by Francine Witte

Sit on the chair, I tell him. I ain't no horse and you ain't gonna ride me.

I look at his big, twinkly, blue eyes. He fires up a smoke. Me, I'm allergic. Maybe I can learn not to breathe.

I look around this still-strange, tiny shack of a place, his place. Lots of flat surfaces made of deep-grained wood. Lots of ringey, ropey places to get lassoed by, if you know what I mean. I'm scared cause, you know, I used to be a smart girl.

That's before I forgot everything. How to walk and talk by myself. How to sing. Casualty of marriage, Flo once called it. I hate her now and I was glad when she went back to New Jersey where I had originally left her. Where I left my long-ago life.

With Flo visiting here and calling me stuff like marriage casualty, I couldn't be myself. I couldn't meet no big hat, Stetson man with all sorts of new ideas like Cowboy.

Cowboy swore that he wasn't after the money. That was the first night. I know different now. That's 15 large I can put into my memory box.

I tell him sit on the chair. I figure 15 large and if he was a horse he'd be a pretty damn good one and so why can't I own a man if I bought and paid for him?

At first, when it was new, Cowboy would tell me everything. Then he stopped. Pretty soon there were things he wouldn't tell me.

The first girl was 16. She comes to the back window one night knocking like a Texas wildfire. Her eyes were ringed with mascara and she looked like a human raccoon. So many things that girl has to learn about men, I thought. I brought her inside and made her tea.

Cowboy has this rope made out of words. Eases it around you so slow and so fine. For me it was "beautiful" and "young" and, oh yeah, "sexy." That last one tightened clean against my throat.

Cowboy's sitting in that chair right now, looking me up and down, so superior, so disgusted with my rich-wife, left-a-husband-in-tears, used-to-be-life, that he ground into hamburger.

I could say no, I am thinking. After all, I know why he's asking for money this time. He's got a kid now over in San Angelo and he's backed up on payments. I think it was that 16 year old's. Or maybe the one after her.

Sit in that chair, I tell him. If I was to give you this money, you understand it means I own you. It means those long, wandering Texas legs of yours run where I tell them to. That if you accept this money, you are nothing but a horse I own, and if there's any roping and ringing to be done around here, I'm the one who does it. Do you understand?

Cowboy shoots a puff of smoke into the air.



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