The four beleaguered riders pulled up their horses side-by-side when they came upon the peculiarly shaped place. Armadillos slowly crawled into the middle of paved roads and thought to rest there. Whitney Houston, overcome with delight from the stark beauty of the dry plains and cacti, began to sing. Her high-pitched voice, soothing to the men she traveled with, irritated the surfeit of armadillos. Dozens of them opened their eyes, scowled at and shuffled off toward a ridge on the horizon. Whitney had only been to square-shaped states like South Dakota and Kansas.
“That’s the kind of shape a man could get tattooed on him,” said Stone Cold Steve Austin, mindlessly scratching his goatee.
It was several minutes until any of the riders shook off their wonderment and dismounted. Jack Del Rio was the first to get down and step into the funny-looking place. He helped Whitney off her horse, discreetly feeling up her backside.
Steve Austin, Whitney Houston, Jack Del Rio and the fourth rider, Antonio de Padua each had their own reason for falling in love with this new land. Jack turned his head left and right again and again trying to soak in the enormity of it.
“You know how many football stadiums you could fit in a place like this?” he said.
Steve was instantly comfortable there. To him it felt as warm and reassuring as a woman’s embrace. Whitney loved the colors; the white of scattered cow skulls, the untouched blue of the sky, the bluebonnets, the yellow roses and the gray of oil rigs. Antonio admired how many churches were already there. Crosses shot out from every rooftop for miles. A big-bellied mustached man waddled out of one of the churches and greeted the riders with a tip of his hat.
“What is this place?” Steve Austin asked him, his hands on his hips.
“Jesus Christ son, that don’t sound right at all.”
Antonio raised his arms up, closed his eyes and held his head as far back as it could go. The others were used to him doing this. He claimed to be in contact with God. When one of them would lose a set of keys, he’d go into a tongues-speaking trance after which he’d shout out the location of said keys. This time, the stranger was concerned that Antonio had rabies so slowly backed away from him.
“Texas,” Antonio shouted, his eyes open now, his long robe drenched in sweat.
The others agreed this was a more fitting name and began to discuss what changes would be necessary. They imagined skylines full of skyscrapers that would make a decent postcard. Each of them would build their own town and every so often they’d visit the others and eat a meal where everything was cooked in bacon grease, laughing the whole time at how lucky they were to find such a place.
The stranger heard these plans and brought over hundreds of folks who’d take issue with them, the inhabitants of México/Texas. Whitney was the first one to notice them and tapped her friends on their shoulders. Surrounding the riders was a sea of pregnant women with shotguns, old men in cowboy hats, their faces as wrinkled as rhino skin and thousands of shirtless children armed only with firecrackers.
Steve Austin loved a fight and needed no provocation or declaration of war. He charged at the throngs of Mexicans/Texans with a grin. He kicked an old farmer in the gut and gave him a Stone Cold Stunner before pinning him.
“Come on! Somebody count for me.”
Antonio dropped to his hands and knees and slapped the desert floor, “1…2…3.”
The ensuing battle lasted for years. Whitney rode her horse through the crowd, crushing children with her mare’s hooves. As she fought, dodging bullets and parrying blows with her bony elbows, she imagined what her town would be like. She wanted it to be bigger than everyone else’s, she knew that much. She pictured towering malls, the churches of excess, that were tall enough to flirt with the sun. In her mind, Houston would be racially segregated and required to play one of her songs everyday.
Steve didn’t think too much about his town. He just enjoyed pounding his fists against flesh. He did strongly desire a healthy serving of cold beers once this was all over. Animals scattered when the war reached them. Horned lizards hopped away from the dead keeling over. Bullets grazed the soft fur of jackrabbits.
When it was finally done, after Whitney’s teeth had all been shot out, Jack’s knees slashed like gills and Antonio killed and buried in a stained-glass coffin that floated down the Rio Grande, Steve looked around him and smiled.
Their enemies were all tired like cattle or else mimicking the posture of roadkill.
“We won, we’re the champs,” he said, not truly believing it.
The four riders didn’t sit around and wonder how they managed to overcome being outnumbered or the fairness of it all. They hauled off all the Mexicans/Texans and shoved them into restaurant kitchens, roped them to fruit trees or else tossed them southward.
Steve, Jack and Whitney built their cities and added one in Antonio’s memory. Texas was slowly cracking its beak against its shell. In the steady, dry heat Steve poured asphalt from two buckets, constructing a road southbound to where Whitney Houston was busy twisting freeway overpasses above her like ribbons.