Gonna be sheriff one day
Dapple is boiling with a star-struck curiosity. If he really is a movie star, Dapple Del Toboso thinks, I should recognize him – which I don’t. So what does he do? she thinks.
But before she gets too far in her speculation, her trainee for the night shuffles in through the automatic doors and lumbers around the counter. Good old Gaucho Gravybranch, who appears so sure of himself and so satisfied in what Dapple has decided is his inability to conceive what wild thoughts, what fearless acts, what hideous deeds occur in the world beyond the 7,000-foot peaks of the Errant Range that huddle over Burrow Junction.
Of course, Dapple does not conceive the surrounding world any more clearly than she imagines Gaucho does. Beyond her own anxious scheming, the world is only an abstraction of fertile, thriving landscapes where she lives a stellar life of never-ending opportunity and freedom.
Dapple accuses Gaucho and the rest of the Gravybranches ” indeed all the stalwarts of Junktown – of plodding their days away windswept and weather-beaten under the stark, neglectful Wyoming sky. Her entire life all she has met is the unapologetic and unshakable pride of her deeply rooted neighbors. The Gravybranches’ rendition of this pride rests not only on being a Jewish family in the midst of fiercely Christian plains, but also on a staunch confidence in their inalienable rights to bear arms and drive oversized pickup trucks when they’re more than a little bit drunk. The town’s collective pride surely encompasses this singular family, but the people of Burrow Junction ” along with Dapple Del Toboso – have long wondered why large groups of the clan disappear every year for several months at a time.
“Maybe they keep gettin’ abducted by aliens,” is Dapple’s father’s explanation.
Tonight, the sudden assault of Gaucho, his rotten four- or five-beer breath and the four generations of Gravybranches who have famously inhabited Burrow Junction ” they all distract Dapple from what Handsome Vegas is telling her and Gaucho: how he drove all the way from some beautiful place in Minnesota called the Boundary Waters that day, from a resort on Lake Erie the day before yesterday, from Atlantic City two days before that and how he’s a writer of travel books who is almost always on the go. And while a corner of Dapple’s brain is desperately trying to follow the saga of Handsome Vegas – already idolizing the man, and throwing a few last things in her suitcase, slamming her daddy’s screen door behind her, hopping into his car and headed south ” she is only half-listening to this great wanderer, because Gaucho’s entrenched bulk and the preening provinciality she curses him for are making her angry with Deputy Brick Pumice. Because Brick can also trace hearty Junktown Pumices back four generations and now, he wants her to move in with him and he’ll probably ask her to marry him sooner or later. Worst of all, he thinks Junktown is exactly where he belongs.
“Burrow Junction,” he often says while sitting on the side of the highway with his radar gun, watching for speeders, “old B.J. has ever’thin’ I need.”
The only times Deputy Brick Pumice leaves Wyoming are to go to police conventions and law enforcement seminars. They are held in such exotic locales as Omaha, Nebraska, Pueblo, Colorado, and Beaumont, Texas. Deputy Pumice always found them pleasant enough cities, but never one that could hold a candle to Burrow Junction.
When Brick told Dapple last summer he was going to a “prison administration” convention ” this time in San Francisco ” Dapple begged him to take her along.
Once there, she managed to convince him to take a drive down to Big Sur on the Pacific Coast Highway. It wasn’t the scenery that sealed the deal ” or that Dapple offered to pay for the rental car ” but the prospect of driving fast along a narrow, winding road that must have convinced Brick, because he loves to speed. One of his strongest convictions is that law enforcement officers with carefully honed driving skills have a right to speed in exchange for the sacrifices they make serving and protecting the public.
The day of the drive down the coast began with strange, stirring symphonies erupting in Dapple’s head – she was falling in love with the ocean and the deep, green cliffs and the slivers of empty, unreachable beach and the brutal, hammering surf. But Brick became so enthralled by his mastery of the coastal road, he passed every scenic overlook. And eventually, Dapple was so dispirited and nauseated by Brick’s manic driving and the jarring turns and wrenching decelerations that she stopped looking out the window and abandoned any hope of trying to enjoy the scenery.
She started to think about defecting – like those athletes from communist countries she’d heard about on TV who travel to the Olympics or some other competition in the free world and refuse to go home when the games are over. While being jerked around in the passenger seat, she was praying for Brick to stop at a gas station or a convenience store where she could ask the attendant for asylum.
Brick finally stopped at a scenic overlook near Big Sur. He said he only stopped because he had something important to tell her. But Dapple rushed out of the car and hurried to the ledge, where she was clobbered by the height of the cliff and the immensity of the ocean.
“Don’t know what you see out there,” Brick said, walking up behind her and looking out over ocean. “T’me it just looks t’me like somethin’s missin’.”
One arm resting on his imaginary radio, one arm resting on an imaginary firearm, fingers clasped in front of his belt buckle, staring strictly out over the moustache he’d started growing earlier in the trip.
But the nausea his driving had caused was being carried out to sea. The waves were washing Dapple’s revulsion away. She watched seagulls cartwheel and climb and soared along with them as if she’d never have to get back in the car with Brick.
“Listen, honey,” he said. “I’m gonna be sheriff one day.”
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