Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Horse Opera With No Name

A Horse Opera With No Name

Billy "The Flea" Bucksaw stood at the bar and kicked the sawdust out from under his boots. His silver spurs glittered in the dim sunlight that streamed through the dusty front windows as Billy turned to look vaguely around the Bar None Saloon.

It was just high noon, and the place was pretty much empty. A few old-timers were seated at a small wooden table near the front doors. They were smoking dark rollies and drinking corn liquor from a single bottle while they dealt cards to one another. At another table, a saloon girl fussed with her hair and repeatedly smoothed out the folds of her flowing skirt. She was young, Billy thought, too young to be a working girl.

As Billy stared her way, she caught a sense that he was watching her, and she turned her face toward him and offered him a crooked smile. Billy held her gaze for a minute, then with a twitch of his steel grey eyes and a twist of his Stetson, he called her over to the bar. She seemed to float across the floor as she sidled up beside him.

"You new in town?" she asked with a frail-sounding voice.

"Ayyup," Billy deadpanned.

"Here with the cattle drive?"


"Some other business, then?"


"My name is Penelope Penchant," she said as she casually brushed her tight bodice up against Billy. "Maybe you'd like to buy a lady a drink?"

Billy looked into her eyes. One was slightly swollen and a yellow bruise underlay a heavy cake of makeup. She caught his thought before he said anything and turned her face half away. Billy reached over, his rawhide glove touched her gently on the chin, and he turned her face back toward him.

"None of your business, really," she said, her voice becoming hoarse and throaty. "Best leave off your questions, and just buy a nice lady a drink."

Billy frowned. "I'll buy you that drink for a piece of information," he grumbled.

"What do you want to know?" she asked. Her face hardened and lost its colour as Billy looked her up and down. After an awkward minute, she repeated, "What do you want to know?" and then added, "Sometimes, here in Sagedust, a man's better off knowing nothing."

Billy's eyes narrowed and his right hand involuntarily traced the outline of his Colt '45, slung low in its holster on his right hip. "I'm looking for someone," Billy began.

"Someone special, I reckon. Maybe even someone like me?" she purred.

"A man," Billy growled. "A man with an iron fist."

"No man in this town like that, mister. No man with an iron fist, that's for sure. Just regular Joes is all we got here."

"Regular Joes?"

"Yep. Regular Joes.'"

"Is that really the line? 'Regular Joes'?"


"I don't think they said 'Regular Joes' back in the wild west."

"Huh? What are you doing?"

"It's not what I'm doing ..."

"Why are you stopping?"

"I don't get this whole scenario. What's Kennedy doing?"

"I dunno. He wanted to write a horse opera, a cowboy story. I got a call from my agent yesterday. She said to show up for the story in a frilly dress. Hey, not really my usual gig, but I need the work."

"At least you got some straight information. I was told that I was being cast as a spy."

"Not a cowboy?"


"Hmmm. That's odd."

"So I showed up expecting a spy thriller. Secret agent stuff. Eastern Europe setting. Berlin, I think. Then I get here, and suddenly, I'm some kind of gunslinger named, Billy 'The Flea' Bucksaw. I don't mind being a cowboy, you understand, because the money is right. But I've no idea why I'm known as 'The Flea'."

"Nasty little pests."


"Fleas ... nasty. Once had a cat with a bad case of fleas. Maybe you're supposed to be some nasty little character."

"Who knows? It bugs me when the guy makes up stuff as he goes along."

"That's what writers do, I guess."

"Yeah. Just doesn't seem right, sometimes. We're like pawns that someone else gets to move around the chess board of life."

"Wow. Nice combination of simile and metaphor."

"Huh? Oh yeah, thanks."

"Maybe you should be a writer."

"Well, I figure, just because we're imaginary characters doesn't mean we don't have anything to add."

"Hey, I remember talking to you before. Didn't we work together already?"

"Yeah, you know, I was thinking the same thing. You look familiar."

"Weren't you in that Ouija story?"

"Yeah. Just a minor character though. But you had a leading role in that story, didn't you?"

"Well, not sure it was a leading role. I was a gypsy fortune teller. Logged almost a whole chapter."

"That's right. Great job by the way."

"Thanks. That was some tough role. I had to gain thirty pounds and add twenty years to my age, and I did all that with only a few hours' notice."

"Well, fortune teller, any idea where this story is going?"

"Not really. All I know is that I'm supposed to go upstairs with you, and when you fall asleep, I steal your gun."

"There must be a sex scene, then?"

"Yes, a short one."

"Well, I'm not up to that. Not today."

"No? Really? Why? Is it me?"

"No. It's not you. It's just ... oh ... I don't know. It's just that I've been feeling a little vacant lately."

"I know what you mean. It's tough being a fictional character. Sometimes I feel like a freaking stereotype. Nothing but a giddy puppet."

"Yeah, real people don't know."

"Real people have it easy. They get to dance around with their free will. We get our whole lives plotted out for us."

"Yeah. No kidding. One day, we're heroes; the next day, we're villains. One day, we're living the good life; the next day, we're getting killed off in some oh-so-dramatic tragedy."

"Well ..."

"Yeah, I know ..."

As the afternoon passed in waves of searing heat, the girl, or maybe it was the liquor, wooed Billy into feeling comfortable around her. Before long, Penelope Penchant and Billy "The Flea" Bucksaw were climbing the stairs of the Bar None Saloon to one of the private rooms above the bar.

Outside, just at the edge of Sagedust, a cloud of dust swirled beneath the hooves of a black stallion. In the saddle, a heavyset man in a black hat and a long black cloak sat with a look of vile disdain on his face. He wore a double holster bearing bright nickel-plated six-guns, but the one on his left hip had no handle. Instead, it was specially designed to fit the man's prosthetic left hand, a crude looking contraption that resembled an iron fist.

His dry chapped lips were cracked with streaks of blood that spit outwards into the hot air as he muttered to himself, "What the hell? This sure doesn't look like Berlin."



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