Thursday already? How did that happen. Here’s another chapter in the western I’m writing. If I was titling chapters, this one would be called: The Lady Enters from Stage Left.
Go here if you need to catch up.
No, he didn’t drink. Honestly, who are you rooting for in this story? You should be ashamed.
Brig removed his borrowed revolver, wrapped the belt around the holster and placed it on a shelf under the counter. Then he went to work sweeping the floor just as if it was any other morning. It was just another morning. He was there to work and there was work to be done. Wearing a gun didn’t change that.
After he had swept and mopped, and while he was busy replacing the stock pile of bottles Dan emerged from his room to survey Jack’s progress and noticed the gun tucked away under the counter. The sight caused him to raise his eyebrows but the large man said nothing. It wasn’t his place to speak for or against Jack carrying a gun in general. It was his place though, the Gunnison Inn, so he was happy the man wasn’t wearing the weapon while he worked. Truth be told, he was pleased to see that Jack was willing to take steps to protect himself rather than just being bullied or gun-downed by Ed and his miscreants uncontested.
People need to stand up against the evil in this world. Dan was a firm believer in that. He was also a firm believer in clean floors and a stiff drink. Jack had taken care of the former, so he poured himself a couple fingers of the good whiskey and took care of the latter. It was early, yes, but sometimes a day called for an early start on those sorts of things. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those days, he thought as the smooth smoky brown liquid kissed his taste buds.
El borracho saw Reilly take the drink but said nothing. It was Dan’s bar, Dan’s booze, and Dan could do whatever he pleased. That seems reasonable enough to me.
With the morning’s chores accomplished Jack took up his customary spot behind the bar waiting for the first customers of the day. Dan took one of the stools directly across from him and asked for a re-fill. Jack obliged but didn’t let the second round go without comment.
“Awfully early to be putting away as much as you are, isn’t it?”
Dan nodded his head in response, letting it slowly bob back and forth in agreement, and took the drink that had been proffered at the same time the question was asked. He took a sip and set the glass down on the counter.
“Something troubling you?” An interesting question for a gun toting drunk to ask his employer, el borracho thought while studying Dan’s reaction. Well, there was no reaction, so there wasn’t really anything for him to study but he observed the lack of reaction just as keenly as if there had been one. For his part, Dan sat unmoving on his bar stool, coolly looking back across at his employee.
Unmoving, that is, until his lips formed his response. “Well, Jack, I wouldn’t exactly use the word “troubling,” but I guess there are things weighing on my mind this morning. Don’t you ever just wake up and know that it’s going to be the kind of day you’ll only be able to get through with a drink in your hand?”
That is a silly question to ask a drunk. El borracho said nothing.
Dan frowned. “I’m sorry about that, Jack. In truth, I’m none too comfortable with the recent escalation of events around here. Sure Ed is a no good whatchamacallit, but it sure seems that he is behaving worse and worse recently.”
Brig said nothing, he just let the man talk.
“Perhaps that is our fault for never reining him in before. If we hadn’t let him get away with the petty nuisances and crimes he’s committed since he first started working at Blunt’s spread maybe… Well, maybe he would have been put in his place or moved on a long time ago. Nothing we can do about it now, I guess. We’ve laid these tracks ourselves and now we have to see where they go.
“Anyway, the long and the short of it is I felt like a drink this morning. The first one went down real smooth and so I decided to have a second. I’m all done after this one though.
“Well… All done for this morning. It could be a really long day. I may be forced to have another one or two this afternoon.” Dan winked at Jack when he said the word “forced” and Jack couldn’t help but smile.
Silly, crazy, fool. Though I guess I am much the same, aren’t I. “I’m sorry for my part in all of this,” el borracho said in response.
“You’ve nothing to apologize for. You’re just playing the game as you see fit, doing the same as anyone would, trying to see each day out and make it to the next one. I may be drinking to calm my nerves this morning, but I wouldn’t want to trade for your position in this game, and you’ve been handling yourself with aplomb without the aid of any liquid courage. Now that’s an accomplishment worth raising a glass.”
Dan did just that.
The twinkle in his eye as he took another few sips before returning the glass to the counter was not lost on Brig. Both men had seen the irony in drinking a toast to sobriety and while Brig didn’t share in the mirth to the same extent as his employer he allowed himself a chuckle all the same.
“Well,” he said, “you’re the boss. You let me know if there is anything I can do to ease the concerns that are leading you to partake so early, but in the meantime if I’m still here this afternoon when you need your next round I’ll happily set them up for you.” With that Jack made his way out from behind the bar to do one last sweep of the place before the first customers of the day started filing in.
He was halfway through the room when the door opened and she walked in. He didn’t recognize her but the glare in her eyes and the five words she spoke turned his day upside down.
“I know who you are.”