Chapter 6

Another addition to my comedy western.  I’m making fairly good progress on it (close to 70,000 words) and I think I’ve finished writing the main climax.  Just need to wrap it all up nicely with a bow.  Then again, there may be one last twist that unfolds as I pour the words out onto the page (screen).  But, I’m getting way ahead of myself, because this is only chapter 6!

The first five chapters are available here.

Would love to hear what my faithful readers think about this story so far.  Is the tongue in cheek approach working?  Is anyone finding any of this funny at all?  Are the characters likeable?  Do I need to spend more time developing them, or the dialogue, or the scenes, or…?

…..

I know you are wondering, so even though it isn’t important for this story, I’ll go ahead and answer your questions.  No, Sheriff Brown didn’t drink the whole bottle of whiskey.  Yes, he did have a drink, and then he put the rest of the bottle in the bottom right drawer of his desk.  No, he didn’t offer any to Jack.  And, no, Jack didn’t go looking for it.  You can put it out of your mind, and you might as well, because the bottle will not be mentioned again.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, can we get on with the story?  Okay, good. 

The shakes weren’t bugging him as much anymore.  Two weeks had passed since Jack had first woken up in Sheriff Brown’s Jail in Gunnison, and for those two weeks, other than the initial day, Jack had been sober.  The occasional beer to settle his nerves and ward off the tremors couldn’t be held against him.  Besides, he’d started cutting down on his intake of beer as well and was down to only one or two a day.  It was quite the progress from the 1 or 2 shots of whiskey he would have normally had before breakfast.

The odd jobs he’d been doing for the sheriff helped keep his mind off the sauce.  The physical exertion helped sweat the alcohol out of him and get his body to recover faster.  He was grateful for the opportunity to sober up that Sheriff Brown had given him.  He still wasn’t certain that he’d be able to stay sober, he was after all a drunk, but he was going to do his best to repay the faith the sheriff had shown in him. 

Back to the point at hand, the shakes weren’t bugging him as much anymore because he wasn’t getting them as much anymore.  His right hand still held the slightest bit of a tremor that he couldn’t control once or twice a day but that was the end of it.  He wasn’t entirely certain those shakes were alcohol related anyway.  His right hand was his… well; we’ll get to that later in the story.

After their interrupted prank, Ed and his little posse hadn’t been seen around town much.  The sheriff had warned Jack to keep his eye out for them because Ed wasn’t the type to just let that sort of embarrassment go.   Luckily Richard Blunt had called in all his hands the day after the incident in front of the jail.  It was time to round up the livestock again, count the heads, brand the new additions, rebrand any where Blunts bar double horseshoe standard had faded (it looks like a B), and a whole slew of other ranching tasks that needed to be addressed.  Both Jack and the sheriff figured it was only a matter of time until Ed was unleashed and found his way back into town. 

Still, Jack had kept his eye out for Ed, his cronies and anybody else that might be getting ready to cause him some sort of trouble.  After several days of being vigilant it became obvious that Gunnison was an incredibly dull town.  He liked it even more for that.  Maybe he’d actually be able to stay out of trouble for once in his life.  Maybe he could get a job, a real job, find a quiet place to build a little house and spend the rest of his days in peace. 

With that in mind, Jack broached the subject with the Sheriff one morning while they ate a small breakfast of dry toast spread with cherry preserves, hard boiled eggs, and coffee.  “Do you know of any openings around town a man like me might be suited for?”

“I reckon so.”  The sheriff leaned back in his chair, coffee mug in one hand, second hand scratching the spot on the back of his head for his hat normally rested.  “You getting tired of helping me out?”

“Not really,” Jack responded with a sheepish grin.  “I’m just thinking ahead.  I’m thinking I might like to stay on in this little town and I’ll need something more permanent in the way of work, income and housing if I’m not going to be a drain on you anymore.”

Sheriff Brown blew across the top of his mug to cool the dark brew before he took a sip.  He gave jack a once-over: the tremors were almost gone, his eye had cleared up, he’d put on some muscle tone and color in the last two weeks so he actually looked healthy, and he hadn’t asked for a drink in the past two days.  It might be rushing it a bit but he might be ready for the next step.  He didn’t want to rush it and risk Jack relapsing but you could never tell if a man was truly ready to stand on his own until you made him try. 

“I’ll ask around and see what I can find.”

“I’d certainly appreciate it.  Just like I appreciate everything you’ve already done for me.”  Jack gulped down the last of his coffee and got up to set about his tasks for the day.  First he was going to sweep and mop out the empty jail cells.  Then he was going to do a stock check, and tally, to get a count on all supplies within the jail.  Those two tasks would probably take most of the day but if he had time he would also walk around the building and look for weakening boards that needed reinforcement and then nail patches into place as needed.

While finishing up his own coffee, the sheriff pondered what type of man Jack was.  He’d asked for a job suitable for a man like him. 

Well, he’s a drunk, so we probably shouldn’t get him a job in a bar, or near a bar.  He’s only got one eye so we should steer clear of anything where depth perception is key.  He’s a bit smelly and raggedy but a bath, a shave and a haircut, and some new clothes should get that settled up.  Still, I can’t really see him working as a store clerk.  He’s strong, does well following directions, and is a hard worker.  I could see if any of the ranches on the outskirts of town are looking for some extra hands.  If he doesn’t know the ins and outs of working with animals it may not be something that could be taught at his age though.  Plus, the one eye thing comes back into play, is he going to be able to work with rope?  Can he ride down strays in fading light in rocky terrain? 

 I could train him and hire him on as my deputy but somehow I get the feeling that wouldn’t be right for him either.  He seems a good man but I couldn’t trust him without knowing what drove him to drink in the first place and I don’t think he’s ready to spill that nugget of information.  He may never share that with me.

 Quite the dilemma. 

 Well, perhaps I was wrong.  Maybe the bar is the best place for him.  He’s got a lot of experience in bars.  Sure it’s been on the other side of the bar but he still would have picked up on a few things.  It might test his self control to be tempted every day, to have the sauce under his nose, but he’ll need to be able to resist the temptation anyway once he gets some pay coming in.  Could be a bar would be the best fit for a man like him. 

His mind made up, Sheriff Brown polished off his coffee, grabbed his hat off the back of his chair and pulled it on, and made his way out the door and down the street to see his good friend Dan Reilly.  Dan owned and operated the Gunnison Inn, a small, misnamed bar, it had no actual rooms for rent, that was popular enough with the locals that it always did steady business year round.  Occasionally Dan needed to hire some extra help when the busy season for moving cattle picked up.  The sheriff hoped that Dan hadn’t already filled all of the extra spots he was looking to hire for the season and that Dan wouldn’t laugh too hard when the sheriff asked him how he felt about hiring a drunk to work at his bar.

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