I was sittin' out back nursing a Lonestar longneck—yeah, it's hard to find in the Wine country—listening to my iPod. Faron Young started crooning "The Other Woman (In My Life)" and I thought, damn, that's a sad song. Feeling a jolt of the Texas born alcohol and feeling melancholy from the music I took pen to paper...
Don't accuse me of being without feelings
If you do, you know that you're wrong
For it was you who was careless
And you drove me into another's arms
Love, oh love, oh careless love
You see what love has done to me
- "Careless Love" Traditional
The bartender shot me another aggravated look as I slid the bottle of Lonestar around in circles on the counter—the sweat from the cold bottles lined up in a careful row mixed with the ashes carelessly shed from the first pack of cigarettes I'd bought in over twenty years were mixed together in a sloppy mess.
Every time he came closer with his rag, I shooed him away with another sawbuck and a wiggle of the latest installment of my attempt to drown in my misery. He was good at bringing a new cold one but, damn; he did have a thing for cleanliness.
Looking into the flyspecked mirror—I guess it was just the bar he had this cleanin' fetish about—I saw this pushin' middle aged (and pushing very hard!) man peeking with red rimmed eyes through the nest of long necks. Being honest with myself—something I hadn't done about Dottie for a long time—I conceded that I wasn't like the handsome, virile young man I'd seen my "lovin' wife" with last night.
Yeah, I could see a gleam of reflected light through the thinning hair on my head and the wrinkles around my eyes showed the effects of all those years working outdoors in the sun and weather at the ranch tryin' to keep Dottie happy. I nodded to myself thinking once again that money (nor hard work) didn't buy happiness.
I heard the clink of coins dropping into the jukebox and through that mirror I looked over to see the only guy in the place more pathetic than I leaning on the source of that sad music. I swore, if Hank Thompson started playing that damn "Wild Side of Life" again, I was gonna stick one of these longnecks where it'd do the most good.
Sure enough, as I gave a deep and lonely sigh, the music cried out:
I might have known you'd never make a wife.
You gave up the only one that really loves you.
And went back to the wild side of life.
Tears came to my eyes as I wagged the empty, asking for more solace.
It wasn't anything grand. I mean I didn't suspect anything ... hell, I didn't even have a clue. I almost never left the ranch in the evenings—I was always too damn tired. Jerry had called me and said he really needed some of the casing pipe I had left over from puttin' in a well a few weeks back. He had a leak in the well for one of his stock tanks and "would I do him a big favor?"
So I loaded up the truck with what I had and drove into Uvalde. My ranch was a few miles southwest of Sabinal. We shared a beer and I started back. I was tired and still thirsty so I pulled into Jake's Place—a few blocks before pickin' up highway 90—on the way back. It was a new place, more of a dance hall than a bar. I pulled up and was shocked to see Dottie's Jeep in the parking lot. She told me she was goin' up to Hereford to help her friend Nancy who's youngest was down with the colic. She'd said that she would probably stay overnight.
I sat there in the hot summer night, the pinging of the cooling engine an offbeat counter point to the dance music coming through the open doors. The sweat was making tracks through the dust on my face and I could smell the long day of backbreakin' work on my clothes.
Gathering myself I got out and walked over to the door. The music was louder here and I stopped inside by the rest rooms looking around. Finally I saw Dottie and this kid—hell, he couldn't have been more that twenty-five—movin' in the shadows by the back door. The band was playing a fast two-step but they were dancin' somethin' slower than a waltz ... if dancin' is what it was. His hands were all over her and she sure weren't complainin'!
I watched for a minute, undecided, when she put her arms around him and gave him a big kiss—sure looked like she was trying to ream out his tonsils. Breaking the hug she took his arm and dragged him out the door—left open in the misguided hope of a fresh breeze. I knew then it was gonna be bad.
I walked back outside and around the building as they were getting' in the back seat of a big crew cab truck. I slowly walked up to the truck. It was hard to see in—the truck was high off the ground. When I saw her dress carelessly tossed over to the front seat I knew there was nothin' I wanted to see anyway.
I dragged myself back to my truck and sat there watching that damn red Jeep of hers. Feelin' childish I grabbed the tire iron from under the seat and broke her windshield and headlights. Damn, it felt good though!
I headed home and drove out to an old line shack we kept stocked with food and such about four miles west of the ranch headquarters. I weren't hungry but I knew there was most of a bottle of my old friend Jack Daniels there that I needed to renew my acquaintance with. The first couple of glasses—I was sittin' out front on the grass under the big cottonwood tree—took the edge off my anger and I took a long hard look at my marriage.
By the time I heard the crash of the bottle broken on a rock by a lethargic throw, I came to understand I just didn't give a shit anymore.
Come to noon, I fixed some bacon and eggs and decided I needed a lot of something cold and wet. As I drove past the ranch house I didn't see her Jeep—hell, I bet she never even saw it herself last night.
I drove down towards Knippa to Willy's Tavern just short of town. And here I was listening to more from Hank:
And I dream of kisses you traded for my tears
And no one will ever know how much I love you
The beers were adding up so I stumbled back to the restroom. Plumpin' back down on my stool, I saw the bar was clean, the bottles were gone and the bartender had a vindictive gleam in his eye. I was strainin' to think of some smart-ass comment to hit him with when I felt a rustlin' next to me.
I turned my head and saw with some surprise Little Annie was sittin' there. Now I'd known Annie for a long time but I hadn't seen her since her husband Bill was buried—killed when a blowout on the oilrig he was workin' on over by Odessa caught on fire.
Annie—the Little Annie came from her bein' an even five foot tall (she claimed!)—was the sister of one of the hands I had helpin' me for seasonal work once in a while.
She looked over at me with a small smile and asked, "Hey, Bobby, buy a girl a drink?"
I looked her in the eye and mumbled, "Annie, I ain't such great company right now. I'm kinda down, ya know?"
Looking down at the bar and rubbing a spot with her finger, she answered, "Yeah, Bobby, I know. I've been feelin' like that for two years now. Damn! I miss the hell out of that asshole!"
Lookin' in the mirror, I could see her eyes were cloudin' up, maybe threatenin' rain. I took stock of her though I knew her well. She was sure 'nuff small but I knew she had a hellacious temper and a huge heart in that tiny body. She'd always had a big smile but I sure didn't see one now.
I held up two fingers and waved them at the bartender. We sat and drank in silence for a while—each lost in our own lonesome thoughts.
She spun around on the chair and looked at me, as if suddenly thinkin' of somethin'. "Hey, whatcha doin' here this late on a week night? Why ain'tcha home with Dottie?"
I waggled my empty again and talking to that homely mug in the mirror I told her about what I'd seen last night. As I was tellin' her, she took my arm in both her small hands and leaned into me.
When I finished, we sat there for a quiet, long time. Somebody put the money in for a slow song and Annie dragged me off the stool onto the small dance floor. We kinda moved slowly around, not really dancin'. She felt good in my arms. She was about a foot shorter than me but I could feel somethin' firm pressin' into my stomach. She felt so delicate—I was afraid I was gonna break her.
She looked up at me and laughed, "Don't worry, cowboy, you ain't gonna break anything." She pulled me tight and we just leaned back and forth with the music.
When the song ended, she took my hand and led me out to the parkin' lot. She looked hard at me and said, "Just don't say a damn thing, Bobby."
So she got behind the wheel of my truck—I guess she felt I was in no shape to drive—and drove to her small house a little south of Sabinal. She pulled me into the house and opened a couple of icy cans of Shiner Bock and led me into her bedroom.
"Bobby, I haven't slept with a man since Bill died and I don't want to sleep alone tonight. I miss having a man in my bed! I don't want to do anything ... I just ... I just want to have a man hold me."
She ran into her bathroom and I stood there thinkin' about her. I guess I understood what she needed and surprisingly I felt like I maybe needed the same thing. She came out in a long white cotton gown and, if it weren't for the curves pushing out all over the place, I'd of sworn she was sixteen.
.... There is more of this story ...