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between a rock and a hard place

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It’s your shit luck that Ennis’s birthday comes two days afore Bobby’s.  Ain’t no time to get back to Texas, see your boy blow out the candles on his cake, and you know you oughta cancel on Ennis but goddammit, last time was near seven months ago and your balls are startin to turn blue.  Lureen’s so pissed at you that she ain’t gonna be helpin with that no time soon, neither. 

All you said was thinkin bout headin up to Wyoming for a week or so.  Ennis got a little time off, don’t know when we’ll be able to get away again, and even though she’s real good bout not naggin you bout your trips, her eyes were ice when she said well fine then, if your trips’re more important than your son. 

Ain’t like that, Lureen, you said back, but you know it ain’t true.  Just no other time we can do it til next year, almost.  He got his girls once a month, gotta be there for them. 

An you, Jack? she asked.  You ain’t gotta be there for your boy?

Hell, Lureen, you said, I’ll make it up to him.  Take him to the rodeo or somethin.  Not like I wanna miss his birthday.

Then don’t, she snapped, turned her back and slept facin the other direction, not quite a pattern at this point. 

You tell Bobby that you’re real sorry but you aren’t gonna be back in time for his birthday.  Tell you what, though, you and me, we gonna go to the rodeo soon as I get back. 

I got school, Daddy, he said, eleven goin on twelve and not wantin to look too eager in front of his mama.

Well I reckon you can miss a day or two without forgettin everythin you learned.  What you think, Lureen?  Boy can miss a couple days a school.  She looks at you like you a worm in the dirt and jabs her fork into a piece of roast.

You the one always on bout him needin tutors, not needin to miss school, Jack.  You sure it’s a good idea, him missin for somethin as silly as a rodeo?

Jesus, Lureen, you sigh.  It’s his birthday. 

No.  It’s not.  You gonna miss his birthday, Jack. 

Bobby looks up, catches your eye.  I don’t mind none, Daddy.  Just a birthday, that’s all. 

You feel like a shit, cause he’s your boy and he’s tryin to make this easier for the both of you when it ain’t even bout him at all.  Well then, you say, and it’s the wrong thing, but you can’t say nothin else.  Well then, I reckon you an me goin to the rodeo down in Juniper soon as I get back.  Maybe see if we can’t find you a horse or somethin while we there. 

And that’s all you gotta do to buy your way back to your son.