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Cowboys & Ballerinas

Frank Scozzari

          The door swung open and the silhouette that appeared was undoubtedly that of a ballerina. The figure was sublime and had the fanning outline of a tutu about the waist.

          “Can I use your phone?” the silhouette cried out.

          Marge, the fifty-something waitress-proprietor looked over at the lone cowboy seated at a table. He tilted his big Stetson hat back so he could see the figure more clearly.

          “My car died and I need to call a cab,” the silhouette said.

          “Sure, come on in,” Marge said. “The phone is right there.” She pointed to a phone hanging on the wall behind the counter.

          The silhouette stepped into the light and now Marge and the cowboy could see her clearly. She was wearing a pink tutu and white stockings, and as she rushed past the cowboy’s table, she continued rambling, “It was One Stop Car Rental. I’ll tell you, don’t trust them. I should have known it was too good to be true.”

          She reached the phone and dialed a number. Marge and the cowboy watched curiously as she began to speak.

           “What’s the name of this place?” she asked, cupping her hand over the phone’s receiver.

           “Bill’s Tavern,” Marge replied.

           The ballerina repeated the information into the phone. An inaudible voice answered, to which she replied, “Forty minutes? An hour! Can’t you make it any sooner?” The voice on the phone spoke again and the ballerina said, “Okay,” and then hung up.

           With drooped shoulders, she wallowed over to an empty table and sat down. She looked around. It was late afternoon and the place was empty except Marge and the cowboy. The interior décor was purely western. There were horseshoes and branding irons hanging on the walls and a couple deer head mounted above the counter. “I’m going to miss my audition,” she cried.

           Marge and the cowboy exchanged glances.

           “I flew in from New York. The flight was delayed. By the time I got my bag I knew I wasn’t going to make it, so I dressed in the airport bathroom, got my car and headed in for the city.”
            “The city’s in the opposite direction, Honey” Marge said.
            “It is?”

           “You must’ve gone the wrong way.”

           The ballerina reached down and tied a loose strap on her velvet shoes. Then she hung her head again and began to cry.

            “Can’t be all that bad,” Marge said.

            “It is,” the ballerina said. “I’m going to miss my audition.”

            “Well, just call them and ask for another one.”
            “It doesn’t work that way.”

            “Why not?”

            “There’s a thousand girls trying for the same part.”

            “Yeah… but if you’re good, which I’m sure you are, won’t they want to give you a chance?”

            “It’s one of the top companies in the world. They have no tolerance for this kind of thing. They’ve heard every excuse in the world.”

            Then there was the sound of a man clearing his throat. “Pardon me,” the cowboy drawled. “What time is your audition?”

            The ballerina turned and looked over at the lone cowboy figure. His face was shadowed by his hat, but she could see that he had rugged features and a broad mustache. He was slouched back in his chair with his leather chaps and boots extending out on the wooden floor. He was handsome nonetheless, she thought.

            “It’s at four o’clock,” she answered. “Why is the airport so far from everything?”

            “Hey Marge,” the cowboy said. “You think I can borrow your car?”
            “You could if I had it. Bill had some errands to run in town so he dropped me off today.”

            “The taxi company said they can’t get out here for an hour,” the ballerina said.

            “Yeah, traffic can get pretty heavy this time of day,” Marge said.

            “Four?” the cowboy asked.
            “Yes, four.”

            The cowboy took off his hat and scratched his head. “It’s at the big theater house downtown?”

            The ballerina lifted her head and looked over at him, teary eyed. “The Metropolitan Opera House.”
            “That’s the one on Van Ness,” Marge said.

            “I can give you a ride,” the cowboy then said. “If you don’t mind riding on the back of a horse.”

            “That’s your horse?” The ballerina had seen a horse out front, tied to a lamp post. She thought it odd to see a horse in the city, although she had seen police horses in Time Square before.

            “Yeah, she’s my one and only. I’m not sure if I can get you there in forty minutes, but one good thing about a horse, it can wade right through traffic.”

            The ballerina glanced over at Marge, wondering if the cowboy was being serious.

            “He’s a good horseman,” Marge said.

             The ballerina looked at her watch. Five minutes had already passed.

            “You really think you can get me there on time?”

            “I think so.”

            “Let’s go, then” she said.

            They quickly exited the bar together. The cowboy unhooked the rein from the light pole, leaped up into the saddle, and reached down with his long arm. She grabbed hold of his arm and felt herself lifted off the ground, effortlessly, in the same way she had been lifted off dance floors so many times.

            “What are you doing with a horse in the city?” she asked.

            “It’s not all city.”

            “Most people drive cars.”
            “Got one of those too.”

            “Just decided to take your horse today?”

            “Yeah, thought I’d take her out for a ride.”


            “There are trails and places for people to ride, even in the city. I run a boarding stable.”

            “Oh, okay.”

             He turned and looked back at her. He saw her face clearly now, in the sunlight, and took notice of her beautiful green eyes.


             She nodded her head.

             With that, the cowboy gave the reigns a little tug and the horse reared its head, turned and began a canter.

             “Hang on,” he said.

             She wrapped her arms around his waist, and then, with a nudge of his boot along the horse’s flank, the horse began to gallop fast.

             In ten minutes they came upon a car abruptly parked with one wheel up on the curb. A slip of paper was attached to the antenna.

            “That’s my car,” the ballerina said.

            “You got a parking ticket,” the cowboy advised as they rode past.

              They proceeded down the frontage road, keeping a fast but measured pace. The horse began breathing heavily and the ballerina could feel the sweat on her legs coming from her back.

              The cowboy reached down and patted the horse’s side. “You’re doing fine,” he whispered into its ear.

              Ahead was the airport terminal. There was a considerable amount of traffic, shuttle buses, rental cars and the like. A huge Boeing 747 came thundering overhead.

              “That’s the airport,” the ballerina said.


              They trotted off the frontage road and raced onto the freeway on-ramp. The freeway was quite congested but they stayed clear off to the right shoulder and were able to make better time than all the traffic, except for the carpool lane. After a short distance, they got off an off-ramp and went under a freeway underpass, and into a commercial neighborhood.

              “There’s a short cut,” the cowboy said.

               They went down an alleyway, behind some commercial buildings, following along a long row of dumpsters. The ballerina hung on as the horse turned sharply back toward another raised roadway beneath which was a storm tunnel. The horse was riding above the bit, and the cowboy leaned forward gently against its head to bring her down.  

              “Duck down,” the cowboy said, and they went into the narrow tunnel.

              “Another short-cut?”


              Back into the sunlight on the other side, the horse found a trail through the grass that meandered up above a housing district. They climbed along a mountainside with the freeway below them. On the other side of the mountain they had a fabulous view of the city and the bay; then dropped back down into another residential district. After another couple miles, they were deep within the city.

              As the horse bolted down the streets, the cowboy thought of the ballerina’s beautiful green eyes. There was a depth to them he had not seen before, and it made him wonder what it would be like, a life together. How could it be? He could show her the rodeo, he thought, and teach her how to rope. He imagined them living on a ranch and raising cattle, and having grits and omelets together every morning.

              At the same time, the ballerina was thinking about the cowboy’s strong arm, how easily it had lifted her off the ground to the back of the horse. If only her dance partners could do it so effortlessly! And she pictured his face. Though not clean shaven, it was ruggedly handsome. It would be so great, she thought, to show him her world – life, through the interpretation of dance, with all its spins, uplifting moments, triumphs and tragedies.

               Above them now was a huge concrete freeway interchange. Curving elevated freeway trusses stretched skyward. The horse wove swiftly between them, her nostrils flaring, and the ballerina hung on to the cowboy, feeling his body lean with the horse as a slalom skier leans between gates, until finally they found the place where the freeway deposited the cars down onto a surface street. The horse reared and raced up the street using the small space between the parked cars and the traffic as a pathway. 

              The traffic past Market Street was at a standstill. Slowing to a trot, the cowboy negotiated through the cars. The ballerina kept her arms around his stomach, and her head pressed against his back, and she listened to the horse’s hooves clacking on the pavement as they proceeded north.

             “Pardon me,” the cowboy said, tipping his hat to one man who looked up at them from his rolled down window.

              He tipped his hat again, to an old lady who stared at them from the backseat of a limousine.

              All the way up Van Ness, the traffic remained deep, which made crossing six lanes on a horse a little less daunting.

             Across the street they could see the Opera House and the Memorial Building, huge monolithic buildings made of marble and granite.

             “It that it?” the cowboy asked.

             “I think so.”

              They navigated through the cars, galloped across the sidewalk between a few pedestrians, and came to the front of the building. There was a sign on the colossal front door: “Auditions in Back.” An arrow pointed to the left side of the building.

              The cowboy pulled the reigns in that direction and the horse followed. They crossed a lawn, beyond a fountain, back through a parking lot, and at last reached the rear entrance. There were several other ballerinas standing around, watching as they rode up. The horse came to a half halt in the rear parking lot. The cowboy reached back with his long arm and in a single movement, slid the ballerina off the back of the horse and set her gently to the ground.

             There was a woman seated near the backdoor with a clipboard in her hand. She seemed oblivious to the fact that they had just rode up on a horse.

            “Name?” she asked as the ballerina hurried up to the front of the queue.

            “Ingrid Simpson.”

            “You’re next,” the woman said.

             The cowboy dismounted, tied the horse to a handrail, and joined the ballerina. The ballerina looked at her watch. It was four o’clock.

             “That was wild!” she exclaimed, looking up at him. “I can’t believe we made it!” She reached up and kissed the cowboy on his cheek. “Thank you!”

             “Thank you!” the cowboy replied, politely removing his hat.

             “What’s your name?” she asked.


             “I’m Ingrid.”

              She held out her dainty hand and he took it and shook it gently. “It’s a bit of a miracle that we met,” she said.

              “Yes, it is.”

               From backstage, through the side curtains, they could see a young ballerina performing to a waltz.

              “Let’s meet afterward,” Ingrid said. “Get some coffee or something. I really can’t thank you enough.”

              “Yes ma’am,” the cowboy said.

               They watched as the ballerina on stage finished up with her audition and bowed.

              “Ingrid Simpson,” a voice then called from stage right.

              “You’re up,” said the woman with the clipboard.

              Ingrid walked out on to the stage, and the cowboy watched as she curtsied before a handful of theater executives seated in the front row. Then she came to her toes and held her position. The music commenced and she began to twirl and spin beautifully. Her elegant lines flowed with the music and cast long twisting shadows upward from the recessed lighting.

               So perfect, the cowboy thought; God’s perfect embodiment of the female form. It would be great to meet afterward.

              But they were from different worlds, he knew, from opposite ends of a continent. She would always be a ballerina, and he would always be a cowboy. He put his Stetson hat back on and adjusted it snuggly to his forehead. Then he turned and walked down the foyer toward the backdoor.

Frank Scozzari was born in Bay Shore, New York. He moved to California as a child, where he attended and graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He now resides on the California Central Coast. An avid adventurer, he hobo’ed his way across America at age eighteen, twice trekked the John Muir Trail, backpacked through Europe, camel-backed the ruins of Giza, jeep-trailed the length of the Baja peninsula three times, globe-trotted from Peking to the Paris to the White Nights of northern Russia, and once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest point in Africa. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines including The Emerson Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Tampa Review, War Literature & the Arts (U.S. Air Force Academy),Pacific Review, Eleven Eleven, The Bitter Oleander, South Dakota Review, Minetta Review(NYU), Hawaii Pacific Review, Ellipsis Magazine, The Nassau Review, The MacGuffin, Reed Magazine, The Broken Plate, Roanoke Review,and Short Story America, and have been featured in literary theater.


© 2014 by Frank Scozzari

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