What took you so long?

Welcome. I've been waiting for you to show up.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Seventeen Men in Waiting

Shirl drove to town on Saturdays to buy supplies, her broken muffler announcing her arrival well ahead of her bent front fender. She clambered down from the old Chevy pickup, her hair pulled back in a loose, graying ponytail and the pocket of her worn, watch-plaid flannel shirt bulging with shopping lists.
None of the locals paid her much attention. She was, to them, a middle aged woman, probably living on a pension. And that was fine with her. She didn't want the men, especially, to get any ideas about visiting her drunk on Saturday nights.

Shirl had bought the Bar-J ranch a few years back, a small house on 90 gently rolling acres with a creek running through. She kept horses, evident by the tack and feed she bought at Jay's General, and pried colorful quartz from the hard pan under a few inches of topsoil.

“Wyoming, now that's where the ratio of men to women is 17 to one -- look it up if you like. I hear it's a good place to go if you're looking for a husband,” Shirl's sister Jeanie had told her.
Shirl wasn't the type to share hugs or confidences, so she kept her yap shut and quietly signed the deed a week before moving west. Jeanie mailed her the hometown paper and pound cakes made with Wisconsin butter, every so often. Shirl sent Jeanie rodeo programs and photos of her new foals.
She “let herself go,” as their mother would have called it, by not dyeing her hair or wearing skirts to town. The last lipstick she'd chunked into the trash had been three years old and dry. Living on her own terms made Shirl happier than she'd ever been, quite frankly, and her only lack — if you could call it that — was having no one to tell that fact to.
She loved waking up because she'd finished sleeping, eating only when she was hungry, going to bed only because she was tired, and buying what she wanted when she wanted. Money was never scarce -- not that it had ever been. Still, no need to flaunt it.
Now and then, she'd drive to Casper, board a plane for Reno, and meet up with an old lover. She related little of her life on the ranch, preferring to encapsulate their pleasure and time together as one might encapsulate time spent watching a particularly good film. The shifting images and sounds inside their hotel room were removed from the outside world.

Shirl wondered why no one had ever told her how delicious a solitary life could be. Her entire upbringing, all the advice she'd heard in college, had aimed her like a dart to the bull's-eye called marriage, as if pairing up was the only natural state there was.
"A shame, really" she mused. "All those 17 men out there, just waiting for me. Probably a few of them are lookers, too." She laughed, and for just an instant wished there was someone around she could tell that to.


Ron. said...

Well, this potential hermit & flirter-at-will loved this piece, G.

Quartz, you say? Very cool.

mittens said...

yep i liked it too, all three times I read it. damn you write nice, gita.