Monday, 17 October 2011

45) Judge in town

    Deep in the heart of the West drove a stage coach, dust and desert all around. Its one passenger was fast asleep, or at least appeared to be so, jostled and shaken around but still relaxed wedged between steamer trunks. The driver had been going all day without a rest or a word to his passenger, aiming for Laramie.
    When the passenger woke he saw out the window a wavering dark scar of a town, grey and all angles. He put the town at a good hour out and went back into his dream.
    In an hour they stopped, he woke and got out. The sun beamed down like an angry blast furnace.
    “This ain’t Laramie, is it?” He said to the driver.
    “No, sir, don’t rightly know where we are. Town ain’t on the map I have, but sure enough could use the break, if’n you don’t mind.”
    “Not at all. How long we gunna stop here?”
    “Oh, no more than an hour I suppose. I’ll fetch some water for me self and full up the oat for the steeds.”
    “Reckon I got time for a small beer?”
    “Sure ‘nuff.” The driver said and jumped down from his perch. He landed in a plume of dust and went straight to his horses.
    The man lit a cigarillo, started smoking it, and walked down the street for something to eat. The street was wide and the buildings grey, as most were these days. Additionally the street was empty of horses or walkers by, but that was common enough in the high desert in the middle of the day. He did spy a few uncurtained windows with people behind them, so it wasn’t a ghost town proper, just poor and tired.
    Finally he found what he was looking for, a building with the word ‘EAT’ painted simply on it. He walked over there, kicking up dust and feeling the warm piss trickle of sweat roll down the middle of his back.
    As he entered through the doorway the shade of the building was a welcome relief. Without knowing it he had expected a piano or fiddle being playing, but this was a poor town, maybe down on its luck, maybe poor born. He couldn’t see a piano. All the patrons, an old man sleeping in a shadowed corner and a group of men playing poker at a table, were silent and ignored him as he entered. Something was missing, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
    “Howdy-do stranger!” Came a familiar ebullient voice from behind the counter.
    The man only paused a moment to move the cigarillo from one side of his mouth to the other. It was Satan again in one of his many guises. This time it was a middle aged woman, her once full figure dried out and twisted from malnutrition, but her voice and posture were far too strong to be from anything but possession.
    He walked over to the counter and leaned against the rough wood. He said, “Whiskey.”
    “Oho, we haven’t had that spirit here for quite some time.” The Satan Woman said and laughed, deep and long, her voice filled with phlegm.
    The man looked around and now that his eyes were well adjusted to the light he could see that the other patrons had been frozen in place. And he finally noticed what was missing, flies. There wasn’t a single buzzing midge or horsefly.
    “So, Judge, what brings you ‘round to these parts?” She said.
    “Just passing though, looking for something to drink maybe something to eat.”
    She smiled and showed off her rotten brown teeth. She chomped obscenely at him, catching a bit of her bottom lip and biting it off. The blood flowed black then congealed quickly. She said, “I could you eat you, my delicious.” And spit out the bit of her lip. It landed quietly on the dusty counter.
    “But you won’t, will you? You havin’ too much fun?”
    “Oh, you’ve seen this moving picture show already then?”
    “Just abouts. This is the part where you ask if I’m a willin’ to trade my soul for the souls in this town. If I’m ready to lay my life on the line for some poor helpless boy or single mother. I know you. Hell, I’m probably still asleep, aren’t I?”
    “Who knows? Ah ha ha.” Her laugh was dry this time, and short. “Why you gotta take the fun outta things, son?”
    “I ain’t your son, now, yah hear. You disowned me long time ago.”
    “Don’t make no difference.” Satan said, “Blood is blood.”
    “So you say.”

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