Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Boy Named Sue

Summary:  A night out with friends can sometimes reveal quite a lot about a man.
Author’s Note: This story is set just between the Season 2 episodes Dead Ringer and Blood Moon.
Kid leaned back in his chair and smiled.  It had been a long hard day of work and now he, Jimmy, Cody and Noah were relaxing down at the Sweetwater saloon with a couple of sarsaparillas and a friendly game of poker.
Looking down at the cards in his hand, Kid shook his head ruefully and slapped them down at the table in front of him.  
“Fold,” he said with a wincing smile.  It was a good thing they weren’t playing for real money or he’d be in big trouble.  This just hadn’t been his night.  First he’d come in from his run to leatrn Lou was on a three day ride to Salt Lake City.  That had blown his plans for his day off tomorrow.  Then Teaspoon had made him muck out all the stalls in the extensive Express barn.  Now, he couldn’t win a simple hand of poker to save his life.
“Alright, Cody, time to put up or shut up,” Jimmy egged on the blonde rider sitting across from him.
“I’m thinkin’, I’m thinkin’,” the flamboyant teen muttered, rearranging his cards again.
“You think any harder and smoke’s goin’ ta start comin’ out your ears, boy,” Noah laughed.
As Cody began to finger a couple of the coins in a pile in front of him, Kid’s attention began to wander around the saloon.  He didn’t know quite why, but there was something about this place he really liked.  He grimaced a bit as he watched a cowpoke at the bar slug down a shot of whiskey.  Well, he could do without the drinking.  It brought back too many memories from his childhood and his mean as a snake Pa, but otherwise this place was great.  A man felt welcomed here, no matter who he was, even Noah could walk in and sit down at a table or belly up to the bar without worry.  And all the regulars knew your name, the barmaid didn’t’ have to be told what they wanted and no one worried if they just sat in a corner playing poker and ribbing each other all night long.
Kid’s wandering gaze came to a stop on a familiar looking face at the other end of the bar.  The man was standing there, a drink in one hand, a silver harmonica twirling between the fingers of his other hand.
A sweet tune from years past began to sound in Kid’s head.
“What’s that?”
The music stopped as the older boy pulled the silver metal away from his mouth.
“Like it?  It’s a harmonica,” he said proudly.  “My Pa just bought it fer me fer my birthday.”
“Wow!  Kin I try it?” the young child asked, reaching out toward the older boy.  He pulled away sharply, holding the harmonic over his head.
“No way,” he said, grinning meanly.  “Ya ain’t getting’ yer girly, little hands all over my new harmonica, Sue Kiss.  Come here, little kissy face and give me a nice big old smackeroo, righ ton the lips!”
“My name ain’t Sue!” the younger boy said, scrunching up his face to keep the tears in his eyes from falling.  “I’m telling my Pa what you said!”  Turning, he began running down the lane toward home.
“Go right ahead,” came floating down the lane after him, accompanied by laughter.  “He’ll never remember in the mornin’ anyways, he’s too damned drunk!”
Kid shrank down into his seat, pulling his hat brim lower over his eyes.  If that was the man he thought it was over at the bar, there was no way he wanted to be recognized by him.  His Pa had made life at home miserable as a child, at least until he’d left.  John Turner had made life everywhere else in their small Virginia town even worse, right up until the day Kid had headed West after his Ma’s funeral.
He’d tried to explain to his Pa, but he’d never quite understood.  Of course, there’d been no telling just how sober he was at any given moment. 
“But Pa, they call me Sue and Kissy Face.  Can’t we just change my name to something normal, like Jed’s?”
“Zere’s notzing vrong vit your name boy,” he’d said.  “Suerny Kis* ees a good, strong, manly name.  Vhy your uncle Suerny, back in Magyar, vas a big bull of a man who could knock out any Cossack who came riding into town vit a single fist!  It vill make you a strong man, someday.”
There’d been no changing his mind.  He’d just brushed off Kid’s complaints and gone back to his drinking.
Kid deliberately moved his attention away from the man he feared might be his childhood nemesis.  Turning his head, he watched as the saloon’s piano player returned from his break, sitting down at the beat up instrument, stretching his fingers elaborately before setting his hands on the cracked ivory keys.  He paused a moment before breaking out in to a rowdy rendition of Buffalo Gals.  The happy tune brought a smile back to Kid’s face.
All his life there’d been nothing like music to help soothe his most wild mood.  He remembered sitting in the parlor on Sunday afternoons, listening as his Ma played all the old hymns on her harpsichord.  She’d even begun to teach him to play it, until his father put a stop to things.
“Zhat ees no instrument for a boy!” he’d roared, slapping her across the face.  “You vill not turn my son into a girl vit your silly, female music!”
After that there’d been no more lessons.  A short time later the harpsichord had disappeared from the parlor.  His mother had never mentioned it again, but Kid was always sure his Pa had sold it for drinking money.  And he’d never had the guts to ask for music lessons again.  It wasn’t as if they could afford them, anyway.
“Waa-hoo!  I win!” Cody crowed, slapping his cards down on the table.  “Read ‘em and weep gents, four purty queens.  Ain’t they a sight?”
Kid grinned at his tablemates antics, Cody bragging, Jimmy and Noah grumbling good naturedly.  It was nice to just spend time with friends.
“Don’t I know you?” a heavy hand landed on Kid’s shoulder, startling him.  He looked up into John Turner’s older, but still ornery looking face, and started to shake his head.
“Sorry mister,” he muttered, turning his attention back to the table, picking up the cards Jimmy was dealing out as they readied to start the next hand.  “You must have me mistaken for someone else.”
“Nope, don’t think I do,” the man said.  “You were that raggedy muffin boy from down the lane… the one with that odd name… what was it?  Somethin’ girly, I ‘member that much!”
“Ain’t never seen ya before in my life, buddy,” Kid protested.
Cody looked at the newcomer with avid interest.  “You say you knew the Kid here back in Virginia?”
“Yep,” Turner nodded.
“Do you know his real name?  The Kid won’t share and we’re all dying of curiousity,” Noah added.
“You said it was somethin’ girly?” Jimmy asked, spearing Kid with a triumphant glare.
“’Member that much, but what ‘xactly it was is escapin’ me at the moment,” he said, shaking his head as if trying to rid it of an annoying fly.
Cody jumped up and pulled out the chair next to him, “Care to join us in a friendly game while you try to remember?  I’m sure it’ll come to you.”
“Cody,” Kid gritted out warningly.
“Aw, Kid, we’re just tryin’ ta find out more ‘bout you,” Noah smiled at him.
“What’s yer name, mister?” Jimmy asked.
“Turner,” he said as he slipped into the chair Cody held out.  “John Turner.”
“I’m Jimmy, that fool next to ya is Cody and this is Noah Dixon,” Jimmy made the introductions.  “And you apparently already know the Kid, maybe you can make the introductions there… once you remember, of course.”
Turner grunted, picking up the cards Jimmy dealt him.  “I ‘member he was a little brat who couldn’t keep his hands to hisself.”
Kid barely participated as the game got underway, unable to concentrate on cards.  He was too busy trying to figure a way out of this before Turner remembered the one thing he didn’t want him to.  Luckily, he didn’t really need to, as Jimmy had dealt him a winning hand.
“Call,” he finally said, trying to bring his discomfort to an end.  He laid down his cards face up, showing the full house Jimmy had handed him.  Cody slammed his cards down in disgust, while Noah made a moue of discontent.  Jimmy shut shook his head and started collecting the discarded playing cards.  Kid swept his arm out to begin collecting his winnings when Turner grabbed at it to stop him.
“Wait just a moment,” he growled.  “Hold up yer hands!  No one plays like you just did with a winning hand!  Not ‘less they’re cheatin’.”
“Guess he don’t know Kid as well as we thought,” Cody muttered to Noah, who laughed.
“Take yer hand off me, Turner,” Kid grunted.  “I don’t take kindly ta folks callin’ me a cheat.”  He was trying hard to keep his temper.  His night out with friends had already been ruined, now he just wanted to make it home without a fight.
“If ya don’t like ‘cheat’, how’s ‘bout I just call ya Kissy Face?” Turner crowed.  Kid blanched.  He’d obviously remembered.
“Take it back.  Apologize right now and we can both walk away like nothin’ ever happened,” Kid gritted out between his teeth.
“I’d take that offer if I were you,” Jimmy advised, seeing the taut readiness in his friend’s muscles, the already clenched fists.  Kid was on the verge of losing his highly practiced control.  And not in a good way.  Jimmy had a bad feeling about this.
“I don’t think so, S--”
Kid’s fist flashed out, crunching into the man’s nose so hard the impact could be heard at the other end of the saloon, silencing all other sounds as everyone turned to see what was going on. 
A second hit, this one to the gut, came so fast on the heels of the first it might as well have been simultaneous.  Turner began to lurch forward, one rising to his now gushing nose while the other grabbed at his gut.  But Kid wasn’t done yet.  As Turner began to double up, Kid raised his knee to meet with Turner’s face, slamming his kneecap into the other man’s jaw.
Seconds after the fight began, it was over.  Turner was lying on the saloon floor, unable to do more than writhe in pain, moaning and groaning.  Kid leaned over him.  “The name’s Kid.  Nothin’ else.  And I ain’t a cheat!”
Noticing something silver slipping out of Turner’s pocket, Kid reached out and grabbed it.  Holding up the harmonica, he grinned tightly.  He dangled the musical instrument in front of Turner’s bloodied nose.  “I’ll just be takin’ this as a fine.  We don’t like liers and name callers in this town.  You might want ta remember that, if yer plannin’ on stickin’ around.”
Kid turned and walked out the door, ignoring the stunned silence of his friends and acquaintances in the saloon.  His dad had been right about one thing, his danged name sure had taught him how to fight.  But it wasn’t a tradition he planned to pass on to his children, when the time came, that was for sure!
My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn't leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."

Well, he must o' thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named "Sue.”

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
My fist got hard and my wits got keen,
I'd roam from town to town to hide my shame.
But I made a vow to the moon and stars
That I'd search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man who gave me that awful name.

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry,
I thought I'd stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon on a street of mud,
There at a table, dealing stud,
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me "Sue."

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother'd had,
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old,
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
And I said: "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do!
Now your gonna die!!"

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
And he went down, but to my surprise,
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.
But I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and a' gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell ya, I've fought tougher men
But I really can't remember when,
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,
He stood there lookin' at me and I saw him smile

And he said: "Son, this world is rough
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong."

He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue.'"

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
And I came away with a different point of view.
And I think about him, now and then,
Every time I try and every time I win,
And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

Author’s Note:  This is the first in a new series designed to show who Kid and Lou were when on their own.  It was recently pointed out to me the TYR writers only tended to reference them, especially Kid, as part of a couple.  But, who were they as individuals?  This is my attempt to figure out.
Kid’s name in this story, Suerny Kis, is Hungarian in origin.  It would be pronounced Sue-ware-ney Kees.  Magyar is the Hungarian word for Hungary. 
To the evil, evil person who inspired this series…. you asked for it!  =)  Enjoy!


  1. hi Pilarcita,

    I love this short story, as I love all your other stories.
    I think you gave a good reason for Kid to hide his name.

    thank you,

  2. I'm glad you like it, Hanny. I never feel as comfortable with my short stories. I always feel like I've left something important out. That's why I'm trying to write more of them. Practice makes perfect, yada, yada, yada. =)