A cowboy fell into my coffee during breakfast. He was as dirty as a flop-house mattress. Shit! Get outta there cowboy, I said. Are you fixin' to drown?!
I cradled him with my spoon and set him on a stick of butter so that he could catch his breath.
Now that's better isn't it, cowboy? I said.
The cowboy was the height of a baby dill pickle and wore a slowly progressing scraggle of beard that twinkled with undiluted grains of sugar.
He shook the coffee from his person like a wet dog and wrung out his hat.
He then set upon me an ornery squint. His two eyes struggled to retain their own identity on a face cluttered by wrinkles and sunburn, and the tip of his nose was missing, probably shot off in a rambunctious quarrel during a spirited game of Texas Hold'em.
I told you we had cowboys, said my wife, strolling into the kitchen in her underwear. Didn't I?
You're right, I replied. I nearly drank him up in my coffee, too.
Still, I said, cowboys aren't that bad are they? Have you seen any Indians around here lately? No! This is far better than the plague of mariachi guitarists that Mr. Elizondo found behind his water heater.
It'd serve you right, too, she said, choking to death on a little cowboy. I've been saying we had cowboys for weeks now, lazy ass!
She stood there with her thumbs tucked inside the elastic of her underwear, stretching the waistband in and out.
Somehow they are multiplying, she said, winking at the little cowboy.
The cowboy coughed out a gravelly 'maam' and turned away in a classic display of frontier modesty.
You might as well look, little cowboy, said my wife. You'll be dead 'fore noon.
How do you want it? she continued. Garroted with dental floss? Flogged to death with a dog's hair? Pounded into flitters with a crab mallet? Shot in the face with a rubber band? Tied up and bludgeoned with one of Mr. Elizondo's very tiny mariachi guitars?
I think he wants to be drowned in coffee, I interrupted.
Shut up, she said. That isn't very cinematic at all.
Fine, I said. Sorry little cowboy.
You know, honey, I bet he'd like to be hanged.
Wouldn't you? I hooted, peering into his little cowboy face.
The little cowboy stood silently and gave a couple 'Aww-shucks' kicks at the butter.
Then he said, if it weren't much bother of course, that he would prefer to be hanged.
You got it, little buckaroo, shouted my wife. You'll swing at noon from a popsicle gibbet!
My wife was quite excited. While she set about making a tiny gallows, she pilloried him on a stale piece of rye bread.
The cowboy lowered his eyebrows in a plaintive fashion. They were thickets of sagebrush steeped in French Roast.
He began to make me feel guilty, so I held my newspaper up real high. I tried reading, but I kept thinking of little cowboys, home on some range, reading tiny newspapers, avoiding the pre-mortem gaze of an even tinier cowboy.
Thinking about this infinite regression of little cowboys made me dizzy.
I decided to put my newspaper down and distract my thoughts with the real cowboy on my table.
My wife was getting frustrated with the trap-door for the gallows. She was using popsicle sticks and some wrapping tape, but couldn't get the trap-door to fall on cue. There is nothing more embarrassing, she said, than holding a kitchen execution and having the trapdoor fail to open. Then your cowboy just stands there, perhaps having cleared his bowels too soon, shoulders scrunched up to the ears, eyes shut. That's cruel, she said. If we are going to hang this cowboy, and we are, then we must do it right.