long road ghost - part 2 of 9

It was fall, I think, when Alexander Crane came to Barstow to take over the principal’s job at the local high school. Not that it matters all that much in the desert. Leaves don’t change; only the light quality does as the Sun sets earlier and earlier and the light turns golden. The former principal, a nice old black man who, I’m told, really had a soft spot for his students, died of a heart attack while planting tomatoes in his garden. I don’t know what he was doin’ plantin’ tomatoes in his garden. Alexander and his wife Katrina came by the bar on their way in, having driven all the way from Riverside in a beat-up Corolla. He seemed friendly enough, jokin’ about being named Crane and getting a drink at a place called Sleepy Hollow. It was a good joke too, seein’ as he was rather tall and lanky, with big ears and odd angles, just like Ichabod. He was probably better lookin’ than Irving’s old boy, though. And Katrina, well, she was a pretty, mousy blonde wrapped in a woolen coat that left everything to the imagination. She wasn’t at all at comfortable in Sleepy Hollow, walkin’ about with an empty glance that, to me, said she wasn’t all too happy about somethin’.

I didn’t see them too often after that. I got no kids to send to school, so it comes to the times I go to town to get food and drink, or other sundries, for me to see either of the Cranes. But gossip travels fast, and I heard plenty. The teachers weren’t too keen about Crane’s leadership “style,” which was all tough and no heart. At least, that’s what slim Eddie Johnson, a regular at the Hollow who happened to teach phys. ed at the high school, kept telling me. But the teachers figured he’s new, he needs time to settle in, and with Katrina seemingly givin’ him the cold shoulder, he had plenty of issues to deal with.

Then Katrina started showin’ up at the bar every Thursday night after she got off work from a local real estate fellah’s office. Brom Bones, a good-lookin’-to-the-ladies black-haired guy with the look of an eagle and the spirit of a trickster god, always tripped over himself to buy her a rum and coke. His boys – Sick Jimmy, Nasty Nasty, and Potatohead – also tripped over themselves, even getting into so many fights with each other that I’d almost always have to break up by pickin’ them by the scruff of the neck and tossin’ em outside with a good cussin’. All the while, I thought about all those times I got in a woman’s face, and wondered if I’d be married by now if I’d been more of a real gentlemen. The thing about it was that Katrina herself started dressin’ less modestly, takin’ to tight jeans and loose colored blouses that left less to the imagination. There was a woman puttin’ out a cougar’s pheromones, lookin’ damn good too, and I felt bad for Alex. Did the sap even know what his wife was doin’, or was he too busy gradin’ papers and holdin’ parent-teacher meetings?

I found out not too long after that, maybe a few months after the Cranes settled. Alex came into the bar wearin’ leather; jacket, chaps, boots, the whole get-up. He probably was holdin’ on tight for dear life, as the teachers were becomin’ less and less convinced of his rightness for the job. Between that and his wife, whose behavior he obviously knew about, he was in a full-throttle mid-life crisis. Brom’s boys hooted at him.

Tune in next week for part 3...

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