They called him Slim, though he wasn’t. His soft belly sagged over his belt, giving the women he loved a little something to hold onto when they rode the stallion bareback. Who knew what his real name was? Jebediah? William? Bob? Whatever his Christian name, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t the truth of him that made him appealing. It was the mystery.
He was a legend in his own mind, and in the minds of the frumpy women he wooed, castoffs who had been nothing more than unsightly blemishes on the complexion of humanity until he came along and swept them up in his undertow, turning them into something glamorous, something more exciting than disgruntled housewives and gas station attendants and fast-food-drive-through cashiers. A married man, he made them into mistresses, which is almost like being mysterious. Both words start with the same syllable, and those of them who had a few semesters of college English under their belts did not miss the nuance of that linguistic revelation.
Slim Pickins, bar-star extraordinaire. He was known in pubs all over Wyoming and beyond, and when he stepped on the stage, wearing that white Stetson, holding his guitar, the lonely, middle-aged bar patrons swooned. Afterward, he’d seduce one of them, or two, if he could swing it. Always, he concluded a quick round of speedy, hamster-ish humping, in a parked car, a broom closet, a roadside motel, by whispering, “You’re my special girl,” his breath soggy with quasi-devotion and Jim Beam. The next day, the “girl” in question would do what she had to do to be near him. Leave her husband. Quit her job. Pack her five cats into a U-Haul and high tail it to Cheyenne, so she could be burned up in the sun that her dissolute star revolved so relentlessly around. Such was the magic of Slim.
Before he was a mystery, he was an electrician, with benefits. Dissatisfied wives got more than they bargained for when Slim Pickins loped through the door, wearing cowboy boots, Brylcreemed hair, and a Guy Smiley grin, ready to charge up more than just the air conditioning system. So let’s just say that by the time he made it big on bar stages, he was ready. Practice makes perfect, and if ever there was a perfect wooer of less-than-perfect feminine specimens, Slim was it.
But that was then, this is now. Slim Pickins, or whatever his name is, has settled down at last with his wife of 40 years, in a motorhome on the beach in Florida. Meanwhile, like once-high helium balloons, his special girls have deflated and sagged into the same place, a remote Wyoming retirement community marked with a sign, Slim’s Special Girls. An oil paint Stetson hovers under the lettering, and most nights, one or two of the girls can be seen keening in front of it, leaving a flower or a shot of whiskey by the signpost. On Friday nights, they have mud wrestling contests. The champion wins Slim, or what’s left of him, which is his old Stetson, dented now, smelling of salt because of all the tears that have soaked into its stained, slouching brim. They haven’t seen Slim in years and probably never will again, but Slim’s Special Girls are nothing if not devoted.
These are some of their stories.