Arno and Hosea came to a desolate town of squat adobe structures the colors of the earth and the sun and those structures mingled with freshly hewn wooden buildings that rose above them like intimidators and boasted of great possibilities. The rise of a new civilization on top of an old one was at work again in the world. The natives were being slowly crushed out by another generation from another place, and they believed they had the better of ideas and ways of living.
The town’s name was Sudan and there was a smell of animal dung and sawdust and perfumed whores in the hot afternoon air. A wide dirt track went through the center of the town, and it and its immediate environs were lined on both sides and in the corners by the various modes of commerce and service: A bank, a jail, a general store, a hotel or two, saloons, a gunsmith, a livery stable, a butcher, a doctor, and a small train station with various people leaning or sitting as they waited upon their destinies to arrive on the rails.
Horses and wagons moved like a meandering stream up and down the main thoroughfare which was mashed by hoofs and wagon wheels. As Arno and Hosea made their way along, some of the people nodded, smiled, said “hello mister.” Ladies in blooming dresses called out to them from balconies. Other folks with roughshod faces and rubber necks watched them closely and scowled with sour intent. Some even yelled out from the wooden boardwalks where they sat on barrels to warn them that they should “watch yourselves,” merely because they were drifting strangers.
“I don’t understand why some folks need to be so hateful,” Hosea said as they worked the horses to a hitching post outside the Camaro Saloon. “I’m the nicest cowman in the world.”
“Would you stop saying that!” Arno snapped as he climbed off his horse. “It’s so damn embarrassing.”
“You’re always so worried about what other people think… I don’t care what other people think,” Hosea said. “I’m going to be who I am.”
Arno rolled his eyes. “That’s probably your problem. Let’s get a drink, or 72… And try not to say too much.”
Hosea waved his hand at the air. “Nah, you go ahead. I don’t feel much like drinkin’ and hollerin’ and carrying on right now. I think I just may go walk and stretch out these long legs of mine. I think that’s what I need.”
Arno scoffed at him. “All right then. Just don’t get yourself in trouble.”
“Look who’s talking.”
Where Hosea ended up on his wandering walkabout was into a fog thick as gauze outside of the main part of the town, and there the birds were winged phantoms of dark light and the trees were backlit spindly bodies that leaned and coughed or sat away from all the others. The air all around was a mist and there was a small flow of water that went through the middle of it all on its way to a greater fall and rush further down into the valley. Somehow, Hosea had opened a curtain and stepped inside to this lost place. He felt a warmness, but he also felt uncertainty. He also felt he wasn’t alone.
He stood on the bank of the stream and gazed into the veil of the whole western world. “I’ve been doing that a lot lately… Pulling aside curtains and stepping into lost places. There’s been a lot of thought in me about the other side. The other side of this, whatever this is,” and he looked up, raised his hands in the air. “The other side of Earth, the other side of the Milky Way and beyond. I may be a cowman, but I have a very deep river of thoughts.”
“Who are you talking to?” came a voice from somewhere behind him. “Are you praying?”
Hosea whipped around and there saw a woman… A cow woman. “No one, mam. Just myself. Not God neither.” His heart picked up speed. “What are you doing here?” he asked her as if he had a right to know.
“I gather the same reason as you. To get away from folks.” She moved closer to him. Hosea noted right away that she was pretty and that made him nervous. “Are you new to Sudan?” she asked.
“No, mam. Just passing through.” Hosea lifted the hat from his head and extended his hand. “Name’s Hosea, mam. I hope I wasn’t trespassing or something.”
She smiled at his lanky awkwardness. “I’m not a mam. I’m a Sadie.”
“That’s right. Don’t you like it?”
“It’s a fine name. Just never heard of it before.”
“Now you have.” She finally took his hand and squeezed it for a moment. “It’s nice to meet you. How long are you in town for?”
“Most likely just the night.”
“Well,” she began, and she turned and pointed. “I run that little place over there. The sea-foam green house with the little corral out on the side. It’s my peacock ranch.”
“You keep peacocks?”
“I raise ‘em and I sell ‘em. The farmers and the ranchers use them to keep down the snakes and the mice… And I just think they’re so pretty.”
“They are colorful birds,” Hose said. “Very colorful.”
“Would you like to come see them? I could fix you a lemonade or a sweet tea.”
Hosea scratched at his head as he thought about it. “I suppose that wouldn’t hurt nothin’.”
TO BE CONTINUED
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