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The Cutting Room Floor: Dark Harvest: Uncle Willie

February 14, 2018

 

 

 

Author's Note:  Some scenes just don't make the final cut, no matter how much fun they might be. This scene is from my book, Dark Harvest. It stars one of my favorite secondary characters of all time--Uncle Willie. I had so much fun writing Willie, that by the third draft, I had written three scenes with him in it. But only one of those scenes made it into the final book. Here's Willie, in all his unvarnished glory. Enjoy!

 

 

Willie Hits the Road

 

            “Last call, Willie.”

            “What? Huh?” Willie snorted, his bloodshot eyes laying low at half-mast. He sat on the cracked leather bar stool, slumped against the Poker Machine. The beep and gurgle of the game was a comfort. The sound reminded him of the gastro-pyrotechnics his ex-wife’s stomach used to make.

            “Lousy lay, but goddamn that woman could make a meatloaf,” he muttered.

            “Last call.” The bartender tapped Willie’s glass. “Want another?”

            “One more for the road.”

            Willie downed the last dribble of whiskey and thumped the glass on the sticky bar.

            The bartender, Dillon, or Derek, or whatever the hell he called himself this week poured another round. Nice lad, that one.

            Willie snorted. Of course, they should remember his drink. Been coming here thirty-five odd years now. Always drank the good stuff when his check came in. Cutty Sark. Willie liked the boat on the bottle. Reminded him of the kinds of ships his old man used to sail back in the day. He was navy through and through.

            A country and western song blasted through the speakers. Johnny Cash. Now there was a singer if he ever heard one. Gawd, he loved that song.

            “Because you’re fine, I’ll eat the lime.” Willie belted out the lyrics, and raised his glass in a salute to the late great singer. Best of his day. “Darren, you’re one hell of a guy.”

            “David.”

            “Yeah, whatever. Like it matters.” Willie slurped from his glass. “One hell of a fine lad.”

            “Tone it down, Willie.”

            “Yeah.” Willie burped. Wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.

            A big strapping lad with buzzed brown hair straddled the red leather seat a few stools down. Had a farm outside town. Name was on the tip of his tongue.

The song ended. Willie waited for the next.

            “Sugar fried honey buns, you know that I love you.” His voice warbled, hitting a sour note or two, but Willie didn’t care.

            “You don’t ever get the songs right,” the big lad said.

            Willie set down his glass and eyed the kid. Knew him alright. His name was right there, right there on the tip of his… He snapped his fingers in front of his face. A look of triumph lifted his sagging jowls.

Cooper. The fella’s name was Cooper.

            “Sang in a band back in the day. Used to play right here.” Willie laughed and rapped his bony knuckles against the bar. Picked up his glass and took a gulp. “Gawd, we were good.”

            “So you said.” Cooper’s eyebrows raised a mite, as though he thought Willie was lying.

            Willie grunted. What the hell. Why should he care what Cooper thought? Stupid kid anyway. Flashes of memories, of better times, wrapped around Willie like a warm blanket.

            “Heard the cops were out at your place tonight, Willie,” Cooper said.

            All at once the memories faded and Willie looked up from his glass.

            “What’s that? What cops?” Willie levered his bloodshot eyes a little wider and fixed them on the kid’s face.

            “Saw the cops pulling into your old farm when I was on my way here.”

            “Goddamn trespassing sons of…” Willie picked up his glass. Thought better of it. Thumped it down. “It was them that stole the farm from me and my brothers. They’re in cahoots with the bank. Goddamned shysters, the lot of ‘em. Stealin’ our property. Threatenin’ me and my kin for speakin’ out. Takin’ away our farm.”

            Spit flew from Willie’s lips.

            “Calm down, Willie,” the bartender warned.

            “Or what? What are you gonna do? Kick me out? Heh,” he snorted. “You expect me to forget what they did? How they stole my farm?”

            “Maybe I was mistaken,” Cooper said and went back to his beer, like it didn’t much matter.

            “You weren’t. Was those bastards alright.” Willie slapped the bar with the palm of his hand. His glass rattled. “Settle up, Donovan.”

            “David,” the bartender sighed.

            “Whatever.” Willie tossed a wad of cash beside his near empty glass. “They’re gonna get what’s coming to them. I have half a mind to drive out there and watch the fireworks fer myself. Better than the 4th of July.”

            “What do you mean? Fireworks?”

             A flash of worry rippled across Cooper’s face and Willie smiled. He drained the glass in one final gulp. Cheap whisky dribbled down his chin. He swiped it away.

            “Just you never mind.”

            Arms held wide like a man walking a high wire, Willie staggered to his truck. It was a sky-blue Ford. Goddamned good piece of machinery it was too. Had it twenty—no, thirty years now. Never give out. Not once.

            He folded down the worn sun visor. The keys dropped with a bright clang of metal. Thrusting them into the ignition with a shaky hand, Willie cranked the engine. It let out a belch. Damned thing sounded worse than a WW II vet with a bout of tuberculosis.

            Still muttering under his breath, Willie drove out of town. Lead foot pressed down on the accelerator, he pulled onto the two-lane highway. The Ford swayed across the double yellow lines while Willie lit a cigarette. He yanked the wheel right. Hit gravel on the other side. Dirt and pebbles kicked up under the tires.

Through the bug splattered windshield, Willie saw them. That Cooper lad was right. Goddamned cops as far as the eye could see. A line of flashing lights raced down the blacktop. Heading toward the old farm. Willie laid on the gas pedal. The old engine heaved and whined as the truck lurched forward.

            Willie took a drag on the cigarette. He was catching them alright. Goddamned sons of bitches. He pulled the truck up behind a car moving slower than his ex-wife’s mother. He laid on the horn, but the driver didn’t budge. So, Willie swerved around it. The ash from his cigarette tumbled onto his lap. Willie let out a yelp as the white-hot pain seared through thigh. He smacked at the coal until it died.

            The high-pitched whine of the sirens up ahead sounded worse than a hound dog’s howl. Willie’s truck roared as he tucked in ahead of the slow-moving vehicle and sped off toward the flashing lights.

            He knew full well what was buried out there at the farm.

            “Those bastards won’t know what hit ‘em.”

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USA Today Bestselling Author

Chris Patchell