I often write short stories and submit to various contests I find online. Sometimes my work is featured, other times it's short-listed and there are times it is simply rejected. Regardless, every story I write has a place in my heart and usually goes through a round of edits and gets submitted elsewhere or featured here on my website.
American Cowboy was written for a Globe Soup contest (that I did not win). If you've been following any of my work, you know I'm a sucker for a young person with a sweet southern accent. There's just something magical about that slow country drawl. And with that said, I hope you enjoy this #shortstory about a young country boy exploring a strange new place.
It was Hollywood’s newest darling Hart Baker’s first time in Tokyo. He’d flown in on a red-eye flight from his home in Dallas two nights ago and still wasn’t used to the fifteen-hour time difference. But, as long as he made it to the set on time, his make-up artist would hide the dark circles…
Hart was a regular John Wayne; plucked from the farm where he spent his days rustling cattle and riding horses.
His agent Sarah Kennedy wouldn’t take no for an answer.
She spotted him one night at the local Honky Tonk, where Hart liked to sing Johnny Cash on Tuesdays. She was hunting for “real talent”. She needed someone raw and untainted by the LA scene.
Hart was perfection, she clucked!
When he went to auditions, everyone said how lucky he was to have Sarah Kennedy representing him. Hart thought Sarah was pushy and aggressive. But, his first job put enough money into his bank account to buy ten farms in rural Texas, so he decided to give her a fair shot.
It still didn’t mean he was enjoying the “Limelight” as they called it.
“Listen Hart, this thing in Tokyo, it’s going to put you on the International map!” Sarah looked up from her computer.
“Ma’am, I’m not real sure about all this… I mean, I don’t know nothin ‘bout Japan. I’m scared I’ll make a big country fool outta myself,” Hart complained in his sweet way that sounded so polite no one in Hollywood took him very seriously.
As usual, Sarah Kennedy wouldn’t take no for an answer.
So now, Hart was in Tokyo filming a movie about an American Cowboy teaching a group of Japanese women how to ride horses. It was already on the Oscar buzz list, which made Hart nervous. The first few scenes were to be shot on location in downtown Tokyo. After that, they were scheduled to move production three hours away to a large farm near the base of Mt. Fuji.
Hart longed to be with the horses.
That was the real reason he’d accepted the role, to see the Japanese countryside and ride horses in a place unlike anywhere he’d been before. Hart only had to make it through three weeks in Tokyo.
After the first day of shooting, Hart discovered he was very tall compared to the Japanese actors and apparently very funny, because all of the women on set kept laughing in groups and pointing at him. “Y’all know where a guy can grab a quick cold one and a burger?” he asked the closest group of gigglers. “Ah, come on, I’m starved!” He complained when no one answered.
“There’s a Tachinomiya just down the block, Mr. Baker. Follow me.” A woman, with a very Americanized accent stepped forward and took a hold of him. Her soft hand felt familiar– like a warm breeze in Texas before a thunderstorm.
“Tach-in-o-miya?” Hart tried to replicate the unfamiliar word.
“Yes, a standing bar. They have American beer and hamburgers,” the woman said as she dragged Hart down the street. Even at night, people in Tokyo were working hard. He respected hard work, it was the cowboy way.
“In there,” the woman pointed at a small bar cramped between two hotels. “Best Tachinomiya in Tokyo. Let me order for you.”
Hart smiled. The place was lively. Men in suits. Women talking and eating. Everyone standing! Not a seat in the place. And to his surprise, someone was singing– a familiar tune. Before he could say anything, the woman he was with spoke quickly to the bartender. Within seconds an ice cold bottle of Budweiser was placed in front of Hart.
“How-dy part-ner,” the bartender said when Hart took the bottle.
“Thank you, sir,” Hart nodded and tipped his cowboy hat before sucking down the ice cold brew.
“I ordered you a hamburger. Now I’ll call the studio and have them send a car here to pick you up before I go,” the woman said while taking out her cell phone.
“Wait, I don’t want to go yet. They’re playin’ my song.” Hart tried to stop her from dialing the number.
“Part-ner, you sing Johnny Cash?” The bartender tugged on Hart’s sleeve.
Hart paused, confused for a moment.
The woman put her phone down. “He wants you to sing,” she explained. Hart accepted the invitation with another dip of his hat and walked over to the small stage at the end of the bar. The man who was singing bowed graciously and handed him the microphone.
“A-one-and-a-two,” Hart gave a beat before belting out Folsom Prison Blues.
The Tachinomiya erupted in clapping and stomping.
For a moment, Hart was back in Texas.
A real American Cowboy singing in the Honky Tonk on Tuesday night.
Entering writing contests can be a rewarding exercise in creativity and restraint. Creating an entire story from start to finish in a mere 1000 words or less forces you to imagine as much about the words you leave off the page as what you pen on it.
If you're looking for a place to submit your own work, try the month submissions listing on Curiosity Never Killed the Writer. If you have a more competitive spirit, try entering the the upcoming annual Writer's Games over at my favorite website, The Writer's Workout.
Feel free to chat me up and let me know what you thought about my #flash story American Cowboy over on the Twitterverse @writingwithreed.