|A calloused hand rubbed over tired eyes and across
cheeks, palm rasping over short stubble. The other rested lightly on
the scuffed steering wheel. Five hundred miles to the next rodeo, and
his head was still in Louisiana, thoughts still in the arms of the girl
he had spent last night with. The sign for food and coffee flashed neon
and he changed lanes. Hand reaching into his pocket for the scrap of
paper he had tucked away.
Dust rose languidly into the air as well worn cowboy boots hit the dirt. The truck door slammed and long legs carried him into the tired truck stop.
“One cup of coffee and a couple of dollars change please”
The motherly woman in the white apron behind the counter filled the white mug with practiced ease, a friendly smile like the hundred others that she had already smiled that day filling a plain face. But this time it touched her eyes. From the curly hair to the battered boots he was a man to smile at. Creased denim jeans and soft cotton shirt, a shiny belt buckle fastened the scraped leather that rested on his hips. Another cowboy, another rodeo rider, she could tell by the way he moved.
“You coming from Baton Rouge?”
“Yes Ma’am” he rested his hands around the mug gulping down the hot liquid.
Another yes and his eyes began casting around the room, “is there a phone here”
“Out in the lobby son”
“Thank you” the empty mug pushed back on the table, long legs taking him outside.
“Hello can you put me through to Baton Rouge”
“Joe” a little breath as she spoke his name and he let out the same breath he had been holding.
“Aye the same”
“Where are you?”
“Some truck stop with no name…”
“Oh” another sigh of an exhale “will that rodeo be bringing you on back to Louisiana soon then Joe?”
A hesitation and then a soft answer “maybe not the roping and riding Samantha but I’ll be finding my way back soon enough”
“I would like that”
A slow smile that she could not see, even as his hands fumbled with paper and tobacco, she heard the match flare and the draw of breath as he inhaled sweet smoke.
“I best be going now”
“I’ll call you again….soon”
Slow walk back to the truck and then on the highway again, stopping every hundred miles to call Baton Rouge.