Authors: A. J. Wells
A. J. Wells
By A. J. Wells
This is a work of fiction and is
only the work of the author’s imagination. The characters and places are
totally fictitious, modeled only by the author’s knowledge of human habits.
Character’s names are not a reference to anyone, living or deceased, baring
that name. Author denies any known reference to any person or persons.
to my family and friends who have supported my efforts in writing.
I step out onto the porch, looking
for something to do, and realize I should have stayed inside. It’s
so hot you can see it rising from the ground in waves, distorting the view and
the yellow haze of heat dulls and tinges everything as far as I can see.
I guess that’s better than the dust any breeze would raise. It hasn’t
rain for three months. If it wasn’t for irrigation, the whole state of
Texas would go up in a cloud of dust, if there was so much a breeze to be
I look at the two story ranch house
where I grew up, the white siding reflecting the sun and hurting my eyes.
I see Mom and Dad have company. It must be their group of empty
nesters’ game night. I could go over and referee, there’s always good
natured fighting during the games. It’d be better than pacing, bored and
I live in the old bunk house on my
parents’ ranch. When I came home from college I claimed it and had a
kitchen and full bathroom put in--three years ago. Pretty pathetic,
huh? Mom planted some flowers around it the first year, to make it look
homey. She hasn’t done it since, I didn’t water them often and they died.
But I’ve been busy setting up my veterinary clinic. I’m the only
one in town and sometimes, feel more like an animal mating service than a Vet.
The ranchers and farmers take care of their work animals so there’s
little for me to do in Granite Bluff, except pets. I vaccinate and
license some the work animals and most of the pets, there’re a lot of
those. That keeps me busy most mornings during the month. The rest
of the time I attend to sick pets and their owners. Ah, hell, it’s too
hot to stand here brooding over my life choices, I’m gonna crash game night.
Friday and Saturday nights are
boring for me. I know everyone in town but don’t have many friends.
I learned better while I was in school. My office is run by two people,
me and my best friend, and everybody else is busy with their lives.
Half a block up the drive way,
across it, and dripping with sweat, I’m in Mom’s back door. “Hi, thought
I’d come kibitz. How’s everyone?” They all answer they’re fine,
like everyone does. I grab a paper towel to dry my face and get myself a
glass of iced tea. Then I pull a bar stool over to the edge of the table
where they’re playing Gin Rummy and sit down to watch. This isn’t a quiet
game, they never are, but it’s all in fun. I peek at the score pad and
they’re pretty even. An hour later Mom serves snacks between games.
We talk about the usual things; cheating at the game, beef prices, the weather,
irrigation, gas prices and complain about “how a rancher’s to make it with the
cost of ranching going up and the price of beef coming down.” After the
next game everyone goes home and after I help Mom clean up, so do I.
At ten o’clock it’s still as bright
as noon and just a hot as it was when I walked over. I step inside my
door and head to the shower. The news is on Waco TV and I watch it while
I go in and out of the bathroom. The weatherman says more heat and no
rain. Great! We need a slow soaking rain with no lightening.
Texas is a tinder box right now. One spark and Texas will be the flames
of hell many jokes claim it is. I find an old movie on TV and watch it,
getting in bed about one. I want to go riding early in the morning, before
it hits a hundred.
For mid summer, the weather’s
normal except there was no rain in April. The heat started in February
and hasn’t stopped climbing since. Any dew or sprinkle of moisture is
sucked up in the heat before it ever settles to the ground.
Izzie, my horse, and I leave the
barn at five thirty. As early as it is, we ride along the edge of the
creek in the trees because it’s so hot. When we get within a few hundred
feet of the ridge, we leave the creek and ride to the top. At the top, I
see how brown the area is for miles around. Almost nothing is
green. The cactus isn’t its normal color of gray green, it’s just
gray. The haze of heat is everywhere and it’s very drab and dreary and
makes me feel ten degrees hotter. I search the sky for some hope of rain,
or just a wisp of a cloud. Nothing but clear blue, so clear it’s like
your can see right into heaven. The farmers and ranchers are going to be
in real trouble if things don’t get better soon. But that’s always been
the plight of those who make a living in agriculture. That’s why I took
related courses in college, instead. I thought I’d do better as a Vet,
relying on something besides the weather for a living.
I came home because there isn’t a
Vet within a hundred miles, and during college I learned city life was a rat
race that wasn’t worth the price of running it. I interned at a clinic
with six other interns, on call twenty four hours a day. That meant
dealing with owners panic stricken over the smallest thing, calling at all
hours. The practice did very well financially, but over worked its staff,
causing absenteeism to be high and the rest of the staff to work harder to fill
in for those missing in action. I want to support myself, not kill
myself, while over charging the scared animal owner.
Oh well, time to head home the same
way we came. I take one last look around at the dry land and spot a lone
animal on a hill next to a steep rock faced drop. I take my binoculars
off the saddle horn and check to see what kind of animal it is. It’s a
cow separated from the herd, looking for the shortest route to the creek and
water. Izzie and I need to get to her before she decides to take the
shortest route down the rock face. I kick Izzie up to a full
gallop. It takes ten minutes to reach the cow and get a rope around its
neck to lead it down the hill. But she won’t budge. Izzie and I
look around to see why the thirsty animal won’t move. A very dehydrated
calf moos in the brush a few feet away. I pick the calf up, put it across
the saddle, remount and slowly head down to water. I monitor their
drinking, for an hour, too much too quick could make them sick or kill
them. So Izzie and I don’t get back to the barn before lunch.
I call Dad to let him know what I’d
found and where they are so they can be watched. Shortly after my call, I
see Burt, Dad’s foreman, head out in a full water truck with salt blocks toward
the rest of the herd in the area. Burt calls when he returns, saying the
cattle have water and feed and mama and calf are back with the herd safely.
In this heat the predators go for the solitary and weak. The rest
of the herd seems okay, he says. I thank him for tending to them.
Maria called while I was
gone. She’s coming over this afternoon with this week’s receipts so we
can do the books. Maria’s been my friend since Jr. High and is now my
office manager; the only office staff I have, or need. She helps with
surgery and in the kennels with the recovering animals. She’s very good,
even tho’ she’s not formally trained as a Vet’s Assistant.
In school, Maria Gomez and I were
in music then choir and the marching band together. We were studious,
plain girls that every boy in school knew, but never dated. We were busy
with clubs and content without them…’til the Junior Prom, when we weren’t asked
by any of them. Her older brother, Tucker, took me and my cousin, Boyd,
took her. It took a lotta convincing, bribery and parental intervention
to get the guys to do it. But we had fun and were the envy of all the
girls there. Dating college guys was considered “cooler” than being Prom
Queen. We were noticed more after that, but realized we were considered
“worldly” by the guys in school and soon quit dating. To them “worldly”
was synonymous with “easy lay.” We double dated a few times and
usually wound up walking to her house and calling my Mom to come get me.
When I went away to college, Maria
visited me once a month the first year I was away from home, when we’d catch up
with each other’s life. Then things kinda tapered off. She met a
guy, got married and divorced in the next two and half years. She had her
son, Shayne, just after I came home. She’s matured into a pretty woman,
long brown hair, brown eyes and tan skin. I’m a contrast to her with long
dark blonde hair, fair skin, blue eyes, and freckles. She’s taller than I
She stays away from men, for the
most part. She’s afraid she’ll repeat the mistake she made when she
picked her husband. When he found out she was pregnant, he put her in the
hospital. He didn’t want a “kid.” Shay’s almost three, now, but
she’s not over the beating, emotionally. Seems he cheated on her,
too. He’s still in jail for the beating and other, in court, charges, but
is out of their lives permanently. His parental rights were taken away by
the court. He didn’t want to be a father. Now he’s not.
“Knock, knock. Ready to get
to work?” Maria and Shay are coming in the door. “This shouldn’t
take long, there’re about a dozen charges and a dozen more payments to
enter. How’s thing’s goin’? You look like you’ve been eating green
persimmons.” She put Shay on the floor and he goes straight for the toy
box I keep for him.
“I’m just bored. Let’s get
started on the books. Maybe, then we’ll go to town to the ‘Barn’ and
Frosty Freeze for supper, my treat. I’m tired of watchin’ the dust clouds
for faces and animals. You know, like we used to do REAL clouds when we were
kids.” Maria laughs at the sarcasm, since there’s no wind and no dust
clouds to watch, as she takes the bank bag out. I get out the ledgers and
wait for my accounting program to come up my computer. Before we start,
we check to see Shay curled up on the couch, taking a nap.
While she makes the entries in the
clinic’s general ledger, makes out the bank deposit and files the receipts in
the monthly folder, I enter the payments in the accounts ledger on my
computer. It’s simple, but a tried and true bookkeeping system.
Monday at the office we’ll put the floppy in the computer there and make out
statements with the balance of the accounts on them and send them out. We
never put in a monthly payment, just the balance owed. They’ll pay what
they can. The only thing I insist on, or try to, is that they pay for any
medication I give at the time of treatment. That allows me to keep the
office stocked with supplies. The monthly payments, usually, tho’ not
always, pays the monthly bills for the clinic and Maria’s salary. The
clinic barely pays for its self.
It takes about an hour to finish
the books and we go out to the barn to water the horses. Shay loves going
to the barn, he gets to sit on Izzie and go for a ride. He’s big for his
age and looks like Maria. I lead Izzie while Maria holds him on. He
loves kissing Izzie on the nose and giggles when she takes the carrot he gives
her when the ride’s over. We go back to the house to freshen up before we
head into town for supper. We take separate cars because Maria lives in
We sit next to the slide to let
Shay play before we eat. Everyone in town seems to be eating out tonight,
probably because it’s too hot to cook at home. We’re waving at and
chatting with them though our meal, keeping us longer than usual. Shay’s
about to fall asleep in his burger, but he’s ready for an ice cream cone at
Frosty Freeze when we leave. At Frosty Freeze we see the rest of the
town, those that weren’t at the Burger Barn.
As we’re leaving, after our ice
cream, two of our illustrious firemen hold the door for us as they’re coming
in. As we’re coming out the door, Shay grabs one of the guys’ badges and
won’t let go. The guy reaches for Shay who jumps for him, so we’re stuck
talking to them for a while. When they introduce themselves, Steve and
Bob say they’re on duty at the fire station. Bob seems to be enjoying
Shay and Shay’s certainly enjoying Bob’s attention. As firemen on duty,
they need to pick up their order and get back to the station, a fellow fireman
is covering for them. Maria pries Shay off Bob, to get him home for his
bedtime. Maria apologizes for Shay’s actions and we say goodnight.
Maria calls after Shay’s in
bed. “I can’t believe Shay was so bold tonight. He’s never gone to
a stranger before. I’d say the shiny badge caught his eye, but he’s past
playin’ with my jewelry and shiny things, so I’m surprised he acted that way.”
“Maybe it was the size, or
color. I don’t know much about children and what catches their eye.
Shay’s the only little one I’ve been around. I didn’t even babysit
in my teens except when I visited you when you babysat.” Being an only
child limited my experiences with children, except when I was a child.
“What I know, I know from random conversations and watching you and Shay.”
“Sher, don’t you want to get
married and have kids? I know we never pretended to be brides or mothers,
like most girls, but don’t you, at least, want to be a wife?”
“You know I was engaged my last
year in college, ‘til I found him in bed with a nursin’ student…another
man. Since I’ve been home I haven’t had much time to date.”
“I know finding him that way was
awful. But I didn’t expect what happened when I got married,
either. So many men show a woman a false self to lure a woman in.
We shouldn’t be taken in so easily next time.”
“Shouldn’t, but I don’t know.
We weren’t good enough for the guys in school and now I’m biased against
the men around here.” Maria agrees, but adds the boys we knew then have
matured and may be different. I agree to the possibility, but add “They
haven’t shown any sign of changing, or wantin’ us for anything, other than
polite conversation.” We have church tomorrow, so we call it a night.
Church is the usual fire and
brimstone against sin. At the end of the service, the minister announces
the volunteer fire department is having a barbecue at the station to raise
money for equipment. Mom and Dad usually have Sunday dinner with the
other empty nesters, but everyone in town’s going to the barbecue. The
firemen and their families have prepared the side dishes and meat and donated
them. A few of the ranchers’ have donated beef and pork ribs and a few
chickens. The hardware store loaned them awnings and patio umbrellas so
everyone can sit in the shade. It makes a difference to the diners since
today’s over a hundred degrees.