Rachel R. Baum

Rodeo winner

The collar and cuffs of his butternut suede
jacket were so worn, they seemed chewed,
fringes twisted and sparse on the sleeves. He
was a small man, clean shaved, wide legged,
his forehead and sunglasses shadowed by the
tilt of his hat, dusty as his sharp heeled boots,
fists red-knuckled, beer bottle ready.

He had ahold of her long, blonde hair last
night; she had flinched when he spoke, his
voice booming him into height and heft. He
didn’t like that, the way her eyes took
measure of the floorboards, and not him.
When they went into town, his thigh pressed
against hers on the pickup’s bench seat.

She held his arm as they walked, his thumbs
tucked under the tooled leather belt, with its
hubcap of a buckle he won at last year’s Cody
Stampede, first place in saddle bronc, so he
wore it every goddamned day. She had
bragged on him to her friends, but then she
would say stupid shit, and he had to shake the
right words from her throat.

He considered the .22 Colt Woodsman he
used for snakes; it was locked up in the 4 x
4’s metal toolbox, along with the Ruger
Blackhawk he kept for fun. Later, maybe, he
would open the box long enough to get the
Ruger out, fill the yard behind the single wide
with the steady whine and crack of target
practice, then set it, warm from spent ammo
and his hand, on the kitchen table while she
made supper, like it was just another extra