“Listen, some things in life seem senseless, surer than
shit, unfair. Later when you look back, if you’re honest,
you can see they shaped your life for the better. It depends
He took a drag from the cigarette held between his
thumb and second finger. Milo caught himself staring at
the missing digit. Ralph squinted sidelong at him through
“Tell you a story. When I was sixteen, I left home.
Went south, and ended up in a little hole in Louisiana,
Morgan City. My family was from Quebec. A lot of those
coon asses in Louisiana were descendants of French
Canuks who’d mixed with blacks and Indians. I was cozy
there, but they were a rough, hard-drinking bunch and
full of hell. We were hitting the bottle and whorehouses
“There was one old guy, the coon ass king, Pierre
Labois, a nasty fuck. One night, old Labois was drunk out
of his skull. On a dare from some asshole, I took a solid
gold earring out of his ear. Next day, two of his bravos
me, and dragged me to Labois’s dive.
“Labois never said a word. His boys dragged me over
to this big chopping block. I started kicking and screaming.
They held my hand down. One of the guys says to me,
“By God, boy, be still there. It is better to lose
than the whole hand. That be for sure, boy.”
“Labois came over and looked me straight in the eye,
and offed my finger. I stared at it doing a little jig all
itself on that chopping block. I couldn’t believe it.
screamed. They cauterized my stump with a hot coal from
the grill and bandaged my hand. When they finished,
Labois came over and said, ‘Nobody steal from Labois.’
Then he gives me a job in his joint. I was there for three
years. He gave me the recipes I use here.”
Ralph ground out his cigarette and put his hand on
“One thing’s for sure; life’s going to
throw some shit
at you from time to time. Try to keep this in mind. Bend,
but don’t break. Got it?” Milo nodded. Ralph
apron from the counter, tossed it to him and said, “I
use an extra hand around this dump. Put it on and get to
work on that basket of spuds.”
He nodded and clomped up the stairs. Milo put on the
apron and started peeling. It felt good.
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A sure Candidate for the BOOK SENSE book of the year award.