Okay, folks. I had to fight for it, and I had to dig deep, but I got something so I feel a bit better. 🙂 It’s rough–no research or editing or looking back, I’m just getting back into a groove–but it’s something. Here’s to 2016 and writing more stories. Lots and lots of stories that have no purpose other than to sit pretty on this blog because I need them here instead of weighing on my heart and pacing the halls of my mind. And hopefully, it does something for you too.
It’s worth it. In the end, it’s all worth it.
Toby sat on the bull, one hand gripping the pomel and the other hanging loose at his side, staring at the last horns he’d ever see, God willing. If he took home the pot tonight, he could buy his little girl that pony she’d been after since her first rodeo.
Her mama didn’t care much for the cowboy kind of life, but she’d let the little one ride. The new had wore off not but three years after little Emma was born. Too many days and nights spent raisin’ a baby alone will do that to a woman.
Shelly had agreed to name her after his grandmother back when she still liked him. She hated him so much now, she’d have changed little Emma’s name if she could have, just to spite him. She tried, but he had a lawyer just as good as hers and she just ended up looking like an ass.
He felt bad for that. Shelly was a hard woman because he’d made her that way. She was soft and generous and everything a man could want in a woman before the rodeo circuit wore grooves into her heart.
No, she didn’t care much for him, but little Emma still said he was her hero. And that was enough to get him through this last ride.
He was gettin’ too old for this shit real quick. When the cold weather set your bones to aching, it was time to hang it up. The dull roar of the crowd sounded like a freight train pulling in and he was ready to ride that train back home. Nothing waited for him but a two-bedroom cinder block house on a piece of land somewhere the world seemed to have forgotten. That and his horse Ben and little Emma. But he was ready to go home. For good this time.
A garbled announcement blared over the speakers and the roar kicked up a notch. Time to get to work.
He adjusted his grip and strained to hear the familiar sound of leather creaking under his fist. Not over this crowd. Seconds away from retirement, he leaned forward, clenched his thighs, and held his free hand aloft. The horsepower thundering in his chest could have beat a Hennessey Venom in a ten second sprint. He only needed eight to win.
With a nod from him, a rodeo hand pulled the latch, the gate swung wide, and the bull shot out. He threw his hand high up in the air, riding the motions of the bull’s battle to throw him.
Eight seconds and he could retire, buy little Emma that pony. His whole body jolted from one impact after the next.
Seven seconds and he’d never have to spend another night so far away from home. Inflamed shoulder muscles begged for release.
Six seconds, just six more seconds. Sweat trickled down his back and made his palm slick inside his glove. He’d have blisters for sure this time.
Five seconds in, his hand sliding inside his glove burned from the heat of friction.
Only four seconds left, the only thing keeping his hand on the pommel was sheer strength and determination. He grit his teeth and held on tight, keeping his free hand high and clear.
For little Emma, he could hang on for three more seconds.
The bull stopped thrashing around, planted its front hooves into the dirt, and kicked its hind legs high up behind them.
The recently healed fracture in his arm screamed a warning and Toby cried out. He was too close, he couldn’t let go now. Win or lose, this was his last rodeo.
He lost count of the seconds. Time was frozen anyway, the excruciating moments stretched out forever. But he’d ride this bull to Hell before he’d let go. Tears sprang to his eyes and heat spread through his arm and up his shoulder.
He closed his eyes and rode the bull. Felt nothing but little Emma’s tiny arms around his neck. Saw nothing but what her smile would look like when she saw that pony. Heard nothing but the squeals of a little girl he hoped like hell would always be so happy to see him.
The buzzer sounded. He loosened his grip and jumped free of the already tiring bull. They knew when the game was up. Toby’s whole right side felt like it was on fire, but it was worth it. In the end, it was always worth it.
But this time, he truly meant it. This was his last ride. He had a little girl to get home to.