Just another one of them damn stories. Heard a hundred of ’em in my day. Always the same. Some hooligan rides into town on a shit horse more donkey than stallion, looking to cause trouble. You know the type. The strange ones with that real arrogant type of cold in their eyes. Sort of man won’t meet your eye. Just looks the other way even when you talk at him. Just stares off, like he know something you don’t.
Well these stories all ride the same road, but there’ll be detours on occasion. In this particular circumstance the detour was me and my pal Jeb-Ticky (nobody knows why they call him Jeb-Ticky but that’s the way it is and you’ll have to reconcile yourself to the facts). We was the new sheriffs came in since Thanksgiving when old Dougie McChiggan lost his head up in Crab Gut, which is a real town yes sir. And it’s no lie about his head. It’s yet to be found even though the five-dollar reward’s been posted months. Me, I suspect it was that Morris fellow on the western slope there. Folks say he done unholy things with his animals up that way.
Anyhow, what the hell was I talking. Right. So Jeb-Ticky and I, we got ourselves these new brightly coloured uniforms, which was his idea, something he hoped would put the fear of god in the common criminal, or at least the fear of a half ounce of molten lead in his backside. Didn’t we look just like a couple of fruits.
It was a Tuesday when that joker trotted up on his donkey with that look real smug-like, and I spoke to him politely but with a shotgun slung over my shoulder, for I knew he was an ill-grown seed. “Morning to you, rider,” I said. “What brings you to this peaceful part of the West on a god-granted blue sky morning like this?”
This is right about when that no-good rider turned his head and spat a hefty drop of fluids in the dust not two inches from my boot tip. “Looking for someone,” he said. “An old bird.”
“Ain’t a lot of old folks round here. Most of the boys don’t see beyond their forties this side of the mountains,” I said.
“Nah,” he said, spitting again, this time on the other side of his beast. “It ain’t that. A woman.”
I just looked at him like what the hell this boy on about, like god damn why you got to come ruin a perfectly good morning in this perfectly respectable fine town of ours. “Well, I doubt we can help you with that,” I said. Right around then is when I seen Jeb-Ticky setting up his rifle top of Mel Boonchild’s tailor. I think the donkey boy must’ve seen him too in that damn orange shirt of his.
“Let’s not get excited now,” he said. “I ain’t even got to the description yet.”
“Ah, of course. How could I be so rude! It’s just we don’t have much occasion to welcome visitors in these parts, Mr….”
“Auslander. Herschel Auslander.”
“Well Mr. Oslander, this is a busy town and I’ve got loads to do. So spit it out or be on your way.”
“As you like it, fruit-man,” he said. That was the beginning of the end, this little comment of his. One word too far. I was steaming under the goddamn collar right then. “Old woman’s who I’m looking for. Wears a shawl over her head with something hidden underneath it.”
That just snapped me right out of everything. Jeb too, ’cause I know he heard it. “You better get the hell out of this town before you regret your visitation in this country, boy. Your demeanour displeases a man in these parts,” I said, calm but firm-like.
“Is she here or not, sheriff OJ? The woman.”
“Just what do you plan to do with her once you find her?”
“I’m going to shoot her dead and take her secret for my profit.”
“You’re sick in the brain, donkey child. You best clear this township ‘fore you find the wind blowing through your chest like a whistle.”
He opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but he just looked down and chuckled, like there was some private joke I ain’t been privy to. Then he whipped out his gun.
At that point quite a crowd had formed in the distance, and little Jack Welch caught a bullet in the ear. But thank god it only grazed the tip. He looks like a tagged cow nowadays.
Well this donkey man must’ve had a death wish because he pulled his gun and aimed it straight on me, but I swear he seen Jeb-Ticky perched on Boonchild’s roof from way back. Maybe that’s just me griping about the shirts, maybe he hadn’t seen him at all. I guess they weren’t a bad idea these uniforms. Too bad I’ll need a new one.
Well it’s no way to spend an afternoon picking skull fragments out your beard, I can tell you. But who knows? If Jeb hadn’t taken care of that fool my cold body might’ve turned the streets red that day.
In the end we was all fine though, and we buried that bounty hunter in a dry well beyond the town. I know it ain’t right, but I took a piss on his body once we’d thrown him down for what he tried on me and mine. “That’s what you get boy,” I said. “That’s what happens when you try and mess with a man’s mother.”
“That’s the truth right there,” said Jeb-Ticky. “That’s the right truth it is.” Then we went home, and I told momma to stop wearing that damn shawl before someone shoots it clean off her wrinkled head.