A Glibertarians Exclusive: Marilee – Part II
On a warm, dusty afternoon, two skinny young men in jeans, cotton work shirts and leather boots perched on two bar stools. In front of them were two lukewarm schooners of pale beer. As the barroom clock struck two in the afternoon, the taller of the two raised his beer. “Well, happy birthday, buddy.”
Coy McAlester clinked his schooner against his buddy Paul Welton’s. “Thanks. Twenty-one at last, can you believe it?”
“At least now you can drink legally.” Paul took a pull at his own mug. “Not that it’s any big deal. The Long Haul here is the only bar in town.” The bar stood on the dusty corner of South St. Mary’s Street and West Rice Street and was in fact the only establishment of its kind in the tiny east Texas town.
“Ain’t much of a town,” Coy agreed.
“Least you can vote now. Gonna pick old FDR this November?”
“Hell, he’s gonna win anyway.” Coy took another drink and lit a Chesterfield. “Doesn’t much matter if I vote for him or some other asshole. Too bad he’s just itching to get us into that war in Europe, but no way he’d be that stupid.”
“Say,” Paul said, “you were pretty sweet on Marilee Peyton back in school, right?”
“Fat lot of good it did me. She was as good as hitched to Jim Gompers already even then, and a bigger asshole never lived. Weren’t out of school two weeks before they were married. Hear he likes to slap her around.”
“So, you ain’t heard the latest?”
Coy turned to look at his friend. “What latest?”
“Guess he give her two black eyes, so she went on home to her folks. Jim’s been saying he ain’t letting her leave, but her Dad’s got her in his house, and said he’d shoot Jim if he comes around. Reckon that whole thing ain’t gonna end without someone getting aerated.”
“Could have told her it’d end up like that.” Coy had exchanged blows with James Gompers more than once back in high school, and there was still no love lost between them.
“Well, there’s a lawyer involved now. Marilee’s old man’s paying for it.”
“Hmph.” Coy stared moodily into his beer. “Lawyers never did no one no good.”
“Ain’t easy getting dee-vorced,” Paul pointed out. “Not in Texas. But that’s what she’s doing.”
“Is she now?” Coy took a long drink of beer. “Ain’t that something?”
When Coy left the tavern an hour later, he decided on a sudden urge to drop by the Peyton house. The Peyton property was on the edge of town, so Coy climbed in his somewhat bedraggled ’24 Hudson for the short drive over.
When he knocked on the door, Marilee herself answered. “Coy, isn’t it?” she asked. “Coy… McAlester, right?”
Coy frowned. Marilee’s pretty, heart-shaped face was marred, not only by two black eyes but a wide purple bruise that covered the left side of her face. But she was composed, neatly dressed, her red hair nicely done up.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Coy replied. He looked down at the floorboards of the porch. “Heard you was having some trouble with your husband. You know, bad news travels fast in a small town. I recollected you from school, and thought I’d stop and see anything I can do to help.”
Marilee’s eyes opened a little wider. “Why would you want to help me, Coy?”
Coy continued to examine the boards of the porch until Marilee said, “Coy. You can look at me, you know. Why would you want to help me?” she repeated.
Coy looked up. “Well,” he said, slowly, “I recollected you from school, like I said. Seen you around some since. Always figured you for a fine gal, you want to know the truth, and honestly never thought much of Jim Gompers. That whole family always did think way too much of themselves.”
“And when someone needs help, you help them?”
“Something like that.”
Marilee looked over her shoulder, once, quickly. “Let’s sit on the porch swing,” she offered.
Once Coy was seated, nervous and uncomfortable, too close to Marilee on the narrow swing, she began to speak in a low voice.
“Jim, he’s saying he’ll never agree to a divorce. No way he’s going to let me go. Daddy hired a lawyer, but he’s all the way over in San Antonio, and if this all goes to court, he’ll charge Daddy an arm and a leg to drive all the way from San Antonio to Falfurrias to be at the hearings.”
“And the fact that Jim’s been knocking you around, that just don’t count for nothing?”
“That’s how it looks,” Marilee said softly.
Coy turned and looked at Marilee. “You’re lucky to have your folks to help. My folks, well, you know, they been gone some time now. It’s just me.” I got nobody, he said to himself.
Coy had never noticed how green her eyes were, but he did notice not that they were shining with moisture. “So,” he went on, “he ain’t gonna let you go. Not unless someone gives him a damn good reason. Am I reading that right?”
“Where’s he at now?”
“Probably at his house,” Marilee said. “He usually gets home about four. Clock in the house rung four just before you pulled up.”
“Will you come for a ride with me, Marilee?” Coy held up both hands. “No funny business, I promise. Just a ride. I bet I can convince Jim Gompers that he ought to let you go.”
“All right,” she breathed. “Let me tell my Ma.”
By the time Coy pulled his old Hudson to a stop in front of Jim Gompers’ cheap clapboard house a mile out of town, he had worked himself up to a pretty good rage. Marilee had ridden along, silently, but the bruised side of her face was turned towards Coy, and whenever he caught a glimpse of her, there was that ugly purple-yellow splash on her profile.
My Pa was a drunk, Coy reminded himself, and a skunk. Kilt Ma in a car crash when he was drunk, left me alone when I was seventeen. But he never slapped Ma around. Never laid a finger on his family. What he hell kind of a man does that?
Coy got out of the Hudson and said only two words to Marilee: “Wait here.” He opened one of the back doors, extracted a long, heavy pick handle. Marilee, watching, let out a gasp, but said nothing.
Coy walked to the front door of the cheap three-room shack. Holding the pick handle hidden behind his skinny right leg, he pounded three times on the cheap panel door.
Jim Gompers opened the door. He looked heavier than Coy remembered him; paunchy, his face puffy. He was still wearing his overalls from his job at the lumber mill south of town and clutched a whisky bottle in his puffy right fist.
“McAlester, ain’t it?” Gompers demanded. “What the fuck do you want?”
“You’re gonna leave Marilee alone,” Coy demanded. “You’re gonna let her go, Jim. You’re done making trouble for her.”
“Oh, yeah? Why? She’s fucking you now, I suppose?”
Coy’s reply was swift. He swung the pick handle through a short, sharp arc into Jim Gompers’ ample gut. Gompers doubled over, his wind leaving him with a sharp whuff. Coy swung again, slamming the pick handle into Gompers’ arm. The upper arm bone broke with a dull crack.
“You’re gonna leave her alone, you hear?” Coy snapped. Gompers collapsed into a fetal huddle on the floor just inside the door. He nodded, painfully. “You’re gonna let her have the divorce, you got that?” Gompers nodded again. “If you don’t, if you back out, you’ll get more of this.” Coy shook the pick handle and was brutally satisfied to see Gompers flinch. “Good. I better not have to tell you again.”
He turned then and stalked back to his Hudson, leaving Gompers curled on the floor. He tossed the pick handle into the back seat and climbed in behind the wheel. “Reckon he won’t cause you any more trouble now,” he said. Marilee nodded, her green eyes wide and luminous.
Coy drove her back to her parent’s house without another word.
The next morning, as he was enjoying an idle Sunday, Coy was surprised by a knock on the door of the two-room house he had inherited from his dead parents. He opened the door and was even more surprised to see a disheveled Marilee Peyton standing there, a big carpetbag in her hand.
“What’s going on?” he wanted to know.
“Jim’s dead,” Marilee said without preamble. “Burst his spleen when you clubbed him. Coy, he told his folks what happened before he died. They swore out a warrant against us both. We have to get out of here, Coy, they’ll be coming to arrest us.”
“Shit.” Coy’s brain kicked into high gear. He stood still for a moment, thinking very quickly. “We ain’t got many options. Can’t say as I want to go to prison for that son of a bitch. Come in,” he said. “I ain’t got nothing. Won’t take me a minute to toss some stuff in a bag. We’ll head west. That is,” he stopped to look at Marilee, “if you want to come along?”
Marilee took Jim’s hand. “You did all this for me,” she said. “I won’t bail out on you now.”
Coy grinned. “Let’s be careful saying things like ‘bail out,’ all right?”
They headed west in the old Hudson. Both of them let out an audible sigh of relief when they passed a sign noting that they had left Brooks County for Jim Hogg County. Still anxious, they drove on through the night. Marilee slept for a while, her head on Coy’s shoulder, the soft scent of her hair filling Coy’s world.
Always was sweet on her, Coy reminded himself. Looks like we’re together now, but never saw it happening like this.
They made it almost as far as Fresno when the Hudson’s motor died. A loud clank announced the broken engine block. When Coy looked underneath, he saw the stream of engine oil rapidly running out of the fractured engine; the Hudson’s traveling days were done.
“Leave it here,” Coy advised. He removed the Texas plates from the old car and, digging with his hands, buried them in a gully. “We’re about a mile outside of town, more or less. Let’s walk.”
“What are we going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” Coy said. “I just don’t know. I still have about fifty bucks left. Let’s get into town, get us a place to sleep, and maybe I can find some sort of work.”
They walked on, hand in hand, through the growing dusk.
“It’s a month today,” Marilee observed.
“A month today?” Coy asked.
“Since… what happened. With Jim.”
“Oh.” Coy chewed on that for a moment. Wherever he had seen his life going, being on the run for an unintentional murder certainly hadn’t made the list. “There’s a diner,” he pointed out, wanting to change the subject. “Let’s get a bite to eat.”
Halfway through their meal the radio behind the counter started announcing the news, and Coy’s hands froze, his roast-beef sandwich halfway to his mouth:
In national news, a five-state manhunt continues for accused murderer Coy Walton McAlester, from Falfurrias, Texas. McAlester is wanted for the murder of Jim Gompers, also of Falfurrias. He was last sighted in a 1925 or 1925 Hudson auto, headed west. He is presumed to now be in Arizona or California.
Marilee’s eyes went wide. “Coy,” she said. “What do we do?”
“Keep quiet,” Coy said. “Finish eating, nice and easy, like.”
They finished their meal in silence. Coy left fifty cents on the table with a dime tip for the tired, overworked waitress. They went outside into the night.
Coy stood on the sidewalk for a few moments, thinking very rapidly. He looked up and down the street, then pulled out his wallet and counted the remaining money they had left.
“They only mentioned me in that radio announcement,” he said at least. “Nothing about you.”
“So, it means they’re only looking for me. You can’t go back, Marilee; the folks there have to know you left with me, and they’d squeeze you until you told them where I’d gone. Here, take this; it’s forty-eight bucks, all I got left. There’s a boarding house down the street – see? Go there, take a room. This here diner, they got a sign says they want a waitress, and that old lady in there looks like she could use the help.”
“Coy,” Marilee objected, “I can’t leave you. Not like this. You’re in this because of me! You did this all for me!”
“That’s just it, honey, I ain’t done doing it yet. Now do as I say. Get on down to that boarding house and come down here in the morning and get you a job. I’ll find you when I figure how to get shut of all this.” He grabbed her hand. “You hear me? I’ll find you. This is best for now, honey. It ain’t fair and it ain’t easy, but this has to be it for now.”
He kissed her quickly and turned to walk away. He stopped when he heard her voice.
“We’ll meet again, Coy. On this street or some other. We’ll find each other again.”
Coy just nodded and walked away into the night.
She was married when we first met,
Soon to be divorced.
I helped her out of a jam, I guess,
But I used a little too much force.
We drove that car as far as we could,
Abandoned it out West.
Split up on a dark sad night,
Both agreeing it was best.
She turned around to look at me,
As I was walking away
I heard her say over my shoulder,
“We’ll meet again someday,
On the avenue”
Tangled up in blue.