A Tale for Today
By Donald Kerr
Published in ART TIMES March 2015
(People don't read as much as they used to and I think I know the reason why. It is the way written material is constructed. Too long for people's attention span! Written material has not kept up with the times. People are used to television and short stories should be written to appeal to their tastes. Such a tale follows.)
Sam Duncan rode into town on old Smokey. He was dusty and dry from riding long and hard.
"Howdy, stranger," Ed Baines, the town drunk said, as Sam tied his horse to the railing in front of the Double X Saloon. "What brings you to town and would you mind buying a poor old drunk a drink?"
"I'll buy you a drink, old timer," Sam said in a soft voice. "And what brings me into town is a killing."
* * *
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* * *
"A killing?" Ed Baines' features turned chalky white. "Mister, I hope you ain't talking about me."
"Not you, old timer," Sam reassured the shaky reprobate, as he opened the swinging doors of the bar and stepped inside. It was dark and Sam paused for a moment to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
Ed Baines followed him in. "How about that drink, mister?", he asked, made bolder now by Sam's assurance that it wasn't him he was looking to kill.
"Sure," Sam said, as they both drifted toward the bar. Several eyes watched the two of them, measuring Sam, guessing by the way he carried himself that he was a man to be reckoned with.
"Hey, bartender," Sam said, as they bellied up to the bar, "how about a drink for me and my friend here?"
"What'll you have?", Lou the bartender asked. "I already know what the town drunk wants."
"I'll have a whiskey -- make it a double whiskey."
The bartender poured the drinks and studied Sam through narrowed eyes. "You ain't looking to doing any shooting in here, are you, mister?", he asked.
"No shooting," Sam said, taking a sip of his drink. "Just killing."
* * *
Is this story making you folks thirsty? Man, I could go for a big glass of Green Ice right now, how about you? Why don't you take this magazine and go over to your refrigerator and pour yourself a nice big glass right now? Or, if you haven't got any, put on your coat and drive
Down to the nearest grocery story and buy a six pack. Don't worry about the story! It'll still be waiting here for you when you get back! That's the beauty of reading! You can stop and come back to it and pick it up where you left off, unlike television or the Internet! Say! Didn't that swallow of Green Ice taste great?! Now, back to our story.
* * *
"If you got any problems with anyone, mister," the bartender said, "I'd prefer you take them outside. I hate repairing my bar after gunfights!"
"It's all right with me," Sam replied, shoving the glass back to the bartender for a refill and indicating a refill for the town drunk, also. "If someone'll tell a lowlife named Jack Jarrett that I'll meet him on Main Street at high noon."
Everyone looked at the clock. It was 11:50.
"That's pretty short notice, telling a man to face up to someone, to a stranger that might gun him down, in just ten minutes," Tom Hawkins, foreman at Jarrett's ranch, spoke up.
"That's more time than he gave my brother," Sam answered.
* * *
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* * *
The bartender didn't want to have to fix any more bullet holes in his bar, so he sent Mabel, one of the barmaids, up to Jarrett's room on the second floor where he was entertaining Mary Sue with word to either face up to Sam on Main Street like a man at high noon, or get out of town fast.
Jarrett, an arrogant bully, pulled on his pants, strapped on his gun, and told Mabel to go tell Sam he'd meet him on the street as soon as he could get his boots on.
Sam ordered one more drink and one for the town drunk. Then he tipped his hat at the folks sitting around the Double X Saloon eyeing him apprehensively, and walked out into the sunshine.
Shortly afterwards, Jarrett came down the stairs, stopped for a quick whiskey, turned and told Mary Sue, who was standing at the banister on the second floor in her bathrobe looking down at him not to let the bed get cold because he'd be right back.
The Double X patrons chuckled nervously as Jarrett swaggered outside.
He stepped out into the street, which had become quickly deserted as no bystander wanted to be hit by a stray bullet. But, there were plenty of heads looking out of the second story windows that lined the street.
When Jarrett saw Sam, a wide grin split his face. He had been worried because Sam was feared in shooting circles because of his fast draw. But that was with his right hand. His right arm was gone!
"What the hell happened?", Jarrett, curious, asked Sam.
"Lost it at Bull Run," Sam said. "In the Civil War. You know, that one you were too yellow to fight in."
* * *
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* * *
"You always did have a big mouth, Sam," Jarrett sneered. "Now I'm going to shut it for you!" He had no doubt he could outdraw Sam now that Sam had to use his left hand. Jarrett had been drawing and drilling men his whole life with his right hand. His draw was awesome.
If Sam had lost his right arm at Bull Run, that meant he'd only been shooting with his left hand for five years. No way he could be as fast as Jarrett.
There was a flash of guns, an explosion of bullets. When the smoke cleared, everyone was amazed to see that it was Jarrett's whose crumpled body lay on the street.
A cheer went up from the second story windows as Sam carefully reholstered his gun. Most folks were happy to see the low-life Jarrett laid low.
Walking purposefully down the street, Sam stepped over the body of Jarrett and went back inside the Double X Saloon.
He stood at the bottom of the stairs and called out to a tearful Mary Sue, "It's all over now, Mary Sue. I've come to take you home."
Mary Sue bounded down the stairs and into his arms, sobbing with joy. "Sam, Sam," she cried. "I thought you were killed at Bull Run."
"I know, sweetheart," he said, his one good arm encircling her tiny waist. "It's all right now, darling, Everything's all right. Let's go home."
He swept her up in his one good arm, took her outside and deposited her on Smokey's saddle. Then, taking the reins in his one good hand, he walked with her on the horse out of town, into the sunset.
* * *
Well, folks, there's nothing like a happy ending, right? And you can have a happy ending, if you'll go down to Uncle Ed's Auto Park this weekend, where everything is on sale. Uncle Ed has a huge inventory and he's got to move it to make room for this year's models. Nothing but gigantic bargains at Uncle Ed's Auto Park this week! And when we say gigantic, we mean HUGE!
Be sure and get next month's QUALITY SHORT STORYS magazine for more thrillers just like A Tale for Today.
(Donald Kerr lives in Loudonville, Ohio.)