Cowboy Story (assignment from writers’ group)

Write a scene using these two characters:  a cowboy and a divorcee’.

The 40-year-old bleached blonde sat on the barstool, nursing her scotch and soda.  It had been a long day and she needed time to unwind and forget about work, home and all of her problems.  The scotch swirled as she held the short clear glass in her hand, spinning the ice cubes.  She stared at the light tan liquid, hoping it held some magical power that would dissolve her problems and carry her off to a wondrous place, far from her drab existence.  The scotch smelled sweet as she brought the glass up to her lips for a sip of the smooth yet biting drink.  The drink burned a little as she swallowed and she felt her sinuses open as the medicinal effects of the alcohol took effect.  Putting the empty glass down, she called to the bartender, “I’ll have another.”

“Well, hello, little lady,” a voice behind her said.  Pulling up the barstool next to her, a man dressed in a plaid western shirt with old yellowing pearly snaps for buttons sat down.  “What’s a sweet thang like you doin’ in a cow shed like this?” 

The woman looked at the man with distain.  Just what she needed, a hayseed cowboy to interrupt her mellow, alcohol-induced solitude.  She turned away from him, ignoring the cowboy’s chit-chat. 

The man raised his left leg onto the barstool rung near the floor, showing his dark cowhide boots with sides of lighter brown inverted flames embroidered on the sides to the sloping tops.  The toes were pointed with a flower design near the tips.  The red and brown plaid western shirt had seen better days.  The sleeves were worn and grass stains and dirt embedded the elbows.  His stubby unshaven face was weathered and leathery with deep wrinkles in the prematurely-aging face.  She guessed he was close to her own age or a little older. 

“You ‘ppear ta be troubled, missy.  Tell old Rusty about it.”

The woman turned her back completely to him, ignoring his comments. 

“Oh, come on, beautiful.  I ain’t gonna hurt you.  I just want someone to chew the fat with.”

The woman turned back and glared at him.  “Well, Rusty, it’s none of your damn business.  Go away.”  The bartender set the new glass of scotch in front of the woman and asked the cowboy, “What will it be?”

“Aw, I’ll just have coffee, black.  Want to keep a clear head for the next hour or two.”

The bartender turned to the back counter where the coffee pots stood.  His reflection appeared in the large tarnished mirror that lined the back of the bar.  The woman saw her own reflection in the wall-sized mirror and caught the bartender’s eye.  He smiled and winked as if to say, “Don’t worry.  I am here if you need rescuing.”

“So, cowboy.  Just coffee, huh.  No troubles to drown?”

“Well, “said the cowboy as he shifted his weight on the worn black vinyl backless barstool.   He was a lanky man and looked like a scarecrow with the wooden legs of the stool for support.  “I don’t need nothin’ but a good cup of black coffee because later I am going to do something big.  I need my wits about me.”

“What are you doing?” said the woman.

“I cain’t tell you that,” he said.  “But I can put a quarter in the jukebox and play you a tune.  Do you like “Streets of Laredo?”

“Whatever.”

The cowboy slid off of the barstool and walked bull-legged over to the jukebox that stood on the floor near the door.  As the man inserted the coins, the jukebox came to life and bright colorful lights moved through the tubular glass fixtures. Reds, blues and yellows flashed as the record appeared and was gently set on the turntable by the mechanical arm inside. 

The cowboy shuffled back towards the bar, disrupting some of the sawdust and peanut shells that covered the barroom floor.  He  thanked the bartender for the coffee, tossing an extra coin on the bar as a tip. 

In the background, Marty Robbins sang, “I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy.”  The woman laughed quietly as she recalled the Smothers Brothers version of the song where the lyrics were changed to “We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys.  So, get yourself an outfit and you’ll be a cowboy, too.”  The scotch continued to spin in her rotating glass as she imagined the tan swirls as the dusty streets of Laredo.  Where had her life gone wrong?  She gazed into the glass, asking herself what had happened to the times when she had a family to love, a bright future, hopes and dreams. 

With the last sip of scotch, she looked up. The room seemed deserted now.  Only the bartender remained.  He stood behind the bar, drying a glass with a white tea towel. She turned and noticed the cowboy was gone.  She heard Marty Robbins sing,

“Oh, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
And play the death march as you carry me along;
Take me to the valley, and lay the sod o’er me,
For I’m a young cowboy and I know I’ve done wrong.”

The lights of the jukebox dimmed.

“Where did he go?” she said to the bartender.

“I have no idea. But he left this,” he said pointing to the place where the cowboy had been sitting.

The woman and the bartender looked down at the gold coin dated 1882.

 

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