If I’d become a dentist, then Vaughan would still be alive. Instead, I became a rodeo clown, and like everything else I ever did in my life, Vaughan had to do the same. Now, every time I climb into a barrel, Vaughan’s ghost creeps in, along with the tastes of sweat and battered plastic.
“Steve,” he whispers, like he used to late at night, when we still shared a bunk bed.
“Yeah.” I don’t want to answer, but I never could ignore him, no matter how tired I was.
“I’m lonely,” he whispers. “Why don’t you die, too, so that we can be together again?”
I hear the gate open and I pop up out of the barrel, as much to escape my dead brother, as to see what’s going on. The bull comes out fast, not pussyfooting around the gate. Johnny up top is holding on strong. The bull chases Clint over to the gate. Clint hops up nimbly but the bull slashes at his legs with his horns. I pick up the barrel and run, hollering at the bull.
The bull spots me just as the horn sounds and Johnny flies off of the bull’s back. Johnny lands on his feet, more or less, and runs back to the gate, while the bull heads for me. I drop the barrel and put my feet up on the plate and duck down.
“Steve,” Vaughan whispers.
This is a feisty one. He hits the barrel with enough force to send me flying. I land with a thud and wait out the roll.
“Yeah, Buddy,” I whisper back, as horn enters the top of the barrel, missing my face by less than an inch.
The horn disappears and I continue rolling as the thundering of the bull’s hooves move away from me.
“Can’t you do it, huh? Just die, for me,” Vaughan whispers.
“I don’t know, Buddy,” I whisper back. “I have Sandra and the girls to think of, and besides, did you see Ma’s and Pa’s faces at your funeral? I can’t do that to them.”
I can feel the barrel being tilted right side up. Cheering indicates that this round is over. This is my cue to stand up, revealing my intact head and torso, and waving my hat in the air.
But I stay where I am for just another second, waiting on Vaughan’s response. I can’t live with Vaughan haunting me like this, I know that.
Silence. Then, as Clint peers down in the barrel, Vaughan lets out a long sigh. “Okay,” he says. “But just don’t forget about me, okay?”
“You okay, “Buddy?” Clint holds his hand out to me. I don’t need it, but I take it anyway and stand. I take my hat off and wave it in the air. The audience that had grown quiet due to my delay in showing, erupted into applause.
Clint is the only one close enough to see tears smudge the painted smile on my face.
Opening Line Prompt taken from here: https://www.plot-generator.org.uk/opening-line/