East is East, and West is West
And the wrong one I have chose -
If there were a song that summed up Guy Marlin's feelings about living in Three Wolf Peak, it was "Buttons and Bows." Except for actually wanting to see Teff in buttons and bows, since that mental image just wouldn't happen.
He'd agreed to go with Teff to Three Wolf Peak, Montana. Had there ever been any doubt? Especially when both their sons, Aaron and Joe, said they were going, too. And Teff, as paranoid as ever, wouldn't take the family to a place they weren't safe.
But this place was open, and wild, and there were no suburban noises at night; only the wind and strange animal sounds. There were a few small shops, not even a Wal-Mart. And Guy sometimes wondered if Teff really knew what he was doing, moving out here. Everyone seemed... this place was full of hillbillies, or rednecks, or other creepy rural types.
I'll love you in buckskin, or shirts that you've homespun
But I'll love you longer, stronger, where your friends don't tote a gun
It didn't help that Teff's kid brother Ryan was along for the ride. Intellectually, Guy understood it. Ryan had been in some kind of suspended animation; all his immediate family except Teff were dead or aged; everyone had given up on Ryan as dead, half a century before. Ryan needed help adjusting to this "new" world, and Teff wasn't going to risk losing his kid brother again.
In his heart, Guy hated Ryan. An interloper. The one other person who could demand Teff's attention and get it without a second thought. The one person Teff excused and coddled and it just made Guy hate, hate, hate his recently discovered brother-in-law. Oh, sure, Ryan was a good pretender, all right, but Guy knew Ryan secretly hated him just as much as he was hated, and it was all Guy could do to bite his tongue and not say anything about it, because Teff was completely blind to his brother's many many faults and constant small jabs and irritations. Teff might be blind, but Guy knew which way the wind blew.
In days gone by, they used to sigh for the city fashion shows
Now I wear coyote underwear, I use bullets to button my clothes
And tie my shoes with rattlesnake bows
"Bullets for buttons and snakes for bows?"
"Why, I'm so mean I hate myself!"
And then there were the dogs. Everyone seemed fine with the idea except for Guy, who didn't like animals of any kind. They were messy, and not very smart, and, well, dirty. Guy never had pets in his youth, and saw no reason to start now. Especially not two large hounds and a huge black German shepherd.
"Coco and Sarge are for us," Teff said, and Guy wondered at first what he meant by that. But Teff went on, "And Inki is to help protect the house, especially when you're all by yourself, Guy."
Because of course they wouldn't think of inviting him along on their disgusting hunting trips. Guy had never wanted to accompany Teff on said trips in the Outskirts, either. The woods were uncomfortable, the weather was uncontrollable - frankly, the concept of sleeping in a tent had worn thin early on, no matter how much Guy loved his husband. But now it hurt that Teff, Ryan, and Joe - who'd idolized Teff from an early age - already planned to go 'enjoy' a weekend of shooting animals and drinking beer and sleeping on rocks, but they didn't plan to include Guy at all.
Guy recognized that it didn't make sense to feel that way, but it didn't help.
The house was certainly nice enough. It was huge. So huge that Guy felt dwarfed in it. He was used to the small townhouse he and Teff had shared for so many years.
The size of the thing just made it feel emptier, more alone. Plus they had very few things in the house. Maybe if it were more cluttered, Guy thought, it wouldn't feel so... lonely. But maybe not.
It also galled him that they owed everything to Jeremy "I'm not a neo-Nazi anymore, really" Dumont. When they'd had to move, Guy was unemployed, they'd just put two kids through college, including Joe's medical schooling, and Teff worked at the morgue. Selling the truck, the house, and almost all their possessions meant they didn't have enough for everyone - especially not when you threw in Aaron and his husband Ripp. Six people.
So Teff had gone to Dumont and begged politely for help. Everyone knew the Dumonts were filthy rich. Guy and Teff were in agreement on this - they needed jobs, and fast, to pay back the debt. Neither of them liked being indebted to anyone. But Dumont paid for all of them to come out here, bought them a truck, bought Aaron and Ripp their own house, bought this house for Guy and Teff and Joe and Ryan. Not to mention the furniture that went with it.
It had been a very tense trip to Montana, with everyone knowing about the Dumont deal. Joe tried to lighten the mood - what a good kid, that Joe - asking Teff and Ryan about life when they were kids, that kind of thing. Guy pretended he'd heard these stories already. Some of them, he vaguely remembered; maybe Teff had told him once before, long ago. Others were new.
Why hadn't he asked these questions himself? Why did they have to move out here of all places?
And yet - Teff was happy. Guy could tell: Teff was happier than he'd been in years. His face seemed less lined, he smiled more... which made it harder for Guy to voice his complaints. The move agreed with Teff. Why doesn't it agree with me?
~ ~ ~
"Hey, Joe, heard you've finally gotten settled in. Great to see you guys again!"
"Thanks, Ray. Got a new look, huh?"
Ryan felt his stomach starting to knot and tried to calm down. All these people from the Outskirts - what kind of a name was that, for a town? - they all knew each other, and he was the newcomer. It was like being the one new kid at a party, and everyone else had their circle of friends.
And Mr. Marlin - Guy - (Ryan just couldn't bring himself to call him Guy yet, it didn't feel right) - acted so strange. Ryan had a hard time accepting his big brother was, well, in love with another man, but if it made him happy, then Ryan would accept it. Just like he'd accepted that everyone called his big brother Teff, so he'd trained himself to do the same.
Adaptability was important, no, critical in this new time. He might not agree that Teff was married to Guy, but for Teff's sake, he'd not say anything about it. Maybe, in time, he'd understand exactly why Teff had chosen the man he had, because right now, Ryan could not fathom what the attraction was.
It wasn't like he wasn't trying to get along. "Mr. Marlin, sir, I'm taking the truck to town later today, and thought you might like to come along? It's a long walk down those switchbacks."
He'd figured maybe if they had a chance to talk, share war stories, whatever, maybe they'd get along better. Ryan remembered when Billie Parker's mom remarried. Billie was mad, clear through, for a couple weeks, but after the ceremony, she'd just sighed and stopped looking hateful. Ryan'd asked her what was wrong, and Billie just said, "I gotta stop hating him now. Not his fault Dad ran off with the waitress. Momma wants me to get along with him, so I gotta."
But Mr. Marlin just said, cold as ice, "No thanks. I'd rather spend some time alone," and that was that.
Ryan didn't know what to do or say. Teff seemed okay with things, his - husband - was a real dick, and Joe was overworked. Ryan could see that much. Joe was a great guy, easygoing, pretty normal, but had his hands full down at the clinic. It's up to me to figure something out, then.
Unfortunately, Ryan wasn't sure how to go about it.
"So, Ryan," Mr. Jeffries was saying. Mr. Jeffries had rescued him from suspended animation. Ryan didn't remember sleeping for fifty years; he remembered fighting Vahzilok zombies and suddenly he was in this new time. But Mr. Jeffries had been a hero for all that time, so he must've known what was going on. "Are you fitting in okay? I imagine it must be pretty hard right now, trying to adjust to things. And then with your nephew having a baby."
"That's an understatement, Mr. Jeffries," Ryan agreed. "I never figured on anything like that happening. Everything's so different, sometimes I have to double-check that my feet are still on the ground."
Mr. Jeffries nodded in understanding. "The first time your brother got pregnant, we were all surprised, too. None of us ever figured something like that could happen. It was a big shock." He ran a hand through his green hair, and shook his head. "My own son had twins that way. How's Aaron doing?"
"Not so great," Ryan said. "I mean, he's not in danger or anything, but Joe says he can't go out any more. They might have to move him to a hospital if things are bad enough. Joe says they'll probably have to do a C-section." Aaron's pregnancy was a recurring topic of conversation in the household, naturally enough. "They're just hoping there's no further problems. Sir, if it's not too personal..."
"Did, er, your son have these problems?"
"No, he didn't. But Ramon's half mutant, and we come from a long line of tanks; we're strong. Maybe that made a difference."
~ ~ ~
"Teff, look. I know you wanted them and all, but - I can't stand the dogs. Please can we get rid of them."
"Guy, I haven't had dogs since I left home. I like dogs. Ryan likes dogs. Even Joe likes the dogs."
"And I don't. They're slobbery and, and they crap on the lawn, and then just sit on the floor or the furniture afterward, and - "
"Dogs aren't toilet trained, Guy. Besides - "
"They're gross, Teff. Please. I can't stand them."
A Western ranch is just a branch
of Nowhere Junction to me
Give me the city where livin's pretty
And the gals wear finery
"You can't stand a lot since we got here. You hate the weather, the dogs, the drive into town - "
"Teff, this place is so different. It's scary, all right? I'm afraid someone's going to break in during the night and axe-murder us all."
"All the better to have the dogs, then."
"Teff, I - "
"Look, Guy. Give it a chance. Remember when I first moved in with you? I wasn't sure about it either. But you said it would all turn out all right, and to trust you. I trusted you. Will you trust me now, that it'll be all right?"
Guy gritted his teeth and sighed at the same time. "Okay, okay, you're right, I just... I hate that we're in debt to Dumont, and the dogs, and the silence at night, and your brother, and - "
"What about my brother?"
"Well, he's, uh - " Guy discovered he really didn't want to bring it up right now. "I'm just not used to him being around," he finished lamely.
"I know you don't like Ryan," Teff said softly. That made it worse. Teff was trying to open up more, but it meant the more he reined in his temper, the quieter his voice got. "He is trying to make the best of it."
"So am I," Guy said.
"Guy, you haven't even left the house since we moved in, except to visit Aaron every couple of days. You need to get out. See for yourself that it's not as bad as you think. You know I wouldn't risk the family on anything."
"But, Teff, this place is so - so backwoods! What could I have in common with these yokels?"
He knew immediately he'd gone too far.
Teff's expression hardened, he got off the bed, and walked to the door.
"Teff, wait, I didn't mean - "
Teff's accent returned, thick as maple syrup. "I'm sure you meant that you regret, every day, marrying a backwoods Mainer, ayuh?" And he left.
~ ~ ~
Teff didn't return until late, and then he went straight to bed without speaking to Guy. Nonetheless, Guy followed him in.
"Teff? Are you asleep?"
He got no answer. Is he really asleep or just... not wanting to talk? "I'm sorry, Teff."
Still no response.
I'll just try again in the morning, I guess.
~ ~ ~
"Mr. Marlin? Joe, I mean Teff, says you want to get rid of Coco and Sarge." Ryan's disapproval of the idea was evident in his tone.
"Right, right, I, ah, I'm not sure we can afford three dogs right now," Guy lied. "We're keeping one, though?"
"Inki. Teff says she's needed more than the others."
"Oh. All right. Uh, Ryan, were you going in to town today?"
"Hadn't planned on it, but I've got to see if anyone needs the dogs." They'd only bought the hounds a few months ago. "We can't make any claims on their training, but someone might want 'em."
"Right, right." Guy realized he was repeating himself, and it annoyed him. "Look, ah, d'you mind if I ride in to town with you?" Though he expected the conversation would be less than interesting.
Ryan paused, then nodded. "All right. Help me round up Coco and Sarge, then."
~ ~ ~
"Aaron? How're you doing?... Yeah? Okay, I'll have your dad bring some over tonight. He's out with Ryan right now."
"Yeah, he's feeling down, still. I didn't think he'd have so much trouble adjusting to Montana. ...No, I don't think he's pregnant!" Teff laughed. "Aaron, your dad and I, of all people, know about how to avoid those kind'a surprises!"
"I think he's just nervous about moving, and we need jobs. I've got some interviews lined up, and Ryan's applying at places in town today, I think. Your dad just got used to his happy little padded rut back in the Outskirts, that's all. Once he gets used to the place, he'll be fine."
"No, I don't think... Aaron, I appreciate the thought, but I don't think that would help the situation any. Besides, once yours is born, we'll have our hands full as grandparents. Have you picked out names yet?... Those are nice. Really nice. I like 'em. I guess they don't know if it's boy or girl yet?... You're kidding!"
~ ~ ~
Guy excused himself from the dog-trading early on. Okay, so maybe Ryan was trying to get along. But Guy wished there was more to this town.
Maybe that's it, he thought. Okay, there's not much here yet... but there could be. So what does it take to bring that about? Unfortunately, he had no clue as yet. Instead, he wandered up the streets, noticing the boarded-up storefronts. The ones that remained appeared to be either stores of necessary goods, like basic household supplies, or bars.
Don't bury me in this prairie
Take me where the ce-ment grows
The Juiced Moose. It was a bar. Cute. Guy decided on a whim to go in.
It was dim inside, and looked less run-down than Guy had expected. Poker, huh? And a karaoke machine... woo, high class. Yogurt has more culture than this town.
Still, he sat at one of the tables and shuffled the cards idly, debating whether he should have a drink. The shard pieces in his chest prevented him from getting drunk, at least. What a combo - no more drunken antics, but he could get knocked up if he and Teff weren't careful.
"Howdy, friend. You look like one of the new people who've moved here." The stranger sat down next to Guy.
"Ah, yes, I am. A bunch of us moved here recently." Figures, small town talk and all. Probably we're the most exciting thing to happen in ten years.
Other people drifted up. Guy noted, with growing unease, that he appeared to be the whitest person on the premises. Oh, crap, don't tell me I've walked into the 'wrong' bar.
"Leo, Larry!" called the first one. "Our friend here's one of the new folk. What's your name, friend?" he asked, turning to Guy.
"Guy. Guy Marlin. My brother-in-law's just up the street, selling some hunting dogs." Guy hoped that would help establish his bona-fides.
"Marlins," said the one on his left, who hadn't bothered to introduce himself, but whom Guy guessed was Leo. "I think there's a Marlin working up at the lumber mill now. Got himself a pregnant husband, so they say."
"Yes, we're related to them," Guy said. Teff, you better be right about this town being safe! "We decided to move out here, to Three Wolf Peak, and it's a lovely area," he continued. "Different from back East, certainly." Why did I say that?
"Lots of people just moved here in the past year," the first one mused. "Made quite a population upswing here in the Peak."
"Especially when the men get pregnant," Larry added. "Alien abduction, was it?"
"I suppose we'll see, if it's got green skin when it's born," Guy said, trying to laugh it off as a joke.
"I suppose so," Larry echoed. "I think it'll be the talk of the town. Wouldn't you say so, Leo?"
"Hey, I need to get going," Guy said, before Leo could answer. "Nice to meet you all," he added automatically.
"Nice to meet you too, friend," came the response behind him, as Guy tried to make a quick exit that didn't also look scared.
~ ~ ~
"Teff, this town gives me the creeps."
"Guy - "
"Don't 'Guy' me! I was scared to death in town. I don't know how you can think this place is safe for us."
"Because it has a high tolerance for people like us, and it's out of the way. Plus it's got the occasional weird weather phenomena, which is good for the Jeffries and Alvarados, and I knew Dumont couldn't resist the opportunity to make himself the big man of the area. The Serlings are just along for the ride - Eric could disappear anywhere if he wanted to, and his daughters are all married to Jeffries boys. That's why."
Guy bit his tongue and managed, this time, to hold his temper. I hate this place. But I promised I'd trust him. For now.
~ ~ ~
Later, though, he did open up.
" - and the one kept saying 'friend' all the time like it was a threat, and - "
"All right, Guy. If you're real nervous, don't go into town without me or Ryan or Joe along. Or you could learn how to use a gun, or maybe become Inki's primary master, then she could go along with you. Most places around here allow animals on the premises. And I'll keep my eye out, when I'm in town, okay?"
Guy sighed. "It's just so... weird here, Teff. Everyone else is just fine with this place, and the complete lack of nightlife, and the woods and all of it... maybe I just need to adjust, but I'm wondering if I'm just too much of a - "
"City slicker," Teff finished. "Could be. But you'll adjust. I got used to living in the Outskirts all those years, you can get used to Three Wolf Peak."
"You really hated it in the Outskirts?"
Teff shrugged. "Not hated. Just didn't like it all that much."
"But you stayed because of me?"
Guy took a deep breath. "Okay. If you stayed in a place you didn't like, for almost fifty years, for my sake, I can do the same for you. But I'm still nervous about going in to town."
"That's fine. We'll figure something out."
"And Teff... I'm sorry about what I said, about you and Ryan and..." Guy tried to trail off, hoping he didn't have to finish, but the silence compelled him to continue. "...and being 'backwoods'."
"I know," was Teff's answer.
My bones denounce the buckboard bounce
And the cactus hurts my toes
Let's vamoose where gals keep usin'
Those silks and satins and linen that shows
And you're all mine in buttons and bows
~ ~ ~
To be continued (isn't it always?)
Buttons and Bows is the 1948 Academy Award winner for Best Song, and is in the movie The Paleface with Bob Hope and Jane Russell. It's reprised in the 1952 sequel Son of Paleface (often regarded as one of the rare sequels to be superior to the original), also starring Bob Hope and Jane Russell. The lyrics quoted here are a mix of the two versions. I also altered one of the lines ("shirts" was originally "skirts") because it makes more sense from these guys' point of view. ^_^ Sadly, the movie versions of the songs don't appear to be available on the web; whereas the Dinah Shore version, which is okay, is easier to find. But I like the movie versions better. ^_^