Jill was pissed. Jack had moved cattle into the pasture just below the doublewide she rented from the old cowboy. Nell sat at the kitchen table and listened to Jill on the phone trying keep her voice below the shrieking woman level the words were coming out clipped, unnatural as if she were being interviewed on TV.
“Jack, lookee here, we can put up dodging cow pies to git to the mailbox. I reckon we can put up with the stink and the goddam flies. No! No, dammit, Jack, jist lissen. It’s the goddam water, Jack, that’s our water. That’s what we drink and wash up in. Now them cows is gonna contaminate our water. Did you forget that you and Hank put in the pump and well house when I moved in? What? No it is not. No, that pump house ain’t gonna keep the cow shit outta my water. No way!: Long pause. “Jack, can’t you move them cows, please? Jack? Jack?”
“ He hung up on me, Nell. That crusty bastard hung up on me. The sonofabitch. Jack figures he’s finally won. He’s wanted me outta here ever since you moved in, girl. Goddam homophobic old shit heel. He’d told me there was plenty of clean water available from some spring up at the top of the hill. Shit, Manuel’s goats graze up there. Take your pick e-coli from Jack’s fuckin’ cows or Manuel’s goats. Jack said if we didn’t like it we could go find some other place to live.”
“Jill, calm down, sweetie. Damn you got one mean temper, girl. We’ll figure this out. I know you think that cowboy believes he can push us around like we was heifers, but truth is, I never seen Jack as all that bad. He’s always nice to me. We’ll figure this out, Jill. No cause to go ballistic, hon. Nell returned with two cold tall boys to the front steps where Jill sat. The two women were still seated there finishing the last of the six pack when they saw Jack’s old Chevy pickup kicking up torrents of dust on the dirt road leading to the trailer.
“Now what’s that bastard want? By God, I could kick his sorry ass right now.”
“Easy Jill. Jist listen to him. Don’t loose it, girl.”
“Evenin’, ladies. Jill, I’m mighty sorry you got kindee upset there on the phone. Thought I’d come by, walk you up the hill there, show you the spring. Mebbe I kin have Hank move the pump up yonder, after brandin’s over. We’ll git us a sample and have county extention test it, if’n yer worried.” From the pickup’s bed, Jack lifted an empty gallon plastic ice cream bucket with a bail. You care to come along, miss?”
Nell had to pee something fierce. “Naw Jack, I’ll just stay here. You and Jill go on.
The coroner’s inquest led to a full scale investigation. The Texas Rangers were called in and ultimately proved that Jack’s fractured skull was the result of a powerful blow which had come from directly overhead. Identical fibers from the crown of his Stetson that were imbedded in fragments of bone and tissue were found on the 20 lb stone bearing Jill’s prints. The Santa Rita jury took less than 30 minutes to find Jill guilty of second degree murder.
Jack and Jill
Went up the Hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down
And broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
© Gary Ives
first published in Bohemia-Journal October 2013