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PostSubject: Fireworks   Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:33 am

Time for a new challenge and as it's so near the 4th of July there can be only one topic. 


Firework Fireworks   Firework
That can refer to actual fireworks, to explosives, or to dispute and arguments; as well as any holiday or occasion which might use fireworks other than the US one.


So what are you waiting for? Get writing.
Writing


Don't forget to comment on last month's stories before you start as comments are the only thanks our writers get.
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Fireworks   Mon Jul 02, 2018 3:13 am

Saddle Talk:  Holidays and Fireworks

“Heyes, I don’t think we’re gonna find a doc on a holiday.”

“If not, maybe the liveryman or blacksmith are around.  Worst case, we can always try honey.”

Kid Curry spoke over his shoulder.  “Honey?  Ain’t that an old wives’ tale?”

Hannibal Heyes shrugged.  “I don’t know, but we won’t know until we try it.”

“That’s if the mercantile is even open to buy honey.  Probably nothin’ will be.”

“Kid, you gotta look on the bright side.  Even on a holiday some establishments have to be open.  People from the local ranches will probably come into town for the festivities, and saddle tramps like us might want to celebrate.  Anyway, it’s a chance we gotta take.  We can’t go much further riding double.”

Curry sighed.  “That’s for sure.  The horses need a rest, and so do we.”

“You’re right, and we have enough for a nice hotel room with a bathtub and steak dinners.”

“But not enough for another horse.”

Heyes smiled.  “Come on, Kid.  For once, we’re flush.  We’ll get off the trail for a few days and relax and let the horses rest and that wound heal up.”  His eyes twinkled and dimples flashed.  “And we can put the extra toward a decent poker stake to get enough to buy another one if the wound’s worse than we think.”

“Is that why you weren’t watchin’ where you were goin’ – so you could have an excuse to play poker?  Like you need one.  If your nose wasn’t in that durned book all the time …”

“Kid, you would think the horse would be able to watch where it was going all by itself and not step in that gopher hole.  Besides, I was reading about Tom Sawyer’s Fourth of July.”

“I hope he had a nicer one than we’re havin’.”

“Except for my horse, we’re doing fine.  It rained on his.”

For some reason, this news sparked Curry’s interest.  “The whole day?”

“Uh huh.  And then he got the measles and spent two weeks in bed.”

The small spark of interest deflated.  “So they needed a doc, too?  I hope his ma was able to find one on the holiday.”

“It was after the holiday, so a doc was around.”

“But we won’t find one.  Dang, Heyes!”

The dark-haired man swept an arm toward the blue sky and few fair weather clouds.  “But our Fourth of July won’t have rain.”

Curry shook his head in disgust.  “Fine, we won’t be rained on.  But what if we know the sheriff and we need to hightail it out of there?  We have two tired horses and one can’t be rid, and we don’t have enough to buy another one, so we’re stuck.  We’ll be able to enjoy the fireworks through the jail window because the jail might be the only place in town that’s open!

“Calm down, Kid,” Heyes soothed.  “This area’s new to us and I don’t think the town’s too big, so it’s pretty good odds we won’t know the sheriff.”

“Only pretty good?  You’re usually bettin’ on odds that’re better than ‘pretty good,’ Heyes.”

His partner rationalized.  “Since we’re new here, I don’t know enough about the place to weigh the odds better than ‘pretty good,’ but I’ll bet they’re way better than that.  Kid, don’t forget we’re a long way from home, so it’s pretty good odds that any sheriff out these parts ain’t expecting Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry to come riding down main street hooting and hollering to rob the bank with the noise of fireworks muffling a blast to the safe.”  He smiled dreamily.  “But, those were the days.”

“Maybe.”

“Oh, there’s no doubt about that, Kid.  Those were certainly the days.”

“But we’re not goin’ back.”

“Nope.”

“But what if your ‘pretty good’ odds are wrong, and we have to steal fresh horses?  Then what, Mr. Genius?”

Heyes was silent as he pondered the question.

Curry turned in the saddle to look at his partner and met Heyes’s gaze.

“I’m still here.”

Kid turned front again to watch the way ahead.  “So you don’t know what we do if we have to go back to stealin’?”

“Kid, you have to have faith in the odds.  It’s the Fourth of July, we’re flush, and we’re going to enjoy the holiday.  The odds are we won’t know the sheriff, so we won’t have to steal horses.  And even if we did, I’m sure I can talk our way out of it somehow.”

“How?”

“Oh ye of little faith.”  Heyes thought another minute.  “We can tell them we’re bounty hunters on a hot trail.”

Curry rolled his eyes.  “Fine.  As long as we don’t tell them we’re after Kid Curry and that other fella.”

Heyes chuckled.  “Nope.  Hannibal Heyes and what’s his name will be furthest from their minds.  We’ll tell them we’re after the Red Sash Gang and wire Lom to back us up if it comes to that.  He’s always our ace in the hole, isn’t he?”

“I think he’s gettin’ tired of that, too.  We’re supposed to be makin’ it all legal on our own.”

Heyes nodded.  “And we are and Lom knows that.  But he also knows sometimes we need a little help keeping to that deal we got from the governor …”

“But he’s already puttin’ his neck out for us.”

“Yes, he is.  And since he has almost as much to lose as we do, odds are it’s in his best interest to back us up if we need it.”

“That’s your whole plan, Heyes?  It’s soundin’ pretty thin.”

“Just playing the odds, Kid.  Gotta keep your eyes on the odds.”

Curry sighed loudly and shook his head.  Sometimes it just made no sense to argue with his partner’s reasoning. 

They rode in companionable silence until they reached the town limits.  Trailing Heyes’s horse behind them, they kept their heads down as they rode past the sheriff’s office.  They did not know him.

The doctor’s office had a closed sign in the door.  Odds were he could probably be reached in an emergency, but perhaps a horse with a wound on his leg would not qualify.

They found the livery stable at the far end of town.  It was open and the stable hand said he would doctor the wound for an extra two bits a day.  Flush as they were and with the odds going their way, they did not attempt to talk the price down. 

Continuing the trend, they found and splurged on a room at the hotel overlooking the main street and sheriff’s office with two beds and a bathtub.  After washing off the trail dust and in clean clothes, they enjoyed a steak dinner with all the trimmings in the hotel dining room.

Heyes sipped his wine.  “See, Thaddeus.  What’d I tell you about the odds being pretty good?”

Curry sighed.  “Do you want me to tell you you were right and I was wrong?”

“No.  Just enjoy the holiday."  Heyes added, "Even if the doc isn’t around.”

“Okay.”  Kid raised a glass to toast.  “Here’s to the fireworks stayin' here and not followin' us out of town.”

Heyes grinned.  “I’ll drink to that.”

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Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
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chelseagirl



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PostSubject: Re: Fireworks   Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:31 pm

Fireworks

Devil’s Hole, Wyoming

“No, Kyle, I don’t think it would be a good idea.  Not so soon after such a big job.”  Hannibal Heyes had a determined look on his face, and when he got like that, not even Kid Curry could change his mind.  Well, not usually.

Kyle Murtry sighed.  Sure he liked his life on the outlaw trail, and sure he was happy to have fallen in with the Devil’s Hole Gang, but one of the things he’d always loved, back in his hometown, were the Fourth of July celebrations. 
 
Picnics, lemonade and beer, watermelon and pie, games for the children.  Contests of skill like throwing horseshoes or strength tests.   Three-legged races and relays.  Lots of music from the local brass band.  But the thing Kyle loved most of all was the fireworks.

He sometimes thought it was his love of fireworks that had attracted him to the idea of working with dynamite, in the first place.  How much scarier could it be?  Not much, he thought, as he remembered his childhood playmate Lizzie, who’d singed her eyebrows off in one of their Fourth of July escapades.  They’d grown back just fine, as he recalled.  He hadn’t thought about Lizzie, or her brother Freddy, in a long while, but he smiled now, thinking about some of their antics. 

“Some town far away from the Hole, maybe?  There have to be places we still ain’t pulled any jobs.”  Kyle wasn’t quite ready to give up yet.

Kid Curry gave him a sympathetic look, which suggested that he missed the picnics and the music, too.  But, as usual, he backed up Heyes.  “It’s hard sometimes, Kyle, thinkin’ about the things we’ve had to give up.  But we all made choices that got us here, and Heyes is right.  It’s not the time nor the place for it.”

“Maybe next year, Kyle, if things have cooled off a little,” Heyes added, his brown eyes softening a bit.  “We can think about some more out of the way places we’ve never been.  There are some little towns, up Montana way, maybe.”
  
Kyle nodded, resignedly, and walked over to where Wheat Carlson was waiting for him.

“Told ya they’d say no,” Wheat said.  “Now, if I was in charge . . .” But then a crafty look came into his eyes.  “On the other hand, I do have an idea.”

And so on July 4th of that year, the Devil’s Hole Gang was treated to a fireworks display like the world had never seen before, nor would ever want to see again.  Most of it was plain old dynamite, attached to a wooden structure so that it would blow sky-high and come down in flames, but there were a few odd rockets and Catherine-wheels which various gang members had managed to purchase in the various towns they’d passed through, for supplies or for rest and relaxation.  Never purloined, of course – no need to hurt the small shopkeepers who never did anyone any harm.

Heyes and Curry sat side-by-side on the front porch of the leaders’ cabin.

“That’s quite the display that Kyle’s put on, don’t you think, Kid?”

“You sure this won’t lead any stray lawmen our way?”

“Nah.  Lawmen are all home with their families today.  It’s like Christmas, only better weather.”

“Think we’ll ever have families, Heyes?”  There was an unreadable expression in the Kid’s blue eyes.  “Maybe take ‘em to a real Fourth of July celebration?”

Heyes thought for a moment.  “Prob’ly not, Kid.  Don’t see how it could happen, with the way things are.”  He winked.  “Anyway, we wouldn’t want to disappoint all those young ladies in the saloons, by taking Kid Curry off the market.” 

“Or Hannibal Heyes – well, when he can be bothered to step away from the poker table, that is.”

“Don’t wanna give you too much competition, Kid.”  

“Think there’s enough ladies, and cards, to go around,” said Curry.

But then there was another beautiful big explosion, and for a moment, they were silent.

Blue Sky, Montana
Some years later

Two small boys and an even smaller girl ran up to their father, in an even greater state of excitement than the one in which they usually spent their lives.  

“Daddy!” said Thad, the oldest and the leader, as always.  “Is it true Uncle Kyle is doing the fireworks again this year?  Sarah was too little to stay up for ‘em last year, and we’re hoping he is, because his are the BEST!”

“Uncle Kyle?”  Kid Curry turned to his wife.  “Did he get a promotion or something?”

“Well, you know how much the children all like him.  It seemed disrespectful to have them call him just plain Kyle, but I think we’ve progressed beyond Mister Murtry by now.”  Sandy Curry turned to her eldest son, and reassured him.  “Of course it’ll be Uncle Kyle.  Do you think Blue Sky would trust its explosives to anyone else?”

“I haven’t heard trust and Kyle and explosives in the same sentence ever before,” the Kid muttered to himself.

“That was two sentences, dearest,” said his wife, mildly.  “Would you mind grabbing that quilt and the other basket?  We’d better get going if we’re going to get a good spot.”  She picked up a substantial wicker basket, herself.

When they arrived at the town square, they settled in next to the Heyes family, who’d claimed extra territory for them.  The two wives sat together, catching up on the news of the day, while the three little Currys, and even smaller Arabella Heyes, ran off to join some of their friends, and Francesca Bird, the Heyes’ ward, followed along to keep an eye on them.

Heyes and the Kid just nodded at each other, and excused themselves.  They headed off to the refreshment tent, where they availed themselves of a beverage that was not lemonade, and then wandered off to see how the man of the hour was doing.

To their great surprise, Kyle had company.

“Wheat?  What’re you doin’ here?” asked Curry.

“Don’t tell us you, too, have left your sorry life of crime behind.”  Heyes had a twinkle in his eye.

“Nothin’ of the sort,” blustered Wheat.  “I’m still as dishonest as the day is long.  But I couldn’t let Kyle have all the fun, runnin’ this fireworks display on his own year after year, without wantin’ to have a chance to play along.  ‘Specially when he’s got access to all kinds of fireworks, legitimate-like and stuff.  So I come fer a visit.”  He puffed up a little.  “Told the fellers I was gonna spend a week with a lady friend, saloon gal that was right sweet on me.”

“Highly believable story,” said Heyes, with mock sincerity, and Curry nodded to show his pretended agreement.

“I thunk it up all on my own,” said Wheat, proudly.

“Will y’all stop fussin’ and hand me that rocket?” asked Kyle.

Kid Curry obligingly did so, and the two men took their leave, heading back towards the spot their families had staked out.

“Remember Kyle’s first fireworks show?” asked Heyes. “Back at Devil’s Hole?”

“Could hardly forget it, Heyes.  Nearly burned our cabin down, and took us the rest of the summer to repair all the damage to the bunkhouse, and the storage barn, and . . .”

Just then, Sarah and Joshua Curry came racing past, nearly running right into their father.  The men smiled at each other.

“Remember what I asked you that day, Heyes?”

“Whether we’d ever have families.  Whether we’d ever have a normal Fourth of July.”

“And you were pretty definite that the answer was ‘No’.”

Heyes smiled at his partner and shook his head.  “All the odds and all my experience said I was right.  Who’d ever have thought this day would come?  When this kind of thing is just normal for us?”

And the two men laughed, as they walked towards their wives, who were sitting side by side on the pretty quilts Sandy had made, unpacking the picnic baskets full of Sandy’s good cooking and baking.  (Heyes’ wife Ella, of course, was still hopelessly undomestic, because this is a story with a happy ending, but it’s not a fairytale.)  

“In other words, you were wrong, Heyes.”

“I’ll admit to it just this once, Kid.  Just this once.”
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PostSubject: Re: Fireworks   Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:42 am

Fireworks


“You know what …. we gotta get, Heyes?” screamed Kid, just a few feet from Heyes’ shoulder, urging even more effort from his already speeding horse.


“Out of this business… I already heard you …Jeeez!”


Hannibal Heyes ducked his head lower as another bullet followed the one that had just pushed his hat forward over his eyes.


“Come on Kid…. It’s time things got scary for that posse back there… instead of us!”


He yanked at his horse’s mouth, and sent her plunging down the mountain side, leaving the dusty trail behind.  He heard Kid’s yell of bravado, as he too threw caution to the wind, trusting the surefootedness of their mountain-bred horses to see them safe to the bottom of the long drop.


Gunfire rained down on them from above, but it was soon obvious to the two notorious outlaws, that if they were going to meet their maker today, it would be from a broken neck, not a bullet between the shoulder blades.


Heyes felt his mount leave the ground, in a leap for the bottom.  As he sent a small prayer heavenwards, he realised for the first time, he heartily agreed with his cousin, and long-time partner, it was, indeed, time to get out of this business.


The firing continued above.  The posse held their position, dismounting and switching to rifles. 


“Bear rock… NOW!” shouted Kid, taking the lead and swinging his horse left, then right, then right again.  Anything to confuse until they were out of rifle range.


Heyes followed suit.  Who knew if they had a real gunman in that posse:  A dead shot with a rifle.  He didn’t like the way his brain was calculating the odds against them.  Kid’s horse was kicking up plenty of dust, and he had to pull the bandana on his neck up over his nose.  His eyes complained of the abuse they were getting, but his horse seemed to realise weaving and running were the only things that were going to keep them both alive today.  He thanked the day he’d bought her; roped right off the mountain, sleek as a mountain lion and cunning as a coyote.


Kid disappeared behind a wall of rock, and when Heyes sped in too, just a few seconds later, he could see Kid was pulling his shotgun out of the boot to cover their retreat.


“Don’t fire!” barked Heyes.  “Let’s see their play first.”


He wrestled to free the small opera glasses from his jacket pocket, and put them up to his stinging, protesting eyes.
 
The posse were mounting their tired horses and about half headed back up the trail towards their town, their families and their businesses. The other half, including the rather flamboyant, tall sheriff with the good aim, took off down trail towards the flat. 


That was a long detour.


Persistent, thought Heyes, testily.


“Well?” asked Kid, his eyes never leaving their backtrail.


“Six or so… heading down… Oh… Not off the edge… Not like us… they not stupid…”


Heyes found a small smile for his partner. 


It helped.


“No… They’re using the road.”


“Gives us …at least …. forty minutes’ lead on them…” calculated Kid, staring at the far end of the flat where the trail came down.  “I say …we round the mountain at Edwards Pass …and head back to the Hole… through Columbine… We know for a fact… the Sheriff …and all his deputies… are out of town!”


Heyes sent his cousin a wicked, full dimpled grin.


“That would be… the last place they’d think we were heading, alright… We can weave back over the rocks… won’t even have to press the horses… They won’t even be looking for a trail that way.”


Heyes started up the rock-strewn gulch, keeping the horse to the flat rocky shelves. Kid, booted the shotgun and followed.


“I like the way you think Partner…” called back Heyes.


“It’s what’s been keeping you alive all these years” retorted Kid, with a smile of his own.


“… and I kinda get the feeling …that town owes us a little something…” continued Heyes, not rising to the bait.


“How do you mean?” asked Kid


“Well … they owe me… a new hat …for one thing…” said Heyes, taking off his dusty black hat and poking his finger through the ragged hole at the crown.  “And… we’re shy $50,000…”


“Heyes… You said, yourself…it would have taken you hours to open that safe… I don’t think anyone but the fishes are gonna get to spend that money!”


Kid sighed heavily.  It hadn’t been their best day. That amnesty paper was weighing heavily in his pocket, but Heyes had dismissed it.


When they reached Edwards Pass, they stopped to stare back across the flats, Heyes using his opera glasses again, looking for any signs of rising dust.


Nothing.


They exchanged a look that spoke of more relief than either of them would admit to.


As they turned their horses back to the pass, they heard distant gunshots that came echoing across the flat to their ears like fourth of July firecrackers. The shots were getting more distant, and eventually faded altogether.


They sat in silence for just a second.  The memory of the gunshots hanging around their ears like an absence, after a firework display.


“Don’t suppose …they came across …some of our boys…do you?” asked Kid uncomfortably.


“Nah…”


Heyes looked a little uncomfortable himself.
 
“Nah… that whole posse took off after us… Wheat’s probably still swimming.”


“Yeah… probably still swimming…” agreed Kid, quietly.


“Come on Kid…” barked Heyes, breaking the mood.  


“We’ve had the fireworks… Now let’s go have us some fun!”


---oooOOOooo---
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PostSubject: Re: Fireworks   Sun Jul 15, 2018 11:42 pm

Hi everyone! Figured I'd try my hand at a challenge here!  I will admit my connection to 'fireworks' is somewhat loose but you'll hopefully find it. I just had a flash of an image and decided to try and make that story fit into the challenge. I also forced myself not to over edit and just post it! *gulp* Hope you enjoy!


                                                                 ***


The sun beat down on the orange rocks and the two riders on the path through the mountains. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were silent as they guided their horses on the thin, treacherous trail.

They’d celebrated the fourth of July in a nice little town that they’d ridden out of because they recognized a bounty hunter in the general store. For once, they’d avoided the man and been able to leave without being chased. They took the shortcut through the mountains their previous employer had recommended.

Unfortunately, halfway through their journey they’d discovered the trail through had been blocked by a rock slide.  That left them with their current tiny trail. Their mounts were gamely navigating the cliffs but there was a long slide down to the right that ended in a sheer drop and a cliff face on the left.

“I’d like to find a different shortcut,” Kid Curry muttered, taking off his hat to scratch his head. His dark blonde hair was pasted to his scalp from the heat and he put the hat back on for the shade it offered.

 “If I see one, I’ll let you know,” Heyes replied, glancing back at his partner who rode behind him. His dark brown hair looked nearly black with sweat beneath his battered black hat. 

Heyes’ mount suddenly stumbled on a curve and then his front hooves were sliding down as the rocks slipped beneath them. The dark haired man let up on the reins so the horse could use his head and neck to recover his balance. Unfortunately just as he regained the trail, the gelding stepped on a loose rock and lunged sideways, throwing his rider.

“Heyes!” Kid yelled when his partner fell. He recklessly jumped off his own horse. “Heyes??”

Heyes skidded down the side of the cliff toward the drop off, hands scrabbling to grab something to stop his descent and missing. He finally slammed into a spindly pinyon pine, breath knocked clean out of him and black overtaking his vision.


Kid Curry looked over the edge and breathed a sigh of relief, seeing Heyes hadn’t fallen into the ridge hundreds of feet below. He grabbed rope from his saddle bag and tied one end to the sturdiest tree he found. Grabbing hold of the rope with his gloved hands, the Kid began to head down the slope.

“Heyes? Heyes?” Kid called as he slid down the cliff and dodged the chaparral and sagebrush. A battered black hat was lying on its side on the way down and he nabbed it with one hand, tying the stampede strings onto his belt.

A lizard scampered out of the way of his boot as he basically ran down. He stopped on a large flat boulder embedded in the hillside. The rest of the ground looked unstable. His partner had managed to hit the very last tree before the drop off. Kid winced in sympathy, but was glad Heyes had stopped.

Curry started to ease toward him but the sandy ground started sliding again and he stopped, getting back on the boulder. “Heyes! You need to wake up, partner!”

His voice was both demanding and worried and some part of it got through.

“K-kid?” Heyes stirred then started to sit up and the unusually puny pine he was up against tilted backward slightly. He froze. “What happened?”

“Horse tossed you down the cliff. I wanted a shortcut through the mountains, Heyes, not down them,” Kid said, giving him a relieved smile. “You okay?  Can you reach the rope?”

Curry tossed it toward his partner.

“Sure,” Heyes groaned. He reached for the rope, glad his arm wasn’t broken though his head and ribs ached. “Got it.” He caught Kid’s worried once-over and smiled at him reassuringly. “I’m fine. Just saw the bank of Fort Worth’s floorplan again.”

He started to get up and the pinyon pine lurched further back over the cliff and both men cursed.

“Tie the rope around your waist!” Kid said. “The other end’s anchored to a tree and I’m afraid a slide will start if I walk to you or your tree will give and go over.”

“Uh huh,” Heyes said. “And while I’m tied to the rope just lying here, what are you tied to as you walk to me? What kind of plan is that, Kid?”

“The tree you’re leanin' on ain’t gonna stay there forever, Heyes! I’ll pull you to me and stay where I’m at. Does that meet your approval? Or maybe I should go back up the cliff and let you figure it out,” Kid said.

Heyes gave a short laugh. “Soundin’ awful proddy there, Kid.”

“I don’t like hangin' around on the side of a cliff. You got the rope around you yet?”

Heyes finished the knot. “I do.”

Kid slowly started to pull. Heyes tried to help him by pushing himself upward with his legs. They’d made good progress when one of the horses whinnied above them and there was the sound of falling rocks and sand.

“I think your horse is tryin' to kill us,” Kid said to his partner through gritted teeth as he kept hauling him until a chunk of stone hit him in the back and this time it was the Kid who fell onto his stomach, instantly starting to slide down.

Heyes saw his partner slide past and he reached for him, one brown gloved hand grasping a tan one. “Hold on!”

“No foolin'!” Kid yelled back.

Dust shot up into the air and stones, sand, and pebbles rolled past. Heyes prayed the rope would hold as rocks fell past him and occasionally over him. The ground under him was moving and part of the drop off fell away. Heyes kept his grip on his younger cousin desperately. He felt the tension in the rope holding him on the side of the cliff but it didn't snap.

At the end of the rock slide, the pinyon pine was gone as was a good portion of the edge of the cliff. Heyes was still holding on to his partner’s wrist which was good since Kid was over the edge, his hand gripping Heyes' wrist with none of the rest of him visible.

Kid dangled in the air, his brown hat off his head and hanging on his back and Heyes’ hat still tied to his belt. He made the mistake of looking down. Below him stones slammed into the ravine.

“Grab my other hand!” Hannibal Heyes grimaced with strain as he reached for his younger cousin.

Kid managed to grab on to his other wrist and Heyes slowly hauled him up over the edge.

“I thought you didn’t like hangin' around on the side of the cliff?” Heyes asked as he gave him the last tug onto solid ground.

“Hah hah.” Curry flopped down on the opposite side of the rope, one hand holding on to it. For a minute, the partners stayed where they were on the slope catching their breath.

“That rope around my waist? Good plan, Kid,” Heyes said finally. Without it, they both would’ve been over the edge.

Kid Curry laughed. “I got a better one. Let’s get off this dang cliff.”

“We almost were.”

“Not what I meant.” Kid glanced at his partner. “Thanks.”

“You too.”

Heyes and Curry gingerly stood, both grasping the rope until they made their way back up to the top. They emerged onto the small trail covered in dirt, exhausted, and bruised. Their horses looked at them, still waiting in single file.

Heyes took a seat against the cliff wall.

Kid grabbed a canteen and sat next to his partner. “You okay? I fell down the cliff before I could look you over.”

“Yeah, you always were the competitive type,” Heyes said. “I fall down; you want to do it better.”

Kid laughed and pulled out a bandanna, wet it and dabbed at Heyes’ forehead. “I did make it further down than you, so I guess I win. Worst contest I was ever in.”  He frowned, looking over the bleeding cut on his best friend’s forehead. “You didn’t answer how you were. That mean it’s bad?”

Heyes sighed. “Remember those firecrackers we saw in town?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“I feel like someone set some off in my head. Whole bunch of fireworks right behind my eyes.”

Kid winced. “Can you ride?”

“Don’t have much of a choice, Kid.”

“Not what I asked.” A hint of annoyance was in Curry’s voice. Dealing with a hurt Heyes was about as fun as falling off the cliff had been.

“I’m all right, just a headache and bruised ribs.” Heyes closed his eyes and allowed his partner to clean him up until a thought occurred to him and he opened his eyes. “What about your back? How does it feel?”

“Like a rock hit it,” Kid replied, figuring he could be just as mulish as Heyes.  He handed his partner the canteen. “I'm sick of this mountain.”

“Me too,” Heyes said as he took a drink.

“What was the next town called again?” Kid asked.

“Rockville.”

“Like we need more rocks,” Kid said.

The partners laughed. Nothing was really that funny but they were just glad to be alive and more or less in one piece.

"Oh, here's your hat," Kid said as he put his own back on, slapping Heyes' hat a few times and handing it over. "I may have rolled on it a few times but I don't think it looks much worse than it did before."

"Thanks," Heyes said wryly, taking the hat and working it back into shape before replacing it on his head.

"Maybe it's time to get a new one?" Kid asked hopefully.

"I can't do that, Kid, it's my lucky hat."

Kid stared at his partner. "Heyes you just nearly fell off a cliff!"

"The key word is nearly," Heyes replied.

Shaking his head, Kid stood and helped Heyes to his feet then the duo went carefully in single file to their horses.

Kid checked his horse’s legs and hooves and Heyes did the same. Heyes didn’t see any evidence that the stumbling had caused damage to the equine.

“He’s all right.”

“Aside from his wish to kill us, you mean.”

Heyes laughed. “Aside from that.”

“You ready to ride on?” Kid asked, untying the rope and replacing it in his saddlebag.

“As ready as I’m gonna be.” Hannibal Heyes climbed on his mount and Kid Curry soon did the same.

The two continued down the trail.

“Hey Kid?”

"Yeah, Heyes?”

“How about you find the next shortcut?"

Kid snorted. “No thanks.”
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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Fireworks   Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:44 pm

Hard to believe, I actually had a bunny hop.

Glory Days


Stanley Blinker contemplated his surroundings.  The bar before him was polished wood.  Light entering through the stained-glass windows highlighted the pastoral scene on the painting behind the bottles.  The floor was swept, the brass fixings gleamed.  The place smelled fresh and clean.  He sighed and sipped the beer before him.  He had to make it last, after all the way things were going this was probably his last assignment. 
  
He’d had such great plans.  He begged to be allowed to cover the war in Europe, but no.  His boss had laughed at him.  “Go west.  Get tales of the wild outlaws and desperadoes that reside there or don’t come back,” old Horace Hartley had ordered.  Heartless Hartley the staff called him.  And that was a good name for him Stanley decided.  How was he supposed to gather new tales of derring-do in this boring, totally banal town?  There was no wild west anymore and hadn’t been for decades.  He might as well be back in Ohio.  His ears registered the cacophony of noise from the wagons, the old carriages, and automobiles he had seen driving past as he entered the saloon.


Old time saloon, right.  He shook his head.  There were no poker games, no spittoons, no saloon gals, just men in business suits with stiff collars sitting at the tables talking quietly – not a gunslinger in sight, not even a cowboy.  Stanley looked down the bar at Jem, the bartender – son of the owner and his only friend in this righteous town.  Jem had told him that to compete with the soda fountain at the pharmacy across the street his pa was planning to add a room where the ladies could sit and drink coffee and sodas along with the men.  Women in a saloon!  Respectable ones!  And his boss wanted him to write about the wild west.  He took a deep, despondent gulp and turned to watch the two men playing darts near his end of the bar.


As he watched, the white-haired man threw his third bullseye.  He turned to his companion, blue eyes twinkling.  “Well, that does it.  Best three out of five.  You’re payin’ for tomorrow’s drinks.”


His companion shrugged.  “I guess you still have dead aim.  Hard to believe it after all these years.”


The first man chuckled then sobered.  “I may still have my aim, but the reflexes are a might slower.  Good thing they outlawed guns here, or I’d still be wearin’ my fate on my hip.”


His companion nodded.  He smiled, deep dimples appearing in his lined face.  “Surprising, we lasted this long, isn’t it?”  He pulled a battered watch out of his pocket.  “Time to go, supper will be waiting.”


As the two men paid up and walked out to the street, Stanley watched them, eyes narrowed, thinking deeply.  He noted how, old as they appeared, they stood erect, their legs slightly bowed from long days on horseback.  Even now, as they left joking and laughing with each other, they exuded a sense of power.  It would take a brave or very foolish man to challenge either of them – challenging the two of them together would require insanity.


Stanley caught Jem’s eye and gestured him over.
  
“You want another beer?”


“Just some information.”


“I gotta get you another beer or my Pa will have my hide for standing around chatting when I’m supposed to be working.”


“Okay, sure another one.”  While Jem poured the beer, Stanley could hardly restrain his impatience.


“Jem, what do you know about those two men who just left.”


“Huh?”


“The two men, the ones that were playing darts.”


“Oh, Mr. Hotchkiss and Mr. Rembacker.  Real nice old fellas.”


“What do they do?”


“Do?  Nothing, I guess. They’re here most days, drink some whiskey or beer, play a game or two of darts.”  Jem polished the top of the ornate bar, wandered down to serve some drinks, then wandered back.  “You know how you said your boss wanted you to write about the old west?”


“Yeah?”


“Well maybe those two can help you.  My Pa told me once to be careful, that they’re wanted outlaws.  Used to be leaders of one of the most famous gangs in the west.  He says Hotchkiss and Rembacker aren’t their real names; says they’re still wanted.  Pa said they were offered amnesty, but something fell through.  Folks thought they went to South America for a while, but they must have come back.  Says lots of folks in town know about it, but no one cares because they’re such nice fellas.  Besides, there’s no longer any reward, and no one would believe those two were still alive.”  Jem shrugged and wiped the bar before him.  “But Pa spins stories sometimes, so I don’t know.  I can’t really believe those two nice old men are wild desperadoes.”  He laughed.  “I mean, how could they be.”


Stanley gave a short laugh.  “Yeah, pretty hard to believe.”  He stared at nothing in particular.  “Still.  You said they come here often?”


~~~~~~


Stanley hustled into the saloon and looked around.  Not seeing his quarry, he sighed impatiently.  He’d done his research.  No one would tell him just when these two had arrived in town. Some said ten years earlier, some said it was longer ago than that.  He’d been told they’d arrived after the great earthquake when a lot of folks left California.  Others said it was more recent than that.  All he knew was when he searched the local paper’s archives the earliest he could find was a society piece noting that Mr. Hotchkiss and Mr. Rembacker had escorted two widowed sisters to a dance in January 1909.  Stanley shook his head as he mused. 
 
He had moved to looking up old stories of robbers and gangs.  That had been illuminating.  While he waited for the men's arrival, he thought back to what he had read.  Surely, they weren’t …, they couldn’t be.  Those two were dead, weren’t they, and anyway these men looked older.  He considered this last point carefully.  Hard life could make you look older than you were, he knew – look at his mother after his father died, leaving them destitute.  She’d aged rapidly.  If these men were who he hoped, surely their lives had been hard at one time.


~~~~~~~~~~~


Stanley considered his remaining funds.  Hopefully it would last.  He’d already pawned his watch for this.  It had taken two days of cajoling to convince the men he could be trusted.  Today, today was the day they said they’d tell him about the old days.


Hotchkiss paused outside the saloon.  “I don’t know about this.  Are you sure it’s okay to talk to this boy?”


“Kid.  Nobody cares about us, and we won’t let on who we are anyway.  Besides, he wants to hear stories of outlawing and derring-do, and we can provide those.  We’ll tell him a few tales, drink some whiskey on his dime, and that’ll be it.  Tell him what he wants to hear.”  He grinned.  “Some of it might even be true.”


His partner chuckled and pushed open the door, entering first as always to ensure there was no danger.


~~~~~~~


“… Ky… Coyote Sam, that is, wasn’t too bright, and sometimes he got carried away.  He sure did like the explosions.  Well, one time he set off so much dynamite that it blew the railcar to smithereens.  Remember, Thaddeus?  All that was left were a few splinters.  Never did find the safe.”


Hotchkiss laughed.  “But they say it rained money all the way over in Silver City that day.  Too bad none of it rained by the tracks.  We didn’t get anything.  Hey, remember Henry, that poor mail man?”


“Oh yeah.  Real dedicated he was.  How many times did we rob him?  Every time it took near to half an hour to convince him not to be blown up with the safe.”


Stanley’s eyes were wide.  He quickly resumed writing in his notebook.


“Tell him about the bear.  I think we got at least ten thousand that time.  I like that story.  Ten thousand and no one got shot.”


Rembacker picked up his empty glass and looked at it.  “Well, all this talking is making me thirsty.”  He looked at Stanley.


Stanley, busy writing everything down in his notebook, paused and looked up.  “Oh. Sure thing, Mr. Rembacker.  Gee, this is great.”
  
Standing and moving over to the bar, Stanley looked around and realized that the shadows had lengthened while he listened.  “Jem another round, and do you have a lantern or something, so I can see to keep writing?”  He smiled at his friend.  “And thanks for telling me about them.  This is sure to make Hartley happy.”


“Just keep paying and Pa’ll be happy.  Good for me if he’s happy.  Anyways you don’t need a lantern, we have electricity.  I’ll put it on as soon as it gets dark enough.”  Jem handed him another bottle and accepted payment.


Jem nodded and rushed back.  He filled the two men’s glasses and waited impatiently as they knocked them back.  Refilling them, he spoke “So, about that bear…”


“One of our men, Hank told us about this friend of his, Vlad.  Raised a bear from a cub.  Real fond of that bear Vlad was.  Tried to join a circus but that didn’t work out.  Vlad was always looking for work.  Seems it was hard finding a place that would hire him and the bear.  Hard to get a place to live, too.  That gave me an idea.”


“Joshua here is always gettin’ ideas.  Some are better’n others.  This one was a real doozey.”


“See there was this gold mine.  Got tired of folks robbing the gold trains.  Figured, anyone looking to steal the gold would hit the train – after all, they’d been hit several times before.”  He paused, his dimples showing.  “Usually by us.”  Rembacker sipped the glass before him.  “So, they decided to pretend to place the shipment on the train as usual, but instead send it by wagon.  Thought they were so smart.  What they didn’t know though is one of their men was on our payroll too.  See, boy, that’s what you get when you treat your employees badly - no loyalty.  We were real good to our gang, and they knew it.  Not so much the mine manager, lots of bad blood between the manager and the miners, which worked out well for us.”


“Anyway, the wagon goes along just as expected, only one guard with the driver because it wasn’t supposed to look like it was carrying anything valuable.  They ride on for a few hours and nothing happens so the two men are feeling pretty cheerful and pretty relaxed, not really paying much attention.  They drive through a wooded area and round a bend.  Suddenly this bear steps into the track.  That bear is huge and its standing on its hind legs roaring.  The guard scrambles for the shotgun, because a six-shooter isn’t much help against an angry bear.  The problem is, he keeps dropping it in his haste.  Finally, he gets ahold of it only to have my partner here shoot and knock the gun right out of his hands again.”  


The two men start laughing.  “That driver and guard look one more time at the bear, which was shuffling towards them.  When it rears up again and roars, they look at it then at us, jump over the back of wagon, and run back down the track as fast as they can.  Meanwhile, poor Billy – the bear – it turns out is afraid of loud noises, and he runs the other way, right through our men.  By the time they get their horses under control, all we can see is Vlad running down the road away from the driver and guard chasing his bear and the wagon sitting there just waiting for us.”  He smirked and shook his head.  “As Thaddeus said, we got ten thousand that day.  Never did hear how the driver explained what happened to the wagon.”


Stanley paused in his writing.  “What did happen to the wagon?”


“Gold’s heavy son,” said Hotchkiss.  “We took the wagon with us.”


Stanley’s mouth fell open before he, too, began laughing. 


Rembacker tossed back the last of his glass and planted the empty on the table.  “Thanks for the drinks, son.  Been good telling tales.  Of course, you could never prove anything we said was true.”  He smiled at Stanley.


“Yeah, and you’ve sworn you won’t be usin’ our names.  Course you don’t know our real names, and we ain’t about to tell you.  Remember though, you go back on your word and things could go badly for you.”  The blue eyes in the worn face turned to ice as he spoke.


Stanley shivered.  “No, no.  I won’t,” he swore again.  As the two men stood to leave, he gathered his courage.  “Just one more question.  I promise I won’t include it in my story or tell anyone what you tell me.”


The two looked down at him with faces devoid of any expression.  “What?”


“How did you make it out of Bolivia?”


The two exchanged astonished glances.  Finally, dark eyes glowing and deep dimples showing, Rembacker said, “Well son, that is one story we will never tell.  No one would believe it anyway.”


Hotchkiss laughed.  “Yeah, we’ll carry the details to our graves.”


His partner clapped him on the back.  “You said it, Kid.  Come on let’s get some supper.  It’s Widow Grafton’s turn to feed us, and you know you like her cooking.”  The two grinned and walked out the door.


Stanley swallowed.  He stared around the saloon, not noticing the glow of the lights.  He had the story of the century.  Tonight, he’d send a short telegram before his train home tomorrow – just enough to give them a taste.  Old Hartley would have to respect him now.  Heck, he’d probably greet him with a brass band and fireworks.  After all, how many journalists could swear that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were still alive and living in Oregon?
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Nebraska Wildfire

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PostSubject: Fireworks   Today at 3:08 am


 
Fireworks

I never thought I’d have to do this again.  Ever.

If any of the gentlemen, and I use that term lightly, who had paraded through the office of the governor of the great state of Wyoming had made good on their constant promises of amnesty for us, we would not be here tonight.  We would have finally settled somewhere after our years of wandering the West and found gainful employment.

I laughed silently to myself at that thought.  What gainful employment were we qualified for?

The Kid glanced at me, with a quizzical look on his face.  “You okay, Heyes?”

I nodded as I watched the nitroglycerin slowly being drawn into my old friend, a Pierce and Hamilton 1878.  It wasn’t as new and shiny as the first one I blew in Denver, but then neither was I as young as I had been then.

“Watch it, Heyes.”

Ever vigilant, the Kid had always kept me on my toes.  And alive.  He brought my attention back to the present.  I turned the valve minutely, and slowed down the suction of the liquid.

“Sorry, Kid.”  I risked a glance over to my partner, saw all I needed to in his face, and turned my attention back to watch the last of the nitro be sucked into the vacuum of the safe.  The valve was turned tightly, the tube removed, and the blasting cap and wire inserted, exactly as I had in my prior attempts.

“I’d ask you if you’ve forgotten how to do this, but, heck, Heyes, even I remember exactly how you did this, so what’s bothering you?”  I could feel his piercing blue eyes at my back, but I refused to turn around.

“Nothing, Kid.”  

I started unrolling the cord, backing away from the safe as it did.  The Kid sighed but retreated with me behind the bank manager’s desk.  It was not as much of a barrier as a row of teller cages would be, but those were on the other side of the bank floor.  I honestly did not want to trust that the fuse would keep burning across the wooden floor without any complications.  The plan would work best with as few changes as possible.

As we hunkered down behind what until now had seemed to be a massive piece of mahogany furniture, the Kid leaned against my shoulder.  I had to meet his eyes then.

“Tell me it’s just nerves, Heyes.”

“When have I ever been nervous blowing a safe, Kid?” I blustered, a bit angry with him for knowing me so well.  “You were always the one bothered by the nitro.”

“That’s because I have brains, Heyes.”  He didn’t smile but I could tell he had calmed us both a bit.  “You’re supposed to have more, but sometimes I wonder.”

“Only sometimes?”  I smiled, as I struck the match, but then my face turned deadly serious.  “Ready?”  

“Never, but let’s get this over with.”

I lit the fuse, and waited for the fireworks.


In spite of my nervousness while preparing the safe, the actual robbery went smooth as glass.  We were in and out and $80,000 richer, with no one even chasing us out of town.  In spite of the Kid’s not entirely teasing comments, I had not forgotten how to rob a bank.  The plan I had devised went off without a hitch.  For once.

“We probably could have stopped earlier, since no one is chasing us.” the Kid said as we carefully made our way through the wilderness on the other side of the ridge that was now separating us from the town where we had pulled what I desperately hoped was our last robbery.  

“Why?” I asked, to try to keep him talking and not thinking.  “That wasn’t the plan.  It wouldn’t have been safe before now.”

He looked at me.  He knew I was tired.  It had been too many years since we’d actually pulled a job.  I had forgotten how much the stress had affected me.  I was not going to admit that I was also significantly older than when we had been doing this regularly.  Even with posses and bounty hunters occasionally chasing us during the last five years as we chased the elusive dream of amnesty, it was nothing compared to the grueling days that surrounded a robbery.  If there had been any other choice, I knew we wouldn’t be here.

It had been this past winter, when the idea of pulling just one more bank robbery had started to take form in my brain. Legitimate jobs had been few and far between, with the recession still keeping a strong hold on the economy.  I hadn’t even been able to make much money playing poker, as no one else had anything to spare on a game.  The worry of what we’d actually do if we were ever to actually get that amnesty and settle down started to weigh on me again.  I had never come up with a good plan for that.  As we got older, and our backs were actually complaining about hard work, it started to bother me something fierce.  Then it happened that we didn’t even have enough money to head south for a couple months.  We’d telegraphed Lom, asking if he knew of anything available, and even our old friend couldn’t help us find anything we could do.  

It was in January that the Kid had caught pneumonia.  He had always been susceptible, ever since he’d had it as a child.  It was why, even when we had the safety of the Hole, we’d often gone south for the winter.

He had come as close to dying on me as I knew I ever wanted to see.  I think if he hadn’t been so stubborn, and if I hadn’t actually said a prayer, he would have died in that drafty room in Hill City.  It was then that I knew we had to give up.  As much as we both desperately wanted that amnesty still, for ourselves and for each other, it was not going to happen.  I knew it had come time to stop wandering the West.

It wasn’t that we didn’t love the freedom.  It wasn’t that I felt the most alive when we were on the trail, and talking about nothing.  It was with every new town we tried, there was no place for us to settle.  Oh, folks were always nice enough, but we still had an aura around us that unsettled folks.  I guess we always would.

The governor of Wyoming had changed yet again last month.  Lom, the best friend we ever had, had gone yet again to Cheyenne and got yet another governor of Wyoming to promise to give us amnesty, once we proved we had deserved it.

“Heck, Lom, we really appreciate it,” I’d started, when we had met him yet again at the Nolan Ranch.

“What the hell does the governor want us to prove now, after five years?”  The Kid’s temper was more mercurial than I ever remember it being before.  He still tired more easily than ever.  I don’t think he still was really recovered from the pneumonia.  “That we can stand on our heads?”  He turned away from Lom before he said or did anything more, that all of us would regret.

“Five years, Lom.”  I just looked at him.  Turning away, I rubbed my hand over my whiskered face.  I’d come to start wearing a short beard since last winter.  It had been warmer, and actually had kept us from being recognized as often, but that might just have been wishful thinking.  I had an awful feeling it had something to do with us not pulling a job for five years.  I sighed.  It seemed that even the law and the bounty hunters had decided we weren’t worth pursuing, even though our wanted posters still hung in some out of the way places.  I myself wondered if the railroads and banks who had put up the twenty thousand, would still pay out after all these years of quiet.  Wouldn’t stop us from going to prison if we were captured, and would probably just piss off the bounty hunter.

If there had been a statute of limitations in Wyoming, we might have made it another couple years, and been free men without the need for the governor and his amnesty.

But there wasn’t, so here we were with bulging saddlebags, and no place to settle.

We had thought about South America, but knew we wouldn’t blend in there.  Soon enough there would be Bannerman men tracking us.  We had discussed Santa Marta, but really could no longer trust the alcalde to let us live there quietly.  We had thought about going back east, but that just didn’t feel right either.

In the end, we decided to go home, to Kansas.


We ended up in Dodge City.  We had been there years ago, when we were still young and stupid and struggling to find something legitimate to do to keep us from starving.  It was when the big cattle drives had been at their peak.  We had never seen so many people before, or so many cows.  Everything had still seemed so wild, and new, and fresh.  After we had both been on a drive or two, our attitudes definitely changed.  They became as tarnished and dusty as our belt buckles after weeks on the trail.

The only good thing that had come of our time on the cattle drives was that I had finally had time time to plan out our first big bank job.  It was less than a month after we had arrived in Dodge City from our last cattle drive, that the had robbed the First National Bank of Topeka.  We had never looked back, until now.

In this return trip to Dodge City, our first impression after riding down one of the main streets was that the town was as worn out and tired as we were.  The diseases that had stopped the massive cattle drives, seemed to have soaked into the fabric of the town.  Oh, there were still plenty of saloons, gambling halls, and brothels, more than enough for two dusty, former outlaws, but nothing looked fresh.  Dodge City looked as old, broken down, and desperate as we were ourselves.  If we were cautious, we could enjoy ourselves here for quite a while.

We lived our version of the good life for a week.  We ate big steaks, drank good whiskey, and played cards until dawn.  We even went upstairs a time or two with a saloon girl, but that just made us all the more restless.

“Heyes,” the Kid said one night in our hotel room, as we readied ourselves for yet another night of frivolities.  “What are we doin’ here?”

I turned towards him.  “What do you mean, Kid?  We’re enjoying ourselves, like we’ve not been able to for quite a while.”

He shook his head.  “We could’ve done this out West.”

“We didn’t have any money.”  I huffed, getting annoyed with him.  I’d thrown away our amnesty, so that we could live a more comfortable life, so that he could lead a more comfortable life.  So that he wouldn’t die next winter.

“So all we’re going to do is drink and gamble and whore for the next thirty years?” he asked, looking out into the dusty street.

“What else do you want to do, Kid?” I asked.  I knew there was a whine in my voice, but I couldn’t help it.

“I don’t know, Heyes,” he huffed.  “Didn’t you have a plan for what we’d do with the money after we got it?”

“Why do I always have to come up with the ideas?”  I was starting to get mad.

“Because you’re the thinker, Heyes!”  He turned from the window and came up to me, almost shouting.  “So think!”

I was seething by this point.  “Hell, Kid, do you think if I had an idea, we’d still be sitting here in this run-down town?”  I ran my hands through my hair as I turned away from him.  I took a deep breath, but didn’t turn back.  “You wanna go back east?  To where the farms were?”  I didn’t say more.

“Why the hell would you ask that?”  His voice was cold, almost glacial.

I did turn to meet his eyes then.  “I had been thinkin’ on it.”

“Well, that’s the stupidest idea you’ve ever come up with, Heyes, and that’s saying something.”  He turned back to the street.

“Then why’d we come back to Kansas?”

He laughed dryly.  “‘Cause you suggested it.  And the devil knows, much to my regret at times, and I think sometimes yours, I always tend to do what you say.”

I waited until he turned back to me.  “So what do you want to do?”

“You want me to do the thinkin’ now?” he scoffed.

“No,” I replied and waited a moment.  “But I’d like to know.”

“We should buy land, before we spend the entire $80,000 on booze and women, like when we were young and stupid.”  The ice in his eyes started to thaw.

“To do what?”  I wanted to laugh, but didn’t.  “Farm?”

He shrugged.  “I dunno.  Raise horses?  Run a few cows?”  His gaze solidly met mine.  “Make some money that doesn’t come from someone else.”  He took a deep breath.  “For once in our lives.”

A week later we found ourselves in a little settlement south of there, called Liberal.



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