Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Little Anxious Annie: A Tale Of Two Dreams

Whatever you do, don't tell her your name is "Tim". She shoots people named Tim. Just ask the waiter back in Silver City. Poor bastard. Such a high price to pay - walking with a limp the rest of his life - for having been thusly christened by his Bible cherishing parents. And Annie was having such a rare enjoyable conversation with him beforehand as the two book lovers discovered one another and rejoiced in the finding of that connection. But then he said:

"..and if you need anything just let me know! My name is Tim."

That's when Annie's face turned dark, as if the universe had inverted itself turning black into white and light into dark. A hidden switch lay within her, changing water not into wine, but to poison. Annie shared that poison with a high velocity lead projectile conveying the doom she saw in her heart. Such is the life of a saboteur.


She wasn't born this way, of course. An ill fit for 1870's Pennsylvania, she went west to find freedom. Eastern cities drowned her soul, stifling her with artificial structure stemming from the deficiencies of man's hardened mind. Annie needed a place as yet unformed, still open to the riches free life offers. She would make her own rules.

Her creativity found two outlets: her prowess with a gun and outlawing. With her legendary precision she could shoot a fly off a man's hat, convincing him to comply with Annie's wishes. And since one must always make a living in this world, her wish of choice was that of money. But money was just fuel for the fire, not a destination. Living outside the rules - proving a false world untrue - kept her sweet, loving soul alive!

But for all that, it seemed she viewed paradise behind an unbreakable glass.

Annie had made her point, proved herself worthy and still the nights swallowed her in silence. In hopeless dreams she walked alone no matter how many hands groped her in the dark. Yes she had soared but where had she landed? Into a rut of endless holdups and life on the run? But these were the instruments of her career and how else to make a living from a gun? Something was missing.

That something was Tim. Tim was the widowed husband whose wife had died in childbirth - along with his infant daughter. Sorrow became him. Confused by tragedy, blind by the unspoken panic of living on a godless planet which he now faced, he turned to his languishing art. The business of a marriage and coming family had kept him busy, safe from the complaining voice that asked to be heard. Whereas Annie had sought out freedom Tim had freedom thrust upon him.

Annie's artistry was in her gun. Her crude cohorts marveled at her shotmaking ability, never realizing her shots were not an act of will but rather an event she let happen, to come through her like a song, an act outside of herself. She ached to share the beauty of that moment, where like an excited child she wanted to turn around and exclaim at the treasure of a found object to share with the world. But her audience viewed her shooting same as they viewed her: as a means to an end.

One day Annie saw a bulletin for a trick shot contest and she wondered if she dared show herself in the light of day. What if she were recognized? Is it worth it to give up her freedom? But she had to know. Suppressing doubts screaming bloody murder, she put down a false name, stepping into the long craved limelight. Now she'd dance for all to see! Yes, I Annie, have love to share!

Like a naked Eve, unashamed and unabashed in the world, Annie performed her artistic tricks, showing her belief in life a true one. Washed clean by the light, Annie glowed to the heavens as an appreciative crowd wildly applauded. And in that moment a searching Tim spotted her; enraptured, entangled and ensnared. "If ever a person could walk on water, it must be she!"

Unable to directly speak to this pure angel of light, a smitten Tim passed her a heartfelt note, asking her to meet him that night. Waiting in the restaurant, he imagined his note had no chance, that one as wonderful as she must have dozens of suitors and he'd have to mightily earn his time with her. How to compete with her amazing art? He was just now flexing long held wings of flight, she was one who'd long soared and her commitment staggered his doubting heart.

But no volcano in the earth's history matched the explosion he felt when she sat down. The doom of all mankind could not wipe the involuntary smile off Tim's face. Slowly daring to peel away the burdensome armor of daily life, the pair exchanged tentative words of discovery. But to never reach the ultimate secret remained a grave danger. He feared never to match her non-negotiable desire for freedom. And she hiding the terror struck upon spying his sheriff’s badge.

But a flower had been born. The heavens sang.

Shyly, Tim took Annie to his burgeoning art studio. It was a place he never took anyone whose opinion mattered to him. Annie was non-committal in her reaction. "Here's a real artist," she thought. "Not some outlaw pretending to be one. I'm so deathly ashamed!" He feared the worst in her silence. "She's the one truly dedicated. I was a fool to show her my pathetic dreams!" And yet, each agreed the flower they planted was one worth watering.

Annie and Tim apart could never match Annie and Tim together. All the reluctant sheriff could think about was the new flower in his life, painting an inspired piece in her honor, his heart soaring in a way he hoped to impress even her. Feeling he needed her permission, he told her of the impending homage as if to make an apology for any inadequacy ahead of time. But Tim believed in his work as much as he believed in her: without reservation. "She has put life back in me!"

Annie's gunplay was a more tangible art, quantifiable by anyone with eyes. To her, that made it a lesser art than a song or a painting. How was she to ever match Tim's work? Soon, he'd leave her behind in disgust upon revelation of her limitation. She didn't realize he saw only the excellence of her work, completely uncaring what form it took. To each his own, thought Tim. Besides, he had too much terror of his own with the unveiling of her portrait. Annie genuinely loved it.

The townspeople noticed the skip in the sheriff’s step as he made his rounds of drudgery. He'd talk about painting to anyone who'd listen, his eyes filled with inward enthusiasm. But what ate on him was Annie. What if she were to leave? What hope then? How would his art survive? She was not only talented but attractive. If he didn't marry her someone would surely snatch her away. Tim didn't believe he could survive another death.

Annie's coworkers were less than delighted with her partnering with a sheriff. Like all small beings, jealousy drove them passed their minds to where nothing became more important in their lives than tearing her down. They too were dependent on her, fearing she'd go straight and leave them high and dry without her irreplaceable skills. They asked how could she ever live without her outlaw freedom. They demanded to know who she really was. They asked her what happens when the truth comes out.

Annie peaked after seeing the loving portrait done in her honor. She put on an exhilarating show, reaching inside to the depths of her creativity as never before. Tim, walking above the clouds, knew he had enflamed her. To even be a stepping stone in her life was a gift of immeasurable value. But questions haunted him as well. What of her true friends? They only met within their art. What need she of a painting sheriff? He knew she had a life separate from him and he did not question that. But no way did he figure he could inspire her as much as her everyday companions could.

Annie had to make a choice. "He's better off without me." She could never ask him to make the sacrifice of giving up his career - which is what he'd have to do to maintain a relationship with her. He was true and honest and regardless of the feeling between them she could see no way out. What she failed to realize was Tim too desperately wanted out of his career as much she did hers. Annie had rationalized she was doing him a favor even as she cheated both him and herself.

Without word, Annie ran way, dying of pain. The oppressive guilt of hiding the truth finally snapped her hopes. Her partners in crime laughed at her misery, mocking her dreams and chiding her efforts. Annie could not stop them. She hated her too. Over and over and over she processed through her mind how she could have handled it differently. Surely she did what's best for him! Why didn't she believe that? Why???

Tim blamed his art for Annie's departure. He'd overvalued it after all. Her liking it was just too good to be true. He put up his canvass and oils and got back to doing the "right thing" of doing his job - something real. Surely his paintings were without true merit. He was being responsible now. How did he ever hope to provide for a family as an artist? What had gotten into his head? Idiot! Tim spent the rest of his days in time dutifully spent, never to be fulfilled by "selfish endeavors".

And yet, it all seemed so real...


Rest of her days Annie scoured the papers fearing to read of Tim's artistic success. She'd die if he made it without her. "Please stay a fool like me!" she prayed each night. Never again did she engage in the "foolishness" of trick shot shows. No more false dreams for Annie. But once begun, the running never stops.

After sabotaging her "unrealistic" relationship, any enjoyment of the arts was also deemed unrealistic, a crime in her mind. She'd catch herself humming a song then stop, fearing her feelings. Art is the enemy now, the great lie. Tim too was her enemy, having revealed herself as a fraud to him. To like even herself was to be drawn back to him and that she could not permit. Annie spent the rest of her life surrounded by those who hated art and hated her. But never could she fully convince herself the flower dying was a good thing.

Neither Annie nor Tim wanted to be caught living the life of a dreamy lie. But living without dreams is living a lie.

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