'Memories of a Man I Used to Be'

18 June, 2017rodster385Comments (0)

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I was old. Just a washed up, over-the-hill, fifty-year-old guy who had suddenly found himself single. That's right about where we left off on this story last week. It occurs to me frequently that many who land on this page find themselves puzzled by the title 'The Rusty Goat.' Obviously, there are no goats, so why? I'll enlighten you on that with next week's story, but right now I'd like to give you a behind the scenes glance of how I came to write these frivolous stories.
I never saw myself as a writer...still don't really. I showed some promise way back in high school, landing the job as editor of the high school paper. I went on to participate in UIL Journalism events and as luck would have it, wound up at the state finals, capturing second place in news writing and third in feature writing. But after high school I let it all go and never wrote again...until, well, it went like this.
With my ego and self-esteem crushed beyond repair, I set out to find some simile that might pass as a happy life of solitude. That didn't go well and after a few months, I began toying with the notion of getting back out in the real world. Time and time again I struggled to muster up the courage to step out into the world of dating and failed miserably each time. I searched for an answer as to why. Yes, I was old. The wrinkles around my eyes confirmed it every time I looked in the mirror. But I had accepted the fact that if I ever did manage to force myself out of the safety of my home, it would be women my age who had their own wrinkles I'd be focusing my attention on. It was more than that. I had settled into a life of complacency during those seven years of marriage. Not bliss or happiness...complacency. I had been a good, dutiful husband. I was a dedicated father to a child who came to visit every other weekend. I was a farmer of sorts with a pecan orchard and the best herd of goats in west Texas. I had a house bought and paid for and never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from. The upheaval that came with the divorce had shattered my complacency and my competence in myself.
I can recall sitting alone in a darkened house Saturday night after Saturday night, fully aware of the fear that flowed through my body...fear that this was all there ever would be for me. It was the weekends that brought me down. I had my routine throughout the week to pull me through. But I came to dread the weekends, floundering all alone in an empty house, the echoes of silence haunting me. Thoughts of once upon a time screamed in my mind...a once upon a time that gave promise and hope of a 'normal' life that we all dreamed about in our younger years.
The memories that taunted me the most on those horrid Saturday nights were those of a time not so long ago. Before the seven-year marriage...the seven-year nightmare, there was a time when I was not the man I now found myself to be. Pictures flashed through my mind of a man in a black hat beneath the neon lights, some random woman in his arms swaying to the music on a dance floor. Those were the years of adventure. A man in his early forties who could turn the heads of many a thirty-something-year-old woman. Oh, those memories of a man I used to be. Where had he gone?
In a desperate attempt to cling to my sanity on those lonely Saturday nights, I would replay the memories over and over in my mind. I envisioned the night I met Psycho Sherry and smiled...something that I found myself unable to do much anymore. I recalled the times with the married school teacher who forgot to mention she was married. My mind pondered the woman who has inherited an oil company...what was I thinking when I let her get away. Oh yes...I remember. And the bank teller named Jenny. We met on the dance floor and dirty danced one night. It was the following Saturday night that...well, I might have to tell that story later. Oh, the gorgeous little Hispanic girl that I never dreamed I'd ever had a chance with...that ended when I met the preacher's wife. Now the preacher's wife...five stars, buddy! Crazy as a loon, too! And there were so many more.
One Saturday night I sat down with the laptop and a beer. I hadn't written anything in years, yet I had an overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to put those stories on paper. I never had any intention of sharing any of them with a single soul. As my fingers tapped the keyboard into the wee hours of the morning, I found myself smiling, occasionally even laughing out loud. For the next three months, I would spend my Saturday nights retelling these memories to myself, saving each one in a special folder on my computer that no one one would ever stumble across. It was my therapy. Lord knows I needed therapy. As the weeks passed I found myself more and more contemplating taking that first step. But there was still that one stumbling block laying across my path. I was still old, in fact, six months older than when I first began having these crazy ideas of dating.
One Saturday afternoon I printed out all the stories I had written over the past three months. I sat down with a glass of sweet tea and began reading. I would read page after page, shaking my head. This man I read about, this wasn't me...certainly not the man I had become. This man who would step through the door of some country bar on a Saturday night decked out in a black cowboy hat and starched Wranglers was some sort of super-hero. He rescued damsels in distress, scooping them up in his strong arms, holding them tight, their bodies close, swaying to music beneath the neon lights. He would kiss them gently as the last song played and turn and walk out into the night, leaving them yearning for more. He held their hearts in the palm of his hand and though trying so hard no to, broke more hearts than he could count. The man I read about in those pages was a man on a mission...a mission to find the perfect woman. No, this man wasn't me but it was he I had to become if I were to succeed. As midnight came on that Saturday night, I carefully placed the stories in a safe hiding place and sat in the dark in deep thought.
Throughout these many pages of stories I had written stood one main character, one star, one hero. If there was ever to be a sequel to these adventures, I'd have to find someone to play the part. George Strait? Naw, not that spit and polish. Jeff Bridges? Too rough around the edges. And it was at that moment I discovered the answer I had been searching for. If I, Rodney Strange, an over-the-hill fifty-year-old man with zero self-confidence, couldn't do this on my own, I would just have to step up and play the part of the guy in my stories...an over-the-hill wannabe cowboy, and west Texas' most eligIble bachelor. And my mission? To find the perfect woman!


'What Brought This On'

11 June, 2017rodster385Comments (0)

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"I want to get a divorce."
He stared over his horn-rimmed glasses from the leather chair behind the desk that separated us. Reaching for the silver pen in his shirt pocket, he pulled a legal pad from a drawer. With his silver pen poised mere inches from the yellow pad, he sighed and cleared his throat.
"Children?"
"Not with her, thankfully!" My face took on a faux look of horror.
"Property?"
"I have my stuff and she has hers. I pay my bills and she pays hers. I don't see a problem."
The attorney scribbled illegibly on the pad before him.
"Reason?"
"I don't like her anymore."
"Incompatibility," he murmured as he noted my statement.
"What else do I need to know?" He again stared at me over his glasses.
"I just want a 'wham-bam. thank ya ma'am divorce. I just want her to go away."
He leaned back in his leather chair, fondling his silver pen between his fingers.
"Wham-bam divorces run around seven-fifty plus court costs. I'll need three hundred up front."
I pulled my checkbook from the back pocket of my Wranglers and accepted the pen he extended from across the desk.
"Oh, and it would be best if we can rush this through. I have a feeling she will lose her job in the near future and I'd like to be legally unresponsible for her bills."
"I don't see a problem once we clear the state mandated waiting period. I'll draw up the papers. Oh, one more thing...no chasing women until this divorce finalizes! We don't need complications."
I paused at the door, glancing over my shoulder, "I never intend to chase another woman as long as I live."
It was a statement I truly intended to live by at that moment. Nothing would be further from the truth.

I was three weeks away from my fiftieth birthday when the judge rapped his gavel and declared the divorce final. It had not been a decision made in haste. I was well aware that a man my age had no business being single. A fifty-year-old man should gleefully rise every morning, motivated by the prospect of retirement just down the road. He should be bouncing grandbabies on his knee. He should rub his fat, old man belly while stretched out in the recliner watching the nightly news. He should be patting his chubby, middle-aged wife on her round hiney after the lights go out at night.
I never intended to find myself where I found myself halfway through a century on this earth. But, after making a very bad mistake which had robbed me of seven years of my life, I saw no other choice. She had hidden the alcoholism for the first two years. By the seventh year, she was just one stumble away from becoming a non-functioning alcoholic. I had for all intent purposes been living alone anyway. She rarely made it past eight in the evening, perched on her end of a sofa, beer in hand, staring blankly at some TV show or another. Then, just like clockwork, around eight she'd just deflate like a blow-up doll, out for the night.

And so, I stepped out of that courthouse a free man. I really had no intentions of ever giving another woman any thought whatsoever. But loneliness plays a powerful mind game with its victim. I tried to shrug it off for several months. I'd adapt, I told myself. In fact, by that third month, I was talking to myself pretty regularly.
It was a hot afternoon in June that I stood in the middle of my back yard, arms folded across my chest.
"You know, we ought to put some fertilizer down...maybe some weed-and-feed," I spoke rather loudly.
My eyes grew wide as I ducked my head and responded, "Shhh! Not so loud! Someone might hear us!"
It was at that moment that it hit me. I really, really needed to get out more. Maybe find someone to talk to. Maybe a woman? The thought haunted me throughout the night and into the next day. I was old. Just a washed up, over-the-hill...and that's what brought all this on.

(To Be Continued)