5. Ranch Dressing

By Calico

Heyes, the muscles tautening in his whipcord strong arms, levered himself from the pool. Water streamed from every contour of his finely sculpted upper torso. As he eased himself a little higher, water also streamed – unsurprisingly – over every contour of his equally finely sculpted lower torso. Diamond drops clung to his glistening hair and traced gleaming paths over his naked, sun-kissed flanks. Shimmering droplets snaked, sinuously, down the shapely column of his neck to the delightful nooks of flesh in his throat and over the swell of his chest. He straightened and stretched his limbs aloft, glorying in the soft, balmy breeze playing over his naked form. The sunlight, filtering through the sweetly scented leaves warmed his body and dappled his skin with ever-changing patterns of light and shade. His bare feet stepped gingerly to avoid sharp stones as he made his way over to where Kid was already stretched out on a flat rock.

“This is the life, huh?” sighed Heyes, settling himself down, prone, beside his partner.

“Sure is,” agreed the basking Kid.

“I reckon we’ve found the perfect place to…”

[Huh? Some of you want more time looking at Kid? Sheesh, who’d have picky readers? Still, never let it be said I do not cater to adherents of that other fella!]

The warm rays caressed Kid’s glowing flesh, drying him after his swim. With a murmur of contentment he turned over. The soft kiss of the summer air stirred the blond curls and flushed the golden skin as it played over the back of his leanly muscled thighs and his delightfully pert – er – his delightful rear elevation.

“I reckon we’ve found the perfect place to make camp,” contented Heyes. “Plenty of fish in the water. Plenty of game in the woods. No posses, no bounty hunters, no one to spot us. I reckon we’re the only human beings around for mile…”

“Hello!” A feminine voice rang out, interrupting Heyes’ now obviously false supposition.

“Hello!” And another.

The ex-outlaws scrambled to their feet, grabbing for the silver-trimmed black number and the floppy-brimmed brown article, these being the nearest items of clothing within reach.

Two beautiful girls, both tawny-haired, both with wide hazel eyes, both with full, inviting rosy lips, in fact both gorgeously identical in every way, smiled at them.

“I’m Jilly,” beamed one.

“I’m Lily,” twinkled the other.

“Hello,” came a third feminine voice, “I’m Milly.”

“And I’m Tilly,” trilled a fourth.

A brace of ex-outlaw heads swivelled to look over a brace of ex-outlaw shoulders. Another couple of alluring lovelies, this pair boasting corn-coloured curls, soft blue eyes, peaches and cream complexions, stood watching and smiling. In unison Heyes and Kid fan-danced their hastily snatched up headgear to cover their rears, realised this had certain frontal disadvantages, fan-danced back and edged round, giving all four girls a relatively modest three-quarter angle.

“You’ll excuse us from tipping our hats, ladies,” said Kid.

Four delightful giggles, “Oh, yes. We don’t worry about little things like that.”

“You must be sisters,” deduced Heyes.

“Twins,” nodded Jilly (or possibly Lily).

“We’re twins too!” beamed Milly (or possibly Tilly).

Four visions of blooming pulchritude fluttered, delightfully, at the boys.

“If I’m dreamin’, please don’t let me wake up,” breathed Kid, sotto voce.

“What makes you think this is your dream and not mine?” breathed back Heyes.

“‘Cos if you were dreamin’, them gal’s’d be playin’ poker and sittin’ inside a safe.”

Heyes threw the ‘look’ at his partner. “Well, if this is your dream, where are they hiding the picnic basket?”

One of the ladies seemed to feel a little more family explanation was needed.

“Me and Tilly are twins, but we’re not Jilly and Lily’s twins, because that’d make us quadruplets.”

“And if me and Jilly and Milly and Tilly were quadruplets all with rhyming names,” declared Lily, with a pout, “…That’d be just silly.”

“I don’t know, Milly. Maybe we ARE Jilly and Lily’s twins, because we ARE twins and we ARE their sisters,” puzzled Tilly.

“I don’t think it’s correct phraseology to call Jilly and Lily our twins,” opined Milly.

“Just as well,” frowned Lily, seriously. “What a task that would be for a hypothetical beta-reader. Suppose we started talking to you boys about…” She searched, “Give me a subject,” she appealed to her twin.

“Our lingerie…” suggested Jilly.

“We’re listening,” said Kid.

“I could start talking about my twin’s lace trimmed camisoles, with an apostrophe before the S…”

“And you wouldn’t know if that was right, or if she should have had the apostrophe AFTER the S,” joined in Milly.

“Did they just stop talkin’ underwear and start spoutin’ grammar?” muttered Kid, “…I reckon you’re right, Heyes, this is your crazy dream. You always did read too much.”

“Even I don’t dream about apostrophes, Kid.” A dimpled grin, “…Maybe the odd perverted comma.”

“Huh?”

“My twin’s pink silk cami-knickers are in my twins’ laundry basket…”

“No, the pink ones are mine…”

“That’s not the point, Tilly. It’s just an example…”

“Oh! Like my twins’ quick fox jumping over my twin’s lazy bro…”

“I hate to interrupt, ladies,” interrupted Heyes, “…But, was there something you wanted?”

Two sets of bright hazel and two sets of limpid blue eyes rested on the naked (though PG hat-shielded) ex-outlaws.

“Oh, yes! There IS something we want.”

“Something we want you to do for us.”

“We were watching you swim!”

“We think you’re both SO handsome!”

“You’re just what we’ve been looking for!”

Four dazzling smiles bathed the damp partners in admiration.

“Beauty AND excellent taste,” breathed Heyes. “These are our kinda gals, Kid!”

“How would you like to come over to our barn,” a rosy tipped finger pointed invitingly, indicating a path through the woods heading in a westerly direction, “…And hear what we have in mind?”

The boys exchanged another glance.

“D’you think it’s a trap?” breathed Heyes.

His partner mused a moment. Heyes waited. What did Kid’s gut say?

“Don’t feel like a trap,” decided Kid. “It feels crazy. But not crazy Lorraine kinda crazy.”

“If it IS a trap,” murmured Heyes, wistfully, looking from one inviting lovely to another, “…You gotta admit the bait is pretty dang tasty.”

“Can we get dressed first?” called Kid, out loud.

“Of course! We wouldn’t want you to walk through the woods with us without any clothes on, would we?” laughed Jilly.

Relief and disappointment – mingled with a hefty dose of confusion – warred on two ex-outlaw faces.

“And don’t forget your guns,” reminded Lily.

A mute conversation between the boys. THAT didn’t sound like ‘trap’.

“Wear the gun belts real low on your hips,” adjured Milly.

“That’s the way we like them,” beamed Tilly.

“We’ll go wait in the barn,” said Jilly, “…You follow when you’re ready. Come on, Lily. Hurry up, Milly. Tilly! No peeking!”

The twins (both sets) skipped off. Giggling and girlish glee drifted back through the trees.

“ARE we gonna follow ’em?” checked Heyes.

A pause, then a rueful grin from the blond fella, “Do cowboys eat beans?”

-oooOOOooo-

LATER – IN THE BARN

“Well?” Jilly leaned forward and smiled at the boys, “Have I made you an offer you can’t refuse?”

“Not exactly, ma’am,” said Heyes. A bemused grin dimpled his cheeks, “I reckon you’ve made us an offer we can’t understand.”

“Start again at the beginning,” advised Lily.

“And take it slower this time,” urged Milly, “…So the poor boys don’t get all confused.”

Jilly sighed. With a patient tone and extra clear enunciation she began again, “Joshua, Thaddeus, do you know what jeans are?”

Heyes, mimicking her slow delivery, responded, “Work pants made of hard-wearing denim.” In his normal voice, “We’re confused, ma’am, not four years old.”

“Some ranch hands wear ’em,” said Kid. “And fellas working on railroad buildin’.”

“Do you know what branding is?”

“Course we do,” Kid’s turn to register a touch of affront at Jilly’s simple step-by-step questions.

“Good. My sisters and I have set up a completely new kind of business; a Marketing Consultancy. Our first contract is to develop a branding concept for jeans…” Jilly, responding to the ‘don’t patronise us’ expressions on the boys’ faces had returned to her normal delivery speed.

“Huh? You’re gonna BRAND jeans…?”

“Yes. We thought we’d exploit the rugged sensuality and raw machismo inherent in the physical lissomness of the cowboy at work…”

“You’re gonna send folk out with some identifyin’ squiggle on the rear of their pants?”

“Well,” Jill blinked, “…The unique logo on the patch pocket will be only a minor part of the branding exercise. More important will be the creation of a coherent and memorable pictorial narrative encapsulating the virile romance of the strong, stoic man working to…”

She tailed off, seeing the utter lack of comprehension in the blue eyes.

“You said you knew what branding was, Thaddeus.”

“I do. You take a red hot iron and use it to burn a mark on a cow’s bu… On a cow.”

Jilly rolled her eyes. “Not THAT kind of branding!”

A pause.

“In that case, ma’am,” said Heyes, “…You can carry on with the schoolmarm-for-slow-children act. We don’t know what branding is.”

-oooOOOooo-

“These jeans you’re trying to sell, ma’am,” interrupted Heyes, “…They’re exactly the same as regular jeans, huh?”

“No, they’re branded. We will have built a backstory to which every customer can relate. They will feel by wearing our product they are part of the daring adventure that is the pioneering West…”

“Yeah, but apart from you messing with their heads, the jeans are the same?”

“I suppose, taking a simplistic view, if you want to restrict me to an unsophisticated ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response,” with a rueful grin, Jilly admitted, “…Yes, they’re the same.”

“Except, I’m guessing, for the price tag?”

Confirmatory smiles from four gorgeous twins.

“So, this branding,” clarified Kid, a frown creasing his brow, “…It’s a way of connin’ money outta folks?”

The twins (again, all four of them) blushed and hung their heads.

“‘Conning’ is a little harsh,” deprecated Milly, sketching a doodle on the dusty floor of the barn with the toe of her shoe, “…It’s using the art of illusion. It’s… It’s…”

“It’s bluffing,” supplied Heyes.

“Do you have a problem with bluffing, Joshua?” asked Lily.

“Well, ma’am,” the brown eyes radiated virtuous honesty, “I’m reminded of that wise old proverb: Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we…”

“No,” interrupted Kid, throwing the ‘look’ at his partner, “Joshua don’t have no problem with bluffin’.”

“Good!” beamed Lily, while Tilly clapped her hands in girlish glee, “because the photographs we want to take of you will form an integral part of…”

“We’re not partial to being photographed, ma’am,” put in Kid.

“Why?”

“I guess we’re naturally modest,” deadpanned Heyes.

Disbelieving blinks from two sets of hazel and two sets of limpid blue eyes.

“Modest?” waves of incredulity emanated from Jilly as she raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. “Do you know, I thought for a moment you were going to say you didn’t want your photographs made public because you were worried you might be recognised!” A knowing smile played around her eminently kissable mouth.

The ex-outlaws exchanged a wary glance.

“No, ma’am,” said Kid, “Nothing like that. We’re just bashful.”

“What a shame! Because the photographs we had planned would have been…” Jilly made a sweeping gesture and lowered her voice, reverently, “Let’s just say, all men would want to BE you; all women would want to be WITH you.”

A pause for this to sink in. A rapt look in the brown eyes and a wistful gleam in the blue eyes suggested the boys liked the sound of that.

“AND, if you WERE worried about being recognised, I could have put your minds at rest.”

Another – still very wary – glance was exchanged.

“How would you have done that, ma’am?” asked Heyes.

“Oh, that’s easy!” grinned Lily. “We don’t need any photographs of you with your FACES showing.”

“We don’t really even WANT pictures of your faces,” added Milly.

“It’ll be much better if we CAN’T see your faces,” nodded Tilly.

Despite this being welcome news, the golden haired twins were so emphatic in their lack of desire to commit the partners’ physiognomies to photographic plates, that a certain chagrin rang in Kid’s voice as he said, “Would you like me to turn my back right now, ma’am?”

“Oh!” Milly hurried up to him and took his hand between her two small ones, “It’s not because there’s anything wrong with your faces.”

“No!” Tilly had scampered across with her twin and clasped Kid’s free hand; her spare fingers reached to deliver a comforting caress to Heyes’ cheek. “We think both your faces are gorgeous! You’re two of the most beautiful men we’ve ever seen! So, SO handsome. If we had to draw the most perfect men we could possibly imagine, we’d draw you tw…”

“There’s no need to gush, Tilly,” cautioned Jilly. “Remember they said they were bashful.”

“Let your sister finish, ma’am,” urged Heyes, “I reckon me and Thaddeus oughta try to grow outta being so shy.”

“The only reason we don’t want to photograph your faces,” went on Tilly, her lovely eyes shining with eagerness to please, “is that… Er…” She turned to her sister, “Why don’t we want to photograph their faces, Jilly? I forget.”

“Because we want the pictures to suggest iconic figures of universal masculinity, rather than individuals…”

“What she said.”

“We want to capture the very essence, no, make that the very quintessence of the Western man. We intend to…”

Heyes, who had begun to suspect Jilly had a silver tongue to rival his own, interrupted, “So, if not our faces, what DO you want to photograph?”

“Firm thighs hugged by denim…”

“Denim waistbands resting low on lean, lean hips…”

“Naked chests, glistening with the dewy perspiration of manly toil…”

“Rippling abdomen walls giving way to flat bellies, drawing the eye to a buttoned fly, the top two fastenings of which have been loosened…”

(You may have gathered – these girls were on a roll!)

“Taut buttocks beneath a veil of damp, clinging, blue cloth…”

“Men, bathed in sweat, their shirts tossed aside, pitting their vigorous strength against…”

Heyes blinked. “You – you want to photograph us all wet and nekkid to the waist?”

“Yes, please!” squeaked Tilly.

“We’re not pieces of meat you know!” Heyes threw a frown at Kid, who had already started to unbutton his shirt.

Flushing, Kid refastened the cornflower cambric up to his throat. “That’s right, some folk have… Er?”

“Scruples,” supplied Heyes.

“Scruples,” echoed Kid, firmly.

“Come along, Thaddeus, it’s time we were leaving,” said Heyes. The two ex-outlaws touched their hats to the ladies and walked out of the barn.

“Oh, what a shame!” mourned Lily. “We thought it was such a good plan! We’d get our pictures and we figured you could use the modelling fee. The very generous modelling fee of…”

As they heard the figure, Heyes and Curry swivelled, in unison, through 180 degrees and strode back into the barn.

“So, where do you want us, ma’am?” asked Heyes.

“What about your scruples?”

“I said SOME folk have scruples,” deadpanned Kid, “Not us. We can’t afford ’em.”

-oooOOOooo-

“How are you getting on back there?” called Jilly.

“Fine!” called back Heyes. “So, this – er – Marketing Consultancy, how does it work?”

“Jilly’s the one who comes up with the clever words,” said Milly.

“Figures,” grunted Kid.

“Lily looks after the finances.”

“Did I tell you lilies are my favourite flowers?” This was from the dimpled one.

“I’m the art director and photographer,” went on Milly. “Aren’t you ready yet?”

“Coming,” called Heyes.

“Oh, they fit you really well!” said Lily as the boys emerged from behind a makeshift screen wearing blue jeans, gun belts, their hats – and little else. “Don’t forget to take your socks off, before you follow us down to the creek; barefoot is so much more attractive.”

The boys stooped to comply.

Jilly, Lily and Milly – Milly carrying her fancy hand-held camera – left the barn.

“You might want to bring along one sock each,” advised Tilly. “Just in case you need them.”

Questioning looks from Heyes and Curry.

“MY job is to make you look as good as possible.” A proud beam from Tilly, “I’m your fluffer!”

A pause.

“That’s real nice, ma’am,” said Kid, “…But I’m not sure how a sock’s gonna make me look good.”

“Well, it’s… It’s for… You know… It’s to make you look…” Tilly’s eyes rested on first Heyes, then Kid. Specifically, her eyes rested on a particularly central area of first Heyes and then Kid. Her brows rose, indicatively.

“I can assure you, ma’am,” protested Heyes, “I do NOT need help with – with hosiery!”

It took only a second more for light to dawn with Kid Curry.

“Me neither!”

“That’s fine,” Tilly was unphased. “I only thought since we were starting off with shots in the shaded creek – and the water there comes straight from the mountains and is always so icy, icy cold… Brrrrr! Makes me shiver even to think of it! But, if you’d rather not… Come along, then.” With a final happy beam, she skipped off.

A certain musing look settled on two ex-outlaw faces after the words ‘icy, icy cold…’

Unseen by Kid, Heyes’ masterly sleight of hand, which had once palmed an ace right in front of McCreedy’s nose, pocketed a green sock.

As Heyes turned to follow Tilly, the acknowledged fastest gun hand in the West reached and a blue sock was holstered. Just in case, huh?

-oooOOOooo-

Kid Curry strode into the cold clear creek. The water lapped higher and higher, darkening the denim clinging to every line of his long, lean thighs. Above the low slung waistband rose the slim, supple, glowing, golden flesh of his magnificent naked…

Click

-oooOOOooo-

Hannibal Heyes, his naked bronzed back to the camera, strode out of the creek. As he left the caressing water he stretched aloft his sinewy arms. He placed both hands behind his head, those finely tapered fingers ruffling the silky dark hair. He threw back his head, sending a cascade of glittering drops arcing through…

Click

-oooOOOooo-

Kid Curry, his jeans still damply clinging to his legs, his bare feet luxuriating in the warmth of the sun-kissed grass, strutted towards the corral. Beneath the low slung gun belt his…

“Could you just adjust the butt,” requested Milly.

Tilly the fluffer scampered forward, eagerly.

“The butt of the gun!” exploded Milly. “Sheesh!”

-oooOOOooo-

Hannibal Heyes’ lissom upper torso curved into a lean-bellied arc, outlined against the azure blue of the sky. A vigorous, virile beast reared with sudden powerful potency between his steel-strong thighs. His loins masterfully controlled a raging powerhouse of primordial passion; a foaming fount of masculine force, a plunging, thrusting, colossus of…

“These shots of him riding bareback are going to be marvellous,” smugged Lily.

-oooOOOooo-

Kid Curry firmly grasped the shaft of his chopper and…

[What?!

It’s an axe! For chopping wood!

Tchah! Your minds!]

-oooOOOooo-

Hannibal Heyes, the hard wall of his naked chest glistening with sweat, bare toes digging into the earth, grappled with the young bullock. The veins stood out on his gleaming sun-flushed arms like whipcords. A bead of perspiration snaked a path over the taut belly, lower and lower, leaving a salty trail in its wake as it edged closer and closer to the open buttons of his fly, before being captured by the thickening hair of…

Click.

-oooOOOooo-

Hey, this could go on all day, but you get the picture, huh? As did the twins – get the pictures, that is.

Let us fast forward to after the photo-shoot.

-oooOOOooo-

AFTER THE PHOTO-SHOOT

“You look good, huh?” preened Milly.

“Modesty forbids, ma’am,” grinned Heyes, admiring the sepia version of himself.

“And no one could recognise your faces,” pointed out Jilly.

“Nope,” agreed Heyes. It was true. Careful hat, hand, horse, and camera placement had worked wonders. He picked up another glorious study of masculine beauty. “Sheesh, I look like some kinda Greek god in this one.”

His partner leaned over and pursed his lips, “That one’s me.”

Heyes held the photograph at arm’s length. Kid was right. “I guess it goes to show, the camera CAN lie!” he teased.

Kid Curry pulled another picture towards himself. “I don’t think you can use this one, ma’am.”

“You can’t see your face, Thaddeus.”

“Yeah but, you can kinda see…” Blushing, he indicated the problem.

“Tut! Never mind. We’ll send that one to our friend, Viva.”

Before Kid could either question or object to this, Jilly spoke, “Joshua, Thaddeus. Before you go, would you help us out with a masculine opinion?”

“I reckon that might be the only kind of opinion we have, ma’am, so, yes,” dimpled Heyes.

“We need to pick a name – that’s a brand name – for the jeans.”

“We thought a man’s name,” said Lily.

“Hmmm,” mused Heyes. “Maybe the name of a historic hero? A military man? What was the name of that guy who took the elephants across the Alps?” Heyes resolutely refused to meet his partner’s eyes, so he did NOT pick up the mother of all ‘looks’ glowering in his direction.

Kid need not have worried. The girls seemed underwhelmed by the suggestion.

“We thought we’d choose the name of one of our brothers,” said Jilly.

“But, we can’t decide which one,” explained Milly.

“You have brothers?” Kid was not sure why he was surprised, but he was.

“Are they twins too?” asked Heyes.

“Oh no,” Tilly shook her head, “…At least, only six of them are twins. The other six are triplets.”

The boys exchanged a glance. And a shrug. Yup. They were still in Crazy Town.

“If we tell you their names,” Jilly was taking charge, “…You tell us which you think would work best embroidered on the pockets of the jeans.”

“Shoot,” said Heyes.

“Reuben,” after each name, Jilly left a short pause, “Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan…”

Another mute conversation between the partners. At least they didn’t rhyme, but all the same…

“Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph…” A longer pause from Jilly. She searched the boys’ faces, hopefully. Nothing. “Benjamin…”

“That’s it!” said Kid. “Ben! Great name. Masculine. Simple but stylish. The kinda name that has a ring to it. The kinda name destined to…”

“For Pete’s sake,” interrupted Heyes, “What’s so special about the name Ben to get you all fired up? Ben’s jeans! Who’s gonna want to get their hands on Ben’s jeans? Huh?” He ignored the scowl from his disgruntled partner. “If I’m counting right, there’s a name still to come, ma’am.”

“Levi.”

“Hey, that one HAS got a ring to it!”

“Levi’s jeans!” scathed Kid. “What kinda dumb brand name is THAT?!”

-oooOOOooo-

EPILOGUE

“Heyes,” began Kid, as the partners’ horses ambled into the sunset.

“Uh huh?”

“What just happened; was there any – y’know – point to it?”

A musing expression under the black hat.

“I reckon not, Kid. But I guess not everything that happens to us has to have a point, huh?”

“I guess not.”

The Kid did not sound too certain. The dark brown eyes cast a quick glance at the blue-eyed fella.

“Never mind. I’m sure the next town we ride into, it’ll all be back to normal. There’ll be a decent plot. We’ll get spotted by someone who recognises us, we’ll be framed for a bank robbery, you’ll get beaten up by hired roughnecks, I’ll be accused of cheating at poker, you’ll get caught up in an unsolved murder, you’ll get thrown into jail, you’ll get shot at…”

A frown deepened on Kid’s brow as Heyes’ list grew.

“I’m not exactly complainin’ ’bout the lack of plot, Heyes.”

“Uh huh?”

“I was just makin’ conversation.”

“Isn’t that my job?” A pause. “Look on the bright side, Kid. At least we’re not riding along with nothing but a few lousy dollars between us. You got your modelling fee, huh?”

Another pause. Heyes glanced sideways. There was a definite sheepish look beneath the floppy brown hat.

“You did get your fee, Kid?”

“Sure I got it.”

Was there just a hint of emphasis on the past tense?

“You can’t have spent it!”

Silence.

“What the Sam Hill did you spend it on? We haven’t been nowhere! We haven’t been nowhere except with those crazy girls with the… KID! Please tell me you didn’t buy a pair of those overpriced jeans?!”

Kid did not comply with Heyes’ plea for denial. He said nothing at all. The expression under the brown brim became positively ovine.

“Why? You know you could pick a pair exactly the same for a tenth of the price at any General Store! Sheesh! We shoulda had those gals in the gang in the old days. They’d a talent for daylight robbery made us look like bungling amateurs!” Heyes waited for a response. Nothing. “How could you be so dumb, Kid?”

“You heard what they said, Heyes! When I wear ’em, men will wanna BE me, women’ll wanna be WITH me…” He tailed off in the face of the utter disbelief on Heyes’ face. The taut butt, which had recently posed so artistically, shifted, uncomfortably, in the saddle. “I guess I fell for the marketin’ guff, Heyes.”

“I guess you did.”

Another apologetic wriggle from the rear end of Kid Curry.

“Still, we’ve got your fee, Heyes. That’s a dang sight more’n we usually ride into a fresh town with, huh?”

Nothing.

“Heyes?”

Innocent brown eyes scanned the scenery.

Blond brows snapped together. Suspicious blue eyes examined Heyes’ bulging saddle bag.

“HEYES!”

-oooOOOooo-

THE END

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