Authors note: This story is very loosely based on Mickey Gilley's great song:
"The girls all get prettier at closing time...
They all begin to look like movie stars
When the change starts taking place
It puts a glow on every face
Of the falling angels of the back street bars"
"Hey, Jake! How about that one? Damn, a nine for sure. Oh, hell, she's with that handsome bull rider."
I turned my head to see what Hank was looking at. Man, he wasn't kidding. An easy nine. And that looked like Pete Ayres—he was the guy that rode Bodacious inta the ground over in Amarillo and took the prize money. Yeah, I remembered...
Never forget that night. I was young and cocky—pretty sure of myself. I had a ride in the finals on Hellfire; damned if it wasn't the bull right after Pete's ride. I was still glumly watching Pete in my mind and not really ready when the gate opened. My grip wasn't what it should have been and I didn't even make two seconds. It never was clear in my mind what that bull done but I landed on my nose and Hellfire kicked my leg before they got him off me.
I woke up at the hospital the next morning with a cute little blonde nurse messing 'round with my plumbing ... putting a tube in it or somethin'. She looked up and saw I was awake and gave me a big smile.
"Hey, cowboy. The night nurse didn't do this right so I'm fixin' it for you. Doc says I can take it out in the mornin'. How you feelin'? I'm Annie, by the way."
I wasn't really sure how I felt—thought maybe I'd ask. I didn't know what had happened. Last thing I 'membered was that shit eatin' grin on Pete's mug when he jumped off Bodacious.
"How did I get here?"
"Oh, honey. I was at the rodeo last night and saw that handsome hunk, Pete. He was great. Then I saw you get on Hellfire and I tol' Martha—she's my best friend from forever ago—and I said, 'Martha—this guy is really cute. I bet you the next beer that he wins everything.' Then that chute opened and Martha said, 'Annie, go get them beers.' I never ever saw a cowboy hit the ground any faster," she finished with a way too cheerful laugh.
Later the doc came in and told me my rodeo days were over. I'd broken that big bone in my leg but they couldn't put it in a cast until the swelling went down. It was held in some pulley contraption and my leg was uncovered. My thigh looked like rainbows were having a convention from my knee to my hip. My leg was fatter than that Greta's over to the café. (Though some said she might be more fun to ride than any bull.)
The next morning Annie pulled out that damn thing she'd done put in my privates. Aw, did it hurt! Sweet girl like that looked like she would be gentle.
"Hey, cowboy. Now you can use a bedpan. Let me know if you need any help." She was laughing as she walked away. Woman thought she was a comic.
Since I couldn't ride anymore I had to find something' to do for money. I looked around and found something' that sounded pretty good for a broken'-up bull rider. I wound up managing a large ranch for an oil guy about forty miles out of town.
Hank nudged me as the next passel of gals come waltzin' in the big dance hall. Glancing in the mirror, I shook my head again and saw the way my nose started out heading down southeast but turned for the southwest like it couldn't make up its mind. No, I wasn't gonna miss them bulls much. (I do hafta say that since I fell off that bull I sure enjoyed eatin' big steaks more than ever. If they would butcher Hellfire I'd be in heaven.) Running my finger over the bend in my nose I watched that group of overstuffed jeans walking away with their butts twitching back and forth like a dog and cat having at it in a burlap bag ... like we used to do to them for sport.
I looked at the clock—past ten and I hadn't even had a dance yet. Hank had gone dancing off with a solid seven while I was feelin' sorry for my nose. Shruggin' my shoulders in resignation, I started looking for a five or six—it was getting' late and I hadn't been laid the last three times I came in to town.
I saw a couple of girls come in the side door—one I knew 'cause she was a regular squeeze of Hank's. The other looked pretty good stuffed into a short jean skirt (a good seven plus) and the brightest flowery shirt I'd ever seen, but man, those freckles spread across her face—like the time the hail over my dad's place wiped the hay out—and the kinky curly red hair pushing out of the ugliest hat I'd ever seen; well, that hat and those freckles cost her a good couple of points.
Her friend, Tammy, skittered off and she sidled up to the bar like she was kinda dry so I started thinkin' 'bout buying her a beer. I was rubbin' the bend in my nose and caught her lookin' at me in the mirror and she just frowned a little and decided she wasn't that thirsty after all. Hell, those damn freckles cost her a good three points. Man, not even at closin' time!
Tammy and I entered the dark expanse—there were five bars and three big dance floors—through the door next to the side parking lot. I hadn't really wanted to come but Tammy said she was horny and maybe that guy, Hank that owned the feed store would be there.
"Tammy, Hank's gotta be ten, fifteen years older than you. What do you see in him?"
"Sally, I admit he ain't 'xactly God's gift to women and maybe he is a little long in the tooth. But honey, he ain't forgot nothing once I got him in my bed and he done wore the paint off the wall banging the bed into it!" This last with a big grin.
I almost didn't come: my twin babies Bobby and Missy was all over me as I was trying to get dressed. They weren't but three years old but I think their wind-up key broke—they were wound up all the time. Patsy, my sitter, was late and I was getting frazzled. I was trying to pull my panty hose up where it wrinkled on my thigh and snagged it with my nail and started a run. I 'bout said the hell with going out 'cause I was down to just this pair. I remembered what my momma told me and dabbed a little clear finger nail polish on the tear so it wouldn't run no more. Hopefully it was high enough under my short jean skirt that it wouldn't show.
I put on my new boots daddy give me for my birthday—momma passed away a year ago last summer and now daddy spent too much money on me and the kids—and my prettiest shirt with all the flowers on it. I wisht I could buy a new hat—mine looked like the hogs had got at it.
Anyway as I was walkin' in by the bar, I saw this guy with a butt that was a ten (I wasn't horny like Tammy but I could see myself cuddlin' up against that—ten for sure—butt on a cold winter night so I signed to Tammy and I started over to the bar, thinking I'd stand there and look thirsty. Then I saw his face in a mirror—kinda cute—but his nose looked like that Circle S brand that Kenny Slade used out west of town. Maybe a six. It wasn't that late and we had just got here anyhow. Closing time wasn't 'til two.
Decidin' I wasn't that thirsty I scat on into the dancin' area and found Tammy sittin' with Hank. They were both already sweaty from dancin' and were drinkin' a couple of long necks. Tammy was holdin' hers up to her neck to cool off.
I sat down and it weren't but a minute when this tall lanky drink of water in a new Stetson and sportin' a big handlebar mustache asked to whirl 'round for a bit. He weren't but a two or three but it was too early to worry 'bout anything like that and I surely did love to dance. They were playing "High-Tech Redneck"—man, I do love that great George Jones song—and we did a lively two-step. We did a couple more, and then they started on a couple of line dances and when they started playing "Cotton-Eyed Joe" I cut loose and got all sweaty myself.
I finally danced a couple of waltzes with Molly—a cute ol' gal I fooled with once in a while. I saw that freckle-faced gal dancin' a line dance and she sure looked good in that jean skirt. Looked like she didn't have anything to be shamed of under those roses on her shirt. Molly cut out on me to go to the bar where she was the late shift bartender. I was standing there watching her butt walk away and someone bumped into me, liked to knock me over.
I turned 'round and caught freckle-face lookin' at me a little pissed off. She'd lost her ugly little hat and her curls were looking like they were trying to cut and run—kinda reminded me of that surly old sheep dog got caught in the electric fence that time ... damn fine dog he'd been too.
"Hey, you crazy galoot. This is a dance floor, not a parking lot."
Her face was as red as her hair. I couldn't tell if she was that mad or if it were the dancin' she'd been doin'. I just grabbed her hands and picked up the beat and started a waltz with her. Her face turned from red to white so fast I thought she was passin' out. She looked like a bobcat I surprised once and it sure looked like it didn't know whether to turn tail and run or just try to kill me.
She suddenly relaxed a bit and give me a funny little smile like that lady I saw in a magazine over to the doc's office that time, Mona somebody. Anyway she was the best damn dancer I ever saw and I weren't too bad myself... 'cept for that limp I couldn't get rid of—doc said I'd like to never get rid of it.
We danced a couple of songs then they played a slow one by Faron Young, "Crying Time." After a bit she put her head on my shoulder. She felt good—maybe those freckles were kinda cute after all. Of a sudden, she pulled back and turned for her table; I could see something wet under her eyes.
We had a couple of long necks, not talkin' much. Hank and Tammy would sit a bit, drink a beer and go off dancing. Finally that skinny cowboy from up Waco way, the tall one named Walt with the big ugly mustache asked—damn, I didn't even know her name—asked her to dance.
I moseyed back to drink 'nother of the beers; kinda half-heartedly looking for a girl to take home. Hopefully I'd find something better that that two I woke up to with a horrible feeling the last time I'd gotten lucky. Lucky? Shit, there's different kinds of luck. That was some of the bad kind. I swear she must've been hit with the ugly stick. I swore then and there I'd never bring anything home to that big four-poster bed but at least a four or better (that's why I hadn't got laid in three weeks).
Getting a new, cold longneck, I mused a little about how this whole scorin' thing worked. No one ever worried about it until Mickey Gilley came out with that damn song! Well, the good-looking girls suddenly wouldn't be caught dead at a dance at closing time unless they had already hooked up. They were sure-fired worried that someone thinking they must be a one or two and they'd get a bad rep. I always thought it was just the guys doing the scoring 'til one morning after an all-niter Molly told me the gals did the same thing. Sometimes I thought about driving down to Pasadena south east of Houston and burnin' down Gilley's club but someone beat me to it.
I was thinkin' about leaving when I saw that freckle-faced redhead coming out of the ladies. I figured, what the hell, between my level of horniness and the five longnecks I'd had, she was starting' to look kinda cute. And dance? Why, hell, she was the best.
I was done wore out. I came for the dancin'—and I did like those cold Lone Stars—but I was tired and wanted to give it up. Three of those beers had filled me up - that's why I had to go to the girls. I couldn't find Tammy; damn her if she left me stranded again.
I saw that crooked-nose rodeo cowboy standing there looking lost. He wasn't too bad if you could get by that bend in his nose: damned if it didn't look like one of those S-Curve signs our west of town. He was a damn fine dancer too.
We kinda just stopped and looked at each other when the band started playing that old Hank Penny classic, "Drivin' Nails in My Coffin." It was a great song for Western Swing and the band did a good job with it. We kinda both put our arms out at the same time and moved out to the dance floor. We did four or five numbers and went to an empty table laughing and breathing hard.
The gal came by to take our order and we were so thirsty we asked for two apiece. I felt pretty good that I'd maybe found a dance partner. I hoped he had his own truck (I knew he had a truck—hell, ever' man in the dancehall did) 'cause my old car was mostly not working. I loved to dance but going with Tammy was kind of chancy sometimes.
"Jake, I have to say you a more than fair-to middlin' dancer." Feeling a little forward from the beer, I went on, "I wouldn't mind goin' dancin' with you again sometime."
I could see him thinking—at least that's what it seemed he was doing. He took a long swallow of beer and leaned across the table, "Do I know you? I feel bad, honey, but I can't remember your name."
I overlooked the 'honey' bit and told him, "No, you don't know me. I wasn't there at the rodeo that night but everyone knows of your famous ride on Hellfire. Wisht I coulda seen that. Ol' Pete Ayres sure put the shame to you!"
He grunted something and finished his beer and waved the bottle at the girl taking care of us.
"I'm Sally, Sally Conrad. My dad owns the Double C spread 'bout fifty miles west of here in the hills. I was Sally Terrell for a couple of years but caught my lovin' hubby in the shower with that slut that sings a couple of nights a week over to Jerry's bar. After I kicked his cheatin' ass out of the house I taken' my name back.
I hadn't really wanted another drink but the woman showed up with two more apiece. We danced a little; put away a few more beers and got to know each other. Jack managed a ranch for a rich Texas oilman over to San Antone. The guy built a huge new house on a ten acre manmade lake but Jake said he hardly ever showed up. Jake had the old ranch house, a three-story brick monstrosity.
"I only use the first floor," he leaned across the table and kinda blushed in a cute cowboy way and continued in a hushed, confidential tone, "I always dreamed of filling up the house with younguns."
With that, he stood up and grabbed my hand, both of us stumbling a little as the band started up after a break. We did a couple of fast dances then the band started winding down for closing time with some slow waltzes.
Like he was talking to himself, he pulled me a little closer and mumbled, " ... maybe cute little redhead kids."
The band played their last song, kind of their signature song, "A Girl I Used to Know" by George Jones.
"Just a girl ... I used to spend some time with
Just a friend ... from long ago
I don't talk about the nights I cry about her
I say she's just ... a girl I used to know"
As we were dancin' I kept thinkin' 'bout did Jake have a 'girl he used to know" and wonderin' if she'd gone and broke his heart. I think I had a tear in my eye. We were holding each other pretty close ... and I woke up to sun shining through the big window and heard someone singing in another room.
Working on a ranch, I always wake up early, five-thirty or so and get an early start on chores before the heat gets too bad. I woke in the darkness—maybe it was the coyote howling at the waning moon or maybe the fresh breeze flowing through the wide-open window.
I felt something push against my leg and sat up straight, wide-awake. There was a woman there.
I tried to remember back but could only remember the long stream of beers. I vaguely remembered singing Hank Williams songs in the cab of the truck—driving down the highway. The gal singing with me had a sweet soprano voice and knew all the lyrics. I 'member being impressed, always having thought that I was the only one that could do that.
I shrugged my shoulders and eased out of bed slipping into my jeans and boots. I went out to the barn and took care of the horses and scattered some grain for the chickens scratchin' 'round. Back in the kitchen, I grabbed some cold fried chicken legs from the icebox and washed them down with the slightly bitter well water.
I needed to get over to a friend that had a half-section of hay to finalize a deal for feed for the winter. I went back into my large bedroom and looked over to see who was there as the sun let its rosy light in through the window.
If I was lucky I'd see Molly there but this gal was way smaller than her. Damn. I hoped it wasn't that one I'd wound up with last time. I edged into the bathroom to look for my old straight razor so I could end my misery. I couldn't live with myself if I'd sink that low again.
I peeked 'round the corner to see who it was but the sun was making her hair all rosy. Wait, her hair was red. It was the freckled-faced red haired filly that danced like a dream. How the hell had she wound up in my bed?
I couldn't figure it out so I started shaving and then jumped in the shower. I don't know why, I guess it was relief that it was the same girl; I started singing that damn song:
"I'm lookin' for a nine but an eight would slip right in
A few more drinks and I might slip to a five or even a four
But when tomorrow morning comes
and I wake up with a number one
I swear I'll never do it anymore"
The cool air felt good flowing over my face—the early sun countering with a promise of later warmth. I sat up in sudden shock as I remembered I never left my window open. Realizing I was naked, I pulled the sheet up as I heard singing, I guess from the bathroom. I could hear the shower running and a voice singing with way too much enthusiasm:
"But when tomorrow morning comes and I wake up with a number one"
I realized he was singing about me. I turned totally red and looked for my clothes. I found them wadded up in a pile by an old fashioned dresser. On it was a picture of a good-looking guy and it came to me that I'd slept with that broken-nosed cowboy!
I couldn't find my panties and I frantically kept looking. I finally saw them on the floor of the bathroom but no way was I going in there. I just wanted to get away before the shower stopped. Hell, the damned cowboy could keep them as a souvenir to brag to his buddies at the bar about.
I found my purse and wandered 'round a huge house until I found a door headin' out of the kitchen. I saw a plate of fried chicken on the table and realized two things: I was starved and I had a terrible headache. I wanted nothing more than to sit down and clean up the platter but I had to get out of there.
I walked out the door into the bright sunshine and saw ... nothing. Not a dammed thing. Oh, yeah, there was a large barn, a smaller one, a huge open-sided hay storage building and miles and miles of nothin' but miles and miles. I couldn't see any other ranches. The only other thing I saw was a large truck; a flat bedded crew cab F-350 with double tires on the back and set up for stake sides. Excited I ran over, knowing it wasn't locked 'cause the windows were down. Standing on the oversized Dee Zee stainless steel runnin' boards and looking in the window I saw it was stick shift—that worried me but I'd make it work for me—but there were no keys.
Looking back at the house and debatin' with myself I gave up and started walking back to town. About twenty minutes and a hard half-mile later, I heard a truck coming up behind me.
I got out of the shower and put clean clothes on and figured I'd better wake up that sleepyhead Sally. Hell, if she was still in bed maybe I'd join her for a quick one before I took her into town. I saw her panties on the floor and put them in my pocket.
Turning into the bedroom, I saw the bed was empty. I felt a little empty, too, for a moment. I was starting to remember last night and an image came to mind ... damn, she was hotter than a pistol.
I guessed she had gotten hungry so I went into the kitchen. She weren't there! Damn. I looked all over the house and then remembered my truck. I gave a big sigh when I looked out the window and saw it sitting in the warming sun.
I was hoping she hadn't done a darn fool thing like trying to walk to town. Man, it was seven miles to the highway ... and then to hell and gone on into town. I jumped up in the truck and picked the keys up off the floor where I always left them. I could see her small boot prints in the dust making a beeline for the horizon.
As soon as I got up the first rise in the road, I could see her just going over the top of the next hill. I slowly drove up beside her and stopped, expecting her to stop also. She didn't even turn her head; she just kept wading her new boots through that sometimes ankle deep dust.
I drove up beside her and hollered, "Hey, Sally. Stop a minute."
She kept on walkin'.
"Sally, durn it. Are you okay?"
Turning her head, she said, "I'm just damned hunky-dory. Doesn't it look like it?"
"You can't walk to town; it's a fur piece, nigh on to forty miles! How you fixin' to git home?"
That got her attention. She stopped and looked at me, giving me the look laced with venom—the dirtiest, meanest look I'd ever been gifted with. She looked undecided, not knowing what to do. Women are like mules sometimes - they need a man to tell 'em what to do—like 'gee' and 'haw'.
"Get in, Sally. Here, you'll need these."
I tossed her pretty pink panties out the window. Her face flamed furiously, brighter than her hair, and went to the back of the truck to put them on. She didn't know I could see her with those big trailer mirrors I had. Leastwise not until she had finished, stood up and seen me looking at her in the mirror. Man, was she pissed.
I figured I'd best not say anything, or even look at her for a while. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see she was fit to be tied. We drove quietly towards town but I finally had to ask directions so I could take her home.
When we got to her house, she jumped out before I could get over to open the door and before I could even ask if she wanted to go dancin' again next Saturday. I had a hankerin' to whirl her 'round some and maybe even more ... I sure did admire her shapely legs and the way she twitched that short skirt as she flounced into the house.
I was so humiliated when he threw my panties at me. I was feeling bad enough already but thinking about riding on that high bench seat with a short skirt and no panties was too much. I was about to cry when I walked back out of his sight to put them on. Feeling better—like the panties would protect me—I turned 'round and saw him in that big mirror watching me with a grin on his face.
I sat there steaming, just looking out the window ... wondering if I could just die on the spot. Damn. Only a one!
Looking out at the wasteland—dotted here and there with white hump-backed Brahma cows—I almost drifted off to sleep, a half remembered touch from last night making me feel warm.
Turning to Jake, I was happy to see him lookin' a heap sheepish, the no 'count rodeo cowboy anyway. "Caint you turn on the air conditioner? I feel right uncomfortable in this here oven."
Jake rolled the windows up and turned on the air, which made everything snug as a bug. It was quiet and I must have fallen asleep—Jake was shaking my shoulder saying, "I need directions to your house, honey."
"Jake, dammit. Don't call me honey; that dog won't hunt. I'm not your honey, your gal ... I'm not your anything."
We got to the house without a by your leave and I jumped out and ran into the house. With the grace of God, I'd never see that big lunk-head again. But, damn, he could dance—several ways if my memory was right.
Whenever I went out dancing—not that often anymore—Judy, my babysitter, stayed all night. She was an older widow-woman that lived across the street. She just slept on the sofa.
When I opened the door, the twins came screaming and pulled me down to their level. I played with them a bit while Judy was fixin' up some breakfast: big ham steaks and fried eggs. I was terribly hungry.
Judy looked at me and said something like, "You look like death warmed over. Why don't I take the kids to the park and then I'll give them lunch and a nap."
I was too tired to argue and went back to take a shower and go to bed. Judy was a blessing sometimes. She was always smiling, had a nice gentle manner and never asked any questions. Not that I gave her all that much to ask about.
I threw those pink panties away—I never wanted to see them again. I thought I'd have awful dreams given the way I was feelin' but I had these dreams that were ... sweet. I felt a strange lassitude when I woke up; I hadn't felt like that since the first week I'd been married.
I was still mad at Jake—how had he got me into his bed and what had he (or was it we?) done? Well, that cowboy would never dance with me again.
I pretty much remembered everything that happened as I let the heat of the day sweat the beer out of me. I kinda felt good. Sally was a fine dancer and once I got past the freckles—actually now that I think some more, it was when I saw the rest of the freckles and found out she was really a redhead that I started thinking about her as 'bout a nine.
But what was funny was that time in my big four poster wasn't what I was thinkin' about; not even her great dancin'—I saw her lovin' me, filling up that big house with little red haired babies—damn. Did I say that last night?
I was kiddin' myself. I knew that. Hell, I was an Aggie, wasn't I? Those four years at College Station taught me something. I was thinking she really liked me but now I could see she just got drunk. She sure as tarnation was hellaciously mad at me this morning. I'd bet she thought I was just some dumb rodeo cowboy.
It was a good thing I didn't embarrass both of us by asking her out again.
I stayed out at the ranch more and caught up on the work. I had four full time guys working for me and we hired temp help, as we needed it. I wasn't just some boss that told everyone what to do. If a cow got stuck in a bog, I got down and helped get her out.
I didn't go dancin' for about a month and I cut out the beer. I toughened up a lot and lost a few pounds. I thought a lot about Sally. I felt bad about doing the numbers thing on her. She was really a sweet gal and you can't always tell a book by its cover. I kept seeing her 'round the house: in the kitchen with an apron fixin' dinner, nursing one of our red haired babies, makin' that big four-poster bed.
I guess I was bein' stupid but a guy's gotta dream, right? Molly called and wanted to come out but I really didn't want her in that bed where I'd been with Sally. I did agree to go dancing Saturday night. I knew I wouldn't be there long 'cause she had to work. Maybe I'd tell her I'd found someone else. Yeah, in my dreams I'd found someone. It takes two to tango.
We got there early and did a lot of dancing and a little, very little, drinking. I had a couple of Cokes and then we split a Lone Star. Molly had to leave and I walked her out to her car. I was going to leave too—I didn't have the gumption to tell her that whatever we'd had was over—but I saw Tammy and Sally getting out of Tammy's car. Then a guy got out of the back and walked up next to Sally and put his arm 'round her, possessively. When he kissed her cheek, I like to got sick. I had to go sit in my truck for a bit.
I knew she hated me—probably thought I'd forced her, taken advantage of her being drunk. I finally went in and found a table across the dance floor from the four of them. I guess Hank had come in another door. They were all laughing a lot and dancin' and putting down a lot of beer. Except Sally looked like she was drinkin' Coke or somethin'.
When the band took its first break Sally got up and started walking towards me. I thought she'd seen me and wanted to talk to me. When I stood up she saw me and flinched, turned her head and looked embarrassed. She went on to the girls' room and I figured that's where she'd been headed all along.
I felt bad and walked on out and drove the truck back to the lonely house that night. I didn't sleep very well. I didn't see myself going dancing again for a long time. I dreamed about red-haired babies crawling all over the house. I was feeling pretty down the next morning.
Life went on. I worked at the Ford dealer on the financing and contracts. It was fun work and I met a lot of people. Guys would come in and buy their trucks and hit on me. Some of them I could see were married by the forms they filled out but they still kept asking me out.
I liked working there 'cause the hours were regular like and I could be home to take care of my babies. I felt sad but I couldn't figure out why. Tammy kept wanting to go out together again but I didn't want to. God, a one! I'd be so embarrassed to go in that dance place knowing the guys were putting numbers on me.
Finally my brother came home. He'd been over to Dallas at SMU for four years studying banking and got an offer from the local bank in their loan department. 'Cept he was doing ranch and farm loans, not auto loans.