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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Romance/Love · #2261743
A blouse snagged on his barbed wire fence leads a shy rancher to make a bold move.
There was a threat of snow in the air, and Shelton Morris needed to get barbed wire strung across this last stretch before it came. He grunted and strained at the handles of the post-hole digger to drive the final hole in the frozen ground.

“Wish I’d had the nerve to ask Mary to the dance last week,” he mumbled as he worked. He’d always been something of a loner, hadn’t dated much in school. Then his folks had died and coping with that and running the ranch had left little time and energy for romance.

Setting the digger aside and grabbing a post, he cursed the howling winds that blew frigid air, prairie dust, and tumbleweed across the open ground, and wished for the warmth of Mary’s smile. He rammed the post into the hole and tamped it into place. Finally, he grabbed the axe, notched the uprights and installed the cross-brace.

He threw the tools onto the back of his pickup and began driving slowly along to string out the wire, which was on a spool at the tailgate. At the far end, he cut the wire, stretched it tight, and tied it off.

He turned the truck to repeat the process for the next strand. As he was driving, he noted a scrap of fabric, a bright pink cloth, fluttering on the wire he’d just run. He stopped the truck and got out to free it. It was the remains of a woman’s blouse. A tag on the back by the collar read, “Mary Salmandy, Grostown”. He looked thoughtfully upwind. The shredded shirt had sailed over fifteen miles, somehow escaping every tree and bush on the way, before snagging on his fence. Had wishing for Mary somehow brought it to him?

He thought of his ranch house. By now, the place would be cool, empty and unwelcoming. Rubbing the pink fabric against his cold cheek, he thought of Mary’s bright smile, swirl of blonde hair, and slender figure. She seemed to like him well enough. He’d thought many times how nice she was, and how much he’d love to have her with him on the ranch, but he’d always been too shy to even ask her to a dance. “But I wish,” he thought, “I wish....”

He carefully set the shirt on the passenger seat of the truck, and went back to stringing fence. With every staple he drove, the hammer echoed, “I wish. I wish.” A trip to town, he decided, was in order after he finished work.

As he drove, the long-promised snow arrived. Street lights with glowing halos welcomed him to Grostown. Mary was still at her craft store, and let him in when he buzzed at the entrance.

“Shel, what a nice surprise! Come in.” She closed the door on the howling cold.

“Thanks, Mary. Been out fencing all day and I’m chilled to the bone. Oh, here, I brought you this.” He tugged the pink shirt out of his jacket where he’d tucked it.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake! I wondered where that had got to. It disappeared from the clothesline a few days ago. Oh! It’s all torn up. Well, it will still make a good rag.”

“Sorry ‘bout that, Mary. I found it snagged on my fence. There’s probably a few pink threads on every tree between here and my spread.”

“Well, it was kind of you to bring it back, at any rate. Shel, I was just closing up here, ready to head home.”

“Oh. Sorry. Didn’t mean to delay you.” He turned to leave, but paused. I wish, he thought. I wish. He took a deep breath. “Uh, say, Mary, I’ve been thinking. Maybe we could, you know, go have dinner some place?”

“Great idea! Sure, let’s do that. But you’re cold and tired, so why don’t you come to my place first. You can warm up with hot coffee and a shower, then we’ll grab a bite. Maybe go back to my place to watch a video afterwards. We can bundle under a quilt with some drinks and popcorn. How does that sound?”

“Wonderful. But, but...the neighbors. They’ll think....” He knew he was blushing and gaping like a fool, for she laughed aloud.

“I’m asking you over for a movie, silly, not to stay the night. Though down the road, who knows? Now, come on.”

She shooed him out, locked the door, and headed for her car. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled at him, then made a little “come on” gesture with her fingers. Her figure vanished into the growing darkness and drifting snow.

Well, I’ll be darned. He closed his mouth, gulped, and followed. Maybe wishes do come true.

(780 Words)
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