Dialog, March 4

[Estimated reading time: 6 minutes]

[Editor's note: This is an exercise at writing dialogs. This time, I chose to do a scene from the graphic novel Preacher. Obviously, this means that this post contains spoilers.]

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse," Jesse said.

"Right, Jesse. You walk into that house, ask the nice little family to buy their home, and hope that they say yes. All without getting shot or involving the law?"

"Ain't no law in this land. And I can be a real charmer..." Jesse's hand rested on Tulip's knee and he looked deep into her eyes for a beat before continuing. "Or so I've been told."

"Of course, how could I forget?" Tulip shook her head in a feigned apology. "You really want to live here?"

"Well, what's wrong with Louisiana? I thought you liked it. Good weather, nice parks," Jesse spread his arms to encompass the area around them, "and your dream house is right there, columns and all. Hell, it's even on a lake. So sure, why not, I go and have a talk with that owner and the two of us settle here, maybe start a family..."

"Jesse, look me in the eye and tell me: is that what you really want?"

"I thought that's what you wanted. White picket fence, two kids, a golden lab. Isn't that what all you Southern Belle- um, I mean... You know what I mean."

"I know you better than you know yourself, Jesse. Which may explain my confusion. You hate this. Hell, I think I hate this."

"Damn Tulip. You want to live on the road forever? Shitty motels, gas station burritos, greasy diners, running every time we hear a siren?"

"Is there anything wrong with all of that, Jesse? I thought you liked shitty motels. Never have to wash the sheets..." Tulip's fingertips glided along Jesse's thigh in wide curves.

"Is it really so strange that I'd want to settle down? Ain't a real man supposed to give his woman everything she wants? Like that house right there?"

"I will allow, Jesse Custer, that is one fine house."

Tulip looked across the way - past the paved path, the expanse of green park, the nameless lake - and considered the house, almost clinically. She tilted her head from one side to the other, pouted and fretted a bit, then threw her hands up in exasperation.

"Jesse, you are not serious about this! Are you putting me on?"

"Hell, Tulip, of course I ain't putting you on. I love you. And you love me." Jesse said this flippantly, a fact that needed no corroborating evidence. "So why don't we forget about the road and the chase?"

"Because. This is not who we are. Not you, Jesse, and certainly not me. Why, we never even talked about settling down. Why now?"

"I don't rightly know. Maybe this podunk little town is getting to me?"

"Jesse Custer, are you drunk already? Not even noon and you are rambling like a preacher on Sunday."

"No, Tulip, I'm sober and thinking clearly. Really." He looked at her. She looked away. "Marry me, Tulip. Marry me and let's settle down in this little shit-hole."

"Fuck, Jesse!" Tulip jumped up and stood back, as if Jesse and the bench were on fire. She looked confused and angry. "That is not funny. What sort of game are you playing?"

"Ain't no game. I don't know what it is, not entirely, but maybe..."

Tulip crossed her arms and waited. If she arched an eyebrow and tapped a foot, she'd have completed a stereotype, one she was trying to distance herself from for all of her adult life, so she did neither. But she considered it.

"Maybe I'm tired of running. Maybe I'm scared of losing you. Maybe the thought of holding up another pawn shop is more scary than exciting."

"Scared little-"

"Not scared for myself. That place we hit, two weeks back, the old prick in the wheelchair, he almost took your head clean off."

"Almost, Jesse! Almost! I can take care of myself. I never asked you to worry about me. You worry about yourself." Tulip paced back and forth, still close to the bench but just out of Jesse's reach. "Is that why you said what you said, Jesse? That grandpa with the Magnum scared the living shit out of you and you start talking up marriage?"

"I don't exactly know, Tulip. I just know that I'd rather take his bullet, take a dozen bullets, over him or anyone ever even pointing a gun in your direction. Maybe I'm done with that life. Maybe I'm ready to start a new one with you, right here. This ain't a bad spot, is it?"

"Oh Jesse," Tulip half-wailed and plopped herself back on the bench and into her lover's open arms. "You are insane. But I do love you."

"Yeah, you do. So what'll it be, little lady?"

"Let a girl think, will you?" Tulip squirmed on the bench and maneuvered herself even closer to Jesse.

The two sat in silence for a while.

Tulip watched her dream house and for a moment she let her imagination take over. She thought of Rex, her childhood dog - a golden lab, of course - and tried to picture a new life here. She thought of taking Rex to the park or down to the lake.

Jesse held her Tulip and thought about cleaning his gun. He always thought of cleaning his gun, but especially when he had to wait. His hands made small movements as he mentally took his weapon apart and put it back together.

"I want a coffee," Tulip finally said and nodded down the road, toward a chain coffeehouse that infiltrated even into this backwoods little town.

"I'll get it," Jesse said.

"No, no, you sit right there, Jesse Custer. You think about what you said. When I come back, if you still feel the same way, you can ask your question again."

Without waiting for a response, Tulip sprang to her feet and walked briskly away from the bench, toward the caffeine pushers. Didn't even stop to look back.

Jesse watched her walk away and whistled softly under his breath.

"Quite the woman."

Jesse froze.

A man sat down on his left, and another on the right. Jesse didn't have to look at their ugly faces to know who they were.

"Jodi. Felix."

"Mind your manners, shit-heel!" The man on the right slapped the back of Jesse's head.

"Be nice to the prodigal son, Felix. He's been out in the world so long, he's just forgotten his manners." Jodi turned to Jesse and smiled. His face mostly consisted of two rows of brown teeth. "But we can forgive that. We're the forgivable kind, ain't we."

"Sure as shit we are, Jodi. Sure. As. Shit."

Jesse noted Felix's gaze toward the green park. A couple with two teenage kids were tossing a frisbee around. Felix rubbed his groin and grunted. Jesse turned his attention to Jodi.

"Mr Jodi, what are you and your retarded friend doing here?"

"Grandma sent us. We've come to get you."

"Sorry to say, Mr Jodi, but you're gonna leave disappointed."

"Disappointed that I didn't cut your friend's throat, maybe." Jodi nodded in the direction of the coffee house. "Oh, that got your pulse racing, didn't it." Jodi waited for a response, then after a few seconds continued. "Grandma wants you back alive. Didn't mention anything about your little whore. You refuse, you fight back, we'll cut her up into little pieces, make you watch, and then we'll still take you back."

A beat passed. Jesse stared at Jodi. Jodi stared back.

"Jesse Fucking Custer, speechless. Ain't that a fucking miracle!" Felix whooped in exaggerated joy. "Shit, and I had my eyes set on that bitch."

"Mr Felix, with all due respect..." Jesse slammed his right elbow into Felix's groin. Felix groaned in pain, fell off the bench, and started rolling on the ground, a steady stream of violent and profane grunts escaping his mouth.

Jodi's fist shot out. Jesse doubled over and puked on the ground in front of the bench.

"You boys about ready to stop playing games? Not that I don't enjoy whooping you, but we do have a job at hand." Jodi stood up and looked with disgust at the two writhing forms in front of him. "Move!"

Jesse pulled himself up. Jodi's ugly face towered two feet above him. Jesse looked around the park. The family was gone. The three of them were all alone now. He looked in the direction that Tulip had gone.

"Better hurry up. She might be back any minute now, and I just know Felix would love to introduce himself. Tick tock, Jesse."

Jesse took one last look around, toward the dream house that would never be theirs, toward the coffee shop, the lake. He took it all in, nodded, and walked away in the opposite direction, away from the coffee pushers and away from Tulip.

Jodi nodded and bared his brown teeth in a twisted smile.

"Get up, fuck-head," he said to Felix, almost as an after-thought as he followed Jesse. "We've got a long drive ahead of us."

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