Things have gone rather quiet so here’s a story

It’s about time I livened things up around here by offering you a story. So here you are. If you’ve read Annie Proulx novel “That Old Ace in the Hole” you may see how it has influenced my in this little story. That and cowboy films of my youth perhaps. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

Stories of America’s Wild West: No 643
by Cath Barton
The door of Dixie’s Diner swung open and crashed, as it always did, into Little Jessie’s chair. Folks around here have wondered for a long time why he persisted in sitting there. Of course a bit of his brain got knocked out in that rodeo accident back when, so that could be why.
As usual, Little Jess just carried on eating as the stranger came in. All other eyes in the Diner slid towards the tall guy in the red jacket. Folks around here don’t generally wear red jackets. There was a time… but that’s another story and you’re wanting to know about the tall guy. Tell us, Joe, I hear you crying out from your rocking chair, as you’re reading this in the twilight on your veranda. Tell us the story.
Well, the guy, name of Mo, we discovered, was not from round here. Aw, you knew that bit. Ha! You’re a smart cookie, always were. Mo was from the Panhandle. Dirty River way. And he was a-passing through Tall Pines on his way to pick up some cattle from up river. Needed to eat and saw the sign. Only thing, Mo did not know that things in Dixie’s Diner do not accommodate strangers. That we have, as you might say, business being transacted there. Folks were not happy, not happy at all. You’d have said they’d all stopped breathing, it fell so quiet. The silence was broken by a loud clattering noise as old Little Jessie’s false teeth dropped out of his mouth and every eye in the place watched them fall and bounce, real slow, till they landed and rocked gently at the feet of big Mo. Jessie sat there gasping like a dying fish as Mo bent down.
“Somebody own these?” he drawled. Little Jess sprang across the room and next thing they were brawling. Jess was strong, the accident had somehow made him stronger if anything, and he had the big man down on that sawdust quick as you could say Doggone. The folks were whistling and soon enough they were cheering. Especially as this little – what shall we call it? – altercation gave those furthest away from the action a chance to tidy things up. You know what I mean – hide the evidence.
But it started looking as bit serious for this Mo, so folks dragged Jessie off him and dusted them both down.
“Hey, fella”, drawled Mo, “You pack a punch.”
“Nah un es ss i eye ee,” It was difficult to understand the little guy without his teeth in, but his point was clear.
Funnily enough, they became best buddies. Mo persuaded Jess to move away from that seat behind the door and they sit together in the middle of the room anytime Mo’s passing through. The incident’s water under the bridge and Mo is, you get my drift, one of us now.

About Cath Barton

Cath Barton is an English writer who lives in South Wales. In June 2017 she was awarded the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella, and her novella The Plankton Collector was published by New Welsh Review in September 2018. Her second novella, In the Sweep of the Bay, was published by Louise Walters Books in November 2020. Cath is also active in the on-line community of writers of flash fiction.
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