Insist, Nap, Meaning

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The cowboys silhouette dipped left and right with the trotting of the horse. Dust swirled around and the tumbleweeds hopped and rolled across the trail. The horse would slow its pace until spurs dug into its side. A quick gallop and then back to a trot but the cowboy demanded they keep moving.

The journey had started just before the sun started peaking at them from behind. Now the sun was slipping behind the mountains in front of them.

They came across a stream and the cowboy stopped, taking the bridle in his hand and leading the horse to water. As the horse drank, so the cowboy dipped his cowhide waterskin for his own drink. After filling it, he cupped a hand into the water and drank.

Spotting a tree across the stream, they walked through the water and tried to rest. The cowboy leaned up against the tree and covered his face with his hat. The horse bended its knees and collapsed immediately into a snore. They would continue on during the night but from transition of light to darkness they would sleep.

Only the sounds of the snoring horse, wind flapping through the leaves and the stream could be heard. The cowboy kicked off his boots and rubbed his feet, keeping the hat over his face. The horse kicked out but kept snoring.

Crickets, invisible to eye but not to the ear, began to drown out the other sounds. The cowboy fell asleep and dreamed.

Of swirling dust, giant tumbleweeds, snorting horses, distant gunshots, crying children and a woman’s embrace. Riding a 20-foot horse, the cowboy approached a city the likes of which he’d never seen. Buildings like mountains, lights in the shape of words and tropical fruits. A thousand bells ringing and glasses clinking. Carts with giant wheels pulled by invisible horses.

The cowboy now rode on a horse smaller than the carts that passed him. He looked up all around to see walls of glass and light. No signs of tumbleweeds, cacti or even dust. A man wearing a bright orange cowboy vest that reflected light carried a giant satchel over his neck and around his waist. The man walked up to the cowboy, looking down at him and tapped two notes together before handing him one.

The cowboy held it in his hand “two for one drink special at the spicy cabana. Girls drink free.”

The horse snorted in his sleep, waking the cowboy who removed his hat and looked out over the plain. No glow in the distance, no sun only the moon, stars and the crickets. Scratching his head, the cowboy pulled on his boots. He stood up and looked all around. With two quick clicks of his tongue, the horse sat up and the cowboy bent down to pet its mane.

Failure, Clock, Wagon

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He tapped it a couple more times. The hands stayed frozen at 3:15. AM or PM? He couldn’t remember the last time he looked at his watch. The old grandfather in the corner of the room struck snake eyes. The dings of the clock’s bells conjured up a memory. A train station, a whistle, some bags he hadn’t packed but carried for someone else. Someone he used to know.

She didn’t even look out of the window as the engine yanked the cars forward and away from him.

The grandfather stopped its whining. He check his watch out of habit one more time then slid it off his wrist. Another thing he thought he could count on gone.

Sitting in his chair, letting the momentum of its rock jostle up more thoughts, he looked at the wagon through a window. It was parked in front of the porch. The mare in his barn, really a shed, hadn’t been on a ride in a while.

Rocking the chair forward and pushing off his feet, he stood. Too quickly. Little stars danced around his head, just outside his vision. She’d asked him once if he was happy and the only thing he could say was that happiness were like fire flies in the eyes, you could only see them if you didn’t try.

Cinching up his belt, he grabbed the bit by the front door. The night was cool, bright with stars and the light of the moon. No breeze, just the world holding it’s breath. He took the three steps down to the yard one leg at a time, listening the groans of his tired knees. He’d learned to stop holding his breath a long time ago, she wasn’t coming back.

The latch to the barn door was cracking and splintering. He grabbed it carefully and lifted, swinging the big door open in the same motion. The mare pawed at the ground and snorted. He smiled.

“Atta girl.”

She trotted past him and out into the yard. He patted her back and fit the bit in her mouth. He hitched her to the wagon and pulled himself up onto the seat. Yes, a night ride always did him good. For fifty-some years, it was the only time he saw the stars.

With a click of his mouth and gentle tug of the reins, they moved toward the old dusty road, rutted from nightly rides. The wheels creaked and he bounced in his seat but with one hand gripping the reins and the other stroking his beard, he was content.

Content to think about his short comings. Maybe if he had wound it religiously. Maybe if he had carefully dusted its face. Maybe if he had taken it apart once a while for a good cleaning, the watch would still work. Maybe if he had just paid more attention to it, the hands would still be faithful to him.

Or maybe if he had paid more attention to her…