Western Short Story
Al La Cazenza and the letter to the Lady on the Golden Palomino
Tom Sheehan


Western Short Story

Alberto La Cazenza spotted the woman on a horse in one burst of golden light and did not know which creature was most interesting, most golden, most lovely, but that woman was riding that horse by herself, no guide, no entourage, no boyfriend. What was she doing alone in this wild valley of northern Mexico, his home country, but certainly not hers?

He had to meet her, to find the introduction best trusted for the occasion, most fitting to the senses of minds perhaps miles apart. The animal, the one being sat upon, was of golden account, like a newly minted gold coin, the shine elaborate, whole, a flight of color lifting off its flanks, off its neck, that mint of such animals best represented by this creature.

The flash of the rider’s hair, sweeping unto itself, now and then finding a whisper of wind he could not hear shaking it at him, at him alone on the edge of a mountain as if some immortal being, some god of all gods, had sent her here.

Then Alberto La Cazenza saw a shadowy horseman approaching around a huge rock where he most likely had been watching her, pistol in hand and pointed at the lady on the golden palomino. He stands up, she sees him raise his rifle and send a warning shot at the other rider who bolts back down the trail.

He comes down to see her on the trail. “You ees hokay?” he said, the mimic at work, it seemed, laughter on hold, the stage quiet.

“Oh, God,” she replies in a manner that says she’s above her audience, “another one that wants to earn money over in our country, but won’t try to learn the language. It’s a good thing I came down here to teach them how to speak like us. It will be invaluable to all of them.” She let go her puffy breath in a flare of impatient release.

It made a point to her audience, she believed, at which she managed, finally, to say, “Thank you, kind sir.”

“You teach in Mexico, here?” He pointed to the ground at his feet. “At Mija Tomo? In town? Bes’ school here. Ees good, us, you.”

Her breath went a-flare again. “What do you do here, in this town, in this valley? Are you a hunter? A shepherd? A guide? Do you always have such quick eyes to see beyond your nose?”

She smiled wanly at that point; no way to go, no place to get to in this conversation. She tossed her golden curls atop the golden horse and was quickly pleased his eyes followed the sweep of her hair, At least, he is aware of other disturbances, she thought, yet afraid it might also be printed on her face. It made her smile inwardly in a fashion.

“Al lead you Mija Tomo, you seet on beauty horse?”

She nodded, said, “Let’s hope it gets better than that, Al. Did you go to Mija Tomo?

“Al too beeg Mija Tomo.’

“I’d give it a chance, Al. My name is Charmly Godfrey, teacher, learner, rider of golden horses. My father has a stable of them. Perhaps I can swing a deal for you. We live just over the border on the Giant C Ranch. He sent me to Vassar to learn other things besides Texas.”

She laughed, he thought, probably at some long-gone joke.

She confirmed to herself that he was interested in her, the way he seemed to study her and then she put that out of place, the placated spirit set aside.

She spoke directly; “I’m down here to speak at the school and also to hear a local writer deliver an address at the school. It sounds very entertaining and quite mysterious. I have no idea of the other writer, what he writes, what he will deliver. It might be totally interesting.” She paused

Her eyes were lit up.

“Al, he try get dere, to school, be found dere.”

“It might be too difficult for you, Al. The high language that’s promised, from what I have heard.” Her right hand was on her right hip, rigid as punctuation.

“Al, he try get dere. Take chance.”

She nodded, a prelude to explanation or direction. “Just lead me to Mija Tomo and I’ll take care of the rest. But I will say right now it was nice of you to help,” thinking perhaps some of her harsh approach might be eased at least somewhat.

He led her to the edge of town, pointed out the school. “I see you dere.”

She found a sudden comfort that she’d see him again.

The head of Mija Tomo said, “It is my pleasure to introduce the next speaker who needs no introduction hereabouts, so here he is.”

Alberto La Cazenza walked on stage, nodded at the principal, turned to the audience and nodded at them, and his eyes seeking the eyes of Charmly Godfrey. He nodded to her, a huge smile on his face as he said, “I read this,” at which he held a few pages of printed pages, very large type size, crushed them in one hand, at which the soul of Charmly Godfrey nearly took flight, and said, without appearing to find a pause for punctuation but which found its own way, “Ah sweet marrow ganglia matter of mind what inviolable pleasure brings me to my lone typer this time of night in the moonspill mooncream what draws me this way and that from my outer to my inner am I all questions in this mushrooming quiet and dark of night this sound of dead foxes hanging thinly with leaves the den not returned to mother hunted while hunting and dogged down this deep of night this dread of sleeping while my mind can still move its way over the wave of things can extrapolate conjure figment articulate touch smell know once again the musk I could die for right now this instant this eternity for my nares have the memory of fingers and the dry pulp beneath my nails is your deepest residue of love I cannot manicure away lasting Epicurean ashes of these fires.

I see suck words on lips I see the drip of syllables phonetics of some word rock buried in you as deeply as mine sunless and miles deep past the six hundred miles an hour that our impulses travel from mind to extremities of selves to fingers of satisfaction to fingers knowledge to lips say to eyes move to pits of breast set into teeth like caraway seeds (oh I love the working memory as my tongue worries a pit like a cavity beginning –I form words for you at the touch) what tangible ghost of nights past is near me touching like grass or a spider web not quite there who the spirit travels its hands and lips and words against my ears myself my all as if Chapman’s Homer has its speech and touches to me I, I am alone atop Darien this abominable night though I have shares and am shared, oh shared by madness, oh stung by stars and simple grass

Oh listen, believe me daughter of words holder of the precious word rock I am just a moonmaster starriser suncatcher burster of cometing yea a farmer plugging word songs but a listener of your night watches walker of your dreams the evil-doer doing done that far thin voice of a star moving on you oh dream death at morning light ah it is lonely the fox is dead I hear the dogs cry above the clash of leaves the horn empties its wail on wind the den not returned to the young wait cold and hungry the burrow walls close in in cool pneumatics the ferret comes slowly at first teasing his mouth waters saliva runs oozing like sperm his back arches he tingles oh love I’d love to come to your mouth to have your lips holding me is volcanic thought furnace-like as though the blade of your tongue is ever merciless why are you so unkind to me why cut memory’s cut do my veins intrigue you my capillaries crawl like others crawl except when you loose your tongue you are mad! mad! but I bid you I bid you come at me once all mouth all imagination all energy I would know no other night nor own one

I am doomed pusher of thought darer of deeds worder of words I am doomed who such lip when such thigh take the angle of my eye lest I lose that nearing breast bring your mouth where you’ve caressed use your tongue as gallant blade my private parts to invade I moonmaster master of words roper of stars brander of herds of Pegasus flock beg your tongue talk let it be known beneath your bone I love your curves and wanting nerves sleep comes now just sifting through me pushing its delights into the barest ends of me the torture of a sugar remembered thighs intersect triangle of nerves coming away more slowly than an old rusty sled downhill excruciatingly lovely from the pitch of parting once past time I shot at a doe and oh! I missed! I missed!

Charmly Godfrey swore later that she had fainted before he was halfway through his talking, most likely directly to her.



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