Venus in Blue Jeans

By: Meg Benjamin
Chapter One

Cal Toleffson saw the love of his life for the first time at 5:47 p.m. in the Dew Drop Inn, downtown Konigsburg, Texas.

He wasn’t exactly dressed for the event.

He’d spent the forty-five minutes preceding Happy Hour tending to a sick goat. “Tending to” was the polite way of describing it. The goat was large, sturdy and attractive from a goat’s point of view. From a human’s point of view, even a vet like Cal, it smelled like, well, a goat. And so did he, after about ten minutes in the goat’s company.

He’d cleaned up, sort of. Washed his hands and face, dropped the jeans and T-shirt he’d been wearing into his clothes hamper (his housekeeper would probably be asking for a raise by the end of the month), and put on his last clean denim shirt.

His desire for a Dos Equis outweighed his need for a shower. And the Konigsburg male population wasn’t too fastidious anyway. He doubted somebody like Terrell Biedermeier would even notice a little eau d’goat, given Terrell’s personal ripeness.

Terrell, a lump on a barstool, didn’t notice. But Steve Kleinschmidt, also known as “Wonder Dentist” for reasons Cal wasn’t clear on, moved a few inches down the bar after Cal took his seat on the stool beside him.

“Trying to make a point there, Idaho?”

Cal grinned. “Nah, just thirsty. And it’s Iowa.”

“Idaho, Iowa, same thing.” Wonder had spent most of his life in Texas, and he wasn’t interested in moving. “You do realize what you smell like, right, Toleffson?”

“Might be goat, might be sweat. What’s your opinion, Wonder?” Cal rubbed a hand through his beard, scratching. Dried beard sweat was a bitch.

Wonder snorted. “If I had to guess, I’d say bullshit. But then I’m a dentist, not a vet.”

Hank Ingstrom, the bartender and owner of the Dew Drop, pushed a bottle of Spaten in Wonder’s general direction and made a half-hearted sweep at the bar with a grubby rag.

“Dos Equis, Ingstrom.” Cal leaned against the bar, ignoring the slightly sticky surface under his elbow, and scraped his boot sole against the brass rail.

Ingstrom frowned as he headed back down the bar, tucking his rag in his back pocket. “That’d better not be goat crap.”

“See?” Cal grinned at Wonder, nodding in Ingstrom’s direction. “Ingstrom knows his animals.”

“Not surprising. Ingstrom is an animal.” Wonder sucked down a quick swallow of beer, wiping the foam from his upper lip with his index finger.

Cal glanced down the length of the bar. The usual series of gray, lumpish shapes—Konigsburg males, all knocking back brews. He sighed. He’d never figured out why the customers who lined up along the Dew Drop bar were always male, while those at the tables were always female. Made fraternizing that much more difficult.

Not that he’d had much time to fraternize lately, to say nothing of the necessary money. But fraternizing was a definite future goal, what with his currently bleak social life. He needed to start making some moves if he didn’t want to end up just another barstool lump.

On the other hand, given the general gloom in the Dew Drop, it might be difficult to figure out the gender of somebody at the other end of the room, let alone make any moves.

Beside him, Wonder sat back on his stool. “So you spent the afternoon with your hand up a goat’s ass?”

Cal grimaced. “Pretty much.”

“Ah, the glamorous life of a Hill Country vet.” Wonder took another pull from his Spaten. “They have goats in Idaho?”

“Probably. Being from Iowa, I wouldn’t know.” Cal rubbed a hand across the back of his itching neck, then scratched his chin again. He really should have taken a shower.

Wonder leaned his elbows on the bar, squinting into the dim depths of the Dew Drop. “No tourists in here today, just locals. With my luck any tourists would all be over fifty anyway.”

“You mean tourists actually come in here?” Cal glanced around the cluster of tables in the middle of the floor. “I’ve never seen one in the Dew Drop.”

“Boy, there is no place in Konigsburg tourists don’t come into. You’ll understand that once you’ve lived here a while.” Wonder sighed, letting his chin sink toward the bar. “The trick is to find some that aren’t on Social Security yet.”

Cal figured Wonder was around thirty-five, give or take. His reddish brown hair was thinning on top, and he wore hornrims. His bright green knit shirt bunched around a slight swell of love handles. Jessica Alba was not in his future.

Ingstrom reappeared with Cal’s Dos Equis. “You need a haircut,” he grumbled. “Look like a goddamn hippie.”

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