The Quick and the Dead; Supplemental
This story was inspired by a brief scene in the movie "The Quick and the Dead," which shows a boy in the crowd smiling after a man, presumably his father, is shot. I had to wonder, why would he smile? What hell had be been through that would make him wish for his father's death? This is one possible scenario.
Pigeon's Nest was a miserable fly-speck of a hell-hole in the desert. It might as well have been called Buzzard's Nest for all the pleasentry of it. A dry, dusty main street boasted a general store, a boarding house and a saloon, with an inn above it, and of course, the requisite whorehouse. Several other small businesses necessary in forming a town, particularly a livery and a gun shop, also stood along the town's only street. Thirteen, count them, thirteen houses rounded out the rest of the town, all of which were ratty little shacks, except for one. One house was a lavish, two-story Victorian, with stained-glass windows and a broad veranda on two sides; it would have been beautiful, if it hadn't been paited black, like the heart of John Harod, its owner.
Ethan didn't live there, he'd never even set foot on its bottom step. Harod's gunmen saw to it that no one entered it unless invited, no one approached it, nor even spoke against it. No one dared go against Harod's iron-fisted dominion of Pigeon's Nest.
Ethan lay in bed, staring at the small ray of early morning light that seeped through a crack in the wall above his head. Beside him, his younger cousin, Tanner, lay sleeping, his soft breath caressing Ethan's bare shoulder.
In the next room, he could hear his father, still drunk, tormenting his five little brothers. Wyatt was eleven, Derek was ten, Conner was nine and the twins, Cody and Travis, were eight. Their father was a vicious drunk and tortured them regularly from the time each of them could walk. He'd made them mean as snakes. Once again, their torture had gone on all night.
Ethan knew his brothers weren't really to blame for what they did; this was their father's doing. He tried to show kindness and love to his brothers, but their anger was so deep, they could only strike out with fists clenched tight, and crying all the while.
All the sons of Foy had tried to fight him off, but they were no match for their father. He was just too big and strong. Even now, at fourteen, Ethan still wasn't strong enough. Years ago, he'd learned the hard way to just stay out of his father's way, and preferably out of sight, whenever his father was drunk, which was nearly every night.
Right now, Ethan recognized Travis' hoarse voice, screaming and crying out, but the lack of slapping and hitting sounds meant the man was raping his eight-year-old son.
Ethan threw off his thin blanket and pulled away from his cousin's naked body. He, also naked, got up and moved to the door, his morning wood leading the way. The thin boards of the door were also no match for his father; they had been splintered and patched many times when the man kicked it in. Ethan peeked through a narrow crack and saw his five younger brothers kneeling on chairs, hands and feet tied, their pants down around their knees. Four of them stared at the floor silently, trying to ignore the fifth boy's torture. Their father was busily thrusting his massive member into Travis' tight little backside. Travis cried and winsed with every stroke. The backsides of all five were marred with welts and red marks from their father's belt.
Ethan had been in that place many times and had learned quickly to withdraw to another place in his mind, and live there while his body was victim to his father's frustrations. Strangely, as Ethan became more adept at ignoring the pain and no longer showed much fear, his father seemed to loose interest. Or maybe it was because he was moving into puberty; Ethan wasn't sure, but the beatings and rapes became fewer and fewer. Sadly, the man turned his greater attention to the younger boys, who were less able to ignore what was happening to them, and for which Ethan felt eternally guilty.
The one saving grace for his conscience was that he was able to defend, or distract, his father from also torturing his cousin, Tanner. He turned back to the sleeping twelve-year-old, whose rest had been fitful all night, as Ethan's had been; it was not easy to sleep through the shouts and slaps, and whips and cries of the boys being tortured in the next room.
Ethan really had to pee badly, but the only door opened right into the scene of pain and shame he'd witnessed, and if he tried to sneak by, he would only invite his father's wrath upon himself. The naked boy slipped back into bed and wrapped his arms around Tanner, whom he loved very much. Another oddly contrasting counterpoint to their life of fear and torment, was that Ethan had discovered a way to bring sublime pleasure to his cousin with the simple use of his lips and tongue. His reward was the boy's undying, puppy-dog love and devotion, and Tanner's eager giving of his salty essence.
An unfortunate accident had left Tanner an orphan when he was six and Ethan's mother had, of course, taken him in, assuring her angry husband that they would get by, somehow. And they did still manage to get by, though it was somewhat more difficult. There wasn't space for another bed in the small, second room, so Ethan made room in his own bed for Tanner. The other two beds were smaller and barely contained the other five boys.
Foy was also harsh to his wife, having picked her up in the town's whorehouse when she was fifteen. She had given him sex many times until she'd become pregnant with Ethan, but with the pain of pregnancy, she stopped. That's when he began raping her, and the beatings followed. Sadly, the next winter after taking Tanner in, pneumonia took Ethan's mother. Cody and Travis were just two, then, and barely walking.
Work was hard to come by in this little, desert town and smithing didn't pay well to begin with. In addition, Foy was in the habbit of leaving much of his earnings at the bar, from which he also brought bottles home nearly every night. For that reason, the one hundred-twenty-three thousand dollar reward for winning the gunfighting contest proved an irresistable temptation.
Ethan heard his father grunt deeply and knew he was finishing. Two more slaps made Travis cry again, then there was a bump and the sound of the table scraping over the wood floor. The door to his father's bedroom slammed and silence finally came to the house.
Ethan shook Tanner gently, waking him; in Ethan's arms, with a deep inhale, the naked boy yawned, stretched and flexed, arching his back and rubbing his fists in his eyes. As he relaxed, Tanner smiled into Ethan's face.
"Come on," Ethan said. "My dad's finally asleep." Ethan again threw the blanket off and, rubbing Tanner's bare body, reluctantly rolled out of bed. Tanner scooted after him, his morning wood also in need. Ethan went quietly into the next room and untied his crying brothers. With gratefulness in their eyes, but not smiling, they pulled their pants up to hide their shame. Ethan caught glimpes of their father's white leavings oozing from between their tender, red-striped globes.
Still naked, Ethan lead the six boys out back, to the outhouse, where they all stood in the still, morning air and bright sunshine, pissing on the side of the little, wooden structure. Beyond the outhouse, the desert was a vast, flat expanse of hardpan dust and sage brush, an abode of scorpions and rattle snakes. A thousand times, Ethan had thought of just walking out there, never to return. Death by rattle snake, or even by thirst, might be better than living with his father! But then, what hope would Tanner and his little brothers have? Who would defend them? What would become of them?
Now, with all the gunfighters in town and the contest looming, there was a new hope of freedom creeping into his heart, yet at the same time, fear. He yearned to be out from under the thumb of his father's torment, but then, who would support them? How would they get food? Where would they live? Their small, three-room house was old, its walls and roof were slowly rotting away and two of its three windows were broken; last winter's winds threatened to blow it down and their father had to put a strut in the main room to bolster its wavering walls. Ethan wasn't sure the house would last another year.
On the way back to the house, Tanner spotted a rattle snake in the bushes.
"Stay back!" Ethan called to his brothers.
Ignoring him, the five younger boys grabbed sticks and split logs from the woodpile and began pelting the snake, beating its three-inch-thick body. It writhed and twisted, showing its bluish-white belly to the bright sun; they continued to beat it. Blood leaked from it and its smooth curves became disjointed. It stopped rattling and its head became still. Ethan grabbed the axe from the woodpile and chopped its head off; he wasn't sure if it wasn't already dead, but that would put it out of its misery for sure. In spite of his action, the other boys continued to beat the headless snake until pieces of it were strewn around the yard. Tanner picked up the tail and counted ten rattles.
"OK, OK!" Ethan exclaimed. "I think it's dead!" The boys laughed, then took to chasing each other around, brandishing sticks. "Come on, you guys!" Ethan said, calling them back toward the house.
Inside, the naked teenager gave his brothers yesterday's left-over bicuits. Both Ethan and Tanner were still waving woodies, which fascinated the younger boys.
"God, this biscuit is dry as dirt!" Derek, the ten-year-old, said.
"Maybe Ethan will cream on it for you!" Conner, the nine-year-old, replied.
Wyatt, Cody and Travis laughed.
Ethan shook his head and went into the bedroom to dress. Tanner followed, closing the door. Minutes later, both emerged, dressed and licking their lips. Tanner had a drop of pearl in his dark hair, above his left eye. Ethan wiped it away and licked his fingers.
No sooner had Ethan and Tanner come out of the bedroom, than the younger boys went in. With their little bellies full of biscuits, and desperately tired after a long night of torture and rape, they were more than ready for a good, long sleep. The two older boys turned around and followed them in, watching them drop onto the beds.
Ethan set about, pulling their shirts and pants off, noting their little, bare butts and backs still bore the marks of their father's belt, as well as little crusty, white smears. Wyatt, the eleven-year-old, had gotten the bulk of their father's load; his cleft was full of it and his tight, pink pucker hole still leaked. He rubbed them soothingly, trying to keep away from the open cuts, which were many. The younger boys drifted off to sleep even before Ethan and Tanner could pull their blankets over them.
"Maybe we should teach them what we do," Tanner suggested.
"You think they'd like that?" Ethan asked.
"I sure like it!" Tanner said. "And I know you do, too!"
Ethan knelt beside the bed and pulled the blanket back from Wyatt's slim body. His little, thumb-sized pecker was soft and lay like a cute, pink mushroom against his creamy thigh. Ethan bent down and began working it, feeling the boy swell and stiffen in his mouth. Wyatt watched his big brother, shocked at what he was doing and, at the same time, amazed at how good it felt. Tanner had begun the same process on Derek and soon, both preteen boys quivered and sighed as their young boners sang with a new song.
Ethan and Tanner moved on to Conner, Cody and Travis, all three of whom woke up quivering. As tired as they were, they wanted more, and the older boys worked them until each cummed again.
"Do it again!" Conner exclaimed, eager for a third dry orgasm.
"Sleep now," Ethan said. "We'll do it again later." The boys settled back, now with something new to think about, something better than the beatings and fear that usually tormented their dreams.
Minutes later, there was a soft knock on the front door. Ethan opened it and found the blind boy there. "Hey, Raimy," Ethan said. Raimy was also fourteen and lived with his mother, who cooked and sometimes tended bar at the saloon; his fifteen-year-old sister also worked at the saloon, servicing men upstairs.
"Hi," Raimy replied. He pulled off his dark glasses and rubbed his eyes; Ethan could see one of his eyes was almost completely white, with only a thin, blue ring around the center. The other was a beautiful blue, but the wide pupil was very cloudy; he wasn't completely blind, but what little he could see was blurry and shadow-like. Raimy replaced his glasses. "The first gunfight will start soon; you coming?"
"Yeah," Ethan said. He looked back into the house. "Tanner, come on!" All three boys stepped out into the back street behind the saloon.
"There's even a woman signed up!" Raimy said.
"Really?" Tanner exclaimed.
"Yeah!" Raimy confirmed. "She seems real nice, too; she gave me a whole dollar for shining her boots! I sure hope she knows what she's doing!"
"Have you seen her shoot?" Tanner asked. "I mean, heard?" he ammended after realizing what he'd said.
"No," Raimy replied. "I haven't seen anything!" He chuckled; that was always his joke.
"Sorry," Tanner said.
"That's OK, man," Raimy said. His hand found Tanner's shoulder, then ruffled his hair. "Your dad's signed up, isn't he?" Raimy asked, turning to Ethan.
"Yeah," Ethan said. There was that fear again: what would they do if his father was killed? Foy was fast, for a blacksmith, but he was no gunfighter, in spite of his boasting.
"Has he been challenged yet?"
"I don't think so," Ethan said.
"I heard there's a preacher-man signed up, too!" Tanner said.
"Yeah," Raimy said. "Some say he's a preacher, others say he used to be a gunfighter."
Over on the main street, crowds had already gathered, at least a hundred people had come from all around the area to watch the specticle. Ethan was amazed to see that even old Charlie Evans was there; he had a little gold claim forty miles east, in the foothills.
In the middle of the broad street, Horace Chalmers, who was mayor and bartender, stood on a chair and announced the rules of the fight. The white-bearded undertaker, old Doc Wallace, stood beside him, along with one of Mr. Harod's hired gunmen. About a hundred feet apart, two gunfighters stood. One was Harod's son, Fife, whom everybody called Kid, a lanky young man of nineteen, with a boyish face and blond hair. He was a nice young man, but a terrible braggard, always craving the respect and admiration of people, especially his father. The other fighter was a grizzled old farmer everybody called "the Swede."
Tensions mounted as the big town clock inched its way toward noon. Whispers and side bets ran through the crowd; somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. Then the minute hand moved and the clock sounded the hour with a "click-bong!"
Both fighters drew and fired, the Kid's bullet finding flesh, the Swede's shot finding only dust. The Swede collapsed, holding his thigh and Fife began congratulating himself, marveling at his own speed. The Swede conceeded the fight, casting away his pride, but keeping his life. The Kid moved up to the next round.
Twenty minutes later, the three boys were back at Ethan's house, enjoying each others' stiff, young guns.
Later that afternoon, Ethan's father came back from the bar. Ethan was surprised to see him; usually, the boys had the house to themselves in the afternoons, while their father was working in his smithy. Ethan peeked around the doorframe as his father came in; he quickly stood, leaving Tanner on his bed with his pants down. He also heard his brothers whooping and hollering as they ran around toward the back of the house.
"You're home early!" Ethan remarked.
"Hmph!" the man grunted. "What's the matter with that?"
"Nothing," Ethan said. "I thought you'd be working, that's all."
"Not today," the man replied.
"Oh, you got challenged, didn't you?" Ethan ventured.
"No!" the man said, his hand suddenly shaking a little. "I challenged someone."
"That preacher fello' was shootin' off his mouth," Foy said, "talkin' 'bout not shootin'. So I challenged him! Figured if he won't shoot, I win!"
"What kind of gunfighter doesn't shoot?" Ethan asked as Tanner came to his side. The boy had a nice lump in his pants, which he tried to hide by hanging his hands from his belt.
"A preacher, I guess," Foy said.
"So, when do you fight him?" Ethan asked, his heart suddenly pounding harder.
"Tomorrow," Foy said. "Three 'clock."
Foy was quiet that night and his boys had a chance to rest and maybe even heal up a bit. He stayed late at the bar and all the boys, including Raimy, were in bed by the time he staggered in.
Ethan was on the edge of their small bed, always careful even in sleep, to not fall out. Raimy was half on top of him, his smooth, warm body pressed close, his hot sex grinding into Ethan's hip. Tanner was pressed against the wall, facing Raimy. All seven boys were completely naked and, having experienced multiple orgasms, wet and dry, slept quietly. That is, until their father came into the house.
The front door slammed and Foy's slurred, grumbling voice filled the small house. Ethan awoke and lay still, barely breathing, half expecting the drunken man to burst into the room and drag a boy or two out for another of his torturous rape sessions. Suddenly, as if by magic, the five younger boys became restless as their dreams became troubled; they moaned and whimpered in their sleep.
Suddenly, Wyatt sat up in bed with a quick grunt. Ethan pulled himself away from Raimy's bare body and stepped over to his eleven-year-old brother. He slipped an arm around the trembling boy, pulling him close.
"Shhhh," he whispered. "It's OK, it's OK; stay quiet." They sat listening quietly as their father bumped and scraped around in the next room.
Foy grumbled and laughed, and threw his bottle against the wall, shattering it. All the boys in the next room were awake now. Foy slurred something unintelligeable, then staggered into his own bedroom. When the door slammed, the boys relaxed; their father would be sleeping it off until late morning, as he usually did.
Everyone had gathered along the wooden sidewalks of the dusty town; the sun was high and hot in the clear, blue sky. People shouted and taunted the two men as they moved to the center of the street. Bets were made and money exchanged hands; John Harod and three of his gunmen escourted the preacher up the street; Foy drained his beer mug and moved out from the bar.
Ethan, Tanner and Raimy stood in front of the saloon, where Raimy had his little shelves of odds and ends, and his boot-shining business. They watched as Ethan's younger brothers ran around, shouting excitedly, and throwing rocks and horse manuer at the stranger their father faced. Ethan knew they were doing it because they were angry and hurt, that was the root of their meanness; he also knew they didn't dare not do it, that if their father should, by some crazy turn of events, win this contest, the price for their lack of support would be severe.
Others threw things, too, but mainly because they had bet on Foy rather than this unknown preacher. Step by step, the two contestants drew closer; Harod and his men fell away, backing to a safe distance, and leaving the preacher to stand alone, in a fight he didn't want. The crowd, over a hundred people from all around the area, began to quiet.
Foy tossed his mug aside, ignoring that it shattered on a rock. Someone shouted from the sidewalk, "I got twenty bucks on you, Foy!"
Foy chuckled and pulled his broad-rimmed hat off, wiping sweat from his forehead. "That's money in the bank, Jimmy!" he shouted, looking over at his friends.
The men laughed. "Preacher-boy!" one said. "You're a dead man!"
The handsome preacher looked down at the dusty street and his hand moved slowly to the butt of his gun; he knew he had only one bullet, and one chance to live through this. Once again, his Christian soul did battle with his gunslinger past; should he defend himself or stand there and die; would God forgive him for sending this crude heathen to hell or would he find himself there? The smooth butt of his gun felt natural in his hand; it felt good.
He looked over to the beautiful, blond lady on the sidewalk, leaning against a skinny, dead tree; her face, though exquisite, was hard and unfeeling; he wondered what she was thinking, how deeply she had burried her feelings. There they were again: feelings. His hand, knuckles bloody and scabbed from fighting, dropped to his side, away from his gun.
Someone on the other side of the street popped a cork from a bottle with his teeth and spat it onto the ground. The big town clock clicked and the minute hand moved one more step closer to three o'clock; that would be the last minute on earth for one of them.
Beside the saloon door, Raimy slipped a hand up Ethan's back and squeezed his shoulder. "No matter what happens," he whispered softly into Ethan's ear, "I'm here for you."
The next minute seemed to last an unnaturally long time. Foy looked to his friends, knowing he wasn't really as fast as he boasted. The blond woman looked to the preacher, not trusting him, but still, irresistably drawn to him. The man with the uncorked bottle poured beer into his mug, the fizzy sound of it suddenly clearly audible as the street grew deadly silent.
The preacher looked to Foy and found him staring back at him. Foy grinned confidently, his open mouth a nasty, brown-toothed gash between his scruffy mustache and beard. The preacher began whispering a quiet prayer, "Father, forgive me for my sins..." He knew somewhere deep in his heart that he would have to defend himself; this couldn't be the end of him.
Foy spat on the ground and someone came out of the saloon, bumping the man with the opened bottle and knocking the mug from his hand. The mug bashed on a rock; the clock clicked and the minute hand moved onto the twelve. It was three o'clock, straight up. The preacher's hand moved and a report echoed through the street. Foy's eyes grew large with surprise; he hadn't even managed to grasp his gun. Smoke wafted from the preacher's .45 and he looked down at it, as if it was something from another world.
Slowly, stunned, Foy's left hand moved to the place in his right chest, where he'd felt the bullet hit. Suddenly weak, Foy sank to his knees with a groan. Foy's friends on the sidewalk began to shout with indignation, never mind that their friend was now dying, their bets were lost.
"He shot me!" Foy yelled. "He shot me!
Ethan smiled; his father wasn't dead yet, but with a chest would, it wouldn't be long before he and his brothers would be free. His pale blue eyes took in the sight, a vision he would never forget.
"He shot me!" Foy yelled again. "You said you weren't gonna fight!"
Cody and Travis ran to their father. "Where are you hit?" they asked in unison, as they, being twins, often did.
Ethan turned to Raimy, drawing very close to the blind boy. "Come with us," he said.
For three days, Foy lay in his bed, groaning and writhing in agony, growing ever more feverish and dillusional. Ethan and Tanner poured straight whisky into his wound to fight the infection, as Doc Wallace had advised, but it didn't help.
Raimy began spending more and more time with Ethan and the boys, sharing his body and their beds. They were all one flesh, now.
A blade of afternoon sunlight shown from the crack in the upper bedroom wall, a knife-like slash ran down the opposite wall; it was the only light in the room.
Ethan knelt on the floor, shirtless and leaning over Raimy's bare middle, his head bobbing and weaving over Raimy's rosy six-incher. Tanner lay stark naked against the wall, watching and eagerly awaiting, not only the eruption of Raimy's stiff cock, but the delicious services of Ethan's mouth on his own.
Behind Ethan, Conner, Cody and Travis had drifted off to sleep in their own bed, a tangle of naked arms, legs and bare butts, also having been satisfied by the older boys' tongues.
Behind the house, Wyatt stood his younger brother, Derek, beside the woodshed, holding one of their father's guns. Wyatt, wearing the heavy gunbelt, walked westward a hundred feet or so and turned to face his brother. As he turned, the heavy gunbelt pulled his pants down; he held it with his left hand, his bare butt facing the sun, with his right hand poised over the gun handle. Derek stood facing the sun and holding the other gun at his side.
Wyatt counted to three; both boys drew and fired. The long barrel of Wyatt's gun caught in the holster and his bullet hit the ground, less than a yard in front of his feet. The gun recoiled and jumped out of his hand, also landing in the dirt.
Derek raised his gun and took aim more carefully. His bullet whizzed passed his brother and found a rock in the desert. His gun also recoiled and hit the ground. Both boys stood staring at each other, shocked, scared and glad to be alive.
Hearing the shots, Ethan left Raimy's wet, glistening rod unfired and all three boys ran around the house, Ethan shirtless, Raimy hitching up his pants and Tanner still naked.
"What are you doing?" Ethan asked, incredulous. "Don't you think we have enough death around here?" Both boys ran to him and hugged him, tears rolling from their eyes. They went back into the house, leaving the guns in the dirt.
The gunfighting contest continued, a dozen men died, most of whom were local rabble and not worth the dirt they were burried with, but two were professional gunfighters. Both fell to Harod's gun. Of course, the boys watched them all. At one point, the beautiful blond lady was said to have quit and was seen riding out of town, but then, for some unknown reason, she returned.
Finally, it came down to the last four: Harod was to face his own son, the Kid, and the blond woman was to face the preacher. Ethan admired the Kid, he was blond and beautiful, and had always treated Ethan nicely; he had even let Ethan taste him once.
When the moment came, the whole town almost rejoiced when Harod fell. But Ethan's heart broke when he saw the Kid fall too, and worse yet, Harod got back up; his wound was only superficial. The blond woman and one of the saloon girls rushed to the Kid's aid, but he died moments later.
Back at their house, Raimy told Ethan not to give up hope; the blond woman had asked for red ink and she had shown him the barrels of gun powder in the room where she was staying. He didn't know what she was planning, but he thought it would be big.
At six o'clock that afternoon, the woman faced the preacher. Neither would draw until Harod threatened to kill them both at the count of ten. After counting down to the last second, they drew and fired. The woman fell and everyone could see thick, red blood seeping from her chest. Doc Wallace went to her and announced tearfully that she was dead.
A fight ensued as the preacher tried to go after Harod, but Harod's men stopped him. They were the last two in the contest; their face-off would be tomorrow.
That night, Foy died; the boys found his cold, dead body in his bed the next morning. Raimy fetched Doc Wallace and he and his men hauled the body away. They had to hurry back because the last gunfight would be at six a.m.
In spite of the hour, the town's people had gathered again; no one wanted to miss their hoped for and prayed for demise of Harod.
Ethan moved close to Raimy on the saloon porch. "I hope you'll come with us when we leave here," he whispered. With all eyes on the gunfighters in the street, Ethan sneaked in a little kiss on Raimy's cheek.
Raimy smiled. "I'd love to," he said.
Suddenly, one of Harod's men took off running. Everyone called him "Ratsy" and he was a skrawny, buck-toothed, stupid little shit of a man who would break your arm as soon as look at you.
"Oh, shit!" Ratsy exclaimed as he ran. "Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!" He ran as fast as he could, passed the saloon, a house and the big, black Victorian. Harod took a rifle from another of his men, turned and shot Ratsy in the back.
"What did he do?" Ethan asked.
"I didn't see him do anything," Raimy said.
"Haha!" Ethan chuckled at the blind boy's reply. "Neither did I!" He watched the men talking in the street, but his mind was on their situation. With their father gone, they were really on the edge now! With a quiet prayer, he asked God what they should do now. Raimy's hand came to his shoulder and a gentle peace flooded into him. They would get by, somehow. And with Raimy at his side, he felt he could do anything!
The clock clicked and the minute hand moved straight up. Both men drew, but before either could fire, the clock, a ten-by-ten-foot box on a tower, exploded, launching flames, debris and two of Harod's men into the air. The shockwave hit Cort and Harod, knocking both to the ground.
Everyone on the street jumped back, stunned, and screams and shouts ran through the crowd. Ethan and the other boys gawked at the burning clock tower and the flaming debris that rained down on the street. Harod's men hit the ground with a thud; they wouldn't be getting up anytime soon!
Pushing himself up from the dust, Harod raised his gun and took aim at the preacher. Suddenly, the big Victorian behind him also exploded, sending more flaming rubble into the street, and again, knocking Harod flat.
The Victorian was kitty-corner from the saloon, where Ethan and the boys were standing and its explosion knocked all of them to the ground. Ethan raised his head, spitting dirt and feeling like he'd been kicked in the chest. Then the boarding house exploded with two blasts, sending fire balls out the front and into the street. People began running, not knowing what might explode next.
The gun shop was next, followed quickly by the whorehouse and the saloon, right next to them. Ethan and the boys lay in the dirt as one shock wave after another rolled over them. Flames and black smoke billowed into the sky, turning the morning sun a dark orange. Flaming rubble rained down on the street; most of the town lay in burning ruins.
Raimy crawled to Ethan's side. "Are you alright?" he asked, slipping an arm across Ethan's shoulders.
Ethan looked at him and Raimy's eyes, one blue, one white, stared back. "Yeah, I think so," Ethan said.
"I can't find my glasses," Raimy said.
Ethan looked around and saw them laying in the dirt a few feet away. He moved to pick them up and put them in Raimy's hand. Raimy put them on and got to his feet, along with the other boys. He moved up onto the porch of the saloon, to his little shelves, beside the corner of the brick building, miraculously, the only part still standing.
"You're dead!" Ethan heard Harod call. "You're dead!" He looked and saw the strange, blond woman emerging from the smoke.
Beside the saloon, Raimy uncorked a small bottle of red India Ink, and Harod looked to see the blind boy pouring its contents on the porch. Their deception was complete. Old Doc Wallace stepped up and placed a hand on Raimy's shoulder; Ethan's hand went to Raimy's firm, rounded backside, patting him proudly.
The woman came forward to face Harod; Cort had moved to the side, knowing Harod was now her's.
One of Harod's surviving men raised his rifle and cocked it, aiming at the woman. Cort quickly grabbed the man's side arm and pointed into his gut. He took the rifle from the man and cold-cocked him with the butt, then turning quickly, he downed four more gunmen on the remaining rooves and balconies of the buildings that still stood. Cort turned and holstered the pistol. "Sorry, John," he called. "Change of rules! From now on, all the fights are fair!"
Harod turned his gaze back to the woman. "Who are you?" he demanded.
She reached into her blouse, pulled out a small object and flung it at Harod. The glittering metal spun in the air and lodged in the dirt at Harod's feet.
Harod looked down and immediately recognized the old marshal's badge. Ethan saw it too, and realized the old story must be true. Harod and his men had lenched the marshal, even offering his little daughter the chance to shoot the rope that her father would hang by. Sadly, at the tender age of six, she'd never held a gun before, let alone, shot one, and with the encouragement of her own father and taunts from Harod's men, she ended up shooting her own father square in the forehead.
"You're not fast enough for me!" Harod shouted, reholstering his .45.
"Today, I am," she replied coolly, pulling her coat back from her holster.
Ethan watched as the two faced each other. The few remaining people on the street turned all eyes to them. Tension built. Ethan felt Raimy's hand slide around his backside and squeeze. The former marshal's daughter moved her shoulder and Harod drew. She followed immediately and their shots sounded as one. In the air between them, their bullets pass, inches apart. The woman gasped and her hand went to her side; she was hit, but not seriously, she could still survive. Harod was still standing, but blood was dribbling from his middle. The woman never dropped her gun; Harod raised his again for another shot. The woman fired first, hitting Harod in the right eye and blasting him back; he was dead before he hit the ground.
Ethan watched as the woman walked up to Harod's body. She nudged him with her foot, then, getting no response, holstered her gun. She bent down and picked up her father's badge from the dirt and looked at it. Then she turned to Cort and flung the badge to him. He caught it and looked at it.
"The law's come back to town," she said, directing Cort to his new profession; he was the only one fast enough and gritty enough to make law stick in a frontier town like this.
Later, Raimy brought the woman's horse from the livery stable, where it had been taken yesterday, after her aleged death. She mounted up and rode out of town.
Ethan saw that the street was littered, not only with burning rubble from the destroyed buildings, but also with the reward money from the chest that had resided in the saloon. He picked one up and instructed Tanner and his brothers to pick up all they could find. Over the next half hour, the boys gathered up great wads of cash. Several other people also gathered money from the street, before the desert wind swept it away.
Ethan went to Raimy, hugged the boy and placed a big wad of money in his hands. "Come on," Ethan said. "Let's get out of here! I want to see the ocean!"
As I say of all my stories, I write this as tribute to all the sweet, beloved young gays out there, the faggots and queers, the freaks and girly-boys out there, who endure daily teasing, ridicule, bullying and beatings, who hide and closely guard their most secret desires, and who live in fear of having their lives ripped apart for loving another of the same gender. I know what you're going through; I've "been there, done that!" And I'm here to say, DON'T give up! Don't let the bastards win! What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger! And wiser! What you think and feel is none of their F'ing business! Get up, shake it off, look up and move on! It really does get better! I swear to God, it does! Go in peace. Adios!
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]