West

All eyes turned to the man who blew in. Squeaky hinges announcing the arrival of a newcomer walking through the saloon doors without a sound. He headed straight to the bar, careful to keep his hat and eyes pulled down low, lower than the floor.  

 

“Where you from stranger?” The bartender asked, forever polishing a fine glass that hadn’t seen liquid in five years. The man remained silent, instead holding up a finger. Pouring a drink the bartender next asked him where he was heading. Again the man remained silent.

 

During this time the man’s attention had been drawn to a bit of a ruckus. Poker was the game, and a good game at that. Five men sat around a round table near the back of the saloon, as was customary. They’d fallen silent when the man had first entered, watching him with judging hawk eyes like the rest, but had quickly been drawn back in by their addiction.

 

Now the strange man was not a fan of gambling. But at the same time he was. Standing from the bar he invited himself into their game. These men of chance knew each other well and also knew a sucker to be had. They thought it good one had fallen into their laps so willingly.

 

A new game began and quickly ended. The newcomer lost what little money he had. Next he bet his hat. That he lost. Next his gloves. Those went. Then his scarf. That as well. Finally he bet his boots, a nice but worn pair. But alas, those he lost. The other men grew bored. It wasn’t even sport at this rate. But at last the underdog bet it all, his gun; a man’s pride packed into a handful of metal. This the other men were mildly interested in, so they went all in. A difficult battle ensued, making the whole room sweat.

 

Finally, finally, the stranger won. Outraged the others grabbed their own guns, flipping their chairs back. But the gunman was quicker, throwing up his gun into the nearest man’s face.

 

“Listen here boys,” His voice surprisingly coy. “I won fair and square.”

 

“I think not.” The click of a gun froze him. Turning his head and inch and his eyes a mile he found himself had by the sheriff. Reaching up his sleeve, the Sheriff discovered an ace stashed. “Throw down your gun and come along quietly.” The Sheriff ordered.

 

Obeying, the man started to laugh, then cry. “My family…” He spoke.

 

“What about them?” Asked The Sheriff.

 

“I’m trying to find them, but it seems the closer I get, the farther set back I become.” Raising his hands, the gunman slowly turned and bolted for the door. Shouting, the Sheriff cocked his gun and let a bullet fly.

 

The gunman saw light reflected off the sand the streets of the town were made of. It was awfully rough to land on, but by that time he felt little. Struggling to stand, the man promised in his heart that he would experience that ecstasy of a reunion soon regardless of any setbacks he encountered. Regardless of how many times he fell, regardless of the blood choking his throat, regardless of the cloud blocking out his vision. He was so certain he family was just within grasp. Why, they were so near he could smell the soap off his daughter’s head.         

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