had transformed and was wholly at peace. At the end of the second week, Cynthia brought the children out to celebrate the Councilman Grey's Feast and Carnival.

The morning of the carnival, and Gabe was wide awake before the sunrise. Cynthia and the kids were sound asleep, not scheduled to wake and make their beds and report for breakfast and inspection until 7:30 since it was a Sunday. Coffee and toast and two pills he had received from his youngest brother 6 years before when he had to fly to Tulsa to inspect their Nissan warehouse. They may have been expired, but sometimes that increases the intensity of the pain killer. It had recently become a habit of his to wake up hours before the rest of the family. When questioned about this practice, Gabe would point toward the bookshelf and the bible and explain that he has been called early every morning to read the answers in that book. She was casting a stone when she had neglected her God and creator. He would walk the cemetery at the Baptist church and wonder how many were with sin when the roll was called up yonder. How many fornicators? How many bastards? How many negro teenagers who couldn't control themselves near a radio or a gun? He was becoming holier when his family was drifting into the river of souls that Satan rows with his pitchfork. It was a wide and inviting river of sloth and ineptitude, but Gabriel remained dry as the eyes of Mary when the Son of God was risen from his tomb. He would sit and plan and decide until the sun was high above the prairie brush and barbed wire. Finishing a pot of coffee, Gabe went around to the ancient and obnoxious avocado colored Frigidaire and searched for a Lone Star. He was a Shiner man, but not right after breakfast. Usually with dinner or after making love with Cynthia. He used to allow her a cigarette if she did as she was told in the bedroom. He was given total power and it was mixed up with fear and sin and greed and hatred in his lust and she felt abandoned and forced. She tried to address his aggressive tendencies once, but the only result was that she no longer allowed any cigarettes. Coffee was next on the ticket if she wanted to push it. Their relationship was based on a crumbling and tentative exchange of shame and secrecy and punishment. He had forbidden everything except water to her when he thought that she was getting too fat. Despite his behavior toward her, she was beautiful like a statue. Perfect tan and wrinkles and sandy blond straight soft hair. She looked like the sun and Gabe was envious of her happiness and health. She had forgotten any love she may have felt in the early years of their marriage. She considers herself abstinent, and every time her husbands storms the temple and robs her, she is elsewhere. She is smiling and she is safe in another time of her life.

At 7AM, Gabriel returned from the churchyard, haunted and determined. His skin was a thin yellow from the dust that had blown over him and his tight jacket on the way home. He had worn his felt hat, the one with the hole in the crown. The one he thought made him look just like Jimmy Stewart. There was none of the every man in Gabriel's eyes or smile, he resembled the aged corpse of Stewart more than anything. He passed his house, let Lily off the chain and told her to run. When she did, he fired a shot into the brush after her. She screamed and yelped, but there was no sign that she was hit. He proceeded to the house.

No one was awake yet. It smelled like sweat. Gunpowder. Singed hairs and urine. The morning was incredibly hot for late June. Gabriel took off his hat and washed the dust off of his hands and face in the kitchen sink. Spaghetti-O's slid off his hand as he reached into the sink to find the rag. He fumed and smiled, grinding what was left of his molars. Mitchell, you are a bastard. You are a nothing and a mistake that I now will pay for in full. You will not have existed here, you were never welcome and now you may never leave. You are the floorboard, you are the grease on the ceiling and the sound of a little kid shrieking with horror. You will not be missed or ever thought of again, except by your clinging and braying older jack ass of a sister. She will join you here in the kitchen to receive all of the punishment a child who has undermined and calculated to destroy the few hours of peace a grown man was surely due in a hot, hard life time. She will bleed and scream and you will see it. You will be scalded and kicked by your sainted mother while I hold the broomstick to your Adam's Apple. You never deserved to receive my gray eyes because you only see green, you little bastard. You are jealous of me in my talent, in my control of your mother. My intelligence and my power to call to an end all that was created and nurtured by me alone. You will fall and your mother will not cry. She hated you children, and I hated her for bringing you here. Mitchell, you are first.

Just as the sun skirted and bounced off of the flat iron roof of the dog house, Gabriel stood up and dusted his hands off in the kitchen. He knew what was going to happen, and he knew well that the house and the family were insured against fires and accidents. The brush was dry, the sun too intense, East Texas was in a record drought. Who would search for bodies and bones in a wild fire? They would find too many gone to account for all. Gabe picked up the mallet Cynthia used to smash chicken bones to dust to keep Lily from choking. It was light, but it would move swiftly and Mitchell's head was soft and blond and fair. He stretched his arms and made a mock swinging motion with the hammer and sauntered tiredly towards the room with the bunk beds and stuffed bears. A flash of light appeared in Gabriel's eyes, blindingly white and piercing.

"I think he's awake now!"

"No, he's alive still but he can' hear you"

Yes I can. I can hear you. Who are you?

As suddenly as the light had appeared, it was switched off. Gabe was back standing in Mitchell's room, panting and sweatier now. He felt the hammer begin to slide from his grip, but he tightened the sweaty claw around the handle again. The boy was stirring, minutes from waking. Not today, my son. My beautiful and strong blond baby. Today is your last and then you will sleep forever and never think of me or your family again. I will not miss you, I will remember you. Or the other way around. I don't know, but now it is time, Son. It's time, Mitchell.

"WAKE UP, GABE!"

"MR. FARMER! YOU HAVE BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT. THERE WAS A FIRE. WE CANNOT FIND CYNTHIA OR THE CHILDREN"

The light was brighter now, and hot. It punched a hole in Gabe's head, making him see only the inside of his eyelids moving around like they had never opened, still in the womb.

I see it. I am on the floor and I am on fire.

No I am not, I can't be. I am with the children, in their bedroom. It's morning time and there are things to do today.

The light was gone, and Mitchell was awake like a rooster. DAD! and then Gabe's hand swung around like a switchyard post and flattened the small boy's right temple. A volcano of black liquid was oozing from the hole and the teeth chattered. The boy convulsed like he was being electrocuted and finally he wheezed out a curse and spat a tooth. The hammer had fallen. Sarah had not been disturbed. He inched over to her bed and took off his belt.

"Gabriel! Wake up, pal! It's Ducky! We're going to find your family and the whole town is gonna help out buddy! Breath for me, Farmer, god damn it!"

He was back in the bedroom. The belt wrapped too tightly around both hands. This little bitch was always screaming about something or someone, only a little girl but already filled with the lust of her mother and the loose morals as well. He knew about the records, made by silly boys who girls wanted to kiss and date. They had no respect for god or family or leading little children into a world of noise and Sex. And there would be boys and drugs and fighting. Sarah was always a noisy and bad little girl. She attempted to kill herself and Lily in a barn fire last summer, but Mitchell and Cynthia took the blame and sheltered and coddled her. Transpire, you fucking coven. Gabriel would allow righteous condemnation from his lips and mind only, and he locked it up inside until it was proper for him to curse these foul idiotic distractions. Judgment was near and this Gabriel was now Abraham and Isaac in one.

"We're losing him! Get water! Can he drink it? Get water, now!"

"He's beginning to cough it up. Smoke! In his mouth, there's still black smoke!"

I am alive. I have leveled my field and I am harvesting now. Early harvest and a long summer of relaxing. These bodies are food for rats and that dog if she would starve. If she would run she would live, but my home is now gone and I wait for God. Gabriel, open my eyes and see your home and see your god.

He opened his eyes, gray and pink and covered up in soot. He saw nothing at first but the sky. There was a half moon and he was all alone. He did not move, could not even try. Up in the pale violet sky a perfect waxy yellow half moon and a necklace of sparkling stars and planets. In his right eye, he kept the moon. In his left played scenes of the day, directly split like the playback screen on a football game. In his right ear he heard small sounds have snakes and crackling campfires. In his left ear, he heard Lily yapping and screaming and scratching down the door. Cynthia was holding a hammer and laughing and the children were nowhere to be seen.

By Michael Mccullagh - Songwriter. Writing about songs. Writing songs. Living the summer life, looking around through tinted shades and letting everyone know how I get down. There is too much to enjoy to cover it all here. Ju...  

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