Love Drunk CowboyBy: Carolyn Brown
The Lanier gut was never wrong.
Austin Lanier didn’t need a deck of Tarot cards or a psychic to tell her something was fixing to twist her world into knots. She looked behind her… nothing but willow trees with new mint-colored leaves dancing in the spring breeze. She looked ahead… nothing but the muddy waters of the Red River.
The antsy feeling causing all the hair on her body to tingle might be the fact that she was about to sift her grandmother’s ashes into the dirty brown water. At least, the old Red flowed gently as if it had no place to go and all year to get there, like an elderly retired man sitting on the porch in his oversized rocking chair watching the cars go by on a lazy summer day. Later, when the spring rains came, it would change to a rebellious teenager, rolling and spinning out of control, rushing to its destination at a breakneck speed.
But that day it was as peaceful as Austin Lanier was agitated by the inner turmoil that crept up on her unwanted and unexplained. She stood on the sandy bank and Pearlita Richland handed her the wooden box. About the size of a shoe box, only heavier, Austin held it close to her heart in a hug but it didn’t hug back and it didn’t laugh like Granny Lanier. Was this all there was to life? Joys and sorrows reduced to a box full of gray ashes.
“Even though I don’t agree with this, it’s what she wanted so it’s the way we’ll do it. So good-bye, my dearest old friend. You hold a place for me on your park bench up there until I finish what I’m doing down here,” Pearlita said.
She was eighty-three, the same age as Austin’s grandmother and they’d been friends from the time they started school back in the Depression years. Pearlita was a tall, lanky woman who still stood proud with her head held high and her back ramrod straight. She had gray hair cut in a no-nonsense style that required nothing more than washing and towel drying. That day she wore her one pair of black slacks and a black sweater reserved for weddings and funerals. She’d left her black shoes at home and worn her old brown cowboy boots since she was going to the river.
Austin opened the box and was amazed at the ashes inside. That fine dust couldn’t be her grandmother. She’d been a force that never succumbed to age, even in the end.
“She told me that old age wasn’t for wimps,” she said as she held the box out over the water and slowly poured it into the muddy waters of the Red River. Tears streamed down her face and dripped onto her favorite black power suit: tailored slacks, a fitted jacket over a black silk camisole, and black spike heels. The moment the ashes were out of the box she wanted to wade out into the muddy water and gather them all up to hug one more time. She didn’t care if she ruined a pair of expensive high heels in the sand or if the suit would have to go to the cleaners when she got back to Tulsa.
“Living isn’t for wimps no matter what age you are,” Pearlita said. “Now we are supposed to watch the ashes disappear and then go to the Peach Orchard for lunch. When we get done you’ll need to start sorting through things at her house. Want me to help?”
“Thanks, but I can do it. I’ll call if I need help.” Austin watched the river carry her grandmother away.
It wasn’t right. There should have been flowers and a casket and weeping and it should have been done six months ago when she died. She deserved a twenty-one gun salute even though she wasn’t military and then they could fold up that superman cape Austin always thought she wore and Austin could frame it in a special box with the big S right on top.
She should’ve invited Rye O’Donnell, her grandmother’s elderly neighbor, to come to the river with her and Pearlita. Even though Verline had told them exactly what she wanted, Rye should’ve been there. He loved Granny too.