Six-Gun Snow White
back her whiskey and falls down dead.

Snow White
    Exchanges Vomit
    with Owl

She comes to and Bang-Up’s got her fingers down her throat. The whiskey comes back up like it hates her personal, there’s puke everywhere and a skunky red in her eyes. Bang-Up punches a few walls and it’s a bad night. No one comes round from a thing like that looking pretty. Retching and sweating and a lump of hide in Snow White’s mouth so she don’t make supper of her tongue. Everyone snarling twice means you wanted it, what’s soured out in you girl, is you looking for your death or just banging into it full stupid?
    When she finally sleeps it’s like drowning, that dark, that final.
    I’m looking for it. I’m looking for it.

Snow White
    Swallows the Earth

It happens again when the snow starts riding the wind, not fallen yet but ashing the air.
    Everyone’s in camp this time. They see it happen. Even Bang-Up. But they don’t interfere. Everyone’s minding theirs. Only so much you can do to keep a body going when it’s bent on blowing town. They all see her come.
    Old Epharim stirs her stew. Fox meat and coyote bones and deer hearts black as secrets.
    Snow White doesn’t wait. In the bank of her whole self she’s already laid out on the floor. But it’s not her mama come to shoot the place up.
    It’s Mrs. H.
    Older, white freezing the edges of her hair, lines in her face like someone meant to scar her forever but didn’t have the heart to finish up. But it’s her. Snow White sees a face she knows and fears and loves in an ugly, bunched up way. A family way.
    It’s not a fair fight.
    Mrs. H is holding a basket of apples. They look real nice. Snow White keeps her mouth shut—it’s all said anyway. She just looks at her stepmother holding her death bag of Puritan magic between them like they don’t both know what’s going to happen.
    And yet. Mrs. H falters. Snow White is the best draw going and her stare punches a hole at point blank. She aims to fill it this time.
    “Everything in this world requires a heart in trade,” Mrs. H whispers. “There’s no such thing as a good bargain.”
    Yeah. That’s about the speed of it.
    Mrs. H pulls out a deck of cards. Thompson’s fox-teeth show on the back of the seven of spades. She offers Snow White the cut, fair as fair as fair.
    Snow White don’t take it.

    Snow White reaches out and grabs an apple from the bag. She bites into it and never looks away from Mrs. H, from the crevice of her, and this is a suicide we’re watching, full faith and knowledge.
    Snow White swallows that piece of sweetness and falls down dead.
    Her mother catches her.

Part VI

    Snow White
    Rides a Star

Snow White
    Is Carried By Turtle

What happens to the West happens to Snow White, which is to say they both turn into jokes. They both get told so often they become pantomime. And then worse.
    Oh-Be-Joyful don’t last much past Montana Territory unterritorying and stating up. But you never leave a girl behind. They join up with a wild west show and tour flat-dead towns on scrub-dust rivers. Not the big show, Bill’s show, but one nearly as good. They earn their dinners. The trick shots Little Mab and Bang-Up pull off look just like magic. What Woman Without a Name does with a horse would shame anyone who dared call himself a cowboy which truth be told is not too many people anymore.
    And they have a pair of aces. A curiosity unequaled. It goes in the freak show because no one knows what else to do with it, and Boss Jake says it gives him the crawling creeps.
    A little while back someone else showed up asking after work, though everybody but the lions knew he was just looking for their funny little curiosity. That kid was a much better get than the old box anyway, with those deer legs that could outrun a horse. Spends most of his nights in the freak tent with the box, talking to it like it can talk back. Talking funny. Maybe it’s French or something. Boss Jake knows he’s got

Similar Books

Take Cover

Kim Black

Death's Door

Meryl Sawyer

False Witness

Aimée and David Thurlo

Strike Force Charlie

Mack Maloney

Apollo: The Race to the Moon

Charles Murray, Catherine Bly Cox

The Red Coffin

Sam Eastland

Here on Earth

Alice Hoffman