Lansdale had a story to tell, and it wasn't a
"You've heard of Casey Myrtleson, I take it? To hear folks talk
him up, you'd bet that young man is going to set NASCAR on fire
one day. Sure, he's kind of wild, but nothing wrong with raising a
little hell when you're still in your twenties. It was our own people
who really got NASCAR started, and you know how they learned
their driving skills—by now, it's in our blood.
"But a young buck like Casey Myrtleson, he doesn't just drive
fast, he does everything fast. Stirs up a whole lot of rumors in his
"I suppose he might," I said, not having even a clue as to where
all this was going.
Not that I cared. I would have been content to sit there all night.
"You and me, we're the same," Lansdale said. Not like asking a
question, stating a fact. Before I could ask him how he could possibly
think such a thing, he told me.
"A man can put up with a lot of things. Some more than others.
But there's a bottom to every well, and a man who won't protect his
own, that's not a man."
"I'd never argue that."
"Just think of the lengths you'd go to to protect your little
"You can't have lengths for that."
"Why do you say?"
"Lengths means there's a limit."
"And you're saying, when it comes to protecting your own,
there is no limit."
"That is what I'm saying," I told Lansdale, fear of some threat
to Tory-boy already darkening my mind.
But then he went off in another direction entirely. I knew he
had two children, a boy and a girl. And I knew his boy was a real
terror in his own way—a newspaperman who got the Klan mad
enough to burn a cross in front of his house over some articles he
wrote when he was first starting out. The paper he wrote for now, it
was the biggest one in the state, published in the capital. That was
a long way from here, so I didn't imagine his father could protect
Anyway, Lansdale was peacock-proud of his son, but I could
see he thought of him as a grown man. Old enough to pick his own
road, and already walking it.
Not so his daughter—she was still in high school. One of those
special-blessed beauties. Folks could legitimately argue over which
was more lovely, her church-choir voice or her movie-star face.
"I do admit I worry myself about her," Lansdale said. "A girl
her age, she's likely to be impressed by the wrong things, you
know what I mean?"
I just nodded, so I wouldn't be stopping him from talking.
"Judgment, that's something you have to learn," he said.
"Some never do. Take that Casey Myrtleson we were just talking
about. Now, he can burn up a racetrack, for sure. Thing is, he's
full-grown, but not yet grown up. Keeps on taking chances, just to
be doing it.
"There's chances a man shouldn't ever take. You can bounce
your life off the rev limiter one too many times—there's a reason
why they paint red lines on tachometers."
"Now, that is exactly what it is!" Lansdale slapped his hand on
the table hard enough to break it. "But there's always going to be
men like Casey Myrtleson. They see a 'No Trespassing' sign, they
figure they just found themselves a fine place to go deer hunting." That's when I finally understood what Lansdale was really talking
"Man like that, he'd probably take a doe out of season,
even if he had to jacklight her," I said, just to make sure.
Lansdale looked me full in the face, like he was trying to read
something written in a language he knew a little bit, but not to
where he'd be called fluent.
"Good talking with you, Esau," he finally said. "I know we do
business, but I hope you regard me as your friend, because that's
how I regard you."
Casey Myrtleson was big stuff. And going places, too. But he
hadn't gotten there yet, and he wasn't so big that he didn't open
his own mail. Especially a pink-wrapped box with little red hearts
all over it.
—excerpted from That's How I Roll by Andrew Vachss
© 2012 Andrew Vachss. All rights reserved.