Chapter One – Loomings

bobcat

Dear Diary,

Call me Lee, Lee West.

I’m your basic white girl, a goat-roper who wears Justin boots, western snap shirts and drinks Starbucks. Diary, if you don’t know, a goat-roper is a cowgirl too poor to afford a horse. I come from Porterville. That’s in California. Fifty miles north of Bakersfield. Out town’s been on the front pages of all the newspaper because our wells ran dry on account of the drought. Now we have to cook, clean, and drink bottled water which is expensive.

I wanted to vacation where water still came out of the tap, so I tracked Dad down in his Man Shack. Lucky lifted an ear flap, stood on all fours, barked ferociously then fell under Dad’s workbench and closed his eyes.

“Hey, Dad. What do you think about me living with Emilee this summer?”

“In Bezerkeley? What kind of crazy pill did you take this morning?” Dad dropped a thin layer of oil onto his chamois then polished the barrel of his .22 rifle.

Buttering up Dad should be as easy as shooting fish in a tub. I pulled a double-barreled shotgun from the rack. “Barrel cleaning, yes or no?” If Dad’s heart was a mall, his gun collection was the anchor store.

Dad grabbed the shotgun out of my arms. “Only idiots think cleaning messes up the trajectory.” He removed the bolt, took down a nylon brush from the shelf and stuck it down a barrel. “You have to scrub out each chamber like this.” When he finished demonstrating, he threw me the gun back. Dad’s head nodded as he wiped the rifle butt. “You’re sixteen. It’s time you pulled your weight.”

I pumped the brush in one barrel. “Last summer, Emilee worked me real hard.” Emilee let me stay with her at Sequoia Crest, population 10. She made burgers at the resort’s café while I let my hair grow long.

“Two daughters live in that crazy town? I won’t have it!”

“No, sir.” I asked. “Now do I polish the metal?

Dad’s voice softened. “Here.” He handed me his chamois. Dad gave me a bottle of red oil. “Do this right, and you’ll get an excellent patina only acquired by decades of loving care.”

“Yes, sir.”

Dad held up a bullet. “Be sure you dip the .22 bullets in carnauba wax. That way the bore gets a glassy-smooth polish after shooting.”

“Yes, sir.” I sat down and dipped a couple of bullets. After that, I wandered over to stare at a glass-eyed bobcat’s head on a taxidermy plaque.

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