August 27, 2009

Soapy Smith's dice
Jeff Smith collection

The following is from the novel Welcome Suckers, by James David Buchanan, 2003.


... Lily groaned and opened her eyes.

Jeff leaned close and asked: "You got folks, honey?"

"Nebraska, " she managed in a tiny voice, then: "Farmers."

"They good people?"

"Yes, sir. They don't know about me. I wanted to go out to see the good times I'd heard about. It was so dull there."

"I'd think the dull things might look passably good right now."

"Yes ... oh, yes."

Cy whispered in Jeff's ear: "She's got a baby, that's why she wouldn't go with Thompson."

"This sure as hell's no place for a baby." Jeff turned back to the girl. "Would they take you in, your folks?"

"I think so. But ... my baby. I don't have a husband."

"Yes, you do. Let us worry about that." He took Warman aside. "We'll marry her tuh Fatty or someone, but don't worry, she won't even have tuh see him, whoever it is. There'll be a license tuh show. And then she'll need a death certificate for the husband an' a good story to go with it. Fortunately we're good at makin' up stories."

They moved back to the patient where Jeff knelt and fished a vial out of the inside pocket of his coat.

"Jeff, I think you answered my question," Warman said, smiling.

Jeff didn't respond. He was busy carefully measuring out a few drops of laudanum, feeding it into her swollen mouth with unexpected tenderness. Not that he used the drug himself. He was a man who liked to keep his head when all around him were losing theirs. No, he kept the drug in his desk, available against a world where the doctoring was chancy, pain common, and palliatives rare.

Later he would give the girl five hundred dollars and arrange to have Yank and Banjo take her to where she could catch a train for Nebraska. He even had the Rev write her a testimonial as her pastor. None of this ever became popular knowledge. Warman heard rumors about those details but respected Jeff's reticence. Instead, he began to broadcast Jeff's virtues far and wide.


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