Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Unaffiliated Vengeance

As the betrayed girl ascended the gallows steps, she shot a proud glare at the smirking man watching with a casual lean from the shadows next to the saloon. The girl managed to laugh somewhere deep inside. Few though her years, they'd been full and happy. The smirking man's had always been petty and miserable.

There were some in the crowd who knew of her innocence. Fear of a similar fate had sealed their lips. Time would eventually yield the truth; of this the girl was certain. She would not weep today over what cannot be stopped. Pride, beauty and an upraised middle finger in the direction of the smirking man: This is how she'd be remembered, and not a bad way to be she reckoned.

The smirking man spoke then, a cruel, giggling taunt, and in ten seconds demolished nearly a month's worth of planning and mental preparation.
"You ate a full meal last night Love; I saw the jailer's dish barrel."
He stared at the crowd with mock concern. "Turn away all faint of heart--mud on snow is spring's most gruesome sight."

The girl gasped and stared down at her flowing white dress. Symbolic of eternal innocence: this had been her thought two weeks ago when she'd requested it of the jailer's wife. Only now did she realize tragic mockery was to be its ultimate price.

The betrayed girl numbly allowed herself to be shoved to the center of the platform. Her auburn hair wilted across her face as the noose was affixed and she did not triumphantly flip it from her eyes as she had planned. The smirking man smirked harder.

The priest droned on and on, something about this and that, that and this--all will be rad and groovy on the other side once we've offed you. The girl didn't listen, her soul had sunk into a swamp of impending shame. She knew how broken and guilty she appeared but was powerless to react.

A gruff cough pierced her apathy. She opened one eye and met the stare of a bedraggled old fur trapper. She remembered two nights before, how she watched from her window bars as he limped into town. She recalled that with every step he had mumbled words of encouragement into the ear of an ancient mule, and the tender smile she'd managed, despite her situation. She'd watched, strangely ashamed, as the handsome playboys lounging in front of the saloon turned the weary duo away with scoffs and hurled bacon rinds.

Two nights in a barn had done the old trapper neither favor nor ill--he looked exactly the same, save for the urgent message that flashed in his sagging eyes and the insistent way he cradled his long rifle. The betrayed girl understood in an instant; their minds were one. Right then the two of them could have conversed for years with looks alone, but of course they never would--only seconds remained now.

The proud lift returned to the betrayed girl's jaw. She laughed out loud over the dirty hats of the stunned assemblage. The executioner strode to the drop-pin, and with a glorious grin the betrayed girl extended both middle fingers at the smirking man. The executioner gripped the drop-pin cord and double wrapped it around his fist. As one the crowd leaned forward, none choosing to turn away despite the smirking man's giggled promise of mud and snow.

Then with a speed that belied his creaky age, the old fur trapper slammed the long rifle to his shoulder and triggered two of the most accurate shots history has ever known. The first severed the rope two inches above the betrayed girl's head, the second punched a round, elegant hole directly between her beautiful eyes.

The smile never left her face. She fluttered to the wooden deck like a wing-shot angel, the pristine, white gown falling in rippling folds, obscuring her arms. Her last earthly shudder raised those arms, a triumphant fist at the end of each.

Three hundred cheated spectators whirled around to the old fur trapper.
The constable's face was beet red. "Why would you murder the condemned?"

The old fur trapper sneered at him.
"Constable, if you don't know the answer to that by now... excuse me one moment..."

The old fur trapper disappeared into the crowd, reappearing moments later alongside the smirking man. The old fur trapper calmly buried a rusty hatchet deep in his throat. The smirking man let loose a liquid scream, whimpered a bit, then died. The old trapper shuffled back to face the constable.
"... you probably never will."

The constable opened and closed his mouth several times but failed to produce any sort of sound. The old fur trapper slowly ambled down the muddy track, the crowd parting before him.
"My mule and I are leaving this town. Try and stop us if you care to. Perhaps you can--I don't really know any of you."
The old fur trapper paused and stared dangerously over his shoulder. The crowd bumped into each other in their haste to further retreat.
"And yet at the same time, I think I do."

The old fur trapper mumbled a word of encouragement into his ancient mule's ear and the two of them limped out of town.

(This has been an awesome and true story of American Western Lore. Look it up if you don't believe Latigo Flint. If you find no mention of it in the historical records... um, that probably means you didn't research hard enough.)


At 12:05 AM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

Could it be that the lady in white was your mother, and the smirking man your father?

And the mule your uncle Jeff who lives in El Monte?

And, further, could it be that Dave is drunk?

At 1:08 AM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Dude, that was an HBO special back in 1989.

At 5:24 AM, Blogger Jinxy said...

No, it was what you get when you combine "The Long Black Veil" and the scam Tuco and Blondie run in "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".

Except this time he kills her.



At 6:24 AM, Blogger Faceless Henchwoman said...

*sniff* A beautiful story, Latigo Flint. I don't know what it means, but it's beautiful.

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Blog ho said...

my dad died that way.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

That trapper was some gunsel. Think how much easier the second shot would have been if he had waited until she was at the end of her rope. Real Annie Oakley shooting, I'd say.

P.S. Is this a sequel or prequel to "Bad Day at Black Rock"?

At 10:05 AM, Blogger MJ said...

Latigo has once again proven his breathtaking originality. Who'da thought shittor mortis could be so poetically conveyed?

Latigo baby, you can tell me a bedtime story any time!! ;-)

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Ghost Dog said...

Dang it all, Latigo, you forgot to add some Ennio Morricone music to that bit about the trapper and his mule limping out of town. Or, the screeching of a hawk of howling of a wolf or some such. Maybe a white dove fluttered in and pooped on the smirking man's hat.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger slarrow said...

Ah, Latigo, reminiscient of that great master of American folklore himself, Mark Twain. From The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

Sherburn never said a word — just stood there, looking down.... Then he says, slow and scornful:

"The idea of YOU lynching anybody! It's amusing. The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a MAN! Because you're brave enough to tar and feather poor friendless cast-out women that come along here, did that make you think you had grit enough to lay your hands on a MAN? Why, a MAN'S safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind — as long as it's daytime and you're not behind him.

"Do I know you? I know you clear through. I was born and raised in the South, and I've lived in the North; so I know the average all around. The average man's a coward...."

I'd say that ol' fur trapper is at least a second cousin to Sherburn, wouldn't you say? You classic literary gunslinger, you.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger tabitha jane said...

or was that fur trapper your great grandfather?
sounds like a pretty quick-draw to me.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Trevor Record said...

Slarrow has hit on something. Could Latigo be the next Twain?

I think so.

At 5:02 PM, Blogger MJ said...

MJ agrees!

Mark Twain once said about my future home, "The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco." I'm tired of saying it to people when they ask me about the weather there, so I need a new quote. Latigo, what do you think of San Francisco? I'd love to say, "Well, as Latigo Flint, quickest quickdraw in the world, says, ..."

At 1:15 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

This seems highly likely Dave, doesn't it now?

I was trekking through Tibet in '89 LBB. I must have missed it.

Nobody knows Jonah, (splendid to see you again by the way) but me.

To be perfectly frank Faceless, I don't either. Ambiguous imagery, subtle self-parody, and then let smart people read fabulous things into it. Smile mysteriously at whatever they say--this is actually my plan.

A fur trapper buried a rusty hatchet in his throat? Yes Ho, I think I remember you telling me of this.

Neither Old Hoss, it runs sequentially parallel. (And Ernest Borgnine is a good guy in mine.)

No one until now MJ. (And that is a very exciting offer... I had to run around the apartment licking furniture for two minutes just to calm down enough to type.)

I slipped Ghost Dog. What can I say? It all crumbled, in a literary sense, right there at the end. It was getting a little tough to see the monitor at that point, what with all the tears, mucus and semen stains. (What? No! Harrumph, harrumph. Ignore that last one, it's not even remotely true!)

Howdy Slarrow. That Sherbern was one tough hombre, it's true. (Not for the killin' of Boggs, anyone could have done that, but for what came next, as you so accurately described.) However, it smacks of ultimate sacrilege to even begin to compare myself even slightly to the Samuel C., so I won't. Not now, not ever.

He was a pretty quick draw Tabitha Jane. But I have no way of ever knowing if he's kin... I was raised by wolves you see.

Thank you Trevor, but Twain was able to write more than a page and a half without assailing his protagonist with some manner of hydrophobic beast. I'm a weak shadow of the man if any relation at all.

MJ, I must humbly turn to the words of Ishi, the last of Yahi tribe, who lived out the remainder of his most divided life in a San Franciscan museum of anthropology. Of San Francisco, Ishi was once quoted as saying: "Though rasped badger-strong was the family of my dream's lodge... a trout on the end of sharpened stick flops the same in city or canyon."

True 'dat Ishi... true 'dat!


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