A rewrite of an earlier story
|Edit of an erarlier item. I cut out a lot of the technical details of stringing barbed wire fencing--which is probably of little interest to female readers; at the suggestion of beta readers here on WdC, I made Mary less aggressive and extended the ending.
REVISION: WISHES ON THE WIND
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.
"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 after being turned down by a girl he'd asked out. Hadn't dated much after school, either. Then his folks died, and coping with that and running the ranch had taken all his time and energy.
Setting the digger aside and grabbing a post, he cursed the howling winds that blew frigid air, prairie dust, and tumbleweed across the open field, and wished for the warmth of Mary's smile. He set the final post and installed the cross-brace.
He threw the tools onto the back of his pickup and drove along the line of posts, spooling out the wire. At the far end, he attached the wire, then turned the truck to repeat the process for the next strand.
As he was driving back, he noted a scrap bright pink cloth fluttering on the wire he'd just run. He stopped the truck and got out to free it. It had once been a woman's blouse. A tag on the back by the collar read, "Mary Salmandy, Grostown". He looked upwind, considering. 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 tucked the pink cloth inside his coat, and went back to stringing fence. With every staple he drove, the hammer sang, "I wish. I wish." As he drove the final staple home, he decided to visit town.
At Main Street, the threatened snow arrived, pelting his windshield and blurring his view. Street lights with frosty halos guided him into town. Twice he almost turned around and drove home, but somehow he found himself parked behind Mary's craft store. Her car was there, which meant she was still at work.
His boots crunched through the fresh snow with the sound of "I wish" on each step. He raised his hand to rap on the rear door, then paused with sudden doubt. He was about to turn away when Mary opened the door.
"Shel, what a nice surprise! I heard you drive up. Come in."
"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.
"I wondered where that had gone! It disappeared from the clothesline a few days ago. Looks a bit torn up." She held it to her face, echoing his earlier gesture. "You kept it nice and warm, anyway!"
"Sorry 'bout its condition, 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! I've been hoping you'd ask. But you're cold and tired, so why don't you come to my place for supper? Nothing fancy, just an omelet and toast. Afterwards, we can bundle under a quilt with some popcorn and watch a video. How does that sound?"
"I, I, I...." He knew he was blushing and gaping like a fool, for she laughed aloud.
"Shel, you need to spend more time in civilization!"
She shooed him out, locked the door, and headed for her car. He saw her wave a "come on" gesture before her figure vanished into the growing darkness and drifting snow.
I'll be darned. Shel closed his mouth, gulped, and followed. Maybe wind-blown wishes do come true.