A Fitful Sleep
The rising sun set the desert alight, like a torch touched to tall grass in a dry summer. Caro felt the hooves in the ground long before they sounded on the breeze.
“They’s comin’, Jess,” he said.
Jess had been having a fitful sleep, but at Caro’s call he stumbled from his bedroll and began to dress.
“Gon’ be a hot day,” he said as he buttoned his shirt. “Just as well they come.”
“How’s that, Jess?”
“Gon’ be a hot day and we ain’t got any water left.”
Caro gave Jess a puzzled look.
“So how’s that ‘well’? Won’t we be needin’ some? When it’s done, I mean?”
Jess turned from the horizon and looked at Caro—though not unkindly—the way a hunter might look at a deer he’s felled, the way he might look before he cut its throat.
“Oh,” Caro said.
The two men were silent until they heard the horses neigh. Until they heard the riders grumble. Until the posse had just about cleared the ridge.
“I ain’t never killed a man ‘til two days ago,” Caro mused. “Scared me half to death. Hell, I think it scared me more than it scared the poor old boy I shot.” He laughed. “You killed a lot of men, Jess. Is it always like that? You always so afraid?”
Jess turned to Caro and considered him. He’d ridden with a lot of hard criminals, wranglers and thieves and murderers, but he’d never heard the thing put quite that way before. The truth of it was, he was always afraid, and the only thing more terrifying than dying was the way it felt to put another man down.
“Yes,” he said softly.
The sun was up now. The air was heavy. A rifle was cocked.
“I was having a beautiful dream when you woke me up, Caro,” he said.
“This is gunna be a bitch, huh Jess?”
“Yes it is.”
Another week, another Trifecta Challenge under my belt. This one took me a while to come up with an idea for this one–the prompt was Bitch, as in something particularly difficult or troublesome.
Head on over to Trifecta for scores of great stories (that’s right: scores!) and, of course, leave your comments (and links if you’ve got ‘em) below.