Some Weird Sin
Disclaimer and some such:
I do not have the rights to use any characters
officially associated with The X-Files/ Lone Gunmen
television series. I am using these characters without the
permission of FOX, 1013 Productions, Chris Carter, or
any other copyright owners. Of course, this is intended for
[non-profit] entertainment only, and no
infringement on copyrights or trademarks
was intended by the author.
Any similarities to people, places, and other works of
fanfiction are purely coincidental.
All other characters not officially associated with
The X-Files/ Lone Gunmen (including, but not limited to,
Smithee and Ellroy) are property of the author
and should not be recycled into another story without
No animals were harmed during the making of this fanfic,
except for two mosquitoes and one waterbug.
Cost of coffee drunk while writing this: $15.82
Cost of paper used to print out draft copies: $2.38
Cost of Anne Hawley's beta-reading skills: PRICELESS
The 'present' of this story takes place a few years
before The Lone Gunmen series timeline.
* * *
I end up at this little park near the creek, sitting
on a swing. I don't notice the sound of our microbus
pulling up. I don't hear Frohike get out and walk
toward me until he's close enough to touch my shoulder.
"I knew you'd be here," he says.
Sure. I'm predictable; I've always had spots. For the
past few years, this has been my spot. This little park,
with its swing set, and view of the water, and
intricate wrought iron gate that the Parks Department
locks after sundown. I have no trouble picking the lock,
a helpful skill I picked up during my misspent
"You follow me?" I ask. Don't wanna get into
the heavy stuff, which I know is
coming, just yet. My legs spill onto the pavement -
who builds a swing set over concrete? - and I give
myself a small push.
"I followed you the first few times you came here.
I stopped when I realized you
weren't going anywhere interesting."
Typical Frohike. He probably had whole rolls of
film that tracked my progress along the streets
from our place to this park. I want to snap back
at him with some retort - something about he'd need
the van to keep up with me on those legs
of his. But I don't have the energy. Hearing
Ellroy's voice sucked it all away.
"Langly," he pauses. I can see he's struggling
with what he has to tell me. He switches to personal
mode, "Richard, that man called back right after you left -"
"Did he say something about my mother?" I try to
keep my voice flat. I push myself a little harder.
The imaginary shrink analyzes and says, Stop trying to
escape, boy. You can never swing that high.
Frohike squinches his eyebrows, shakes his head.
He starts to speak, but I already know what he's
going to say.
"My father's sick. Or dying. Or dead." Eeny
meeny meiny mo.
"Call this guy back, Langly.
He didn't give me details. He just said he needs
you to come home."
I dig my feet into the ground, stop the swing.
I try to say, "Oh man, how melodramatic can you get?"
But my voice catches and my vision goes all soggy,
and I'm glad my hair is all over my face from the
swinging so Frohike can't see
me trying not to cry.
* * *
My father was not an easily pleased man.
He enjoyed a few, select things:
Productive cows, things that grew when he planted them,
finding inaccuracies in the Farmer's Almanac,
Old Thompson whisky, and classic western movies.
Whenever the local station would air a
John Ford film he would plant himself on his arm
chair in front of our ancient Zenith. He could
recite the words to most of those films by heart.
His favorites, by far, were the John Ford/ John Wayne
westerns. I think he watched re-runs of the entire
Cavalry Trilogy at least once a month for as long
as I could remember. Alcoholics are nothing if not
My mother and I would usually steer clear of
the living room when he was watching his movies.
I would sometimes watch him from the doorway - the
back of his chair silhouetted by the dull glow of
the television, his left arm dangling over the
edge of the chair holding a bottle, his right hand
dangling over the other side holding a glass.
When the glass dropped, or when the credits rolled -
whichever came first - that was my mother's cue to drag
him to bed. Usually he didn't put up much of a struggle;
usually he'd passed out.
But before I figured out that it was better to leave
him alone with his larger-than-life heroes,
I would sit in there with him, on the floor.
My head swung between him and the TV,
watching as his lips absently moved in perfect tandem
with the voices on the screen.
It was one of those old films, Fort Apache
or The Long Voyage Home or something, that started it -
No. I remember. It was Stagecoach.
He stopped reciting lines and called out,
"Ringo! Ringo, c'mere boy!"
I jumped - not at the sudden holler, but
at the words themselves. Ringo was the name
of my father's beloved Shetland. But Ringo
had died a week ago, a fact which my
father had clearly forgotten. So I felt the
need to remind him.
I said, evenly, "Ringo's dead."
But he didn't hear me. "Ringo, c'mere boy! Come
see who y're named after!"
"Ringo died, dad. We buried him in the
yard last weekend."
"What the hell're you on about? That's one of
the finest dogs anyone could hope for.
An' he's named after one of the finest men, see,
right there on the screen. John Wayne,
best damn man I ever saw, the Ringo Kid himself."
But Ringo wasn't coming. After a few more
futile calls, my father got this glazed
look in his eyes, and I knew he remembered.
He sniffed and mumbled, "Oh
yeah. Oh yeah, we buried'm in the yard last
weekend. One of the finest dogs . . ."
His arm shot out, but I moved too late. He
yanked me up to his eye level and
said, like he had no other choice, "You'll have
t'be the Ringo Kid now."
I tried to squirm away, but his long fingers
gripped me like a vise. "What's your name?"
he asked, slowly, like he was talking to a kid.
And I was a kid - I was about eight at the time - but
even then my dad usually talked to me like the
high school dropouts he employed on the farm.
"Richard," I said, voice quavering. Wrong answer.
His grip tightened. "What's. Your. Name?"
"Ringo," I squeaked. Obediently, like
a dog. Like I was his stupid dog.
"Good boy," he grinned, and released me. I fled
the room. That was the last time
I watched TV with him. When I woke up the next
morning there were finger-shaped
bruises on my arm where he'd grabbed me. I heard
his voice wafting up from the kitchen.
"Hey. Ringo. Come eat your breakfast, boy."
Clear emphasis on the name. I shuddered.
I was hoping he'd forget the whole thing - it
wasn't uncommon for him
to do something when he was drunk and then
completely forget it when he sobered
up. But I could practically hear the shit-eating
grin on his face.
Damn. Damn damn damn damn damndamndamndamndamndamndamn -
For the next ten years or so until I left, my
father reserved use of the name
Ringo for when he wanted to tease me or order
me around. He treated it like some
big, pathetic joke that I could never fill
John Wayne's boots, the only man he
ever openly respected. I think he especially
enjoyed calling me that in public
areas, where other people could hear the
nickname and adopt it for their own
use. Saltville is a small town, surrounded
by even smaller towns - way before
the Information Superhighway, gossip
traveled faster than the speed of light. It
seemed like within a week, everyone in a
fifty-mile radius was calling me Ringo.
And it just got worse as I grew into the
antithesis of everything my father
loved about John Wayne: Gawky tall,
layering three or four shirts to hide the
fact that you could pretty clearly see my
ribcage. I had long ago given up
trying to find a subtle pair of glasses - my
face and hair were about the same
shade of Casper the Friendly Ghost, and
any frames I wore stood out like a
spotlight. Now, kids are going out of
their way to look like this - geek chic,
whatever. But in Nebraska in the late
seventies/early eighties I stood out like
a giant sore thumb. And suddenly I was
a giant sore thumb seemingly named after
the ugly Beatle.
I tried to fight it, but after a while
I just gave up. It was hopeless. I would
forever be Richard 'Ringo' Langly, my
father's replacement sheep dog.
Thanks dad. That really helped me blend.
* * *