Marie Mayhugh is a writer and poet. She received a BA in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is an intern a BkMk Press in Kansas City. She is also a writing tutor at Longview Community College in Kansas City where she engages students with her love for the written word.
An Old Cowboy’s Dirge
Weston and his grandpa with dirty suede skin sat at the DMV. Weston’s eyes darted between his phone and the Now Serving digital system. The clerk behind the counter consistently announced the numbers over the speakerphone.
The old man leaned close to his grandson, who thumbed his phone.
You don’t need no license, the old man said. I got you a quarter horse.
I don’t have a quarter, Weston replied.
His sire’s New Ash.
I told you, I don’t have cash.
Name’s Blue Okie.
The old man removed his hat and poked his grandson with its rim.
Say, you know I can pull my own teeth out, the old man said.
Please don’t, Weston said. He tucked his phone inside his right denim pocket.
Got your attention, the old man said. He snickered and patted Weston on the shoulder.
Weston slid his chair over.
It takes guts for a man to lose his teeth, the old man said, but more courage to wear falsies.
Weston hunched and rested his elbows on his knees. The old man put a cigarette between his lips and patted his fringe-leather jacket for his lighter. The clerk behind the counter called on him to notice the No Smoking sign. He sighed, crumpled the cigarette, and put its remnants in his pocket.
I thought you’d want to be a rugged man like me, the old man said. He lolled in his chair and spread his arms, an eagle’s wingspan, resting each arm on top of seat backs on either side. His shaved head flinched as it rolled back against the icy window.
Outside, a Dodge pickup, with the word Ranger branded on its side, parked. Two officers hurdled out of the truck and strolled into the DMV.
They ain’t Rangers, the old man boasted.
Weston shook his head. You don’t know what you’re talking about, he said.
Sure I do. That’s a truck, the old man said. Those men hold their steering wheel at the ten and two O’clock. Real rangers ride saddleback and steer their horse with reins. They keep fists parallel and thumbs near for best rein control, similar to the way you hold your phone some of the time.
Weston glimpsed at the old man.
If you knew anything about your great-great-granddaddy, the old man said, you’d know he was a real cowboy. Cowboys keep both reins in their lead hand that rests on their lap, but their other hand remains free.
Weston reclined back, pulled his denim jacket’s collar up, and slid his hands inside his pockets. But the old man was just getting warmed up.
You can’t lasso your target or fire your Colt from a car, the old man said, both hands have to be on the wheel. He moaned as if he begun a wail. It takes a man to ride a saddle. Cowboys knew their range and how to ramble the land. Show me any place on a map, and I’ll tell you how many strokes it’ll take to get there. Cowboys don’t need no GP, or whatever you call it, to find your way. We went solo.
That’s GPS, Weston said.
No GPS for me, the old man said, but maybe a girl pretty on her saddle.
Weston sighed. He flicked his floppy hair over his eyes. The clerk behind the counter called number twenty-six.
Maybe, if you walked like me, the old man said, you’d have hard soles. He pointed at his own right thumb. You see there, that’s a nice clean thumb from hitching rides cross-country. He rested his left foot on his right knee and began to tug at his boot. I’ll show you my feet, they’re blistered from travel.
Please don’t, Weston said. He drew his right hand out of his pocket with his phone, and began to single handedly tap it.
The old man fingered at his grandson’s phone. You see there, the old man said, you’re holding your phone in your lead hand, but your other hand remains in your left pocket. It ain’t free.
Weston didn’t respond, but checked the digital number on the board. Only a few people in the waiting area read or remained quiet.
Who you calling? The old man said.
I’m texting, Weston said.
Is she pretty like one?
Hey, did you ever hear from your brother?
Well, how’s he getting along in Florida?
Fine. Weston sighed.
I hear he’s got himself a Lassie from Tallahassee. The old man chuckled.
The old man leaned back in his chair. He put on his hat, lowered its rim, and said, You want to be alone, but you’re just like your own. He slipped his hands inside his pockets.