Author’s note: This is my flash fiction for October’s entry of the 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge. Each month of 2020, on the first Monday, I’ll draw cards to determine the genre, setting, and an object that has to appear in the short story. Participants will have until the following Monday to link their stories to the blog post I put out each month. Then I’ll do a follow-up post and share the stories that have come in (before the deadline). It’s only for fun and non-competitive.
October’s draw results: (genre) Western, (setting) a museum, and (object) a cracked pot. Yeah, I swear, those were the cards I drew.
This is my very silly and weird entry: Showdown Over the Somewhat-Okay Corral
“Why, howdy, there, Tex!”
“Yeah, it’s still Phil. It’s always been Phil, and it will always be Phil.”
“Aw, come on, buddy. Just work with me here.”
“You get this way every time we’re assigned to this section of the museum.”
Freddy looked around. It was his favourite place. These old western exhibits reminded him of the films he used to watch with his grandmother on public broadcasting television. Whenever he did security in this spot with Phil, he couldn’t resist acting out the scene.
“That’s because I’m really not into white settler crap.”
Freddy frowned. True, Phil did have a point. At the same time, the exhibits were so vivid, it almost felt like they came to life. Freddy meandered over to a scene of two men with guns pointed at each other, ready to kill. One of the men was dressed in black with a black cowboy hat and the other like a sheriff with a white hat, so it was a typical case of good guy versus bad guy.
“Please?” Freddy pleaded again. “This is the last time, I swear.”
Phil parked his butt in a chair and pulled his navy-blue security cap over his eyes.
Freddy sighed. “So, I’ll take that as a no.”
Phil pointed at his partner with one hand and touched his own nose with the other, like in charades, when someone guessed correctly.
Freddy clicked his tongue and wandered over to the display again, trying to imagine what those days had really been like. As his eyes took everything in, he noticed something seemed out of place. It was a ceramic pot from a completely different era, with a huge crack winding down its surface. Encrusted within the intricate design were all sorts of gems: amethysts, rubies, sapphires. Not very old-westerny at all. He bent over the clear acrylic half-wall and reached for the pot. Turning it upside down to see if there was a card indicating to which exhibit it belonged, Freddy could find no information about this relic.
He turned it right round again, inspected its surface, and gently brushed the dust from one of the gems.
“Phil, do you know what this is?”
“I don’t right know who this Phil is, but I ain’t seen you round these here parts before.”
Freddy slowly raised his head in the direction of the voice. It wasn’t his security partner, but the man in the black hat and long curled moustache pointed a gun right at him.
“I… what?” Freddy managed.
“Now see here, Jake, yer business is with me, not this beardless youth.”
“But I’m 35,” said Freddy.
Jake spit out his chewing tobacco. “Right, and I’m Miss Aggie from the Cathouse! You got a face like a baby’s bottom.”
Freddy preened. “Well, I do moisturize!”
The sheriff and Bad Jake McKinney made similar faces.
“Uh, yeah,” said Freddy. “Please don’t let me keep you from your duel.”
Bad Jake guffawed. “Duels are for sissies. This here is a proper showdown.”
“You mean like the one at the O.K. Corral?!”
“Ya take that back or eat lead, son. My corral be one of the finest in the land.”
The sheriff scratched his beard with his gun. “The young’un has a point, Jake. Mean, it’s only somewhat okay. For a corral. But not worth all this fuss and fighting o’er it. Don’t rightly know why you felt it was worth stealing from Granny Betsy anyhow.”
Bad Jake scowled, then paused, still not lowering his gun. “Ya really don’t reckon it’s on a great a property?”
“Well, I wouldn’t wage my life and limb for it. Now, the corral that Mr. Owens has, it’s a beaut. For sale, not too dear a price and all. Land has a good size well and a home with a south-facing screened-in porch. Might pretty come sunset.”
“Ya don’t say? What’re the ’menities? I like bein’ close to town.”
Freddy stared at the two men, mouth agog. What the? This wasn’t at all like the westerns he’d watched as a child. It felt like The Real Estate Channel… with ten gallon hats and guns drawn.
Bad Jake lowered his weapon. “Sheriff, I’m willing to give back Granny Betsy her corral if you’ll put in a word for me with Owens. What do you say?”
The sheriff nodded, and pulled out deed papers from his leather vest, which he’d brought in case Bad Jake had been willing to listen to reason. “I got the contract here. And we can stop by straightaways to look the place over.”
“I’ll git my horse and follow ya there.”
And just like that, the two men left the scene, completely forgetting Freddy, the baby-faced stranger who had been new to those there parts. He shook his head, looked down at the cracked pot he still carried, then rubbed it vigorously.
“What are you doing?”
“Phil!” Freddy ran to his counterpart, put down the pot, and gave him a huge bear hug.
“Uh… dude?” Phil had never really known his friend to be that affectionate before.
“Never mind,” said Freddy, letting go.
Freddy gingerly picked up the pot, being careful not to rub any of the gemstones.
“What’s that thing?”
“Oh, just something I need to return to another exhibit.”
Phil felt concerned over the confused expression on Freddy’s face. “You’re acting weird.” He slapped his thighs and got up from his chair. “Fine. I’ll play cowboys with you, but this is the last time. I mean it.”
Freddy pulled a face like he’d just eaten something really sour. “Nah, forget it. Turns out I’m not really into white settler crap either. They stole from Indigenous folks, then from each other… and sometimes only to construct subpar corrals. Also, I think the sheriff gets a kickback from Mr. Owens, so that’s kinda gross.”
Phil stared after his friend, who walked away with the pot, holding it as if it had germs.
“What the ever-loving heck?”
Showdown Over the Somewhat-Okay Corral© 2020 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction from the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.
Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to be wise and think of others as we battle COVID-19!
She’s also the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology (a 2020 Prix Aurora Award finalist for Best Related Work) in an attempt to take over the world.