The rooster was going off again at 5 in the morning. It was time to do something.
My feet plopped down on the cold hardwood floor. I jerked the rickety old windowsill upward and a few more flakes of peeling paint drifted through the air as the window finally shot upward. My well-worn cowboy boot made an excellent missile when I slung it out the opening at that damn crowing machine.
Cock-a-doodle-THUD! That shut the cheerful bastard up. But now I was awake, the damage was done. I looked balefully at the warm nest of covers and headed instead for the bathroom and the morning’s absolutions.
The perculator started to bubble on top of the cook stove and I reached for the potholder to pour my first cup. Today was the day. The bank wasn’t about to extend my loan one day further. I’d never been behind on a single payment before, you’d think the greedy swine could give me a break. Old Crenshaw knew I hadn’t been able to ride in any rodeos since that last bull ride had damn near broke my back.
Water. Dripping, Dripping. Dripping. She was slowly losing her mind, she told me later. And I couldn’t blame her. The plumbing in this old farmhouse had driven me to drink on more than one occasion. It was bound to be something simple like that damn leaky sink. The straw that broke the camel’s back. She’d moved out lock, stock, and barrel while I was gone to Houston. Where the world’s meanest bull had made sure it was my last rodeo.
The coffee had grown cold and I set the mug in the chipped porcelain sink with last night’s dirty dishes. Back in the bedroom, I pulled on my stained jeans and my last clean tee shirt. With one boot on I cursed loudly when I remembered tossing the other boot out the window. I looked out and that damn rooster was looking right at me with his head cocked to one side, his beady black eyes gleaming maliciously.
I gazed thoughtfully at the mark on the door after I closed it behind me for the final time. Pappy had told me the story about that mark hundreds of times. I could see him sitting in his rocker there on the weathered porch, a hand-rolled cigarette dangling off his lip, a jug of bootleg whiskey at his feet. I hated when he got around to that story because it always pissed him off with the telling. I hated, even more, being the only one around when Pappy got pissed off.
The butcher knife that left that mark was buried in the pine box with the mother that I never knew, seeing as how she died that night when I was only two years old. Pappy said the undertaker tried to talk him out of it, but couldn’t nobody talk Pappy out of nothin’ when his mind was made up.
The bank could have this old place and all the memories that went with it. I hot-footed it over the bare dirt yard and retrieved my boot under the watchful eye of the strutting rooster. My old clunker pickup coughed and spluttered it's way to life on the third turn of the key. I sent up a silent prayer that she’d hold together long enough to get me on down the road. It was long past time to move on.
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