“The Barista With No Name squinted into the sunlight to survey the line of patrons lined up for their daily espresso injection. A solitary bead of sweat trickled down one temple, but he dare not wipe it away. He kept his hands at waist level, rubbing forefingers and thumbs together, awaiting the order. When at last, the request came, his hands moved like lightening to the big sandalwood grips of the espresso tamper, its mother of pearl inlays glinting in the sun like the promise of gold in a prospector’s pan.”
“Then,” The Countess Penelope of Arcadia interrupted, “suddenly and without warning…”
“Superfluous and redundant,” I countered, annoyed that she’d interrupted.
“… The Barista With No Name tore away his smelly grey serape, to reveal a brightly-coloured cowboy costume of the Roy Rogers variety, and then proceeded to sing “Rhinestone Cowboy“, while the lovely Miss Helena blushed like a prairie blossom (whatever that is) and made googly eyes at him. Then, like something out of a 1980s movie starring Patrick Swayze, suddenly some other cowboy-themed song started playing, and Miss Helena got on the back the the BWNN’s horse, a gentle nag with the lovely name of Cordelia, or Buttercup, and rode off into the sunset. Never mind that it’s eight o’clock in the morning.”
“I told you before, darling, I never make googly eyes,” I insisted, though I’m pretty sure I was making googly eyes at the Barista With No Name, so named because he had the piercing blue eyes and steely glare of a young Clint Eastwood.
“You do and are,” the Countess replied. “You also might want to wipe your chin. You’re drooling.”
“I am not dr- Oh, crap,” I was drooling a bit.
“Way I reckon,” said the Countess Penelope of Arcadia, which is apparently a small borough of Tumbleweed, Texas, in the County of Buttfuck, “all you gotta do is just mosey on up there and rope in that tall drink o’ water with yer, whatchamacallit? Feminine wiles. Just go and say a friendly howdy-do. I reckon, well shucks, little trailhand, and so forth. Nothin’ doin’ and whatnot. Unless, that is, yer yella’. That’s it, ain’t it? Why, yer nothin’ but a no good, darn tootin’ yella-belly snake, ain’tcha?”
“Now listen here,” I said to the Countess, trying to give her my I’m serious face, “I’m not just going to go talk to him — he’s busy. And cut out the cowpoke.”
“Why, yer just a lily-livered ol’ chicken, ain’tcha? Why, I oughta hosswhup you right here and now, learn you some manners.”
“Do you even know what you’re saying?” I asked her incredulously.
“Everything except ‘hosswhup’. Did I just threaten you with violence of some sort?” Penny asked in a more hushed tone than I would have thought her capable of.
“I believe so, yes,” I replied.
“Well, good, varmint!” Penny the Kid retorted, slipping seamlessly back into Hayseed, in which her fluency was somewhat suspect. “Ah reckon that’s more’n a cowardly cur like you rightly deserves! Why, yer nothin’ but a lowdown, cactus-eatin’ milquetoast.”
“Well, that’s enough of that. I’ll tolerate many things,” I said, exaggeratedly exasperated, “but I’ll not tolerate being called a milquetoast! Why, you just point me at that cowboy, and just watch and see what my feminine wiles can achieve.”
But as I turned back toward the coffee bar to set my sights on the BWNN, he was gone — vanished as if into a puff of smoke. As the tumbleweeds tumbled, and the coyotes, uh, coyot-ed, somewhere, a mariachi band played “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” with a distinctively Mexican flair, and The Countess Penny the Kid began narrating the moment in a voice like an old John Ford film, like How Green Was My Valley, or The Quiet Man.
“He walked a hard path, and he walked it alone, blowing into town and back out again just as suddenly, leaving a trail of busted teeth and broken hearts in his wake…”
“Oh, Penny,” I teased, “do shut up.”