This is a short story I wrote, edited, and submitted in one day. The CBC 2020 Short Story Prize crew were not impressed.

I did not read it again until after I received the rejection email. I was even less impressed when I read it. Although its chief problem being, it was a rough draft.

After re-writing it, I have decided to offer it here as a sample of my writing.

Western (Foul Language/Mature Content)

The Rope

by Eric C Bailey

It was so hot that, as the sweat ran down their fingers, it ran slightly faster when it fell across the hot steel of the six shooters on their hips. Ezra ran his tongue across his upper lip, tasting the salt of his sweat. The same sweat that ran into his eyes and blurred the face of that uppity bastard Charles.

They might as well shoot themselves in the head and save him the trouble, Charles thought to himself. The same thing time after time. It was hot, but his opponent was running with sweat like his beer glass will be in the saloon after I kill them.

The damn sweat ran along the inside curve of her right tit. She swiped at it with her hand. Not that it did any good, it was hotter'n hell. She leaned farther over the railing on the second-floor balcony. She should leave this godforsaken town, Ethel thought to herself. If her ma hadn't named her so fancy, maybe she would have become something other than a whore. Well, one of these fools is going to pay for the joy of still being alive. She might as well rake it in while she can. Maybe that there fancy lookin' stranger will win. That would be nice for a change.

Henry, regretting, as he always did, the decision to preside at a gun fight, nevertheless looked forward to the increase in business at his saloon, however brief.

The 'fancy' looking one straightened his string tie. Charles looked at the barkeep, and then looked at his opponent, Ezra. He shook his head, wishing the entire thing was done with and he could leave this godforsaken town.

Sweat ran down his sides and the waist at his back. Sheriff George, as most called him, ambled toward town on his horse, Mabel. They were both wrung out after a failed chase through the baked scrub and hills that surrounded the town. As he approached the outskirts, he could see several figures in the middle of the only street. No one else was visible, meanin' it was yet another gun fight. Damnation, he was sick of this. It was that idiot, Henry, no doubt. The excuse for a fight of any kind was all too easy to find in a saloon, but this happened way more than it should 'ave. He nudged his horse a bit, even though he knew he wasn't going to make it in time. But he would likely shoot anyone left standing given half a chance, starting with that damn fool Henry. He should leave this godforsaken town.

Henry moved closer to the middle of the street and told them to stand back to back and then take ten steps and turn and fire on his mark. He turned, moving towards the side of the mud-packed street. They did as they were told, Ezra wiping at his forehead and eyes to clear away the sweat before the count started. They slowly stepped away from each other, in time to his score, as he said 'nine' Ezra spun around early, and, fumbling with his sweat-slicked gun, almost dropped it as he accidentally pulled the trigger.

It was just a tug, a slight pull on his vest and shirt. In what seemed to be extreme slow motion, Henry looked down and saw a ragged circle of dust moving away from his second-best vest. The center of the circle of dust was indented, then, blood slowly erupted out-wards from the center, dribbled down onto his vest and down his leg still seeming to move in slow motion. He fell then, but not in slow motion.

Charles walked over to where Ezra was kneeling on the ground, in shock, looking at Henry lying in a growing pool of blood. Was a time he would have walked up and shot Ezra in the head, but times are changing. Sheriff George will be here soon. Ezra will pay, but not by his hand.

Charles said, "You'll see justice at the end of the rope."


Copyright 2020 Eric C Bailey (All rights reserved)