Chapter 14

You know the drill: it’s Thursday so here is the next chapter in my silly comedy western, and all the prior chapters are here.

Enjoy!

…..

Mrs. Sorensen woke him in time for lunch, as promised, and he ate and made it to the afternoon shift at the Gunnison Inn on time.  That shift passed without incident and the next morning he fell back into the routine he had started before the incident with Ed.  The next couple days passed smoothly, quietly, peacefully, and Jack was once again pleased with the progress his new, sober, life was making in the small town he’d been, literally, thrown into.

That peace was shattered though one early afternoon as he was leaving his shift at the bar.  It had been another easy morning and he’d allowed himself to finally start forgetting about Ed.  Maybe he has found some other toy to play with?

He hadn’t.  He had just been biding his time.  Which actually meant: after hearing about the shenanigans in the Inn, his employer, Richard Blunt, had kept him on the ranch doing one task after another for a few days as punishment for his involvement in the brawl.  Blunt knew the type of man Ed was and knew the story Ed fed him about what happened was probably only part of the whole tale.  He also knew the only way to keep men like Ed out of trouble was to keep them occupied with work.  Eventually, though, that work ran out and he was forced to give him some more time off to spend his earnings as he saw fit.  He had advised Ed to find someplace other than Gunnison to frequent on his down time, but Gunnison was the only real town within easy riding distance so he knew his man would probably end up there again.  There was nothing he could do about that.

“Where you going?”  The words were spit out, more of an exclamation than a question.

They fell upon Jack’s ears the moment he stepped through the door of the Gunnison Inn and out onto the wooden walkway in front.  It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the brilliant afternoon light, but the voice was unmistakable, even tweaked up an octave due to the rage in the man’s voice.  Ed.

Jack turned towards the sound of the voice and found Ed, with four of his cronies backing his play, leaning against the railing just outside the Inn.  He had been drinking, it was obvious from the dribble stains down the front of his shirt, the slightly glazed look from his eyes, and a few other tell-tale signs only a drunk would even know to look for: the way he was standing, the slight slouch in his shoulders and the look of pure confidence on his face.

Crap.

Ed’s right hand rested on the butt of his revolver, and he looked none too pleased.

Double Crap.

”I believe, we’ve got some unfinished business, you and I.  You didn’t think I’d let you sucker punch me and get away with it, did you?  You might be a drunk but you’re not stupid, are you?”

And, triple crap.

Ed kept on talking, and Jack let him.  Maybe I’ll think of a way out of this situation while he’s talking himself into what he wants to do.

“Nobody, sucker punches me and doesn’t get what’s coming to them.”  Behind him, Ed’s cronies nodded in agreement and two chimed in with “that’s the truth” and “that’s right.”  Ed, emboldened by his perceived position of superiority, and the liquor, kept pushing.  “Are you chicken as well?  Are you scared to fight me when I’m ready for you?  Or do you only throw down when you know you are catching someone off guard?  Coward.  Chicken liver.  Worthless, no good drunk.  Come on and fight me, if you dare.”

It was risky, given Ed’s current state, but Jack figured it was his best chance under the circumstances.  Just because he wasn’t armed didn’t mean they wouldn’t make it look like he had been if he stuck around and took the bait for the “fair” fist fight.  The way Ed was keeping his hand on his revolver made Jack fairly certain he was just going to shoot him, so he turned his back on Ed and his cronies and started to walk away.

“Hey!  Coward!  I’m talking to you.”  The words came thick, fast, and loud.  “Don’t turn your back on me.”

Good, keep it up, draw a crowd.  Already, a few faces had pressed against the window of the bar to see what the shouting was about.  Across the street a shop worker opened his door and peered out, taking in the whole scene.

A shot rang out and Jack froze.  It hadn’t been aimed at him because he hadn’t heard the whine of the bullet pass him and no dirt was kicked up in his vicinity.  He fought every urge in his body to turn around and see where the gun was pointed but he ignored those urges and took another step forward.

“Why won’t you fight me, you coward!”

Another shot rang out, this time Jack did hear the whine of the bullet as it sailed harmlessly over his head, and luckily harmless over the rest of the town in that direction.  It would come down somewhere but nowhere near where anyone might get hit.  Jack didn’t stop walking for the second bullet, even though he wanted to, he could hear the cronies talking to Ed, trying to get him to calm down.  They could see the witnesses gathering and nothing would save Ed if he shot an unarmed man in the back with that many people watching.  As untouchable as Ed felt at that moment, his cronies at least knew that he wasn’t.

No third bullet followed the second one, and Jack breathed a little easier.  Well, that was until Ed screamed out at his retreating figure, “Your due is coming.  One day I’ll get you.”

I need a … Jack thought.  He was going to originally finish that thought with “drink,” but that wasn’t quite right anymore.  No, I don’t need a drink.  For once, that was a true statement.   I need a gun.  That was also a true statement.

Chapter 13

We’ve come to it again.  Find a comfy chair, sit back, and dive into the world of our favorite drunken gunslinger.

New to the story, not quite sure what’s going on, this will probably help.

…..

Jack didn’t stay in jail all that long.  For such a minor charge Cole would usually only hold someone over night anyway, and with good behavior and Jack’s assistance in cleaning up the mess he had helped cause, the sheriff woke up Jack and set him on his way with plenty of time for our one-eyed trouble maker to show up for work on time.  Jack, who didn’t mind spending time in jail cells, had been sort of disappointed his stay hadn’t been a bit longer.  With the late night, he had hoped to get a little extra sleep. 

Still, it’s good to know there are people in this town that understand me, understand what I’m going through and are still willing to watch my back.  Some of you may be confused by that, but both the sheriff and Reilly were looking out for el borracho.  Dan went looking to see if Jack needed help before the situation got out of hand, and though Cole did make Jack spend a night in jail, he was just doing his job and could have done his job with a much stricter interpretation of the town’s by-laws. 

Jack got his wish anyway.  After showing up at the Gunnison Inn, having walked over straight after being released, Dan thanked Jack for showing up, thanked him for his dedication, assured him he still had a job, “If, nothing else, I’d need you to keep the job just to make sure you could pay off the damages,” and then sent him on his way.  “Go on and get some rest.  You already got all the pre-cleaning done for today anyway, and I can cover the morning shift.”

“Thank you, Dan, but I got a couple hours of sleep in the jail and I can easily fill my shift this morning so you can get some sleep too.”

“After you left, I locked the front door and went to sleep myself, so we’ve both gotten the same amount of sleep I’d say.”  Dan smiled his big meaty smile, his plump, red cheeks sagging on either side of his toothy grin.  “Now, get on out of here before I change my mind and make you work this shift and this afternoon’s shift.”

“This afternoon’s shift?”

“Yeah, go get some sleep and then come relieve me after lunch, and you can work until the night crew comes in.”

Jack said “Thank you” and then took his leave.  He was happy to see that he was being trusted with a later shift even if it was just a onetime thing and he was always happy that he would get a chance to start working off his debt quickly.  He made the short walk down the street to Mrs. Sorensen’s, and found her working on breakfast in the kitchen.

She took one look at him, scowled and said, “You can’t be expecting any breakfast from me after you were up painting the town all night.  I won’t be rewarding that sort of behavior.”

Jack smiled.  It was mostly hidden in the dim light thrown by the few candles strewn throughout the room and under the several day’s growth of beard spreading across el borracho’s face, he hadn’t shaved since he’d started the job at the Gunnison Inn.  Maybe I can do that this morning, he thought because he didn’t really feel like sleeping and would need some other way to help the morning hours pass.

Mrs. Sorensen saw the half-hidden smile and her scowl deepened.  “This is no laughing matter young man.  How can you expect to improve yourself and be a part of this world if you are staying up all night carousing with your friends?”

Jack was sure she’d get the full story, or at least some version of it, from the other tenants over the next couple of days and he didn’t see any need to fill her in before then.  “You are absolutely right Mrs. Sorensen, I shouldn’t have been up all night; it’s no fit way for a man to behave.”  His smile didn’t waver.

“I’m awful sorry I missed breakfast though,” he continued, “I’d be happy to help you out in the kitchen this morning if you’ve got some tasks you can trust me with, and maybe if I do a good enough job you’ll be able to find something for me to eat?”

Mrs. Sorensen smirked, looked at him sideways, studying him to see if he was playing her for a fool or being serious.  Satisfied, she tilted her head towards the back of the room where a broom and a mop were propped up against the wall.  “I’ve heard you are pretty handy with those.  If you could sweep out the dining room and then get the table ready for breakfast, I can probably round up a plate for you.  Then after breakfast I’ll need you to sweep and mop the kitchen for me too.  That just about should square us up.”

Jack started for the broom. 

“Of course, I’ll make sure not to work you too hard so you can get some sleep in a proper bed before heading over to the Inn for the afternoon shift.  I know the sheriff’s cells are comfortable, but nothing beats a real bed for some restful sleep.”

Jack stopped midstride and turned, jaw agape, “How did you know about that?”

Her eyes twinkled with mischief in response but she said nothing.  She knew the truth all along.  Someone must have already told her what happened.

 

“Well, don’t stand there gawking, don’t you have some work to be doing?”

Jack grabbed the broom and proceeded to sweep out the dining room.  It was a much smaller space than the main floor of the bar and took almost no time for him to get it cleaned up.  Then it just took a few minutes longer to get the places around the table set for the morning meal, which was served as the first light of the rising sun came creeping through the east facing windows.

The tenants came down, and after being inspected for clean hands by Mrs. Sorensen, took their seats and set about their meals with little fanfare or conversation.  Jack helped get them served, and then washed his hands so he could join them at the table.  Then he washed his a second time when Mrs. Sorensen inspected them and sent him back to the sink for another scrubbing.  Then, finally, he took his place at the table and joined in. 

He expected questions or sideways glances but everyone seemed content to keep to themselves that morning.  They must see enough new faces coming and going that they never question who is and who isn’t here for breakfast on any given day.

After everyone had finished and excused themselves, Jack helped clear the dishes and went about sweeping and mopping while Mrs. Sorensen cleaned up the plates, glasses, forks, knives, platters, and skillets.  It had been a fine breakfast and while they worked he told her as much, “Mrs. Sorensen, that was a mighty fine breakfast.”  Told you.   

“Kind of you to say so,” she responded.  “But, you aren’t getting it out of me, my sources shall remain secret, so you can just finish up with your chores and then get yourself off to bed.  I’ll wake you in time for lunch and see that you are on your way to the Inn when you need to be.”

She hadn’t taken her eyes off of her work in the sink, and with her back to him, he couldn’t see if she was smiling or not, but he knew she was all the same.  He could hear it in her voice.  What a crafty, crafty lady.  She saw right through me.

At first he hadn’t thought he’d want to sleep between breakfast and lunch, he’d been running on adrenaline through after the events of the night before and his early morning wakeup call in jail, and it was beginning to wear him out.  Coupled with the heavy breakfast, he could feel his eyes growing heavy as he finished up the mopping.  He excused himself and headed to his room, she said nothing as he went, but he swore he heard her chuckling under her breath just before he got out of earshot.