A Fitful Sleep

In Fiction on January 23, 2013 at 12:15 am

Purple sunrise in the Kaluts

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.

  1. something tells me this isn’t going to end well for Caro.

  2. Not sure who to root for here! Hints of Jesse James and the Sundance Kid. Nicely traced “calm” before the storm.

  3. Wonderful dialogue!

  4. Nice use of the word. I would hope it is a bitch to kill people – to even believe you need to. Great scene. I liked your touch of ‘not unkindly’ like a deer felled just before he cut its throat. Nice character insight.

  5. Well done. Believable dialog and characters. Love the use of the prompt, and exactly what he meant. Yeah, a ‘bitch’ to die for sure… or maybe not. I liked the title and the photo… this was the complete package, Brian.

  6. How scary but true am sure-“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.”Well written:-)

  7. Another triumph. I love the languid easiness of the two outlaws, a sort of calm before the storm. You also do a great job of letting the anxiety roll off of Jess who obviously has an idea of what they are in for. Caro on the other hand comes more from the ignorance is bliss school. Great dialogue, pacing and tension. You are a talent, my friend…

  8. Poignant is the word that comes to mind. And Languid. I loved seeing behind the veneer of bravado. Nicely done.

  9. Ooh I love westerns (: Great piece.

  10. You set up the scene so well and carries the visual throughout, and your dialogue is spot on.

  11. […] The Waiting Water // A Fitful Sleep // Idle […]

  12. […] Related: The Waiting Water // Al In Wonderland // A Fitful Sleep […]

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