Now for something completely different.
After finishing Larry McMurtry’s “Dad Man’s Walk” — a depressing and grueling tale of survival, by damned few, and happenstance on the plains of West Texas and New Mexico, focusing on the beginnings of the protagonists of “Lonesome Dove” — I reached to the top shelf and fetched down a book club version of the “Tales of O. Henry” for a little light reading.
O. Henry was known for his short stories with twist endings. Such as “The Gift of the Magi,” in which the wife sells her long hair to buy a chain for her husband’s gold watch and he sells the watch to buy combs for her hair, and “The Ransom of Red Chief,” in which kidnappers pay the parents of a wild child to take him back.
O. Henry came of age in Austin, Texas, and started writing, continuing during a stint in prison for embezzlement and after he moved to New York City.
But today I’m here to recommend another little gem too often overlooked, “Hearts and Crosses” — “Our sign — to love and to suffer — that’s what they mean,” says the wife to her husband about the symbol she sends out on the ranch, a cross inside a heart, to signal her Texas ranch foreman husband to visit her, even though her father, who owns the ranch, has threatened to turn her husband into a colander.
The story neatly turns in upon itself and explores relationships, comparing them to that of royalty. Of course, there is a touching twist ending. Follow the link above to read the piece. It is a little over 4,000 words, so it is like reading five newspaper columns.