STORY: Mad Dog’s House

Fast forward three weeks into the future…

Betsey is back in Vermillion safe from all harm. Her trip to Montana did not work out as planned. Nobody asks her any questions because they already know exactly what happened. They just serve her a drink with smiles on their faces and pretend absolutely nothing is wrong. They never understood before, but now, for the first time, they can see the look of determination on her face as she retreats into her notebook and scribbles away for hours on end.

After unpacking and moving back into her downtown loft, she decides to walk over to Mad Dog’s house. Mad Dog answers the door with a look of mild surprise on his face.

“Well, look who it is!” he exclaims with a toothy grin. “How was your trip to Montana?”

“It was definitely an adventure,” Betsey says with wide eyes. “It just wasn’t the adventure I had in mind.”

“What happened?”

“When I said I wanted to see some dinosaurs, I meant actual dinosaurs, not crazy old white supremacists.”

Mad Dog laughs at her as he ushers her inside. She says hello to Daisy and plops down on the old broken recliner. The Rifleman is playing on TV, followed by Bonanza, Wagon Train, and Wild Wild West.

“White supremacists, huh?” Mad Dog says as he sits down on the couch. “I thought I told you not to mess with them.”

“You did,” Betsey says. “I ignored your advice, as per usual.”

“You’re a Troublemaker!” Mad Dog says proudly. “Takin’ after Old Grandpa himself. I couldn’t be more proud.”

“Thanks, Grandpa.”

“It’s a good thing you didn’t run off with that Trucker Guy. Everything he says is full of shit.”

“He was awful, truly,” Betsey laughs. “Every time he said anything I was just like… shut up. You’re not going to do any of that.”

“You were right to stop talking to him. He’s a con artist.”

“That much is true.”

“If it makes you feel any better, you didn’t miss anything here. Same old, same old. I got people looking for me, breaking into my house, asking me for money, booze, cigarettes, and dope. Come to think of it, you’re the only person in this world that I like.”

“I thought that was Sam.”

“Oh,” Mad Dog shakes his head and waves the name away dismissively. “I used to like him a lot, but I don’t anymore. Not since he became a Capitalist. Money is the only thing he cares about now.”

“Well, in that case, I hope he decides to spend some of that money on me. I really think I’d make a great investment piece.”

“Don’t let his wife hear you talking about him like that. She’ll have your body buried in the Badlands.”

“Whatever,” Betsey replies flippantly. “That’s why they call him The Whoremonger.”

Mad Dog laughs and shakes his head again.

“You’re just like a sassy little pony with that attitude. It’s going to get you into trouble someday.”

“I think it already has.”

Mad Dog and Betsey are silent for a few minutes as they watch The Rifleman on TV. Betsey makes the occasional comment about what a beefcake he is as Mad Dog rolls his eyes. They spend the next three hours sitting in Mad Dog’s living room watching old westerns. It’s like the entire ordeal in Montana never even happened. It feels like it was just a crazy fever dream she had after one too many brightly-colored bombers at the Club.

Sometime later, they decide to go downtown to the bars. Mad Dog makes a brief stop in Bloody Mary’s before deciding it’s super lame. They go to Cleo’s instead. When they walk in, Fred, Radcliffe, Jaimie, Brian, and Howard Hughes are all sitting at the bar. Their mouths all drop open in shock. They try to hide their looks of surprise, but ultimately fail at it. Somehow, Fred pulls it together for the team and steps up to the plate.

“Can I get you something to drink?” he asks politely, as if he has absolutely no idea who Betsey Horton is. He’s never read her blog. Nope. Not once in his entire life. And especially NOT on March Madness.

“I would love a Blue Moon with orange juice, please,” Betsey says as if she’s never written a story about forcing Fred to listen to Drake for hours on end. They share a glance that briefly acknowledges one another before moving on with their lives.

“And for you, Pup?”

“Give me a Budweiser, please,” Mad Dog says, tossing money on the counter and putting on his shades. He sits back and looks at Fred impatiently. “Well, what are you waiting for? Get on it!”

Fred sighs heavily and saunters away. When he returns with the drinks and change, Mad Dog places a single quarter on the counter and pushes it towards Fred.

“You have a family now, don’t you?” Mad Dog says. “Here, take this for your kid.”

Fred looks down at the quarter in disgust and pushes it back towards Mad Dog.

“I think you need it more than I do,” he says dryly. He promptly walks away and returns to talking stats with his friends at the other end of the bar.

Sometime later, Howard Hughes sends over a free drink for Betsey. Fred says that it’s from Mad Dog, but Betsey does not believe him. She still suspects Howard Hughes is quite flattered by his jolly ol’ portrayal. If only he could understand how impossible it was to translate his laugh.

Betsey and Mad Dog drink together for some time before inevitably ending up in a fight. Betsey leaves the bar and wanders down the street back to her loft. She climbs the stairs, pulls out her key, opens the door, looks around her apartment, and breathes a heavy sigh of relief. Some how, some way, she finally found her way back home.

The End

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