Sample text for Big Red tequila / Rick Riordan.

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Everything with Lillian was familiar, from her linen sheets to the citrus scent of her hair when I finally fell asleep buried in it.__I was even hoping I might dream of her for a change, the way I used to.__I didn't.

The dreams started out like a slide show--newspaper photos of my dad, Express-News headlines that had burned themselves into my memory that summer.__Then it was a late spring evening in May of '85 and I was standing on the front porch of my father's house in Olmos Park.__A battered gray Pontiac, probably a '76, tinted windows and no license plate, was pulling up by the curb as my father walked from the driveway to the front door, carrying two bags of groceries.__Carl Kelley, his deputy and best friend, was a few steps behind him.__For some reason I remember exactly what Carl was holding--a twelve-pack of Budweiser in one hand and a watermelon in the other.__I was opening the front door for them, my eyes red from studying for my last round of freshman final exams at A & M.

My dad was at his very heaviest--nearly three hundred pounds of muscle and fat stuffed into oversized jeans and a checkered shirt.__Sweat lines running down his temples from the rim of his brown Stetson, he lumbered up the steps with a cigar drooping off the corner of his mouth.__He looked up and gave me one of his sly grins, started to say something, probably a wisecrack at my expense. Then a small hole blew open in the grocery bag in Dad's right arm.__A perfect white stream of milk sprouted out.__Dad looked momentarily puzzled.__The second shot came out the front of his Stetson.

Fumbling for his gun, Carl hit the ground for cover about the same time my dad hit the ground dead.__Dad was three months away from retirement.__The watermelon made a bright red starburst as it exploded on the sidewalk.__The gray Pontiac pulled away and was gone.

When I woke up alone in Lillian's bed the conjunto music from next door had stopped.__The cranberry glass night lamp was on, making the squares of moonlight pink against the hardwood floor.__Through the open bedroom door I could see Lillian standing naked in the living room, her arms hugging her body, staring at one of her photos on the wall.

She didn't seem to hear me when I called.__When I came up behind her and put my arms around her shoulders, she stiffened.__Her eyes never left the photo.

It was one of her early college pieces--a black and white photo-collage of animals, human faces, insects, buildings, all of it hand-tinted and merged into one surrealistic mass.__I remembered the December weekend when she'd been putting it together for her end-of-term project.__I'd done my best to distract her.__We'd ended up with photo scraps scattered all over the bed and clinging to our sweaters.

"Naive," she said, absently.__"Beau used to take me out into the country--we'd be shivering all night in sleeping bags on some godforsaken hilltop in Blanco for one shot of a meteor shower, or we'd trudge through twenty acres of pasture outside Uvalde so we'd be in just the right position at dawn to catch the light behind a windmill.__He used to say that every picture had to be taken at the greatest possible expense.__Then I'd look back at my old collages like this one and think how easy they'd been."

"Maybe naive gets a bad rap," I said.

We stood there together and looked at it for a minute.

"It just feels strange," she said.__"You being here."

"I know."

She leaned her head against me.__The tension in her shoulders didn't go away.

"What else is it?" I said.

She hesitated.__"There are complications."

I kissed her ear.__"You asked for me to be here.__I'm here.__There's no complication."

Until Lillian looked around at me I didn't realize her eyes were wet.

"When you left San Antonio, Tres, what were you running from?"

"I told you.__The rest of my life stuck in Texas, the idea of marriage, the careers everybody else wanted me to take--"

She shook her head.__"That's not what I meant.__Why did you go when you did, right after your father's death?"

I hugged her from behind and held on tight, trying to get lost in the citrus smell of her hair.__But when I closed my eyes against her cheek, I still saw the old newspaper photo of my father, the caption that I knew by heart. "Sheriff Jackson Navarre, gunned down brutally on Thursday evening in front of his Olmos Park home.__Deputy Sheriff Kelley and Navarre's son watched helplessly as the assassins sped away."__My father's face in the photo just smiled at me dryly, as if that caption was some private joke he was sharing.

"Maybe because when I looked around town," I told Lillian, "all I saw was him dying.__It was like a stain."

She nodded, looking back at her photo-collage.__"The stain doesn't go away, Tres.__Not even after all these years."

Her tone was bitter, not like Lillian.__I held her a little tighter.__After a while she turned around and folded herself into my arms.

"It doesn't have to be a complication for us now," I whispered.

"Maybe not," she murmured.__But I didn't need to see her face to see that she didn't believe me.

She didn't let me say anything else, though.__She kissed me once, lightly, then more.__Soon we were back in the linen sheets.__I wasn't sleeping again until almost dawn, this time with no dreams.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
San Antonio (Tex.) -- Fiction.