Cinderella, Western Print E-mail
Cinderella, Western

The wind blew through the prairie and took up a handful of dust. The sun beating down made the horizon twist and turn as the water evaporated from the parched earth. Through the twisting haze, a shape formed. It became a brown blob and eventually formed into a man on a horse. A man riding a horse purposefully but without haste. The man on the horse rode in a straight line and it was soon evident it was going to arrive at the Rancho Hermanas Feas.

At the ranch, the man dismounted and tied his horse to the post. He walked around the back and into the kitchen. There a young woman was picking grits up off the floor. She stood up suddenly as soon as she became aware someone was in the room, her hand instinctively covering the top of her dress.

"Why sir, you startled me," she explained. The man looked at her. He was smoking a big fat cigar that looked as though it had been lit, stubbed out and relit several times that day. He said nothing. "I must ask you to state your business, sir, or to get off my property." Again the man said nothing. The girl became more scared and it showed in her voice. "I must ask you sir, who are you?"

The man stood just as still for a few moments longer before removing the cigar and exhaling smoke. "You don't know who I am?" he said with a voice of pure gruff.

"Why, no." explained the girl.

"You sent for me."

The girl looked perplexed for a moment and then a notion hit her. "I wrote off for a fair God-Martial," she said, dubiously.

The man said nothing but nodded his head so imperceptibly that the girl couldn't believe it had actually moved. But she knew it had, and she knew that this man was here to answer her wish. Her manner changed. She wasn't quite so scared of the man, but not exactly sure of him. She noticed him as a human being now, not as a threat. He was a rugged, hard-looking man with the kind of eyes that bore through you. His clothes were rough and he had probably crossed the desert without once removing any of them.

"I'm Cinderella," she said, which didn’t even get a nod. Unperturbed she continued. "I asked you here, because tonight is the Sheriff's Ball in the town, and both my sisters have gone, but I have to stay here and clean up these grits. And I so want to go. They say the Sheriff is quite a handsome young man, and there's so little fun round here for a girl to have." She finished and waited for a response from the man. At first there was no sound or movement, but eventually he nodded as if knew exactly what to do.

Two hours later, the sun was setting as Cinderella climbed into a carriage fashioned out of the wagon she and her family had headed out here in those few years ago. It was pulled by the work horse and she was wearing a brand new gingham dress made out of two table cloths and a length of ribbon. She felt quite the lady. She smiled at the man, who looked up at her with the same stare he had always had. He nodded as if he wished her to listen.

"Be back by midnight," he growled.

"Why?" she asked. Be he just turned and moseyed on over to his horse. He never said another word.

It was sundown when the carriage rolled into Deadman's Gulch. The town seemed deserted. The only living soul to witness the carriage pull in through the town gate was a lone Mexican huddled on the church steps.

The coach pulled up outside the bar and Cinderella stepped out. From inside the sounds of piano-playing, revelry and guns shot in joy. She looked around her and strode into the bar.

The doors of the saloon swung behind her as she stopped two steps into the room. The piano stopped; all talking, singing, shouting and even whispering stopped as everyone turned to look at Cinderella. Even the barman had stopped in mid-pour and whiskey overflowed onto the bar. Cinderella gathered her courage and strolled up to the bar. All eyes were still on her.

She stood at the bar and nodded to the barman.

"What can I get you, little lady?" he asked.

"Rye," she said. "Straight up."

The barman poured and sent it gliding along the bar to her. She grabbed it and took a swig. It was strong stuff. She felt someone at her shoulder and turned to see the sheriff. He was a masculine, world-hardened sort of guy, but you could see that he was also kind and believed in fair play.

"I don't reckon I know you, there young lady," he said.

"Cinderella. And I am pleased to make your acquaintance, sheriff."

"Well, now that we've dealt with the formalities, would you like to dance with me?"

"I sure would."

The sheriff turn to the pianist and snapped his fingers. At once the pianist started playing and the whole saloon returned to its revelry. The whole center of the bar had been given over to a huge square dance. And the sheriff lead Cinderella over to the end of the line.

Time flew. Very soon midnight struck. One thing the Fairy Godmother with No Name had made clear was that she should leave by midnight. This was because the stitching used to make her dress was only good until then. She grabbed the side of her dress, which was already starting to come apart and fled through the door. Outside, it was dark and she kicked the side of the trough and went flying. One of her leather boots flew off and landed somewhere under the horses tethered by the bar. She had no time to waste, she was in danger of losing her dignity at any moment and rushed into the carriage.

By the time the sheriff came out, she was long gone. He cursed and was about to turn back when the Mexican from the church step came over to him.

"You wanna find the senorita?" he asked. "She drop her boot. Over there." and he indicated the area where the boot lay, half hidden in the darkness. The sheriff flipped the Mexican a coin and picked up the boot. The deputy rushed out.

"Looks like she plum got clean away," explained the deputy, unhelpfully.

"Not all of her," said the sheriff holding up the boot.

"God-dingety-dang. What ya gonna do Sherriff?"

"Why, Mr Ranger, you're gonna round me up a posse."

Thirty minutes later seven men were riding out of town. At the head was the sheriff and hanging on his horse just in front of the saddle, was the boot. They stopped at every farmstead on the way, but they were either empty or if there were girls there, they did not fit the boot. Eventually they came to Rancho Hermanas Feas, they stopped. All people knew about this farm was that it was here that the old rancher lived who kept pretty much to him self and that he had at least two daughters who were as ugly as a spittoon on a summers day. And he had clearly seen the two daughters in the saloon. He'd caught himself trying to spit in one earlier. Still, they should leave no stone unturned and all seven dismounted and tethered their horses.

They strode up, and sitting on the porch was the old rancher. He had his Winchester cocked and ready.

"What you doing on my property."

"I'm the sheriff," explained the sheriff.

"I can see that," replied the old rancher.

"I'm here, looking for a girl."

"Well my two daughters, they was with you all night."

"I seen them. And you don't have any others?"

"Well, now you come to mention it, I do recall a third one. I always forget her on account of her being blond and pretty. She's out back sorting grits."

The sheriff took his posse round the back and found Cinderella on her knees on the floor, wearing old rags. Not only did she look like the girl he had been dancing with, smelt like her as well, but she fitted the shoes. And dang it if they weren't married the next week in the little old church with the Mexican as best man and two of the ugliest bridesmaids you ever did see.

And after that, they rode off into the sunset.

 
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