Jesse and the Jackass

They promise you this vast sea of potential mates

and they hand you a pole and expect you to fish.

Jesse hated it. The ones she wanted never took the

line. The ones that wanted her – and there were

many – she just couldn’t warm to. She looked

every day, sometimes more than once, sometimes

all afternoon and nothing came of it.

It was the rejection she hated the most.

He threw her a wink one day. It’s the same as a

greeting but a little less personal. She looked at

him and was not impressed. He was older, gray,

and disheveled physically if that were possible.

He had a big nose and big ears. It was laughable

that she would ever consider him.

Jesse was tall and regal. Her appearance was

always impeccable. She had been a great beauty

in her youth, she won countywide contests and

she had a slew of ribbons somewhere back in the

farmhouse, some still up on a wall. Even today,

well past the sunny side, her bright brown eyes

sparkled with the clarity of decades living clean

and holding an even composure.

She dismissed him out of hand and didn’t give it

another thought.

But she was lonely. She missed couple-hood, the

sharing, the intimacy. She didn’t think of herself

as being too old or even retired, although that’s

what she was. She had been a homemaker and

raised a whole barnyard of kids. Her man, Luka,

died suddenly during a cold snap two winters ago.

He was a monster, good looking too, gentle and

loving. She missed him every day.

That’s why she came back to the pool, that sea of

faces that stretched out until dusk, searching for


Summer was coming and although the Gold

Country still struggled with drought, the

surrounding pastures and hills were a tossed salad

of green thanks to the recent rain. There would be

wild flowers soon. Already the almonds, the

peaches and the cherry trees were showing early

blossoms. She would watch the road for

something new, but nothing came that way either.

Cars rushed toward Sacramento in the morning,

rushed back again each night. Cars going both

ways on the weekends, happy couples inside off

to explore the antique shops in Sutter Creek and

taste the Barbara and Zin in Amador.

Two weeks later, he tried again.

This time he sent a gift, a sea crab, or at least

that’s what it looked like. No message, just the

crab. A step up from the wink but still impersonal,

a product she suspected of him being rejected

most of the time too.

It was a very odd thing to send. She’d never seen

one in real life before. There had to be better

options – a bunch of roses, a wine glass, even a

pair of sunglasses. What does the sea crab

suggest? Jesse had been landlocked her whole

life, never once visiting the shore. What’s he

saying by sending a crab?

She peeked at him again, just to confirm what she

already knew. Nope, not for me. Not my type. He

might as well have come from Mars.

He happened to be watching, at the same time,

looking for her and he caught her looking him

over. She wanted to hide but it was too late. He

took his chance and boldly gave voice to his


“Good morning,” he said to her. “I’m Troy.”

Jesse gasped then burst into laughter. Troy?

OMG. This odd collection of features and fur

wants to be called Troy? Troy is something with

blue eyes and looks really good in a swim suit.

Troy was not this guy’s name, it was something

he used only in the pool because it gave him more

confidence. More likely his real name was

Barnaby or Poncho.

She retreated again, leaving his words like an

unfinished bridge.

His background was different from hers. He had

been alone all his life or at least as long as he

could remember. He spent most of that time

working the hard and remote land in Elko County,

Nevada. One ranch in particular.

In Elko, the air is thin and the climate harsh.

There’s salt flats and sage and sweat. He worked

hard, everyone said so, everyone said he was

tough as hell.

Deep inside, deep inside – Troy (which was his

real name) thought himself a poet. He sang at

night to the coyotes and the horned toads. He

noticed the blue-black sky at morning and the

strands of red bleeding over the hills just before

sunset. He loved the smell of the high desert after

it rained and the look of the Ruby Mountains after

it snowed. Troy wanted someone to share it all

with but there wasn’t time to look and there

weren’t many opportunities.

Before long Troy had become old. Some of the

things he did around the ranch were jobs going to

someone else. No one seemed to mind that he had

become old, in fact, they treated him even better

than before, as if he’d earned it. Before long, they

made arrangements for him to go west,

downslope, where there was plenty of soft grass

and easy winters.

He took to watching the pool there as well. Just

one of the things the new farm had to offer. He

suggested himself many times to younger, more

attractive females and wasn’t too surprised he

didn’t get picked. It was something to pass the

time, that is, until he ran across Jesse. When he

looked at her the first time, he was in love.

He figured it would happen. She was there. He

was there. It would happen.

He waited like a good fisherman would. He

considered his profile, considered how he was

presenting himself. He wouldn’t lie, that would

seem a terrible mistake because at some point if

you were not as tall as you claimed, you would be

found out and probably lose any chance you

might have had. Since he wouldn’t embellish,

there wasn’t much air brushing to do. He was who

he was.

At first he knew she was out of his league and

would never get that chance. But the episode with

the crab gave him hope. He knew that it was a

gamble, sending such an unusual, even exotic gift.

But it paid off. She looked at him and long

enough that he was able to get a few words out.

She hadn’t responded but she maybe she will

another day.

He kept going back. Waiting. Pole down, hook


Long after all this, after they did get together,

Jesse would say that it was his diligence that

finally attracted her. She also came to like his

face. Sure, the nose was too big and the ears were

huge, but he had a nice toothy smile that you

couldn’t help but to smile back. And his eyes.

Dark and deep. Honest and unflinching. There

was something very safe about him. He gave her

room and a place to be understood and forgiven.

It was a good two weeks after he’d sent the crab

that he found her again. He offered himself up


“I’m Troy,” he said. “There’s good grass by the

two oaks but I suspect it won’t last much longer

with the days getting longer.”

This time Jesse didn’t retreat.

“No,” she replied. “It won’t last too much longer.

It will be very hot by July but those oaks give us a

lot of good shade.”

She waited for him to say more but Troy knew he

was in and instead, wandered off for a bit to

another part of the pasture. He returned maybe an

hour later and she was waiting for him.

That’s how it started.

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