Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Line

Farnsworth Haversby was not a fast man with a gun. In fact he was downright slow. It didn't bother him though; most men were slow in the Squinty-eyed West. One didn't have to be quick on the draw to ranch or farm or pan for gold. Look at it this way: How many times have you ever had to fight a professional or collegiate athlete?

But long odds that he'd ever have to use them wasn't the only reason Farnsworth Haversby wore his six guns unconcerned. Farnsworth Haversby had something else. Farnsworth Haversby knew... The Line.

"You're about a step and a half from where you are and where you’ll die."


Gunfights in the Squinty-eyed West generally fell into one of two main categories:
The first was a showdown between willing combatants, each believing himself quicker.

Peaceful men had nothing to fear from this type of fight except ricochets and maybe a stampede.

It was the second, more rare type of gunfight that even the peaceful couldn't always avoid--that merciless gun-down, foisted upon the unlucky by brutal, bearded men, or wisp-like wraiths of fluid cruelty who wore ruffles and hummed as they killed.

The play was as old as the trees; the vicious gunfighter would take offense at something real or somehow implied--like a bump on the arm, or a casual glance, or an overly shiny buckle. Then he'd challenge his trembling foe and savagely cut him down with lead.


Clay "The Rat'ler" Smivingsly was liquid death with a gun and had a cruel streak so wide it could have passed for a tan. He came to town to kill one day, 'cause it had been a week and he was bored.

Farnsworth Haversby was polishing his favorite belt buckle when the batwing doors slammed open and the entire saloon fell still. Farnsworth didn't notice. He was on the last few rubs and rather proud of the job he'd done.
"By golly boys, look at that." Farnsworth said, thrusting his hips in the air. "That is luster restored boys, that is luster restored right there."

Expecting mummers of agreement but hearing none, Farnsworth lifted his eyes from the golden sheen and saw the spacklet of light dancing across the The Rat'ler's face.

Farnsworth apologized and let his shirtfront drop, cutting the reflection off at the source. But everyone knew that wouldn't suffice and rushed to get out of the way.

"You've got some nerve stranger." Clay snarled, drawing each consonant out like a blade.

"It was an innocent mistake sir, one for which I've already apologized." Farnsworth replied. The other patrons knew how slow on the draw Farnsworth was and couldn't believe he wasn't in tears by now. They huddled in corners and whispered about him in the past tense. They didn't know that Farnsworth knew... The Line.

"Not good enough." Clay muttered with a sneer, flexing his hands for the draw.

When Farnsworth saw what was about to come, he pointed at Clay with a steady hand.
"Mister." Farnsworth said with a chilly smile. "You're about a step and a half from where you are and where you'll die."

And there it was... The Line. A gunslinging statement so complex in its fatal simplicity that the recipient could only widen his eyes, drool on himself and wait to be shot.

It took nearly ten seconds for Farnsworth Haversby to pull his gun. First he stubbed his thumb on the bar, and then he accidentally shoved his hand in his pocket. When he finally grasped the butt of his gun, his watch got caught on the holster and he had to tug until the band broke. It didn't matter. Clay "The Rat'ler" Smivingsly stood paralyzed the entire time--struck numb by some unseen force, the awesome power of... The Line.

Farnsworth finally emptied his gun into The Rat'ler's chest. Clay lurched back a step and a half, crumpled to the floor and promptly died.

The End


At 4:11 AM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

After reading that It took me a good 10 seconds to muster the nerve to type a comment. Your authorship and Haversby's Line have a similar effect on the victim.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Ethan Greer said...

Say, that is a good line.

"Wisp-like wraiths of fluid cruelty who wore ruffles and hummed as they killed."


At 5:46 AM, Blogger Ethan Greer said...

Bah. I fucked up my comment. The first part of that comment, where I say that it is a good line, was talking about the where-you-are-where-you'll-die line. You know, The Line.

The second, unrelated, part of the comment was pointing out and praising a particular turn of phrase that I enjoyed.

At 6:22 AM, Blogger Peter said...

"You're about a step and a half from where you are and where you'll die."

Great line, now if I could only figure out what to do with it?

At 6:30 AM, Blogger slarrow said...

Damn, Latigo.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger ThePaula said...

Woah uplifting!

Happiest story for quite awhile!

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Trevor Record said...

Latigo, I hope you know that you may be indirectly responsible for murder. After reading this I made up my mind; one day I am going to use this line.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger Ari said...

Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis knew about lines, too.

::cue lonely sound of wind blowing::

At 12:10 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

You're too kind LBB. I'm a mere shadow of Farnsworth Haversby, and he wasn't much to begin with.

I understood what you meant Ethan Greer, but it's probably always good to clarify--especially these days. I'm glad you liked the "fluid cruelty" one. I really did too... even if I did spend way too long trying to figure out which sounded better, "wisp-like" or "wispy". In the end I simply decided to close my eyes, hit the publish button and then drink myself to death.

Use it to maim and/or kill someone Peter. That's its purpose, you know.

Oh I am Slarrow--so much more than I've ever divulged.

Hello Paula. Yeah, and it felt a little odd because of it, huh?

You and me both Trevor. By which I mean, you and I should kill someone together and use it before we do. And then the weaker of us can plea-bargain and testify against the other. (But then feel bad about it and send him cartons of cigarettes every week for 40 to 50 years.)

Very nice Ari. (I remember. I remember!!!)


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