Some races we never forget.
|Casey flew toward the barrel at the far end of the arena, long hair streaming behind her, the color of a blazing Texas sunrise. Even at quarter-horse speed, she had no trouble spotting Wade in the crowd, standing, mouth open, waving his black felt hat, wide brim and crown already marked with the caked-on dust and muddy smudges of a hundred round-ups, and he was barely out of his teens. She dug her spurs lightly into Spitfire, who didn’t need much to jolt into a higher gear in their race against the clock. They careened around the barrel in a furious blast of flying dirt, rocketed up the backstretch, and blasted past the finish line. The announcer screamed, “A new arena barrel-race record!”
As Casey reined in Spitfire, Wade was already there, still waving his hat and bellowing like a branded Longhorn. He pulled her off the saddle, spun her around like the loop end of a lariat, and shouted, “Babe, you are a rodeo STAR!”
Casey circled in the air, Wade’s hands gripping her waist, never letting go. Then pieces of his image began to fade in front of her, slowly. First, the hair curled above his ears, then his eyes the color of a prairie sky, then his cheeks dappled with freckles. His grin remained, stubborn, before disappearing at last beneath the final glimpse of him, his dusty black hat.
Casey awoke with a start. Instinctively, she reached a hand stamped with the brown brands of ninety summer suns, to the other side of the bed, where the blanket lay flat. She smiled, folds of skin wrinkling around her eyes. Moonlight streamed through the window. She gazed up at the bedpost topped by Wade’s black hat, crown circled with a garland of flowers still fresh from yesterday’s funeral.
(Word count: 300)