The Ruination of Thomas Gant

Before the sun had risen and the coyotes had finished singing, dancing and playing for the night; before the desert chill was low enough to make bones weep; before all of that, with his mind enraged with failure, ravaged by lost bills, bullets and sirens, a failure, a humiliation, and wasted time in a faraway town of no name worth repeating; before all of that did Thomas Gant, kill an innocent man and stuff his body in a hole in the middle of the desert. He buried him with a bucketload of saliva and contempt and left him in an unmarked grave for the worms.

The Mexican man had been alone at the grocery store and Thomas Gant had seen the gun when the man’s shirt had risen. Returning from some distant dwelling – with his blood a-boilin’ and a-roilin’ in his veins like curdled milk or ruined wine – Thomas Gant had studied that face and believed that there was recognition in those eyes. The radio station had been tuned to the news. Crimes. Sins of small cities. There was quickening to the pulse of Thomas Gant. There could be no witnesses. No one was permitted to lay eyes on Thomas Gant, that big cowboy, not on that day, not when the stench of nefarious deeds still clung to him like a suckling infant, a bad cologne. Not then. Not ever. A reddening at his neck, a quickening to his pulse; a maddening beat to his heart.

Thomas Gant, that big cowboy, had climbed into his car, permeated with bullet holes and country detritus. Memories of bank vaults and sirens in his brain, he followed the Mexican along the highway, through encroaching night-time that moved over the sky like an infection, watching those twinkling headlights. Thomas Gant had flashed his lights and the Mexican had pulled over, and Thomas Gant, that big old cowboy, had strode over and smiled real friendly-like and tapped on the glass and leaned his massive frame across the hood like a vehicular ornament. He said in perfect Spanish with the accent to match – curated and practised in the fields and the plains of his homeland that does not require elucidating here – that it looked like that Mexican soul was leaking oil or some such fluid from the back of the old truck. The Mexican had then squinted through the gloom and had not recognised that smiling Thomas Gant, that big cowboy; that same Mexican had sighed and cursed in his mother tongue and reached into the glove compartment for his tools and turned back. He had recognised the revolver and that poor Mexican soul had lost his head to the storm; the hills surrounding that empty highway were left vibrating with the roar of the shot, as thunder heard to ears buried beneath an ocean.

And Thomas Gant, that big cowboy, had dragged that innocent Mexican by the feet into a desert of such perfect night-time stillness, treading scarlet footprints amongst shadows. Those same shadows sometimes seemed to come alive, and critters stirred amongst them like springs coiled tight at the sight of blood. He had thought about leaving that Mexican boy for those same animals; for the coyotes of the black, and the buzzards when the day eventually emerged. Thomas Gant, that big cowboy, had thought about it real hard and real long; but then he had returned to his car and retrieved a shovel and dug a mighty fine hole and tossed in that headless and innocent Mexican. He pissed and spat on him and then buried him where nobody – not his wife, not his children – would ever find him again.

And Thomas Gant, that big old cowboy, had walked away back to his truck. He sat and thought and reddened with the shame of it all, and he thought of that town far away whose name we will not speak, and Thomas Gant drove away, disappearing into a dawn that wouldn’t ever see his face again.

Author Bio: Jonathan Newman is a British writer and long-suffering English teacher. He spends most of his days attempting (unsuccessfully) to convince his students that reading Cormac McCarthy and Stephen King are more valuable interests than using TikTok and Snapchat. A lover of all things American, Jonathan’s fascination with the US began when he wandered through the hills and forests of Seeley Lake, Montana, and he hasn’t looked back since. You can find him on Twitter at @TheHudsonLives.

Photo by Alec Favale on Unsplash.

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