Amends by Walker Eugene Dollahon“Amends” by Walker Eugene Dollahon, Hardluck Stories, Spring 2005
The story begins in a bar deep in the piney woods of East Texas during the 1940s. At this time in most of Texas you couldn’t legally by an alcoholic drink, so places like Mack ‘N Jacks sprang up in out of the way places to cater to the thirsty crowd. That crowd tended to be a bit on the rough side.
Jimmy is the swamper and general dogsbody at Mack ‘N Jacks. Jimmy’s family has fallen on hard times. Two of his brothers are in the military, one having been killed in the Pacific Theater. This affected his family deeply. His father drank himself to death, and his mother has withdrawn into herself. Because no one is working it, their farm is in danger of foreclosure. Jimmy does what he can, but he can’t do it by himself. Jimmy’s father’s one extravagance was a car. His mother hates it, but Jimmy won’t give it up.
One day Cap Pressler walks into the bar and starts ordering Jimmy around. Jimmy’s about to lay a whuppin’ on Pressler when suddenly he finds himself on the other end of that whuppin’. Now that he has established his place in the pecking order, Pressler starts treating Jimmy better, even being friendly.
Pressler meets two other men in the bar, one of whom is Jimmy’s cousin. They huddle and drink together for hours several days in a row. Finally they ask Jimmy to join their gang. They are going to rob a bank, and they need a getaway driver. Pressler says no one will get hurt, so Jimmy agrees.
The job is well planned. Each of the members of the gang knows what he is going to do and when to do it. Nonetheless, the job goes sour. Only Pressler and Jimmy get away. But a bad day only gets worse for one of them.
For a first published story, Mr. Dollahon has made one hell of a debut. The story is well told and well plotted. Cap Pressler is smooth and cosmopolitan, at least for a back-woods place like Nacagdoches in the 1940s. Mr. Dollahon also makes a good job of quiet, long-suffering Jimmy. His description of Jimmy’s anxiety while waiting outside during the bank robbery is spot on. And the ending brings home a common warning about a certain kind of person.
In short, welcome to the fold, Mr. Dollahon.