Top Ten Western Short Stories For December
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Western Short Story
He stood dirty, dusty, powerful dry, after a long ride for a short drink, and exclaiming to a nosy bartender at the Wobbly Cow Saloon, “Sure, that’s my name, Teddie Silverado because I like it and my mother liked it better than the stupid one my father gave me, which I long ago have put back to sleep somewhere along the line.”
It all started because the bartender, Jake Tawnwhip, had said, “What the Hell did you say your name was, Kunju Gavoto? It weren’t the way I been hearin’ it all this time you been hangin’ in here.”
Teddie Silverado, forever from that point, was called as he said he was, “Teddie Silverado,” because the gun came out of his holster and was aimed over the bar directly at the mouth of Jake Tawnwhip, who had mispronounced Silverado’s new true name for the second or third time in the conversation over a short drink of hard-learning and quick-spouting of a renamed cowpoke with a gun in hand.
One day it might save his life, but he hadn’t thought of that possibility.
That didn’t give Teddie much time, or the bartender, because that’s the night the bank was robbed and three strangers wandered into the saloon, one at a time, later on while the sheriff and a hastily-formed posse had ridden out of town on the start of a useless chase … of nothing in particular.
The three strangers, as if meeting for the first time, gathered at the bar. “Hell,” said one of them to a heavily-bearded man wearing two guns on his hips and red suspenders over his shoulders as if they caused discomfort and a considerable stretching and working of their placement, “I heard the barkeep call that there gent ‘Teddie Silverado,’ and that’s nothin’ more than a made-up name from a story-teller ‘round the campfire. Hell, like I said, ‘that ain’t your real name, is it?”
The gun came off Teddie’s hip faster than heavy-beard-and-red-suspenders could imagine, as it was stuck right in his face quicker’n he could breathe. “I ain’t sayin’ but once more, Teddie Silverado’s my name, and anybody not likin’ it’s got somethin’ against my mother and I don’t favor that too much, ‘specially in a saloon of all places.”
“You got to be kiddin’ me, kid. Don’t you ‘member me workin’ with your daddy. Kunju Gavoto’s what we called him and I’d call him that right now if he was here, but he ain’t about to come here from where he got put down on the border with ole Mexico. And you don’t like the name your daddy give you? Every poke I ever knew wore the name his old daddy give him from since Mary called the little boy Jesus.”
He put his hand out as if to ward off Teddie’s gun until he heard the tinny click of the tiny hammer on the weapon. “Whoa, son, I was a friend of your daddy’s way back in the day. We wuz pards, to say the least, on drives and other long rides from here to the big river, ain’t no place we weren’t been.”
He paused for a few extra breaths and said, “Who’s the sheriff around here? Why don’t he step up in the middle of this to-do?” He looked around ass f waiting for a sheriff to step into the middle of things.
The barkeep said, “His name is Chuck Turner but he ain’t here now.”
“Where’s he hidin’?”
“Leading a posse lookin’ for the gang what robbed the bank last night.”
“What’d they get?” he said as he leaned way over the bar and looked down below the backside of the counter.
“It ain’t back here and it weren’t much but a bunch of South money ain’t good for much at all anymore, like it never really was, like the real Government says. Not worth the pot to pee in. Nothin’ to those tied-up bundles of Greybacks the likes of Jefferson Davis on a $50 or Calhoun and some other bozo on a $1000, and all of ‘em like I said, ’Not worth a pot to pee in.””
“What the Hell’s he chasin’ after nothin’ worth nothin’?” Looks more like it ain’t even a crime, if nothin’ was stolen. What’s he in a stir about?”
The room full of men at sudden argument was still, the silence as if demanding responses of some nature, waiting for reason or fact to click into place.
Teddie Silverado, with his gun still in hand, stepping back into the conversation, said, “You ask some real stupid questions the more you talk, mister, like asking me about my name and all about the bank like nothing ever happened after all this mouthful of gopher crap. What the Hell are you really interested in?”
He swung his gaze about the room and clicked the hammer again, the sound running around the silent saloon, everybody in the room weighing in on the argument about value of nothing or nothing of value hanging right there in the middle of them like a schoolmarm might do it.
At that moment, the sun showing over the top of the saloon door, back from its latest trip elsewhere, the door popped open and a man with a badge on his chest marched right up to the bar, with six, dusty, dirty, powerfully dry men following him, his voice heavy as a pick ax, just as steady, just as demanding, said to the barkeep, “Jake, give ‘em two, three drinks apiece on my tab, and not anymore on me and I know they got some settling-in to do on their own time and not mine. We run into exactly nothing out there like we was out on a date with the Widow Smithwick. Two-three drinks on me and nothing more on my account. Got me?”
As he finished his introduction to the whole saloon, he spotted Teddie Silverado, gun in hand, still levelled at heavy-beard-and-red-suspenders, and said, offhandedly, as if his shift for the day was done, “What the Hell are you two up to when we need our drinks more pronto that what you’re at, that’s for sure the way it looks to me,” the other silence still in place, though his echo still had some body in it.
Heavy-beard-and-red-suspenders said, sort of hospitably, “Oh, Sheriff, I just heard you had the posse out there after criminals that didn’t do no crime but rob the bank of nothin’ at all worth anything at all; like it don’t count at all, not from where I’m standin’, me bein’ Checker Wilson and this here gent aholdin’ his pistol on me is Teddie Silverado from these here parts.”
The man with the badge coughed a ludicrous cough.
“Was he going to shoot you, Checker Wilson, in front of all these people, and not a gun in your own hand, like you was already out-drawed in a Hell of a hurry? Don’t tell me you were going to be killed by a gent with that kind of a name.”
He coughed and laughed again and said, “Teddie Silverado like it’s really Kunju Gavoto whose father rode with me on a few long jaunts near the end of the war before things turned heels overhead, if you know what I might mean.”
To illustrate his point, he snapped the badge on his chest as though a statement of fact had been made, swallowed his second drink, snapped the glass back to the barkeep, ”Nother, Jake, and just as smooth, before I have to take care of this argument about to happen, or a accident bigger than all of us and someone gets hung on the tree down the road a piece before any of us knows what really happened right in front of us.”
“Naw,” said Checker Wilson, “he weren’t goin’ to shoot me, Sheriff. I don’t think the boy’s got enough guts to pull the trigger right now,” and he swung around as if he was about to draw his own weapon, at which the sheriff said, “Wilson, where’d you ever come from, and when, to be here when our bank was robbed of sacks and sacks of money?”
“Well,” Wilson came back with, “up-country a ways, all the way to Canadi’s border, a furer piece you can’t go. And I don’t think this misnamed boy of sorts was goin’ to shoot me, not a chance in Hell of it.”
He laughed a laugh of ridicule, fawned fear for the entire audience of the full saloon, stuck out his chest like he was king of all the trails in all of Texas, bar none.
Sheriff Chuck Turner jumped into the middle of things, snapping his glass back toward the barkeep, when he said, “Well, Wilson, knowing what this boy sprung from, what kind of a man his father was regardless of what the boy says, or his mother, “I’ll bet this roll of bills I got stashed in my pocket here,” and he squeezed a round and clumsy pocketful of something that could have been a roll of bills, “against the roll you got stashed in your pocket, that he would have shot to kill you with a single round in the forehead without blinking his eye, that is if you are man enough to back up your own words.”
Without hesitation, his honor and reputation at put stake by a dinky sheriff and a dinky kid in a dinky trail town in Texas near the border with Mexico, jammed his hand into his pocket, even as the sheriff dumped a roll of greenbacks onto the bar top, and slammed his own roll of money onto the bar right beside that of Sheriff Chuck Turner’s roll.
And there in the middle of his roll, as if on historical display, was Jefferson Davis, almost smiling, on a Greyback $50 bill, not a mark of use on it, new as if just minted, bank-stuff only.