This is one for the Lulu fans. (I think we all fall into that category.)
Just a little one-shot from Lulu's POV about the men in her life.
The bit about her father is not taken from any canon source, rather just my musings on how she might have been brought up.
Hope y'all enjoy!
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I once said to Dusty, "I always thought I understood men, but you shake my confidence." Okay, so at the time he was wearing a big ol' stupid chef's hat, convinced there was a gorilla up a tree stealin' all our vegetables. (It turned out that there was.) But I meant what I said. Most guys seein' me approachin', the first thing they do is check me out, know what I'm sayin'? Give me the ol' once-over with their eyes. I don't expect anything less. But Dusty? He was more interested in his disappearin' bag o' beans. Not even a glance. More interested in the vegetable swipin' tricks of a big ol' hairy gorilla.
Sometimes I think that even if I sashayed through camp in nothin' but my birthday suit and the feather in my hair, Dusty would say, "there goes Lulu," without even lookin' up.
At first, it confused the hell outta me. At first, I thought, maybe he ain't into all that. Maybe he ain't into women- maybe he bats for the other side, know what I mean? But no, he bats for the right team. He just don't see things the way other men do. And that's a fact.
Oh, he'll notice me if I make him. But that's just it- I ain't used to havin' to work at it. I've had men take one look at ol' Lulu McQueen and promise her diamonds, houses, entire cattle ranches, even their very lives. But Dusty? He takes one look at me and says, "You look like you could do with some extra beans."
It's funny. I've been wined and dined by many men, but I ain't never respected them the way I respect Dusty, just for bein' the way he is. 'Cause even if he is the most confoundin' man I ever met, he ain't playin' games, he ain't holdin' out for nothin'. He's just Dusty.
As for Andy, or 'Andrew' as Mr. B likes to call him. First thing I noticed about Andy, as I pointed out to Betsy that time Dusty brought that sick Indian kid back, "any man who wears suspenders AND a belt has really come prepared." Betsy kinda didn't know what I meant, which made me smile. That gal's got a lot to learn, I hope she's ready for it. But I'm strayin' off the point.
Since we set out on this whole trip, I don't think I've ever seen Andy anything less than neat and clean and fully dressed from head to foot. Not that I go round tryin' to sneak a peek, know what I'm sayin'- I ain't that needy. But Andy's a puzzle all right. He's gentlemanly to the point of where it becomes ridiculous. I wonder sometimes if that man ain't a...well, you know. I better whisper this, a virgin. Or if he ain't a virgin, he's wearing a chastity belt or somethin'. Or he's taken some kinda monastic vow. 'Cause if he's lookin' at Lulu, Lulu ain't seein' it.
Now, I ain't lookin' for sympathy here, but I was raised by a man who liked a drink, know what I mean? My father kissed and caressed that half empty bottle o' bourbon more than he ever touched my poor mother. He was a good man, mind, I don't want to hear a bad word said against him. He was just a man who fell on hard times and din't know how to deal with it. So he drank. And boy, did he drink. Hoo-ee! I never seen no man drink like that in all the saloons and bars I ever worked in. That man could float a ship on all the liquor he'd drink in just one session. Trouble is, he was a lousy drunk. He'd shout and yell and break things and blame everyone else for his downfall and so we'd scatter and hide until he was done or had passed out in a stupor. Only once he tried to hit me though, and that's when I got old enough to sass him. I think I'd learned the word 'dipsomaniac' from someplace and was eager to try it out. Think I called him a "dirty stinkin' dipsomaniac". I remember bein' kinda pleased with how it sounded, just before a bottle o' Kentucky came swingin' round in my direction, narrowly missed cleavin' m' head in two. I learned one thing very quickly- my father didn't take kindly to insults when they were about him.
What I'm sayin' is, Andy is like the kind of person my dear ol' daddy was before he turned to drinkin'. Andy still has high hopes and dreams for his future in California. He's like, one o' the smartest men I ever met. He's like an inventor and a teacher and he knows all about chemicals an' stuff without bein' a snakeoil salesman. In fact, he could probably make hisself a ton o' money deceivin' folks with quackery, but he don't. Andy is as honest as the day is long. I admire him for it, sure- but I have my suspicions on how far that honesty's gonna git him in the hard cut an' thrust of the world out West.
Still, he's doin' okay so far. He ain't soft in the head. He can stand up for himself. He's just a little green still, that's all. Maybe he just needs a strong woman with a cool head to take him on.
It ain't gonna be Lulu though.
Which brings me to Cal.
Cal Callahan. That his real name? I don't know- it's just what he gets called. Cal's an ex-cavalryman. It shows in his need for structure and discipline. Makes me smile to see what he ended up with. A ragtag buncha bankers, schoolteachers and showgirls. And of course, Dusty. The most unstructured, undisciplined shambolic man Cal has ever met. How Dusty hasn't caused that man to have a seizure I'll never know. The poor guy goes red in the face sometimes. Good thing Dusty don't mean to do half the stupid things he does, or he could be kinda dangerous to Cal's health.
Deep down though, I know Cal dotes on Dusty. He calls him his 'little pal'. I wonder sometimes if he don't see Dusty as the son he never had, or at least, a wayward little brother. Times he's tried to get Dusty to learn stuff. It just goes in one ear and out the other, bypassin' a coupla tumbleweeds on the way. But he never stops tryin' to educate the boy.
Dusty should be thankful, in my humble opinion. He coulda had a hard, nasty taskmaster in charge o' him instead o' Cal. Some o' the dumb things he does woulda gotten him shot in any other wagon train. But not ours. We look after our own, even if we want to strangle 'em sometimes.
How do I see Cal? Truly? Well, I kinda feel like I'm blushin' here, tell you the truth. But I just love that man's authority. He's the furthest thing from my own father I ever did meet. I couldn't see Cal climbin' halfway down a liquor bottle and drownin' himself in pity. No, sir. Cal meets trouble head on- dares it to come any closer. He's a big man, too. Six-four, I reckon, and that's without his boots on. And chunky. You wouldn't want him tacklin' you to the ground, put it that way. He's built like a grizzly bear and his head's almost as big. Dusty could fit his whole skinny li'l frame in Cal's shadow, I swear it. The day Cal took charge of us was the day I stood up and cheered. Hell, yes. I wouldn't want anyone else in his place.
If anyone's gonna get us to California in one piece, it's Cal Callahan.
How else do I feel about him?
I ain't tellin' you. Landsakes! Even a showgirl is allowed one secret, ain't she?