Garrett Johnston leaned against the giant statue outside of a run down building. The building was was built in 1949, what used to be white, was charred brown by age. The widows were old and dirty with pieces of paint peeling off around the edges.
The place was called Spotted Horse, Spotted Horse Wyoming. A poe dunk of a town. It wasn’t even really a town, just a bar with an official post office mailbox. Which only in Wyoming, he guessed, makes a town. The place was highlighted by a ten foot tall spotted horse and cowboy rearing up in an old time cowboy wheelie. At least that’s what it reminded him of. Garrett looked at the statue he was leaning against and wasn’t sure if the horse was plastic or metal. In all honesty, Garrett didn’t care. Garrett was drunk.
Garrett pushed himself off the statue he was leaning against. He slapped the horse statue on the hind quarters and yelled out “Yehaa, you son’s a bitches!” as he began staggering to his truck. It was an old beat up ranch truck. The yellow and white 83 Chevy long box 3/4 ton pickup sat there, waiting for it’s drunk, meandering owner to arrive.
He stopped and regarded his old truck. It was dented in the front, and the rear, and darn near everywhere. It was worn down, dirty and it had lots of miles on it. Just like him he figured. The 56 year old pulled the door open and heaved his slightly overweight form inside the truck. He looked in his rearview mirror, trying to focus on what might be behind him. He found himself looking into his own, bloodshot brown eyes. Man he was starting to look old, Garrett thought to himself. His crows feet had grown into crows legs. The wrinkles on his face had grown into valleys from all the years of being scorched by the burning sun. His hair was mostly grey, at least what was left of it. What had Claire ever seen in him? Claire………he whispered to himself in the cab of his truck.
Claire was the most beautiful woman Garrett had ever seen. He remembered when they first met. He was a young ranch hand working for his father’s ranch. His father owned thousands acres of land and had roughly two thousand head of cattle. He worked hard during the day, cause “Cattle don’t take care of themselves”, as his father would often say. But after work he worked even harder at chasing drinks and women. That all changed one night when he noticed a beautiful woman in the corner booth of the local dinner and bar. She was sitting there talking with some of her friends. She was laughing and smiling, she was absolutely enchanting.
Cory tapped Garrett on the shoulder. “I see you lookin at that one.” Cory said
“What one” Garrett replied with feigned ignorance.
“You know what one, how long we known each other Garrett?” Cory asked
Garrett looked over at his friend, then back to the table of women “A long time, but, that one? She is a little out of my league, I think. I need an a girl with missing teeth or something. No offense Corey. That one is…….well, something special.” Garrett replied after a moments hesitation.
“Tell you what Casanova, I put a wager on ya. I will wager $200.00 that you won’t go over there and get her number. In fact, I’ll double down and bet a weeks pay that you can’t get a date with that girl.” Cory stated with a massive grin on his face. His missing front tooth clearly visible.
“A weeks pay?” Garrett debated for a few seconds “You know what, I’ll take you up on that!” Garrett replied stoically, his own grin showing now.
He’ll show that smug ass friend he thought to himself. Garrett downed his shot of Crown Royal put his cowboy hat on his head and started his trip to the woman’s table. He got half way there and stopped, he couldn’t do this who was he kidding. He turned around to go back. Then he looked at Corey’s beaming face. That stupid front tooth missing. Thinking he’d just won a weeks pay. That thought made Garret turn back around and face his fear. He looked at the table, the entire table of women were looking at him now. Garrett sheepishly walked over to the table.
He stood before the table of women, embarrassed and a little self conscious. He looked toward his future wife.
“Ma’am, I got to be honest with ya” Garrett started as he removed his cowboy hat and held it in his hands.
“That gentleman over yonder, made me a bet that I can not refuse.” Garrett said somewhat reservedly.
“You mean the guy with the missing front tooth?” She replied with a smile
“Yes, Ma’am. He bet me two hundred dollars that I wouldn’t come over and get your number” Garrett replied.
“Is two hundred dollars all I’m worth?” She asked.
“No Ma’am, actually he bet a weeks pay, that I couldn’t get a date with you.”
Garret stood there for what seemed like an eternity without a response. The woman was just looking at him, a half smile on her face. Her beautiful blue eyes looking at him, penetrating his defenses and bringing a stutter to his heartbeat.
“Tell you what Ma’am, if you go on a date with me, we can split the money. ” Garrett said with a smile.
She returned the smile and after a moment said “What kind of money we talking about?”
“Ranch hands wages, not huge” Garrett replied.
She thought about it for a minute, looking at her friends in turn and smiling. Finally she responded.
“Ok, I’ll go. But you pay for the date out of your half of the winnings!” She laughed.
She smiled and asked “That is the most unique pickup line I have ever heard. Mr., well, what’s your name?”
Garrett smiled back “Thank you Ma’am, My name is Garrett, Garrett Johnston.”
“Well Garrett, It is an honest pleasure to meet you. You can call me Claire.” She replied
Claire was the most beautiful woman that Garrett had ever tried to talk to. He had succeeded.
And Corey was going to be broke, and pissed.
Garrett left the reminiscence, and came back to the reality he was in. He tried to start his old truck, but the keys were not in the ignition. He grudgingly dug in his pockets trying to find his keys. After a few moments he found them. He pulled them out with loose change spilling out of his pockets onto the floorboard. He held up the keys trying to find the one right key. The dim moonlight that bathed the tiny parking lot and his bad eyes made it so difficult. He found the right one and on the third try put it in the ignition. Garrett cranked the ignition and like a large beast fighting off hypothermia, the old Chevy fired up. He put his left hand on top of the wheel and pulled the selector gear into drive. He looked at his hand on the steering wheel and paused as he looked at the wedding band on his finger.
“Claire……” He whispered to himself again.
He felt under the seat, and found what he was looking for. A small pint of whiskey. It was half gone, but that was fine with Garrett. He opened the lid and took a deep drink.
“God, I miss you Claire…….”
Garrett put the bottle down, and took his foot off the brake.
Garrett drove out of the parking lot, overshot the roadway and drove into the ditch. He managed to get the truck back out onto the lonely two lane highway. Home was not far, probably shouldn’t be driving, but I’m close to home……I think. Garrett slowly thought to himself, just focus on the road, no distractions, focus, on the road, focus. Once again he glanced at the ring on his finger.
He thought about when Claire put that ring on his finger during their wedding ceremony. She was so beautiful in that full length white wedding dress. She was so happy, so full of life. Garrett had never been happier. But then years later, the diagnosis came. It was cancer, and it was aggressive. Garrett watched as his beautiful wife slowly wasted away to a bare shell of herself. The cancer took her beautiful hair and dimmed her wonderful high wattage smile down to a mere flicker. The cancer reduced her hands to those of a skeleton wrapped in a thin layer of pale skin. He was holding those same frail, thin hands when she died.
Garrett’s vision went blurry. He felt the tears running down his face. He wiped at them with his hand, and again he looked at the ring.
“God I miss you, Claire. I loved you so much.”
Through the haze and tears in his eyes the ring seemed to light up. Ever so slightly it seemed to be glowing. Garrett looked at the ring in drunken amazement. The glow from the top edge of his ring was getting brighter.
“Claire?” Garrett called out
He looked at the light and he could see her, he could see Claire. The sweet, wonderful outline of her face. It was directly over top of his ring finger. She was right outside his windshield. She was smiling at Garrett, with that beautiful and contagious smile. She was looking at him with those amazing eyes, imploring him to come to her. Those alluring eyes, the were so full of life and so bright. Her beautiful face was glowing, and it continued to grow brighter. The ever growing fire in her eyes, they took on a sharpness and began to grow brighter and brighter. As if Claire was coming for him.
Garrett was leaning off to the side, his eyes barely open. But he could still see her. He could still see her eyes. They were glowing so bright, they were glowing, almost like headlights.
As Garrett passed into unconsciousness he heard tires screeching, and he thought that was odd.
Garrett never felt the impact of his truck into the oncoming car. He did not hear the rending metal, or the shrieking tires. Garrett did not feel himself smashed into the steering wheel shattering his rib cage and piercing his heart. He was unaware of his head slamming into the windshield, shattering his skull. He did not feel his face gouged and peeled by the glass of the windshield as he flew through onto the hood of his ruined old truck. Garret never felt anything again.
The other vehicle, well that story was just beginning.