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Drama Inspirational Western

“There! See it?”

The dozen riders pulled their horses up and followed Jesse’s gaze. The lone building shimmered in the distance.

Jesse said, “The Oasis.”

“Sure it’s not a mirage?”

Andy said, “It’s not Vegas, Jack.” Everyone laughed.

The deep drought affected everyone. Crops failed. Herds of livestock struggled and died. With no harvest to sell, money became scarce. Survival stopped being a theoretical challenge.

There seemed no end to it.

Jesse and his men rode for days in relentless heat. They adapted to travel only in the cooler, morning hours. Their progress slowed. Their supplies depleted. The horses needed water and feed.

Jesse hadn’t told them their purpose. They trusted him to lead them to an unknown destination.

As they rode, more buildings came into view beyond the Oasis.

Pete said, “So, this is it? We detoured for a biker bar? Looks dicey.”

“No one here. Not even bikers…”

Another said, “Hope they’ve got good karaoke…”

“Not if you get the mic…” Everyone laughed.

Jesse said, “Go into town. Get vittles for dinner. I’ll be here.” The others looked at each other. Jesse added, “Need to meet with someone.”

Some nodded. Some shrugged. “Whatever you say, Boss. An hour, more or less?”

Jesse nodded. “An hour should do it.”

He broke off, rode through the empty lot, and pulled up at the hitch. The others continued down the dusty road toward town.

~

Izel sat on a bar side stool, swirling the ice in her highball glass. The air in the Oasis felt like it had never moved. The AC rearranged it but it always smelled stale. She looked at empty tables and chairs. The jukebox had the same tired songs as always. She preferred the occasional moan of the wind.

‘Why do I work here? What am I waiting for? No one this early. Is it me? Lack of money? No one would know if I left. Or care…

She checked her make-up again. ‘Why bother? I could be home.’ She scoffed. ‘Better off here.’

Izel was thirsty beyond what the drought could touch. A different kind of dry, her thirst shriveled the roots of her soul.

Not so long ago, she’d been called a ‘looker.’ Now, she felt more a ‘whatcha’ lookin’ for?’ She felt played out as that dust bowl stretching away, outside the door.

How long since she’d felt any giddy in her giddy-up? She’d lost traction. ‘What’s the quota on how many bad choices one girl can make? Were any good ones even on the menu?’

The door squealed open, flooding the room with light. Stifling hot air swirled the dust.

She shaded her eyes into the stranger’s silhouette.

She said, “You lost…?” No response. “In or out!”

Jesse strode in. The door shut out the light. He let his eyes adjust to the gloom. A beer sign buzzed on the wall over Izel’s shoulder.

She looked him over. Dirty, decent clothes, but not her type. Not her people.

“Bar’s closed. Open in an hour.”

He pulled out a chair and sat facing her at a table.

Izel gestured to the empty room. “You see anyone?”

“You’ll do. Branch water. No ice.”

“Water? This is a bar, stranger. Mix drinks for a living. Expecting service? You act like you own the place.”

“I have an interest in it.”

“Name your poison.”

“I could mix you a drink unlike any you’ve ever tasted. You’d never thirst again.”

She played along. “Never again? No future in that. I live off people’s thirst. Want to put me out of business? Get out…”

Jesse waited. He was serious. “A spring wells up from within.”

Izel shook her head. “Never heard of that. Those would be some potent spirits. I have well drinks. But no fancy, imported hooch here.”

He stood and walked behind the bar. Izel followed on his heels.

She said, “Hey! Whatcha got? Gimmee a taste? Maybe quit this gig...”

His sharp turn made her retreat a few steps.

“Sorry. Don’t mean to get familiar. Got curious.”

“I’ll mix one. Get your husband.”

She looked down. “Not married, right now.”

“Haven’t married the man you’re with. But divorced five others. Least you’re honest.

She balked. “You talkin’ to my neighbors? Writin’ a book?”

“The book is written.”

Izel’s eyes opened wide. “What are you saying? Are you…?”

“Listen... The hour is nigh. Hell, it’s here! ‘Us and them’ no longer cuts it.” He gestured to the bottle lined shelf. “Choose spirits or truth.  These won’t quench your thirst. It all comes to what lives in your heart.”

She tried to regroup. “Granted, this ain’t my first rodeo, Mister. Been ‘round the block more times than I care to... What with wrong turns and dead ends… You know…”

Izel realized she stood with this odd stranger, alone in this empty bar. And at his mercy. He knew everything about her. Yet she felt at ease like never before. His look held her and she felt complete peace. Her thirst had gone.

She said, “Look… my whole life, I got… everyone got told to wait. My whole life… we waited for the… Didn’t know why, or how to… Wait. Are you…?”

“The One. I am.”

The door screeched open and Jesse’s men crowded in.

Pete called out, “Set ‘em up barkeep!”

Izel touched Jesse’s arm. “Be right back.”

His eyes smiled and she dashed out.

Jack pulled two tables together. “Set the food out. I’m starving.”

Andy pulled Jesse’s sleeve. “Found your favorite…”

Jesse shook his head. “Thanks. I’m good.”

Pulling containers from bags, Tom said, “What’re you talkin’ about, Jesse? This barbecue’s the best…”

Peter hovered, “Where’s that ‘tatoe salad?”

Jesse raised his hand. “Really, I’m satisfied.”

Everyone laughed when Pete said, “Jesse’s got a secret stash of turkey jerky.” He scanned the room. “I want a beer! Where’d that bar maid go?”

“Izel’s announcing our celebration.”

Everyone stopped. Jesse’s often spoke in puzzles.  

“Arrange the tables… Clear the dance floor.”

People drifted in. It got crowded. Toasts were made. Spirits rose.

A musician drew a bow across a fiddle. Others joined in. Moved to the beat. Music and dancing commenced.

A cluster of people gathered at the open door.

They watched gentle rain fall from the darkened sky. The drought had lifted.

Jesse led Izel out to the lot where, hopping puddles, and laughing, they danced with slow twirls. Others joined them. Soon, everyone stood facing the sky with big wet grins.

Rain drops masked their joyful tears.

August 26, 2022 02:05

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8 comments

Robert Griffin
17:54 Oct 21, 2022

A different take on a rather old story. I found it a fun read.

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John K Adams
19:05 Oct 21, 2022

Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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21:50 Sep 03, 2022

You are part of my critique circle. Here's 2 positives: 1. I like the setting, which worked well with the prompt. I think a western is unique. 2. The idea behind it was nice. I didn't think it was going to be switched to a Samaritan and the well thing. Here's two negatives: 1. A bit on the nose. It used more showing than telling when talking about the character motivations especially 2. More descriptions of the settings Over all nice story!

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John K Adams
03:19 Sep 04, 2022

Thanks for the reading and the comments.

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Mustang Patty
11:52 Aug 28, 2022

Hi John, Loved the story - especially this line - 'How long since she’d felt any giddy in her giddy-up?' As always, your words wove a tale that sticks with the reader. Good luck in the contest, ~MP~

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John K Adams
14:29 Aug 28, 2022

Your words carry weight with me, Patty. Thanks for reading and commenting. Sounds like you'll be in the cat bird's seat in your new gig. When I decide to do a collection, perhaps you'll recommend an editor for me? Success in all your endeavors!

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Bonnie Clarkson
01:45 Aug 27, 2022

Good story again. I would like to have seen a few more dialogue tags between Izel and Jesse. Good job.

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John K Adams
02:44 Aug 27, 2022

Thanks Bonnie.

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