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The Short Form

“The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past”

Claire Vaye Watkins


On paper, Jim Hart raised Indian blue peacocks until 1970, when he got his operating license. Prior to that, as far as the government was concerned, Hart Ranches made its modest living selling the birds to zoos and private collectors. In reality, Jim hated selling the birds and found reason to do so as sledom as possible. When the cost of the food and upkeep was considered, the peacock business barely broke even.

The girls always brought in more money than the birds, but it was a long time before the Cherry Patch Ranch was much more than two  single-wide trailers on either side of the wide, airy coop. Then, in 1970, as Jim and his friends in Carson City had suspected it might, the state legislature outlawed prostitution in Clark County. Jim remodeled, making the ranch saddle the county line, with the trailers and main house in rural Nye County, and the peacocks technically residents of Clark. By the time Manny arrived, the Cherry Patch was the closest a brothel could get to Vegas.

We read it in Battleborn.

Originally published in The Paris Review: No. 195, Winter 2010.

Originally appeared as “Gold Mine