Thanks for the fantastic blog, Chuck!
Stand Off on Memory Lane
Rex Barton twirled his lasso and stamped down the wide hallway. The lights were out, but he managed to dodge Martha Mae’s wheelchair without seeing it. She parked the thing in the same spot every night. He zigzagged through the medical equipment outside old Hilbert’s door and marched on, swirling the rope and making a bee-line for the kitchens.
Halfway there a door creaked open. Rex stopped and the rope fell limp. He squinted at the wall and waited for the sound. It came again, this time accompanied by a sliver of light. Myra Thomas’ faced showed in her doorway. Her curlers glinted and cast a medusa shadow into the hall.
“Hey, cowboy,” she said. “Where you headed?”
“Got me the munchies.” Rex shuffled his feet, flicked the lasso against the tiles. “It’s high noon. Stagecoach is late, and my gut’s rubbing against my backbone.”
Myra sniffed at the air like a hound and nodded. She waved a withered hand at him. “Wait a second.”
Her door shut. Rex stared at it. His stomach growled. He started the rope again, round and round until it lifted at his side. Something tinkled inside Myra’s room. The door opened and shut so fast Rex barely caught her silhouette. They stood in the dark, silent a moment, understanding without words. When he started off again, she followed and the tinkling came with her.
“What’s that sound?” They’d wake the sheriff with that racket.
“Tarnation, woman! What are you wearing?” The tinkle exploded. A waterfall of metal jingles answered him. Rex cringed.
“Bellydance,” Myra’s voice shone in the dark as brightly as her metal girdle. “Forty years.”
“I’ll be damned.”
“I got the munchies too, Rex Barton. Don’t you even think about sending me back."
“Fine. But keep that thing to a dull roar, can’t you? Tiptoe or some damn thing. You’ll wake the whole town at that rate.”
She didn’t promise anything, but when he stepped off again the jingle softened to whisper. They passed the front hallway, his lasso swirling and the old coins flashing around her sixty-seven-year-old hips. They took a left and Rex caught the whiff of leftovers.
They’d served lasagna for diner, and the aroma of parmesan and tomato didn’t die easily. He stopped and breathed it in.
“Quiet, woman!” He hissed it.
Tinke. Jingle. Jingle.
“What’s wrong with you? You’re gonna wake the sheriff!”
Jingle. “There’s a,” tinkle, tinkle, “spider in my slipper!”
“Well kick it off and stop wriggling.”
He heard her trying. The belt rattled noisily and then burst into a frenzy of music. Myra shimmied, swayed, and shook, dancing the invader out of her footwear.
Jingle. Jingle. Jingle.
Light flared in the hall. Rex’s lasso stopped spinning. A voice called from behind them, from the front desk, “Who’s there? Is someone out of bed?”
“Run, Myra!” Rex whispered as fiercely as he could muster and galloped for the kitchen. He high-tailed it to the next turn and skidded round the bend, risking a glance backwards as her made the corner. Myra flashed like a fish. Her belt rattled and came free, dropping to the floor as she waddled toward freedom.
Behind her, the front desk crew appeared. Two young sheriffs with something to prove. Poor Myra. Rex could smell the lasagna, thick and meaty, only one short hallway out of reach. The guards came on. They’d have her in three steps. Both of them fixed their attention on her. They hadn’t even noticed Rex’s flight toward the kitchens. Her flashy belt had hid his escape.
He inhaled and imagined the cheese.
“Myra Thomas,” one of them called to the other. “It’s the middle of the night, Myra.”
Rex stepped into the open. He flicked his wrist and started the rope again, round and round. “Unhand the woman, sheriff.”
“Barton. I might have known.”
“Let her go.”
“What is it tonight, Rex?” The sheriff sagged and shook his head, but he released Myra too. His partner bent and picked up the metal belt. “Extra pillows? A drink of water?”
“Lasagna.” Rex turned and spit on the tiles. “We got ourselves a hankering for some leftovers.”
“Why can’t you just ask, Barton? There’s a call button right by the—”
“No negotiating now, sheriff. Or we might have to do something desperate.”
“Don’t make me throw this.”
“I’ll take them.” The sheriff sighed and waved his lackey back to the desk where he belonged. He took Myra’s belt first, handed it back to her and marched forward.
Rex grinned and swung the rope. He nodded to Myra and watched her wind the fish scales back around her hips while the sheriff passed them, leading the way toward the kitchens and their late-night lasagna. When her belt was secured, Myra flashed him an even shinier smile.
“After you ma’am.”
“You showed him, Rex Barton.” Her eyebrows wiggled at him, dancing like the belt had.
Tomorrow night, he should work alone. Or maybe, he’d remember to wear his hat and boots. The snakeskin ones hurt his bunions, but it might be worth it. Unless they served meatloaf. He wound the lasso into a roll again before joining Myra in the sheriff’s wake. He could worry about it later. Right now, he had a date with some leftovers.
Still, Myra waited for him, even with the smell coming from the kitchen. Rex herded her forward, but he did it with a grin and a new spring in his steps. “Did I ever tell ya, Myra, about the time I rustled that devil bull…”