He could ride south to his father’s oil refinery. That way lay fine suits, easy money, easier women. His father’d left his family, but he might want to know his son. The resemblance? Startling , if his mother Lula’s cameo locket was any indication.
Or he could ride north to the sweetest, most beautiful girl, with the meanest daddy.
A storm brewed outside the window. He walked out into it, anyway.
© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2019)
Carrot Ranch Prompt(11/14/2019): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using storm windows. It can be literally on a house, but also consider other portals, even spaceships or submarines. Can you make it into something new or build a story around something historical? Go where the prompt leads!
Storm Windows at Lula’s Saloon
Jared leaned against the bar, one boot up on the rail, one boot down. His spurs lay next to his whiskey, silent as the glass was empty. He had some deciding to do.
One the one hand, he could ride south, to the border town and an apprenticeship in his father’s oil refinery business. That way lay fine suits, crystal decanters, easy money if he was lucky, and easy women who didn’t care about what the good book said and whether there was anything to be explored there. He’d have a chance to spend some time with his father, find out what kind of a man he was, and what kind of man he could teach his son to be. His father hadn’t wanted to stay in this desert town, run the post office, stock the mercantile, or dig for silver in the mines, far from God’s bright sun. He hadn’t wanted to be a family man, but maybe…just maybe he’d want the company of a young man that looked an awful lot like he did, if the picture in his mother’s cameo necklace was any indication.
Jared banged the glass on the counter–just once–to call to the woman that stood at the far end of the bar, waiting and watching the young man’s thoughts roll across his face like sun and storm clouds battling to see who will win the end of the day. She put down her rag and reached behind her for the bottle of amber liquid that was substituting for a mother’s good advice. Without a word, she topped him off, then put the whiskey bottle back on the wide shelf with its brethren, in front of the tall and dusky mirror.
On the other hand, he could ride north and east, into the hills where there was in fact no silver, no gold, just the sweetest girl he’d ever laid eyes on. But she was dirt poor, and had all those younger brothers and sisters, and her dad was mean. Real mean. No woman in the district was willing to take on the risk of marrying, as his first three wives, all deceased, had done. Not even for that girl, and for those poor kids.
His prospects weren’t that good, either. He was a fair shot, and knew his animals, was good with a financial ledger and was real smart at understanding what things really meant when you read a book. But the town was small, the opportunities for abundance pretty much nonexistent, to his mind. He’d always wanted more, had wanted to see a bit of the world and make his fortune, then bring it back home and build this town up from the nothing that overwhelmed it, like the tumbleweeds that blew all the way down Main street just before a sandstorm. Or the flash floods that started like a wave of unholy darkness across the sky and came down like a fist on anybody or anything caught without shelter. Missy Johnson had gotten washed down a gully when the sidewalk outside Reese’s General collapsed; by the time they found her body three days later, it had been picked apart by the coyotes and buzzards.
So, he had a choice to make. He turned, leaned back against the bar and looked through the large glass window that fronted Lula’s Saloon. A glass-fronted saloon was unusual, but his mother was an unusual woman. The window had only been broken once, in a bar-room brawl with a drunken out-of-towner. He threw a chair through the window, and the piano player had thrown the roughneck right after it. He never came back, and no fight after that ever went far enough to touch that window. He looked sideways at his mother, Lula, still studying the side of his face, trying to figure out what he was going to do.
“Looks like a storm’s comin’, Momma.”
She looked through the window, face impassive. He had to decide for himself if he was ever going to be a grown man, so she thought she’d do best and keep her mouth shut. She hoped that was the right decision on her part. She nodded, picking up the rag and dropping it in the bucket of clean water she kept behind the bar.
He drained the last of his whiskey and flipped it, open side down on the bar. His spurs jingled as he gathered them in one hand, and strolled out of the saloon, a blast of cool, damp air pushing through the swinging doors.
© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2019)