There were more people at the impromptu memorial than anyone who knew Ricky Gordon’s father would’ve expected, or so thought Ricky, the not-so-grieving son of Richard Efren Gordon Sr. It was an amazing turnout…considering. Ricky had felt that he should do something. His father was dead. This get-together was the best he could come up with for his ne’er-do-well parent.
Ricky didn’t really want to do anything. Throughout his childhood years, and now his adult life, Ricky had been embarrassed at having a father the likes of “Gordy.” He’d be the first to accuse Richard Gordon, the elder, of being the most despicable man in town, though some of his old man’s friends and fellow carousers gave him a good run for the money when it came to the sordid honor of being the most disreputable man in Dos Pesos, Texas.
Everyone would agree, with the exception of the local drunks and offensively unattractive women his father was known to bed down from time to time, much to Ricky’s mother’s dismay, that Richard Gordon Sr. was a scoundrel, a jerk, yet all too often a likeable scamp. A drunk and a bit of a scalawag. Ricky was thankful his mother wasn’t alive to witness this morning’s bacchanal, his father’s memorial service, the unholy affair her son had thrown together at the last minute, almost an afterthought, more a fiasco for the man who had humiliated his family than a hush-toned, reverential sendoff.
Who in the world would show up, he’d wondered, only a few hours earlier. Why bother? Just take his ashes out in the desert and let the winds carry the son of a bitch back to wherever he came from.
But now, Ricky found himself pleasantly surprised that half the town had shown up at the Green Tree Bar and Grill, his father’s home away from home, to send his old man off to whatever came next. The son had tried to count the attendees, disheveled males, of all ages, thirsty, curious, and dozens of women, white and Mexican, but the bar was too crowded with countless well-wishers to even estimate how many were there. The mayor was there. Several county officials. Even Sheriff Kyle Reed and the priest joined in the revelry.
Free beer, thought Ricky. The old man would’ve loved this.
“Junior,” said Carl Waters, one of his father’s compatriots at the Green Tree, a foul-smelling man who, like his father, was an on-again-off-again employee of Carnell Swift, Dos Pesos’ only contractor. “This is one hell of a way to honor your father.” The red-nosed carpenter and handyman leaned against the bar. Eleven on a Saturday morning and the man was already three sheets to the West Texas wind.
“I thought it would be good for my father’s friends to get together and toast him one last time,” Ricky said, unconvincingly. He stepped back from the odorous carpenter. He was dizzy enough from the shrill of the juke box and the close quarters.
“Well, your father was one of a kind.” Carl Waters tilted to his right. Without the bar to lean against, the man would be on the beer-stained, cigarette-burned wooden floor in a matter of seconds.
“He was that,” said Ricky. And that’s a good thing, Ricky wanted to add, but didn’t.
“I thought you’d have a Catholic service for him. Father Ramon would’ve been happy to say mass for him. He owed your father big time.”
“My father wasn’t Catholic,” said Ricky. “My mother was. Richard Efren Gordon wasn’t much of anything.” Other than a drunk and skirt chaser. Though the women his father cavorted with weren’t exactly of the skirt wearing sort.
“Well, Father Ramon would’ve done anything for Gordy. Hell, your father and I outfitted that church with a new alter, you know. Your dad designed the damned thing. It’s a beauty.” Carl paused, then sighed. “And your father never charged that church one dime. I wanted money for the damned job, but your old man said, nope, we’re doing this job as a favor. To who? I never did know.”
“I never heard about that.” Ricky studied the drunken fool. He didn’t know what to believe when it came to his father.
“You were off at Angelo State,” said Carl. “Your old man saw to it that you got an education.”
“Mr. Waters, I had a scholarship.”
The man wrinkled his nose, snorted, then said, “You got a scholarship alright. From the damned Kiwanis in Ft. Stockton.” He squinted at Ricky. “Didn’t it ever cross your mind to wonder why the hell a group in Ft. Stockton was handing out a scholarship to some kid in Dos Pesos?” He chuckled. “Your old man arranged that whole thing. He called in a few favors.”
“Son, don’t you know just about everyone in this part of the state owed your father, in one way or another? Good God, the man towed people’s cars out of the mud, helped put a roof on their house, paid for more than one woman to get herself out of a jam, if you know what I mean.” Carl Waters grinned, half-toothed. “And he never charged anyone a cent. How do you think you were able to come back here and get that job at the high school? A twenty-three-year-old head basketball coach? Everyone on the school board owed Gordy.”
Ricky smiled. “I would guess that he had something to do with getting a few of those women into the jam they found themselves in.”
“Well, there was that side of Gordy.” The man exhaled, unfortunately. “Where would your own mother have been without him. Her being pregnant and all. The boyfriend skedaddled off to God knows where. Gordy married her and provided for both of you. Hell, he did pretty good by her, if you ask me. God damned cancer. It took both of them.”
“What are you saying?”
“All I’m saying is that your father was one of a kind. And that it’s damned decent of you to be giving him this farewell. Damned decent.”