UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION - 12/2011
STEVEN LOTON

A HOT BREEZE BLEW SOUTH

         Cowboy Billy had the sharpest shot out West. He could drink two bottles of whiskey, stroll outside with his cowboy limp and

put a hole in a tin can from fifty yards. No, one hundred yards. On very hot days he would lie on his back and shoot flies from the sky. At night he tried to shoot down the stars. But they never fell. He wasted many bullets on those damn stars. Cowboy Billy was hot shit with his Remington.

         Cowboy Billy had a 10, 000 dollar reward on his head, dead or alive. It was the largest reward anyone had ever seen. When Billy saw the poster nailed to a tree he tore it down. Billy was disgusted. He immediately robbed two banks, shot one sheriff, one deputy and he forced a barber to trim his hair and shave his beard. No charge. The following day he saw the new poster. It was now a 20, 000 dollar reward, dead or alive. Billy scratched his large crotch and thought, now that’s more like it.

         Next, a cloud blew over, covering the sun. Some hot rays came ripping through and the cloud fell apart. Billy rode into town on horseback. Razor was the horse. He tilted his Stetson and kept his head low. An old lady was sat on her porch, rocking on a wooden chair. Billy pulled at the reins. Razor halted and kicked at the sand. When the dust cleared the old lady was grinning. No teeth. All gums. She was staring at Billy’s gigantic package. Tongue out. She liked what she saw. Billy didn’t. He climbed off Razor and threw his poncho over the left shoulder. Resting his hand on the Remington six shooter he spat out a blob of tobacco. Then he looked up and squinted. A wooden sign was hanging on the front door. ROOMS AVAILABLE. The old lady pulled her dress high and crossed her legs. A stench wafted over. Cowboy Billy fanned the air.

         “Hello honey.”

         “Don’t honey me, lady. You know who I am.”

         “Yeah, you’re Cowboy Billy, the most dangerous cowboy around these parts.”

         “Around which parts?”

         “I mean the most dangerous Cowboy across the whole wild west.”

         “And further. They just haven’t invented an easy way of spreading information yet. Word of mouth and letter writing is very slow. I may have to look into inventing something myself. When I do, you’ll hear that I’m the most dangerous Cowboy across the land. Yeah baby. Now run along and fix me a room. I need a nap.”

         The old lady attempted to erect her body. But she only got half way up. Hunched over, she dragged her bones off.

         There was some movement happening; people were pouring out into the streets. They had come to see if it was true. It was true all right. Cowboy Billy was in town. A small kid ran up. The kid had sandy hair, freckles, dried milk around his lips and two front teeth missing. He stank.

         “Mista mista is it true you’ve shot and killed nearly one hundred men?”

         “Somebody’s been telling lies to you, kid.”

         Billy lifted his leg and rested his boot on a wall. He struck a match against the heel. Even that looked impressive.

         “I’ve killed over five hundred men.”

         The kid liked that.

         “Wow.”

         Billy jammed a cigar into his mouth and puffed it into life. He tossed the kid a coin. The kid really liked that. Class.

         “Kid, some advice, wash yourself. When you’re done, repeat the process.”

         The kid ran off waving the coin high in the air.

         Billy’s room was the largest room available. The bath was already filled with steaming water. He stripped off and looked at himself in the cracked mirror. That was some pecker. Some body. And some face. Even his knees looked tremendous. He was the total package. The only thing missing was some human kindness. He belched. To hell with human kindness.

         Billy climbed into the bath tub and slid down low. Only his eyes were above water. Suddenly, he sprung out of the bath, reached, grabbed the Remington, landed, rolled and cocked it. It was loaded. It always was. He swung the door open. There she was. A buxom dame, dressed in a frilly red blouse and long skirt. She had everything and she didn’t even know it. Wet lips. Wide eyes. Nose. Teeth. Dimple. Everything. Then she spoke.

         “Hello Jerk, I’m Daisy. I got sent here by Old Carlson.”

         Well, Billy thought she had everything.

         “That fool still alive?”

         “Yeah, he’s waiting for you across the street at the Sunset inn. He wants to blow your balls off. And other body parts too. He wants to collect the reward.”

         Leaning against the door frame, totally naked, Billy spoke in a slow drawl.

         “Really, well tell Carlson when I’m done washing and drying my nut sack, I may come over there. I’ll be thirty minutes, minimum. Unless you wanna hurry the process up and dry?”

         Billy handed her the towel. Inhaling with rage, her breast almost busted out of the blouse. She belted Billy across the face with an open palm.

         He grinned.

         “Or maybe you prefer to wash?”

         This time Billy caught her hand and pulled her in close. He put his mouth on hers and poked his tongue in. He performed his tongue gymnastic routine. Daisy was in a daze. Finally, she broke off.

         “Hey, I’m Carlson’s woman. We’re set to marry. Don’t ever touch me again.”

         Billy jumped back repulsed. He spat on the floor, wiped his mouth, spat on the floor and jammed a large wad of tobacco into his mouth. To be certain he spat on the floor. Chewing, he just about said, “That’s disgusting. You’re young enough to be his daughter. His granddaughter. Never put your lips upon mine again. Anyhow, good luck with the wedding.”

         “Wait, I have one more very important thing to tell you.”

         “Yes?”

         “Carlson will be….......”

         Billy slammed the door shut and climbed back into the bath. It was still warm. Nice. He finished off scrubbing his balls. Then he got between his toes. Then the underarm. He worked away on the underarm. The average Cowboy you could smell a mile off. Not Billy. He kept everything in check. Even his diet was perfect. Other cowboys ate Mexican stew and pork fat. Cheap shit. Not Billy. He only ate eggs, steak and beans. His farts were tremendous. He could really let rip. One time, Billy was lying down in his hotel room, blowing off, when he heard a loud banging at the door. It was Cowboy Jessie, two rooms over. He had his shotgun pointed at Billy’s gut. Jessie was unshaven, his eyes were glazed and his hair was wild and pointed in many directions. Billy’s farts had woken him up. They had kept him up for hours. Everybody in the hotel was awake. They all wanted to complain. But the next morning nobody saw Cowboy Jessie at the breakfast table. Nobody ever saw him again. For the rest of the week Billy loaded up on eggs, steak and beans. He even ate seconds. He let off some real corkers that week. Nobody complained. Thinking of all that food was working up an appetite. He towelled off and began to dress. He felt good. Lucky. But Billy never needed luck. He was the best shot in the whole world. Luck was scared to mess with him.

         Billy crossed the street. The moon was up. God damn thing looked beautiful. Almost made Billy choke. But not quite. He pushed through the doors of the Sunset Inn. He stood on a floorboard. It creaked. He tilted his head slightly left and then right. The place was full of losers. All dancing or yapping. Then one fat bank owner saw Billy. His mouth fell open and he became silent. Everybody became silent. Billy rather liked that. Then somebody sneezed. A dog barked. Billy sat down at the end of the bar. One skinny man was sat at the piano. Guess you’d call him the pianist. He had lived his whole life in fear. Now even pressing a key shook him up. Billy nodded. He started playing again. Everybody went back to dancing or yapping. Life resumed.

         Evidently the bar man thought he was a tough guy. He was at the other end of the bar cleaning out a glass with a dirty rag, ignoring Billy. His lower gut hung from the dirty white T-shirt and fell below his belt buckle. His belly button was a mass of hair. He looked over to Billy. Gosh, thought Billy, the poor man has no neck. It was just head, then shoulder. He waddled over.

         “Help yer Cowboy?”

         “Whiskey straight. Take your time. I don’t want you having a heart attack.”

         “Hey buddy, you’re nobody in here. This is my bar. They say you’re a great shot, but you couldn’t hit a sitting bird in a tree.”

         Without even raising his eyes Billy let off two rounds in a Westerly direction. Nothing happened. Everybody waited. An owl rotated its head fully. A pin dropped. Then an old man with one strand of hair poking from his scalp came running into the bar. He was holding two dead birds.

         “LOOKEEE HERE BOYS, THESE BIRDS JUST FELL FROM THE SKY. GOD MUSTER SENT ‘EM. IMAH EATIN’ LIKE A KING TONIGHT. WHOOO HOOOO.”

         The barman quickly started pouring. The owl turned its head 360 degrees.

         After a few slow slugs of whiskey Billy felt something above his shoulder. It was a heavy presence. The stool next to Billy’s got filled.

         “Hello Bill.”

         It was Carlson. Billy waved for the bottle.

         “Carlson, I have something to tell you. Your head resembles that of a maggot. I could reassemble your facial features for you if you wish. I’m a nice guy like that.”

         “Still a smart mouth ‘eh. Maybe I’ll blow a tiny hole through your butt so you can talk shit through that instead. He he he he he.”

         The bottle arrived. Billy filled his own glass and then poured Carlson a large one. Billy threw his back without wincing.

         “Carlson, I thought I knocked your teeth out last time. It still smells like you’ve been brushing them with horse poo poo and rinsing with cat pee pee. Please speak in the opposite direction. The winds-er-blowing south.”

         With one arm old Carlson swept the glasses and bottle from the bar top. There was busted glass everywhere. The whole bar became silent once more. Carlson was stood, gun out, sucking up air.

         “HOBBLE YOUR LIP BOY. ENOUGH WITH THIS TALK. I CLEAN MY TEETH OKAY. NOW LETS GET THIS OVER WITH. I WANT THE TWENTY THOUSAND REWARD.”

         Billy stood up, his eyes facing the ground. All you could see was top of his Stetson hat. He looked up and winked at Daisy. She blushed. Then Billy brushed past Carlson and walked out into the street. The moon lit up the town. Such beauty. Carlson followed him out. Everybody in the bar piled out onto the street. Candles lit up in houses. Curtains were twitching. There were now two owls perched on a tree branch.

         Billy did a little stretch and a neck twist. Then he cracked his knuckles and did a jog on the spot. He liked to loosen up.

         Carlson walked into the moonlight. It brightened his face. He had this long slim head. Slits for eyes. Some loose skin dangling beneath his chin. No lips. Black teeth. Bad breath. Gum disease. Haemorrhoids. Cleft palate. A rotten heart and a Goddamn curly moustache. His face was a big old mass of dog meat.

         They both stood facing each other, ten paces apart. Carlson erect, stiff bodied, snarling, ready to kill. Billy looking at the ground disinterested, kicking stones. He blew onto his nails. Then yawned. Some tumbleweed rolled in, then rolled out of town. A tied up horse took a shit. An old blind man walked past, sensed danger and disappeared into nowhere. Nobody spoke. Nobody moved. Then it happened. Carlson reached. He fired. A shot rang out. Both men stood still. Then Carlson rocked in the wind and fell onto his back. Billy spun his pistol into the holster. Then he made an imaginary gun with two fingers and pointed at Daisy. He fired. She blushed. He winked. Such style.

         Billy walked to Razor and leapt onto his back. He looked around one last time. The moon. The stars. They were all there. But the rest of it. Just a piece of shit town. Razor bolted off into the darkness.

         Following week Billy was riding through Indian Territory. There didn’t seem to be many Indians around, thought Billy. There was no wind. But there were rain clouds. Maybe all the Indians were off somewhere dancing. An arrow had pierced a sign to a tree. Billy climbed off of Razor and tore the sign down.

         50, 000 DOLLAR REWARD FOR COWBOY BILLY.

         DEAD OR ALIVE.

         An artist had drawn a nice little picture of Billy’s face. He liked that. Billy yanked out the arrow and used it to nail the sign back up. He wanted everyone to see it.

         Cowboy Billy rode on. He saw a 150-year-old cactus poking from the sand. It was big and mean looking, had these arms that grew off in all directions. Razor halted. Prickly son of a bitch would be the only thing to outlive Billy. Billy drew the Remington. He thought about it. Then he spun the shooter away. It deserved to live. Another day.

         Billy rode out of town and into what looked like a big pile of sandy nothing.








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