Jul 18, 2020

The Cowboy

    The Cowboy 
    A short story you might enjoy

    The old man sat in the Adirondack chair, the sun softly lighting his lean and angular features. The smile glowed as brightly as the warm, Midwestern sun. He dozed fitfully, more content than his restless nature evinced. Life had been good, for the most part. He missed his wife at times like this. Her warmth, awakening to her nakedness snuggled behind him, breasts’ inviting his attention, curves guiding him to the secrets that her body had revealed over their forty years of intimacy. Even approaching the twilight of age, they had shared a sensual and emotional bond that even death had not been able to break.

    He had been many things in his life: professional cowboy, steelworker, sailor, corporate headhunter, boat builder, government bureaucrat, and now retiree. His years in the system had afforded him a comfortable pension and he was satisfied with the way life had turned out. Except for the emptiness, the void left by the absence of his life-long love.

    She had kept him grounded, soothed his aches, remonstrated him for the reckless lifestyle of his younger days, never understanding, but always accepting, his early choices.

    Thoughts turned to the varied experiences he had tasted of in his passage through this mortal coil, to use the Bard’s words. Cowboys had a code, an ethic, a way of seeing the world that was unique. Honor, integrity, truthfulness, a code that once ruled our great land but now was only reminiscent of old movies.

    The transition from cowboy to corporate lackey was hard. There was no code of honor, no brotherhood built upon mutual trust, no mutual respect, no shared purpose. Even though cowboys were intensely competitive, they would be in line to help you fix a broken cinch strap or lend you a pair of spurs or even a saddle or bareback rigging if yours had gotten misdirected by the airlines. Corporate environs, being what they are, were cutthroat places, without pity or remorse. And take no prisoners was not just an empty expression.

    The old man survived, thrived, even excelled without ever succumbing to the culture. He even gained a loyal following among his staff for his uncompromising support. He never left a teammate alone to face the consequences of any action. He had always been true to himself. He knew he would never fit in, so he just remained himself. An anachronism within a system that rewarded mediocrity and valued campaign work over job-related endeavors every time. His wife was his refuge, his safe harbor. He never complained. Cowboys never do. But she knew and always found a way to soothe the beast that was awakened by these demons.

    Cowboys are, by nature, solitary people. They didn’t share their troubles except with each other, were quick to celebrate their triumphs, eager to move on to the next adventure, but never in too much of a rush so as to miss the treats and pleasures that were present in the moment. The solitary nature of his personality often bothered his wife. He shared but never quite as candidly as he might. And there were always things he would never share. Not exactly secrets, just things that never needed exposure. But almost half a century of cohabitation, intimacy and familiarity had inured her against this flaw. She shared when he allowed it, commiserated at other times, and muddled through when neither of those worked.

    The cowboy way. It wasn’t just what you did, it was who you were. And would always be. Oddly, at that moment, one of his favorite songs rose from the CD player. Willie Nelson’s “Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” lilted across the weathered veranda, mellifluous in spite of Willie’s sometimes scratchy vocalizations. The CD was a composite of songs that meant something to him. Louis Armstrong’s “Autumn Leaves”, Asleep at Last singing “Everything She Does Is Magic” never failed to blur his vision with dewy moisture, Sinatra’s “My Way”, Buffet’s “Tin Cup Chalice”, more Nelson as he croaked out “Yesterday’s Wine”, Errol Garner stroking out “Satin Doll”. And a few others, including Melissa Etheridge belting out “The Angels”. He mused on the selections. He had compiled the playlist as a paean to play at his funeral. The lyrics from Melissa wandered through his thoughts. “All I want is a little piece of mind, but the angels won’t have it.” It continues. “I drink from the well but my soul is dry.” He fell in love with those lyrics the first time he had heard them. He thought of his late wife. “An angel flying too close to the ground”, to quote Willie Nelson again. His cheeks glistened with the teardrops now slowly descending from clouded eyes.

    His quarter of a century in the corporate world had earned him a comfortable life, at a steep price, but his soul, his memories, his cowboy ways, were permanently etched into his essence. He never, ever sold out. Life was a mélange of icy sherbets, crunchy nuts, sweet cherry syrup, and, too often, a spoon too short to reach the bottom of the slender, deep glass. The trick was figuring out how to get the remainders after you ran out of spoon. He had become fairly good at that. He thanked the corporate experience for that bit of knowledge. He quickly learned to bring his own spoon. Long, slender, able to dig deeply and polish off the tasty treat others were forced to leave. They never learned to bring their own spoon. And so never enjoyed the true joys of a well spent life.

    He smiled again, salty tears tingling the corners of his lips. He folded his hands, then unfolded them and caressed the smooth, naked form that had shimmered into his field of vision. He reached to stroke the all too familiar breasts and kiss the indented recess of that perfect navel. Then, as if on some cosmic cue, he slipped away, to join the angel that had, once more, flown too close to the ground.

    Tom Schildhouse


  • Marie Buti

    Well-written, nostalgic, romantic, enjoyable read. Reminds me a bit of a contemporary writer I like: John Irving

    Tom Schildhouse


    Tom Schildhouse

    It grew from a project of my writers group. I thought it gelled pretty well. All comments are always appreciated

    Bob Hennessy

    Very well done, Tom.
    You are just an old cowboy at heart.

    Sandra E Wright

    Beautifully done. Brought tears to my eyes.

    Craig Harlan Hullinger

    Nice story, Tom. Click the link to read another Tom Schildhouse Cowboy story.

  •  https://empehi.blogspot.com/2018/12/tom-schildhouse-jan-66-rodeo-bucking.html?q=schildhouse

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