By Robert Lackey
Sheriff Jack Temple leaned against the bar watching them in silence. The air was musty and the smell of burnt gunpowder lingered. The rusty Colt taken from the Mexican lay on the bar, its barrel still hot. Outside, another dust storm rattled the front door and fine sand worked its way in at the edges, spiraling into the light of bare bulbs dangling above the bar. Warren Temple and the Mexican sat opposite at a nearby table, sharing heavy silence except for the rattling door and the wind whispering above the rafters. Warren was still the thug Jack knew as his abusive father, but the Mexican was new to him.
Warren filled the shot glasses with his left hand and set the bottle between them. Both men threw back the whiskey and returned the glasses to their dusty rings. Warren winced and adjusted the bloody rag in his right hand, pressing it against the hole in his abdomen. Blood dripped from the edge of the rag and ran down the chair leg to a spreading pool on the plank floor.
When the Mexican spoke, only the left side of his mouth moved. His right scalp was hairless. His right ear was gone where the old scar snaked down his cheek. His tongue was thick with a Spanish accent.
“I woke up in a Colorado migrant camp three weeks ago, my hands stained from pickin’ beets. The past thirty five years gone from my memory. All I knew was my best friend ambushed me, and the scarred face in the mirror wasn’t mine.”
Warren nodded, but said nothing.
“You left me for the coyotes, Warren.”
“Thought you were dead. Thought I buried you deep enough.”
“Wha’d you tell her?”
“Said you ran off with an Indian girl you got pregnant.”
The Mexican kept his eyes on Warren, but spoke to Jack. “Where’s your mother now?”
“She moved back into her father’s house years ago.”
“I know where that is,” the Mexican said. He stood and walked toward the door, speaking over his shoulder, “You gonna stop me?”
Jack said nothing to his father’s question. The Mexican hesitated, then left the saloon.
Warren’s chin dropped to his chest. His right hand slipped down beside the chair, letting the rag fall into the pool of black blood. Jack reached over the bar to pull out Warren’s own Colt from its hiding place. He wiped it off with his handkerchief and slipped it into Warren’s hand. He wrapped Warren’s fingers around the grip and onto the trigger, then pointed the barrel at the ceiling.
“Old man, you been bitching all my life about ranch hands shooting up the ceiling in your saloon. One more hole won’t make shit’s difference, not that it rains much anyway. Besides, I’ll get’em all fixed after your funeral.”
After the shot, Jack let the pistol fall to the floor as Warren finished bleeding out.
“Never did like you or your mother,” the old man mumbled.
Bob Lackey has been writing fiction since he was 12, and has been a technical writer for the last 15 years. He is a member of the SC Writer’s Workshop, and has been previously published on FewerThan500.com, and is currently writing his 5th book, an historical fiction.