She whispered under her breath, “Where you been all night?” “…You stink like perfume, Hobbie.” She stated then finished her breath. Her eyes were glassy, auriferous and green. Her hair was smooth, wavy and full from being brushed and washed.
He caught her words in one ear and pulled the door closed behind him with a slam. He turned to her as he walked into his home. A loose board caught his boot heel and he stumbled forward. He couldn’t catch himself; instead, he threw himself onto the field green upholstered divan a few paces ahead. It lay backed against the wall. The wallpaper was a satin like design, with stripes and deep hues of red. “Just making sure the parlor…the patrons weren’t tearing up the place…you know, Margret. That’s where all the action is.” She looked at him as he adjusted his position and took off his hat. She stared into his eyes that were the color of crushed copper. “I mended these socks for ya.’” She looked away, blinked as if to disrupt a connection and then, her eyes fell to the socks in her hand.
“Here ya’ go, dear.” She tossed him the woolen pair. Hobbie put his hand up but they missed his clutch and it hit him harmlessly in the chest. “Dang it!” He muttered through grit teeth.
“Are you comin’ to bed anytime soon, or does duty pull you away from a goodnights rest once again?”
He tried to stand but couldn’t get to his feet. “Shit.”
“Yeh, darlin’” “I’ll be right there…” She nodded briefly and blew out the tallow candle at the desk she was seated at. Her feet floated to the second floor of their house, making her way up the short flight of steps like a ghost passing through on the strides of wisps.
The cockcrow at the crack of dawn made Hobbie jump like a cat on a frying pan. He had rolled off the divan and onto the wooden planked floor during the course of the night. He thrust both hands on his holster and searched for his 38’s. His eyes were red and his chest heaved in and out as he jerked his head around. A familiar and disarming setting greeted him benignly. He relaxed his arms and rubbed his face. “Ok, pal- easy does it, you made it home last night.” His chin was stubbled with coarse auburn hair. A pair of freshly mended woolen socks lay on the ground. He sat down on the edge of the divan holding his head between his hands. “Christ almighty, there’s a damn train in my head.”
The smell of bacon, roasting coffee and freshly burning pinewood from the oven coated the house in a morning reverie.
“Hobbie, hope that floor didn’t give you to much of a problem last night.” A soft and even voice floated in from the kitchen. Silence. “Have a seat and get some coffee in ya’, the town needs its sheriff fit for the day.”
He cleared his throat. “Yeh, Margret,” he called. “I’m gonna’ go out on the porch, could ya’ bring it out’ fer’ me?”
He stood and went to the toilet to wash his face. He tucked in his shirt, straightened his pants and holster, wet a comb and dragged it through his thick hair. He walked back out to the main room and picked his hat up from the divan and walked slowly, with straight legs to the porch.
Margret was already there, sipping coffee, using her two fine hands to grip the mug. She was seated at the little, rough-cut table on a stool. Her back leaned against the house. She looked out into the prairie and to the red bluffs that rose up from the arid landscape. The sun had just come up from the bluffs and cast a red and yellow towards them and the house, painting the scene angelic.
Hobbie looked towards the bluffs, too. He watched the rabbits dart from brush to brush in the morning cool. A kitty hawk screeched above looking for any lingering rodents or a fat lizard to sate its hunger.
Hobbie wrapped his hand around a fork and shoveled hot eggs and bacon into his mouth; bits of eggs stuck like snowflakes in his mustache. He pulled the coffee to his face and looked towards Margret. She hadn’t met his eyes this morning. He gulped the coffee and rested the mug on the table then rose. “You’re a good woman, Margret.” He leaned over the table and kissed her on the head. She didn’t move or blink or smile. She looked at him momentarily, for the first time that day then back towards the scrubland. She had noticed the socks were still on the floor by the divan.
He took a loaf of bread and cold meat wrapped in paper and wrapped in twine and placed it into his satchel. He saddled and mounted his red roan and met the morning with a breath full of bacon, steaming coffee. He wiped his face with a leather glove and held the rain with the other. The pony had strong legs; they were long and brown but red in sun. It’s veins and muscles flexed and shinned like a well-oiled machine dancing in motion. He galloped into town by a meandering path from the rear of his house. Margret watched him till he disappeared down the hill. She pulled a break-action 12-gauge from the rack in the bedroom and went to the yard. She loaded two brass-headed slugs into the chambers. Her eyes narrowed at a distance beyond the wooden fence. There was no physical target but her eyes focused and a linear point in front of her; it was just the emptiness of a blue, cloudless sky under the backdrop of a cracked and broken land, studded with yellows, browns and coarse greens.
“Damn you, Hobbie! She screamed into the desert. She pulled the trigger of the weapon and ripped through the peace of the morning. The explosive crack made her shoulder give; it exhaled gray smoke. She broke the barrel and stuffed two more brass shells inside. She cried, “You no good piece of dirt!” She fired again. The butt of the gun dug into her shoulder, she ground her heels into the dirt. A cloud of dust whipped past her. She lowered the gun and brought it towards her side while wiping her forehead. Strands of onyx black had come undone from her kempt bun and matted itself to her brow. She brushed her blouse with her hand and turned towards the house. The shotgun glinted in the sun and her ruffled skirt blew in the breeze.
As his pony got to the main drag, there was little life to be seen on the dusty strip. The saloon of course was always open and the general store’s clerk, Jim Daugherty was pouring buckets of water on a puddle of vomit that loitered on the shop porch. The degenerate was still around who had issued the offence and just below the step is where he was laid up: “Oi, Hamish, git’ up.” The body did not rouse and the sun was beating down on his naked, ruddy face. Hobbie, dismounted from his saddle and walked forward with the reins clutched in his glove. He walked over and kicked the incapacitated man hard in the shoulder.
The man shook and gasped awake like a colt at birth. He yawned, “Ye’ loosy’ piece of shit, I’m up, I’m- stop bootherin’, me.” The casualty of a night’s debauchery rolled over onto his stomach, placed his hands in front of him and pushed himself up. He fell on to his backside, “Christ broother’, why’s it so bright?” What happen to the night?” He belched, then, gurgling, sick welled up into the man’s gullet. Jim yelled, “godammit, shove off Hamish, go back to somewhere and get away from my porch.” Hamish retched into the dirt then spit the rest of the dribbling mucus from his mouth.
“Ay, just tha’ time anywa’.” He said casually, wiping his mouth with a dirty palm. He braced himself on the wooden rail and lifted himself up. He swayed on his feet and staggered over to a trough of water for the animals. Leaning over to bring a draught to his cracked lips, his knees gave. He was bent too far forward and fell face first into the trough and slid, helplessly into its contents almost completely. His boots were raised up in the air. He spluttered, rolled over onto his back and pulled his head up. A chorus of laughter came from the apartments above. A young blonde girl in a tight bodice held her sides and laughed, the other prostitutes joined in.
Coughing Hamish answered, “Ay’ tis a good’ morning to y’all too!” He called out and doffed his water soaked hat cordially to the ladies on the balcony of the saloon. They were smoking and eating corn bread and fruit preserves.
“Hamish, you ass, git’ out that tub!” Hobbie called bringing Hamish out of his revery. The sheriff rolled his neck, rolled his shoulders and stamped his foot on the ground. The pony skittered but Hobbie held the rein tight. He secured the horse by tying a loose knot with the reins around the wooden rail. Hobbie grabbed Hamish from the trough with two hands; one on his belt and the other at his collar. Hamish was absently squirting water through his teeth, up into the air.
“Git!” He threw Hamish to the ground. “I said, go on, git’!” He kicked him hard in the buttock with the point of his steel-tipped leather boot.
Hamish bleated. Holding his butt cheek, he yowled like a pup that got his foot stepped on. “You’re an awful bastard!” Hamish called out, lopping down the street. He turned a corner then disappeared. Jim had just finished mopping and shook his head, “That brother of yers’ is gonna’ wake up dead one of these days, lord forbid, sheriff.”
“I know, Jim” He tipped his hat and looked around. The town was beginning to awaken at the commotion Hamish had stirred outside. A few Window shutters were opened and some men had stepped down on to the sheltered boardwalk to view the commotion. They smoked, wore bowler hats and chatted about nothing, or what the sheriff heard or cared for. “Fuggin’ bankers.” Hobbie spat and walked towards his little office down the block. He withdrew a canteen from his pocket and took a long emptying guzzle of fresh spring water. He wiped his lips and pulled once more to completely drain it. He tossed the canteen to the side of his desk and sat heavily in his chair.
He pulled his feet up onto the desk, took off his weather-beat straw hat and laid it down on the desk. He looked to the rack on the wall where hung a quality rancher hat. He never wore it. He took it as part of a bribe. That white Stetson on the wall, reminded Hobbie every day of his life of a crooked dollar and all the corruption in the world; It defiled the sanctity of his office, of his station but he made that pact. “This place is horseshit.” He pulled a little, sweet cigar from his desk drawer and lit it with a flint and spark. The blue smoke he exhaled, mingled with the breath of his own desperation. “I’ve wasted my life.”