Hud and Tuesday had one other child, a seventeen-year-old boy named Gatling, a real retro hipster with a slick pompadour, cuffed jeans, and dice tattooed on his bicep. Or at least, that was how he'd looked when last they had seen him. Since he'd vanished on the first hot day in May, they'd received only postcards; he was touring with a band called the Daughters of God, playing guitar and singing backup at revivals and fairs.
Gatling was the reason Hud and Tuesday had married so young, and he'd been a handful for years. Once last winter, practicing some new brand of discipline she had learned about at a seminar, Tuesday had locked Gatling out of the house for a few days for giving Nina a drink of his Windsor Canadian. "I knew she wouldn't like it," he'd said, and though it was only a tiny sip that had dribbled mostly down Nina's chin, it had been the last bit of badness Tuesday would allow. And that was when he had started spending so much time at the Lutheran church, hanging out with a group of Jesus freaks and driving into Omaha with them to hand out pamphlets in front of rock concerts.
Gatling had also taken to scarring and cutting himself, had even carved all nine letters of his ex-girlfriend's name across his chest in an act so romantically psychotic it had almost won him Charlotte back.
All Hud knew for sure was that so much had stopped seeming possible that afternoon in May when Gatling left. Hud remembered driving into the driveway, only seconds after Gatling had gone off for good on his Vespa, some ice cubes in the grass not yet melted despite the day's uncommon heat.
After dropping off the last of his costumed passengers, Hud went home to sit alone and compose some lyrics. Robbie Schrock's life seemed perfectly lived for a country song. Country songs, to Hud, were chronicles of destitution, haunted by beaten-dead wives and abandoned children. The key to an authentic country song, he thought, was to tell the story of a life lived stupidly and give it pretty strains of remorse.
Hud wrote: "He had the cheap kind of heart that broke when you wound it too tight." Then he wrote: "He got all turned around on what was supposed to be wrong and what was supposed to be right." Hud had spent many of the summer's days, the days following the finalization of his divorce, at his kitchen table writing songs and drinking Mogen David red like it was soda pop.
Hud climbed out through his window and up to his roof. The town square was usually quiet at night, but people continued to celebrate the execution of Robbie Schrock. The costumed children strung toilet paper in the trees on the courthouse lawn and knocked on doors for handfuls of candy. There were costumed adults on their way to parties: a man in a cape and top hat and white gloves alongside a woman wearing only a long red magician's box, her head and arms and feet sticking out, a saw stuck through the middle. A woman dressed as a nurse in blue jacket and white stockings pushed a pram jingling with bottles of liquor.
Hud, not amused, began to sing one of his more mournful songs, about a girl stung to death by wasps. He strummed a purple guitar. People passed in the street, but no one stopped to listen. No one wept for the man in the song sad about the death of his girl. No one even offered a knowing, sympathetic nod.
My neighbors hate me, Hud thought. They all knew and loved his wife. Tuesday taught art at the grade school, taught the town's children how to make tongue-depressor marionettes and abstract paintings using slices of old potato. And they hate me now, Hud thought, only because I'm without her.
From The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God by Timothy Schaffert. Copyright Timothy Schaffert 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Unbridled Books.
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