County fair. 1934.
“Marvin Mccullough! Shit! It’s good to see you. How long’s it been?”
“Hell, I caint ‘member Hank. I think we uz playin’ some county fair somewhere. ’bout like ‘is one ‘ere I ‘spose. How you been doing?”
“I’m okay. Been working. Giving lessons mostly. How about yourself?”
“Oh I been aright mostly.” Marvin dips his chin down, pushing his bottom lip out as if something deep and personal was trying to bust out of his mouth. But it doesn’t. He shrugs, his right hand out of sight, shoved into the back pocket of his dusty old Levis. “Mostly,” he repeats, then smiles. ”How ’bout your mom and ‘em. They doing good?”
“I guess you didn’t hear. Mom passed a few years ago.”
” ‘Mawful sorry to ‘ear ‘at Hank. Awful sorry.”
“Yeah. It was rough on Dad. But she went in her sleep, real peaceful. About all you can hope for in the end I think. Hell Marvin, she was eighty nine years old. She lived a good long life.”
“Well your Mama was one of the good’uns. How long ago ‘at happen?”
“Mama’s been gone about six years now.”
“Still grieve a little everyday don’t ye?”
“Yeah sir I do. Always miss your Mama I suppose.”
Marvin grins a little and looks down at his feet, dragging the toe of his boot through the dirt. He looks to his right where the midway is. Some ugly old geek is hawking cotton candy. Little children with dirty faces run up to him with their quarters and buy some. An old lady drops a scoop of peanuts into a kettle of boiling water and puts out a sign that says “5 cents a bag.” A line forms for the sideshow.
“You still playin’ that old fiddle?” Hank asks. “I need a fiddle player for my band. You certainly were the best damn fiddler I ever heard. Best fiddler this whole state ever heard for that matter.”
Marvin’s gaze lingers over the fair. A breeze blows past carrying a small cloud of dust and the smell of food.
“No I ain’t got that fiddle no more,” he says curtly. “Like not to talk ’bout it neither. No offense.” There’s dirt in his voice.
“Okay. Okay. I didn’t mean nothin’ by it,” Hank says. Then he chuckles, “It’s just, well, you used to guard it like it was your sister’s cherry is all. That’s why I…”
“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ‘BOUT THAT FUCKIN’ FIDDLE!” Marvin yells. A crowd of onlookers forms.
“Jesus Marvin.” Hanks says, his brow scrunched up in confusion. “We used to do good money playin’ around this whole damn state and it was all because of you! Then you up and quit out of nowhere one day with no explanation. I don’t see you for however many years, and you expect me not to ask if you still play? You expect me not to ask why I can’t ask?”
Marvin’s chin is jutting out and his left hand is pulled into a fist.
“What’s the matter?” Hank asks with a shrug, “Did the devil come collect?”
Marvin cocks Hank right across the bridge of his nose. Hank goes down hard with a bump to the ass because both hands are clutching the center of his face and blood is pouring out from under his palms. Marvin stomps away amid the gossiping crowd who do all they can to avoid his attention.
And as Marvin is storming away, Hank sees something very peculiar. Marvin’s right wrist is resting on the entrance of his back pocket. But there’s no bulge in the pocket where a hand would be. Instead, it just lays perfectly flat against Marvin’s body. And through his half closed eyes, watering up with the roaring pain in his nose, Hank sees something very peculiar indeed.
Marvin pulls his right arm away from his back pocket. He wipes his brow with a stump. There is only air where his bowing hand used to be.