Another snippet of writing before I start editing the novel.
At the edge of town, where the last wooden house creaked, its paint cracked and peeling and fallen down in small flakes and, lately, large chunks, met the endless waste of the desert, scattered with rocks and picked out with the distant, wavering green of cacti stood a man. His black shirt clung to him in reams of sweat, his black trousers lead down to black boots and a black hat shaded his face. A red kerchief was tied around the hat, the colour matching the sunburt skin of his forearms. It did you no good standing around in this heat, skin unprotected like that, but the man didn’t seem to mind. Or maybe he no longer cared.
Blue grey smoke curled around his face, the glow of a cigarette flaring, suddenly bright with renewed vigour, as he sucked in the smoke. He dropped the cigarette to the dusty sand and crushed it under the toe of his boot. I covered my eyes as the sun caught the silver of the pistol strapped to his thigh and shone, its light painful to look at, bright even in the brightness of the day.
Noon. It was about to begin.
At the other end of the short street walked a man, grey haired, lean and thin and dressed in brown, under the red dust of the desert. He walked slowly down the street, kicking up dust with every step, taking his own sweet time about it. I took a drag on my cigarette, savouring the bitter taste of the tobacco and the light buzz of the nicotene rush. The man rubbed at a spot of dust on his jacket with the back of his hand. Five paces closer. His hand dropped to his side, near the pistol he wore, dull and dusty, like the rest of him. Where his hand had been flickered a silver star, caked with dust, bright in places, dull in others. Another drag of the cigarette and he was another five paces closer, the sheriff’s badge leading him onwards, lighting his way and marking his path.
Another drag, another nicotine rush and the two men stood facing each other, the distance of one broken down house between them.
“You’re not welcome here,” shouted the man in brown. His feet twitched, restless in the dirt, his thumb caressed the handle of his pistol.
“The people of the town think otherwise,” shouted the man in black, not moving, sweat dripping down his arms.
“If you leave now, I’ll make no more of it,” shouted the man in brown, as he eased back the hammer of his pistol, “There’ll be no report, no warrant poster. You just leave, peaceful like, and there’ll be no trouble.”
“I don’t reckon I’ll be doing that.”
I stubbed my cigarette out on the wooden floor of the porch and looked between the two of them. I’d lost count of the number of men Old Man Johnson had shot down in this street. I swear the reason the desert is red is because of all the bodies I’ve had to bury for him.
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