Unedited writing from today, working on a story called “The King of Boone County.” Whether I’ll use this, I don’t know. If I do it’ll need to be greatly condensed. This characterization of Waylon is different than any other I’ve done. And I’ve included sheriff Pestrious, who is a character in a novel I wrote called It’s Peaceful Here.
This was an open field, worn and gutted in the winter cold, surrounded on three sides by the peaks of three enormous mountains. In the middle of the infinite and dead pasture stood a grouping of trailers, which housed men whose inner lives mirrored the coldness, the hard packed winter dirt and the noiseless wonder that rode on the air and gave no sign of life whatsoever.
Where on any other day the pasture was empty, the place itself, the grouping of trailers and the men who lived in them, forgotten, today a crowd had assembled, thirty, fifty, seventy heads, as if born from the air, as if born from the lifeless dirt, like they’d been buried there for years and only now, on this day, had chosen to show break out.
Sheriff Pestrious–a big man, who stood as tall as a stop sign and had a voice like an avalanche and an enormous mustache which he combed at any opportunity–rode up with three of his deputies and parted the crowd without saying a word.
He stood in the scattered half-circle of dilapidated trailers and removed his sunglasses to reveal a brief but profound astonishment at the fact that people could live like this, that they’d want to. It did not occur to him that some of them had no choice.
“Which one is it?” he said.
One of his deputies pointed to the tawny trailer, its paint faded and weathered. The crowd started to yell things out at Pestrious. Or perhaps they’d been yelling and hadn’t realized.
He looked to Tom Brady, his youngest deputy, and perhaps the daftest and most incapable deputy in all of Longmont County, and he told him to wait behind and watch the crowd and to keep his mouth shut if they asked him any questions. Then he, Pestrious, and Deputy Ed Davis walked up to that tawny trailer and knocked on the door.
Ed Davis stood a good ten feet behind Pestrious with his hand ready on his pistol. Pestrious combed his mustache. After no one answered he knocked again, this time harder, nearly punching through the flimsy door. The savage barking of two dogs could be heard from inside and Pestrious flinched back as one or both of the dogs slammed their bodies against the side of the trailer.
“Waylon,” Pestrious said. He yelled it out over the sound of the dogs. “Waylon!”
Slow, measured footsteps bellowed from inside, one after the other, at the rate of a sluggish heartbeat. Pestrious looked to Ed Davis, whose hand had only grown tighter around the pistol, and he went to speak, to say, almost, that it might be best for them to turn back and go deal with the crowd, and then come back here and deal with this another time. But then the door opened.
Waylon Lippincott stood in the doorway. From this angle he looked twice the size of Pestrious, an enormous, colossal man, with hands so large he could reach out and envelop Pestrious’s entire head into his palm. He looked down into Pestrious’s eyes and beyond those eyes, directly into some place inside of Pestrious, and if he saw something that displeased him he did not show it on his face. His face was still, stoic. He did not look at Ed Davis at all.
The dogs were rabid. They waited, crouched behind the legs of their owner with their hair standing straight up and their teeth bared. A single command, that’s all they needed.
“Morning,” Pestrious said.
Waylon just looked at him.
“You mind doing something about those dogs?” Pestrious said.
Waylon whistled. The dogs shut up. “Get,” he said. They scurried off to some place in the trailer.
The two men looked at each other. Nothing had even happened yet, no words exchanged and no accusations. Yet Pestrious felt strange, foreign inside his own skin. It was not that he was afraid. No, he was not that. There was another feeling, a different one which he’d never felt before, an emptiness.
“You mind if we talk?” Pestrious said.
“About what?” Waylon said.
Pestrious turned and looked at the crowd that was huddled some distance away. He could not tell but it appeared they’d multiplied again. “I think you’d rather deal with me than them.”
The inside of Waylon’s was dark and warm and sparse. A vague smoke drifted on the air, which gave the already sparse and old and faded furniture even greater antiquity.There was no couch, no lamps, no bookshelves. There was nothing but an old wooden table and a chair and a bed made neatly in the corner, on the ground, with a cotton blanket and a pillow with a flannel case. On the
Waylon walked heavily and slowly to the chair. It took him nearly ten seconds to lower his enormous frame to the chair and sit. Then he leaned back and gave off an immense exhalation, which was so deep and loud it vibrated Ed Davis’s pistol, where his hand was still resting.
“I suppose you heard,” Pestrious said.
“Heard what?” Waylon said.
Ed Davis was in the kitchen, looking steadily and deliberately at everything, searching for something which even he did not know. On the kitchen stove was a single pot. There was no refrigerator, no food or trash or waste that he could discern.
“At about nine this morning a man driving through town, up to Bishop, found the body on the side of the highway,” Pestrious said. As he spoke he searched for a place to sit. The place was littered with books, piled everywhere, of all sizes and varieties, and stacks of old newspapers and magazines. There was a place for the dogs composed of spread out newspaper and a flannel blanket and two metal bowls. But there was not a place he could sit. “You got somewhere I can sit?” Pestrious said.
“The floor is fine,” Waylon said. “It’s clean.”
Pestrious kept on: “The body was a woman, young, maybe nineteen, twenty. She was prostrate in the snow with her head stuffed into the snow at the base of a pine tree, as if she were praying to it.”