Friday, March 2, 2012
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The OK Corral
I tried to ignore the smell of horse dung as I sat in the saloon, nursing my whisky. The smell was hard to avoid. The air was thick with the stench. It clung to everything like a swarm of ants on a sugar cube and I began to taste it in my whisky. I pushed the bottle away in disgust.
I’d arrived in town with the early morning sun and as the day stretched slowly into afternoon I began to doubt my decision for making the stop. Tombstone was supposed to be booming, and it certainly seemed to be, but the saloon was all but empty, apart from me and the barkeep.
I was here looking for a fella. Billy Claiborne. I just needed a quick conversation and then him and me were going back to Kansas. I hadn’t had any luck in finding him and thought the saloon might be a good place to do some thinking. The more I thought about things, the more I thought about giving up. I should have been back home by now anyway, and the longer I stayed away, the more I itched to get back.
A man walked into the saloon. He was dressed in black and he had the kind of presence about him that made you take notice. He wore a gun on his hip, which weren’t nothing special when most men wore guns, but this fella wore his like he knew how to use it, like it was a part of him, like it belonged right there at his hip, yet longed to be in his hand.
The man gave me a long considering look. I nodded to him, and he nodded right back. Then he walked slowly to the bar where he got a cup of coffee and a cigar before taking a seat at the nearest table. He didn't sit right away however. After setting his coffee on the table, he took the pistol and laid it on the table next to his coffee.
"Is there gonna be a fight, Wyatt?" the bartender asked the man.
"I'm afraid there must be,” the man, Wyatt, replied as he lit his cigar.
"Do you need any help?"
"No thanks, Clem," Wyatt said with a slight smile.
A fight? I didn’t know what was about to go down in this town, but I wanted no part of it. I wasn’t no slouch, I wouldn’t run from no fight, but this fight weren’t mine.
I started to look about the saloon, checking for a back entrance when two other man walked in and went straight to the table where Wyatt was sitting.
One of the men looked younger than Wyatt and was wearing a revolver on each hip, just like I did. The other man, who was somewhat older, had a revolver on his hip, but was also carrying a short, double-barreled shotgun.
"They've moved on to the O.K. Corral," the younger of the two said. The new arrivals could be brothers. Hell, all three of them could be brothers.
"Who we lookin' at, Morgan?" Wyatt asked the young fella.
"The McLaury brothers, Frank and Tom. Billy Claiborne. Plus Ike and Billy Clanton."
Looks like I’d found Billy Claiborne. It also looked like I wouldn’t be talking to the man anytime soon. That sure wouldn’t make my sister none too happy.
She’d married Billy Claiborne two years ago. He’d run out on her and their baby just last month. I was here to bring him back home.
"What do you want to do Wyatt?" the older of the three asked.
"Well Hell, Virgil. You're the law around here. What do you want to do?" Wyatt asked.
That Wyatt seemed to be a real cold one. I could feel it from across the room. The young one, Morgan, looked angry enough to chew nails. Yet, as angry as he was, I could see an excitement in him as well. The boy was practically dancing he was so worked up at the thought of shooting somebody. Virgil, the oldest, just looked tired. Angry, sure … but tired.
"I say we go down there and disarm the lot of 'em," Virgil said, looking out toward the street.
"They may not want to give up their guns, Virg," Morgan said.
"Then we convince them," Virgil replied.
Wyatt took a sip of coffee, set the cup on the table, stood, retrieved his pistol from the table top and slid it into his holster.
"Let's go,” he said and the three walked out into the sunshine.
I sat for a bit thinking upon what I’d just heard. It was obvious that I no longer had a reason to be in Arizona. Kansas was calling and I decided that it was about time I answered.
I downed a quick shot of whiskey, stood, and leaving the bottle at the table, I walked calmly out of the saloon.
I heard a mess of gunshots as I rode out of town. I kept my head down and just kept moving.
I never did like Billy Claiborne.
Maybe it’s time I introduced my sister to my friend, Gary.
This is my first, and only, story set in the Old West.
I love Westerns and have always wanted to try one out.
This story came about originally from a writing assignment that was set upon me back when I used to be a member of a writing group. The group has sense gone the way of the dodo, but I dug the story up and thought I’d repost it.
However, when I read it through, I didn’t really like it. So I’ve re-written quite a bit of it.
The writing assignment was to write about a conversation overheard by a character sitting in a diner, or really anyplace of our choosing.
I’d watched Wyatt Earp the night before the assignment was, well … assigned, and I wanted to do something about someone overhearing that conversation in Hafford’s Saloon.