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Burning Short: An Open Ended Story: Last Loophole

7 Feb

This is a short story I wrote up from a Christian/Western/Romance novel I have been working on for some time. It originated form some very short poems I published on Family Friendly Poetry. I seem to be better at poetry due to the fact I am good at making my point short and sweet. I do not like adding what I call ‘filler’ to make one poem into a 200 page novel.

In fact I wrote a article expressing my opinion. The topic interest  was their but I have found out over 8 years the biggest hindrance to becoming a writer is myself. After using a submission manager for some time, I learned that to get a poem read you basically have to sterilize it, deleting all of the parts you thought important. Do not be offended if editors do it on their own.

  Their are 5 or 6 different versions mostly differing in the adult factor of the material. Some of the differences are related to how the story progresses and ends after the first 3 or 4 Chapters. Nonetheless, I am great at writing what I like as well as what the fans of the particular genre-(s) might enjoy reading. But I can not pinpoint just what topics will bring in a broader, more generalized audience. With that said it will probably be years before I am ready to send it to publishers, if ever. Enjoy.

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Brett waited impatiently for his buddy Charlie to get back to camp with some food and grub. His stomach hankered from hunger. But this pain didn’t compare to the feelings of loneliness. The heart in his chest yearned for love.

The lonely trail-hand wanted more than anything to find a gorgeous woman. But the idea of marriage terrified him. The men of the Edwards family had a disreputable history of marrying many times. All of the relationships ended up with the clashing couple in line at the courthouse in a terrible rush to get divorced. They rued it soon after.

Sure they would blame it on their spouses being high-maintenance and temperamental. But truth be told they were stubborn, quick to hit, and untrustworthy of being left alone in town or even at home. The temptation of another woman was too tricky to fight.

Years of being dragged to church taught him that God trumps any genetic disposition to behave badly. But he could not bring his self to believe that bad habits could be broken. So he ran off to lead a life on the trail where he would be safe from intimate attachments.

Fear has a way of making the things you try to avoid most inevitably come true. So maybe he had not gotten in any domestic disputes; he always managed to keep his hands off of females. But he could not resist balling his fists up and knocking the brains out of any fool brazen enough to say something stupid.

Just like the stereotypical cowboy riding the trail, he often had relations with strange women. Exhausting months on the trail did not leave much time for building constructive bonds with other people. But friendship among other herdsmen was something a cowboy could depend on.

Brett was good with a rope. His father was never home much while he was growing up. But every time he would come back from different jobs across the country he taught the boy how to tie another kind of knot in a rope.  His dad worked on the railroads. He was just another man breaking his back for the promise of making a life in the west.

Quite frequently the callous, hard-hearted brute would use one of these knots to tie him to the tree post and lash his son to the point of rendering him unconscious. Brett’s mother would try to intervene. This only succeeded in getting herself beaten to a pulp and then her husband would start the bad stuff.

Many a time the young child would watch through crack in the closet door as the matriarch was abused and stripped of any self-respect she had left. Sadly when her husband left for good she learned that society could be just as cruel. Nobody wanted to hire a woman. Especially one that was divorced.

As he grew up into a teenager he noticed how people liked to pretend they were perfect. Everybody was married and happy. Everyone’s father lived at home full-time. Anyone who fell outside these social margins was ignored and treated like a leper.

Nobody would offer their friendship. This caused him to treat every friend he ever made with the utmost respect. No favor was refused. Everyone could count on him to be there in times of need. However, years of neglect produced a man with unsavory personality flaws.

Nobody on the trail noticed the lack of table manners and crude language. All that separated this male from the others was a lack of self-control. Every man is prone to moments of rage. But fighting was a daily thing for this guy.

The wrath of this cowman was set off by the simplest crooked stare. A thoughtless, vulgar remark from some kid acting too big for his britches would be reciprocated a punch right between the eyes. That was till he met Charlie, a less than intelligent lad with problems reading social ques. When Brett saw how people excluded him he felt an obligation to take care of the youngster.

“Dang-it Charlie”, he said, as his friend rode up on horseback. What were you doing? You better not have been trying to sell your gold spurs for spending cash. The ramrod will have your hide.”

By the look on the young one’s face he knew what happened.  “Since you blew all the money in your pocket I am going to have to go into town” he reprimanded. “Brett, I was going to buy them.”  “I don’t want to hear it Charlie. Excuses don’t mean squat out here on the trail. Consistency is what gets you through the ranks; consistently working hard, not constantly screwing up.”

“Lucky for us”, he moaned with a firm stare, “I only gave you a few bucks because I know you too well.” The shamed, innocent look made the man regretful. But even a slow, dim-witted kid has to learn the hard way. Otherwise find his soul chewed up, or worse, die because the boss spent all the money on uniforms and none on beans and necessary staples.

“Come over here boy”, he demanded while pointing at one cow. “Yea, yea, yes sir”, the teen stuttered. “Now Charlie, I have one job for you and I want you to give it all of your attention.”  “I want you to watch this one calf. It is too little to protect itself. Don’t let any coyotes near it. It is kind of like you, it needs someone to watch it so it doesn’t get hurt.”

Charlie spotted a coyote up on a hill a hundred or hundred and twenty yards away.  “Ba, Ba, Brett. Cay, cay, coyote”, he spit out and threw his body on top of the calf. “Yeah, you got the idea, just don’t squash the poor animal”, Brett responded.  He flicked his cigar ashes into his shirt pocket.

“Remember to call all the men sir, especially the boss. Calling someone by their first name only works with me because I am so nice.” Charlie curled his face. “Ha, ha, Brett chuckled dryly. You could at least pretend to like me a little.”

“I can’t say I blame you. I hated my first boss. I lived for the day he got stomped by a bull or shot in the back. But when you’re young you don’t realize such wishes are terribly wrong.” That is why I read the ‘good book’. I’ll teach you some more Bible words when I get back.”

Grand Pines is where the lonely cowboy would be going. Dishonesty became a bad habit but in this occasion he would tell the boss he was headed back to Cricket Hole where Charlie had went. Nobody needed to know he was going to find a woman to keep him company. Every trail hand would want to go and these privileges would be cut off.

Brett mounted his horse and rode north towards Cricket Hole. His destination was South, but he rode out a distance, went west half a mile,  and then turned back south to throw off any suspicion of where he was really headed.

His mind wandered. He was too stubborn to work out inner struggles, but he couldn’t help but think that maybe his sarcastic, mean attitude didn’t quite reflect the empathy he had for people.

He had gotten by helping Charlie get along in life. But his fear of emotional openness left him alone with no woman to ride back to. Besides, no woman would want a man who is gone on the trails for months at a time. Even the thought of emotions made him uncomfortable. He shifted in his saddle and shook it off.

The lonely cowboy wandered into town. He was covered in mud and blood. He hung his head, not quite sadly, but not in a self-righteous manner.

This man’s demeanor along with his six foot height and broad shoulders frequently gave people the wrong idea about what kind of guy he was on the inside. His skin was dark brown, but his pursuit was to lighten other people’s loads. The stack of dirty four-letter words he kept in the forefront of his mind didn’t help either.

This trip would present a fine opportunity to catch up on some sleep. Not till finding a fifteen cent bath to wash away the aches and pains. The wretched smell of steer dung and cramped sleeping spaces would make any woman’s nose coil.

The hot water was refreshing. For a moment he considered buying more clean water but seeing a lovely lady walking down the alley through the washroom window reminded him of the nightly pleasures that were ahead. The thought of a town too clean and straight-laced to have a house of ill-repute never crossed his mind.

After bathing he dried off and asked the chap washing on the other side of the room where a man could lay his head down for a spell. The poor townsman was less than happy about being interrupted, but after second though, recommended the Split-Fir Inn.

Poor man was bathing in second hand water. Sure it saved ten cents but much luck finding companionship smelling like a dirty version of the last guy that visited the bar.  Giving the vagrant some change for directions left him smiling and pointing his thumb up at Brett.

Mr. Edwards dragged his bag into the front-door. Going right along with the bad luck of the day the clerk at the desk was an Easterner. The kind that thought they were above dirt and mud frequently found in the west. Most of them only packed up and moved in response to rumors of gold rushes and dreams of romance and adventure that was only found in books.

The employee read the name Brett on the bag rather than have a civil conversation with a wild animal straight off the plain. No tip for this guy. Except for go back where you came from. Brett kept his mouth shut and withheld from saying it.

The feel of the bed was like a railroad nail. After the initial shock it was comfortable and worthy of a good nap. There was no reason to hurry. Night-time was hours away.

A picture on the wall portraying a man with wife, two kids, and a picket fence stirred up feelings of a life he always wanted but had to give up and make peace with. He drifted off to sleep.

He dreamed of times he spent in jail. Not exactly comforting, but not awkward either. He never meant to get into trouble but his attitude rubbed people the wrong way.

Mr. Edwards was what the local judge of each location called him every time his attitude caused a brawl that the intoxicating spirits would not allow his body to win. Bloody knuckles ruined the one brown-stained sheet given in almost every city jail. The Grand Pine Jail surprised him with clean sheets, warm cornbread and chicken, and an attractive girl who checked on his moral standing. But not physically gratifying the inmate. He never questioned why.

He woke up not a moment too soon. The sun was going down and he smelled the complimentary supper. Its smell climbed the rafters and squeezed through the doorknob and into his nostrils.

Chicken and baked beans awaited him. “What? Is there a chicken farm around?  It is always chicken in this town, ha-ha”, he said out loud but rhetorically. He didn’t really care and none of the other tenants or invited townspeople seemed to hear. By the way everybody chowed down they must have worked just as hard as he did.

Next was finding directions to the ‘fun-house’ as he called it. . When he asked a stern looking old man stood up and said, “Mister, we are God fearing people in these parts. I understand not everybody lives by these rules and you are welcome to stay so long as you don’t mention things of the trashy sort again. We do have a lawman that would be more than glad to escort you to the edge of town.”

The man made his point clear. Abrupt but clear. A rectal examination must feel very similar to this. Must be what Charlie feels like every time I chastise him.

A couple of crisp bills bought him some decent clothes. If rumors were true and there was a bar that just opened up he would need to spruce up his looks. Not the quick trip in, get what he wanted, and out. But sometimes a man was forced to improvise.

The tailor’s assistant fitted Brett with a clean white shirt, black vest, and a pair of tight fitting pants. He found a pair of boots on the shelf on his own.

The get-up was somewhat folksy. Not stuff he would never wear, but not up-to-date. Apparel he remembered his grandpa wearing while killing time on the farm after Sunday services at Gravel Hill Evangelical Church.

The young man helping talked about everything under the sun so Brett felt no guilt in snatching the custom ordered Stetson hat off the counter on his way out. Kid should have kept his mouth shut. Nobody likes a boaster. It was an even trade:  precious time for precious goods.

Since it was starting to get dark and too far to walk to the bar, he stole a trustworthy horse out of a sales barn. No one was the wiser. He used another bad habit learned in childhood by stealing.  Much better than a run-down work horse.

Digging his heels into the horse’s side turned out to be a big mistake. Nobody witnessed the grown man getting thrown from the ornery charger. Luckily no dirt stuck to his outfit. Does a mare know how to laugh? Apparently this one did.

“Okay, I am a humorous man, Brett told his self. No reason to get offended.” Not believing his own lie he climbed back on dying to kick it again. But the lesson was learned. No need for a repeat.

There was an old red barn in the middle of town. Margaret was inside running and climbing up a ladder. “Ralph, stop chasing me!” She said. He was catching up with her. Her words said ‘no’, but her beautiful, crooked smile said maybe. With girls there is very rarely ever a definite yes.

Wanting to keep the game of cat and mouse going she jumped up and starting climbing up the ladder. Ralph eagerly followed. He didn’t understand girls, but he knew he could never figure it out if he didn’t catch up with her. Lucky for him he did.

She tripped on a pitchfork and fell in the hay. “You okay?” He asked half-concerned as he kneeled down over her. “It’s just a scratch.” She said. “Well let me kiss it.” He offered. She moved left out from under him.

“I am not that weak.” She claimed. “My daddy taught me well. And he damn sure taught me how to handle young little boys and their dirty thoughts.” This stung his ego and rose up a fury inside of him.

“I’ve got to go to work. How is a girl like me going to move out of this town with empty pockets?”  “ I just assumed you were going to leave this town with me.” He exclaimed. He thought he was winning her interest of this idea. But she would never put her future in his hands and truth be told a silversmith’s apprentice had as little of a chance leaving town as a homely girl did.

The blue plaid dress she wore to work was worn out. So was her patience working for pennies in a run-down bar dodging awful grabs and nasty gestures. The only thing with more holes in it was her plan of running off to a place filled with excitement and adventure. Life had yet to teach her this didn’t exist.

This was a quaint little town and had only recently opened a bar much less what they considered a rich man with a very nice steed. If only they knew what kind of guy he really was.

He stopped the horse at the front of the bar and tied it to the wood post. Thoughts of promiscuity were at the forefront of his mind. Chances of this were slim in a town with such morals.

Inside was Margaret. It was her first week working in such an adult environment. But she had an experience here and there with the boys.  She would play around in one barn or another. At least till the boy made a serious advance and felt the sting of a slap and the wrath of an insulted woman.

She often felt lonely and bored between cleaning up dirty tables and dodging evil stares from town parishioners; Most of who were customers at one time or another. She longed for adventure. She dreamed of a place where the people were not quite as hypocritical and bent on enforcing rules they couldn’t keep themselves.

Tonight could be counted as another loss. She listened to some guy’s story of how gold was on its last leg and some mineral which she couldn’t remember would be the newest craze. He tried to get her attention using the fact that this discovery would make him a major player with plenty of money to treat a lady right.

Could a man get anymore obnoxious and egotistical when he is drunk? “I see London. I see France… ”, he joked, nearly falling off of his stool. “ Keep dreaming loser”, she laughed and got up from her seat.

She dreamed of adventure. She longed for the kind of love she had only read about in some cheesy romance novel.

As she walked through the bar dodging unsolicited grabs and glances she wondered if she would be stuck in the same one lane town forever.

“Don’t worry honey”, an older waitress imparted. “Life gets better. It may take a long time. And I mean a real long time. But it does happen.”

She meant no disrespect but her mind wandered while she stared past the swinging doors. No sooner did her work friend finish her sentence that a tall handsome man walked into the bar. The black stallion was visible by the light of the lantern on the outside wall.

She didn’t notice the lousy shirt and pants. But much like a girl noticed the sharp hat, and expensive ride. She didn’t know it, but her hormones were playing a cruel trick of attaching her interests to a worthless, self-hating, immature cowboy. Life also had yet to teach her that first appearances are deceiving.

Brett took a look around and thought he just walked into a real shoddy hangout.” I am out of this place”, he aimed his distain at the bartender. With embarrassment he stomped his way outside planning to ditch the lame excuse of a town.

Margaret yelled at the bartender, “Stop him. Don’t let him leave. I just saw the man of my dreams.” She felt lucky when he came back in to get some money that fell out of his pocket. Naturally, she played for his attention. Naturally it worked.

Brett didn’t notice her modest dress and ragged shoes. His eyes went straight to her long black locks of hair and her ample bosoms.

As he walked up he relived feelings of inadequacy. The girl was not even interested. Her eyes looked elsewhere and her body language screamed   ‘Not interested buddy’. But he was desperate for love.

“My name is Brett, would you like to dance”, he offered.  She accepted and flirted, “I don’t mind if I do”.

They held hands and walked unto the small dance floor covered in wood shavings. “I like this song”, he said. She melted at his every word. Neither noticed the awful tune being produced by a player piano.

“Are you new in town? She inquired. Not wanting her to know he did time their once, but not wanting to lie, he said, “I have visited a couple of times over the years.”

“Have you lived here long? He asked.” “Gosh!  All my life and not a moment goes by too soon.  I can’t wait to get out of this town and see the world.”

He was smitten by her smile. Her soft skin was a nice change of pace. He fought off urges to make advances but it was creeping up on him. Long months alone were catching up with him. The hard ground reminded him he wanted more of the woman in front of him.

She felt his appropriate dancing turn into groping but she let it go. She wanted so bad for this man to pick her up, put her on his horse and carry her off to whatever rich, adventurous place he resided in. She imagined big white mansions, noon brunches with tea and crumpets, and town dances with beautiful women wearing the latest dresses and aristocratic men wearing cummerbunds and chit-chatting about their latest investments and political opinions.

Her heart pounded. For once on her life she felt alive. She followed him back to his room ignoring the duties and people she was blowing off. The passion was to die for. The flashes of light and exhilarating bursts of adrenaline she had read about. All that was missing were fireworks.

He was pleased. Softness of skin and kind touching embraces were better than quick jabs in the face and kicks in the gut by cattle. He ignored the bond that was quickly forming. He passed it off as physical attraction.

Daylight came quick. Both spent all night cuddling and talking about dreams. Of course she assumed his were coming true and hers were about to be fulfilled.

Brett thought of a second-round. Margaret thought of what she was going to take with her. That is, if she took any of her old junk. Neither was completely satisfied. Neither was aware of the other’s true intentions.

Brett, she asked, when are you going back? Are you going to take me? “What do you mean, crazy woman?  This was just a one night deal. Wham-bam, thank you mam, I’m outta here. Back to the trail is where I am going.”

She screamed bloody murder; you mean you just used me with no plans of seeing me again? You have another thing coming if you think you’re going to ride off back to the high-life and leave me here. You got the milk, you keep the cow.”

“What high-life? You think riding a dusty trail covered with rattlesnakes, scalp hunting Indians, and makeshift sleeping quarters are high-life.”

The smarted man ran out of the room in search of escape and alcohol. Margaret came to terms. The sudden realization of what she got herself into was a lot to handle. He was just using her.

She let a man take advantage of her. A man whom she thought was rich and dignified. Not another laborer like her father. How could she have missed the real, deeper signs? How could she have allowed herself to be drawn in by superficial queues?

Brett woke up with a splitting headache. After two bottles of whiskey all he could feel was the poking of the hay he fell asleep on and a splitting headache caused from a hangover.

He vented his frustration in the form of a furious shout. How much things can change in a day. Too bad one night of drinking could not change it back. Lucky for him there was still a couple more hours of night and all of the townspeople were still inside their homes asleep.

Nobody heard the outburst or so he thought. He worked to get his balance and his sight back to normal. A bucket of water he stumbled over came in handy bringing his senses back. The cold water gave him the shivers so he opened the door of the barn he was in too stretch out his muscles a little more to relieve the pain and warm up his body.

A loud crash made Brett jump with a burst of adrenaline. Just as quickly he shook it off when he spotted some hens running around and saw the bucket near their pen. He was unfamiliar with the place so he didn’t notice anything odd.

As he looked around the darkness did not keep him from noticing he was probably in the country. That is away from the countrified town he was last in before he passed out. By the looks of it the town was few miles back. There was a hill northwards being lit up by the rising sun. No sooner did the thought of how he got there pop up in his mind than he felt a whack on the back of the head and he fell over on the ground.

The hit on the back of his head quickly brought back something the girl had said in the short time they spent together. She mentioned somewhere in the midst of all the dreams and emotions a boy she had been stringing along. Now he wondered if he had picked the wrong girl. One who was spotless on the outside but still struggling with right and wrong on the inside?

“Aren’t we all? Aren’t we all what?” The boy said. “Do you mean to tell me you believe that stuff; all off the nonsense saying we are all born with sin, we all quarrel with demons inside of us, and we have God’s forgiveness if we only ask? I have a better thought!”

“I am just going to let my bout with you go. I have bigger men to catch. Or, what is it you religious zealots call them, fish? I do not want to get my hands dirty. I must keep them clean.”

“Why is that? Brett prodded. Is it because deep inside you are filthy? Look at you! You are covered in blood. I can see the dead souls in your eyes.”

“I have no guilt on my conscience, the young man uttered.” I bet you don’t feel anything because you are a psychopathic rambler incapable of sympathy. Brett stared the beast square in the eyes. I know you!” He said.

“You are pure evil. The kind my grandma warned me about. The kind that does nothing but in the end has more blame than the rest of us. Not because you did more; I can see that you did. Not because we did less evil, because I certainly didn’t. It is because you did nothing.”

“I know what you are trying to pull.” The incubus alleged. “I know the scripture as well as you do. You are talking about it being better to be cold or hot instead of lukewarm.” If you are on fire for God you are safe. If you are cold there is a chance you will be convinced of your faults and get on fire for this God.”

Mr. Edwards answered, Ah-ha! You do know the scriptures. I bet they are deep in the recesses of your mind. But your problem is that God isn’t in your heart. He never will be.”

“I may love on one hand and cuss others on the other hand. The girl I just met may be working out her own issues, growing up to be a woman. We may have both acted out of the sanctity of marriage last night. But we try. We talk to God and humbly except his correction and work to sin no more.”

We try to reach perfection, if only through God’s grace. We are absolved of sin through the blood of Jesus. We eagerly wait for the day Christ returns and God lets us see His wonderful face. Though on that sweet day we will all be judged for what we did and didn’t do, and some will be punished accordingly, we know when we profess the name of the Son of God we will be granted admission to an eternity of joy and everlasting life.”

Even though I say it in vain I will repeat the words of my Lord, “Go, and learn what all of the things I just said means. If you return it will certainly be worse. God has my back! Why do you think my head is so solid? Brett said ironically.

The beast of a boy disappeared. “Thank you Lord God.”  Brett prayed on his hands and knees. I have been in some hairy situations, but nothing like that. I don’t ever want to be again either. But I know Lord God you will be there to defend me when it does. Give me strength to do right by the girl and to sin no more.”

“Even more I pray for your will to be done, especially where Margaret is concerned. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.” “Oh and by the way, could you give Charlie some sense, and watch over him till I get back?”

 

Copyright  © Dustin Poteet