Chapter Five

goes on

& on


...In response, her tongue reached way back into his mouth and her hand steadied his chin.  The kiss lasted a little longer than it should have.

     Slim leaned back expansively and grinned.  His confession had cleared the air, at least for him, and he obviously felt better for it.  "Now describe heaven to me," he said.  "Describe for me the great bunk-house in the sky."

     Ruthie's eyes got smokey.  "Well, the inside of a bunk-house is the inside of a bunk-house.  There's not much to describe.  There were twelve, or thirteen, or so bunks in there.  They were all empty but two.  On one back in the corner, St. Peter was sleeping."

     "How do you know it was St. Peter?"

     "'Cause El Vaquero, my cloud cowboy, told me so.  He was resting on the other bunk that wasn't empty, the bunk I banged my head up against when I sailed in through the door."  Ruthie folded her arms on the table.  And smiled.

     Slim laughed.  "Was El Vaquero misty?"

     "No.  Kind of boney."

     "You mean he was a living skeleton?"

     "Not that boney."

     "How about St. Peter?"

     "What about him?"

     "Was he boney too?"

     "I don't know.  He just snored away in the back corner."

     "How do you know El Vaquero was boney?  Was he naked?"

     "Don't be stupid," cutely grimaced Ruthie.  "He was lying on his bunk with his boots off.  His hat was still on his head, pushed down low over his eyes.  And he had his clothes on.  He and Pete were pretty tired.  They'd been out working the herds."


     "No.  Souls."  Ruthie ran her fingers through the pretty hair that flowed down the back of her head.  "Actually, I was the one who was naked.  That's why El Vaquero threw a blanket over me.  And we talked."


     "Yes.  We talked.  And he made me a cup of coffee."


     "Yes.  Coffee!"

     "Coffee?" said the waitress, who happened to be passing by with a fresh pot in her hand.  She refilled their cups and was gone.

     "So what did you two talk about?" said Slim.

     "What it takes to be a good saloon girl," said Ruthie.



     "What's it take?  According to your cloud cowboy in the great bunkhouse in the sky?"

     Ruthie smiled.  "Lots of grace from God."

     "Hmmm," mused Slim.  "Doesn't it take pretty legs too?"

     "Not," said Ruthie, "According to gallant El Vaquero."

     Something between a smirk and a grimace appeared upon Slim's face, an expression that advertised a need for gentle consolation, figured the road princess.  So she grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him over the table and, with careful aim, smoothly planted a smack of heavenly love upon his lips.

     Meanwhile ~

     The waitress showed up.  Balanced upon her arm was a pile of plates and bowls a-steam with good greasy grub.  She announced to the preoccupied road princess, "Bronc Buster Special, sweet-heart."

     The Road Princess and Slim Chance, their lips anyway, parted company.  As they both leaned back, a string of saliva stretched over the table between them, grew taunt like a tightrope and snapped.

     The waitress set down the food and left.

     "Mmmmmmmm," euphorically pronounced Ruthie.  She dug in.  Everything a breakfast could be beckoned below her beautiful chin, down which, incidently, a bit more saliva trickled.  It had been a long long time since she had had a real meal!

     "I don't think you really went to heaven, Ruthie.  I think you were just dreaming," said Slim ~ finally ~ after having watched this road lassie inhale half a chicken-fried steak, four biscuits covered with country gravy, half a stack of toast and three eggs ~ easy-over.  Not to mention the mountain of hash-browns she was mining through.  She hadn't yet touched the pancakes ~ nor the two peach-halves in a small bowl.

     With a chunk of greasy grub in her cheek, Ruthie looked up at Slim and thoughtfully chewed.  She gulped.  And said, "It doesn't matter what you think.  It's silly to even talk about it.  I know what I know.  We don't have to talk about it."

     She buttered-up a pancake, poured syrup over it, sliced into it and half of it dispersed down her throat.

     "More coffee?"  The waitress.

     "Yes, please."  Ruthie Root Beer.

     "Me too?"  Slim Chance, alias Eternity.

     Poof!  Once again the waitress disappeared.

     "But let's talk about it anyway,"  said Slim.  "What makes you so sure you went to heaven?"

     Ruthie finished off the pancake, the steak, and the hashbrowns.  Spread some butter, poured some syrup ~ over her next pancake.  She sipped her coffee and didn't answer the question.  "Are you sure you didn't get a haircut since I last layed eyes on you, Eternity?"

     "Slim.  My name is Slim."


     "The last time I got a haircut was six months ago."  Slim lifted his coffee cup ~ and set it down.  "Why?"

     Ruthie did a considerable amount of chewing and said, "'Cause when I last saw you, I swear, your hair was so long that, that, that it was brushing your boot heels."

     Gleefully did Slim guffaw.  "Look, Road Princess.  When I met you on that road, you were definitely seeing things.  Believe me.  It's true.  Too much sun can do funny things to a person's brain."

     "But I went to heaven," said Ruthie.  She was sitting up straight ~ cocker spaniel style ~ motionless, eyes point-blank tunneling  through Slim.  Then she burped ~ a horrendous burp that blasted her breakfast's aroma into his face ~ one giant belch ~ as if she were a relief valve to the sewer that drains God's kingdom above.  "Oh, excuse me," said Ruthie.  She wiped with a napkin her delectable lips and continued to eat.

     "What makes you so sure you weren't just dreaming?" said Slim with a wrinkled nose.

     "If the girl says she went to heaven, leave it alone, son," drawled a deep voice.  The Road Princess and Slim Chance both simultaneously looked up.  Lo' and behold, the County Sheriff was standing at their table, one tall muscular feller fine tuned with age and violence, and with that special shiny glint pinned to his khaki shirt.  He was looking at Slim.  "Just be thankful she was with you when it happened," said the lawman.

     He strode off, but backtracked, and with the long barrel of the shotgun that happened to be in his hand leveled at Slim's nose, he added, "And don't even think about robbing the bank in this town."

     The Yavapai County Sheriff, whose name, according to the name tag on the other side of his shirt, was Blaines, then disappeared out the back of the cafe.

     "Quite a guy," said Slim.  The outlaw was quite cool despite just having had a shotgun pointed at his head.  "I'm lucky he didn't arrest me ~ or kill me.  I wonder how he knew what I was thinking?"

     "He probably read it all over your face," said Ruthie ~ with one last chunk in her cheek.

     Slim shrugged.

     Ruthie gulped.  "It was the light."


     "It was the light."

     "What do you mean, 'it was the light'?  What are you talking about?"

     "The light that was shining through the bunk-house window.  It was ~ "  Ruthie's eyes became two stained-glass windows in a church as she said, "It was so heavenly."

     "Oh God," moaned Slim.  "Do you mean to say the light shining through the bunk-house window was what made you so sure you were ~ "  Slim rolled his eyes ceiling-ward.  "There?"

     Ruthie nodded.  And she sipped some coffee.

     So did Slim.  "Well, let's not talk about it.  You know what you know.  Let's leave it at that."

     Ruthie leaned over the table like it was the gulf, the valley, the Red Sea, and like she was the breath of God, and said, "Let's not."

     Slim flinched.  "Ah c'mon, Ruth.  Let's leave it alone."

     "Let's not," said Ruth.  She leaned back and bounced up and down in her chair like a little girl.  "I wanna talk about it!"

     Slim winced...


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