Billy the kid rode up on his bike, called the kid because of his narrow shoulders the way white kids from Indiana have them. He rode up clenching a photo of his girl between his sweaty palm and old worn rubber handle bar grip. The streamers his bike used to have had long since flown off. He rode up to Crawlin’ Jack, spit the extra saliva from his cheek due to the sour gum kids liked and held out the photo where Jack could see it good. Jack said, “Yeah, she’s pretty. Is she nice to you?” Billy nodded as all resistance escaped the edges of his mouth. “So what’s her name Billy?” Billy said, “Rosario.”
Crawlin’ Jack was the authority in the neighborhood and his approval was enough for Billy to keep on riding out where the Mexican kids went to school, out to where they ran around to play. Billy rode up to the tall fair skinned girl. He had a squint due to the sun’s low angle and said, “Hey Rosario, como estas?”
The Story of Crawlin’ Jack
Jack hiked the cave trails and one day the son of a bitch fell from a rock strewn path falling down about fifteen feet breaking his legs. Jack crawled a mile out to the highway. A delusional cart pushing homeless lady kept him company until a car stopped to see what the matter was. That guy in the car started the name Crawlin’ Jack. His mom had always called him Cheater Jones, after his father who had run off long ago. He preferred Jack.
The Reverend Jones, now you should understand, just as many folks took his side as did that hollerin’, yellin’ woman he had that boy with. The boy, Jack was an ashy faced, skinned knee crier before the Rev had it in him to leave one day. He took the money from the coffer and, yeah he paid a whore to go with him, that much is true. But it has to be said, for better or worse and despite the Rev’s credit, Jack turned into a fine reliable young man.
Thistle embedded on Crawlin’ Jack’s sole worn gym shoes made a dirty crunching sound as he snuck in his house. That was enough for his mother to start her rant. Jack pulled at the stickers thinking of how all that crossed so far from somewhere else, he was not sure, but he knew it was not a native weed, how something unwanted thrived in the desert. Jack stayed quiet, like before when Billy the kid showed him that photo. He knew Rosario’s name before he asked. He had met her before. He knew just what Billy was feeling and he hoped the best for them.
Jack Jones died. Jack Jones is a good name, remembered the old man who still had that old car, the way cars were before push buttons controlled basic mechanical functions and cool air became a standard feature, making life a little easier to bear I guess. He smiled, remembering Crawlin’ Jack. The old man was typical for a black man out in west Texas. Some say, he worked as a traveling pharmacist. He had been a ball hero during his school days and spent some time in the military. He went back to the old neighborhood at times to bring things like blankets, coats or floor fans to the poorer families he knew. He liked sitting around the downtown bar hearing stories from Reverend Jones and the day laborers coming in from their god awful livings. The day he found Jack by the side of the road was the only time he ever really talked to Jack. But, that was enough. He called him Crawlin’ which was better than Cheater and whenever he came in town, long after the Rev skipped out, he would retell stories the Rev had said about Jack, even making up a few, of good things he’d done. That was enough to get Jack his reputation as such a good guy. That’s all it took I guess. A good word from a good man. Well Jack did the rest. He made a good account not knowing much about the old man. The man battled dementia but knew Jack did one good last thing before he died. He forgave his dad. Even saved his life.