One Way or the Other

Contributor: John Laneri

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Nate Carver stepped to the front door of Aunt Jillie's Boarding House, the finest establishment along the cattle trail to Fort Worth.

Nate was a scruffy character from Oklahoma where a small town preacher wanted him for soiling his daughter's virtue. In fear of his life, he headed to Texas where he had been drifting from town to town looking for action.

At the moment, he wanted a girl.

Once inside her stately Victorian, he hesitated. He had never been to an establishment with fine furniture and window curtains. He ran his hand through his hair watching the grit fall to the floor while he considered the situation.

To his left, he saw several gentlemen eating fried chicken at a dining room table. In the opposite direction, he looked toward the parlor, a large room filled with red couches and comfortable chairs. For a instant, he experienced awe, the grandeur overwhelming him.

“Well I’ll be dang,” he said to no one in particular.

Jillie’s met him in the foyer. “Howdy, mister. You've come to the right place for eating, sparking and splashing.”

“I’m here to get me a woman,” he said, as he continued to look about – his eyes darting from room to room.

She looked him over. “Our girls go for fellows like you. Yes sir, they like the lanky, eye-catching types with a powerful presence.”

“Most ladies can’t resist my charms.”

“I bet you court the girls right smartly.”

“That I do,” he said, as he took a closer look at Jillie, his eyes lifting a bit. “You’re a mighty fine looking lady. I've always had a preference for red hair and green eyes.”

Smiling, Jillie fluffed the hair. “I’m proud you’re pleased.” Nudging his arm, she directed him toward the parlor and continued, “What kind of darling suits your taste?”

Nate's mouth stumbled a time or two then he replied, “I want the kind with two legs and real teeth. Of course, I take a likin’ to the ones with a little meat on their bones.”

Jillie smiled and pointed to one of her girls, “I’ve got Carole Marie from Abilene. She’s a lovely girl with a solid amount of heft. And best of all, her lips can get a fellow to screaming before he's had a chance to get his boots off.”

“Woo-e, she sounds right nice.”

Jillie waited while Nate turned in circles to look the other girls over, then she pointed across the room. “If, on the other hand, you have a hankerin’ for the extras, then Frances May is your little lady. She's the one wearing the spurs.”

Nate scratched at his whiskers. “I don’t know much about spurs.”

Jillie chuckled and said, “It takes a hearty person with powerful spunk to like spurs. We reserve 'em for real men like yourself, fellows with cast iron in their spirit.”

“My pappy always said my head was as solid as a block of wood. I guess that's close enough to cast iron.”

“I suspect it is,” Jillie replied, smiling. “What brings you to our little town?”

“I've been lookin' for a place where I can find work,” he replied, as he looked away to wink at Frances May.

“How about a splash in my tub... might get rid of some of that trail dust. The girls like to splash with smooth talking gents like you, and they're mighty good at playing around underwater.”

“A bath sounds mighty good... Now, hurry up. I'm about ready to explode in my pants.”

Directing him to the side, Jillie said, “As I’m sure you’re aware, my girls like to see real money before getting acquainted.”

“I got plenty of money,” he said quickly. “But, I ain't never paid for a woman.”

Jillie smiled softly. “Maybe so, but around here, fellows get the kind of experience only money can buy.”

Grumbling, Nate reached into his pocket to withdraw a crumpled wad of bills. “Right now, I got three dollars.”

Jillie indicated across the room. “Frances May, come meet this boy.”

Frances May scooted closer and took his hand. “I’m so good with spurs you'll be blindly in love by the time we're through.”

“I’ll try anything with you.”

Jillie snatched his money, saying, “Three dollars buys you Frances May with spurs and a splash.”

Sometime later, Frances May helped Nate back to the parlor, his hand covering his eye.

After sitting him in a chair, she said, “I didn't mean to poke you in the eye with my spur. You should be careful where you put your head.”

“But, we were only playin' around in the tub when you started running those spurs across my back.”

“Maybe so, but you''re not supposed to kiss my feet when I'm wearing spurs.”

“It just so happens your feet got in the way of my lips. But, I want my money back. I ain't gonna pay for getting poked in the eye.”

After listening to both sides of their argument, Jillie drifted their way and said to Nate, “We're here to please, so, here's what we'll do... First off, since you need work, I'll hire you paint my front porch starting tomorrow morning. And when you're done, Frances May will agree to pay you with a free poke – less the spurs, of course. How's that sound? Not many fellows get that kind of opportunity.”

Smiling brightly, Nate said, “Frances May for free! Why that sounds like the best job I ever heard of. I'll be here bright and early.”

As he walked out the door, Jillie turned to Frances May. “I'm starting to like that boy. He dumb enough to paint the rest of the house before he realizes that fellows always pay for women – one way or the other.

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several scientific journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.
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