by, 04-13-2009 at 01:19 AM (655 Views)
I wrote this (relatively) short story as a submission to my school literary magazine way back when. (I was fifteen, so that would be . . . four years ago? Five? Something like that. It was also before I knew better and thought falling in love would be cool.)
Out in the boondocks of Wyoming is a town that goes by the name of Pony. Nobody’s entirely sure where the name came from, but it’s there all the same. It’s a small town, not even big enough to have a population sign. Some ain’t even sure if the government knows the place exists. It ain’t anywhere near any major road, or even a minor road, for that matter. There is one road going in and one road coming out, and it is the same road. The folks of Pony like to call it main street, just to help the place sound a tad bigger than it is.
There ain’t much to Pony. It’s just a little farmtown that’s got a barber shop, a broken down bar and a hardware store/corner shop combine-ation. The place and the people look like they walked straight out of the early nineteen hunnerts. In the bar, there’s the same ezact four men ever’ day in the same ezact places. Ol’ Charlie sits at the end of the bar next to the door, drinking the sorrows of his dead wife away with his on’y friend in the world, a fifth of Jack Daniel's. Jimmy shoots pool all day long, and he been drinkin’ the same brand of beer since the early 50’s. The bartender quit tallying up Jimmy’s tab years ago, an’ it’s a good thing too, since Jimmy ain’t paid his tab in nearly fifteen years. Jake, who ran a cattle outfit in Texas a while back, is enjoyin’ his retirement with a bottle of expensive gin. He sits aginst the wall next to the pool table and chats with his ol’ partner about all the women they’d loved, horses they rid, rodeos they’d hosted, an’ other odds and ends.
The barber shop is prob’ly the newest of the buildings, and it’s gotta be near sixty years due. The old barber, Rizzy, ain’t had a customer under the age of fifty in ten years. Some think it’s ‘cause there ain’t nobody under fifty within a hunnert miles, but it is known to some that he gives such bad trims, the kids cut their own hair just to save themselves the embarrassment of being seen with it. Rizzy’s been ‘round so long, nobody even members his last name.
Old Miss Jold runs the store, and she’s been round almost as long as Rizzy. She’s managed the store long as anybody can a’member. And they still call her Miss, because no one seems to remember if she ‘uz ever married or not. ‘Cept mebbe Rizzy, but he ain’t one to talk ‘bout people if they don’t wanna be talked ‘bout. Anyway, Miss Jold also manages the town bank (which nobody uses cause they don’t have any money anyway), the goods shop and the hardware store. All three businesses are crammed into one twenty foot by twenty foot building.
I’m almost the only kid in this tiny little town, aside from the scattered young’ns that live out on the ranches and farms ‘round in the valley. Nunna us kids get any edumacation unless it comes from our parents or some of the other old folks. Nobody wants to truck all the way into the big city to get smarted up, so’s we just listen to all the old folks talk. Nobody even knows we exist, so we don’t bother tryin' to fit in.
I’m fifteen years old, sixteen in January. I’m one of the four kids above fourteen in this little community, but that’s okay. I been entertainin’ myself since I was six years old, and I ain’t never had no problems with bein’ bored. Never been so busy I dint have time to myself, neither. That might have something to do with it. But if I ain’t got nothin’ I’s supposed to do, I’ll hop in the pickup and drive out to the Thane’s place. My good bud Taylor lives there, along with his parents and three little sisters. He’s seventeen, but he might as well be eight. Me and him cooked up enough trouble in five years we known each other to get us a jail sentence, if anybody cared enough to do it. But I don’t go out there to see Taylor, most of the time. I go out mostly cause his sister, Kerri, is a doll. She’s the same age as me, mebbe a few months younger. I took a fancy to her a year back, and liked her ever since. She likes me too, she’s just too nervous to say it. Taylor tells me how she talks about me non-stop when I ain’t around. He gives her **** about it, and lots of it too. But I don’t really care too much ‘bout it, since it don’t change the way she feels ‘bout me.
My firs’ good talk with her was last summer, ‘round the middle of July. All the folks in town an’ all the ranchers decided to get together and have a big cook out. Don’t get me wrong, I like food. But I don’t like lots and lots of people more’n I like food. So I ‘uz walkin’ along main street, munchin’ on my roast pig, happy as a clam with my full belly, when Kerri and her folks drove by on their way in. I waved, not ‘spectin much to come of it, when a few minutes later, here comes Kerri and Taylor in their old beat up Ford truck. Taylor pulled up next to me, and Kerri hopped out of the passenger seat. I expected Taylor to get out too, but he waved and pulled a U. So, me and Kerri were all alone about a mile from town. This is where it all took place.
We just stood there, lookin’ at each other for a few seconds.
“Howdy,” I finally managed to choke out from around my mouthful of roast hog.
“Hi,” she said shyly. “I didn’t want to hang around with all them old people, so I asked Taylor to drive me out here cause you looked a little lonely.”
“Oh,” I said. I swallowed. “I caint blame you for not wanting to sit around an’ listen to all them old folks talk about nineteen oh-one. It gets a bit borin’ sometimes.”
Kerri was lying and we both knew it, but neither of us cared.
“Where you headed?” she asked.
“Oh, nowhere importint. Just walkin’ for the sake of walkin’. Wanna come?” I asked.
“Sure!” she said, and eagerly fell into step with me.
See, there’s other girls, and then there’s Kerri. Kerri is somethin’ like a tomboy. She dresses like a boy, in overalls and jeans, instead of a skirt like all the other girls. But she’s smart too. She ain’t uneducated, like the rest of us. Her pa was a schoolteacher in his early days, an’ made sure his kids all had something twixt their ears. Well, Taylor never payed his pa no ‘ttention, an’ dint learn too much. He still knows a bit, but not near as much as Kerri. Kerri jus’ dresses like all us common folk and talks like us so she don’t stick out. Well, she still sticks out wearin’ boys clothes, but not near as bad as a small town girl with a big vocabulary. But, my point is, she’s a smart gal.
So, we was walkin’ along and talkin’ bout whatever popped into our heads. I guess we’d been walkin’ for round a half hour afore we got to the bridge that spans the crick. I figgered, since it swung back around towards town, we could just take it and make it back in time for dessert. When I brought it up, Kerri was more than eager to accompany me. See, she ain’t scared of water like most girls. She’s just as likely to leap headfirst into the crick as I am. So, we headed out, strollin’ along the bank, talkin’ bout the usual nothing.
“So, you lived here your whole life?” she asked me.
“Pretty much. My pa got here a few years afore he married ma. After that, I was born. My pa lived in some big city back east somewhere’s, and never saw fit to go back. I caint blame ‘im, cause it all sounded like a big pain. People everywhere, cars, dogs, cats, paved roads, and car exhaust so bad you couldn’t believe it. So, we lived here all this time. How bout you?” I looked over at her. Her golden hair played over her shoulders that were bare except for the straps of her overalls. She was so pretty it made me want to cry.
“Oh, we lived in Kansas till I was two or so, and when my parents got sick of the tornadoes, they looked around and found this little place. They decided it was a good town for a kid to grow up in, and settled down.”
She looked back at me. Her green eyes met mine, and I felt my insides want to explode. The feeling was so intense, I had to look away afore my heart busted out my chest.
“I guess I’m glad your folks settled here,” I said as offhand as I could.
There was a few seconds’ pause before she spoke again. “I am, too.”
We walked for another fifteen minutes in silence.
“What’re you gonna do when you grow up?” she asked me.
I shrugged. “I dunno. Mebbe I’ll just live here
the rest of my life like my pa. Either that, or I’s gonna go get a job on some cattle ranch somewheres. I hear they’s short on cowboys in Montana right now, or I’ll boogey down to Texas and work there. I ain’t plannin on stickin’ round anywhere for too long, I know that for sure.”
“You . . . you planning on getting married?” she asked tentatively.
The question caught me completely off guard.
“Y know? I ain’t thought about it at all,” I said, looking at her. “I guess I prob’ly won't, since I ain’t heard of any gal that wants to run around the country chasin’ jobs. I dunno. If I met the right girl, I might think about it.” I did not even come close to failing to see the shadow that passed over her face when I said it. I frantically scrambled for something to say to make it up to her.
“Granted, I am only fifteen years old. That might change in a few years,” I said quickly. Her face remained impassive. I felt a knot roll up in my belly, wondering if I’d screwed up with her already.
“I ain’t scared of travel,” she said finally, almost defiantly. The ball in my stomach melted away like butter in a frying pan.
The crick started to curve back toward town, and the sun was gettin’ low in the sky. The crick was gurglin against its banks, and the birds were singin’ their last songs of the day before they roosted for the night. We came to a spot where rays of sun peeked through the heavy leaves of the aspen trees and played patterns acrost the surface of the water. There was a downed log straddlin’ the crick, and I stopped at the base of it. Then I hopped up onto the log, and proceeded to balance my way out to the middle. Kerri hopped up after me without a seconds pause, and followed me all the way to the very middle of the crick. I plopped down on my behind, and the log rode low enough above the water, that my feet were just inches above the surface. Kerri sat next to me, and we just looked at our silhouettes the sun made on the water.
“I love this time of day,” she sighed.
“I do too,” I agreed. It was the perfect time of day. Well, mebbe. Not much beats the first light of day, sittin’ in my nice warm rocker, sippin’ a cup of coffee. But, sittin’ next to the most beautiful gal in the country durin’ the second prettiest time of day don’t have too much competition, either. For the moment, they was tied neck and neck for first.
We just sat for a moment, watching the water flow just beneath the soles of our boots. I saw a few trout swim by ‘neath the surface, darting ‘round like little bullets with fins. Then, something happened that ‘bout made me jump out of my skin. My left hand was on the log twixt me an’ Kerri. Then, something warm and soft slid over the top of it. I jumped, lookin’ around. Then I saw Kerri, a half smile on her face. Then my eyes slid down her arm, to where her hand rested on mine. I felt a grin start stretchen’ isself acrost my face, and I scooted over a few inches closer to her. I lifted my hand, and twined my finners in hers. She closed the last little space twixt us. Her arm pressed aginst mine, and her gently swaying foot brushed mine. Slowly, her head lowered to my shoulder, and her hair splayed out over me. I rested my head on hers, and played with her hair with my free hand. Her free hand moved up and caught mine, and then rested gently in her lap. I closed my eyes, not believing what was happening. I dunno how long we sat like that, but when she stirred, I lifted my head and opened my eyes. She was looking at me with those big, green eyes. Her hair fell around her face, catching the sunlight. She was moving closer to me, however slowly. I moved too, hesitant, but still movin’. We both hesitated, momentarily stoppin’, but starting agin until we was only an inch apart. She closed her eyes at the same time I did, and our lips met. At first it was on’y a touch, but we drew closer, an’ the kiss more definite. It took my breath away, every nerve in my body was on fire, my guts all melted into one big mess, and my mind went blank. The seconds stretched, an’ I ain’t zactly sure how long we was sittin’ like that, but when we broke apart, it was almost dark. We jus’ looked at each other fer a minute. Then, we wordlessly rose, hand in hand. We hopped off the log, an’ slowly strolled along the crick. By the time we reached town, the sun’d been long down, an’ people was already turnin’ their lights down for a bit of after sup readin’ an the oldest folks was already in bed.
“Well, we’re back,” I said. I looked at the outline of Kerri's face in the dark, but I couldn’t read the look on it.
“Yup,” she replied.
As we walked up to the drive, I saw that the Thane pickup was in our driveway. I wondered what they were still doing here so late.
We walked up the drive, and heard voices inside. I opened the door for her, and we walked in. Everyone looked up when we walked in.
“Look who’s here,” pa said.
“Have a nice walk?” ma asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “It was fun.” Kerri lowered her eyes and I noticed her face redden a little.
“Well Jim, thank you kindly for the drinks. I believe we better head home. Taylor, go start the truck.” He tipped his hat to ma and nodded at me and walked out the door. Kerri smiled at me, then followed her father out. After they all were gone, ma yawned.
“So, what did you two do that took so long?” she asked.
“We walked,” I fibbed, averting my eyes.
“Must have walked awfully slow,” she said, rising to her feet.
“We did,” I said as she walked out of the room. Pa looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. on his way into his room, he put his hand on my shoulder.
“That crick sure does make a good scenic walk, don’t it?” he asked, and walked out.