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Nothing to Lose

Jim Sanderson

Publication Year: 2014

Roger Jackson is a grouch. He drinks too much with the wrong sorts of people. He dislikes where he lives—Beaumont, Texas, a small, humid southeast Texas town caught between a marsh and an impenetrable forest, between racial and social strife, between rival versions of Jesus. He dislikes his job—taking photos of cheating spouses. He dislikes his past. (He could have been a lawyer.) And now, he finds himself entangled in a crime. 
When the police find an aging ex-hippie dead from bullet wounds to the head and torso, they find Roger’s photos and want his help. Surrounded by a cast of colorful characters, Roger must do his job while maneuvering around the dangerous agendas of those around him. But the greatest obstacle is the recurring cocaine trail leading to Jewel McQueen, a small-time crook, who is guarded by his sociopathic brother, Sunshine McQueen, who hears voices from Jesus, Satan, and his mother. Jewell will stop at nothing—even murder—to keep his demented brother out of prison.
Roger must leave the enclosed suburbs with their exclusive, prim, cleaned-up Jesus and cheap cocaine and liquor habits and, with his new partners, venture “behind the pine curtain,” into the deep Piney Woods with its wild, unruly Pentecostal Jesus and meth-lab economy and mentality.

Published by: TCU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Frontispiece

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-11

The good thing about Beaumont in September is that it isn’t Beaumont in August. September is mostly hot and muggy with air so thick you almost have to shove it up your nose with your thumb. August makes you wish you were dead, makes you forget what it is like to wear a clean, dry shirt, makes you believe that the true son of God is Willis Carrier, the man who invented practical air-conditioning. ...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 12-18

I live in a lease-to-own A-frame house down a road off Tram Road, then down another dirt road off that road. With the rain in Beaumont, I never had a hard time finding mud to camouflage my Toyota truck. And several times a year, with the dirt road in front of my house, I was just mudded in. ...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 19-24

As I pulled out of the Hudsons’ guarded community, I got a call from Amber’s principal. Amber was in the third grade and had just whipped some fourth-grade boy’s ass. Poor Amber was about to be suspended. Her school had a “zero tolerance” policy. Amber had requested that the principal call me instead of her mother. ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 25-30

Coming back from Amber’s school, I got caught in a traffic jam on College Street. It was an area of decent Mexican and Vietnamese restaurants, groceries, video stores, body shops, and used-tire stores in deserted service stations—and of course, now, blue roofs and hurricane damaged, deserted ex-businesses. ...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 31-45

Every year, I claim several professional expenses on my income taxes, but I rarely get more than the standard deduction. If I developed a little more interest in equipment, I might get some more deductions, but my computer and my digital camera were as high tech as I got. My living room served as my office. I needed my truck, of course. ...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 46-48

My mind was cluttered but my time was my own, and I had plenty of time to get to Nothing To Lose. So I drove around thinking. By four-thirty, I had an idea. I found myself pulling up to Amber’s day care. Amber had been serving out her suspension from school so probably had had only the younger kids to play with all day. ...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 49-56

Ridley and Edmore must have gotten caught in the rain. They smelled like wet leather. Zia was annoying them by talking about dirty pictures. Leroy was still talking to Shirley, even holding her hand. ...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 57-63

It wasn’t failing to find the answer that scared me. It was the answer that scared me. True, real, hard answers are always tough to live with, and always messy. As Emily had said, repeating my point, dumb criminals and crimes are easy, smart ones aren’t. ...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 64-70

Out of nostalgia or my sense of being a Texan, I drove down Congress Avenue for a view of the Capitol. I got stuck in the left lane trying to turn left against the damn-near-touching bumpers and drivers’ rage next to my fender. The rush hour traffic was not going to let me turn. There was no left turning lane in what used to be a wide avenue. ...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 71-78

D. Wayne’s mother, Ruthie, looked like a standing mop. Her limbs and trunk were straight and stick-like, and her hair twisted gray rope coils. I thought she might break if she moved too quickly, but she held her shoulders back as she kept a steady forward pace. ...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 79-88

Shirley and Leroy must have worked on their relationship. When I walked into Nothing To Lose, Shirley was nibbling on Leroy’s ear. Her nibbling fit: she was tall and horse faced. Leroy evidently accepted what he had in slow-witted, horse-faced, too-tall Shirley. No ambitions for what he could never achieve or deserve in Leroy. I envied him. ...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 89-96

I once drove to Big Bend just to see what that part of Texas was like. For a while I thought that I was on another planet. And once I got accustomed to the area, its deadliness, and its isolation, I knew that I was on another planet. The Chihuahuan desert, with its dry heat, flora, and fauna, can kill you. ...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 97-103

My partners got into only three fights with the rednecks behind the Pine Curtain. I had figured as much. They were like the canaries in the mineshaft, better them than me. Somebody in some broke-down store selling beer, tackle, Ding Dongs, reheated frozen pizza, deep-fried everything, and VCR tapes would no doubt say something. ...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 104-114

As my feet sank into the carpet of long, wet weeds instead of slapping gravel as they had two days before, my mind cooperated with my body. As old as I was, that still happened when I jogged. Sometimes. I pondered my plight in rhythm with my footfalls. ...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 115-122

It wasn’t just that Lumberton had abolished drinking, immorality, and sin from within its city limits that bothered me. It was that the Baptist populace tried so hard to be cute yet sophisticated. Lumberton started to boom when the first waves of white flighters left Beaumont in the early ’80s to escape Beaumont desegregation, some twenty years late in coming. ...

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Chapter 16

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pp. 123-135

I stopped at the juncture of Tram Road and the canal and waited for Emily Nguyen. The sun had brightened and dried the area, and I had stayed on the safe side of six or so beers the night before, so the wait was almost pleasant. ...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 136-143

Hardin County should give tours of its jail in Kountze to middle schoolers. That jail might scare them away from crime, or at least crime in Hardin County. When they grew up, the kids might then do their burglaries and drug dealing in Jefferson County, where the jail would be a lot more comfortable. ...

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Chapter 18

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pp. 144-152

The next morning my ribs and fingers throbbed so much that the ache knocked inside my head. After some grunts, I realized that the knock was outside my head as well. As best as I could, I pushed myself up from my bed. Walking toward the door I cussed my sloppiness, for each step over a shoe, pants, book, or magazine made some part of my side hurt. ...

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Chapter 19

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pp. 153-156

I waited for Jessica Hudson in the parking lot, right beside her Suburban, on the driver’s side door. Even though I was prepared, had girded my loins so to speak, I flinched when the horn sounded as she hit the remote to unlock it. With her arms full of books, she didn’t even notice me until she rounded the back end of the tall vehicle. ...

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Chapter 20

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pp. 157-164

When I walked into Nothing To Lose, Ridley and Edmore nodded to me in their quiet, dignified way. Both were in their leather and colors. Next to them, sucking up beer through a straw, was Bruce. His mouth never left the straw, but his eyes glanced up at me. True to his word, Bruce hadn’t shaved his head that day. ...

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Chapter 21

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pp. 165-170

We spent the next morning doing graduate-school work, boring library work, primary resource work, in the Hardin County Courthouse in Kountze. D. Wayne complained, “Why don’t we get out of this spooky building and go ask somebody something?” But Lee and I pushed ahead. We had started with a phone book and tore out the page with the McQueens. ...

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Chapter 22

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pp. 171-182

D. Wayne steered the four-wheel-drive pickup with both hands down an unpaved road as we bounced in water-filled potholes and slid in mud. Lee sat on the passenger side and watched ahead to spot holes and steer D. Wayne. I sat in the crew cab and, through the side window, watched the surrounding, suffocating trees and undergrowth. ...

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Chapter 23

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pp. 183-186

Houston, farther west, where the pine swamps and tallow marshes meet the more hospitable blackland prairies, should be the capital of the southeast edge of Texas’s Pine Curtain. But Houston, the city where I was raised, from its very founding was just too busy battling itself, too much a sprawling mess of businesses, suburbs, freeways, ethnic battlegrounds—all with no zoning laws—to be the capital of anything but its own wild lust for money and expansion. ...

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Chapter 24

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pp. 187-193

Well into that night and then the next morning, members of the Hardin-Jefferson-Orange County drug task force, deputies from the Hardin County Sheriff ’s Department, Emily Nguyen and other deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff ’s Department, and several Beaumont Police Department detectives questioned us. ...

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Chapter 25

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pp. 194-204

For a month I stayed close to Rachel and Amber. My mood and guilt matched the cooling weather. Finally, in late October, a norther passed through and made the weather actually stay cool, somewhere in the seventies, for several days. It actually made us believe that winter might be on the way. ...

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Chapter 26

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pp. 205-215

I walked into Nothing To Lose feeling as though I had crammed wads of tissue up into my nose. I wanted to heat up the tip of an ice pick and jam it up a nostril to loosen up the congestion. We had four cool, clear days. As punishment, the fall grasses excited my allergies. ...

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Chapter 27

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pp. 216-219

After three of Lynette’s heavy-hand drinks, the second act of my drama for the night walked in the door right on time. Rachel came in and immediately sniffed at the smell of cigarettes, piss, and stale beer. Welcome to my world. ...

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About the author

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pp. 220

Jim Sanderson has published two collections of short stories, Semi- Private Rooms and Faded Love (Finalist for the 2010 Texas Institute of Letters’ Jesse Jones Award for Fiction); an essay collection, A West Texas Soapbox; five novels—El Camino del Rio, Safe Delivery, La Mordida, Nevin’s History: A Novel of Texas, and Dolph’s Team. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780875655796
E-ISBN-10: 0875655793
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875655789

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2014