Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 7
Challenge #3: Choose your own challenge! My own personal challenge is to write a western that is exactly 999 words long, featuring a vulnerable bully, extreme weather, and a hundred gallon hat.
“Them’s be fightin’ wordses!” cried Bad Grammar McGraw.
The patrons of the Anvil and Piano fell silent.
“Wait!” shouted Unlucky Luke, waving his hands frantically. “I said posse. Your sister’s posse.”
“He’s done saided it again!” McGraw slammed down his chuggin’ whiskey. “These calls for an duel!”
Unlucky Luke found himself being shoved outside into the dusty street. He wasn’t sure whether it was deliberate or just a result of the natural rush of drunken cowboys hurrying to gawk. Either way, he found himself standing in the middle of the road facing down Bad Grammar McGraw.
“Ain’t nobody is can outdraw McGraw!” He waggled his fingers over his holster.
Unlucky Luke was aware that duelling etiquette dictated that he return the gesture, thus initiating several seconds of narrowed-screen gunslinger-on-gunslinger eye contact. However, he decided that a much more effective course of action would be to actually take his gun out of the holster and use it to shoot Bad Grammar McGraw. A bold move, but it just might work.
It didn’t work. The hail of bullets surprised McGraw, but none of them actually hit him.
McGraw drew his weapon. “Now it’s be mine turn!”
However, he never got around to shooting because at that very moment the anvil dropped from the saloon’s hanging sign.
“Hots diggity!” shouted McGraw, staring at the anvil by his feet. “That done been a close…”
It was quickly followed by the piano.
“Ah do declare,” drawled a white-suited cowboy, “that was some mighty fancy shootin’ right there.”
Though nobody was more surprised than Unlucky Luke, he seized this opportunity. “Yes!” he cried. “Mighty fancy, and I might add mighty deliberate.”
There were impressed-sounding murmurs from the crowd.
“So, you know,” continued Luke. “Definitely don’t push me around after this.”
It was a cunning plan, and one that could well have changed Unlucky Luke’s fortunes forever. But though not one resident of Tombwood would have challenged him then, a mysterious wanderer was among the crowd. This stranger saw right through the ruse, and did not hesitate to make his voice heard.
“I hold an unfavourable opinion of your gunslinging aptitude, and, further to this, I doubt the overall fortitude of your character. I submit that you are pigeonhearted, pusillanimous, lily-livered, yellow-bellied, timorous, and generally fearful.”
There was a gasp from the crowd. “That’s the Thesaurus Kid!” whispered the white-suited cowboy to a nearby prospector.
“Though it might seem unlikely, improbable, and even implausible, Bad Grammar McGraw was a long-term ally, abettor, and all-round companion of mine. That you succeeded in besting him through mere serendipity is not only an affront to me on a moral or philosophical level, it reflects poorly on me personally through damage to the reputation of a personage with whom I have been known to associate myself. In summation, I desire an opportunity to restore the honour of both myself and the late Mr. McGraw through a combination of violence towards you and a casual disregard for my own wellbeing.”
Unlucky Luke didn’t like where this was going. “Is there any way I can get out of this?” he pleaded.
The Thesaurus Kid thought about it. “You might consider simply refusing my challenge, but were you to do that then I and this band of gawpers and rubberneckers would surely impugn your mettle through a combination of elbow-flapping and poultry-like vocalisations intended to invite comparison between you and the metaphorical chicken.”
“Bwaaark bwraark bwark!” clucked the prospector.
“Alright, fine.” Unlucky Luke took up his place in the middle of the sun-blasted street.
“Draw!” shouted the Thesaurus Kid. “By which I mean commence, begin, or otherwise initiate our confrontation!”
While the Kid was talking, Luke drew his six-shooter and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
He’d never reloaded.
In desperation, Luke hurled the empty weapon at the Kid. Instead of stunning—or at least distracting—his foe, the pistol sailed gracefully through the air before landing on the porch of Old Man Marston.
“Huh!?” snorted Marston, waking with a start, “What?” and accidentally discharged both barrels of his shotgun into the Thesaurus Kid.
“Okay,” said Unlucky Luke. “Now that it’s been established that I can do these things deliberately, I think everyone would do well to just leave me in peace.”
But it was an exceptionally hot day, and now the crowd was out for blood. Not only that, but another mysterious stranger had come to join it.
“Well I never!” shouted the cowboy in the white suit. “It’s Jimbob Jones!”
The notorious Jimbob Jones tipped his hundred gallon hat in greeting.
“They say he never speaks,” said a ranch-hand in a poncho.
“They say his guns do the talking!” added the professional gambler next to him.
“They say he’s got a birthday suit made of human skin!”
Once again, Unlucky Luke found himself staring down a ruthless gunslinger in the middle of the dusty street. Though this time, he did at least remember to put some bullets in his gun.
“On the count of three!” called the cowboy in white. “One!”
Jimbob’s eyes flicked from the body of Bad Grammar McGraw to that of the Thesaurus Kid. Unlucky Luke didn’t doubt that they were both close personal friends.
“Two!” the crowd joined in.
There were gasps from the crowd. Nobody had ever expected to hear Jimbob speak, and that was the last thing they had expected him to say.
“I’m not a legendary gunslinger!” he sobbed, crawling on his knees towards Unlucky Luke. “I’m just really lucky, and every day I’m terrified my luck will run out.” He wrapped his arms around Luke’s knees. “I’ll put up with the chicken noises! I just can’t stand the pressure!”
The crowd stared in silence.
Jimbob Jones took a moment, stood up, and spoke calmly. “I wish I’d just come clean that very first day.”
He trudged off into the desert, and once again all eyes were on Unlucky Luke.
“See?” he addressed the crowd. “That’s why you don’t mess with me!”