Summary: Joe has some explaining to do. This is a story where the first sentence is one of the 100 best opening lines in a novel as determined by the American Book Review.
Word Count: 600
When I finally caught up with my brother Hoss, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.
Now, the first thing you need to know, Sheriff, is that my brother Hoss and spring just don’t get along real well.
What’s that? It’s hard to hear with these bandages around my head.
Oh, you want to know why? Well, see every spring—on the first day of spring to be exact—my brother comes down with a real bad case of The Fever. Not the happy kind, you know, when a young man’s fancy—what? Oh, sorry. I didn’t know your daughter was in the room. I can’t turn my head because of the neck brace. My apologies, Miss—
Well, there’s no reason to get huffy, Sheriff, I was just—okay, okay. Where was I? Oh, yeah, Hoss and spring fever. Well, he gets the mopey-down-in-the-dumps-can’t-eat-nothin’-walks-into-walls-heebie-jeebies kind of spring fever. Downright dangerous he is to be around, let me tell you! I mean all kinds of peculiar things happen to everyone around him when he’s like that.
A cure? Oh, our Pa has tried everything; even wrote to some specialist back east for advice. Closest thing we come across what tempers him a bit is a mash of sulphur and—
Smell? You bet! Our cows give sour milk for a month after we cook that slop. And getting it in him—well, it takes half a dozen men at least to hold him down, that is, if we can find any willing to take the risk even for triple pay!
How did we wind up here? Well, Hoss has been banned from every town east of Sacramento. What’s that you say? Make that east of the Pacific from now on? Gotcha. If you’ll just help me up, I’ll—
What do you mean I can’t leave? Oh, right, I still owe you an explanation. Well, see, Hoss knew he couldn’t stay at the ranch with spring comin’, and no town would have him, so he took to the open road. But our Pa, he got worried. You don’t know what it’s like to live with my Pa when he’s worried about a lost son. Well, actually, neither do I since I’m usually the one that’s lost, but that’s another— what? Oh, yeah. Guess that laudanum the doc give me when he set my shoulder has made me a little loopy.
Well, I outsmarted our older brother by taking off after Hoss before he could. Stuck poor Adam at home with Pa. Yes, I did. Boy, am I lucky or what?
What? ‘Course I am! Found Hoss didn’t I? Okay, okay, so he left me a trail a mile wide—which is pretty funny when you think about him being an expert tracker and all—but it was still lucky that I found him in a town with a doctor, doncha think? Oh, and chores—can’t forget I won’t have to do chores for at least two months!
Now, if you’ll just hand me that crutch . . . .
The opening line was from The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. We were allowed to substitute the given name for a Bonanza name.