"Sounds like you daddy was a hero," Emmett Long said.
"I'm not done," Carlos said. "After the war my dad came back home and brought my mother with him when Oklahoma was still Indian Territory. She died having me, so I never knew her. I never met my dad's mother, either. She's Northern Cheyenne, lives on a reservation out at Lame Deer, Montana," saying it in a voice that was slow and calm compared to what he felt inside. Saying, "What I want to ask youif having Indian blood, too, makes me something else besides a greaser." Saying it in Emmett Long's face, causing this man with ice cream on his mustache to squint at him.
"For one thing," Emmett Long said, "the Indin blood makes you and your daddy breeds, him more'n you." He kept staring at Carlos as he raised the cone, his little finger sticking out, Carlos thinking to lick it again, but what he did was toss the cone over his shoulder, not looking or caring where it would land.
It hit the floor in front of Junior Harjo just then walking in, badge on his tan shirt, revolver on his hip, and Carlos saw the situation turning around. He felt the excitement of these moments but with some relief, too. It picked him up and gave him the nerve to say to Emmett Long, "Now you're gonna have to clean up your mess." Except Junior wasn't pulling his .38, he was looking at the ice cream on the linoleum and Mr. Deering was calling to him about his mother's medicine and about raiding stills and Emmett Long was turning from the counter with the Colt in his hand, firing, shooting Junior Harjo and stepping closer to shoot him again.
There was no sign of Mr. Deering. Jim Ray Monks came over to have a look at Junior. Emmett Long laid his Colt on the glass counter, picked up the cash in both hands and shoved the bills into his coat pockets before looking at Carlos again.
"You said something to me. Geronimo come in and you said something sounded smart aleck."
Carlos said, "What'd you kill him for?" still looking at Junior on the floor.
"I want to know what you said to me."
The outlaw waited.
Carlos looked up rubbing the back of his hand across his mouth. "I said now you'll have to clean up your mess. The ice cream on the floor."
"It's what I said."
Emmett Long kept looking at him. "You had a gun you'd of shot me, huh? Calling you a greaser. Hell, it's a law of nature, you got any of that blood in you you're a greaser. I can't help it, it's how it is. Being a breed on top of itI don't know if that's called anything or not. But you could pass if you want, you look enough white. Hell, call yourself Carl, I won't tell on you."
Carlos and his dad lived in a big new house Virgil said was a California bungalow, off the road and into the pecan trees, a house that was all porch across the front and windows in the steep slant of the roof, a house built a few years before with oil moneythose wells pumping away on a half-section of the property. The rest of it was graze and over a thousand acres of pecan trees, Virgil's pride, land gathered over the years since coming home from Cuba. He could let the trees go and live high off his oil checks, never work again as long as he lived. Nothing doingharvesttime Virgil was out with his crew gathering pecans, swiping at the branches with cane fishing poles. He had Carlos tending the cows, fifty, sixty head of cross- Brahmas at a time grazing till they filled out good and Carlos would drive a bunch at a time to market in the stock trailer.
He told his dad every time he went to Tulsa some wildcatter would offer to buy his truck and trailer, or want to hire him to haul pipe out to the field. Carlos said, "You know I could make more money in the oil business than feeding cows?"
The foregoing is excerpted from The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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