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Twenty-four

Mattie sat in the kitchen in a straight chair with a water glass of whiskey in her hand and tears coming down her face. She didnt look at Wyatt.

Dont you want your breakfast?

Wyatt shook his head. He was standing in the doorway holding a rifle, its muzzle pointed at the floor.

I had breakfast with Morgan, he said. I just stopped in to pick up the Winchester.

I cooked it special for you, she said. Got some fresh eggs from Vita Coleman.

She sniffed and wiped her nose with the sleeve of her dress.

Christ, Wyatt said, do you cry in your sleep?

Mattie shook her head and drank from her glass, her eyes fixed on the front of the iron stove across the room.

If youre hoping for sympathy, Mattie, I havent got any left. Im doing what I have to do.

Im not leaving you, Mattie said. If you go, Ill follow you.

For what?

Im your wife.

Youre not even that, not really. We never took any vows.

Im your wife, she said.

Youre a damned drunk, Wyatt said. Its still morning and youre already drunk.

Im only doing what you make me do, Mattie said. I cant bear the pain without it.

Wyatt took in a big breath of air and let it out slowly.

Mattie, he said. Thats bullshit and you know it. You been drinking most of the time, long as I knew you. It used to be sherry. Now its whiskey. But the drinking aint new.

I got nothing else to do, Mattie said. Im alone all the time. Youre never home.

Her face was bunched up as if trying to be smaller. She was pale except for a red flush over her cheekbones. She drank again from the whiskey glass.

Why would I want to come home? Wyatt said. Watch you cry and drink whiskey.

Mattie didnt answer. Her eyes were squeezed nearly shut. She had slept on top of the bed in the dress she was still wearing. She looked at the stove as if to penetrate the black iron with her narrow, wet gaze.

I wont give you up, she said without inflection.

Jesus Christ, Wyatt said and turned and went through the parlor and out the front door.

Carrying the Winchester, Wyatt walked up Fremont Street, his boots making soft sounds in the thick dirt. The morning sun was behind him and his shadow spilled out in front of him, angular and much too long. It was already warm, and the sky was high and cloudless. He turned up Fourth Street, past Spangenbergs Gun Shop on his left, and on the other side, farther up, at the corner of Allen Street, the Can Can Restaurant where he had had breakfast with Charlie Shibell and talked of being a deputy. Long time ago, Wyatt thought. He turned right on Allen past Haffords. Across the street, Johnny Behan came out of the Grand Hotel; he saw Wyatt and waved. Wyatt touched his hat brim and kept going. Johnny was a genial man. Careful about giving offense. He wont come straight at you, Virgil had said. But it dont mean he wont come. Hell, maybe he was glad to get away from Josie. Wyatt smiled to himself. Be goddamned glad, myself, if Mattie would run off with somebody.


Twenty-three | Gunman`s Rhapsody | Twenty-five