Western Fiction posted July 28, 2012

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Hot Bath

by humpwhistle

Western Flash Fiction Contest Winner 

The Chinaman sloshed in another bucket of hot water and began filling the second tub.
“You bringin’ me company, Chinaman?”
“Name Chen.  This public bath,” he said.  “Not be shy.  Besides, you been here since last summer, I think.  Must be very dirty wild man.” He poured hot water into my tepid tub.
“Well, six weeks' time in the wilderness don’t wash off with rain, my celestial friend, needs some soakin'.  This gent you’re fixin’ to send in, he’s a skilled conversationalist, I hope.  I don’t cotton to takin’ waters with a dullard or an oak tree.”
“Maybe bath partner think you dullard, huh?”
“Not likely, Chen.  Why, I’ve chatted it up with dukes and generals in my time.  So you just check this gent’s credentials before lettin' him in.  I'm not of a temper to suffer fools while I sop.”
“You check credentials yourself, round-eye.  Maybe you get big surprise.”
Chen made two more water runs—each time saving the bottom of the bucket to warm up my bath.  But he refused to offer any hint about the identity of my new companion.
On his way out he said, “You check credentials, old man.  Big surprise!”
First, I smelled angel perfume. 

“Don’t bother getting up.” 
Well, the cigar fell out of my mouth, and my hands dove to my uncovered nethers.
She was comely as they come.  Cayenne hair layered and twisted high on her head.  Most of the rest of her wrapped in a white sheet she promptly, and without so much as a blush, let  fall.
“Chen said you wanted to check my credentials.  Hope you’re satisfied.”  She lowered herself into the tub.  “Don’t over think it, cowboy.  There’s only two tubs in this two-tree town and I require to bathe every morning.  Chen didn’t think you’d mind.  I can see, he’s right.”
Satisfied didn’t quite cover it.  All I could blurt was, “You’d do in a twister.”
She got busy with soap.  “Who says gallantry's dead?”
I detected some tartness on her tongue.  “Sportin’ woman?”
“Set your sights lower, drifter.  I’ve got standards.”
I fished out my cigar and put it back in my mouth.  It drooped significantly.  “Rich man’s concubine?”
She raised a leg, soaped it as if I wasn’t there.  “Concubine?  Where did a saddle sore like you come up with concubine?  But no, I’m no rich man’s Saturday poke.”
I know an insult when I hear one.  “Hey, I’ve had some schoolin’.  Enough to know you sure ain’t no prissy schoolmarm.”
She looked at me in a smiley way.  “Oh, what’s the matter?  Never saw your schoolmarm naked, did you?”
Just the thought produced a blush and an instant wilty.  “I should hope not.”
She rose tall as a tree, dripping, picked up her sheet and wrapped up.  She turned, unpinning her hair.  “That’s a nasty rash on your neck.  Come see me.”
When she left, Chen waddled in.  “What you think of new doctor’s credentials, now?”

Writing Prompt
Cowboy or Cowgirl,horses. Rodeo/chuckwagon/bar, livery stable/church setting. Your choice. Locale can be Texas, Wyoming or Montana. Modern times or old West times. Your choice. Some humor would be good.

Western Flash Fiction
Contest Winner


No offense intended to orientals, whites, concubines, doctors, cowboys, or rashes.
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