Friday, December 12, 2014

Humiliation Coffee and Purgatory Pie (Wranglers' Canyon No. 8)

I revived in my jail cell, which was now occupied by me, myself and I, seeing as how Mumblin’ Pete got unceremoniously acquitted by the Kangaroo Court presided by that big, fat hyena. Judge Horseshit did something right – acquitting Pete, before he did something really, really wrong, which was sentence me to death by hanging.

It made me ponder about the bad things, and I mean the really bad things that I have done in the past, like the time I stole two plump chickens, and the time I stole some watermelon, and I lied to a gal, or two, maybe more. I suppose you could say it was temptation of the flesh that drove me to sin. And then there was that time I shot that bull, but I did not kill a God-fearing man, woman or child. But here I was, behind bars, sentenced to death.

But a man should be allowed to sin every once in a while, though. How can one learn the meaning of virtue if one hasn’t committed acts to make the devil proud? So what if I spent half my cattle driving days dozing off on my horse while I still got paid? Someone went home happy doing all the bossing while I did just what they wanted, riding my horse with both my eyes closed.

Everything is good or evil and there are no inbetweenies. If there was I’d be the king of it all. I’m too smart to be good and too dumb to be evil, and if I said it once I would say it again, once to the devil and twice to God. By the way, did you ever notice that when you take the D off of Devil it just means evil? Sitting in a jail cell all day makes you think things like that.

But all good things come to an end. I had a rude awakening the very next morning when I awoke with a gag tied around my mouth and my wrists cuffed behind me. Sheriff Frehley pulled me out of my call and dragged me outside where a small mob awaited.

It started with Miss Teresa tearing off my shirt so Miss Clara could write all over my chest in greasepaint, which looked something like, “I AM A YELLOW-BELLIED KILLER HANG ME NOW”. She took her time writing it while everybody laughed. I tried to twisty myself free but Sheriff punched me a few times in the face to keep me down.

What I didn’t expect next was when some pud puller from the saloon propped me up and Bo, the blacksmith, wrapped about two yards of barbed wire around my chest and neck, which made me scream in pain. There as blood seeping out of every part of my torso. Then he wrapped some more barbed wire around my head, which made everybody laugh some more.

“Well, well, well”, someone cracked, “He looks mighty familiar”.

Just to make sure they humiliated me even more they let some of the snot-nosed brats of the town tie a bunch of old tin cans around my waist, like I was some kind of damn fool cat. I couldn’t walk without a train of cans clanking around me.

“G’WAN!” Frehley smacked me on the behind. “GIT!”

“GIT!” the little kids whipped me with bush branches, and it hurt a little bit except when they hit me in my open wounds. Then that really hurt! It made my bleeding even worse.

Could there be an even worse sight than a poor old ranch hand cuffed behind his back, a thick gag in his mouth, a big mess o’ slander scrawled all over his body and a whole lot of barbed wire cutting up every nerve ending inside of him? No? I didn’t think so. They wanted to fix it so by the time they got through with me I’d be begging for a good and proper hanging.

I tried to crawl away from all this abuse, cans a’ clankin’ CLANK CLINK CLANK, but someone would go, “DON’T LET HIM GET AWAY!” and then I’d be taking punches in the face while some fucking brat would whip me with a branch. Frehley just stood there laughing it was all good fun.

Through all the blood and sweat pouring down my eyes I could see Sailor Jerry in the distance standing in front of his saloon, sadly shaking his head, clearly disgusted with what his neighbors were doing and perhaps empathizing with my plight.

Mayor Randall joined the mob, his fat gut pushing out all those brass buttons on his vest. He shushed the crowd and announced, “SO! YOU STILL WANT THE KEY TO THE CITY? WELLLL, HERE IT IS, MR. WALKER!”

And then he booted me so hard I fell down and ate dust. The fall made my barbed wire girdle cut into my arms and chest. I felt like screaming but I couldn’t because my mouth was silenced. This got a big laugh from everyone like they were at some smelly barn dance hoedown.

Bo jumped around in front of me cussing, “Yoo voo-man killer. I can’t vait to see you hang!”

I gave him the stinkiest stink eye I could still muster in my pain and strife. I got up on my knees and looked across the square at a furious Mumblin’ Pete, fingers twitching and fighting the impulse to reach for his guns and shoot everyone down. I looked at him and simply shook my head, “No….Don’t”.

Miss Clara began chanting, “SING US A SONG, PRETTY BOY!”
Miss Teresa kicked me in the face (It didn’t hurt – gals can’t kick for shit) and joined in. “YEAH, PRETTY BOY, SING US A SONG!!!”

Everybody brayed like a pack of constipated jackals and joined in yelling at me. “SING US A SONG, PRE-TTEEE BOY!”

Some of these turd eaters even imitated my yodeling. Now that really hurt! I am the best bona-fide yodeler west of the Pecos and they had the nerve to mock my yodeling. If I ever got the chance to break from my bonds I was going to strangle everyone who mocked my yodeling.

Frehley finally showed a tad of mercy after some polecat threw a rock at the back of my head and I almost passed out from the impact. He called over Deputy Shugg.

“Give me a hand, Shugg, with this hombre. He’s got another day of freedom before he meets his maker”. Shugg ambled over with a real disgusted look on his face. “Never let it be said that I allowed an unclean execution in my town”.

So these two numb nuts grabbed me by the legs and wheel barrowed me up the steps to the Sheriff’s office to my jail cell while a chorus of angry townfolk screamed their rotting lungs out. Those two slatterns were still screaming, “SING US A SONG, PRETTY BOY!” I figured they were too stupid to think of yelling anything else.

My body was so numb from the shock of the metal stabbing my flesh that I quickly passed out in my bunk.

When I awoke, Sailor Jerry and Mumblin’ Pete had a tiny palaver with Sheriff Frehley. Frehley joked to Pete, “You must like this place some to come back. Sure you don’t want to join your old buddy?”

Sailor Jerry moseyed over to my cell and held on to the bar with his hook.

“How you holding up, son? You look awful bad”.
“Bjh fghdb ikio reytu retwy!” Pete buzzed. I hobbled over to them both, tin cans clanking behind me. Mumblin’ Pete loosened my gag.

“WHAT’S GOING ON THERE?” Frehley craned his head from his desk.
“Nothing, Sheriff. Everything’s just okey-dokey”, Jerry fake smiled.
I breathed a sigh of relief after having the bond on my mouth loosened.

“Now, listen up, Pete”, I whispered, “The best thing you can do right now is ride around the Hiss Ranch and have a look-see at what they’re doing. I reckon they’re responsible for the murder of Miss Willa”.

“WHO’S WHISPERING OVER THERE?”
“Just Pete, Sheriff!” Jerry lied. “He’s praying for his condemned friend”.
“Huh!” Frehley snorted.

“They don’t give a damn about the bull or the clown”, I continued whispering. “They just want to see some blood shed over that dead gal, and I’ll just bet it was a revenge kill from Hiss and his boys”.

“Zx fgr uith nhdg tyer!” Pete agreed, nodding his head.
“OKAY, DANG IT, THAT’S ENOUGH JAWING FROM YOU TWO”, Frehley angrily stomped over. Pete jumped over and shoved the gag in my mouth again. They both cleared out leaving me back to my state of shock. I’ve always been a good dancer, but I never counted on ending my life dancing at the end of a rope.

My peace was further interrupted that night by a noisy mob outside, most likely the same bunch who acted up earlier that day. It made me wonder what these folks did with their time before this whole ruckus began.

The mob barged into the Sheriff’s office and since Sheriff was out blowing suds at Sailor Jerry’s that meant that I was temporarily under the jurisdiction of that stupid Deputy Shugg. It didn’t help that the leader of the mob this time was some pock-marked preacher man.

The preacher was a tall, thin man with a receding hairline. His nose was very long and his chin was even longer so he had the look of frowning even when he didn’t do any frowning. He dressed all in black but his clothes looked like they were meant for a fat man because they hung off him like was some kind of scarecrow.

“Deputy, before you expedite justice upon the head of your prisoner I wish to request a formal hearing before the Lord, Jesus Christ. Yea, Jesus spake to me and commanded me to present this sinner to Him so that said sinner would be allowed one last chance to repent”, the pit-faced holy man commanded.

“This here man is in my custody and I cannot endanger the safety of the people of Jonestown by letting him out of my sight”, Shugg whined.

“Deputy! Please! The Lord awaits!”
This made Shugg kinda rinse the whole business in his mouth. He sat there hemming and hawing the whole time while the minister and a few minions stood around shuffling their feet like they had to pee.

“Well, all right, if it’s God stuff”, Shugg nodded his head like some stupid bloodhound. “But he ain’t leaving my sight and the cuffs stay on! AND, you can have him for only ten minutes, Father Timmons”.

Here we go again, getting my sore, torn-up body dragged out of my cell and pulled out for everyone’s entertainment.

I got dragged out into the dark night into the street all lit up with dozens of flaming torches held by the same group of idiots. There were the church women, the dentists, the bank and insurance flim-flammers, and a passel of citizens I never did have the pleasure of meeting yet.

Timmons had a little soap box he stood on top of. He had a Good Book in one hand and the other he did a lot of finger-pointing and waving.

“Bring him to me! Bring him upon the eyes of the Lord!” he commanded.

They dragged my barbed wire-bound body with the “YELLOW-BELLIED KILLER HANG ME” scrawl still loud enough to see.The crowd formed a circle around the minister with Shugg hanging on to me like he was afraid I was going to fly away.

“Bring this sinner upon me! Tonight, the night before this killer’s unclean soul will be delivered to his Maker, tonight is your last chance to beg upon your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ for forgiveness, lest you burn in eternal damnation. Repent for the souls you have taken, repent for the murders of three innocent servants of Christ Almighty. Let us all say, Amen!”

“AMEN!” everyone chanted, raising their torches. The light from the torches made the pock marks on his face stick out like the craters of the moon.

“O, Lord, please show mercy upon this lost soul in the wilderness misguided by Satan and slew three souls in the promise of their lives. Please grant this misbegotten gent one last chance to redeem himself before his final days, what say thee?”

“REPENT!” everyone chanted, especially some fat, toothless woman with a puss like a snapping turtle. I wouldn’t kiss her pan on a gold-lugging prospector’s dare.

“Then, Brother Shugg, I pray thee, loosen the bonds on his face so he may finally repent before his final day of judgment!” Timmons made with the hands again, twisting his wrists like some two-bit magician. Shugg complied and undid my gag.

“What say thee, brother?”
I cleared my throat and blew out a loogie that almost ricocheted off of Ol’ Turtle Face.
“If my dick was as long as your tongue you’d be the happiest son of a bitch in Hell!” I growled.

Everyone gasped.
“SACRILEGE!”
“BLASPHEMY!”
“THE DEVIL HAS SPOKEN!”

Shugg jammed the gag back on my face. “Okay, folks, that’s enough. Showtime’s over!” Like a rag doll I was dragged back from the dusty street with the good church folk spitting on me all the way to my jail cell.

It took me awhile to sleep peacefully with those pins digging into me but I did my best to just pass out without tossing and turning. I slept and I dreamt and then it was the big day. The final day of judgment.

I could hear a lot of noise outside like there was a carnival being set up. Didn’t make much sense since this was the day I was going to hang, but there were crowds and sounds of things being built. Sheriff Frehley didn’t spend much time talking to me anymore, probably because he felt guilty he was going to send his old drinking buddy Crash Walker to his death.

I tried to say something but then I realized my mouth was still gagged. I thanked the good Lord above I could breathe through my nose real good, otherwise I’d suffocate to death.

“Do you hear that, Hoss? They’re building your gallows, they’re building it god-damned high so when the floor drops you’ll swing real good”, he told me as he pulled out a fifth from his desk and bought himself a shot. I sure could’ve used one right then and there.

An hour went by and he had a few more shots. Deputy Shugg walked in and murmured a bunch of stuff I didn’t catch. Frehley nodded his head and said, “Well, if Timmons is finally off his bender we can get started. Let’s get this shooting match over and done with”.

He finally got off his traitorous ass and opened my cell.
“Did you see the dummy out there?” He asked, referring to my only pal left.
“Yeah, he’s twitching and shaking like he already got hung from the rope”, Shugg chuckled.

Frehley laughed. “Yeah, it’s too bad we can’t make it a double hanging. Damn that Judge Horseshit”.

They hobbled me out of my cell with the cuffs behind me and the tin cans clanking, CLINK! CLANK! My head still throbbed from the rock which hit it in the back. We walked out into a day of blinding sunlight. I squinted my eyes and thought my skull was going to crack like an egg.

There was a fancy town picnic in full swing with the same band I once sung with. Folks were eating and kids were playing and games were going on, leapfrog, potato sack race, horse shoe tossing, etc. The only thing that spoiled the whole thing was a newly built set of gallows in the background.

Mayor Randall stood by the gallows above everyone and bellowed to one and all, “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MAY I PRESENT TO YOU, OUR GUEST OF HONOR, MISTER CRASH WALKER!”

People stopped what they were doing, playing and eating and drinking beer and began booing me like I was the villain in some stage show.

I looked across the street and Mumblin’ Pete was standing there with some big metal instrument in his hand, like some heavy pair of scissors. It made me wonder what that funny galoot had on his mind.

“ - BUT BEFORE THE GLORY OF GOD’S JUSTICE MAKES HIM PAY HIS DEBT TO SOCIETY HE’S GOING TO ENTERTAIN US ONE MORE TIME!”

Over my dead body am I going to sing for these bastards. But I was wrong. They didn’t want me to sing at all. Someone pulled out a donkey, a real surly one and attached it to a cart. Then they pulled another cart and placed the lead bit into my mouth.

“WE’RE GOING TO SEE WHO CAN RACE BETTER, A DONKEY OR A SINGING JACKASS!” Randall beamed. Everyone laughed uproariously. “PERSONALLY I NEVER SAW THE SINGING JACKASS LOOK ANY BETTER!”

They placed the donkey next to me and Shugg drew a line across for us to pass. Frehley stood at the end of the line, about two yards away with a victory flag. I tried to turn to see Pete but I couldn’t. The lead held my head up stiffly in one place.

“I’M PUTTING MONEY ON THE DONKEY. HOW ABOUT YOU FOLKS?”

Everyone laughed and clapped their hands, and some snip ran away from his daddy and kicked me real hard on the butt and ran back.

“ALRIGHTEE, NOW, LET’S GET THIS RACE HERE STARTED!” Randall announced.

Sheriff Frehley stood at the finish line with his piece raised high in the air. “ONE – FOR THE MONEEE!”

I could hear hoofbeats thundering towards the picnic grounds behind me, almost drowning out his voice.

“TWO – FER THE SHOW!!!!”

The thundering hoof beats got louder until a bunch of horses stopped right by me. I turned around so hard I thought my back was going to crack. Good lord Bejesus, it was Hiss and his bunch.

There were about ten hombres sitting on their horses all bigger and beefier than their nags, and they were all loaded with pistols and rifles.

Hiss, looking as ornery and mean as the day I first saw him, nodded at Frehley.
“Frehley, what’s goin’ on here?”
“We’re just havin’ ourselves a good ol’ picnic with our –“Randall barged in.
“Shut up, Mayor! I’m talking to the Sheriff”.

“He was sayin’ that we’re having ourselves a picnic along with a hanging”, Frehley had his hand on one hip and the other on his holster.
“A hanging! Ain’t nothing wrong with that”, Hiss smiled, his beady eyes gleaming, dark as night.

“Yes, you see, we –“Randall barged again.
“I SAID SHUT UP!” Hiss screamed.
“What he was tryin’ to say, Mister Hiss, is that we’re hanging the man who killed your boy. Justice will be served”, Frehley placated.

Hiss leaned into his saddle and looked at his men.
“And, who, pray tell, is the killer of my boy? I want to see that dirty buzzard”, he spat.
Frehley pointed at me, and said, “There’s your killer!”

Hiss stared hard at me with those ugly rattler eyes of his and then suddenly shook like crazy laughing his head off. He turned to his boys and they were all laughing their asses off, too.
“I gave you 48 hours to find me my boy’s killer and you toss me this ugly jackass? This stupid clown couldn’t kill a june bug!”

Frehley and Randall joined the laughter, too. Hiss’ laughter stopped and his smile twisted into a sneer.

“AND JUST WHAT KIND OF A DAMN FOOL IDIOT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR????”
“But he’s the killer, and-“
“FREHLEY, YOU’RE THE KILLER AND I ALWAYS KNEW IT”.
“No, you’re wrong –“

Hiss mumbled something to one of his men and in a second both ears were shot out of Frehley’s head. Then all ten hombres including Hiss opened fire on Frehley and shot him to pieces. Frehley’s body flew around like a puppet full of holes.

While this was happening all the womenfolk and the kiddies ran off screaming and squawking like old laying hens and I swear Shugg ran away, too.

Hiss said, “Let’s vamoose boys, we killed the scum!” and all the boys rode off. There were still a few hombres standing around watching Frehley twitch like a gutted frog, blood pouring out of every hole in him.

I pulled my cart towards him and leaning over, pulled off his badge and lifted it up towards me.
“Take it”, he whispered.
I took the badge and looked up for Mumblin’ Pete.

“PETE!!” Pete ran over and used the big metal cutters he was holding to cut off the barbed wire from me.
“Hgt riu njsh iojknk!”
He ripped the gag from my mouth and then searched Sheriff’s pockets and found the cuff keys, unlocking my hand cuffs. “Hgt riu njsh iojknk!”
I pumped some circulation from my arms. They were numb as hell and hurt like fuck.

What hurt like fuck even more was pulling the barbed wire out of my back and chest and pulling it out of my hair. But I was standing up straight again. I faced the crowd and lifted up the dead man’s badge for all to see.

“NOW, LISTEN UP YOU COCKSUCKERS! I’M HOLDING THE BADGE NOW, I'M THE MAN AND YOU ALL BELONG TO ME!!!!”

WRANGLERS’ CANYON

END PART ONE

Be sure to get a copy of the complete novel "Wranglers' Canyon" in eBook form to be released in July 2015 by Book Baby. Don't miss it!

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