Kid Peach Kills

[ Hat tip to Writer’s Digest Your Story 83 for the prompt.. ]

Two shots sounded, found their mark, and his tension fled.

He holstered the battered revolver with his left hand, drew the flap over the forward-facing butt, and smiled briefly in victory.

Too close.

He poked at his stomach with the only finger of his right hand. He’d lost the rest to a can of grapeshot—twenty-six years ago, that was, right to the month.

Chickamauga.

September.

He’d had a good go, since. The gun and holster were new when the war came, and he’d been newly a man—unprepared as anyone.

Old hands kiboshed the talk of battlefield picnics—but some things you just had to live.

He’d lived.

Cavalry taught an appreciation for fast travel, repeating rifles, and for swinging wide where certain birds wheeled, teeming in the sky.

After the armistice, when the war was done, he’d sworn he’d not kill a man again.

He’d lit for west, but he’d come to find that war was mostly everywhere and always.

Over years, the frontier bulged with his belly.

Bison got shot gone; natives got killed-off—yet he thrived, and, in time, he found himself in a small, hard-baked town that hadn’t existed when he was seventeen.

He’d forfeited his life to keep it, but oaths were important; he’d held his word.

Never should have beaten Kid Peach, anyway.

Hadn’t dreamed he would, with his cavalier draw, his flap holster… but Kid Peach had frozen with fear.

Better men than they had done the same.

He’d accepted the challenge from Peach, stood against him, even sighted him for dead—and then he’d waited to keep his vow.

It had ended neatly.

“I’m done, Kid. Come shake hands, you skinny gizzard.”

Two rounds in his guts. He would linger some. Maybe. Could be that Kid Peach would put more holes in him, tetchy as he seemed.

The Kid had frozen again after he fired twice. He was fixed in a squat, hunkering behind a barrel of crackers.

It was nice, knowing generations could grow-up innocent as he once had, in Indiana. Best they not call-out his kind until they could hunt better cover, though.

Thinks the dying man.

He smiled at that, and sidestepped to the plank-walk. He’d die to wagons if he stood in the right of way for long. Drovers were impatient men.

“Twice to the same hole, almost,” he called to the Kid. “You do that a-purpose?”

“No!”

Well, that about figured.

Kid Peach struck him as contrarian—if you called him one, Peach would deny it, naturally.

“Strikes me I’m dry!” he shouted. “Fancy a drink?”

Kid Peach was a smear reflected in the wavy glass of the mercantile store.

The smudge licked its lips, over and over.

A new voice broke the silence. “Can I interest you in malted spirits? Laudanum? Tonic?”

He found the man’s face—florid, ragabash. A peddler.

“Can I say yes? I won’t dicker over my effects. I’ll let go of this belt-gun. I didn’t make a good show of it, but you’ve my word it will throw a ball out the end.”

“I have a brace already; converted. They’re easier, cartridges. Is the horse yours?”

“He is. About all I got left to love that’s still alive. People don’t count mountains.”

“You’ve run your boots down.”

“S’my second set of heels. A man ought to walk, sometimes. Switches his view.”

“Three eagles. For the lot.”

“Two birds and burial. Collect that Kid Peach, if you come this way. He’s due lessons in disposing possessions. Faro! Fussed something awful over a pocket-watch.”

The peddler laughed aloud, patting at the oval patches on his elbows and adjusting his packs to prepare for the crossing.

“Don’t you laugh!” screamed Kid Peach.

“Come out from them crackers. You stand to inherit your watch, if you parley some and can act decent.”

Some hours after sunrise, Kid Peach and the peddler leaned together, wobbling over the grave’s sunken mouth. The double eagle had flown far into the night.

A chain connected the Kid’s breast pockets. He wore suspenders with no pistol.

Eventually, he pushed-off from the peddler, pulled softly at the ear of the white horse, and staggered out of the boneyard, back towards town.

In Category: Short Story Fiction

Keep Me in the Loop!

How This Works...

Sheridan

W. Sheridan Bradford is an American author of the old west (Face of Water, Sevenfold), contemporary westerns (Last Harvest Trilogy), science fiction (The Wreck of the Molon Labe), apocalyptic scenarios (The Bust of Mazorro), short stories (Pesebre), and poems (Sestina No. Four). Usually found in: CO, NM, or TX.

Show 0 Comments
No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a Comment