Junior's Leg: A Novel

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9780375505263: Junior's Leg: A Novel

Fifteen years after he tormented fellow students at Catahoula Bayou School, Junior Guidry is broke, drunk, one-legged, and living in a wreck of a trailer on the edge of a snake-infested swamp. He's survived an oil-rig accident that would've killed most men but, with the help of a good lawyer, made him rich instead. But he's squandered his fortune on drink, blackjack, womanizing, and brawling, leaving a wake of wrecked cars and friendships, not to mention lost or stolen wooden legs. Then the mysterious Iris Mary Parfait enters his life. She's on the run from a tragic childhood and a bad, bad man. When news reaches Junior that a bar owner with Mob connections has posted a $100,000 bounty on Iris's head because she knows too much about him, Junior realizes he could regain his fortune—but at what cost?

Narrated in Junior's unvarnished voice, Junior's Leg takes the reader on a singular journey through the mind of a troubled man. It is at turns unsettling, ribald, sexy, and poignant—a bold stroke of storytelling that ultimately plumbs the possibilities of love and redemption, even for as unlikely a candidate as Junior.

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About the Author:

Ken Wells, author of Meely LaBauve, is a senior writer and features editor for page one of The Wall Street Journal. In 1982, as ajournalist at The Miami Herald, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives with his family outside Manhattan.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I seen her comin’ up the steps. It was about dark, though, hell—night, day, it’s all the same to me.

For all I knew, she could have been a ghost or a robber.

Ghost or robber, I just laid there on the sofa watchin’ her come. Either one could cut my sorry throat and what could I do about it?

Shuh, nuttin’.

If she’s gonna cut my throat, I hope she’s got a sharp knife.

I’m drunk, or close to it. I am what I am. What I always am—goddam Junior Guidry.

And anyway, the door ain’t locked. Nobody comes out here to this miserable godforsaken place. Ain’t nuttin’ out here but me and the swamp and nootra-rats and mosquitoes and a few damn ole hoot owls.

Before I pawned my 12-gauge, I shot me a few of them noisy bastids. You’d think they’d learn, but they don’t.

The ole crook who put in these lots and sold me this wreck of a trailer calls this place Hackberry Bend Acres. But the ole Cajuns call this place Mauvais Bois—the bad woods—and I know why. This bit of high ground I’m on ain’t nuttin’ but a finger in the eye of the Great Catahoula Swamp. Get a hurricane blowin’ through here and this trailer will be a submarine headin’ for the Gulf of Mexico and I’ll be up to my ass in water moccasins. Hell, there’s probably a dozen of ’em crawlin’ around under this trailer right now.

When the girl come in the door, it squeaked on rusty hinges. She didn’t knock. She just come in, slow and sneaky like a dog that’s been shot at a few times. She looked pale as the belly of a sac-à-lait. She had a small suitcase in her hand.

I looked around, not really able to move my head ’cause I had the spins perty bad. I thought about throwin’ my leg at her. I looked around for it and I thought I saw it in a heap in the corner wit’ the rest of the garbage—in between my busted-up hip boots and that greasy spare carburetor for my truck and a coupla cans of motor oil that have leaked all over that stack of Playboy magazines my podnah Roddy give me.

That oil has totally ruined Miss July’s knockers, which is a shame ’cause she had some good ones, lemme tell ya.

I ain’t worn my leg in a while. Hoppin’s okay when you get used to it and you ain’t got far to go.

Hell, I’ve even crawled a few places when I was too drunk to stand.

If I coulda got to my leg, I’da damned well tried to bean her wit’ it. I used to be a good ballplayer. I could hit a ball to Kingdom Come and throw a strike to home plate from deep center field.

There was a bottle on the floor just below me and I coulda tried to cold-cock her with that. But it still had whiskey in it. I didn’t know when Roddy might be back wit’ more.

He’s a flaky bastid, Roddy is.

Anyways, I wadn’t gonna waste good liquor on a damn ghost. Or a robber neither.

What the hell do I care about a robber? I’m so friggin’ broke, even the mice and roaches that crawl around my kitchen have gone on the Relief. Them mice I can live wit’. Them roaches bug me.

Everything shorts out in this ratty trailer. One time I got so mad at them roaches that I smeared the bare bulb of my kitchen light with peanut butter. I waited about an hour and then I come in and threw the switch. That bulb popped and fussed and I electrocuted about twenty of them bastids—they fell to the floor like rain.

The girl come in and looked around. She slumped down in a corner over by my leg where it was already dark. She slumped down there and disappeared in the dark, though I heard her cryin’. I said get the hell out of my house. Get the hell out, damn you!

She stopped cryin’. For all I know, she stopped breathin’ and I wouldn’ta cared whether she did or didn’t.

The trailer got quiet.

I reached down for my bottle and I took me a big swallow. The whiskey rolled down my chin and onto my chest.

I took me another. A good one, this time.

The whiskey rolled down my throat and into my belly like a hot diesel chuggin’ for New Awlins. I wiped my mouth and closed my eyes. The spins stopped and dark come down all around me.

Them hoot owls started up just to aggravate me and them crickets put up a racket in the roseaus and some big ole bullfrog started barkin’ out across the swamp. But I didn’t pay ’em no mind.

I closed my eyes tighter and headed on down to hell.

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