Illusions & Reality
Inspired by the song, “Thirsty Boots”
words and music by Eric Anderson
Performed by John Denver on the I Want To Live CD
When he was three weeks overdue, she began to worry. He’d never been this late before.
Her mind began to play tricks, little games with her heart. He was dead, it told her. He had been
murdered by the highwaymen. No, she answered, no. It will not be. He has found a woman, cast
you aside. No, she countered. He will not forsake me. And so she filled her days with the work at
the tavern, drawing the pints and pitchers of ale and beer. She spoke with a saucy air to the
customers, flirting and flitting around them. Anything that kept her mind from its cruel teasing,
anything that kept her from believing what must surely be a lie.
“Molly, darlin’, a pitcher for me and the mates and step lively!”
She had finished wiping off a table and turned to the boisterous caller. “You sit yourself
down, Ned Biddle, and stop calling like this was a bawdy house. I’ll get your bloomin’ pitcher,
never you fret.”
She barely heard the hoof beats outside, as she took the pitcher from the table. She stopped
only long enough to allow Ned a pat of her bottom before heading to the cask. There was a quiet
thud as the front door of the inn collided with the wall, but she paid that no mind either. She
drew the pitcher, replaced the bung, and turned back to the table.
And she saw him there, framed in the doorway and standing in a pose that suggested that he
was wearier than she could possibly imagine. For a moment all she could do was watch him, take
his presence in with her eyes. With the light shining from behind, it was hard to see much. But
she could tell that he was woefully thin and his steps were labored.
She set the pitcher down on the table, turning a smile at the men sitting there. They all knew.
When he was here, they all knew where her heart lay; with him. There was no teasing, no flirting
when he was here. She left the pitcher and ran up the steps—two at a time—to the room that was
always reserved for him.
She quickly set several buckets of water to heating in the cauldron. The oak tub was there,
waiting to be filled. She went about setting things to right, drawing the covers of the bed for
later. He was a creature of nature, loving the out of doors. She lit the candles for the extra
illumination, but pulled the curtains so that he would have the last of the day’s light. It was here
that she was standing, tying back the fabric, when the door opened softly behind her.
The green eyes were deeper than before. And the face was streaked with the dust of the road,
he was haggard. The black hair had been haphazardly tied back with a piece of leather; wisps and
tendrils had been pulled loose and hung listlessly around his face. He was dirty and disheveled,
but he was here. He was finally here, safe and sound. He was home.
He gave a fatigued smile, closing the door behind him. “I suppose you thought I had gone
for good,” he said.
“Don’t be silly, you cannot leave me,” she answered smartly. “You know my company is
too dear, you’d miss me far too much.”