Saturday, June 30, 2007

Once Upon a Time in Plainview.

This story may be the first I ever attempted to write that wasn't a school assignment. Judging from the careful yet unsteady cursive, I'd say I was about eight when I set this down. (I suppose I didn't use my Tom Thumb typewriter because that would have taken forever.) I remember that my dad was working in the attic above my closet on the morning I sat at my desk composing it on wide-ruled looseleaf. There was an open window before me that looked out on a sunny, breezy Saturday, a day any other kid would have grabbed a ball and a glove and rounded up some friends.

Why I chose a Western I really can't say. It's not a genre that had ever held my interest, and the, ahem, simplistic story doesn't appear to have been inspired by anything other than a desire to create. I even drew a cover, as you've seen, and no, that is not a tiny man between those finely-detailed cowboy boots. It's called perspective. (And judging from that perspective, these duelers are drawing at about 1500 paces.)

Despite my deeply-instilled need to rewrite everything I have ever written (which, painfully, does not exclude this five-page, nearly thirty-year-old "manuscript"), I present it exactly as I wrote it--a first draft with no revisions. My sister Jackie made minor, restrained corrections in orange marker, but I have not reflected those here. Thanks for the encouragement anyway, sis! (I will say this for my rudimentary effort: the plot and dialogue are about as good as what you'll find in a number of films riffed upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000--I'm thinking in particular of Soultaker, Future War, Hobgoblins, or anything by Ed Wood Jr. or Ray Dennis Steckler.) Enjoy.


It was early in the morning when the Black Hole Saloon opened. The usual customers came in, such as John, the barber. He was looking for trouble. He was depressed, because he had a fight with his wife.

"Evening," said Henry the bartender. "Aw, shad up!" said John, "It's morning, not evening."

John sat down at the bar. "Gimme the usual," said John, "But make it a double."

All day he ordered drinks. But finally, Henry kicked him out. John the barber was the drunkest man in the world. He stumbled all over creation. Also into the sheriff.

Tex the sheriff stumbled and fell on the Mayor of Black Hole. The Mayor was furious. "You better watch yourself!" screamed the Mayor. He was yelling at Tex. Tex heard the drunk say "Ya, you betta watch yerself."

Tex was steaming, and he flung his arms out. John ducked, making the sheriff smash his knuckles against a pole. Tex was in agonizing pain for an hour.

Soon he felt better, so he went out searching for the drunk. But the drunk found him first. "Donn' I reconize you?" asked John. "You bet you reconize me! Replied Tex. Tex said, "See this?" holding his fist out. Figuring Tex was gonna punch him, John covered his face. Tex stepped on his foot.

"Ow!" screamed John. "Ooo, that wasn't nice!" Then John said, "See this?" holding his fist out. Thinking he would do the same, Tex stood on tippy-toes. John punched him in the face. Now, size don't matter, since Tex is 6 ft. 1 and John is 5 ft. 8, because Tex went flying.

Tex got up, went over to John, and just sat there staring at him. Everything was silent for a moment. Tex pulled back his arm, and like a flash of lightining, stuck John in the face with his hardest blow.

John said "Draw at ten paces." Tex said, "To the death." John spoke again. "Tomorrow at dawn. Prepare to die."

All that night, Tex thought if what he said was wise. He thought about if he gets killed. He kept hearing in his mind, "Prepare to die" But he thought of how drunk he was, and that he would have a terrible hangover. But Tex was wrong. John happens to be a fast healer.

The next morning, Tex was shaky. He was thinking how he could just stay home, since he lived secretly in an old abandon house. But he thought of how everybody was depending on him to waste the old fool.

So he went to the saloon, and sure enough, he was there. Tex had a feeling he would regret this, but he kept on walking.

John was calm as a clam much to Tex's surprise. "Ready?" asked John. "S-S-Sure I'm r-r-ready," replied Tex.

They stood back to back, and started. 1-2-3-4...Tex was shaking like a leaf. 6-7-8-9-10! Tex and John swooped around at the same time. John fired and shot Tex three times. Tex fell to the ground, and dropped his gun. The gun fired as it hit the ground. The bullet shot John in the head. John died instantly.

Suddenly, Tex started to scream, "I didn't mean to kill him!!" Tex was taken to the nearest hosipital. He died before he got there.


Phew! What a downer of an ending! Upon reading this for the first time in god-knows-how-many years, I was delighted by the detail that the town's rather cowardly sheriff lives "secretly in an old abandon [sic] house." Now that's funny. Everything else about it sucks, including the title. Sure, technically it's a shoot-out, but jeez, four lousy shots! One of them accidental! May as well have had them sitting around munching onion rings...

I remember Jackie being impressed by the simile "calm as a clam." Curious, I found that a Google search returns 18 unique uses of that phrase, including one from an old folk song. So I guess I didn't originate that, but I'm fairly certain the sheriff-as-spineless-paranoid-recluse concept is all mine.


Anonymous MooT said...

I once drew a short-duration cartoon about a gunslinger who - everytime he got into a confrontation - reached for his gun and discovered everything but a gun in his holster.

I dunno what the heck ever happened, but I do remember him pulling out a rabbit and a pickle, among other things.

I was very young at the time - I'm younger than that now ...

Mon Jul 02, 02:57:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Brian Kunath said...

Well I love it. It's Tarantino without the curse words, and you wrap it up a lot quicker!

The ending is hysterical:

The bullet shot John in the head. John died instantly.

Suddenly, Tex started to scream, "I didn't mean to kill him!!" Tex was taken to the nearest hosipital. He died before he got there.

Good God, that's bleak for an eight year old.

I remember two stories I wrote as a kid. One was about some guy who caught a two-headed fish. Another was about a POW who had the chance to escape from a "tiger cage," but wasted so much time asking himself whether or not he should risk it that the guards eventually came back and locked the door. (Terrible story, but one that has proven to be embarrassingly prophetic in some ways.)

BTW: Didn't the exact story in your post take place in Cortland?

Mon Jul 02, 10:27:00 PM 2007  
Blogger MO'SH said...

And of course, instead of high noon, you set the shootout at dawn -- you've always been more likely awake at dawn than noon.

Tue Jul 03, 01:43:00 PM 2007  

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