Authors: Robert J. Conley
I had to ride real careful acrost that place in the road to keep from riding right through some sloppy mess what I had made there. Even so my ole nag stepped right on a piece a' arm what was right in the middle a' the road. It made me kinda wince. “Damn fools,” I said, “think you can hold me up.” The rest a' the way over to the county seat I was thinking about that damned Chugwater and
what I would like to do to him whenever I got me the chance to do it. I pulled out my bottle now and then and had me a swig a' that good stuff.
I was feeling pretty damn high by the time I pulled up in front a' Cody's office. I just set there in the saddle for a bit. Final I dragged my ass outta the seat and stepped down onto the street. My legs buckled and I like to set down, but I never. I kept on my feet. I turned real slow and deliberate and tied my ole horse to the rail. Then I aimed myself at the door to Cody's office and walked up there, stumbling a bit on the step up to the boardwalk. I got to the door and grabbed on to the handle, but the goddamn door was locked. I pounded on it before I decided that Cody just weren't there.
Then I figgered the lazy bastard was acrost the street at the saloon what was over there. I pulled myself up straight and headed for it. I weaved my way clean acrost the street, dodging one wagon and two horses that come along, but I final made it over there. I shoved the batwing doors open and stepped in. The doors hit me in the ass. I stood looking around till I spotted Cody, and then I went to walking straight at him. He was a-setting at a round table in a front corner a' the bar. He looked up when he seen my mass a-coming, and then he stood up. “Barjack,” he said. “What brings you over this way?”
“I got problems in Asininity, Cody,” I said. “I need your help.”
“Sit down, Barjack,” he said, “and tell me about it. You want a drink? You don't look like you need one.”
“Hell, yes, I want a drink,” I said. Cody called for a whiskey, and they brung it to me, in a little sissy glass. “I'm more serious than this,” I said, so the barkeep went and brung back a good-sized glass and set it down in front a' me. He stood there a-waiting till Cody said, “Put it on my tab.” Then he went away. First thing I done was to drink down that first little sissy drink he brung me.
“All right, Barjack,” Cody said. “What's your problem?”
They was other men a-setting at that table with Cody, but he never bothered to interduce none a' them. I done like he done. I just ignored them.
“I arrested Owl Shit the other day for a killing he done in the Hooch House,” I said. “His brother, ole Chugwater, has swore to get him out. I got all my depitties guarding the jailhouse waiting for the judge to get to town. Chugwater has called in twenty gunslingers to help him. He's blocked off Asininity too. I need you and a good-sized posse to ride over to Asininity to help us out.”
Cody tuck a swig a' his drink. Then, “Barjack,” he said, “you've been in scrapes bigger than this before, and you always got yourself out all right. Why do you think you need my help this time?”
“Hell, Cody,” I said, “Chugwater had twenty cowhands to begin with. Now he's got forty men. I ain't got but maybe six depitties, and one of them's a scribbler and two of them's women. You're the goddamn county sheriff, and Asininity's in your county. It's your damn job.”
“I don't know, Barjack.”
“They tried to stop me from riding over here,” I
said. “Five of them, but I blowed their asses all to hell.”
“Then there's only thirty-five left,” he said. “Barjack, you don't need me.”
“What the hell kind of a lawman are you anyway?” I said. He was beginning to piss me off. “Hell. You know what I think? I think you ain't even really related to ole Buffalo Bill Cody a'tall. I think your real name ain't even Cody. That's what I think.”
Cody stood up. “You trying to start something with me?” he said.
“If I do start anything with you, I'll finish it too,” I said.
He set back down. “Barjack, you're drunk. I don't know if I can believe anything you've said to me.”
“Goddamn it, Cody,” I said, “it's all true. I've got Owl Shit in my jail cell, and I've got Happy and Butcher there a-watching. And then I've got Dingle and Sly and the Churkee and Pistol Polly and my big fat Bonnie. And Chugwater's riding in first thing in the morning with sixty men intending to kill them all. Me too, if I'm back in time.”
“Why don't you get you a room and sleep it off?” Cody said. “We'll talk about it some more when you're sober.”
“I ain't got time to sleep,” I said. “I got to get back to my gang. They're going to need ever' gun they can get.”
“Hell, you couldn't hit the street right now, the shape you're in.”
I jerked out my Merwin Hulbert right fast and tuck a shot what nicked his left earlobe. The blood went to rushing down his neck and onto his shirt. He screamed, grabbed his ear, and jumped up to his feet.
“Goddamn you, Barjack.”
“How's that for shooting?” I said.
“You drunken son of a bitch.” He looked up at me and kinda nodded like, but he weren't nodding at me, I figgered out later. He were nodding at some son of a bitch what was standing right behind me. Something crashed down on top a' my head, and the whole world went black as a dark night out on the prairie when the stars is blanked out by dark clouds. Only in a minute I seen the stars anyhow. Then I fell over, and I don't know nothing else about that night. I woked up the next morning laying on a cot in a jail cell. I moaned and rolled my head and seen that the door was closed.
I thunk things through, and it come to me that right at that very minute my friends back in Asininity might could be in one big gunfight with Chugwater's damn bunch. Hell, some a' them might even be kilt already. I set up on the edge a' the cot and screamed, “Cody. Goddamn you. Let me outta here.”
I didn't get no answer. I screamed his name out another time or two. Still nothing. Damn, I was worried about Happy and Butcher and Sly and Bonnie and Polly and Churkee. I was even worried about ole Dingle some little bit. I wondered if he would ever get to write the book he was messing with. I stood up and looked down at my holster
and seen that my Merwin Hulbert weren't there. That goddamn son of a bitching Cody had swiped it. I walked over to the door and tried it. Sure enough, it was locked. I grabbed on to two bars and rattled the shit outta that door. Still no one come around.
There was a bucket over in a corner, and I went and pissed in it. Then I picked it up and walked over to the door a' the cell. I looked out at Cody's desk and I swung that bucket and slung its contents as hard as I could. They slopped over the floor and over the top a' the desk. Then I put it back where it come from. I heard a key in the front door, and I went back to the cot and laid my ass back down, pretending to still be asleep. Someone come in. I rolled my head over and opened a eye to peek out, and I seen that it was Cody's depitty. I set up.
“Hey, Buffalo Bill, Junior,” I called out.
“You talking to me?” he said.
“Ain't you Cody's kid?”
“I'm his deputy.”
“Then get the damn keys and let me outta here.”
“I can't do that, Marshal,” he said. “Sheriff Cody's the one that put you in here, and he'll have to let you out. If he decides to let you out. You like to have shot off his ear last night.”
“I shoulda shot off his damn head,” I said.
“Then for sure you'da never got out.”
“Look, Junior, I got problems over in Asininity. I got to get back there.”
“Ain't nothing I can do.”
“Well, get me some coffee at least,” I said.
He started to walk to the coffeepot, and he stepped in a puddle a' piss on the floor and his foot went a-shooting out ahead a' him, and he landed right on his ass, right in that puddle a' piss. He yelped like he had been shot.
“What's wrong, Junior?” I said.
“Goddamn it, Barjack,” he said, “did you do that?”
“Piss all over the floor?”
“Is that piss?” I said, real innocent-like.
“It sure does smell like piss.”
“I wish I could piss that far,” I said. “By God, I'd do it all the time just for the fun a' it.”
Well, Junior was still a-mopping up the floor whenever ole Cody come in at last. I jumped up and yelled at him. “Cody, goddamn it, let me outta here. All kinds a' shit is a-fixing to bust loose over at Asininity. I'm needed. Open this damn door.”
“Keep your pants on, Barjack,” he said. “I'd ought to keep you in there for six weeks at least after what you done. Drunk and disorderly, assaulting a peace officer. Shit, if I was to hold you for trial, you might never get out of prison.”
All the time he was a-talking, he was picking up his damn keys and walking to the cell. He unlocked the door. Then he walked back over to his desk and opened up a drawer. He pulled my trusty Merwin Hulbert outta the drawer. I didn't waste no time. I was right behint him. He turned around and handed me that gun, and I dropped it in my holster.
“Where's my goddamn horse?” I said.
“Right outside at the hitching rail.”
“I guess you ain't a-going to give me no help?”
“Not a damn bit,” Cody said, “and I hope they kill you before it's over with.”
“That ain't a very neighborly thought,” I said as I tramped across the room to the front door. I jerked the door open and went outside, and then I slammed the door real hard, hoping that I'd break the glass in the winder, but I never. There was my horse just like he'd said. I went down to it and untied it. Then I clumb up on his back and turned it to ride outta town back toward Asininity. I rid hard and fast outta town just for show. I knowed I wouldn't be able to ride like that all the way back, but I wanted them to see what a desperate hurry I was in. Soon as I got outta town and outta sight, I slowed my ole nag to a halt.
I rid along that way for a spell before I whipped him up again. I didn't see no one on the road, and I had made it just about halfway home. I decided that the ole horse needed a rest, so I stopped and got off and let him graze and drink from the stream what run alongside a' the road. I found me a whiskey bottle in my saddlebags, and I tuck it out for a drink. I tell you what, I felt some better after a few slugs a' that wonderful stuff. I caught up my nag and remounted and continued on my way.
When I final come to that big rock just outside a' my town, I seen that the bodies I had left there was gone. Someone had come along and cleaned up after me. It had to 'a' been some a' Chugwater's bunch. I thunk it over real careful and couldn't come up with no one else who might coulda done it. Then it come to me, if Chugwater knowed that his boys was kilt, then he'da put some more there. I squinnied my eyes around and couldn't
see no sign a' no cowboys hanging around, but they coulda been hid behint that big rock pile just the same as what I had been. I decided it would be foolhardy a' me to just go riding past that place.
There weren't no other road going into town from that side a' town, so I rid off the road and across the prairie. If there was some one behint the rocks, they never seen me. It tuck a little time, but I final come into town from the backside, and when I got close, I could hear gunshots. It sounded like a small war going on. I knowed that Chugwater had laid siege to the jailhouse, and I figgered that all a' my men and women was on the inside a' the jail. Well, maybe Happy or Butcher was on the roof, if they hadn'ta picked him off from down below.
There was a little slip a' the Chugwater River what run past the backside a' the town, and I had to ride through it. It didn't hardly deserve the name a' river, though. I coulda jumped across it. Well, I coulda, a few years ago. I wondered as I slopped across if ole Chugwater had been named for the river or if the river had been named after him. I had been in Asininity for a few years by this time, and both a' them had been around for a time before I come along. I guessed it didn't make a shit, though. There was a little bridge down a little farther I coulda crossed over, but I didn't want to ride down that far. It went over to a abandoned mill. The gunshots got louder as I went in closer.
I was worrying about had any a' my people got
shot, and I was anxious to get back to the jail, but I needed to do it without getting my own ass kilt. So what I done was I rid into the stable through the back door, and I give my horse to that man. Then I drawed my Merwin Hulbert and went to the big front door. Leaning against the doorjamb, I peeked out, and I could see cowboys all over the damn place. They was all a-shooting toward the jail. I remember thinking, I could pick off one or two of them easy, maybe more, but there was so damn many a' them that I couldn't figger what good that would do. It would just alert them to my own whereabouts, and I didn't need that.
Then the gunshots got hot and heavy, and I decided I could get at least one a' the bastards and no one would notice the shot. I tuck a bead on one. He was real busy aiming and shooting at the jail. I drilled him right betwixt his shoulder blades, and he dropped like a sack. Then I went to running back through the stable. As I passed the stable man, I said, “You ain't seen me. You ain't seen nothing. If you say anything to anyone, I'll do you like I just done that son of a bitch out there.”
“I don't know nothing, Barjack,” he said. “I ain't seen you all day.”
I went back out his back door and sneaked along the backsides a' the buildings. When at last I come to the backside a' the jailhouse, I was relieved that none a' the cowboys was back there. I walked past the ladder what Happy and Butcher had been a-using to get up on the roof, and I jerked open the back door and screamed, “Don't shoot. It's Barjack.” Then I went on in fast and slammed the door
behint me. “What dumb son of a bitch went and left the back door unlocked?” I said, and I latched it shut. Bonnie come a-running and damn near knocked me over when she grabbed me in her bear hug. “Barjack,” she said, “I was so worried when you never come back.”