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BACK IN TOWN / Robert Garner McBrearty BEFORE I DRIVE THE wagon into town, my wüe makes me promise that I wiU not go into the saloon where No-Nose Ed and the other bad men hang out. "Indeed I wiU not," I say, and I have no intention of so doing, for it has been a year now since I have given up drinking and whoring and looting and steaUng horses and robbing banks and shooting up the town and using foul language. This is a big day for us. The first day since I've reformed that Tm going back into town alone. In the bright early Ught, we stand in the doorway of our cabin and embrace Uke a couple of feverish teenagers. We've been happy, terribly happy, and peaceful out here on the range. It is not always an easy Ufe. The wind is high, the sun fierce, the soU hard, and aU day there are demanding chores to perform. I am too wounded to do any of them, but sitting on the porch drinking lemonade, I caU out encouragement and helpful bits of advice as my stoical wife goes relentlessly about her tasks, playfuUy drawing her revolver from tune to time and firing some rounds in my direction. It is often lonely on the range. But at night, as coyotes howl from the hüls, we dance in the starUt fields behind our cabin, our clothing supping away layer by layer, the two of us spinning and whirling in naked amazement, alone amidst mUes and mues of sagebrush and tumbleweed, until we are gloriously joined together and we cry back in the starry night to the coyotes in the hüls. And every morning I stumble into the high desert and say prayers of thanks for the newborn day. Nearing town on the wagon, I think about how sad it would be to lose this new happy Ufe, and I vow that there wiU be no drinking or whoring or looting or steaUng horses or robbing banks or shooting up the town or using foul language. I wUl maintain my serenity even when confronted by morons which, unfortunately, occurs presently. The traffic on Main Street, I see, has gotten worse. Tm stuck behind a wagon which has several blockheads in the back: young glassy-eyed men sporting Ul-advised haircuts. They give me, my old wagon and my tottering mule contemptuous looks as they The Missouri Review · 9 spit over the back of their wagon. Their wagon looks a Uttle too new and shiny and I suspect they've snuck somebody's old man's wagon out for a joyride. They whisper to each other and laugh as they spit in my direction. My old mule flicks its ears and turns its head back my way as if wondering how long we wUl suffer this uncouth behavior. Behind me, a hard pioneer woman with an anvü-shaped head shouts at me to move along. When I edge too close to the wagon in front, my mule's nose bumps into the taUgate of the morons' wagon and the young toughs shout and tumble out and start for me. In the violent past, I would have whipped out my pistol and showered them with foul language. But I remember my vows and the image of my loving wife as we parted and I stand in my wagon, the sweat springing out on my forehead, my hand twitching on my gunless hip as I say, "You young miscreants step aside now. I know you're carrying aU sorts of resentments about your parents, your lack of a classical education and appropriate male role models, and sure there's peer pressure ..." But I can bear it no longer. I take a deep breath, preparing to release an explosion of foul language. But at the last moment, I am saved by No-Nose Ed. Enormous No-Nose Ed steps down from the boardwalk and strides into their gang. Grinning tolerantly, he caUs softly, "Now move along, boys." When they hesitate, he starts pinching noses and ears and they hop back onto their wagon, terrified. Their wagon roUs forward...


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