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Couldn’t help but to wake up all rigid and onery again this morning. In a good way, though. I reckon I must have been dreaming about Colby’s kiss just before rising, on a count that he was the very first thing on my mind, come morning. Even before I opened up my eyes good, visions of him by the fire still lingered in my head. His grin, his scent, his touch…I can’t wiggle free of it. I done stroked myself so much that I was beginning to feel shame for it. But with Colby livin’ in my head space…it feels like I can’t help myself. I can’t even get my day started without taking care of what I got throbbin’. And the moment I take myself in hand…it’s almost like I need another spill fifteen minutes later to keep from being spotted again. Felt a lot like madness, I tell ya. But I can’t say that I was anxious to put a stop to it.
I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said that I knew what love felt like. I doubt I’ve ever been touched by it before. But when I think back on my momma, and the stories my daddy told me about the first time they met…about taking her out for a spin during a local fair…when I think about all the times I’ve heard them laugh at one another and share a kiss under the stars…I can’t help but to associate the feeling with what I got going on in my overworked heart since I met Colby. My body feels all turned around, my mind feels upside down…my nerves can’t take the sensation of being near him, but it feels a sight worse being away from him. And I thought about whether or not he’d be able to see the light from a lit fire in the daytime if I lit one.
Farfetched, I know. But I didn’t want to wait until after sunset to see him again. I had so many questions. So many cravings. And yet, more than anything, I just wanted to look at him again. Lookin’ in those pretty eyes brought a peace to me that I ain’t never reckon was possible until that first night he stepped over and said hello.
I felt mixed up, somehow…but not from my own doin’. If I wasn’t so turned over by worrying what everybody else would think…I’m thinking I’d feel right at home with all this.
My daddy stared at me with an awkward eye as I scarfed down my breakfast, anxious to get my chores out of the way so I could have some of my morning free to frolick in the good feelings I had running through me like a shot of hot whiskey. Does Uncle Buster feel like this every time he goes boozing at the saloons in town? If so, I might just start doing that and slow down on the self stroking altogether. Because this feels…it just feels sunshine.
“Alright, boy…I ain’t gonna go another minute without asking you what’s got you so fired up this morning.” Daddy said.
I didn’t even realize that I was grinning to myself until he mentioned it, but, hard as I tried…that devilish grin wouldn’t go away. I tried to bluff my way through it. “I ain’t fired up. Just feeling blessed, I s’pose. Good breakfast and all.” I said.
My daddy raised an eyebrow. “I reckon you are feeding on the same bread and eggs as your Uncle Buster and me, aint’ ya? My cooking ain’t bad enough to turn the coyotes away…but it ain’t good enough to brighten a boy’s mornin’ the way it has yours.” He said. “What are you up to?”
The threat of being forced to say caused me to increase my efforts to wipe that silly smile off of my face, but it JUST refused to leave me be. I lowered my head, finishing what was on my plate before accidentally letting some of my giggles fly out, unannounced. “It ain’t nothin’ to worry about, Daddy. I swear. Just in a righteous mood.”
“A righteous mood?” He said. Uncle Buster exchanged a silent look with him, and my daddy let it alone. “Well…you get your chores done, and then I want you to stay close to the home. Ya hear? You’ll be back up at the school house as soon as we find you a new qualified teacher and the railroad bring her into town. As soon as she gets settled in, it’s right back to them books for you.”
“I know, Daddy…” I said.
“And don’t you and Willie go out and get yourselves into any mischief in the meanwhile. If I catch you…”
“You worry too much, Daddy. I ain’t doin’ nothing. Just happy to be breathing on a sunny day. Nothing more rough than that.” I assured him, and finished my last bite of toasted bread before showing him that my plate was clean. “Can I be excused?” I asked, still trying to conceal my grin.
“You can go. Just…don’t grin at the livestock the way you’re grinning at me right now. They’re liable to think you’re fixin’ to eat ’em up and they′ll start a stampede.” He replied, getting Buster to chuckle at my expense.
No matter though. I doubt anything could get under my skin today. I kissed another fella last night! And it fired a cannon right into my heart! I can’t let that pass without squeezing it for all the joy I can muster while it’s still in me. Why would I want to?
I spent the better part of my chores just looking up at the clouds and thanking Heaven above for allowing me to feel so darn good this morning. I thanked Heaven for the cool breeze when the Sun began to heat things up. I thanked Heaven for the extra light it provided. But…more than anything, I just kept giggling over the memory of kissing Colby on the mouth, and remembering what his affection tasted like. My soul had never been so light. Why can’t I stop laughing to myself. It ain’t like there’s anything funny going on. I wasn’t having any sexy thoughts either…but I kept getting stiff in my pants, anyway. Hard as a sun bleached bone. It got so bad that I nearly went behind the old pump house to squeeze out a few streams before my chores was done. Everything about Colby just excited me to no end. Got me feeling nervous and proud of it. My mind tried to fight it, but my heart wouldn’t let it win.
Christ…I think I might have actually gotten sweet on this boy! So, what do I do now? And happens if he turns out to be just as sweet on me too? I ain’t quite sure how we would work something like that out. Keep it secret, I s’pose. Creep around. Maybe find a few times a day to giggle and smooch when we know ain’t nobody around to see us. I don’t know…but the danger of gettin’ found out was even more exciting than the mystery of it all to begin with. Maybe we’re the first fellas to feel this way about one another. Maybe this is a new kind of courtship we done stumbled upon. What would be the odds, right?
I finished up what I needed to do that morning in nearly half the time it usually takes me to do it all. I had such a ‘skip’ in my step, I guess the added energy just had me moving around like I was half crazy. But as soon as I fixed everything up, I washed up real nice and got my hair together, before going out to town. I was never sure when or where I was gonna run into my new obsession. I didn’t want to show up looking too shabby when I did.
I grinned to myself in the middle of the road, lowering my hat before my phantom giggles got the better of me and had me cackling through the center of town like some kind of possessed witch.
I still can’t believe he kissed me.
I think I was too lost in my own head to see Willie sneak up behind me and give me a swift kick in the back of the pants. “Hey! You need to quit to messin’ about so much, Willie!” I told him.
“You need to pay more attention, is what I’m thinking.” He grinned. “So…what’s the plan for the day, Deke? You wanna get a ladder and get a peek in Lady Maybelle’s Place from the upstairs balcony? I seen some crazy stuff going on in there a few weeks back. You and me can get close enough to wipe the steam off the whorehouse windows, if we get to movin’ right now!”
Bless Willie for being such a joyful sinner, but that whole activity was far outside my interests at the moment.
“Can’t do it, Willie. Daddy told me not to get into any mischief today. Or any other day between now and the time we get us a new teacher at the school house.” I smirked, “Your name came up specifically. Hehehe!”
With a pout, Willie says, “Your daddy don’t know me so well.”
“I don’t know. I think he might know you better than I do.” I giggled, but put an arm ’round his shoulders to let him know that there wasn’t no harm done. No insult in my meaning. I’m sure Willie knew that, deep down…but what’s it hurt to remind him every now and then that we’re best friends. From now until we go to Glory. That’s just the way it is.
It was at that moment that I looked a bit further down the street, and I saw Sarah Cutler stepping out of the corner shop, with some bread loaves and a jar of preserves. Maybe a few other items on top of it, but I didn’t wait to make out what they were. I got that nervous shake in the center of my chest again, and suddenly wanted to force myself to head around the nearest corner, quick, before she got her vision fixed on me. I didn’t want Willie to know what I was doing, but my sudden change in behavior clued him in anyway. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to duck out on her before she looked up and decided to approach me. Certainly not enough time to let Willie in on what was happening. Lord Bless…I hope she ain’t caught sight of me yet!
I took a firm hold of Willie’s wrist and yanked him forward so he could follow me around the corner of the nearest building. He gave me an awkward look and squinted his eyes up as he asked me what in tarnation I was up to, pulling on his limbs like I was. But I figured that I could explain the whole thing to him once I was out of Sarah’s line of vision. At least it could give me enough of a chance to come up with a fib worth tellin’. Something that he wouldn’t blink twice over. Or, so I thought…
“What is your damned disorder, boy?” He barked, snatching his hand back. “Don’t you go pulling me every which-a-way, now!”
“Hush up!” I told him, pressing my back up against the wall of the saloon we was hiding behind.
Naturally, Willie peeked around the corner to see what had me so spooked all of a sudden…and when his eyes met mine again, he seemed completely outdone by my actions in general. “That’swhat has got you so spooked? A girl?” He said.
“I ain’t got no mind to talk to her right now. I got other things in my head at the moment…”
“Other things like what?” He asked with a frown. Why did he need to know so blasted much? “I don’t rightly get you, Deke! You’ve got a nice girl sniffin’ you out, and you spend all day trying to cover your scent. What for?”
I can’t exactly tell you why it hurt so much, but I took odds with him saying such a thing. “You trying to call me awkward, or something?” I said, stepping closer to him with an angry look.
Willie took a step back from me, now even more confused than ever. “I’m just saying that it don’t make the right kinda sense. Not to me. You could sure do a lot worse than the likes of Sarah Cutler. She got plenty of boys aching to be her suitor, but she seem to like you best of ’em all. But, instead of returning a nice smile every now and again…you come runnin’ over here to hide ’round the corner of this wall. What’s worse, you got ME hiding with ya! I just can’t wrap my mind around any of this at all.”
“Ain’t nothing strange going on here. I just need some time. That’s all. Sarah likes to push and poke too much…”
“I’d like to ‘push and poke’ her back! Instead, I’m hiding like a field mouse from a hungry hawk behind this dang saloon.” Willie said. “You’re lucky enough to not have to chase tail. Instead, you can get your pickle wet by letting tail chase you instead. I mean…hell, Deke…I’m ’bout ready to push you on her just so’s you can come back and tell me what it feels like. You aint got the good sense to grab a blessing when you got one.”
“HUSH UP!!!” I said in a loud whisper. Sarah and her friends were coming our way, and I moved further behind a nearby shed until she passed. Maybe Willie had something right after all. I did feel awkward about turning tail like this. Had it been Colby, walking around town, I would have run towards him with the biggest smile in all of God’s creation. But…Sarah wasn’t my type of ‘pretty’. I don’t know why, she just…she ain’t the oil that my heart burns when it needs the proper light, is all. Odd as that may sound.
However, even as my thoughts found themselves twisting up into another set of knots…Willie and I noticed the sound of horses coming into town from the next road over. Right behind us. It wasn’t nothin’ out of the ordinary, hearing horses on the road. But these were different. Brand new.
Our town center is pretty small. Close to the belt. Everybody in town knows everybody in town. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. But whenever a set strangers come passing through…the streets get quiet. The children stop playing. The ladies stop gossiping. The sound of people coming out to look newcomers in the face for the first time can be heard, their footsteps creakin’ the wooden porches beneath their feet.
The kind of hush that fell over the town when these horses came trotting through, let us know that something was happening. Something that occupied my mind more than hiding from the courtin’ smile of Sarah Cutler, that’s for sure.
Willie felt it too, and abandoned all of his previous thoughts to sneak to the edge of the building toget a peek for himself. What else could I do, but follow him over?
Sure enough…there were five men riding into town. Well…four men and a boy about my age, I reckon. Four horses. The boy and the man he was riding behind must have been kin. They had them eyes like the ‘dusties’ the cowboys got to work on the railroads ’round here. Except they had them fancy blue and gold pajamas on. Shining in the morning light like a wet mirror after rain. The second one I noticed was a big fella. Bigger than my daddy, I reckon. It barely looked like the horse was going to be able to support his weight for much more than a few more labored steps. Tall. Mean lookin’. With swollen fists the size of two blacksmith hammers. Chewing tobacco pushing out the left side of his jaw, and a mustache.
There were two more fellas that simply looked like a duo of bandits. A set of serpent’s eyes, highlighted with side-winding grins. Skinny, but dangerous from the looks of ’em. I watched as one of them tipped his hat to a lady on the side of the road. While it might have been a gentleman’s gesture in most circumstances…in this case, I doubt the Devil himself could have crafted a greeting with more offense.
Then…there was the rider in front. A man with a black eyepatch and a heavy shadow of hair on his chin and jaws. He was smoking a foul smelling cigar that nearly choked both me and Willie from a distance, on a count of the wind blowing it in our direction. He seemed the meanest one of all. I could swear that the town horses themselves cringed at his presence. As if a rattler has slithered into the barn, just beneath their feet. The air around us got hard to breathe. The clouds above seemed to get a little bit darker…the Sun, itself, withholding some of its rays…as if ashamed to share its light with a group of men who didn’t deserve it.
Every animal out there knows a predator when it sees one. It can sense the fever of evil in another animal’s heart. I think I’m sensing the same thing right now.
Who are these men? And why did they choose to come randomly riding through our town center like this? They bring the stench of a bandit’s threat with them…and I can’t say that I like it anymore than that the smell of that cigar smoke.
Can’t say that I like it at all.