UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION - 07/2012
IAN SHEARER


WAITING IT OUT

         The kid was dying. Those sons of bitches were probably whoring it up already and I was stuck with the kid, and the kid was dying. He kept moaning long and low and I knew it made him feel better to moan but it was getting on my nerves and pretty soon I was going to have to tell him to shut the fuck up.

         'They musta sent help by now,' he said. I didn't figure there was any point bullshitting him any more.

         'There ain't no help coming,' I told him. That snapped him out of it and he gave up the moaning.

         'What do you mean?'

         'I mean they didn't go to get help. They went to get drunk and get a piece of pussy.'

         'But I'm dying,' he said, like that made a difference.

         'Yeah.'

         'Aw Jesus!' he said. 'Jesus, no... why don't you go get help then?' he asked.

         'Ain't no helping you son. You're on your way out. Just a matter of how long now.'

         'You son of a bitch!' he screamed, and the scream must have ripped one of the holes open a bit more because he doubled over and started crying. I let him cry a bit, then I got up and stood over him. I pointed my gun at his head and cocked it. He looked up at me and down the barrel all at once.

         'You're done for kid,' I said. 'You give me the go ahead and I'll give you the easy way out.' He wasn't sobbing any more but the tears kept coming.

         'Please don't. I don't wanna die.'

         'Not much choice in the matter now. Just quick and easy or long and hard.'

         'Don't shoot me. Please. I'm shit scared of dying.'

         I thought about doing it anyway. Wasn't a whole hell of a lot he could do to stop me. I couldn't pull the trigger though. Not too many men get to choose how they go. Wouldn't be right to take the choice away from a man who got it. I thumbed the hammer back and holstered it.

         'Soon as the pain gets too much you give me the word,' I said, and went back to the rock I had been sitting on. Goddamn kid hanging on for no reason.

*

        'I can make it to town,' he said, pushing himself up on one elbow. 'I can make it. We can ride double on your horse.'

         'Horse couldn't make it. She's half run into the ground already.'

         'Fuck the fuckin' horse!' he shouted.

         'You keep yelling like that I'm gonna put you out of your misery. Them marshals don't need any help finding us.'

         'Just put me on your horse. I can make it.'

         'Shoulda hung onto your own horse kid,' I said.

         'Oh, fuck,' he said, clutching at his belly. There was no need to keep lying to him. The horse would've made it. Not by much, but she would've.

         'We ain't going into town kid,' I said. 'They'll be looking for the first shot up fella who comes in. Can't risk getting the rest of us caught.'

         'Why didn't you just leave me here then?'

         'A man ought to be buried right,' I said.

         'Aw Christ. Aw Jesus Christ, no...' he said, and I thought maybe he was starting to understand because he started crying again. I just kept thinking about the other three, bellies full of whiskey and faces full of tit. I wished the son of a bitch would hurry up and die. I wished even more he'd stop his fucking crying. The short straw. That's what it all came down to in life. You draw the wrong straw and instead of a bath and a bottle and a proper feed you get to sit in the cold and watch some kid bleed to death.

         'I'm fucking freezing,' he said. 'Can you light a fire?'

         'No. Fire would just give us away.'

         'Just a small one?'

         'No fire,' I said, losing my patience. 'You're cold cause you're dying. Fire ain't gonna warm you up none.'

         'You ain't cold?' he asked.

         'Shut up,' I said, and got up.

         'Where you going?'

         'Need to take a shit,' I said, and lifted the rifle.

         'You make sure you go up wind of me,' he said, and managed a stunted laugh. That made me feel bad for being hard on him. I walked on round behind him and when he thought I couldn't see, his face screwed up from the pain again. I rapped him a good one in the back of the head with the butt of the rifle and he went out easy, with the blood loss and all. I took my hand shovel out of my pack and went looking for some dirt that wasn't too tightly packed. I did need to take a shit, but I was hoping he'd die soon and I'd make it into town to a proper shitter. I never liked shitting outdoors.

*

        It was getting dark and I was still digging when he came around.

         'Hey mister!' he shouted. He didn't know my name. 'You still shitting? I fell asleep there for a bit.' I kept digging.

         'Mister?' he said, looking around and starting to panic that I had left him.

         'I'm still here kid,' I said.

         'What're you doing?' he asked. I didn't answer and eventually he recognised the sound of the digging.

         'Aw, shit,' he said to himself. Then to me, 'Come over here please mister.'

         'What for?'

         'I need to talk to you. It doesn't hurt so bad when you talk to me.' I went over and had a drink of water.

         'You want some?' I asked him.

         'Yeah,' he said, and I knelt down and poured some past his lips. 'How long you think I've got left?' he asked.

         'Not long,' I said, but I didn't really believe it. People have a funny talent for hanging on, even when they don't know why any more. Seems they do it especially when it's a pain in the ass for someone else. My old man was like that. Tough old bastard. I never figured out what it was that got him out of bed every day for the last year. A year. The kid didn't have that long, but it could be hours yet, knowing my luck.

         'What would you do?' he asked.

         'I would've taken the bullet.'

         'Ain't you scared of going to hell?'

         'Would be too late now to get scared of that.'

         'Do you believe in hell?'

         'It's hard to believe in anything worse than this place,' I said. Talk like that wasn't going to help him any, so I went back to sit on the rock.

         'I wouldn't be scared to die if I knew I was going to heaven,' he said.

         'He never wanted it to be that easy for us kid.'

         He went quiet for some time and I thought maybe he had passed out. Then he said, 'If you leave me a gun you can go on to town.'

         'No, that wouldn't work.'

         'Why not?'

         'Can't risk the law finding you alive and you giving us up.'

         'I wouldn't.'

         'You would with a red hot poker in one of those bullet holes.'

         'I just want to make my peace with God and do it myself,' he said.

         'I ain't leaving till you're in the ground,' I said. 'The coyotes might get you too. You don't want to go like that.'

         'Alright, go finish your fucking digging,' he said, getting angry. He still thought he could make it if the law found him and took him in. They'd dig out the bullets and patch him up long enough for him to give us up, then they'd hang him. I went back to the grave and hopped in. Nearly waist high. Nearly deep enough.

*

        When I climbed back out I was sweating, despite the cold. The kid had moved and had himself propped up against my rock with the rifle aimed at my guts. I let him talk first.

         'I'm not letting you finish me off,' he said. 'You get on your horse and go on. I'm gonna let off a shot and let them find me. They can take me in and lock me up. I ain't going to hell for you.'

         'They'll most likely string you up.'

         'That's better odds than you're giving,' he said. Fear can make a brave man of us all.

         'I'm not leaving you drawing breath son,' I said, pushing my coat back from my holster.

         'I'll kill you!' he said.

         'You're gonna have to,' I said, and I drew. He fired quick, before I got a shot off, and hit me in the leg. Damn near took my dick off. I stumbled back and fell into the grave.

         'I told you I'd do it,' he said. 'I told you!' I stayed quiet, looking at the stars. 'You alive mister?' He didn't know he only winged me. I didn't say anything, I just fired a shot into the dirt at my side. He waited a bit and I stayed quiet.

         'Ah shit,' he said, and I heard him let off a shot into the sky, just like he said he would. Hopefully the rangers weren't too close. If I had it figured right, though, that was his last round. I took the gamble, and I climbed up out of the grave. With him getting woozy from losing so much blood and with me dragging my leg, I swear he thought I was the dead arisen. He started screaming like a goddamn loon. I just shambled on over to him and shot him in the face. It felt good to hear it go quiet again. I left the filthy son of a bitch to the birds and took his belt for a tourniquet. Then I threw my good leg over my horse and headed for town. I started to think about what I should buy with his share of the take.

Ian Shearer is a freelance music journalist and fiction writer from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is a contributing editor at Horror Sleaze Trash, and has a regular column on Bandwidth called This Is Not A Review.







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