She lived in a neighborhood on a numbered street in a concrete block home on a quarter acre of land. It wasn’t anything like the world the man on the stage was singing about. He was crooning in a low, lazy voice about his youth and his memories of place. Woolly Bluff and Washboard Gap. Feuds between farmers, seed store rumbles, cowboys with loneliness stamped on their boots, and mean old drunks who on their good days played mandolin and made the ladies weep. His words colored things dusty and green, and she watched his boots tap softly on the floor while his fingers plucked guitar strings and thought about how her world was pastel and story-less.

She sat forward, watching the song man. Her boyfriend’s arm draped across the back of her chair. “Hey,” he whispered, and she said, “Shhhh,” and his hand left the chair.

The man on stage announced his final song before the set break. She considered how when it was over, she could slip backstage and say, “Put me in your songs, cowboy.” And that man, he’d say in a warm whiskey voice,

“Well, I reckon I could.”

Later it might come down to this: people mentioning Devil Woman’s Holler. They’d say you could hear a woman’s laughter like a fiddle played with a newly strung bow. And there might be a showdown, two men face to face, and it could be loud like a fistfight or a shootout. But most likely it would all be quiet. Like a secret.

Shellie Zacharia teaches in Florida. Her story collection, Now Playing, is forthcoming from Keyhole Press in October 2009. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, Opium, Keyhole, The Pinch, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, and elsewhere.