Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

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 August 2009

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Penski

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Join date : 2013-09-26

20131030
PostAugust 2009

Stand Off

Jed has a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad 19th birthday.



Jed’s 19th Birthday or A Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Birthday

Jed rode into Dry Creek on his chestnut mustang in the early afternoon. He glanced around at the buildings as he meandered through the main street to the only saloon. It may as well have been a nameless town, as far as he was concerned. It looked just like the town he left, which looked like the town before that. He was alone in the world and wandering aimlessly. He wore his gun tied down and had earned a reputation for being a fast-draw…a gunslinger--not a reputation he was particularly proud of. Seemed to cause him more problems than not.

He dismounted from his mustang in front of the saloon and stretched. After tying his horse to the hitching post, he walked over to her and began petting her nose. She softly whinnied and nuzzled his pocket.

“You think I have another carrot in there for you?” Jed asked as he reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a small, dry carrot. “It’s not much, but you’re welcome to have it,” he said as he gave it to her.

“Hmm…wonder if we can afford to sleep indoors tonight. I got,” Jed paused as he dug in pockets and counted his money, “almost eleven dollars. Hey, it’s my birthday so let’s treat ourselves. You can stay in the livery and I can sleep in a real bed. What d’ya think about that idea, partner?”

The horse neighed and nodded its head up and down.

Jed laughed, “You like that idea, huh? Okay, I’ll walk you over to the livery and make sure you get a treat.”

Jed led his best friend in the world to the livery and paid a little extra for a treat of oats. “See ya later, sweetheart. Stay outta trouble,” he said as he left the stable and headed back to the saloon.

Jed walked into the cool, dark saloon and stood at the bar. The bartender came over and looked him up and down.

“I’d like a beer,” Jed said as he took off his hat and gloves, placing them on the bar top.

“Are you old enough?”

Jed sighed. He hated looking so young and people always questioning him about his age. “Older than I look. It’s my 19th birthday today.”

“If you’re sure…one beer coming up.” The bartender left and returned with his beer. “That’ll be five cents. You got five cents, kid?”

“Would I order a beer if I didn’t have the money?” Jed glared at the man as he pulled out his money and paid for the drink.

The bartender shrugged his shoulders, pocketed the money and walked to the other end of the bar.

Jed took a few swallows of beer and looked around the room. There was a poker game going on already with a few ranch hands and a gaudy saloon gal talking to the bartender. She glanced over at him and began strutting to his side of the bar.

“Heard it was your birthday,” she said as she sauntered up next to him and rubbed a finger up and down his arm.

“Yup.”

“How old are you, kid?”

Jed moved several inches away from her. “Why does everyone call me kid? I’m nineteen years old; just look younger than I am.”

“Sorry—didn’t mean ta get ya mad. Name’s Hattie. What’s yours, if it ain’t kid?”

“Curry, Jed Curry.”

“Well Jed Curry, how about buying a gal a drink fer your birthday?” Hattie asked as she snuggled up close to him again.

Jed nodded and motioned to the bartender who brought a refill for him and a drink for Hattie.

“Thanks, Curry. Here’s to you…may you have a very happy birthday,” Hattie raised her glass as she toasted Jed and clinked glasses.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Ma’am? Well, aren’t we the formal one.”

“Sorry ma’am, didn’t mean to offend you. My ma…she raised me to be polite to women folk.”

Hattie noticed a moment of sadness in those bright blue eyes when he mentioned his mother. “No family or friends to celebrate your birthday with?” she asked.

Jed lowered his eyes and shook his head. “They’re all gone now.”

“Aww…I’m sorry to hear that, Curry. Everyone should have someone who cares about them. I care about you,” Hattie whispered as she softly blew in his ear.

“Ma’am?” Jed began to blush. He’d been with women before, but was still coy when women approached him.

“Ain’t you the cutest thing!” Hattie exclaimed as she pinched his cheeks.

“Hattie, what are you doing over there? We need more drinks over here,” growled one of the ranch hands playing poker. “Hattie!”

“I’m comin’, Donny. Hold your britches. I’ll be right back, cutie. You have the purtiest eyes.”

“Yes ma’am,” Jed replied as he finished his beer.

Hattie cackled as she left, “Yes ma’am...what a cute kid.”

Donny looked up from his cards annoyed when he heard Hattie laughing. He quickly stood up, causing his chair to fall back onto the ground and walked over to Jed.

“You makin’ a play on my Hattie, kid?”

“No sir, just drinkin’ a beer.”

“What’s your name, kid?”

Jed glared at the man. “Curry. What’s yours?”

“Kid Curry,” Donny laughed and then noticed the tied down gun. “You know how to use that gun, Kid Curry?” he asked menacingly as his eyes narrowed.

“I can usually hit what I aim for.”

“I don’t like men cozying up to my woman, Kid Curry. I’m callin’ you out!”

“What? I didn’t do anything with your Hattie. Look, I don’t wanna fight you.”

“Think you can shoot better than me, huh?”

“I didn’t say that, mister.”

“I’ve been shootin’ since before you were born, Kid Curry.”

“I don’t doubt that, sir.”

“You sayin’ I’m old? Let’s go outside and settle this once and for all.”

Hattie walked over the men. “Donny, you’ve been drinkin’ too much and ain’t makin’ no sense. Leave the kid alone. It’s his birthday.”

“No…wearin’ his gun tied down means he’s askin’ for a challenge. I aim to teach Kid Curry here a lesson. Outside, Kid Curry, I’m callin’ you out!”

Jed sighed and tried to come up with a solution. “How about we have a friendly shootin’ contest out back and the loser buys the winner a drink?”

“No, a gunfight, out in the street.”

The bartender reached down and pulled his rifle out from under the bar. “Donny, it’s time for you boys to go home now. This kid ain’t done nothing wrong.”

Donny began to argue with the bartender, “It ain’t time to go home and I’m gonna teach Kid Curry a lesson.”

“I said leave…NOW!” The bartender cocked his rifle.

Donny glared at the bartender and then looked back to his two friends still at the poker table. “Come on, boys. We’re not wanted here.”

As he walked out of the batwing doors, he turned and stared at Jed. “Kid Curry, you better watch your back. You ain’t gonna see your next birthday.” He left the saloon with his two friends in tow.

The bartender approached Jed with another cold beer. “Appreciate you tryin’ to keep the peace. Have a beer on me—for your birthday.”

“Well, thank you, sir.” Jed took a sip of beer and licked away the foamy mustache on his upper lip. “Can you tell me where I might find a good steak dinner in this town?”

“That’d be the hotel diner—opens in an hour or so for the dinner crowd.”

Jed slowly sipped his third beer enjoying the coolness of the bar and the fact that he wasn’t sitting on a horse. He couldn’t help but reminisce about past birthdays—getting his first slingshot when he turned five, the birthday cakes his ma baked him, that first birthday in the Home with just Heyes, and his seventeenth birthday when he and Heyes learned all about women. A slight smile came with that memory. What was her name…oh yeah, Grace! Jed sighed as he thought of Grace and what she taught him.

The hour waiting for the diner to open quickly flew by and Jed pushed himself from the bar. As he exited the saloon, two sets of hands gripped his arms and steered him into the street. They were the friends of the troublemaker in the saloon.

“You have a meetin’ to keep, Kid Curry,” one of them sneered.

“I do?” Jed asked, dreading the thought of what was about to happen.

They walked Jed into the middle of the street and stopped. “He’s here, Donny,” the older friend shouted out.

Donny walked out of an alley and into the middle of the street. “You embarrassed me, Kid Curry, in the saloon in front of my Hattie. Time you learned a lesson.”

“Sir, I don’t wanna have a gunfight with you,” Jed calmly said, though his stomach began to turn.

“You wear your gun tied down means you wanna fight.”

“No sir, I don’t wanna fight you.”

The town folks began gathering along the sides of the street out of the way of a gunfight. A young boy ran into the sheriff’s office to make him aware of what was happening.

“You can let him go, boys; he ain’t goin’ nowhere,” Donny said as he took a stance and hovered his hand above his gun.

“Sir…” Jed tried one more time to stop the fight.

“Are you ready to die?”

Jed sighed and prepared himself for the inevitable. He took a deep breath and slowly released it as he put on his gloves and took a stance. His eyes became a steely, cold blue as he stared down his opponent. He waited for a movement—he wasn’t going to be the first to go for his gun.

The seconds seemed like hours….

Donny suddenly went for his gun and moved to the right at the same time he shot his gun. Jed cleared the leather holster and fired before Donny had pulled the trigger, aiming for his gun hand as had become his custom. He didn’t want to kill anyone if at all avoidable. Donny’s movement caused the bullet to find its mark…on his chest.

Donny looked surprised as he watched the red spot on his shirt quickly spread. Gasping his chest, he fell to his knees and then face down on the dirt.

Jed dropped his hand with the gun to his side and watched in horror. He hadn’t aimed at his chest…he had aimed for his hand. Why had he moved? Jed began to feel sick…really sick.

“Get the doctor!” someone yelled.

“It’s too late,” another commented.

Jed ran from the street, past the crowds and into an alley. He leaned against the building breathing heavily, holstered his gun, and grabbed his stomach. He felt sick…no, he was gonna be sick. Jed bent over and became violently ill. Soon he was on his knees rocking back and forth. I killed a man…I killed a man…god, why did he have to move? played over and over in his mind.

“Son, are you okay?”

Jed looked up to see the sheriff nearby. He nodded affirmatively, but didn’t say a word.

“It wasn’t your fault. I have plenty of witnesses saying it was self-defense. Donny was the one pushing for the fight; you tried to stop it.”

Jed listened, but didn’t comment on the sheriff’s words.

“Come on, son, let’s get you cleaned up,” the sheriff offered a hand to the kid kneeling on the ground.

When Jed looked up, the sheriff saw the sorrow and anguish in his blue eyes. Jed reached out and took the offered hand. “I didn’t mean to kill him…I was aiming for his gun hand. He moved,” he tried to justify what had just happened.

“Just come with me, son.” The sheriff led Jed through the people and into his office.

When he saw the jail cells, Jed panicked, “Are you gonna arrest me for murder?”

“No, no…just wanted to get you away from the crowd. Do you have a hotel room? Would you rather go there?” asked the sheriff.

Jed looked down and shook his head no.

“What’s your name, son?”

“Curry, Jed Curry.”

“Jed Curry, it’s nice to meet you. Name’s Sheriff Johnson. There’s a bowl for water and a pump out back for washin’ up. There’s some coffee on the stove, too. You need your saddlebag?

“Please, I left it with my horse in the livery…the chestnut mustang.”

“I’ll go get it while you clean up. Then we’re gonna have a talk.”

“Yes sir.” Jed poured a cup of coffee and took a few swallows to get the rancid taste out of his mouth. Looking at the wanted posters on the wall, he shook his head when he saw one for Hannibal Heyes, his cousin. Guess that meant Heyes was still alive if he was still wanted. He took the bowl and pumped water in it. Taking off his shirt and henley, he rinsed his face, arms and chest. The sheriff came back with his saddlebag so Jed put on a clean shirt and brushed his teeth with baking soda.

“Thank you, sir. You wanted to talk?”

“I do, sit down.” Jed sat down and the sheriff continued. “How old are you, Jed?”

“Turned nineteen today, sir.”

“It’s your birthday…today?” Jed nodded and the sheriff shook his head. “Not your best birthday, huh.” Jed shook his head no.

“Where’s your family?”

“Gone…killed in the border wars.”

“You have no one?”

Jed hesitated as he glanced at Heyes’ wanted poster. “Nope, no one.”

“Why is it you carry a tied-down gun? Only gunslingers wear their guns like that.”

“For protectin’ me and mine, sir, since I’m on my own and all.”

Sheriff Johnson nodded. “Well, you sure are fast! Never seen anyone faster.”

Jed looked down as he wrung his hands together in his lap, “Lots of practice, I guess.”

“More than just practice…you got a gift, if you can call it that. Hungry?”

Jed though for a moment and realized he was indeed hungry. He nodded his head.

“Let’s go to the diner, my treat, for your birthday.”

Sheriff Johnson and Jed dined on thick steak dinners and finished with pieces of blueberry pie and coffee. The sheriff made small talk with the young man, trying to help him come to terms with what happened that afternoon. Killing a man was never an easy thing. Killing for the first time was traumatic.

After dinner, the sheriff gave Jed last-minute words of advice. He reminded him that the killing was self-defense and encouraged him to stop wandering and settle down.

“Yes sir; thank you for dinner and all you’ve done,” Jed waved good-bye to the sheriff. Instead of staying in town with the folks talking about the stand off, Jed decided to leave and get far away from Dry Creek. Dry Creek…where he killed for the first time.

Jed went to the livery and saddled up his mustang. “I’m sorry; I know I promised you a night inside, but it can’t be helped,” he quietly whispered to the horse as he mounted her. “It’s gettin’ dark; we ain’t goin’ far.” He was right; they didn’t make it very far.

Just outside of town, Jed heard the sound of guns being cocked. “Stop right there, Kid Curry! Throw down your gun and put your hands on your head.”

Jed grimaced when he heard ‘Kid Curry’. It could only mean the friends of the man he killed. He threw down his gun and put his hands on his head as instructed. The friends came out from their hiding place, guns pointed at Jed. One grabbed him by his pants belt, pulled him off his horse and onto the ground while the other kicked his gun away.

“You killed our friend! Now you’re gonna die,” the older man said as he kicked Jed in the ribs.

The younger man passed the whiskey bottle to his friend and kicked Jed in the small of the back.

Jed held his breath and slowly released it, waiting for the pain to subside. “I didn’t mean to kill him; he moved. Didn’t want to have a stand off in the first place.”

That earned him several kicks in the abdomen. Jed curled up in a ball and moaned from the pain.

“How we gonna do it?” asked the younger man as he grabbed the bottle and took a drink.

“Sheesh…I dunno. How ya think Donny would want us to do it?”

“Gotta be painful.”

The older man smiled and took the whiskey back. “Yup. How ‘bout shootin’ him limb by limb?”

“Nah, too noisy; Sheriff will hear. How ‘bout hangin’ him up on main street where everyone can see him in the mornin’?”

“I don’t want my ma to see that when she goes to the store. We could tie him up and let his horse drag him outta town.”

“That sounds good. I’ll get the rope.” The younger man got rope from his horse and tied one end to Jed’s saddle horn. He brought the other end of the rope over to Jed, who was still curled up, to tie him up. When he bent over to wrap the rope around Jed’s feet, Jed kicked as hard as he could, knocking the man on the ground. Jed quickly got up and punched the surprised older man, first in the gut and then in the face. The two drunken friends didn’t have a chance.

Jed grabbed his gun from the ground, jumped on his horse and spurred her away.

Several miles later, Jed slowed his horse to a walk so they both could catch their breaths. Jed thought about what he could’ve--should’ve--done different. Having a partner would’ve made a difference. He needed a partner; someone to watch his back and whose back he’d watch. Bein’ on his own was dangerous. Jed sighed as he thought about Heyes and wondered what he was doin’…if he remembered it was his birthday.

Dang, this was a horrible birthday…a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad birthday!



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