Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oktober the Eighteenth: Dead Serious

Two things: first, my newest great-nephew, Max, was born today. Yay, Max! And yay, Amanda and Nick for having a Hallowe'eny baby. He'll be ready for a costume this year, I'm sure.

 Second of all, when I came home from visiting them at the hospital, I watched Seraphim Falls, with Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan. Engrossing movie-- the whole thing is a chase scene, really. A Western manhunt. So that's where this came from, the combo of children and guns, which normally I do not like to see together. And I'm getting back into the "showing, not telling" thing again, with a little care.

 It makes for better stories.

 Peace, Mari


Dead Serious

By Mari Kozlowski


 The boys talking on the verandah hushed up, and across the street Miss Kitty Lane drew closer to her husband for the day, when the Stranger rode through town Wednesday noontime.

 He sat lean and tall in the hand-tooled leather saddle, on a fine riding horse worth more than any of the buildings on Main Street. His hat was dark and his boots were spotless, with cruel, shiny spurs at his heels. He wore a gun on each hip, pearl handled and long-barreled. The Stranger didn’t live in town, was seldom seen there; but he was known by sight. And known for the folk he was rumored to have shot.

“I heard he kilt his own Momma for slapping him,” said Benjamin Harlow, in a low voice. “He shot her in the face!”

 Edgar Browning spat carefully aside, into the dust of the stranger’s wake. “My cousin John Lee said he’s wanted for murdering a sheriff up Colorado way,” he said, and paused to let the tidbit settle in. “With an Indian hatchet in the throat.”

 All the boys nodded solemnly, as if they had no doubt. Then little Tom Yeager piped up: “My Pa said that he gutted a mountain lion and hid inside it’s skin for three days, waiting for a deputy who was after him to show up. Then he jumped out of the belly, killed the deputy and stuffed him back inside that mountain lion.”

 Stunned gasps and exclamations followed this last bit, and Tommy smiled at having topped Edgar’s tale. They all got quiet as the Stranger looked back at them gathered there on the porch. He narrowed his cold grey eyes, searching for some thing or someone. The boys shivered and suddenly found their own shoes too interesting to look away from.

 The Stranger shook the reins and rode on.

 The boys followed after him at a distance, half awed and half terrified. They bunched behind the dry goods store to watch as he entered Jack Furlong’s tailoring shop, wondering if the devilish gunman would kill old Jack for sass— Jack was a silly old cuss with a big mouth and loud opinions.

 “You think he’s ordering a shroud for somebody?” little Tommy asked, wide-eyed.

 Edgar slapped the top of Tom’s head with his hat.

 “Dumb bumpkin,” he said, “You don’t order shrouds for the people you kill. That’s for their kinfolk to do.”

 Ben’s brother Ned shook his head. “But what would he be doing at Furlong’s?”

 None of the boys had a good guess, so they hid in delicious terror, trading more stories till he came out almost a whole hour later, and rode on to the Inn at the end of Main Street. Then they poured into Furlong’s.

“What do you young ruffians want?” Jack said, pulling a thick needle out from between his lips. A large pair of scissors sat near his hand on the counter, and the boys had no doubt he’d use them if he needed to. The old tailor grimaced at them, waiting, and finally Edgar spoke.  

“We just wanted to know, Mr. Furlong sir, what that gunman was doing in here for so long.”

 Tommy Yeager chimed in “We was afraid he might shoot you!”

 The old man laughed out loud.

“Not likely,” he said “Since I just took the order to make him a suit.”

 The boys looked at each other, sure it meant something serious. Dead serious.

“Is it the suit he’s gonna be buried in?” Tommy asked, “Is he set to hang?”

  All of them leaned in to hear Furlong’s answer. He picked up the scissors and stuck them in a pouch under the counter.

 “Of course not! Mr. Mathis ordered a new suit to wear to his daughter’s wedding next Saturday. He’s in town today looking for Sheriff Brant.”

 Ned looked scared at that, scared enough to maybe piss himself.

“Is he gonna kill him?”

“Where do you kids get these fool ideas?” the tailor asked. “No, he’s not going to kill the Sheriff. They’re good friends; they was soldiers together back in the war. He’s inviting him to the wedding.”

 Jack bustled about, tidying up his counters, then setting paper pattern shapes out a long table in the back room.

“Now you boys git. I’ve got work to do.”

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