Dirty Scoundrel

By: Jessica Clare

“Eddie wouldn’t care,” I tell her, trying to smile. “He’s an old roughneck, through and through. I doubt he even owned a dress shirt. Wouldn’t expect me to own one.”

“I care,” Ivy says, ignoring everything I say. “And his widow will care. And his children will care. It’s important, Clay.” She speaks to me like I’m a child but it just rolls off my back. Ivy is a little fussy about appearances but she means well, and she wants us to look right for this.

And even though every one of us Price brothers knows Eddie Murteen wouldn’t give two shits what we wore to his funeral, it’s important to Ivy that we are respectable when we pay our last respects.

So I shrug and put my arms out. “Come dress your Ken Doll, Barbie.” She thwacks me with the lint brush as I grin. Guess I got a bit of spark left in me, after all.

I jacket up, and Ivy fusses with my hair, removing my favorite baseball cap and wetting and combing down my flyaways like I’m a kid. I just let her fuss. Ivy’s the only female in our lives, so I figure she knows more about this sorta thing than we do. I glance down at her big belly and the tented black dress she’s wearing. “Junior’s getting big.”

“His name won’t be Junior.”

“Mason, then. That’s a good name.”

“Like the jar? No thanks.”

Boone just grins behind her like a big dumb loon. Never thought I’d see the day that my mule-stubborn brother would let a little blonde waltz all over him, but he does. I bet this baby’s gonna have some trendy, crappy name like Juniper or Pastel or some shit.

“Ford?” I suggest.

“Like the car?”

“Good, solid car.”

“No. Absolutely not.” Ivy finishes messin’ with my hair and then runs the lint brush over my jacket. “All right. You look good. Are the wreaths in the cars? Everyone have umbrellas?”

“We have hats,” Seth says, a bit of sulk in my youngest brother’s tone.

“Umbrellas,” Ivy repeats firmly. “This is a funeral, not a bowling alley.” She fusses with the string of pearls at her neck, looking worried. “I want you to look the part. Everyone’s going to be focused on the fact that the Price family is showing up—”

“We look good, baby girl,” Boone says, moving to press a kiss to his wife’s cheek. “They’re just giving you shit. It’s going to be fine, I promise.”

Ivy gives him a smile, reassured by his calm words.

I wish I was so easily placated. The knot’s back in my stomach and growing. Ain’t no avoiding this. Eddie deserves a good send-off, and we’ll be there. I just wish . . .

Fuck, I don’t know what I wish.

* * *

The funeral’s a good one, I guess. I’ve only been to two, but compared to my father’s funeral, this one’s done right. Eddie’s in the most expensive coffin that Price money can buy, since he died working on one of our rigs. There are flowers and wreaths all over the small chapel, and a shit-ton more at the graveside. The service is nice and decently attended, and I try not to look at Eddie’s widow and the three little boys she has sitting on the pew next to her. If I do, that knot in my stomach just grows and grows.

Eddie was too old to be roughnecking. Well, not too old. Too broken and too slow. It’s a young man’s job, and Eddie was pushing forty-five. He just didn’t have the moves he used to, and when equipment snaps—like it did this last week—you have to move fast. The good news is that when the pipe tripped and hit him, it hit him in the head. Never felt a thing. Just snapped his neck like a potato chip and boom, no more Eddie. I guess if you have to go, that’s a good way to go.

I wiggle my foot in my shoe, feeling the gap where my two missing toes are. When I lost them on a rig accident, it fucking hurt like hell and I bled like a stuck pig. But Eddie would have gone instantly. One minute there, the next, gone. The world is minus one Eddie Murteen in the blink of an eye.

I worshipped Eddie as a teen. He was a great guy. Worked with me when I started on my first rig, just a shitty kid with a chip on his shoulder and a broken heart. Bought me a beer when my dad died and I couldn’t sack up enough to stop crying, even on the job. He was mentor and friend to both me and Boone, and when Price Brothers Oil hit it big, we gave him work. He’s not great at what he does, but he’s loyal as hell. That counts for a lot.

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