Flash Friday 25/04/2014: For Whom The Bell Tolls
Sharpshot Sean grinned wide, contorting the scars on his face, his ten-gallon hat casting shadow over his face. “On the first ring of a bell, draw and shoot, partner. Whoever’s still alive gets to be the new sheriff of this town. You get me?”
Sheriff Parker wasn’t entirely sure how he got here in the first place. Then again, he was the kind of man who didn’t look like he had a place in the Wild West at all, let alone running a small town in it. Everyone who rolled into town looking for the sheriff were always surprised to see the quite old, quite rotund, 5′ tall man with a thick white beard and glasses with lenses thick enough to be bulletproof. Everyone thought he’d be easy game. Given that Sheriff Parker still drew breath and kept his sheriff’s badge, it’s clear that some misjudgements were made.
Sheriff Parker waved his fingers over his holstered gun like an excited spider, both eyes locked on the clock on the town hall’s bell tower. Twelve fifty-nine and thirty seconds.
The crowd surrounding the duo were as silent as they could be. Nobody knew how Sheriff Parker was going to defeat Sharpshot Sean. Then again, nobody knew how he was going to defeat any of the bandits that rolled into Little New Town, and yet here they were. However, there was an air about the place that this may very well be Sheriff Parker’s final fight. Everyone hoped this wouldn’t be the case. Sheriff Parker’s Tuesday Pie Nights at the town hall were irreplaceable.
“Know what I’m gonna do with yer people when I fill you fulla lead?” Sharpshot Sean said.
Sheriff Parker shook his head.
“You know some people pay real nice coin for some slaves? Men, women, children…all of ’em have a niche they can fill. I’m gonna get rich off the people that lived in this backwards town you call a livin’, Parker. And there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it. Not even the finest can out-draw Sharpshot Sean. I should know.”
Sheriff Parker looked the clock. Twenty seconds to go.
“No point eyeballin’ the clock. It’s yer ears that’s gonna be the key part. Well, that, and yer muscles. I can rightly say that an old fogey like you had their twitch muscle all burnt out by the time you could outlast a fine wine. Still, even if you don’t bother movin’, you’d be puttin’ up just a good a fight as anyone else. With their reflexes, it’s like shootin’ a statue.”
Sheriff Parker eyed the clock, regardless. Five seconds.
Not even Sharpshot Sean said a word, his chatty nature subverted as every ounce of his energy went into focusing on the task at hand. Sheriff Parker was thinking with equal intensity, sweat beading on his forehead. Unfortunately, unlike Sean, Sheriff Parker was focusing on tonight’s dinner. It was pie — it was never not pie — and baked by his sweet, tall, curvaceous wife, as usual. What he would give to have his pie right now. How long does it take to cook those things, anyway? Sometimes it felt like a damn eternity. In fact, he could smell it from here. It definitely smelt done, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, past experience told him that it only meant he had to wait another hour or so. He didn’t know why he was standing out on the street instead of checking if the pie has been cooked yet.
Wait, why was he here again?
Oh, right. The shooting thing.
The second hand ticked over, carrying the other hands with it. It was now twelve.
Both men froze. Both men stared. Both men had a hand over their guns, waiting for the hour bell which was the last thing anyone would expect to be late, of all things. The second hand marched on. Still no bell.
“The hell?” Sharpshot Sean looked up at the clock. “Where’s the bell?”
A man in the crowd raised a hand. “Oh, uh, I think it got broke like a few days ago. Still ain’t got round to fixing it. Sorry.”
Sharpshot Sean growled. “You could have told me before we started a duel that depends on the darn thing!”
“Well, I only just remembered. Sorry.”
Sharpshot Sean sighed, giving a heavy shrug. “Well, whatever. I was hoping for a good shootout, but it looks like we’re just going to have to sort something else o–”
Before he could finish, the door of Sheriff Parker’s house burst open. Tracey, Sheriff Parker’s wife, was leaning out of it, ringing a tiny bell. “Parky-poo!” she called, as if speaking to children playing football in the garden. “It’s time for your dinner!”
Sharpshot Sean flinched, a hand drawing his revolver, pointing it at Sheriff Parker. Then, a sigh, and a relaxed laugh. “Man, that bells of hers made me think the dual had started. Damn near gave me a heart attack. I mean, I don’t have to even say that that bell doesn’t count when I said ‘first ring of a bell’. I mean, everyone knows–”
A gunshot. Sharpshot Sean clutched his chest, falling to the ground.
Sheriff Parker blew the smoke off of his gun.
Everyone cheered all at once.
“My hero!” Tracey said, parting the crowd to give Sheriff Parker a tight hug. “I knew you could save Little New Town once again. Now, let’s go inside and get your favourite — a nice, big helping of buffalo pie!”
Sheriff Parker gave a soft smile, pocketing his gun to exchange the favour. He probably had the highest winning streak yet, even if nobody outside of Little New Town would believe it.