The only thing I ever really keered about in my whole life was my ole dog, Farty, and he really was, too. That's how come him to get that name in the first place. Me and Maw and Paw had us a little ole place out on the dry prairie in West Texas. It weren't nothing to brag about, and, hell, I never did figger out just how it was that ole Paw was trying to make us a living. We had us an ole muley cow and some scrawny ole chickens. Paw had a swaybacked nag he rid into town ever' now and then. But we sure as hell weren't making no money off a the place. From time to time, ole Paw would go off by hisself for a few days or maybe even longer, and then he'd come on back home with some groceries and some money in his pocket and most always those times a jug or two a good whiskey, but I never knowed where the money come from. I don't know if Maw knowed or not neither. If she did, well, she didn't seem to keer none. Reflecting back on it, though, I reckon that he must a been up to no good.
And we wasn't exactly what you'd call a happy family. Things was most pleasant when Paw was off somewheres, 'cause then him and Maw wasn't yelling around at each other. Most often, whenever Mawyelled at Paw and got the best of him, why then he'd turn on me. Neither one a them two seemed to give much of a shit about me, and that's probably why I keered so much for Farty. He keered about me. Me and Farty was like best friends.
Well, it was one a the days Paw was going into town, and I whined around something fierce till he agreed to let me go on along, but I had to walk alongside him riding on that ole swayback. Ole Farty, he just naturally tagged along. When we got into town, Paw headed right straight for the saloon. But he give me a dime first and left me out on the street. Me and Farty. I flipped that dime a time or two feeling right well heeled, and then I walked across the street to the general store what was owned and run by ole Andy McFarland, and I went right inside there and bought myself some hard candy. Then I stepped outside feeling like a real big shot, with a chunk of that candy poking my jaw way out. I was sucking on one, and I had some more down in my pocket. Why, if any a them snotty town boys had come around a-looking for trouble, I was sure in the right mood to whip their ass.
Ole Farty, he was just laying there right smack in the middle a the board sidewalk, and here come a damned ole bastard what looked to me like he was up to no good to begin with. He was a big fella, rough-looking, and he sure needed a shave real bad. I couldn't tell if he was a farmer or a cowboy or what by the way he was dressed, but he was some kind of a working man, I guessed, and he stopped right there by Farty like he didn't want to have to step over no damn dog.
"Get out of my way, you goddamned mutt," hesays, real gruff like, and ole Farty, well, he done what he was best at. He farted. And it was a right smelly one too. Well, that ole boy tuck offense at that gesture of Farty's. I guess he tuck it personal, and he went and kicked poor ole Farty in the side. Kicked him hard, knocking him cleàn up in the air and off into the street. Farty yelped at the kick, but he soon recovered from it, and he turned on that bastard and bared his teeth and snarled real menacing like. The bastard pulled a little sissy pistol out a his pocket and shot Farty dead. Just like that.
"You old son of a bitch," I shouted. I was genuine horrified and outraged. There was some ax handles in a barrel right there by the door into the general store, and I didn't take no time to think about what I was doing. I just grabbed one a them ax handles, and I swung it as hard as I ever could. I hit that ole boy across the back of the head, and it sounded for all hell like I had hit a watermelon and split it, and he dropped down just like a sack of grain. Then I went and picked Farty up and started walking out of town heading home with him. I was bawling, too, like a damn baby. I told you I keered about Farty.
And, oh, that was a long walk, I can tell you that. My arms was aching from the dead weight of poor old Farty, and I was running tears that was making muddy river streaks down through the dirt that was caked on my face. My legs was okay, 'cause I was used to walking, and even my bare feet wasn't bothering me none. Old Farty's blood was on my shirt belly and on my arms, and I think that it was even on my face where I had hugged him. I wasn't even thinking none about that shit I had hit. I had hit himand forgot him. All I was thinking about was just only Farty and nothing else.
Well, I fin'ly got back out to the house, and Maw come out to see what was the matter with me. First thing she asked me though, she asked me, "Where's your Paw?" I told her that he was still in town, I guessed. "How come you to come back home by your own self?" she asked me then, and I told her that I didn't rightly know. I guess I hadn't even thought about Paw whenever all that had happened. I'd just hit that bastard and then picked up poor dead Farty and headed for home. The last thing I knowed about ole Paw, I told her, he'd gone into the saloon.
At long last, she seemed to notice that I was a-standing there with tears all down my face and my dead dog in my arms, and she come on out to me, and she said, "What happened, Sonny?"
"Farty's dead," I said.
"I can see that," she said, "but how'd it happen?"
"A man shot him," I said. "For no reason. The son of a bitch."
She slapped me hard across my face then, and she said, "Don't never use that kind of talk in front of me. You know better'n that."
I didn't say nothing. I just shut up and stared at her.
"What do you mean for no reason?" she said. I told her what it was that happened, and I didn't leave nothing out, not even old Farty's fart. I told her the whole story. Then she said, "You hit that man with a ax handle?"
"Yes'm," I said.
"You hit him hard?" she asked.
"Hard as I could," I said.
"How bad do you think you hurt him?" she wanted to know.
"I don't know," I said. "I think maybe I kilt him. I don't keer neither."
"Oh, Lordy," she said, and she went to wailing and pulling her hair. "My only boy's done a killing. Lord God A'mighty, what did I ever do to deserve this?"
I turned and walked away from her, still carrying Farty, and I walked away out behind the house till I found a good spot for a burying. I laid him down there real gentle like, and I knelt there beside him for a spell. I could hear Maw still caterwauling from way back there where I was at. It begin to come on me then that what I done was some serious, but I was still a mourning so for Farty that it didn't really bother me none. Not just then. Not yet.
I fin'ly got up and walked to the shed behind the house and got me a old rusty shovel with a broke handle on it, and I walked back to where I had left Farty. I dug him a good deep hole there, and I put him down in it and covered him up. Then I got two sticks and tied them together in the shape of a cross to make a marker for him, and I jobbed that makeshift cross into the soft dirt that I just covered old Farty up with. I didn't take the broke shovel back to the shed. I just tossed it aside. I stood there and mopped the sweat off my brow with my shirtsleeve, and then I fin'ly realized that there weren't nothing more I could do, not for Farty and not for me. I walked back over to the house. Maw was setting at the table just a staring at the tabletop real blank.
"Did you burry your dog?" she said.
"Yes'm," I said.
I heard the plodding of a slow horse, and I wentto the door and looked out. "Paw's coming," I said. Maw just set there. Outside, Paw slipped down offa the back of old Swayback. He turned to face the house, and he seen me a standing there in the doorway. He just stood there for a minute or two just staring at me. Then he said, "You look a mess, boy. Go wash your face." I walked out to the pump while he went on inside. After I'd washed myself up some, I went on back in. Paw was setting beside Maw by this time. He looked up at me. "He's deader'n hell, boy," he said. "You kilt him."
"I don't keer," I said. "He shot Farty." I didn't know if Paw would jump up and beat the shit out of me or what for saying what I done, but I was feeling that it just didn't make no difference to me no more. He didn't even get up though. He just set there.
"They'll be coming out here for you," he said. "Andy locked up his store and rode for the sheriff."
"They going to hang me?" I asked him.
"I don't know, boy," he said. "I don't know if you're old enough yet for hanging, but there's some as would say if you're old enough to kill, you're old enough to hang. I just don't know. But one thing I do know for certain. If they don't hang you, old Pigg's kin'll be after your ass. One way or another, you're done for."
Maw sobbed at that.
"Who's Pigg?" I asked him.
"Who's Pigg?" Paw said, and he shuck his head kind a slow. "You kilt a man dead, and you don't even know his name. The man you kilt was named Joe Pigg, and he comes from a whole family of real bad ones. Brothers and cousins. They won't let it go.When they hear about it, they'll be a looking for you. You can bet on that."
"Well," I said, "I reckon they'll have to ketch me, before they can do anything to me."
"You'd best run far and fast, boy," he said. "And you'd best get started right now. Don't waste no time." He stood up then, and he shoved a hand down in his pocket, and he come out with ten dollars and give it to me. It damn near astonished me, for Paw had never in my life give me more'n a dime or a nickel at one time. Then, "Take the horse," he said. I stared at him, but all he done was to just set his ass back down. Maw never looked up at me. I turned around and went outside. I looked back once. Then I crawled up onto old Swayback, a...