Western Short Story
Lennie Lucks knew what he was looking for in the lost valley as wide as it was long; a flower he had seen once and should have brought back for his wife Lorraine, carrying their first child. He suddenly realized if he had picked it on first sight, so long ago, it would be hopeless to find it or a root of it now. It was like the Big Man upstairs had parceled it out as a first move to grace the lost valley in the desert; and let well enough alone.
But Lucks was determined to congratulate her, and celebrate with her, on their second anniversary of marriage, the lone marriage he was aware of in the whole area, marriage, it appeared, not the thing to do, tie yourself down to forever, and then some more. On his side of the bargain, Lorraine was the loveliest and straightest woman he had encountered in life, worthy of any flower he could find in the hostile desert, one more gem amid the endless sands. Those sands were spread all the way from the Texas town of Sandhill to the far mountains which threw shade all over the southwest in early evenings. The town was more than merely near the desert, but carried dry humor, dry mornings, but a saloon that made stories a part of its culture, one tale deserves another, as it was often said at the bar of the Dead Dry Saloon.
That Lorraine loved him, was unquestionable, right from the start, loving him head on, giving him endless joys from the smallest gift to magnificent appreciations only he could count; such as a swing of her skirt at the side of the stove was a marvel of movement and solid surprise every time it was conveyed, life alive at every step of the way, desert or no desert out there and beyond.
The stories of these two commingled from the very start; when her mother died suddenly, her father married the cook, and the once-cook now-wife wanted nothing more than to get the beautiful daughter off her hands and out of the way. She suggested that they give the girl a small cabin on the far edge of his property, nearer to Sandhill, the nearest town, which called a halt to desert sands ever on the move
Lennie saw the men who sought Lorraine’s favors, none of them receiving the lightest attention. When she saw the blue light in Lennie’s eyes, it caught her attention and her senses; he was different from the rest, and made a permanent impression.
Long before these sightings, Lennie had known his guns had to be quicker than argument, so he had made it happen through long practice, exciting encounters along the way, a name to be reckoned with on all fronts; especially near Sandhill, Texas, too near the desert to ever discount it, or the simple flowers that time and the Big Man upstairs had placed into activity in the driest, sandiest basins of all, the Lost Valley where few men ventured. When Lennie did, he carried a brick-in-a-bag that held his horse in place when tied to one of its reins, the last place on Earth for a man to be without his horse.
When he first saw Lorraine, he fell madly in love with her, swore to protect her evermore, become the man in her life. His gun hands made the adaptation, heading off from his new encounters where challenge was rampant, sent his name winging with stories that gained fervor and favor; like meeting up with a stranger on the outskirts of Sandhill, the stranger saying, “How do I get to meet Lennie Lucks?” and Lennie said, “You just did.”
When the stranger swiftly drew his pistol, Lennie killed him before he could take another breath, not even a surprised look on the dead face, no time for a conclusion to be drawn either. This story ran off to their western world in a hurry, Lennie, of course, the tale teller, as if cultivating his own name among the brethren of gunmen. It was fit for bars, booze and boasting, all men understanding the conditions.
It also brought Lennie often to Lorraine’s cabin, on the watch for her safety and comfort, aware of certain intentions neither of them wanted about, the sly approaches from the rear of the cabin, within range of her rifle or his sidearms. The Gringo Kid, proper name unknown, came this way, a slow approach from the rear of the cabin, Lorraine not seeing him, but Lennie, on watch, hailing him after he tied up his horse at the cabin tie rail.
“You got things on your mind, mister, concerning the lady of the house?” Lennie’s voice was soft, just above a whisper, not a hint of violence in it, but his stance said otherwise, the brace of weapons catching the eyes of The Gringo Kid, his response saying, “Only to say hello to the lady of the house. I am the Gringo Kid. You must know of me. I’ve killed dozens of men in duels and odd gunfights.”
His voice was not soft, had a harsh but confident tone to it, as if he had not known anybody would be in his way, not here out in the middle of nowhere.
That was cut short by a rifle round, from a cabin window, landing between his feet, no way this man was going against her Lennie, and right in front of her. Rifle smoke spurted out the window, her beautiful smile visible to both men, like a picture framed to capture beauty.
The Gringo Kid nodded at the situation, swung about, leaped onto his saddle, and swung about to shoot Lennie where he stood against the sunlight. He fell out of the saddle, hit the ground, his victories cut short in front of the tandem.
The pair buried The Gringo Kid a short distance from the cabin, a coarse cross marking the spot on an unknown body gone to the Hereafter. You can be sure, silence pervades such sites, leaves visitors full of wonder, allows old stories to come out of the past
Such situations occurred every now and then until Lennie proposed to her, she accepted, and her father threw the biggest wedding Sandhill had ever seen.
So it went, to this moment a couple of years later, when Lennie, coming back from the desert as promised, carried in his hand the lone flower found in the desert for the loveliest woman he was ever to see, mother of his child, mother-again-to-be, waiting for his special delivery, him waiting for hers.