Once I bounced right off the seat and hit my head against the door. “Ow.”
“Sorry.” We pulled onto a mossy spot at the edge of the yard and Izzy cut the engine. I surveyed our surroundings as the car tick-tick-ticked in the cool air.
The house was nothing special. Probably built in the sixties, it was a little run down. Its white paint was peeling and it looked like it needed a new roof. The yard was clean, though, and rimmed by three small buildings in various states of decay. We got out of the jeep and walked through the grass to the front porch. That’s where I got my first look at Bobby Boyd.
He sat in a wooden swing, dead center, his arms stretched out across the back of it. The ragged hem of his faded jeans brushed the floor of the porch as his bare feet kept the swing in motion. He wore a black t-shirt with a picture of Johnny Cash flipping somebody the bird. He was listening to the conversation of two men perched on the porch steps, one corner of his mouth turned up at something one of them had said.
We stopped at the bottom of the steps. Izzy nodded at the men. “Cal. Dennis.” He cleared his throat and lifted his hand to the man in the swing. “Bobby, this is my cousin I told you about. Jennie.”
Bobby stopped swinging and turned his head to look at me. His hair just touched his shoulders. Picture a jar of homemade apple jelly sitting in a sunny window. That was the color of his hair. But his eyes were dark.
Dark eyes. Bad eyes.
I knew I wouldn’t be going home that night.
Bobby leaned forward and rested his arms on his knees. “You the girl wants to see my pony play?”
“Well, hellfire. Let’s get this game going.”
I had to apologize to Izzy for doubting him. Sure enough, that pony could play.
His name was Molasses and that’s what color he was, although his mane was as black as Bobby’s eyes. He stood just outside the back of the house with his head poking through an open window. We sat at a round table pushed up against the wall. When it was Molasses’ turn to play, Bobby would hold the cards up to him and he would nuzzle one to throw down. Every so often Bobby would feed him an apple slice or a baby carrot from a bowl under the table.
Now, a poker-playing pony is an amazing sight, but one that wins the game? I have to say, it was a little humbling. I’d never been a great poker player anyway, so I took it all in stride. Cal, on the other hand, got really mad. He had laid out a full house, sure that he had the winning hand. When Bobby showed the table Molasses’ straight flush, Cal turned as pink as a cat’s tongue. He cussed and shoved his chips across the table. One bounced up and hit the pony on the muzzle.
Bobby came across the table at Cal. The man would have gotten an ass-shining for sure if Izzy and Dennis hadn’t pulled Bobby off him. That kind of put a damper on the whole proceeding, so Dennis and Cal struck out for home. Izzy made as if to go too, but I hung back.
“I’ll bring her home,” Bobby told him.
I could see Izzy wasn’t comfortable leaving me there but I didn’t care. I grinned and waggled my fingers at him. Hit the road, Cuz!
I watched the jeep’s taillights disappear into the darkness, then stood on the porch listening to the crickets. The sound washed over me, followed by a tidal wave of despair. For a moment, I felt the urge to run up the long, rocky driveway.
I changed my mind, Izzy, I wanted to shout.
Excerpt from “Bobby Boyd’s Bad Eyes.” Inwood Indiana: Reaping (August 2016).