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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

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BOOK: Cutting Horse
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Prize surveyed the two of them with a bored look. Then he opened his mouth and yawned, a huge horse yawn, with all his teeth showing. Giggling, Carole went to join the others.

While the girls gave Stewball his rubdown, the director took out a cellular phone and began making calls. “You got any coffee around here?” he asked when he had hung up.

“Nope. Sorry,” Stevie said. “And frankly, I don’t think we should talk coffee before we talk contracts. So, why don’t you sit yourself down on that bale of hay there and make my client an offer.”

Lisa and Carole had to bite their tongues to stop themselves from bursting into laughter. All of a sudden, Stevie had picked up the Hollywood lingo and was talking like a mogul.

Looking chastened, the director did as he was told. He
perched gingerly on the bale. “Look, I’m not sure I can make an offer right away,” he said. “There’s a lot to consider, after all. I can’t just—”

“Actually, Blake, there’s only one thing to consider, and that’s my client’s career. A horse like him doesn’t come around very often. Now, if you want to hem and haw and beat around the bush, that’s fine. But Stewball is a busy horse. He doesn’t have time to wait around. Carole, Lisa—put him away.”

“Wait!” the director cried, springing up. “Okay! I’ll do it! I’ll have my people get in touch with your people tonight! We’ll have the contracts drawn up right away.”

“That’s more like it,” Stevie said.

“Once all parties have signed, you’ll have to go and talk to makeup as soon as possible,” the director continued. “I don’t want any delay in shooting the other couple of scenes.”

“Makeup?” Stevie repeated, taken aback. “Why should I talk to them?”

“Why, to tell them how to do the dye job right. We’re still going to use Prize for the close-up head shots, naturally. So we’ll want Stew, here, to look as much like him as possible. Just like today.”

After a moment of panic, Stevie decided to come clean right away. She still had the upper hand, and if she played
her cards right, she could keep it. “There’s only one person who knows what’s in that dye,” she declared.

“What do you mean, one person?” the director asked.

“The dye is an ancient, secret American Indian tribal concoction that has been handed down for generations.” Stevie shot a worried glance at Lisa, begging for help.

“That’s right,” Lisa chimed in. “The only person who knows the formula is the boy who dyed Stewball this morning.” More than anything, Lisa wished John were there to hear again how important his role had been.

“Hey, listen, don’t give me all this ‘ancient, secret recipe’ stuff. Just get me the kid, okay?” the director said.

“That might not be as easy as it sounds,” Lisa said truthfully. John had been happy to help them out today, but Lisa wasn’t about to ask him to put himself out again.

“Look, I’ll hire him, too, okay? What does he want? Money? He’s got it. His own makeup studio? Done!” the director said.

“What about creative authority?” Stevie demanded.

“Fine—that, too! Anything! Just get me that boy!
Get me that boy!
” With that, the director gathered up his things and made his exit out into the rain. Soon The Saddle Club could hear his cries of “Coffee! Someone bring me coffee!”

“Just what he needs,” said Lisa. “More caffeine to make him more high-strung and jittery!”

“Now, now. Don’t be too hard on Blake. Underneath it all, he’s a decent guy,” Stevie said, reclining on the hay bales to savor her success.

“Let me guess: You’re contemplating a career in directing now,” Lisa said.

“Nope—acting. I figure I deserve an Oscar after that performance.”

Lisa and Carole didn’t know whether to agree with Stevie or smother her with hay. It truly had been an award-winning scene. They were saved from the decision when Kate appeared in the doorway.

“Listen, I want to hear all the details, but I can’t talk now. I came by to tell you that dinner is a barbecue up at the house. It’s raining so hard that it can’t keep up. The minute it stops, we start grilling. Mom and Dad want to thank everybody for all the hard work they’ve been doing,” she said in a rush.

“Great!” Carole said. “We’ll be there.”

“If you see John, make sure he knows about it, will you? We can’t find him. And tell Skye he’s invited too, okay?” Kate asked. “I’ve got to go chop tomatoes for salsa!”

“She forgot the most important guest,” Stevie said, sitting
up. Stewball was dozing on the cross-ties, tired out after his first day on the set. Stevie stood up and scratched his back where he liked it most. “Funny how you wouldn’t let me get on when the rain started, wasn’t it?”

“Stewball’s not the type to wait in the wings,” Carole said. “He saw his chance for stardom and took it.”

“What do you say we make our starlet beautiful for the barbecue and then go out and do a rain dance?” Stevie suggested.

“But a rain dance is what you do when you’re praying for rain,” Lisa pointed out. “We’ve already got the rain.”

“Then we’ll do a reverse rain dance,” Stevie said. “Or something like that.”

“You two go ahead,” Lisa told them. “I’m going to go find ‘that boy.’ ”

K
ATE HAD BEEN RIGHT
about the rain. It rained so hard that it rained itself out. By the time Lisa left the stable to look for John, it was barely drizzling.

Lisa searched high and low but couldn’t find him. She checked in all the main ranch buildings, she walked out to the corrals and back, and she asked everyone she saw. She stopped by the Devines’, but Phyllis Devine told her that everybody was so busy getting ready for the barbecue that John could easily have slipped in and out without being noticed. “Good luck!” she said to Lisa.

After going back over the territory she had covered,
Lisa decided to stop by Skye’s trailer. She wanted to tell him about Stevie’s run-in with the director and make sure that he knew about the cookout as well. When she rapped on Skye’s door, she heard laughter and conversation inside.

“Lisa! Come on in!” Skye said when he opened the door. “The more the merrier. John and I were just saying we should go find you girls.”

“John and you?” Lisa said, not believing her ears.

“Hi, Lisa!”

As Lisa’s eyes adjusted to the dim light in the trailer, she saw, to her amazement, John relaxing on Skye’s couch. “Come sit with me,” John said.

In a daze, Lisa went and sat next to him. “Boy, I didn’t expect to find you here,” she said.

Both John and Skye laughed heartily. “I didn’t expect to find myself here,” John said.

“You took off so fast after the shoot that nobody had time to thank you,” Lisa said.

“I’ve already told him he’s in trouble for that,” Skye said. “He’s not allowed to save the day and then take off ever again.”

“I didn’t mean to!” John protested. “But after the scene was over, I realized it was going to rain any second. Tex and a bunch of other horses were out in the corral with no
shelter. At first I was going to let them get rained on, but then I felt bad, so I sprinted over to get them inside. You can’t blame me for that, can you?”

“No, I
guess
not,” Lisa said. In fact, that was one of the reasons she liked John so much: He always put horses, animals, and other people ahead of himself.

“Then I was going to run home and change, but instead I ran into Skye,” John continued.

“Right. We looked like a couple of drowned rats, so we hightailed it back here to dry off,” Skye said.

Lisa had been so happy and surprised to see John in Skye’s trailer that she hadn’t noticed he was wearing Skye’s clothes, too. “Hey, nice shirt, Skye,” she said, looking admiringly at the navy blue polo shirt John wore. She didn’t mention that it looked especially nice on him.

“Thanks. It’s a good color, isn’t it? I wonder if you could
dye
something that color, John,” Skye said pointedly. The two boys burst into hysterical laughter.

“What’s so funny?” Lisa asked, perplexed. “I’ll bet there are natural blue dyes, aren’t there, John?”

When he could catch his breath, John replied, “Probably. But not in the women’s hair coloring section of the drugstore!” He and Skye began to laugh uncontrollably again.

Lisa looked from one to the other of them.
“What did you say?”
she asked.

John wiped tears from his eyes. He cleared his throat and attempted to look serious. “I’m sorry, Lisa, but I didn’t use an American Indian dye to turn Stewball chestnut.”

“You didn’t?”

John shook his head. “Uh-uh.”

“What did you use?” Lisa asked.

“Color-Me-Gorgeous Temporary Dye in Luscious, Lustrous Red.”

“What?”
Lisa said again. “You mean women’s hair dye?”

John nodded sheepishly.

“But what about the secret dye?” she asked. “What about the ancient traditions?”

“For one thing, those techniques aren’t secret,” John said. “I tried to explain, but nobody would listen.”

“But when I asked you—”

“All I said was that I thought I knew how to dye a horse,” John said gently.

Lisa thought back, but she couldn’t remember the conversation exactly. All she could remember was being worried that her request would upset John. “So you don’t know how to make natural dyes and paints?” she asked,
feeling a little deflated. “Christine thought your grandmother had taught you.”

“She did. I do know a few things. I could dye a shirt or a piece of fabric. But the natural dyes would be too weak to color a horse. At least, I think they would. I’ve never tried. And it just seemed so much easier to run down to McNab’s Pharmacy and stock up on Luccious, Lustrous Red.”

At the name, Skye began to chuckle again. John couldn’t help himself, either. And as she watched the two of them cracking up, the humor of the situation suddenly hit Lisa, too. “So, do you mean to tell me that the whole time we thought you were guarding a tribal secret, you were off buying home dye kits?” she demanded. “Why the heck didn’t Stevie, Carole, Kate, Christine, and I think of that? What are we, total idiots?”

“I do have to confess that I kept up the act with Stevie,” John said. “When we went to dye Stewball, I acted all serious and I wouldn’t let her watch me do the job.”

“Normally she would have watched anyway,” said Lisa, “but I strictly told everyone not to try to find out the secret recipe or bother you about it at all. I’m never going to live this one down!”

Even though John laughed, Lisa could tell he was touched by her admission. In a dry voice, he said, “Thanks for worrying about me, Lisa. And while I’m confessing, I might as well apologize, too, and get it over with.” Skye gestured that he didn’t need to go through with it, but John said, “No, it’s important to me to say this. I acted like a real jerk, to both of you. I did exactly what I accuse other people of doing—I didn’t make judgments about people as individuals. I massed everyone together in my mind as ‘Hollywood.’ I’m sorry I let that get in the way of meeting you, Skye.”

“You were pretty darn rude,” Skye admitted. “But since I have ten or twenty encounters like that every day, I hardly noticed, to tell you the truth.” The boys grinned at each other.

“Hey, speaking of rude people,” Lisa said. She launched into the story of The Saddle Club’s encounter with the director, detail by unbelievable detail.

“It’s a good thing John didn’t fess up before now!” Skye said when she had finished. “I can’t wait to see the director have to grovel to John because he’s the only person who’s capable of redyeing Stewball. If he only knew!”

“I hope Stewball will still talk to me, now that he’s going to be famous,” John joked.

“Sure he will,” Lisa said. “You’re his personal hairdresser now.”

“The animals in this movie get better treatment than the human actors!” Skye told them. “Prize’s stall is bigger than this trailer.”

They looked around the cramped room, strewn with clothes, scripts, and dirty cups. “And he probably eats better, too,” said Skye, holding up an empty SpaghettiOs can.

“I almost forgot!” Lisa exclaimed. “You’re both invited to a barbecue at the Devines’, starting”—she glanced at her watch—“starting now.”

“A barbecue? You mean a real Western barbecue with chicken and ribs?” Skye asked.

“Chicken and ribs?” John said. “That’s only about one-tenth of the food the Devines will put out.”

“Yippee! Today really is my lucky day,” Skye said.

“Yours and Stevie’s,” Lisa replied. “She’s probably planning to break some kind of eating record tonight.”

“Why don’t we all head over, then?” John suggested.

Skye started to agree and then seemed to change his mind. “You two go on over. I’ll be there in a few minutes. There are a few things I want to take care of.”

John went back into Skye’s bedroom to get his things.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come with John and me now?” Lisa asked.

Skye nodded, his eyes twinkling. “I’m positive. You and John should go alone. Take a nice, leisurely walk over. I’ll be there soon.”

Lisa looked at Skye, astonished. Had he guessed about her and John?

“Hey, I may be an actor,” Skye whispered, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice real feelings.”

BOOK: Cutting Horse
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ads

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