Rustler Hideout near Nevada City, a short story by StevenHunley. Date added: 2011-03-15. Times viewed: 2006.
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Rustler Hideout near Nevada City
Let’s get this straight. I’m not a cattle rustler. I’m a word rustler and a phrase- wrangler. I only rustle and wrangle from the best. I rustle my descriptions from Stevenson and my attitudes from Sillitoe and Salinger. I wrangle my swashbuckle from Sabatini and Ian Flemming. My sense of manliness and my short, stripped, declarative sentences I cop from my literary Papa. So realize I didn’t mean to be deceitful. I just needed a good title and picked the one above. Like many things, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Only history or lack of readership will prove it otherwise. So don’t be disappointed if it ain’t Zane Grey. It’s OK. We both shoot straight from the hip.
10.30 AM Union Station-LA
It’s old, large, impressive, Spanish- tiled and high-ceilinged. Big leather arm chairs to wait in. Security rousting the homeless sleepers from last night. They’re bleary-eyed and baggied rumpled-up men and women, nicely nudged from slumber by the blunt end of a night-stick. How quaint. How old-worldy.
Now, Bus to Bakersfield.
The bus is crowded and even though I’m the last one on there’s an empty seat beside me. My mood? I can barely contain my excitement. Babygirl, you have no idea the nature or degree of excitement that lurks inside this man.
You travel untold miles and not count them. You speak for hours on the phone and think it’s just minutes. You e-mail thousands of e-mails, literally thousands of e-mails. You post hand-written letters and often search for the mailman knowing he carries her replies. Her stationary pages are Wet and Wild with her lip-prints and adorable because the mouth looks just the right size. You’re hooked and you know it.
Grapevine to Tejon Valley
Ears pop, no grapes now, just the twisted trunks and larger vines and their supports. The mist on the west side hangs in the air, obscuring the mountains that hide somewhere in the distance. At one hundred yards horses and sheep become mere shadows, a bit farther back and they completely disappear like Bruno Munari’s Circus in the Mist. The countryside transforms into a children’s book like magic. Then one side turns all green the other all brown. Willows grow in low spots where there’s water, and lining the roads, tall neglected eucalyptus cast their shadows, unafraid to cross the roads without looking.
Amtrack at Bakersfied
Every row of almond trees we pass, every minute, each and every mile draws me closer to a woman who has become my anchor and my sail, my ultimate destination. This is more than a hook-up; not just a trip. It’s a holy pilgrimage, a Haj. Not a journey of the flesh or even of the intellect. This is something my spirit alone required.
I knew that out there somewhere she was thinking of me too. It made my thoughts, as I read once in a dime novel, “take wing.”
Near a rectangle of water a family of white egrets takes flight over the endless rows of almond trees bared by the winter. With them I soar.
Now I can wear the green turban. Life’s what you make it, according to Talk Talk. Now I no longer have to wonder,
“How am I going to get through?”
“What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?”
The Pet Shop Boys are singing to my brain via ear buds and technological MP3 wonders of which I have no understanding at all.
When I stepped on the train I took charge. I became responsible for myself. For me it was like Stanley in Africa. It was that first hesitant step into the unknown. For me, it was like Burton and Speke searching for the source of the Nile. But looking for her isn’t half so foolish.
Trains seem somehow faster than cars. You can really pay attention to the ground whizzing by, and when another train passes going the other direction just inches away, you hold on to your hat and it takes your breath away. Direction and speed are all relative according to crazy-haired Einstein anyway.
Jake takes my ticket to Stockton. Then it’s the 715 to Oakland, the Jack London Special. Did I mention he was an oyster pirate?
On the outskirts of Bakersfield there are horses in the backyards and oil derricks and pumps and refineries all around. Plenty of, as Jed Clampett might call, “Black gold, Texas tea.”
The sun suddenly breaks through and I know my direction now, not just my speed. I’m heading directly towards her. Damn the torpedoes and all that stuff.
There’s another bus and with the setting sun it’s dark and cold. The landscape turns hilly. Now that the sun is gone I am completely disoriented. There are only two passengers left on the bus.
The driver pulls into a small stop in what I would call, “the middle of nowhere.” The other man disappears so fast I don’t know if it was into a car or not. I survey the place. There are businesses, unrecognizable businesses, yet the setting seems more rural. It looks comfortable, more like how things used to be in the United States. But there’s no one there. Only a streetlamp for light. What will I do? I don’t even have her phone number on me.
It’s back in my Little Black Book in Long Beach. You see, at times I’m an idiot.
A green van appears at the top of the hill. I can see through the windshield that it’s her. I’ve drooled over her picture enough times to wipe my chin with a napkin. She pulls to the curb and gets out.
Suddenly it’s The Decisive moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson. It’s Hemingway’s Moment of Truth. I’ve worried about this close encounter for months.
What do you say to a woman you’ve waited nine months to see? I know.
You say nothing.
First it’s the dark liquid eyes. The single lamppost light makes them glitter and sparkle like magic. She’s wearing a dress with a blue flower print. It shows off her legs and her black high-heels. They have a lacy pattern. They reveal more than you expect to see but not too much more. The lady has taste. They’re feminine as all get out. The dress, the legs, the shoes, and the woman.
She smiles. I don’t even hear what she says. But I can still feel the hug. It’s an intimate hug, like she’s known you a while. I lift her up just a taste. She feels well-crafted, built for speed, like a racing yacht. Then there’s the kiss. It’s the first kiss but by the time it’s over I know it’s going to be followed by others. It’s hesitant, that first kiss, almost awkward, then affectionate, then searching, in that order. And somehow, after all the suffocating analysis, the kiss is still one more thing. It’s a rush. It tells you everything you want to know about her and the place and the way it all makes you feel.
It tells you,
You are a word-rustling-wrangler ready to hide out near Nevada City. Her place is not just a hole in the wall either. That’s what Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid called their hideout, The Hole in the Wall.
But this one is a comfortable woman’s apartment and she has a degree in design. She’s a designing woman. Lucky I fit into her design.
Now she’s asking me to open a bottle of champagne. I guess the kiss was as good to her as it was to me.
Champagne and kisses, what a sweet combination.
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