Karen S. Bennett

The Bull Ride

Flash Fiction
by Karen S. Bennett

Harley wiped the back of his hand across his beery lips and screeched his bar stool back. “Okay, Charlie, and you too, Bobby, I’ll do it. Put y’all’s money right there in the middle of the table, ‘cause I’m gonna collect from you sorry sons o’ guns. Gotta pay off that ‘you know what’ for Cindi to take me back.” Both men good humoredly swore as they reached into back pockets and plunked folded money next to the empty pitcher. 

The cowboy on the dance floor called into the mic, “All righty, ladies and gentlemen, here comes our next challenger. Step aside. Give ‘im room. What’s your name, son?”

“Harley.” He rolled his cowboy hat’s brim in his hands and smiled at the saloon’s couples and stags. 

“Harley, what makes you think you can beat our devil bull, ‘Ole Bet-noir’?”

Harley looked over the black, squarish, bucking machine, with little similarity to a bull. He pointed. “Two hundred dollars yonder says so. Need to pay off something important for my girl, Cindi.” 

The audience rallied, cheering, “Go Harley, Yahoo, Harley.”

“Okay son, You’ll hear music. ‘Bet-noir’ will make two slow turns, then will have his way with you. If you go past eleven seconds, you’ll beat our present champeen. You’ll win fitty dollars for each second you go over eleven seconds. Deal?”

“Deal.” Harley beamed.

“Hear that? Our Harley’s going for a heap of money for his little gal, Cindi. Good luck, son.” The man patted Harley’s shoulder, then smacked the mechanical bull’s assumed rump.

Harley pressed his hat on his head, bowed, then waved to the congregation. He swung his lanky leg across the bull’s back, grabbing the nub of rope positioned where the horn would be on a western saddle. He shifted his thin backside onto the bull’s back and pinched his knees into the would-be ribs. 

Thank God I’m a Country Boy, blared from the speakers. Orange and red Budweiser signs, and small, white, twinkling lights outlined the mirror above the bar, while red glass covered candles flickered from twenty tables. 

The bull swung around, two slow circles then bucked and jolted to the right, tipping upright. Harley compensated, leaning forward, quickly, expertly re-gripping his rope and swinging his free hand above his head.

He taught me how to love and how to give just a little, Thank God I’m a country boy…

The smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke assaulted Harley’s head. 

“Go Harley. Give ‘im hell.”    

Five. Six. Seven. 

Harley closed his eyes to the swirling lights. He held his breath against the odors of the damp floor, the mold, the bull’s hide. His cheeks puffed, producing a long belch which was covered by cheers and foot stomping. He mumbled, “Cindi, I love you.” His left leg slipped. The bucking momentum shifted his weight to the left. “Ohhh, look out!”

Hang on. Hang on.

And life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle….

Nine. Ten. Eleven.

“…Thank God, I’m a country boy.”