I pulled my grip down from the overhead bin and blocked the aisle while the young family in front of me maneuvered out of their seats. The dad shot his cuffs and turned forward to lead his brood off the plane carrying a day pack and a briefcase. His wife, a tiny and tired dishwater blonde, smiled at me and struggled behind him as she pulled a rolling suitcase, with a large purse and a diaper bag hanging from her shoulder. She had a sleeping baby in a sling on her hip and held the hand of a toddler with a dirty face, a runny nose, and a wet t-shirt. I made my way from the plane straight out to the taxi line, no luggage.
There was a sign over the automatic doors advertising a local Indian casino and another written in blue script, “Welcome to Billings”.
I didn’t have to wait, straight to a yellow cab where a large older woman with a blue wash on her grey hair waited.
“Wanna throw your bag in the trunk?” she asked.
“Nah, I’ll just hold on to it.”
She beamed what must have been a shiny new set of chops at me and opened my door before scurrying back around to the driver’s seat.
She turned around and leaned on the seat-back. “What brings you to town, cowboy?” she asked.
I told her that my brother had died and I was in town for the funeral.
“Sorry to hear that,” she said, “where are we going?”
I gave her the address of the downtown hotel where I had a reservation. She spun around and fired up the engine. As we pulled away from the curb she dropped the flag on the meter and commenced to telling me her life’s story. By the time we merged onto the interstate I knew that she had been a widow for almost twenty-five years. She had five kids, two of which still lived in town, and she was a grandma twelve times over.
I asked her what the locals did for entertainment in the evenings. I asked about the Indian casino I had seen advertised in the terminal building.
“That place is OK if you’re not attached to your money.” She said. “If you just want to have a few drinks, and listen to some music; then Billings Station is the place to go.” She grinned over her shoulder, “The women are friendly, the drinks are strong and the country-western music is live and loud.”
I decided I’d stop in there tonight.
30 minutes to draft, maybe 5 more to correct the punctuation and fat finger typos.