Suspicion and Big Eddie is Dancing
On the first Tuesday of every month, another person in their small town was murdered. After each murder, Sergeant O'Malley assured the public that there was no cause for concern. He was on the case, gathering evidence, ruling suspects in or out, and in the meantime, everything was under control and the citizens should relax and go about their lives. Sergeant O'Malley, a reporter inquired, why is it always the first Tuesday of the month when someone is murdered? It seems odd on the surface, Sergeant O'Malley admitted, but when one digs deeper, it appears random. I assure the public that one could just as easily be murdered on a Monday or a Wednesday. But for many years after, someone was murdered in town on the first Tuesday of every month. As it was a small town, the population dwindled, and Sergeant O'Malley ruled out as suspects all those who had previously been murdered. He was close to cracking the case. Whoever was the last one left in town must be the guilty one. On the first Tuesday of the next month, he wandered alone through the abandoned town, and it became clear to him. He let himself into the empty police station and locked himself up alone in the jail.
Big Eddie is Dancing
I was just a kid then, but I remember Big Eddie dancing down by the corral at my father's ranch. It was Big Eddie's birthday. In a sing-song voice, he called out, I'm a hundred and one today, I'm a hundred and one.
The cowboys laughed. You're forty-five, one shouted.
You fool! another said.
Big Eddie didn't care. It was like no one else was there. He danced a sort of Irish jig, bouncing, twirling, kicking his heels, flailing his arms, throwing his chin to the clear sky, bucking like a Bronco after a snort of loco weed.
The dancing was funny at first and then it wasn't.
Come on, Big Eddie, the hands called, let's get to work before the boss gets mad.
Just then, the boss, my dad, came out of the main house. He frowned. He joined us near the corral.
He wasn't mad, but worried. I've seen this before, he said, down in Seguin. A cowboy danced for five days and then fell over and died.
What do we do, Boss?
Better let the cows out of the corral and have them run him over. It may kill him, but it will stop that dancing. It's a better way to go.
The men opened a gate and the cows flooded out. They knocked Big Eddie down and trampled him.
Big Eddie was one of my favorites. I bent over him. Are you okay, Big Eddie?
His head was bleeding and his eyes were glazed. No, I'm not okay. I've been run over by cows.
The men helped him into the bunkhouse. Big Eddie lay there going in and out of consciousness. My father called the doc to come from town.
Doc carried his black medical bag into the bunkhouse and came out a while later.
My father looked at him. Well?
He'll either make it or he won't, Doc said.
That's very informative, my father said. Thanks very much.
Doc shot him a look. You want to carry the stethoscope around here?
C'mon, Doc, my father said. We all know you're the best.
Doc sighed and looked around, observing the corrals, the house, the bunkhouse, the barn, all looking worse for wear, sun blown, wind damaged, tilted by time and gravity.
No, not the best, Doc said. Just familiar with the peculiarities of this place, the dark night of the soul in the West. Big Eddie knows that he will die with nothing, go to nothing and nowhere. This was his last hurrah.
My father cleared his throat. Better stick to fixing broken legs, Doc, things like that.
Doc tightened his hand on his medical bag. Sure, sure, and the men could use another deworming soon.
That's the right kind of stuff, Doc.
Big Eddie lay there for three days and three nights and then he went back to work. He stayed with us for thirty years, loyal, dependable, steadfast, but he never danced again.
Robert Garner McBrearty is the author of four collections of stories, most recently a collection of flash fiction When I Can't Sleep (Matter Press). His stories have appeared widely including in The Pushcart Prize, Missouri Review, Witness, Fiction, Laurel Review, New Flash Fiction Review and previously in Issue 58 of The Cafe Irreal. He's received various awards for his stories including a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award and fellowships from MacDowell and the Fine Arts Work Center. His new collection of stories is forthcoming in University of New Mexico Press.