Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul. —Proverbs 22:24
Not by warriors’ hands the tyrant fell; not giants smote him, not heroes of the old time barred his path; it was Judith, Merari’s daughter, Judith’s fair face that was his undoing. —Judith 16:8
“Another round, Bill!” Coady had cash. Single, 23, and rich as a movie star—well, rich as a movie star who makes around $90,000 a year, relaxing in Manning, North Dakota. Manning? Just a little town north of Dickinson, south of Williston: Oil Country. What used to be a bar for farmers to get a drink on the weekend now has become the hub for young oil workers looking for a good time. They come from all over, setting out for the black-gold rush on the prairie. The blizzards and wind are enough to drive a guy crazy, but unlike the 49ers of old, the 09ers are guaranteed a paycheck and enough cash to leave whenever the land wins out. But sometimes the greatest storms they have to weather are more subtle.
Coady, the new guy, sidled up to one of the few women in the bar. “What’ll ya have?” “Whiskey,” she said, without looking at him. “Bill get . . .” “Hey what’s your name?” “Bailey.” “Hey Bill, get Bailey a Jack!” The glass arrived. “So you work on one of these drills?” “Nope.” “What do you do?” “Truck driver.” “Ah. Coming down 22’s pretty scary stuff, huh?” “Yeah.”
Coady usually had an easier time speaking to women. He didn’t notice it at first, but now he realized that a single woman standing by herself is a rare sight here in the Wild West. Even still, a guy can only take one word answers for so long before he gives up and moves on. One more try. “Yeah, I almost had a head-on collision a couple days ago. Trucker texting, if you can believe it. Should get his license taken away.” She took a drink. Now he was mad. “Hey, I’m just trying to have a good time, what’s your deal?”
Bill walked up to him from behind the counter and said calmly, “Hey Coady, just let her alone, she’s had a rough go.” He persisted, “Is that right, Bailey, you had a rough go? It’s rough for all of us, no one wants to live up here, but we just make do by talking and carrying on and drinking. Why can’t you do your part? Oh, you too good for us? Okay, okay. I’ll move on.” He didn’t move on. “What’s up, you got a big bad boyfriend who don’t let you talk to strangers? Well bring him on.” Bailey took another drink. Her face was expressionless. “Coady, lay off now. Come on, maybe it’s time you go to bed or something. She’s not worth getting all worked up over.” He didn’t notice Bill. “Hey, I bought you a drink, don’t you owe me something?” She started to take out a $5 bill from her pocket. Coady snarled, “I don’t need your money,” and threw two $100 bills on the counter and stormed out. He lit up a Marb red outside the door.
His buddy Jake from Arkansas was outside. He had been working here for 3 years. “Hey Jake, you know that Bailey inside?” “Yessir I do.” “What’s her deal, where’s she from?” “Just up the road in Killdeer.” “Oh wow, local.” “Got a chip on her shoulder. Wanted to get outta here, but her dad got sick, so she had to support him. Mom divorced him a while ago, moved to Colorado. They don’t talk.”
“That’s no good. None of us want to be here, though. We all got stuff. Why’s she have to be all stuck up? And how do you know so much about her? She didn’t say more than 3 or 4 words to me.”
“I asked around town. She comes to this bar every night. She’s pretty, I wanted to get to know her, but got as far as you did. I gave up eventually, just like the rest. With her, I found out it was change or go crazy stayin’ the same.”
“Well, why’s she come to the bar? May as well just buy a bottle and drink at home with Pa.”
He laughed darkly to himself. All ginned up from booze and being turned down, he walked back into the bar. “Alright folks,” he shouted, “We got ourselves a local lady who’s too good for us strange-folk.” Bill the bartender turned off the music. “Coady, shut up!” “I ain’t gonna shut up till she speaks up. Hey Bailey?” He stumbled a bit, but regained his footing. “Why you come here instead of drinking at home, you hate us so much?” Bailey finished her drink calmly and stood up. “I am home.”
She walked out of the bar past him and put a $5 bill in his pocket. She got in her pickup and drove up 22 to Killdeer. As for Coady, he stumbled out to his pickup and tried to start it, but fell asleep in the driver’s seat. Jake came up and moved him over to the passenger seat. He was dry as a bone, been that way for 2 years and 324 days. “Yeah, boy, you’ll learn. No one cross Bailey and win,” he chuckled to himself. “She’d tame a wild horse just by looking at him.”
Image: Edvard Munch, Tavern in St. Cloud