Western Short Story
Wellington Jaquith, Jake to one and all, had left the traveling show in the first rain they had seen in more than a month, and noticed his horse was getting a little too jittery for his own good. “He’s so much like me,” he whispered so Jobs, his horse, could hear it, “that when he makes his mind up, I know it before he does.”
It was just another part of his morning care of the animal he loved with a passion nobody in the show shared with their own animals, or the one assigned to them by the circus boss, so when he told the boss he was leaving the show, the boss said, “You got a little money coming to you, Jake, not a hell of a lot, but maybe twenty bucks I’ll give you the next time I see you.”
“I’ll take a sawbuck now or never and my horse. That ought to make us square.”
The boss had said, “Deal,” so fast, that Jake took it and ran. At that point, he and Jobs were part ways between Amarillo and the Panhandle, and couldn’t be more lost if they tried.
Jake, in an otherwise easy moment, said, “Jobs, you got the lead, so head anyway you want, I’m gonna get a little snooze in here while you’re making plans for us.” He gave the horse a free reign, which took them due north as if they’d asked a local for directions. Jobs took his time, Jake took his nap, and there were silhouettes poking up on the horizon, which gave him a comfortable feeling, like grace and goodness was already near at hand.
Jake, if it hasn’t been said, was a handsome dude who worker at staying handsome, and healthy, as often as he could; neat as a pin, happy as a lark, busy as a bee, all rolled into one cowboy buckeroo on the loose.
The pair soon slipped into a sleepy little town big enough to have its own saloon, The Quick and Dandy announced in a hand-painted sign on a thin sheet of wood scraped out of a blow-down somewhere, crude but salvageable for the obviously new assignment, hammers still at work on the structure, the noise carrying down the lone dusty road in the heart of
Willisville, Texas, from its first perception the home of vagrants, the lost, the needy, and the squeezers looking for a free drink being their base duty in life, as if promised on the spot.
Jake’s first sip of any kind of alcohol was nearly shared with another gent beside him at the bar, with a wanton, needy, greedy look on his face. Jake pushed the drink toward the gent but not letting go of it. “I’ll let you have it, if you’ll go away from me and don’t bother me ever again. Deal?”
The gent said, “I promise, almost tears in his eyes, and walked off with the drink. Jake never saw him again that day., as he found a place to sleep with the barkeep’s help.
“It’s at the edge of town, the last house on the left as you leave town north. Leave your guns on your horse when you knock on the door. Mts. Pinkney’s son will take your mount to the barn after he calls his mother. She’s a peach of a woman, a widow, and will give you a bed and a meal for less than a buck if you have a good smile on your face while arrangements are being made.”
He continued, “Your horse and guns will be in good hands; her son is a dead shot at fifty paces and never misses. And he’s never missed. His mother, meanwhile, is openly looking for a man like her husband was, before he was killed accidentally by a stray shot in a duel, a dead onlooker on the spot. He was her hero, she says, without batting an eyelash, and says, “Heroes are few and far between.”
Jake figured her son was about 15 years old, and she must have had him at 20, so she was about 35, his age. They were even up, to start.
Ida Pinkney, a real knockout as a woman, met him at the porch, liking his good looks, his ease letting go of his guns to her son Ricky, and Jobs, as they led off to the attached barn. The care of his mount and his guns was, she knew of all cowboys, was important, and needed trust on the owner’s side of the issue; it’s like getting undressed, he thought, and the let it go. She was beautiful, obviously good at what she did, putting up people, weapons. guns, and feeding them along with rest and comfort.
She liked what she saw in this new customer, immediate trust to others, good looks, damned good looks, she might have muttered as she eyed him all over, and felt surely good about him. The old tingle had suddenly, for the first time in weeks, come alive in her. She smiled broadly, the way he smiled in return, both of them aware of the other, and she knew right off that she’d be dreaming again this very night coming upon them in low shadows.
“How long will you stay with us, Mr. Jaquith? More than a night? I will feed you well, give you comfort in a good bed, allow you the ease of my front room and my collection of pictures and local art.”
Beside the beauty aspect, Ida Pinkney knew her way around men in more ways than one, and Jake’s reply sent a broad smile across her face which touched him deeply. “They call me Jake and my horse is called Jobs, so you can rest on that. I can imagine myself finding more comfort here than anyplace I’ve been in, and that’s all over. Lately I was part of a circus or carny crowd and tired of its endless moving about and finding no true roots.”
His words swung around, as he added, “Would it be possible to find a sign of longevity right here?” His smile lit her up.
She beamed her response, a soft hand touching his arm as if pinning him to the spot, never to move, a sense of belonging in the air too. For all about the pair of them the air had come charged with energy, shared imagery, parts of remembered but periodic dreams rushing back to happen again.
Ida Pinkney had to make a claim for the first time in a number of years. There was no way she could let go of his man, no way at all. It had all bubbled up in her and she could not let is go without a direct effort.
She had made the choice, so she had to make the proposition: “Mr. Jaquith, dear Jake, would you be interested in marrying me? It’s been too long and you’re the first man ever to attract me and make me say these words. I mean them with all the hope I can muster up. You are the dream I’ve been having; I swear.
She could feel herself like she was beginning to melt right there on the porch. When he kissed her back in broad daylight, the whole town knew in a few hours that Ida Pinkney’s long and lonely journey was over, and the man she had been looking for had come on the scene.
She said, outright and plain as day, “When you marry me, you instantly own one third of all I have, property, promises, my bed, my son. and back to me again like it’s forever and ever. being swallowed up right now.
When they died within hours of each other some 48 years later, Richy Pinkney, thus sole owner of the town’s most prosing business, said, “They were made for each other and their meeting could never have been by chance. Destiny, without doubt, pushed it into place.”