The rust hinged saloon doors groaned. The barmaid turned at the familiar sound and saw him saunter across the threshold. Back lit by the night’s bright moon he was, at first, little more than a slender, long-limbed silhouette against the door’s stunted frame. He lingered in the doorway’s splay of ethereal light. One silent moment stretched to two. With practiced nonchalance the barmaid lit a cigarette and studied the neon pulse of the jukebox, unhurriedly waiting for the lonesome shadow to take form.
The stranger's light steps echoed across the wood plank floor. The cavalier paces seemed unencumbered by direction or purpose. Yet his upright posture and contrived gate failed to wholly conceal the hunch of his squared shoulders and weariness knotted there.
His skin wore its youth well but a weathering like worn wood clung to the contours of his lean face. It whispered hint of a hidden old soul. He came to careful rest beside an empty stool at the bar’s far end where it seemed he might take roost. But he did not sit. Instead his wire frame leaned atop the polished surface, weight fixed upon a neatly folded elbow. Propped so, he turned to gaze toward the direction of his entry as if mulling whether or not it was too late to turn back.
The barmaid reserved any words of greeting until assured the drifter would remain. Her deliberate approach was both silent and cool, allowing the Pall Mall’s smoldering waft to announce her presence. Opposite the bar’s width, his angular chin hoisted proudly at the deciphered communique. Slowly, his tussle-haired head swiveled to regard her.
Face to face, she was confronted by the swirling fog of his boyish charm. Confidently enshrouded thus, he wasted no effort to mask the narcissism lodged amidst his knowingly pleasant features. Yet it was his eyes that dominated the introduction. Their blue was as bright as it was bottomless; the hue of a cloudless summer sky.
Both the cigarette dangling from her cracked lips and the day’s long-trailing years grew heavier under his stare. Her dry skin sagged under the sudden, seemingly spiteful, addition of weight. “Poison? She spat.
By the dim light she sensed more than saw the predatory smile. Too late she realized the ruse of his seeming resignation, and her imagination flared to illuminate what her eyes failed to detect from the dark: twin rows of crocodile teeth that gleamed a moonlit sheen.