BY HARRY POSNER
Copyright is held by the author.
Looks like yew got yerself a sitshiashun, here. Hunkered down behind the wine barrels at the rear of Kickerson’s Saloon.
Bkew, twing! Bullets whizzin’ overhead and yer bad eye itchin’ under the patch. Hell, yew never meant to get here. But, no arguin’, yew was always one to get yerself into sitshiashuns.
Crazy kid, Pappy let yew run wild, with Mams gone to Heaven from the whoopin’ cough. No brothers or sisters to say, Yew cain’t do that, Sam. T’ain’t right. They’s laws.
So yew did as yew wished. Growed up figurin’ the world was yer playground and yew made the rules as yew went along. Most of the time yew played alone.
And then she come along and the whole thing goes tits up. Yeah, she’s got a name. Serena. Purdiest thing on two legs. Hell, purdiest thing yew ever saw. Was like the laws sent her to yew. Made it so’s yew’d fall in ta love with ‘er, just to teach yew a lesson. But that were later.
Now, take Sheriff Barley over there, squattin’ behind the covered wagon. When he was a little shooter, his Daddy beat the livin’ daylights out of him every chance he got. Made him afeared of every little thing. It’s a wonder he didn’t grow up into one of them squirrely boys. Somewheres along the line, he got himself some manliness, became a deputy, then eventually earned himself the right to wear the metal star. Yew and him were like twins runnin’ in opposite directions. While he was larnin’ how to make things right in the world, yew was perfectin’ the art of knockin’ off banks and bars.
A splinter of explodin’ barrel wood slices off a piece of yer ear.
The pain makes yew remember back to the Reverend Mobson, who used to give yer ears a cuff every chance he got. One day he pulled yew aside and said, Listen, son, yew do the book larnin’ that the school marm gives yew, and yew shall make a respectable life for yourself. Do the Lord’s work and your life shall be sanctified. Do not shackle yourself to sin, for the illusion of freedom seems to run in one direction, when in fact it moves yew in t’other. And that’s the spiritual truth.
Yew couldn’t figure what that had to do with book larnin’, though, and yew was one uppity young’n. So yew says, I don’t care about no spiritual truth and I don’t care no how about the Lord, neither.
It’s my life and I’ll do what I please.
The Reverend was known in the community as a man of peace. But when it come to yew he was a sadistic old cuss. Cuffed yer other ear, pulled yew in close, and said, Now yew listen to me, yew little shit. Talkin’ back to yer elders like that is cause for some serious retribution. Y’ unnerstand?
Well, so much fer turn the other cheek and other suchlike Jesus ideas. And then when that lightnin’ strike fried up yer Pappy into charred gristle, leavin’ yew with nothin’ but yer youth and a run down old shack, well, that were truly the end of yew and him and his ‘love is everywhere’ bullcrap. Yew got on with yer life, began to worship at the altar of greenbacks.
Bkonk! Bkew, tweezzz!
Any rate, yew got so good at yer faith they could never catch yew in the act. Secret was that yew worked alone, so nobody but nobody got wind of the plan. In and out was the key. Quick and quiet. Case the bank for regular times the vault would be opened; time it so that there was minimum fuss with keys and combinations. A note hidin’ in the barrel of a gun. Frightened teller does his job, yew do yers. Out the door and away before yew can say Jack Daniels. And no one to share the loot with.
Except this time. Which is why the sitshiashun is such that Barley’s tryin’ to blow yer head off. This time yew went against one of yer own ‘spiritual truths’. In Kickerson’s yew got chummy with a purdy gal named Serena. Yup, one and the same. She was one part Mexican, one part Oklahoman, and all parts woman. Exotic flower. Yew got yerself good and drunk, and then took her up stairs (or maybe she took yew). Problem is, conversation went somethin’ like this:
Whew. That was sure somethin’, Sam, that was.
Aw, shucks, t’weren’t nothin’, my little sweet tooth. I’m savin’ the best for the wife.
What? Yew tellin’ me yer hitched? Well, then, yew better jus’ get yer ass amovin’.
No, I’m not hitched, my lily plum. That’s in the future, after I catch the big one.
Just what in Hell are yew talkin’ ‘bout? You goin’ fishin’?
Somethin’ like that. After tomorrow mornin’, there’s no lookin’ back fer the likes ‘a me. When they takes a look at what I got in my satchel, wives ‘ll come a’ runnin’ like bees to honey.
I’m a bee, honey pie. I belong to yer hive.
She kept jumpin’ yer bones, like she couldn’t git enough of yew, like yew was sent by the Almighty Hisself just to make her happy. And yew believed her. Yew needed to believe her. And that’s when yew told her about the bank job. Spent the rest of the night makin’ love and makin’ plans. Ignorin’ the dang truth of it starin’ yew in the face. Nothin’ come that easy in life. Yew should ‘a knowed it, too.
Bkew, bhonk! Bkrok, twing!
So how in tarnation did Barley get wind of the heist, so’s he could be right on the spot when yew come out, two other deputies at his side? And then it dawns on yew. Yew was set up. Serena was Barley’s girl, had to be. He knowed yew were comin’ into town and used her like a piece of coon bait. Thinkin’ about it makes yer heart sore. If yew cain’t trust love, what’s the point of livin’?
Yep, bad sitshiashun. And yew rememberin’, sudden like, the Reverend Mobson jawin’ on about sin and freedom runnin’ yew in opposite directions, spiritual truths and other suchlike sanctimonies. And thinkin’ about how love ‘d never come yer way again. Cuz yew’d make sure of it.
But yew ’ll never know the real truth. And that dang bullet — Bkew! — it dudn’t give a fat fig about sin or love, or yer achin’ heart. It’s a wild child, findin’ its way from the Sheriff’s Winchester, to the back porch overhang — Twang! — to the metal hoop at the top of the wine barrel — Twing! — comin’ to rest with a definite statement of truth two inches inside yer left temple, just in back of yer bad eye. Wild child. Spiritual truths. Come together in perfect harmony.