Covering the Bull


They were in the back of some bull fighter’s pickup doing donuts in the Lancaster town square when Luther daylighted into the street in front of a sheriff’s car and busted his ankle. Eric’d hauled the little bull rider back up over the tailgate but then Eric jumped out on a turn before they could get to the freeway. He landed running low and got up a fence and flipped over it the way you have to when you draw a mean one wanting to kill you. Good practice for tomorrow, the sheriff’s car went on after the truck. Back at the party house Eric heard the chase ended over the Dallas line and instead of the boy’s cousin locking him up safe in Lancaster, little Luther went straight to Sterrett.

Some bottles and hours later on Eric woke up in some buckle bunny’s bedroom with the phone ringing and he picked it up. Luther’s cousin down at the Lancaster station, a friend at Sterrett had just called him. They wanted somebody to come pick up the little rider, because every guy in holding was starting fights with him but the bull rider was finishing them. They collected the bail from what was left of the party and drew lots for who had to pick him up, and Eric lost. Still drunk, he only half remembered where to turn to get to the jail.

“I’m sorry as shit,” was all the little rider could say.

Eric imagined the ankle ballooning but no way was that boot coming off before the rodeo. The hospital just put a cast on Luther’s free hand and let him sign a waiver for the right to ruin his own leg. At the party house all beds had been taken and the carpet was so wet they decided to sleep in the bed of the truck, what little of the night was left to them.

Luther drew Red Rocker the next day and covered him with the ankle banging on the jumps and his free hand in a cast. That was the first time Eric broke the bad leg, the last time he’d ride in Mesquite.

Jay Lee Ellis grew up between Dallas and East Texas, performing professionally on drums from age eleven. He later attending Berklee College of Music and has graduate degrees in writing and literature from UT Dallas and NYU. His nonfiction includes No Place for Home (Routledge) on Cormac McCarthy’s novels, and his creative work has most recently appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine. Still playing jazz, he has performed at New York’s Knitting Factory, and at Red Rocks Amphitheatre—not far from Boulder, where he teaches writing at the University of Colorado.