Geraldine Hinkle would be meeting her maker any day. The doctor said it could be weeks, but Geraldine knew better.
Leaning one frail hip against the wooden counter of Watson’s Western Wear, and rubbing a hand over her bald head, Geraldine didn’t think about dying.
“Can I hold one?” Her coarse voice was weak.
The lanky man behind the counter waited a few beats before responding. “Beauties, ain’t they? Hand crafted, ever inch. Three thousand dollar pair a boots right there.” He scratched his crotch.
“Are ya gonna let me hold one or are ya gonna just stand there all day playin’ with yer balls?”
The lanky man frowned. His long arm extended toward the shelf as he issued a warning. “Don’t think about runnin’ off with this. I got a gun.”
Geraldine’s spontaneous laugh quickly turned into a wet, spittle cough. That was the funniest thing she’d heard all week. Damn funny, this bony man.
By the time her coughing fit had subsided, the boot stood proudly on the counter. Geraldine picked it up with both hands, gently caressing the fine, silver snakeskin foot.
“That there’s the belly skin of a python come from Thailand.” The man nearly scratched his crotch again, but stopped mid-air. He scratched his left butt cheek instead.
Turning the boot on its side, Geraldine traced the intricate detail. Turquoise blue waves under a yellow sun stitched and painted on soft brown leather. She closed her eyes and remembered.
Waves crashing on hard sand. A young girl laughing. The laughing girl was running back and forth along the sand, her little red boots carrying her effortlessly. Her red skirt and vest fluttering with the wind. A tiny cowgirl frolicking on the shore as a coral sun dropped toward the sea like a colossal balloon pulled down by an invisible string. Sky the color of rainbow sherbet. Orange, pink, yellow.
A man swooped up from behind the laughing girl and threw her high into the air. “Who’s mah little hedgehog?” he said catching her in his strong, safe arms. The laughing girl laughed harder. “Geri is, Daddy! Geri!”
Geraldine’s sides hurt with the remembering.
Her heart ached with the longing. The rainbow sherbet sunset and little red boots.
Geraldine had lived a long, hard life, drinkin’ way too much drink and smokin’ way too much smoke. Good memories – they were far and few between.
The lanky man blew a hard breath, waking Geraldine from her reverie.
“I’ll take ‘em.” Geraldine smiled.
The man scratched his five o’clock shadow. “You got three thousand dollars, lady?”
Geraldine coughed into her elbow before answering. “First, I wanna thank ya fer callin’ me a lady. Been a long time since someone’s been so kind. Second off . . .” she pulled a wad of bills out of her jeans pocket. “. . . money – you can’t take it with ya, like they say. But these boots, they can go with me to the grave. I’d like to wear ‘em now, if you don’t mind.”
With his bony fingers, the man counted the bills. When he was satisfied, he put the other boot on the counter then watched as she slipped each boot on like a knife slicin’ into warm butter.
Invigorated with energy she hadn’t felt in weeks, Geraldine slapped the counter and hooted, “Hot damn! Like they was made for mah feet!”
A hint of a smile on his pointed face, the man held up the wad of money as he slid his way to the cash register. “This here’s over four thousand dollars. I’d say you got some change comin’.”
The shop door opened, triggering a tiny bell. A small girl bounded in followed by her mother who tried to grab a chubby hand before it could break something.
Seeing the girl, Geraldine turned to the man. “You got little red boots?”
“Fer girls. Little red cowgirl boots. Maybe a skirt and vest too?”
“Yeh. We got somethin’ like that.”
“See that girl gets the sweetest little cowgirl suit and boots she desires. Same for every little girl that walks through those doors until the money’s gone.”
“That’s a kindly gesture.”
She shrugged. “Maybe they’ll bring her good memories when she needs ‘em.”
Geraldine’s boots clopped on the wooden floors as she left Watson’s Western Wear. She looked up at the sign above the door that said, Come Back Now, Y’Hear?
With a laugh and a cough, she answered, “Not in this body, I ain’t.”