Ruthie West

Posted by Allison Smith

A northern wind bathed my bare body in dust. Grass bent over to rub my cheeks red. Bumpy is already trotting in slow circles, creating patterns in the grass. We are both awake before dew could cover the field. I watch the sun rise in the east. I get dressed, tucking my jeans into my boots. Before kicking apart the campfire, I crush the burnt wood in my fingers and rub the ash under my eyes. I ride Bumpy down the mountain, carrying nothing with us from our campsite, towards the west. Bumpy and I slowly enter the nearest town when the sun is facing us head on. I fix my large clothes, trying to flatten my chest. I tip my hat lower over my eyes. I tie Bumpy to a post then enter the nearest saloon. A girl grabs my arm when I walk in. I shove her off roughly. She stays submissively on the floor where she fell. I don't feel sorry for her. She should lift her head. She should stand up. She should find another man to bother. I leave her and sit at the bar. My head nods towards the drink I want. At a corner table, I watch three men playing cards. One man I recognize from seeing his face on a "wanted" poster in a different town. He is Clay Allison. Allison is known to be a ruthless killer and skilled gunman, but sitting at the table playing cards, his face seemed soft and tired. I should not have recognized him. There at the table he seems an honest man playing cards and drinking whisky. The honest man playing cards and drinking whisky casually throws a knife down onto the table. A card being picked up is now stuck to the table under the blade. I look down into my drink. The three men playing cards are now all standing and yelling with rocky voices. One man has been cheating. No he has not. Yes he has. Is he calling him a liar? Well, he ain't calling him an honest man. He doesn't play with no cheaters. He does not treat cheaters kindly. Allison pulls his knife out of the table. The second man draws his gun. The third man backs away slowly. Everyone in the saloon pretends not to pay attention, but puts one hand on their own concealed weapon under the table. I put a hand on my own gun. It was my mother's. She doesn't need it anymore. I tuck my chin into my chest. My nose dips into my drink. My hat covers my face. Someone pulls a trigger and then I am exposed. My hat flips of and a bell rings in my ear. I shake my short hair out and look around for my hat. I stand up, pull my shoulders back and hold my breath in my chest, attempting to fill as much space as possible. When I turn around, eyes look at me out of their corners. I tighten my stomach and deepen my throat. I scratch a threat out through my mouth. I point my gun towards the general direction of the three men and focus my eyes at a spot on the wall off of Allison's left shoulder. Allison ducks when I shoot. Allison quickly throws his knife at me but I knock over a table and the knife hits the wood. Allison pulls a gun out of his holster. Another man shoots at Allison. He fires back. Wood flies off the walls. Bottles of alcohol shatter. Everyone has his gun out and each one is smoking. I keep low and crawl across the floor to pick up my hat. I take a deep breath and stand up. I start to run towards the door but Allison grabs my shoulders. We face each other. He is almost twice my height. The muscles in his face are tight and his completion is red. I turn my head away as he examines my features. Allison's expression starts to relax and change. Allison begins to form a smile. Instinctively I shove his chest. He stumbles then runs towards me and shoves my chest, if only to gain confirmation of his realization. I fall backwards out of the saloon. He stands over me. He points his gun down at me. He mumbles under his facial hair something about not wanting to shoot a lady. Allison bends over and pushes the head of the gun into my sternum. He leans in to whisper in my ear. His beard scratches my neck. "But I'll do it if I have to." He croaks. Allison yells at me to get up and start walking. He guides me with his gun in my chest. We go behind the saloon. He puts one hand on my shoulder, squeezes tightly and pushes me down behind a few barrels. I close my eyes and listen to him struggle with holding a gun while taking off his belt. I take deep breaths and close my eyes. I sit on the bed and watch my mother dab more powder on her face. She walks over to me, leans over so I can see down her bustier and powders my face. I roll ripped fishnet stockings up my leg. My mother brushes out the knots in my long hair. I stumble down the stairs. My heel gets stuck in the cracked wood. My mother shoves a finger in my lower back and I stand up straight. Men laugh. My lips mouth "Howdy!" sweetly to my left and right. I smile and kiss the dirty cheek of a drunken cowboy. A red mark is left on his face. Men laugh. A new cowboy walks into the saloon. I wrap my arm around his waist and walk him over to a table. He sits down and orders a drink. I bring him his drink and he slaps my body as I walk away. Men laugh. My mother spits words into my ear and puts a meaty hand in my palm. She wants me to treat this man kindly. Men laugh. I lead him up the broken stairs. I am careful not to trip. Men laugh. I close a door. "Open your eyes." Allison commands me. I stare straight into his. I cannot hear the men laugh. I will not break eye contact with Allison as I do what my mother has told me. After a grunt, Allison shakes his body and pulls up his pants. He punches me in the face so that I fall back into the dirt. I watch Allison walk away. I stand up. I brush the dust off of my body. I tuck my jeans into my boots and button my shirt. Bumpy whinnies when he sees me walking towards him. I untie him. We ride out of the town and up into the mountains. My heart has had no time to slow down. Bumpy and I stop. I leave him eating grass and hike up the hill a little further. I lite a cigarette and watch the sun set in the west.

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