His father laughed silently. Then he fell to coughing. He took a drink of water and sat smoking and shaking his head.
Buddy when he come back from up in the panhandle told me one time it quit blowin up there and all the chickens fell over.
The waitress brought their coffee. Here you go, doll, she said. I'll have your all's orders up in just a minute.
She's gone to San Antonio, the boy said.
Dont call her she.
I know it.
They drank their coffee.
What do you aim to do?
She can go where she wants to.
The boy watched him. You aint got no business smokin them things, he said.
His father pursed his lips and drummed his fingers on the table and looked up. When I come around askin you what I'm supposed to do you'll know you're big enough to tell me, he said.
You need any money?
He watched the boy. You'll be all right, he said.
The waitress brought their dinner, thick china lunchplates with steak and gravy and potatoes and beans.
I'll get your all's bread.
His father tucked his napkin into his shirt.
It aint me I was worried about, the boy said. Can I say that?
His father took up his knife and cut into the steak. Yeah, he said. You can say that.
The waitress brought the basket of rolls and set it on the table and went away. They ate. His father didn't eat much. After a while he pushed the plate back with his thumb and reached and got another cigarette and tapped it against the lighter and put it in his mouth and lit it.
You can say whatever's on your mind. Hell. You can bitch at me about smokin if you want.
The boy didnt answer.
You know it aint what I wanted dont you?
Yeah. I know that.
You lookin after Rosco good?
He aint been rode.
Why dont we go Saturday.
You dont have to if you got somethin else to do.
I aint got nothin else to do.
His father smoked, he watched him.
You dont have to if you dont want to, he said.
I want to.
Can you and Arturo load and pick me up in town?
What time'll you be up?
I'll get up.
We'll be there at eight.
I'll be up.
The boy nodded. He ate. His father looked around. I wonder who you need to see in this place to get some coffee, he said.
He and Rawlins had unsaddled the horses and turned them out in the dark and they were lying on the saddleblankets and using the saddles for pillows. The night was cold and clear and the sparks rising from the fire raced hot and red among the stars. They could hear the trucks out on the highway and they could see the lights of the town reflected off the desert fifteen miles to the north.
What do you aim to do? Rawlins said.
I dont know. Nothin.
I dont know what you expect. Him two years oldern you. Got his own car and everthing.
There aint nothin to him. Never was.
What did she say?
She didnt say nothin. What would she say? There aint nothin to say.
Well I dont know what you expect.
I dont expect nothin.
Are you goin on Saturday?
Rawlins took a cigarette out of his shirtpocket and sat up and took a coal from the fire and lit the cigarette. He sat smoking. I wouldnt let her get the best of me, he said.
He tipped the ash from the end of the cigarette against the heel of his boot.
She aint worth it. None of em are.
He didnt answer for a while. Then he said: Yes they are.
When he got back he rubbed down the horse and put him up and walked up to the house to the kitchen. Luisa had gone to bed and the house was quiet. He put his hand on the coffeepot to test it and he took down a cup and poured it and walked out and up the hallway.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...