Bitter Twitch

Jul 3, 2013 by

Western_country_plant_by_Nestaman

Town ain’t big enough f’the both of us,” Tomas-the-Twitch ground out around a half-chewed unlit cigar. His beard had more life in it than a saloon at midnight and his beady little eyes belied the lack of a single spark of intelligence.
I rolled my eyes. “Tommy, you have any idea how many damn times I hear that on any given day?” You don’t get creativity and imagination being a sheriff for a two-bit mining town like this one. We had one watering hole, seven whores and six houses. But the trouble rolled in and out faster than I could say tumbleweed.
“Don’t rightly care, sheriff,” Tommy grunted. I watched him roll his eyes toward Irene and then settle back on me, narrowed.
For her part, Irene didn’t give a flick of an eye his way. Bright red curls as sweet as fire and eyes like dark earth after the rain; I’d known her since we were kids in this town. I knew her when her Pa used to beat her and promised I’d never let a man lay a hand on her again. I knew her when her Ma left her thanks to consumption and a bad love for the whiskey. I tried to stop knowing her when she took up with The Saddle n’ Spurs whorehouse and she did tried not-knowing me, too. Wouldn’t give me the time of day and was real careful not to look me in the eye after she started working there. Like it was something to be ashamed of to desperately want to live.
She did what she had to do back then and I came to terms with it a long time ago.
And I made god damn sure no man ever laid a hand on her again like her Pa did, because I grew up and became the law in this shit-end town and by god I kept it and I kept it good.
Until Tommy. Until Tommy got a hold of Irene.
She was lookin’ right at me then as we stood on either end of the street, her black eye was a screamin’ notice of my failure. Nobody hit their women folk when they was in this town. And nobody sure in hell wasn’t going to be hitting the women folk of this town while I was around. Yet there Irene stood with the girls around her, bruised eye a testament to the fact I’d slipped up.
No way, no how I was going to let word of that walk out of this place. Not for the town. Not for me. Not for Irene.
“Figure then we might as well get on with this, don’tcha think?” I asked.
Tommy spat out his cigar and grinned.
That’s all the warning I got really, before I learned quick why Tommy was named the Twitch. His hand ticked out faster than I’d ever seen in my life. I had a split second to realize that the thunder-crack of my gun boomed later than his–then all I had was dirt in my mouth and a view of the earth meeting the sky forever. Somehow upright, suddenly flopped on my belly sadder than a fish out of water.
It was Irene’s hair I saw first. Couldn’t hear shit all because of the ringing in my ears. I saw her curls and the frill of her worn skirt and saw the fear on her face. Didn’t hear her screaming but I could see my name on her lips and I felt my lips twitch up in a smile: she hadn’t called my name in years. Makes a man glad to hear a woman say your name after being mad at you for so long.
The sound of the world came crashing in soon after. Someone was crying, someone was shouting. Someone was laughing.
“Oh Jesus,” I heard Irene say. “Oh dear Jesus, Johnny, don’t you leave me! Don’t you go and damn well leave me on this earth all alone, y’hear? Johnny! Sweet God, Johnny I love you….You listening? I love you. Please don’t leave me alone. Please!”
I tucked that right up. Tucked those words right up in my heart before the darkness took me and I thought I’d died.

#

When I woke up in my own jail cell, feeling like I’d been kicked several times by a rabid Donkey, I remember seeing Irene standing outside my cell. Irene looking miserable and sad and happy at the same time. Tommy’s arm around her waist and holding her prisoner real tight against him as he grinned, wearing my badge too like he was a man who had a right to any of these things.
Could never walk right after that. Could never find the strength to fight back against Tommy’s reign of terror after.
I grew old and miserable and bitter and Irene grew thin and sick and empty. Ain’t never talked to her again. Couldn’t even make it to the graveyard where they buried her.
The things you can hide in a bullet wound.

What is FF month?

July is Flash Fiction month, where authors and writers attempt to write a 55 – 1000 word story a day for the month of July. Fate and a Gun is the first Flash Fiction for July, inspired by Flash Fiction Month deviantart’s group; where text, visual and audio prompts are given to inspire fellow writers. Join in and visit Flash Fiction Month here: http://flash-fic-month.deviantart.com/
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