She was standing outside a little bakery on West 6th Street in the San Jacinto area on Business Route 66, she held two tiny dogs on leashes. She had a spectacularly beautiful American face, upon the planes of which intelligence and innocence fought a pitched battle that looked like it might last a lifetime. She had rich-girl hair- long-straight, blond and thick. She had a peach colored bow in her hair that matched her peach colored dress. Each of the dogs had a bow as well.
As a light rain glinted through the sunlight, the girl in the peach colored dress gave the effect of a vision-impossibly fragile, ephemeral, childlike, so beautiful you could see right through her to a better world. It was not surprising, I reflected, that she appeared so childlike. She had to be all of six years old.
"Are you a real cowboy?" she asked, pausing perfectly to adjust the bow in her perfect hair. "Or are you just dressed up like one?"
Leave it to a kid to ask all the hard questions, leave it to a kid to make you momentarily wonder if all your life you lived a lie. Ok, so maybe she was seven.
"Of course I'm a real cowboy," I said struggling for a measure of masculine indignancy, "Haven't you ever seen a real cowboy before?"
"Not like you in public," she said. The kid had a point there. I hadn't got caught up in the Urban Cowboy craze. She also had a smart ass edge to her that was starting to get under my collar. She was going to give some poor stiff a hard time one of these days.
"We went to a Dude Ranch in Arizona when I was four," she continued. "They had cowboys there, but they didn't look like you."
"You can't always tell a real cowboy just by looking at him," I said. It was too late to tell her I was a male model on my way to shoot a cowboy commercial for Ralph Lauren. Besides I wasn't.
"You mean real cowboys are a lot like fairies?" She said with that sudden gasp of truth that only childhood engenders.
"How old did you say you were?" I asked looking vaguely around for her mother.
"I didn't say," she said, "but I'll be six on August 14th, and if you are wondering where my mother is, she is the well dressed lady in that store who is watching you very carefully right now. Do real cowboys carry guns?"
"Of course not, we are always contented that if anyone wants to kill us they have to bring their own guns. Whats your name?"
"Megan'" she said kneeling down to introduce the dogs, "Molly, Holly, I want you to meet a real cowboy."
The dogs who were about half as high as my boots seemed midly interested. I hunkered down at a safe distance so as to not further agitate the well-dressed mother and made a clumsy adult attempt to relate to the nervous rodent - sized creatures. "They are cute little boogers," I said "And so are you."
One of the dogs bows came undone and in less time than it took to light a cigarette, she bent down with both leashes in hand and tied the bow. It was an amazing thing to watch, tying a bow while holding two dogs on leashes. The kid, at age six, knew exactly what she was doing, which was a hell of a lot more than I could say for myself. There are, of course many things the kid didn't know or understand yet, I am sure. She probably couldn't tell you why we fought in Vietnam and I doubted very much that she knew that Turkish people once brushed their teeth in urine. These are the kinds of things you pick up as you go along.
"Lets go dear," said the well dressed woman, giving me the wintrist of smiles. As the little girl, her mother, and the two dogs rounded the corner on their way out of sight, she tossed her rich-girl hair in a very adult affectation, then gave me a friendly good bye wave like the child she was. When I see something like that I always wonder if the kid isn't growing up too fast. Of course I've often thought the same thing about myself. I tilted my cowboy hat to her, "To the future."
"The future is merely a necklace of nows"
I woke up on a cold floor with a hell of a headache, surrounded by mounds of chalky white dust and large white chunks of the same. It looked like a Peruvian Marching Powder train had tipped over and trapped me underneath it. At first it didn't seem like a bad way to go, but I tasted the powder and it didn't seem to give me a buzz, it tasted more like sheet rock. The next thing I knew two little dogs began ice-picking my brain with loud barking. Somewhere between the two dogs stood a tall, beautiful, blond girl in her early 20's who looked vaguely familiar. The afternoon sunlight was streaming through her hair.
"Where the hell am I?" I said.
"You are lying on your kitchen floor, shit for brains," she said. "Some dancing lesbians in the class upstairs must have knocked some sheet rock loose and it fell on your head."
I felt as if I had been sleeping twenty years, I felt groggy, the dogs didn't help.
"Anna, Hanna," she said in a stern yet some how sweet voice, "be quiet darlings, you are disturbing the old man Wes. When you said you were on your way to take me to dinner and then didn't show I became concerned and come over to your place to check on you. Your phone was off the hook and I found you on the floor covered in this mess. Don't you have a maid?"
"Well Shannon said she would stop by, but the game got rained out." I was coming around, the gorgeous creature was standing in front of me holding two dogs, she was dressed in very tall heels and a very short red dress that looked very good from where I sat.
"How long have I been out of it?" I asked.
"Oh, I'd say about sixty years, but out on the floor about two hours."
"Incredible." I spoke.
"I can think of a few other things to call it," she said, "One of them is pathetic."
"I was headed out the door and something happened on the way."
"Something happened to you alright, some dancing lesbians knocked ceiling plaster on your head. By the way your liquor cabinet is empty much like your head. Do you want a drink?"
I nodded and as I watched Megan and the two dogs head for the door, I saw another young girl wave to me from the corner of my eye.
"Goodbye, Megan, I said. 'goodbye Holly, Molly."
Megan stopped in her tracks. For the first time since I had known her I had her flustered. How could you know about them? I don't remember ever mentioning my first two pets to you." she asked, suddenly rather shakey.
I just sat there in the dust. Smiling up at her, smiling up at the ruined ceiling. smiling up at the crazy screwed up world.
I said as gently as possible. "Maybe you have forgotten."
Watching the slow decay, first written 2. Jan. 2009
4 months ago