April 2006 Challenge: Write a story featuring Western clichés. White hat vs. Black hat, someone getting waylaid with a large sum of money, riding off into the sunset, an evil/stupid look-alike, a lady in distress, a winner-take-all poker game, a gunfight, a crooked sheriff. Take your pick! (Note, the story does not have to be set in OW, it just needs to feature at least one of the elements.) Bonus points if you can work in the phrase: "This town ain't big enough for the both of us."
Moved to Blackraptor November 2009
The air was hushed and heavy,
with only dancing heat waves marring the stillness. One might almost have expected to see
tumbleweeds rolling down the middle of the path, so still and empty was the
landscape. The wind swirled up a tiny
dust-devil and then died, leaving only a cloud of dust to mark its
passing. Even the birds and insects
seemed to pause, holding their breath as they waited to see what would happen.
Across the narrow stretch of land separating the combatants, two pairs of steely eyes met; challenging, threatening, all but daring each other to make the first move.
“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us, Tanner,” the first combatant drawled, adjusting the brim of his black hat lower across his eyes to block the late afternoon sunlight that shone in them and threatened the accuracy of his aim. The fingers of his left hand twitched in readiness. “You got a price on your head and I’m aimin’ to collect. Five hundred dollars, dead or alive.”
Tanner adjusted his stance slightly, the better to balance the weight of the weapon gripped tightly in his right hand. The light colored material of his own battered hat was stained with a ring of darkness at the crown where his sweat had soaked through. He likewise settled the hat more firmly upon his brow. “Well then, I reckon you’re gonna have to take me in dead, ‘cause that’s the only way you’re gonna beat me.”
“Brave words,” the man sneered, looking down his nose at his shorter opponent. “You really think you can take me in a fair fight, little man?”
A small smirk tilted Tanner’s mouth. “Ain’t much fair about it. When it comes to lookin’ down a barrel at the likes of you, I got all the advantage I need.”
“Well then, pup, I suggest you prove it,” the man growled. “Because the time to meet your maker is at hand.”
Tanner’s eyes widened as he watched the other’s gun rise up and take aim faster than he had thought possible. Lifting his own weapon, he fired, the shot going wild as he felt the impact of a hit against his right shoulder. His opponent let go a snarling laugh, sure of his victory as he again took aim, but Vin Tanner was not going to surrender quietly. Dropping to the ground, he rolled out of the way as a hail of ammunition poured down on him, then came up on one knee and hit the gunfighter full blast in the chest with his own second shot.
For a moment, his opponent simply stood there, staring down at the dripping chest wound with a look of utter surprise on his face. Then, his weapon dropped into the dirt and he fell to his knees clutching both hands tightly over the damaged area as though trying to hold his life-force inside by sheer will. In slow motion he knee-walked over to a small patch of grass, struggling to rise to his feet, but finally he could go no further and he collapsed to the ground, staring up at the bright blue sky overhead.
Vin came and stood over his enemy, who now lay panting and coughing slightly as his end drew nearer. With compassion in his voice, Vin promised, “I’ll see you get a proper buryin’, pard.”
“You’re a good man, Vin Tanner,” the dying man said, moaning pitifully. Reaching out one hand, he clutched at Vin’s shirt. “I never believed ya murdered anybody, but I had to try ya. My mother needs that reward money bad.”
“I understand,” Vin told him. “You gotta do right by your ma.”
“Tell her I died with my boots on, will ya?”
For a moment, Vin looked confused as he glanced down at his opponent’s feet, confirming that he wasn’t actually wearing boots, but he only said, “I promise.”
Again, the man coughed. “And tell my friends … that I want a white headstone … and flowers on my grave … and lots of singin’ … and cryin’ … and fancy preachin’ at my funeral.”
Vin’s eyes danced with amusement as the list grew longer, but again he said, “I promise.”
“Then I can die a happy man.” With a loud groan, the man released the grip on his killer’s shirt, falling back to the ground, his limbs flopping and jerking, and gave one last choking breath as he went still, his eyes closing for the last time.
Crossing the dead man’s arms over his chest, Vin picked up his opponent’s fallen weapon, blew on the barrel and gave it a twirl as he shoved it into an imaginary holster and proclaimed solemnly, “And so the brave lawman Vin Tanner lived to fight another day. He jumped aboard his trusty horse…” He paused; turning around in a circle as he suddenly realized that his steed was no longer where he had left it. “Buck!”
Buck Wilmington jumped up from the porch steps, where he had taken a seat to watch the battle. Striding over he knelt with his back to Vin. “Hop aboard, kid.”
“Buck!” Vin groaned again, his tone exasperated.
“Oh, sorry,” Buck said, giving a snort followed by a good imitation of a whinny.
Happy, Vin climbed aboard and nudged him with his knees. When Buck compliantly rose, he resumed his narrative. “Tanner and his faithful horse companion, Bucklin, rode off to new adventure, always knowing they had to stay one step ahead of bounty hunters like the wicked, but now dead, Handsome Ezra.”
Taking off his hat, Vin waved it in the air and let go a triumphant whoop. Buck obediently followed the prompt and galloped westward in the direction of the setting sun.
As the game drew to a close, Ezra rose from the ground and dusted himself off as the eight year old was set down and ran back to check on him. “That was fun, huh?” the boy asked eagerly. “You died really great, Uncle Ezra.”
“Thank you, Vin,” he said, exchanging a grin with Buck. “It was one of my better performances, I think.”
He nodded vigorously. “I thought so too. When Chris and JD get home from JD’s doctor visit, we should do it again for them!”
Pulling the wet material of his shirt, still sopping from the blast he had received from Vin’s super-soaker, away from his body, Ezra smiled ruefully. “Perhaps we can just tell them about it.”
Obviously this is set in the modern-day LB universe. LWTD stands for the “Larabee, Wilmington, Tanner, Dunne” ranch. I just didn’t want to give the game away before you read the story.