RIDING WITH THE PANAMA KID

So now it's done. Final title: The Righteous Mission of the Panama Kid. Just a little short story. Short, yeah, short—but it took a helluva long 57 years to arrive! I printed the thing out, and just to get an outside opinion, I foisted it on a friend. And she liked it. She praised it—not as high as the skies but high enough. Glory be! But then, what made my helium heart sink was her smiling, exuberant request to hear more of the Kid's exploits. "A series or something like that." Of course, I had an inkling about that but I honestly hoped to avoid any big undertaking. I've got so many things I've gotta do. I want to put in some beans and some lettuce. And I want to finish editing THE SMOTHERED FIRE (an impressionistic history of Christian origins), so I can record it. I want to do a biography of an amazing man I know. The list extends long as a comet's tail. Then guess what happens... Later the same day after I had turned off the engine of my 2002 Insight and was sitting quietly, a rare moment, looking through the windshield at the wonder of all the wet green in front of me who do you think comes moseying along on his big, black horse, following the bank of the Rio Grande, heading unwittingly into the lap of his next adventure in the sleazy little ice cream shop in the sleazy little town of Langtry, Texas, where his mettle is going to be tested once again? The Kid's a bit wiser after his first adventure south of the border; more confident, too. He's singing, actually singng. And he tells me he's found a name for his stupendous stallion. Next flash:he's working his way up a scrabbly slope in the Colorado hills. He's got a sheepskin jacket and gloves now, for the crisp weather, and he's about to meet an old-timer that he befriends who tries to give him a gold mine. Afterwards: he lands up in Wyoming in time for the great rodeo. That was enough. I took a deep breath and got out of the car. I have to admit it: I'm smiling. I'm kinda glad the Panama Kid is riding through my life.

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