By Matthew Senn
I sit down to the smell of steak and skunk beer. There’s a greying woman behind the saloon bar flipping meals and meat with a rusty fork. She turns and smiles holding out a finger for me to wait.
“Take your time. There’s no hurry.”
“Cold out there?”
I adjust in my seat and pull a wallet out of my buffalo hide coat. Puttin’ the mares for Mexico up for the night set me back a bit. This steak dinner will do it even more. But it smells too damn good to pass up. I put the wallet back and pull out a pouch of tobacco and a rolling paper. Figure I’ll smoke while I wait.
The old broad turns around with a silver-colored plate of grey meat and sets in on the counter.
“Irving, come and get it.”
Somebody behind me playin’ dice with his buddies stands up and grabs the plate. I watch him sit back down and ignore the game for the most part as he eats up what’s in front of him. Must be a cowhand, hungry from the day or those grey steaks are really as good as they smell.
There’s a lit match in my face when I turn back around and the old broad lights my cigarette.
“Now,” she says as she throws the burnt match into an empty coffee cup nearby, “what can I do you for, stranger?”
“I wouldn’t mind one a them steaks and a bottle a whiskey. How much that gonna run me?”
“Four bits. Girls upstairs’ll cost a bit more,” she winked.
“Heh, sounds good.”
The old broad winks, “Be back with the bottle, hun.”
I nod my thanks and take a long drag off my cigarette, exhaling I watch the smoke rise past a janky lookin’ chandelier and a dirty mirror behind the bar.
“I know you.”
I don’t turn. Or look. Voice behind me is callin’ out. Either wants trouble or to make a name for hisself, which is worth more than a fair share of trouble.
“Hey sonny, I’m talkin’ to ya.”
I look to the mirror and can’t make out the faces in the brown smudges, or how close whoever be yappin’ is.
Somebody behind me finally responds though, “Am I sposed ta know you, friend?”
I turn and there’s a drunk fella, barely able to stand, next to the hungry cowhand and his pals. Fella’s pointin’ towards the one with his back against me. Can’t see his face. The drunk man stumbles over his words:
“I asked if you Blue.”
“No, son, I ain’t. I’m a preacher. Sober as a saint.”
The drunk fella backs off and makes his way to the door. The cowhand asks what the hell that was all about and the pastor says somethin’ that makes the whole table laugh.
The old dame sets down the bottle and I lift it to my lips. All a sudden the whole damn thing shatters all over my face ‘n’ lap. Cuts me good. She screams out behind the bar and drops the fork onto the floor.
My eyes burn as I turn back to the doorway and barely make out the drunk fella back with his pistol pointed at me.
This time though, he ain’t stumblin’.
“I thought it was you Henry ‘Sunny’ Driscoll. They said I wouldn’t never catch up ta ya, but I got you now you sonuvabitch.”
He fires off another round and catches me in the hand. It knocks my recently grabbed pistol onto the floor and under a stool. He’s good. Real good. I jump over the bar and land onto some more shattered glass.
Fella yells out for me, “Yer just bidin’ time Driscoll.”
He fires a few more rounds, catchin’ the wood on the bar and the stools. I grab the fork the old lady dropped and wait for him to ‘round the end of the bar.
That’s when I shove it into his right leg. He yelps and hobbles around while I yank his pistol and see the rifle under the bar. I pick it up best I can when the old lady speaks, “It ain’t loaded mister. Just for show mostly.”
I say “fine” and push the fella down on his ass. Beat the butt of the for-show rifle into the drunk fellas head ‘til it caves in.
“My God… did you know this man?”, the preacher asks.
I didn’t. Sheriff come in not too much longer after that. He did that typical round a questioning they do. Found myself spending a few nights in a jail cell, ‘til the local judge come back from a hunting trip down south.
Didn’t fight it. They got me on murder and horse theft. I only asked for one little favor: One steak.
Bio: Matthew Senn is a writer of western flash fiction. He received his bachelor’s from Grand Valley State University, and will pursue his master’s in creative writing next fall at Central Michigan University. His work has been featured in Dime Show Review, Open: Journal of Arts, Fishladder by GVSU, as well as a few upcoming publications. He dreams of moving out West, and teaching writing.