Thursday, July 9, 2009

Honor Among Cowboys (Just something I wrote)

"It ain’t natural, all those chickens and no rooster! Besides, the hens will be more content and lay better with a man around," her tall, ruggedly-handsome Texas cowboy announced.

"He stays, end of discussion." Jack turned and headed out the door whipping his blue Jean’s leg with a well-seasoned cowboy hat, sending a puff of dust back to the ranch where it belonged.

Liz slammed the door behind him and focused on a fresh lump of cow dung that had escaped off his boots to her floor.

"Clean your dang boots!" She screamed after him for the thousandth time.

Not that it would do any good. It may have been only a four-room adobe house squatting on the lip of the Rio Grande River, but since their August wedding on the hottest day in Texas history, it had been her home.

"More content," she snorted as she stomped into the kitchen. "Oh sure, the hens simply glowed after that stupid rooster chased them around the yard for five minutes then pinned them down and raped them unmercifully."

Lecturing the breakfast mess before her, she raged, "Why don't you stand up to him, they're your chickens, you feed them, you collect the eggs?" Toast crumbs and coffee residue gazed back silently.

"Why does he have to have the final say in everything?" She demanded of the kitchen curtains as young tears hissed across her smoldering cheeks.

"It's not fair,” she cried through gritted teeth, her fist clinched in defiance. "It's not fair," she lashed out louder, her arm violently sweeping across the counter top and sending his favorite coffee cup to its death.

Later that day, as she slumped against the gate to the chicken yard watching "Ole Blue," Liz's thoughts turned unexpectedly soft. He really was kind-of pretty, as roosters go, she reluctantly admitted. He had those glossy feathers that look deep red from one angle, and dark blue from another, a swollen chest and tapered waist, and long sharp spurs on his heels that looked like something from a spaghetti western.

He was just so arrogant though, she continued silently, her thoughts ambling back towards the angry side. Strutting around like he was some kind of god or something, and those stupid hens, following him around Her fingers dug into the chicken wire on the gate.

As she glared at the angry red marks on her hands, then up at the feathery demon, like cold molasses, "I hate you," ooched from her contorted lips. She tossed the gate open and headed straight for Ole Blue. "I hate you," she said again, the words coming faster now, as she followed him into a group of flustered hens. He kept his back to her, moving, but not quite

"We don't need you here!" Liz spat.

Old Blue stayed several steps ahead of her, pretending to ignore her, as if she weren't important.

Whoa! Instinct said, causing her to slide to a stop and jerk her head up. What if someone saw her?

The old lame mare in the pen next to the chicken yard yawned and blinked a fly off its eye reminding her there weren't a lot of casual passers-by 20 miles down a dirt road.

Liz draped her hands on her narrow hips, tilted her head up and looked at the sky for a moment, as if to drain her mind, then turned back towards the hen house, laughing.

"Yelling at a stupid chicken! That's a good one, Liz!"


The blood curdling scream behind her made Liz wheel around violently. Seconds turned to hours as she dragged her egg gathering basket up in front of her face just in time to receive the full blow of Ole Blue's attack.

"Ka-thunk!" His spurs hit solidly.

Liz bleated out a scream as she jumped backwards, recoiling from the force of his attack.
And then, delayed a moment too late by shock, she assaulted the air with the bucket as Old Blue retreated into a crowd of wild-eyed hens.

"You son of a buck," she whispered above her drumming heart, still staggering from the awkwardness of her retaliation. "You attacked me," she said louder, "I can't believe you attacked me."

Later that night over dinner, her brutally handsome vaquero teased. "Don't you think 'attack' is a little dramatic, baby." "Oh, I can see the headlines now, 'Rooster Abuses Local Woman.' Wait till the guys at the feed store hear this." Jack swaggered towards the horse pens, laughing, leaving Liz sitting alone at the table, feeling, not for the first time, like a fool.

It only got worse. Each day, with sweaty palms and her little red plastic bucket, Liz cautiously entered the chicken yard to gather eggs, slinking around, looking over her shoulder, trying to anticipate Old Blue's attacks. Some days, he pretended not to notice her, pretended he was just bored with the game. Then, just when she relaxed her guard, he would come from out of nowhere, a flurry of wings flapping, screaming his death-squawk, flying spurs first, straight at her face.

She detested the way he made her feel, off balance, stalked.

A maverick sun pitched and bucked off the clouds, bringing alternating bright-warm, then gray-cool skies to this typical January in Texas day.

Dreamily gazing out the window over the kitchen sink at her husband's truck and horse trailer disappearing in a yellow cloud of dust, Liz savored the thought of a full day to herself. Jack was heading into town for a load of hay. He'd be gone all day. No gate-opening duties for her as he drove the truck around on the daily trip to check the windmills and fences, no lunch to fix for a table-full of cowboys.

How would she spend her day, she wondered as she abandoned the bowl of pecans she had been shelling, crossed the room, slid down in her favorite chair, and tip-toed through the daisy's of possibility?

Maybe I'll read all day, or take a long nap...or....

Ole Blue saw her coming, but that wasn't a bucket in her hand.

Liz watched as the casual curiosity in his eyes slowly phase to recognition, then fear.

"This is gooood," she groaned.

He made a panicked dash into a cluster of hens.

"Hiding among women? You coward." She said cocking her head slightly, amused at the way he jumped and jerked back and forth among the nervous throng of clucks and feathers.

Liz closed her eyes and deeply inhaled the musky fragrance of power, feeling completely alive, as if her existence was verified for the first time.

Ole Blue was on the move again, scurrying from place to place. She followed, patiently, savoring the warm blanket of control.

In a manifest act of desperation he ducked into the hen house. "Oh right, bright boy," she mocked, following him through the rickety door. "Good move!"

She had him and they both knew it. Her hands tingled. A nerve in her full, red, lower lip ticked out of control, and she licked it away.

Just a handful of chicken feed tossed out into the yard, and the sprinkling of flustered chickens in the hen house gladly scurried out leaving them alone...together...finally.

Liz latched the door and stood there watching him twitch and shake in the corner as the wind howled a somber anthem through the cracks and gaps of the gray weathered walls.

So this is what it feels like, Liz thought as power coursed through her veins. She knew that she would want this feeling again.

Gracefully, she knelt down to his level, causing him to pull back even tighter against the corner, his repulsive little yellow legs quivering pathetically.

Whatever remained of his dignity forced Ole Blue to make eye contact with Liz and she saw her smile reflected in his black, knowing globes.

"You know," she said, in a soothing tone, "I was willing to give you a chance. I don't even mind your cockiness, but I really don't appreciate the way you treat my hens or me. But now...well, now we have to make some changes."

She could see that he was starting to relax a little. She felt better too...
Right after she emptied the gun on him.

Feathers flying and a high pitched horrifying squawking rang out at first, then just the sound of the rifle exploding and the gentle "thunk, thunk" of bullets finding a soft feathery home.

Ole Blue wasn't pretty now.

As the blue haze of gun smoke swirled around dusty shafts of amber light, she picked him up by one leg, walked out into the yard, stood amongst the hens, raised her rifle and prey to the sky and gave out a loud, guttural scream that echoed off the canyon walls.

"Ready!" She yelled out the kitchen window to Jack as he finished unloading the trailer.

"Bout damn time," he grumbled, stomping into the kitchen, carelessly sailing his hat across the room. "I hope we're having something good tonight."

"Oh yes," she cooed, her arms encircling his neck seductively.
"I cooked you something, very, very special."

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