RACHEL AND THE COWBOY
SEPTEMBER 18, 2011
It's been a warm week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The last days of summer hold on, they hold on like relatives who don't want to leave at the end of a long evening, they hold on like the hydrangeas and trumpet flowers, not wanting to go into that long winter's sleep.
Or maybe its just us, people gotten a little too fond of this life, which really was meant to be only a kind of test, a sort of PSAT for either immortality or whatever else may be there. We don't want to let go of that pool of light in the afternoon by the kitchen table or the shirt sleeves and pleasant walk down the block to the corner store, greeting fruit and vegetable man along the way, checking out the produce there.
Peaches! Peaches and avocados! Are peaches still in season?
They're from Mexico. Apples coming next week.
Okay, apples coming next week. Got that.
The sun is warm in the afternoon, and everyone is out in sandals and shorts. The girls in their summer dresses. Jessie and Jodet skipping down the block after returning from this year's Burning Man, dusty and sunburnt. Time for a BBQ. And all the world revolves around the sundial sitting their on the picnic table out back.
Yet in the gray mornings, the honk of the Canadian geese finally figuring out what they came here for. Flocks of crows gathering quorums to decide something.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, gets the time of year all wrong. Every farmer knows that the time for gathering is when the leaves have all gone sere, the yield is plump and fullest. When the evenings get crisp is when everything gets hauled in. then is the time most immediate, when the harvest must be done quick in the little time left. That's the time when the barrow fills with fat tubers, succulent squash, crisp apples, all the explosive fecundity of the earth, things to make your mouth water.
Other places have leaves turning, falling in colors of red and gold, burning just like embers. In California, the changes happen with subtlety, all inside. People start to get a little crazier.
Jacqueline stepped out of the salon with her friend, Rachel, who was the dance teacher at the Metrodome, and with Maeve. Jackie had just finished a great job on Rachel with cutting her hair and pressing and tints to the degree she felt quite proud of her work and with Rachel being a person who dealt with the public and all.
And who should come along just then, but was it not the man himself, Luther.
Luther stopped and looked at the women from across the street and from this distance it was hard to tell at what, or at whom he was looking.
Maeve, of course, knew exactly at whom he was looking for at whom had the poor man only eyes for these past ten years but Jackie. O, he was a rogue that man!
Well Jackie looked at Luther and Luther looked askance, and Rachel looked at herself in the mirror glass window, and Maeve looked at all of them and would you know but Jackie's eyes took on a tinge of green, so to say.
At this moment a curious figure appeared riding a horse down the righthand side of Park Street. He wore a ten-gallon hat, a sort of beat-up suit and bright red tennis shoes. He paused to lean down and ask Luther something and then headed over to the women.
The man nodded and touched the tip of his Stetson with his glove. "Evenin' ladies." he said, with a curious accent.
Rachel and Jackie stood their with their mouths open.
"Do any of you happen to know which way is St. Paul?" asked the man.
"Well," said Maeve. "If its Minnesota you are wantin', you need to turn that animal right around and head northeast, for you are pointed south as of this very moment."
"Much obliged," said the man. "Yashur Yonit!"
"Beg pardon?" Maeve and Rachel both said.
"Name of mah horse. Yashur Yonit. Means 'go for it'." He got his horse turned around there and paused to look down at Rachel. "You know of some other way off of this here Island; that bridge down their is hard on this critter's hooves."
"I can show you," Rachel said. "But its complicated."
"Wellll. Hop on board ma'am, if you don't mind spendin' time with an old cowboy."
For answer, Rachel hopped up on fireplug in her birkenstocks and slung herself over the back of the horse behind the cowboy. She passed her arms around the man's trunk and grabbed her wrists.
"You hold on real good now, ma'am." With that the cowboy and Rachel rode off down the road and disappeared from sight with all of them looking on until a fly buzzed into Luther's open mouth and he started coughing.
"Well I shall be as wacky as a wild, white badger tearin' at my bodice," said Maeve, "But who shall it be but an honest-to-goodness Viking Cowboy."
Luther came over to the two remaining women. "Wonder when Rachel will come back."
"O, something tells me it shall not be for some time," Maeve said.
"Winter is coming on," Jackie said with a curiously strangled voice. "You can't travel much up north after the snow."
"I'll be gob smacked," Maeve said. "And you from Minneapolis just standin' there not sayin' a word the whole time! What on earth has got into you?"
"Are you all right," Luther said. "You look like you are about to fall down!"
"I am falling," Jackie said. "Yashur Yonit!" She blurted and threw herself bodily at Luther to grab the man in a deep kiss on the lips that caused Maeve to shade her eyes and blush.
"Lord save us! But if the leaves don't fall then its the people! Well-a-day, this lass must be down the boreen to get the pot on the stove now. See you tomorrow, Jackie!" With that merry Maeve skipped on down the road, leaving the couple there still clasped in embrace, the surprised Luther now responding in kind to Jackie in a way that was probably not suitable for children to observe.
Yes, things do change in the Fall, or Autumn as some would have it. In a world full of inconstancy, disruption, decay, mad hatter tea parties, wretchedly worsening economy, nervous jumping up and down, social malaise, extensive disagreement over bad developments, and all sorts of upset, some changes do occur for the better.
That night in the Old Same Place Bar, Denby sat up in the Snug and finished out the evening with an old Robert Hunter tune. A bird-like woman with bright yellow hair in a tangle sat at the forward table drinking a stoli martini. Her name was Sharon; she had seemed in a bad way when she had come in, and so Denby sang to her directly. In these hard times, many suffered.
It's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
or leave it if you dare
But it's just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
and such a short time to be there
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the Western wildflowers blooming among the pasture grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its tireless journey to parts unknown.
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