by Dusty Wallace
The corral had been emptied out save for one horse. Four stakes were hammered down in a square about 20 feet across. Twine tied the stakes loosely together and then more twine had been weaved from the four sides forming a grid of four-by-four foot spaces that rested flat against the ground. Twenty five empty squares in all.
Sixteen year-old Cole Grady stood on the bottom rail and held the top-most with one hand to steady himself. With the other hand he held up a one dollar bill.
“One on G-4!” he yelled.
“G-4 to the boy in the black stetson.” said Mayor Randolph who scribbled down the wager on a blank sheet of paper. He was a pudgy little man, but friendly enough and rich to boot. He always showed up at these public events as if his reelection counted on it. Cole Grady didn’t know why a 20-year mayor who ran unopposed would go to such trouble.
Grady twirled a piece of straw between his lips as the other spectators called out their wagers. A pretty girl with blond pigtails that had little bows at the ends sidled up to him and stepped on the rail to speak to him face-to-face. Grady new her from the one-room schoolhouse they both attended. Her name was Millie Wilson. She twirled a piece of straw between her lips as well.
“Whatcha doin’?” she asked.
Cole Grady looked her up and down, admiring the child-bearing hips and shapely bossom that filled out her long sunflowered dress. “Chewin’ straw ain’t real lady-like.” he said.
The old pinto in the corral walked around with his nose to the ground like a hound hunting an escaped convict. He’d nibble on hay for a bit and then raise his head with a look of what Cole Grady thought must be confusion, all the folks lookin’ at him and whatnot.
“Since when do you care about me bein’ lady-like?” Millie asked.
“Don’t reckon I do. Just an observation.” he replied.
“Well, you Grady boys ain’t nothin’ if you ain’t observant.” she said.
“What’n the hell that supposed to mean?” he asked.
“Oh, nothin’.” she sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Woo-eee doggies. C’mon B-3!” some skinny kid shouted from nearby. A man who was probably his dad knocked his hat off into the corral. Never bet against your dad, Cole Grady thought.
“Do you like me?” Millie asked.
“Yeah, sure I like ya.”
“Do you like, like, like me?” she asked with an eyebrow half cocked.
“What’re you gettin’ at Millie?” He knew what she was getting at, but his mind was on the game.
“I tell you what, Cole Grady. You win this thing, I’ll spit out this here piece of straw and give you a kiss square on the lips behind that bale of hay over there.” She pointed out behind them. “It’ll be real lady-like.”
Cole Grady acted like he barely heard her but could feel heat rushing to his cheeks. “Yeah, I reckon that’d sweeten the pot a bit.” he said casually.
The old horse had wandered over to the G’s and its rear was hanging right over number four. Cole Grady stood on his tip-toes in anticipation.
“I’ll be damned.” he said, then yelled, “G-4. C’mon G-4!”
Cole Grady had a vision. He could almost feel the hay caressing his back as pig-tailed Millie Wilson pressed her bosom into him and planted those soft lips right on his. It would start slow at first. A little peck. Then she’d grab him behind the neck and he’d throw arms around her hips and they’d tangle up in a fit of teenage passion. Afterward they might set up something for after school. He’d grab a blanket and his fishing pole (for cover with his parents) and head on down to the stream where Millie Wilson would officially make him a man.
Cole Grady could see the horse’s belly flexing.
POP POP Millie clapped her hands together. The horse stumbled backwards and released it’s bowels all over G-5. A collective sigh came from the spectators except for one who through his cowboy hat in the air and jumped over the fence to collect his money, hootin’ and hollerin’ all the way to the bank.
“What’d you do that for, Millie?” Cole Grady asked.
She responded, “Well, I don’t reckon it’s real lady-like to kiss a boy just ‘cause a horse pooped in his square.”
Dusty lives in the Appalachians of Virginia with his wife and two sons. He enjoys reading, writing, and the occasional fine cigar. He can be found online at DustyVersion.blogspot.com