I felt her presence. Somewhere. Somehow. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I looked outside. The wind had set the tumbleweeds to rolling. Not a soul was in sight. Would Clint have lit a cigar, while he waited? My mother would have cringed at the thought. Her son. The coming mayoral candidate having kept himself pure and clean for marriage and a life of political service. “Smoking!” she would have raged about the house, spraying canned room-freshener smelling of the Canadian Alps, making the rest of us choke, while wondering if that was the smell that made girls mad with desire?
“Girls”, my mother would have said. “Girls are no good for an impressionable young man like you. There you are standing there with your diploma in one hand, your parents clapping in the bleachers, while little Miss Congeniality would be pointing at her stomach saying that you were the father and would have to provide for hers and the baby’s needs. Your budding career with the local lawyer’s office, the shiny car with your own secretary, all down the tubes just because you ended up on the wrong side of town with the Girl Next Door.”
All she did was put a misplaced letter in our own mailbox, to which I said “Thank you” and she smiled, but my mother knew differently in her heart. She knew that my future plans, the membership on the church’s Council of Elders, the key to the Sister City in Japan, and, and…
My mother started to cry at that thought. Sobbing profusely, she went to the kitchen to bake some cookies for the church bake sale, or look out of the window and wonder why Alaskan birds seemed to be fighting with the Canadian Geese. “It always goes bad with those Northern Latitude Girl Birds, mark my words, “she said, before leaving me to my own thoughts once again.
Like I said, I was looking outside wondering if danger was there as well? Waiting and watching. A bullet with my name on it was being placed in the barrel of the sawed-off shotgun by the man with the bad mustache, or was it his brother whose girl from the Saloon, was always glad to see me when me and the boys rode into town with the cattle. “Time for a hot bath, Honey?”. Lola was always ready to help wash off the prairie dust, before we got down to business. That’s what they always said in the movies, but Mom would suddenly have a coughing fit, and make me go and get her a cup of soda, missing out on the best part of the movie. When I got back, they were rustling cattle, or John Wayne was telling about how he shot Liberty Valance, and not Jimmy Stewart. Nobody would believe him, but I knew how he had done the deed in Flashback. Mom would complain on the way home, how unrealistic those movies were, with loose women running about and only the good dying young.
I knew I was in trouble when I failed to show up at our planned rendezvous with the Girl Next Door. It was like asking for trouble or, his brother who would be drinking Sarsaparilla down at the local watering hole when Clint Eastwood would show up wearing his Serape. Mom might have shushed me, saying that “this Country didn’t get where it was today by using foreign words like that.”, but I thought it was rather worldly watching Clint as he rode around Mexico, or someplace else, shooting or blowing up the others, just happen to having a stick of TNT, or two in his pocket. That’s why I told Mom that smoking cigars wouldn’t lead to my wreck or ruin, but might just save the poor migrant workers from the ruthless bandits, with the Southern State’s General in the lead from being robbed and raped of their Christian Ideals.
“That was quite enough young man”!, my mother yelled loud, that the usher began to flash his light baton at us, motioning us towards the Exit Sign, with a less than charitable look on his face.
“Cigars, Women of the Night, Rape of Christian Ideals! Now we are going home to where I might just wash your mouth out with soap once and for all.”.
Now I’d never get to see how John and Clint would ride their horses alongside the runaway train, saving both Raquel Welch and her assets from the bad hombres from the wrong side of town. The Hardy Boys never had excitement like that, but they did have guns and speedsters which Mom would most likely have objected to as well.
A twig cracked in the background as I rounded the corner. Or was it the sound of a trigger being pulled, or a whip being uncoiled?
A match was lit. Taking the dynamite out of his back pocket, and pressing the cigar to the fuse…..”Congratulations! You’ve made it with flying colors”. A voice awoke me from being blown to smithereens. It was none other than the Girl Next Door holding a Twinkie with a candle lit, and ready to be blown out.
“I knew you could do it” she said, smiling from ear to ear. “Today is your graduation day”.
I just waited for one of those polecats to show themselves out among the rocks. Today is as good a day as any to get your God darned head blown off, my saintly mother might have said, but as she were pushing up daisies somewhere outside of Anchorage, I would have to face the rest of my life without her loving care.
“Today” she said with a bit of hesitation. “Today you are graduating from Ninny to full fledged Nincompoop!” She was shaking my hand, and kissing me on the forehead, as if it were my first day at school, or if the Caribou had won First Prize at the County Fair, or something. “I knew you could do it. All that daydreaming has paid off, hasn’t it?”
Honestly, if I hadn’t been right there, I’d swear someone else had kidnapped my life, leaving me somewhere in the back lot of some Western Studio, waiting impatiently for Rosalita to come by, shaking her Maracas, as if it were the 4th of July, and me standing there with my fireworks getting ready to explode!
“Listen you”, her voice getting stern-sounding, not unlike my mother’s voice. Just think, if she will grow into a woman like my mother, or worse than that, if my mother had grown up from some young girl like my friend! The thought gave me the willies, and I thought about riding away into the sunset, drifting across the Great Plains, stopping on the overlook to El Paso. I could see Rosa’s Cantina below me, waiting for me to arrive, offering me a plate of steaming tamales, clapping her lips on mine, when….
“Like I just said, even though you weren’t listening again. This Girl Next Door is back and there ain’t nothing anyone in this world can do about it!”
Wow. A girl who swore, kissed and didn’t tell, and lived next door to me to boot. Some guys are born lucky,
-while others have to earn their place in the sun…..