High Noon by Todd Skaggs

The 7th round of the Music Be The Food flash fiction event is upon us. The new song is “Golden Sunlight”, by 311 and the first piece of fiction is by Todd Skaggs. Listen to this particularly wonderful song and read the outstanding story.

High Noon

It was high noon. It always seemed like it was high noon these days. And here we are again. I don’t know the name of this town. It doesn’t matter. All of these towns look the same. Same shitty general sundries store. Same shitty stage coach depot. Same shitty hotel and dirty whores. Same shitty gunslinger with a new pistol and a hard on for fame.

So here we are. Again.

The packed dirt crunches with a kind of resigned boredom under my boots. The spur on my left spins a little more loosely than the right. I’ll have to check that out. I’m guessing this down has the same shitty smithy somewhere.

The spurs were old. A gift from my grandfather who raised me. Never knew my dad, but his Colts were on my hips. My blood and life and these guns. The only things my father ever gave me. I suppose I should be grateful. But mostly these days I was just tired.

“They were the death of your old man, son. And if you’re not careful, they’ll be the death of you too. I’ve seen the look. That look in your eyes. Your pa had the same look in his eyes.”

I remember the day my grandfather, the only father I had ever known, handed me my birthright.

His words echoed to this day.

“It’s a hell of a thing to bury your son. I buried one son nineteen years ago. I don’t aim to bury you. If you choose this road, you find yourself a new home. This one won’t be here for you anymore.”

Full of cum and fire, I practically spit in the old man’s face with a single word.

“Fine.” I said.

I grabbed the gun belt and headed toward the corral. I never looked back.

Ten years later, here we are.

Gunslingers, good gunslingers, don’t live much past thirty. If I make it until next Sunday it will be one day past my thirtieth birthday.

I wasn’t a good gunslinger.

I was the best. The best that never was. I suppose I had a name, a reputation I suppose. I don’t know how many bodies I’d left across the territories.

I looked over at my horse tethered to a hitching post just outside the saloon. The young buck with something to prove stood between me and my exit from this shitty town. I’d have to either talk him down or take him down before I rode out to the next shitty town. I was really hoping to sample the saloon’s off-menu wares before leaving. Sometimes we don’t get what we want.

I looked at the kid. There was a slight tic in his left thumb. I noticed it at the bar before he called me out. I had it narrowed down to three potentials after about three minutes. The tic and the fact that his right hand hovered over his steel manhood strapped to his belt pegged him as the mostly likely one to try to prove a point. I sat calmly sipping my whiskey as he took a drink four feet from me. I saw him staring at my reflection in the mirror behind the bar.

And the bartender was nervous. It’s never a good sign when the bartender is nervous.

Fuck it’s hot. I wasn’t sweating. Not yet. Another three or four minutes and I would be.

The tic. That’s his tell. I looked over the kid’s shoulder at the clock in the tower. It was stopped at three minutes til eleven. If I made it out of this, I might find out what the story behind that was.

There is a secret to being a great gunfighter, in case you were wondering. The secret is this. Treat every gunfight as though it is your last. Your last ever. Sometimes I wish it would be my last one. It never was. I was too good. Sometimes I wondered
what could happen if I could let my guard down? Could I live wide open? Not likely.

The other secret in addition to treating every gunfight as though it’s your last, is knowing whether or not the other guy knows the first secret. The older the gunfighter, the more likely the fight will never leave the bar. A good old fashioned bar fight is the way two old gunslingers settle it. That’s how they become old gun fighters.

This kid didn’t know the secret.

And here we were.

Same shitty street in a town whose name doesn’t matter.

There’s the tic. He was getting close.

The crowd has gathered at a safe distance. Any stray shot will likely miss any spectator. That’s good, I suppose. I notice the sheriff is conspicuously absent. That usually means one thing. This kid is trouble and the sheriff is tired of wasting his breath.
I can feel the ticking of the conductor’s timepiece in my waist coat. Another family heirloom. This one a gift from my grandmother before I left. She said it was my grandfather’s and he’d always wanted me to have it, even in spite of how we left things.I thought I’d try to let the kid see tomorrow.

“You don’t have to do this. I have no quarrel with you and I’m quite frankly getting sick of killing kids.” I said this loud enough to cross the space between us and to be heard over the low murmurs of the crowd. The crowd with a growing bloodlust.

He stood there wordless. Coat tails pulled back behind both holsters. He would likely reach for both pistols, splitting his reaction time. I pulled the right side of my coat back behind me.

As my hand was behind my back, I knew what was next.

“Fucking chickenshit.” I thought as I saw the tic and knew what he was about to do.

The world slowed as I saw the kid’s hands drop to his hips going for his pistols. As my right arm made it’s way to the front, I drew a tight arc from the small of my back to my hip. Pivoting, I turned my whole body. By the time I had finished the move, my arm was fully extended. The resonating bang of lead justice filling the air. My answer to his cowardice was already hurling toward his chest before his hands could pull his irons.

He never had a chance.

Poor bastard thought he could win.

I saw the shot tear through his shirt, the red rose blooming where there was once only white. It spread hungrily as he crumpled to his knees. He twitched as he continued going for his guns. I closed the distance, my father’s legacy aimed squarely at his head. He wasn’t looking at me anymore. He was looking at the spectre of death looming over him.

I could let him live. He would pass out from blood loss soon.

A second shot rang out. I don’t recall firing the second shot, but I know I did.

I couldn’t let my guard down.

Same shitty ending.

Read more from Todd at toddskaggswrites.com.