Josie’s answer to the Challenge

 

 

 

 

FINDERS, WEEPERS

 

 

 

It was a dark and stormy night.  The wind snorted like the breath of a dragon behind the ornate coach as the lightning bolts crackled through the sky.  They intended to be in Tucson before nightfall but took several wrong turns in the desert expanse with its repetitive scenery and lack of landmarks.  The accompanying bodyguards riding Arabian steeds, two in front and two in back, were fierce protectors but worthless navigators.  The driver sawed back and forth on the reins to keep the frightened horses in check. 

 

As the small cavalcade wildly charged down the deserted town street, the fury of the storm caught up and the rain pelted down. With a creaks of defeat, several spokes on the left rear wheel snapped as the driver pulled up at the hotel.   The coach tilted and dumped the large wardrobe trunk into the mud.  The driver quickly assisted the passengers into the hotel.  One woman slipped in the mud, dropping a purple glove which lay unnoticed in the wet darkness.

 

********************

 

No signs of the stormy night were left; the heat was certainly as oppressive as usual and the ride just as dusty.  Buck and Manolito pulled into Tucson in the buckboard when the sun was high overhead.  “I’ll drop off the order at the mercantile. Then, we can cool our heels with a drink while the supplies get thrown together,” Buck announced as he stopped the team.

 

“You read my mind, amigo.”  Mano’s voice was muffled through the hat covering his face to block out the sun.

 

“Well, mebbe.  Was you thinking in Spanish or English?”

 

“A man’s thirst needs no translation.”

 

With a laugh, Buck vaulted from the buckboard and disappeared into the store.  When he emerged, he snatched Mano’s hat off and put it on top of his own.  Mano wasted no time following him down the boardwalk toward the saloon, retrieving his hat in the process.

 

Across the street, a man was struggling to raise a fancy coach up to place a brace underneath to remove a broken wheel.  As soon as he maneuvered in arms reach of the bracing location, he lost his mechanical advantage on the lever.  “Señors, por favor, will you help?” Tomas, the driver, called out.

 

Manolito stopped and looked longingly at the saloon as peals of feminine laughter came from within.  Buck put his arm around his shoulders in easy camaraderie.  “Reckon we should land a hand?”

 

Mano sighed.  “Si.”

 

The task was quickly accomplished.  Buck went around the side of the coach heading for the saloon once more.  He suddenly bent over.  “Well, lookee here, a pretty little glove.”

 

Mano plucked it from his hand and fanned it slowly in front of his nose, giving a voluminous sniff.  “The lady who owns this purple glove smells delectable.”

 

Buck grabbed the glove and held it against his nose.  “I can’t smell nothin’ special.”

 

“Because you are not a connoisseur of a fine woman’s bouquet.”

 

“You’re jest making that up.  The only boo-kay I smell is mebbe wet leather from last night’s gully washer.”

 

“Pardon me, but he is correct about the fine woman,” Tomas said, wiping the sweat from his brow.  “I am the driver for Señorita Panecillo and her duenna.  We arrived last night.  She is traveling to California to marry her novio, her betrothed.  It is said that she is the most beautiful woman in all Mexico.”

 

Buck held out the glove.  “Then you best return this to her.”

 

Mano intercepted it.  “I will graciously return her glove.  Perhaps she will reward me with a kiss, no?”

 

“She’s gonna get married.  She shouldn’t be a-kissin nobody else,” Buck protested.

 

The driver looked around and then moved closer to share his secret.  “Her novio is muy feo.  Her parents arranged the marriage.”

 

“What he mean, muy feo?” Buck asked.  Mano got a romantic gleam in his eye.

 

“He has a face like a pig,” the driver explained with a shrug of his shoulders.

 

“Hey, I found the glove first.  I get to give it to her.”  Buck retrieved the purple prize.

 

“She would not favor a dirty, dusty cowboy, such as you, with a kiss from her luscious lips.”

 

“You ain’t so squeaky clean yourself, Mano,” Buck retorted.

 

Simultaneously the same thought struck them.  The bathhouse!  Pushing and jostling each other, they charged to the bathhouse beyond the hotel; all thoughts of thirst quenching libations purged from their minds. 

 

Buck reached the entrance first only to be momentarily thrust back outside by Manolito.  Tom Calhoun, the proprietor of the bathing establishment, sat behind a small desk in the anteroom, polishing a set of diamond studded spurs with a clean diaper cloth.  A large kettle of water steamed on the pot belly stove in the corner.  “I need a bath pronto,” Mano said.

 

“I’ll give you two bits extra if you draw my bath first.”  Buck slapped the coins down on the desk.

 

“Never had a competition over a bath before.  No matter…the tub’s in use right now,” Tom said dryly.

 

Buck eyed the flashy spurs.  “Herb Clinton must be in there.  Why does he need them fancy spurs for riding that desk over at the mine, anyhow?”

 

“I heard that, Buck Cannon.  You’re just jealous.”  Herb’s voice came from behind the locked door amid splashing sounds.

 

“Why’d I be jealous?  I ain’t the one whose big gut looks like he’s nine months pregnant.”

 

Vigorous splashing was heard accompanied by loud swearing and finally followed by the sound of the bath room door bolt sliding back.  Herb, clad only in his long johns, rushed out.   Splotches of dampness showed where he had been in too much of a hurry to dry off totally.  Mano conveniently pushed Buck into his path.  Herb crushed him in a bear hug before they crashed to the floor, rolling and grunting with arms flailing.  Singing li de di de di de di, Mano lifted the kettle of hot water off the stove, carefully carried it into the bath room and slid the bolt across.

 

********************

 

Later, Buck trudged into the hotel lobby and discovered Mano in a chair leaning back against the wall with his hat shielding his face again.  He kicked the chair and threw the hat across the room.

 

“Que pasa?” Mano asked with his eyes still shut.

 

“So is she pretty…the prettiest lady in all Mexico?”

 

“Ai yi yi, I have not seen her.  She is taking her beauty siesta.”  Mano opened his eyes.  “That’s a muy bueno shiner you have, amigo.”

 

“Yeah, no thanks to you.  Jest how was you gonna give her the glove when I still have it?”

 

“I’m sure she’d reward the messenger bearing good news.  Especially one with my obvious charm.”

 

“I’m giving the doggone glove to the driver and then having me some…no, lots of redeye whiskey.”  Buck bounded up the stairs to the guest rooms.

 

“Don’t be hasty, hombre,” Mano pleaded as he followed him.  Catching up, he squeezed past him to block the narrow hallway.  “Por favor, Buck, let me save you the trouble.  I will gladly deliver the glove.”  Then, he felt a tap on his back.

 

“Señorita Panecillo will see you now.”  Tomas opened a door ushering them in with his free hand.

 

Immediately on entering, the Chaparral men’s eyes were drawn to the woman standing in the center of the room.  A sweet aroma redolent of the glove lingered in the air. Behind the amazing beauty, the duenna sat unnoticed with her embroidery.  The older woman paused in her work and directed a critical look, as was her duty, toward the male intruders.

 

Manolito’s admiring gaze traveled over Señorita Panecillo’s luxurious dark hair, delicate facial features and dazzling dress.  Indeed, the loveliest woman in Mexico… perhaps in el mundo!

 

Buck realized he was impolitely staring at the señorita.  He swallowed hard and slowly held out the glove, his mouth too dry to speak.  Mano’s right.  I’m only a dusty cowpoke.

 

Mano smoothly took the glove from his awestruck friend and, with a gallant half bow, presented it to her.  Odd…when I’m so fortunately close to her, her beautiful perfume smells quite different.  He waited for the reward he knew must come.

 

“Oh, Carlita, the other glove from the pair I bought you in Paris has been found!” the señorita exclaimed.

 

The duenna sprang from her chair to claim her missing glove.  Mano began to backpedal.  “Well actually Buck found…” was all he got out before she was close enough for him to see the hairs on her upper lip.  Buck cheerfully cut off his escape by closing the door.  Carlita trapped Mano and pulled him to her, planting one wet sloppy kiss on his left cheek and then one on the right.   His nose twitched as he fought back a sneeze; her abundant use of perfume assaulting his nostrils.  Santa Maria, Madre de Dios!  He squirmed away and flung open the door, Señorita Panecillo forgotten, and raced down the hall.

 

********************

 

“I cannot get that odor off me!” Mano complained as Buck joined him in the saloon.  “She must bathe in the bottle.”

 

“Too bad you left in such a hurry.  The señorita was quite kind.  See this pretty handkerchief she gave me to doctor my eye.  Got her initials sewed in the corner.”  Buck proudly showed the folded cloth to Mano.  “Gonna get new ones with her married name on ‘em.  Dipped it in cool water so as to make my poor eye feel better.  Jest lookin at her made it almost cured.”

 

Mano groaned.  “How could I have been so foolish, compadre?”

 

“Don’t fret over it none.  Most of my life is full of foolish.  Ask Big John, he’ll tell ya.”  The barkeep had poured Buck’s whiskey without being asked.  Buck raised his glass; Mano did likewise.  “To beautiful ladies,” Buck toasted. 

 

“And to the lucky men who marry them,” Mano added with melancholy.

 

They clinked their glasses together and drained them bottoms up.

 

 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

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