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Mokrie Dela

An untitled short

Recommended Posts

Mokrie Dela

Something small I wrote before bed last night. Thought I may as well post it for the hell of it. 

 

 

They say that no man can live forever. But with every bullet that is fired my way, with the good grace to avert it's path from my being, I find my belief in that statement dwindling like a candle flame slowly running out of wick.

The bandana strewn across my face clings to my mouth with every breath and moisture hangs heavily on my whiskers. A bead of sweat crawls down my brow in defiance of the wide-brimmed cattleman that shelters my head from the blazing sun. Despite this, I feel an undeniable peace; the rocking of the steed beneath me and the blissful quiet, marred only by the repetitive crunching of horseshoes on gravel. We move slowly, a gentle trot, in no rush despite a dozen men being on our trail. But that threat falls behind like an unhitched wagon on a steep hill. I know the land and I know the men a day's ride behind me. They'll be expecting me to be heading toward the adobe huts that sparkly before me; marvellous white jewels in pits of dry, barren sand and dust. Best not disappoint them.

The locals are simple folk. Farmers of sorts - as much as owning a trio of malnourished goats allows. This is not a place for crops or high commerce. There are no trade routes through this settlement; I'd not grace it with the honor of being a town.

I see the uneven lettering of the word 'canteena' on one of the cracked walls. A crooked hitching post stood outside, unsurprisingly not in use. I approach and soon change that status. There's no water trough - even if there was one the water would soon evaporate in this heat - so my first task is to gather a drink for my horse.

I pause by the canteena's doors, briefly noting a wooden sign proclaiming in faded paint that there is 'cervesa' and 'comida', both commodities that pique my interest right about now. But first I lower the bandana. I'm not too worried about my identity; the people hunting me would know my presence here soon enough regardless.

It takes a second for my eyes to adjust. Pitch blackness soon yields to an almost empty canteena. Only one man is inside other than the barman. Both at the bar - on either side - and neither speaks, though the barman does look up, a surprised and curious look in his eye.

"English?" I ask, with no care for formalities.

"Si." The barman voice is uneasy. Clearly they don't get many travellers. The canteena is probably almost exclusively for the local farmers at the end of an unnecessarily hard day, to bend their elbows until they forget the dunghole they live in. I pity people like that.

"Water. For me and the horse."

A moment passes before the barman reacts. Was he translating or just slow on the uptake? He nods.

Having given the horse a drink I sit at one of the tables and quench my own thirst. I contemplate the food before realising it's a no-choice. I have to eat. And truth be told, I'm rather fond of the pepper-guts' food.

Not a word is uttered between the three men in the canteena while I eat. The man at the bar doesn't even acknowledge my presence. Good. That makes things easier for now. But I mark him with a sideways eye. He is too cool. Used to strangers in a town that sees very few. He's not local. Or he's trouble. Either way he'll be the first to eat lead if it comes to it. I see him.

Finding my man won't be too hard in a place like this. I could whisper his name and he'll reply. Easier that he doesn't see me coming though. Quieter that way.

"You," I bark, pointing at the barman. "I'm looking for a friend." I doubt he'll buy it but I'm hoping my brashness will catch him off guard. "Maybe you can help." To grease the wheels I overtly spin a coin in between my thumb and forefinger.

The barman swallows and, after a second, nods. I say the name, which draws the subtlest of movements from the stranger. He's listening. Ok. Definitely a bullet with your name on, pard.

"Up the hill," the barman says, pointing. "Small fenced field."

I nod and stand, placing the coin on the table. I stare at the stranger, noting his hip holster.  It's buttoned down. Without another word, and without the stranger turning, I leave.

Walking from a shaded saloon - or canteen, whatever you want to call it - into the blazing sun is like being slapped in the face. At first you're blinded, then the heat hits you. I blink rapidly, trying to speed up my eyes' adaption. It takes a minute - time I use to light a smoke. The harsh tobacco flavour bites at my throat as my vision clears. I take a few more drags before turning and heading up the aforementioned hill.

It's hard to miss the field the barman told me of - it's the only thing up there other than a tree that is clinging to life, leaning over like a drunk as it slowly loses its battle. Two seconds later I see the man I seek.

"Bucky." I need say no more. He turns with surprise which doubles when he sees me. My holster is already unbuttoned.

"Ain't no one know that name." Bucky was never blessed with a silver tongue.

"Forgive me for stating the obvious," I say. "But clearly that isn't the case." I pause a beat before adding: "Bucky."

I take a step forward.

"Now hold up there!" I see Bucky's hand tense. He exhales. "In surprised it's you that came for me. I didn't think anyone ever would but... you?"

"I'm not the only one that knows that name."

"What you mean?"

"They ARE coming for you, Bucky. But I'm not one of them."

Bucky dithers. He shakes his head in doubt.  "No. How much did they offer you. For me?"

I smile, my hands out, but not too far out I couldn't reach my gun. Bucky was never the fastest draw.

"If I came here to kill you, Bucky, you'd hit the dirt without ever knowing I was here. Truth is I AM here for you. But not to kill you. To warn you."

"W-warn me?"

"They're coming for you. A posse. Ten, fifteen men. They want us both. They've been on me for three days. They know you. They know where you live. Incidentally, is this really the life you chose?" I gesture at the dry field.

"It's better than a rope." Bucky says. He sighs, his stocky chest deflating. "I never thought they'd find me here."

I chuckle. "You stick out like a sore thumb. A crooked nail, waiting to be hammered flat. Word spread and the hammer's coming."

"They... They like me here."

I shrug. "Maybe so but someone.... somehow... you know how it works."

Bucky sighs. "How long?"

"I reckon they're a day or so behind me. Maybe less. Safer to assume less. There's also someone in the canteena here - good food, by the way."

Bucky nods. "Jorge's wife is a good cook."

I smile. "Jorge and his wife are not your family, Bucky. You left them behind, remember? You left US behind."

Another nod. "Who is he?"

I turn my lip down and shake my head. "I've no idea. We didn't speak. At first I thought local law..."

"There isn't law here."

"Perhaps the town's residential tough guy. But more likely? A bounty hunter. He knows I'm here and knows I'm looking for you. Chances are he is too. Either way your name seems interesting to him."

"Thought you were more careful than that."

I shrug nonchalantly. "Sorry." Bucky shakes his head at the insincerity.

"He'll be here soon then."

I nod. "Any moment."

"And the posse?"

"Maybe tomorrow. Maybe."

"Then we'd better go then. Dammit."

"Don't tell me you LIKE this life here."

Bucky shrugs. "It's peaceful." My stare breaks his lie down. "Lets go."

We head back toward the canteena, my right hand hovering violently over the butt of my pistol.

"sh*t," I breathe, staring at my horse. It was dead.

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