Happy Trails…

The lock holds firm to the frame as he twists the key to the right. When it finally releases, he goes to work on the second one. Inside, he looks over at the life-size paper-maché rhinoceros positioned to watch the congested streets of Berlin. Shadows and lights from the street below dance across the horned face.

After showering, he squeegees the water from the hair on his legs with his hands. He wraps himself in a towel and crosses into the living room. Water drips on the wooden floor as he set the needle into the groove.

On the wall behind the hi-fi hangs a sun-bleached print of Gene Autry—most of the reds and yellows are gone. Scrawled on a 4X5 card next to the print are the words “Guitar in Hand;” the date, medium and price appear just below the title.

Beneath the snaps and pops and crackles of the archaic 78 RPM phonograph record, the unforgettable voice of Roy Rogers echoes in the almost empty room.

While he sings along with Roy, he pushes his hat up off his forehead with his finger and swaggers toward the mirror.

He enters the saloon through the swinging doors, sauntering up to the bar with the heels of his boots reverberating on the wooden floor. He spits. Cowboys drink whiskey. This cowboy scoops up a glass of red wine off the table, near the hi-fi. “Bottoms up,” he says in his best German cowpoke accent. Then jerks back his head, gulping. He slides his sleeve across his face, wiping the whiskey dribble from the unshaven hair on his chin

He pivots slowly around. The saloon is empty, ’cept for the rhino near the window and the scratchy voice of Roy singing the end of “Oh lonesome me.”

The towel drops from his waist.

Jesse James mounts his steed and tucks his long black coat behind the holsters of his imaginary pearl-handled Smith and Wessons. Astride the hollow animal, he shoots, and twirls his finger pistols. From the second story window, he points his index fingers toward the ceiling, cocks his thumbs, and shoots with his mouth. “Pa-chew.” With each shot, he blows the smoke rising from the ends of his fingers and he sings, “Happy Trails to you, until we meet again.”