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Brown John's Body
written by "Marks, Winston K., 1915-1979"
...nda naked tonight, Erd," Gloria kidded. Neff wiped steak juice from his chin and stared at her breasts. It used to excite him, but now it was just habit. It was better than looking at red-smeared lips that smiled and eyes that didn't, eyes that said, "Don't forget the tip, you filthy bastard!" Funny. Hang a gun on any other citizen in town and people would stare. Take the gun off of Erd Neff and people make cracks. He did feel naked. "I didn't order this damned succotash!" "It's free with the steak dinner, Erd." Go ahead, pinch my leg like the harvesting crews do. I'm free with the dinner, too. Like the ketchup. Like the mustard and the salt and pepper and the steak sauce and the sugar and the extra butter if you ask for it, just don't forget the tip. Clarence Hogan, the fry-cook, came around the counter and leaned on the booth table beside Gloria. "You don't like succotash? How about some nice peas, Erd?" Clarence was Gloria's husband. Pimp! "Put some ice-cream on my pie," Neff said. He looked up at Clarence. "No, I don't want any goddamned peas!" They brought his pie and left him alone. He finished it and felt in his pocket for the tip. He changed his mind. To hell with Gloria and her fat leg! The steak was tough. He paid the check and went out. The sky was pink yet. Later in the week the sunsets would be blood-red, as the great combines increased in number and cruised the rippling ocean of wheat, leaving bristly wakes and a sky-clogging spray of dust. Neff's busiest season. Damn that dog! Damn Collin Burns! His hand brushed his leg where the leather holster should be. Damned laws that men made. Laws that acquitted him of homicide and then snatched away his only weapon of self-defense because he shot a yapping dog. As he got in his car Collin Burns came out of the station. He tossed Neff's gun through the open window onto the seat. "Here's your property. The Marshal came in, and he changed everybody'...

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