- The air was smoky in the dance hall situated out on the little desert highway in west Texas. Actually, it wasn’t a dance hall at all, but an auction barn used by local ranchers, and sometimes used for science fairs, and such. On selected nights, the locals would come as far as seventy-five miles to attend the festivities, bringing their own bottle, and girl to dance and get drunk. It was said that Willie Nelson had once played here; and even gotten drunk here just like everyone else before he was Willie Nelson. This wasn’t like a “club” in the larger towns. There were more fights, but then the boys would just dust off and go back in to drink more Lone Star Beer, and dance with the very girl they were fighting over in the first place. The main lure of the hall was the fact that it was out in the “back” and there was really no scrutiny over I. D. or age limits. Anyone could come, and so long as they didn’t pull a gun no questions were asked, no arrests were made. Girls became women; cowboys became movie stars at the S. P. J. S. T!
The building was just a big huge metal building. The floor had been used for everything from “socials” to auctions. There were long cafeteria-style tables running the length and width of it, and just barely enough room to squeeze onto the improvised dance floor. The band was always too loud and badly mixed, but the crowd could hear the beat and that was all that was needed to two-step. The walls were lined with the trappings of whatever event the preceding week had held. All sorts of bottles and paper bags were on the tables. The people all brought their own “set-ups” and made their drinks right there at the table.
It was not that June didn’t want to be here, she did! In west Texas this was about the most “happening” place one could find, but because her mother brought her she had to be slightly less than content. How could anything be cool if your mother brought you? No sixteen-year-old girl would be happy on a date with her mother. Her stepfather, Ray would have been with them, but he’d stayed home this particular night because of a persistent pain in his chest he attributed to the construction trade. He nailed shingles, and did dry wall work. He actually held a master plumbing license, but he would take
any work he could find to support his family. He’d had these pains for a couple of years and was sure it was some kind of “sore muscle.” June’s mother, Barbara, was happy to sit at the table and watch. June was “hyper” enough for both of them. Always running out of time, always having to “do it now!” Even though she’d started the evening by not really wanting to be here, she fell very quickly into a mode of dance, and beer that the S.P.J.S.T. had plenty of.
While she was sitting at her table, she noticed a young man “eyeing” her from the far corner of the room. Funny about the eyes; there is a definite soul contact when you look into someone’s eyes. There is a surge, even if you really don’t like the person, and June was sure she wouldn’t like this guy. He was all decked out in his “cowboy” clothes. “He wouldn’t make a scab on my daddy’s butt,” she laughed to herself as she watched him stroke his mustache because he thought it appeared “cool” to do so. Still, she had the need to know if she could pull him in. She looked right at him, her clear blue eyes piercing his until he picked up his beer and walked over. He had his left thumb tucked in behind his “rodeo” belt buckle. “Give me a break,” June thought. Still she smiled.
“You here with anyone?”
“My mom.” How uncool! How uncool! She
thought. She looked over her shoulder at her mother who was trying to pretend she didn’t notice the exchange.
He was dressed for a night out on the town. He had his Resistol cowboy hat, his Garth Brooks style shirt and brand-new “501” jeans. The Justin Ropers on his feet were almost mandatory. About the only thing that was really functional for a real cowboy would be the boots, and maybe the hat. The belt had a rodeo buckle that should have been won and not bought. You could no more buy a rodeo buckle than you could buy a purple heart, or a medal of honor. To be sure, there were real cowboys at the hall that night, but they were not dressed as well, and were more into the beer and the dance than flitting around displaying themselves like a proud peacock at the zoo. To this young man the western wear was more of a “theme” than a necessity. If he were in New York, he’d have been in a suit with equal ease.
“Nah, why don’t you go get your beer and sit with us?”
June wasn’t much of a dancer. She knew a few steps, but she never really got into it. She preferred the edge of the crowd at the hall, and not the center of the dance floor. This ran contrary to her basic personality, which was gregarious by nature.
He wasn’t about to say no to the invitation to sit, but he hesitated for a moment. Then he said, “Sure, gimme a minute.” He walked back over to the other side of the room and picked up a twelve pack of beer that he’d been nursing for about an hour, and returned to June’s side of the room. He moved in behind the long “cafeteria” table and sat beside June.
“You come here much?”
“Nah,” she reached for one of his beers, “only when mom wants to.”
The boy looked over at June’s mother and touched his cowboy hat. She had the obvious look of an older woman trying to fit in, and smiled back at him. Her hair was tired, as were her eyes, and her face was bloated, and sagged with age. She had long ago lost the weight battle, but her choice of jeans proved she was in serious denial. June twisted open a beer, and put it to her lips. It was room temperature, but that didn’t matter. In west Texas, room temperature could be cool. It was relative. She never liked beer anyway,
but she needed to sip it for effect. She sat it on the table and let it sit there a moment, watching his eyes, and then took another swallow. Swallowing hard, she sat still for a moment, then stretching up her back she let out a low, slow belch.
“Oh, God, I’m sorry. Don’t know why I drink this stuff. I don’t like it.”
The cowboy took the opportunity, “Hey, not bad manners, just good beer. Anyway, I got something else in the truck that won’t make you belch,” he whispered.
She cut her eyes to her mom, “Tell her you gotta go to the toilet,” he whispered.
She smiled slyly, “Rock and roll.”
“Yeah. I got a blue truck, in back,” he motioned with his eyes.
He got up and made as if he needed to leave. June’s mother assumed he was going to relieve himself because he left the beer on the table. June gave it a minute or two and told her mother, “Hey, I gotta go… you know.”
“Ok, don’t get lost, ok?”
She got up and eased through the crowd toward the ladies room. As she neared it, she became lost in the crowd so that her mother could not see where she was heading. Then, a little right instead of a left, and she was outside in the parking lot. The night air was warm. Texas warm. Night air in the summer is not cool in Texas, but almost hot! The steamy air had bugs floating all in it, and she could pick up the distant, and not so distant odors drifting aimlessly through the air. Around the corner of the tin building, she heard a real cowboy throwing up. She felt the excitement build. She knew what was waiting in the truck, and she wanted it. She wanted it bad enough to go there and let the cowboy think anything he wanted to think. She began to walk around to the rear of the hall. There it was. A blue truck was sitting in the parking lot. It was the kind of truck that a fool like the “cowboy” would have. It had to be a four-wheel drive, even though he never went into the desert, and it simply must have a “crew cab” in the rear, even though he’d never have a “crew” to ride in it. And, since this was the only blue truck with a stupid drugstore cowboy standing beside it, she knew it was the one. She ran across the lot to the truck. He opened the door and she dove in.
“Ok, what ‘cha got?” She rubbed her hands together.
He reached under the seat and brought out the joint she knew was there. “I got the best dope Mexico has to offer, my sweet!”
June eyed the cigarette. Then she licked her lips. Part of the reason was in expectation of the high, and the other, she knew was to excite him and make sure she got the joint.
“Hey, let’s move the truck down by the river, ok? I don’t want anyone to see us.”
“Ok,” he said, realizing that this was most likely a good move on his part. He didn’t want to be caught in the parking lot of the S. P. J. S. T. hall smoking grass, and he wanted June alone, so it all worked out. He was a little nervous about taking his shiny new truck down onto the riverbank, but looking at June he figured it would be worth it. He started the truck and began to ease toward the edge of the lot, then onto the grass, then into the trees. He worked his way down an embankment to a long bridge that traversed the river near the dance hall. June could tell he was not experienced in four wheeling, but she hoped he could smoke dope better than he could drive on a riverbank. Stopping, he backed the pickup back a bit and when he turned off the motor, they could not be seen from the hall.
“Here,” he said as he lit the joint. Blowing onto the lit end of it, he handed her the cigarette. She took it and drew in the smoke; all the way down. Closing her eyes, she let the lung full of dreams take hold. Yes, this was much better than warm beer. This was far beyond that. Her stepfather, Ray, had taught her this trick years ago. She was an old hand at smoking. She was far better than this phony baloney cowboy who only had one joint that most likely Juan Sanchez had rolled for him while he grossly overcharged him for the drug. He made no effort to take the joint from her, but let her smoke all she wanted. She took another draw, embarrassed that she’d been so greedy with it.
“I’m sorry, didn’t mean to be a ‘hawg.” As the drug took effect on her she turned on her best Texas twang that made her even more fetching than she was, if that were possible. Her eyes began to draw into slits, reflecting the thin line of blue. She took another hit from the joint, drawing it deep within her lungs, letting her perfect breasts swell, exciting the cowboy all the more. She leaned back and handed him the smoke.
He took the joint, “Oh, you ain’t no hog, hon, just lonely.” He took the chance to put in that word and turn the conversation toward her feelings, but she was already taking the “ride,” and didn’t care what he said, so long as the joint was lit.
“I’m not lonely, just need excitement. You know what I mean?”
She knew what that statement would do to him, and she wanted it to. She could hear him puff the joint eagerly. She knew a few well-placed words, the promise of love, would make this cowboy bark at the moon. June knew she was beautiful. This was her dance floor. She didn’t need to have everyone glaring at her as she jumped around like a fool, so long as she could hold the undivided attention of one cowboy at a time. She knew what he thought. He thought that if she’d just smoke enough of that dope she’d let him make love to her. Well, that depended upon just how good this joint was! She leaned back against his chest and let him put his hand over her shoulder. He began to work it down. Slowly running across the firm mounds of her breasts. She didn’t resist, and knew the feel of her body was driving him wild. She could actually hear his heart beat faster.
“How ya’ feeling?” His voice was quivering.
She felt her pulse quicken. Within a few short breaths she relaxed and lay back to where she’d really been all of her life. As the cowboy had his way with her she stared at a streetlight in the distance, near the dance hall. She detached herself from her body and, closing her eyes, she ventured out from it, and away to a smoky land that she went often when reality crashed in. Then, she drifted back and when the entire episode was over she lay there with the cowboy panting for a minute, and then she sat up and began to look for her clothes. He reached down on the floorboard and gave the jeans to her. She wondered if this man knew that
he’d just been with an underage girl. It didn’t matter, because such things happened on this riverbank all the time. The real miracle was that they found a place to park at all!
“Hey, my mom’ll be looking for me. I need to get back,” she said between short gulps of air.
She made a last minute adjustment of her belt, and she checked her bra, dodging his parting kiss, quickly opened the door of the truck, scampered up the hill, and was across the lot, and back to the hall. June was laughing to herself thinking about him trying to figure out how to get that shiny new truck back up the embankment to the dance hall. She knew he was no four-wheeler. The cowboy was amazed at how agile she was. He was tired, and out of breath, and truly he didn’t go back into the hall, because he did realize what he’d just done, and he wanted to just get out of there before anything was said to the fat woman he’d seen sitting at the table with June. It would be a long time before he would come back to the hall again.
Once back inside the hall, June went to the rest room, straightened up a bit more, and emerged. Glancing at the clock, she guessed she’d been gone about twenty minutes. When she came back to the table her mother was waiting, “Where you been?”
“Hey, in the bathroom, ok?”
“You were too long in the bathroom. Where’s that boy at?”
June knew she had to admit, but she tried to cushion it by delaying a few moments. Then, “Ok, ok…I went outside with him a minute; just to talk, you know?”
The Butcher Shop