#110 Hombre

by Mary Whiteside

Boot heels silent as he walked across the lobby. A worn man in oil-stained jeans and blue chambray shirt, a brown Stetson gripped in his left hand. Not even glancing at a display of memorabilia, he strode on to the desk, mumbling, “I'm a rich 'un. I'm a rich boy. Me, I'm gonna have more money than you ever thought…,” as if something unseen prompted the lines.

The elderly clerk surrendered a key bound to a heavy, gold medallion stamped 223, nodding as the guest soundlessly mounted the stairs. The rebel-turned-oil man headed directly toward his room; he knew his way around El Paisano. These days the restaurant even bore his name; later he’d visit the courtyard for coffee—a routine followed each visit.

Booked full the first time he’d stayed there, the El Paisano’s Spanish Revival style reminded him of California. But the tiny cattle town in roughneck west Texas was unlike anyplace he’d known. A man’s world. He’d spent a summer shooting jack rabbits and learning rope tricks with his friend, Bob, an old rodeo cowboy. Only after his Porsche flipped in a deadly crash on a Golden State back-road did he return.

“If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he’s dead, then maybe he was a great man.” —James Dean

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