June 25, 2012
Steve Cartwright “It’s well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so I’m typing this with one hand while pummeling my head with a frozen mackerel with the other. I’ve done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling – but mostly drooling – on tavern napkins.” He has also created art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. I was awarded the 2004 James Award for my cover art for Champagne Shivers. I recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: _www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright_
TO MARILYN MATTHEWS
your father had given you the blood and last name of Thomas More and your mother what had taken a breast from you and hidden with it but you were not remiss trying meditation and catholicism and sweat lodge anything to wash you rid of it that you not have to have a next appointment you were only coming a bit weakened out of the last when we met and I from a night of my own we both emergent into entire day on the plateau I wanting fire time in the high desert had taken to trails had joined and begun to love a shadowy woman friend of yours there who invited me to hike with you and another in Abineau Canyon and Bear Jaw on the north flank of the peaks June heat and drought did not reach where we went dancing up with you a quick and intent slight woman of laughter that knew which boots to wear and the way to achieve a mountain did psychotherapy for a living knew how to talk and would talk of it too we got to quakenasp every other leaf on them in direct sun and you called thank you god in joy it had to have been that you and I would revisit on our own later to hold colloquy about metempsychosis and young Everett Reuss who had fused with the nature he loved and you thought of the holied ones saying goodbye to vivid earth in the knowledge they would not come round again and we did not mention Edward Abbey’s or any name when I was looking you had and did not rent a room to me which sort of educated my liking and you had had reconstruction and worried what a man would think but we took hikes together in the hardpan country often on the Weatherford road to Doyle Saddle keeping up with you I would write was like chasing fritillaries you were that good on the vivid earth we inhabited at our one time and could see from such height you had me to dinner on Thanksgiving and the two children you had left in New Mexico on running away with your profession two other men at the table to rival me I thought but you gave me the head of it refilling my glass with wine you did not drink anymore letting the children know how you wanted them to vote nothing would come of you and me however beyond a hug and a long impromptu monsoon-evening talk when I worked on the Navajo Nation every thirteen- hour day a lifetime I needed of red dirt of Indian chatter anglo country on kay-tee-en- en maybe like the holied ones on their goodbye round we had a knowledge we did not have to say only act on and I might even have been fearing night as I got in with a redhead saltimbanque whom you had seen and warned me of whom I enjoyed and suffered in the only more time on earth that would have remained to you and me might have been cathexis not fear when I heard it had come to you again I wanted day so much that kept me not with you we did meet in a hospital waiting room and one afternoon you had a turban on were puffy I took you to the mesa walking rather than hiking but we hiked on the south Wilson Mountain trail with a group you and your nurse not making it to first bench the autumn under way in Verde Valley and later you in the restaurant joking who drove to the agency every day to talk with clientele I ran into you out on the avenue and said we ought to get together averted nod at the car door no talking or look but on another street in February a honk a wave a smile from the same car moving and in a week the word you had had to go in had said you were tired of this they were not letting nonfamily visit I tried to get to you one evening the next morning and another day could not late night a ting-ringing in my ear might have prepared me for the news to come Marilyn but I have not been knowing of such am not your children and brother were taking your ashes to the mountain we would have known where to find her anyway I wrote to our circle as we got out of your memorial meeting it hailed
Rodney Nelson work began appearing in mainstream journals long ago; but he turned to fiction and did not write a poem for twenty-two years, restarting in the 2000s. So he is both older and “new.” See his page in the Poets & Writers directory
for a notion of the publishing history. He has worked as a copy editor in the Southwest and now lives in the northern Great Plains. Recently, his poem “One Winter” won a Poetry Kit Award for 2011 (U.K.); it had appeared in Symmetry Pebbles. His “Upstream in Idaho” received a Best of Issue Award at the late Neon Beam (also England). The chapbook Metacowboy was published in 2011, and another title, In Wait, is due this year.
He called himself THE INLAW. Rolled from town to town in either a beat-up Buick or a crippled brown mare, depending on which version of the legend you believed. Road up and down the streets, pilfering possessions and identities out of mailboxes.
He was Bigfoot. Never fully captured on film, little variations in all the descriptions. A man of such infamy should’ve been apprehended. We were talking millions of federal offenses.
One day I heard the clomp clomp clomp down my street. There he was, on a crippled brown mare, tattered white sack overflowing from his shoulder. The horse moved slowly, but THE INLAW was practically a flash. Hand in and out of each mailbox before you could even recognize he’d taken anything.
He was on the other side of the street, but I knew he’d make his way over to my house. I figured I had plenty of time to plan my action since he probably did a big loop, but I didn’t think it was as simple as running and grabbing the mail before he got there. Sure, that would prevent him from grabbing my bills or the nude mags that usually came on that day, but didn’t I also have a duty to my fellow citizens?
I shuddered on the porch as I watched him slink from box to box. Even though there was nothing singularly terrifying about the man, the whole situation creeped me out. No matter how many boxes he visited, the sack never grew, but I watched him put countless items in it.
I stepped off the porch and marched past rows of daisies to my own mailbox. Just as I was planning my big intervention, my citizen’s arrest, THE INLAW pulled a quick U-turn and called out, “Hold on there, partner.” I tried to avoid eye contact, hoping he was talking to the horse, but curiosity eventually got the best of me. It always does. THE INLAW was staring straight at me, surprising warmth on his smiling face.
“Just stay right where you are,” he said with a policeman’s “stop” gesture.
I bolted for the mailbox. It was the boldest move I’d ever made, and I hoped it wouldn’t be my last. Somehow THE INLAW and his sloth of a horse beat me there, almost like they teleported. The horse bit at my reaching hand.
“I told you to hold on,” THE INLAW said, smile still covering his face.
I pissed myself right in front of them. There was nothing else I could’ve done. They had me and I knew I was a goner. I deserved that final moment of relief.
While I was soaking my lower half, THE INLAW reached in his hand and dropped a handful in the sack.
“The rest is yours,” he said. “And if you ever tell anyone about this…” he warned before riding the mare to the next mailbox. When I looked to my left, sure enough, they were riding off into the sunset.
Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His story “The Oaten Hands” was named one of 190 notable stories by storySouth’s Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, is was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing, and his first novella, Hallways and Handguns, is due out this spring. Visit him at http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm.
A lariat, some lines and rope kinda frayed,
Was discussin’ their uses, how they was played,
When out of collection of some tack in a bin
Another voice piped up, “I don’t mean to butt in,
But fellas , don’t forget the handy piggin.
For ropin’ to tie down, say at brandin’ time,
Aint nothing better you could ever find
Than seven short feet of good piggin string
Tossed round them hooves for a mighty tight sling.
Straighten’ a post that’s been set in soft sand?
Piggin’s as good as another cowhand.
Five miles out and your bridle reign snaps?
Just reach for that piggin tied to your chaps.
He aint long like a lariat, nor strong like a bull,
But the piggin’s always good for a short quick pull.
And a quick mend on the range for plenty of things
Like chokers and chinches, breechins and reigns.
So when dishin’ out praises to long braided things
Remember those handy sweet piggin strings.
Gary Ives is a retired Navy chief- lives in the Ozarks with his wife and two big dogs where he writes and grows apples. His short stories have recently appeared in Frontier Tales, Tales of Old, Hisstories, The Rusty Nail, Efiction, and Freedom Fiction.