Wild Cowboy Ways(4)

By: Carolyn Brown

“Let me make a call and see what I can do,” he said gently.

The only phone number he had for anyone in Dry Creek was right there in bold print on the bottom of a 1999 feed store calendar hanging on the wall beside the refrigerator. Strange but January 4 was on a Monday that year, too. Blake wouldn’t even need to get a new calendar.

Maybe the folks from the feed store would know who to call. He hoped to hell that phone number hadn’t changed in the past seventeen years.

“Well, what in the hell are you waiting for?” she yelled, all the piss and vinegar coming back in a hurry. “Call one of them. Call them all. I don’t really care but it’s time for you to cut the apron strings and get on with your life, Walter.” She picked up the coffee and sipped it. “And put that dog outside where he belongs.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

The wild look in her eyes got even worse. “Don’t you ma’am me! I’m not an old lady, by damn. I’m a woman in her prime and don’t you ever ma’am me again.”

He had to bite his cheek to keep from laughing out loud. Whoever this woman was, she wasn’t about to let anyone steamroll her.

“And after you’ve called and we’ve had our coffee, we can fool around until she gets back in the house.” Irene smiled up at him.

As if Shooter understood he wasn’t welcome, he circled around the table, keeping a wary eye on the newcomer until he got to the back door where he whined. Glad to have an excuse to leave the table, Blake went to open the door and let the old boy out, wishing the whole time that he could escape with him.

Just exactly what did she mean by “fool around”? Did it mean the same in her demented mind that it did in today’s world. If so he’d have to make that cup of coffee last until someone could come get this woman or else learn a whole new level of bullshitting his way out of a messy ordeal.

He eased the cell phone out of his pocket and poked in the numbers from the calendar. Irene seemed very content to sip her coffee and mumble about a damn dog being in the kitchen where womenfolk made food. Dog hairs, according to her, were covered with deadly diseases that could kill a person if they got into their fried potatoes.

“Dry Creek Feed and Seed. May I help you?” a feminine voice answered on the third ring.

“Ma’am, I’m the new owner of the Lucky Penny, and an elderly woman named Irene showed up at my door this morning. It’s starting to rain and…” He didn’t get another word out.

“Oh, no! Just hang on to her and I’ll send someone for her in the next few minutes. Don’t let her leave,” the woman said, and the call ended.

Chapter Two

Allie hated two things: cleaning and cooking. But every third week it was her turn to clean the big two-story house known as Audrey’s Place.

Back during the Depression, Audrey’s had been a rather notorious not-exactly-legal brothel. Miz Audrey, the lady who owned the place, had seen an opportunity where everyone else around Dry Creek saw defeat. She’d hired six girls at a time when everyone needed jobs. She was one of the few folks who hung on to her land, her business, and came out on the other side of the Depression with more money than she knew what to do with. Her girls, too. The hundred-year-old house had withstood tornadoes, winds, and all the other crazy weather that Texas could throw at it.

But Allie wasn’t appreciating her family home’s rich history as she trudged through each of the six bedrooms on the second floor to vacuum, dust, and tidy up. She would far rather be the one creating mess. Give her the glorious smells of wood shavings, plaster dust, or varnish during a home remodel and she’d be much happier than breathing in pine-scented cleaners.