Mo's Manic Monday - Blow

Posted: Monday, March 05, 2007 by Travis Cody in
24



Well gang, I think I fixed what I messed up last week. But it still needs some work.

Don't forget to visit our fearless leader at It's A Blog Eat Blog World.

Today's theme is Blow, and I present the second part of a story that has no real title yet. You can revisit the first part here: Celebrate.


Blow

Gunfighters, as a general principal, do not care for doctors. And doctors care even less for gunfighters. All too often, a doctor is forced at gun point to care for a wounded gunfighter, and held to blame if the man dies, regardless of whether the death could be attributed to poor skill.

A gunfighter prides himself on his fearlessness, a quality that often enhances his skill and adds to the aura surrounding his reputation. Before the doctor, however, that fearlessness is stripped away, and true humanity is restored.

It hurts to be shot.

It hurts worse to repair the damage.

And a doc, if he’s not careful, can get his head blown off.

*****

"He should sleep through the night," said Doc Bales, tying the last of the bandages in place about Web's shoulder and chest.

The bullet had been easily removed. Web had passed out sometime during the procedure. Reese and Travis had both escaped the room, preferring to wait in the outer office. The air smelled fresher, they both decided.

Von stepped closer to inspect the doctor's work. Web was breathing smoothly and deeply. The lines of pain were gone from his face. He seemed to sleep peacefully. Von was inclined to believe the doctor.

"It's alright if he stays here, just for tonight?"

"Oh yes," nodded Doc Bales. "I'd much prefer it. In the morning, you can move him to where you'll be staying."

"'Bout how long'll he be laid up?"

"I'd say not more than four or five days, though he'll probably want to be up and around tomorrow. It's best if he stays quiet through the day, though. I can give you something to make him mind, if you like."

Von smiled. This doctor was insightful. "I can keep him down, thanks."

"Fine," Doc Bales smiled back. He was less inclined to dislike these men than others in town. He’d been out west a long time. He understood violence, and what drives a man to it, and the results of it. He’d seem bodies blown apart, hacked off arms and legs. "Come around in the morning and fetch him, then."

Von nodded. He laid his hand briefly on Web's forehead, then turned and left the room. In the outer office, he found his brothers nervously fidgeting. He considered scolding them for deserting Web, but thought better of it as he realized that he might have joined them if the order of their birth hadn't made him eldest. He didn't like doctors any more than they, but someone had needed to stay with Web.

"Y'all ready to go?" he kept his tone light.

"How's Web?" Travis asked.

"Fine."

"Sorry 'bout leavin' you in there, Von," said Reese.

"No, you ain't," smiled Von. "But I understand. Let's get us cleaned up, then we can eat and get some decent sleep."

The Morgans left the doctor's office, pausing as their eyes adjusted. The sun had set and the temperature continued to drop rapidly. The wind had picked up even more, blowing up dust in the street. The Morgans buttoned up coats and checked the street out of habit, looking for any threat. Finding nothing but the cold to trouble them, they retrieved their horses from the hitching post. With Web's mount in tow, they ambled slowly in the direction of the livery stable, eliciting covert stares from the small number of people about their business in the late evening. All three men chose to ignore the reactions they caused. These were simple townsfolk, curious and apprehensive about bounty hunters in general and the Morgans in particular.

They stabled their horses and collected their gear, then made their way back across town to the hotel. They took two rooms, with extra beds. After sorting through packs for relatively fresh clothing, they sought the wash room, and spent the better part of an hour bathing and shaving.

Feeling human again, regardless of the opinions of some, they seated themselves at a table in the hotel dining room and ordered supper. Reese had suggested they try the saloon, but Von had vetoed the idea flat. Too many things could, and invariably did, happen in saloons. It would be ideal if they at least tried to avoid trouble.

"There's not much we can do if somebody starts it," Reese had argued.

"Let's not make it so easy to get started. We're tired. Can't no good come from adding whiskey."

The hotel offered a choice of fresh turkey with fixings or steak and potatoes. The Morgans ordered steak, having lived off wild fowl and rabbit for the better part of two weeks.

The serving girl brought three platters heaped with food. Thick, blood red steaks dominated each plate, garnished with fresh greens, boiled potatoes, and beans. A loaf of freshly baked bread was placed in the center of the table, with honey butter. They ordered a pitcher of beer to wash down the meal, and fell to.

Some time later, with much of their hunger satisfied, they lingered over seconds, filling up the edges and contemplating the deep dish apple pie the serving girl had placed on the table. They were winding down after five days of being primed for violence. Reese tried to stifle a yawn and finally decided to give in to a full body stretch. Joints popped and creaked, and he barked out a laugh. As he sat forward with a shake of his head, he spotted two men enter the dining area. Reese’s practiced eye quickly identified them as men likely to start the kind of trouble Von had thought to avoid by staying away from the saloon.

"So much for your bright idea," Reese said quietly, nodding toward the two men.

Neither was old, neither was young. Each wore a gun, and each carried himself as though he had used it before, and could be persuaded to use it again. Neither looked particularly dangerous, except perhaps against anyone who took him too lightly. One man held a bottle of whiskey, the other a stack of glasses.

"Like to buy you fellas a drink," announced the bearer of the whiskey as he sidled up to the table.

"No thanks," said Von.

"Just a gesture, friend," said the man carrying the glasses. He set them on the table near Von's elbow. "Y'all bein' strangers to Gateway, we thought we'd buy you a drink. Show a little Arizona hospitality."

"We've had a taste of that hospitality," scowled Travis.

Von looked at his brother sharply. His eyes flashing a warning at the younger man, he said, "Much obliged. We're not drinkin' whiskey tonight."

The first man frowned. "Like Joe said, we're only offerin' welcome to strangers. Woudn't be polite of y'all to turn us away."

"It's less polite for you to keep offerin' somethin' that's already been refused."

The first man lost his veneer of friendliness immediately. "Suppose y'all just try and teach me some better manners!"

"Don't."

The word was calmly spoken, with no trace of emotion. It was enough to turn every eye at the table to Reese Morgan. Sometime during the exchange Reese had risen to his feet. Now he stood facing the two men. Everything about his posture screamed violence. His voice remained reasonable as he continued.

"I've seen men like you. I've killed a lot of you. You see strangers in your town. You walk over, you offer to buy a drink, and you take offense at the first thing you can find. Then you pick a fight. I don't doubt that all you're lookin' for is a fight. But right now, all you're gonna get is dead."

He paused to gauge the effect of his words. The second man was ready to back down. The first, however, still wanted to play.

"Tough words, stranger."

Reese nodded. "Yeah. It's been a long stretch since I had a decent meal like this one. Now you've interrupted it with a play that belongs in a saloon. That's why Von said we wouldn't go to the saloon tonight. So there wouldn't be trouble like this."

"Von?"

"Von Morgan. My brother." Reese pointed to Von.

Von obliged this dramatic introduction by baring his teeth in a feral grin, perfected for just such occasions as these. It was cheaper to scare off the town bully than to blow a hole in him.

If it were possible for a man to go white, the first man did. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out.

"That's right," said Reese agreeably. Satisfied that there would be no gunplay, he settled back into his chair. "We was in Texas."

Von and Travis laughed.

"Mike, why don't you and Joe go back to the saloon," Charlie Gragg suggested from the door. "Leave these fellas to their supper."

Without another word, the two men left the hotel.

Gragg approached the Morgan's table, nodding reassurance to various patrons. The hotel enjoyed a brisk business for the evening meal. He wore a bemused expression as he accepted the chair Reese proffered.

"Don't mind those two. Joe's harmless. Mike, well, he likes to think he's a gunfighter."

"Graveyard's full of fellas who thought they were gunfighters," said Travis. His tone was mainly amused, but there was weary disgust in it as well.

The sheriff sobered. He fingered the edge of a small yellow paper protruding from the left pocket of his shirt. Finally drew it forth. Apparently, he was not pleased by the news he was about to deliver. He frowned.

"Somethin' on your mind, Gragg?" asked Von.

"Telegram. Came for you 'bout twenty minutes ago." He handed Von the small paper.

Von looked a question at his brothers. He read the wire. His face registered shock, disbelief, then a growing realization of possibilities. When he looked up, his smile was calculating.

Gragg took the hint. "Well, I'll leave you to your business. Let me know if you need anything." The last was offered reluctantly. He was clearly agitated by the appearance of the Morgans, and by the coincidence of the telegram.

"What's it say, Von?" asked Travis.

The serving girl interrupted, wanting to clear the table. The Morgans nodded their assent, and Reese asked for coffee. Travis asked again about the telegram.

"Deliverance," answered Von.

"You'll want to be more specific, I'll wager," laughed Reese. He had an idea about the telegram. They had been discussing the possibility between the four of them for some time. It was one of the reasons they had accepted the contract from Gorman Potter, since it got them into the territory. The terms of that agreement tied into what might be within their grasp, if Reese was right about the telegram.

Von shook himself. "Sorry. I was thinkin' about what this means, if we can pull it off."

"Whatcha mean 'if'?" Travis growled. He was unaccustomed to such a qualification from Von.

"Well, it's a lot more than we ever talked about, more than we ever considered was reasonable."

"Since when has the governor ever been reasonable?" scoffed Reese. "Hell, when has any politician ever been reasonable?"

They laughed. Von read his brothers the contents of the message. They fell silent for a time, each contemplating what it meant. A third of the job was complete. Gordy McLaren was dead. Rounding up Jess McLaren and Billy Fife was the next step.

The last would prove more challenging, and potentially more life threatening than anything they had ever done. They had the opportunity to work for the governor of Arizona, and to rid the territory of much of its outlaw population.

One of those outlaws, hiding somewhere in the expanse of desert and mountain and canyon, was a man who had very nearly killed all four Morgans, the last time they met. Travis had virtually ruined one of the outlaw's knees, leaving the man crippled and instilling a burning hatred. It was clear to all five men that at their next meeting, someone was going to die.

Nonetheless, this was a bold new contract, with an even bolder fee. The money the Morgans would earn, should they pull it off, would enable them to leave the killing behind. It would give them a chance to erase the past and build a new life in a place where no one knew them. Or perhaps successfully fulfilling this particular contract might add a luster to the history of the Morgan name that might make them welcome anywhere.

Reese shook his head. "We can't decide anything now. We're still on the job for Potter. And we'll have to talk to Web, make sure this is really what we all want."

Travis winced, thinking about the intense emotions he’d felt today and wondering what it might be like to be a man little Lucinda May’s grandmother thought was worthy.

"That's not exactly what I meant, Trav. Think past it. Look at what we'll have to do, and what it's likely to cost. We could all end up dead."

"We could die any time, Reese," said Von. "It's always in front of us. Web came close this time. I'm thinkin' I'd rather die doing something like this. At least it'd be for us. Gettin' killed workin' for us seems better, somehow. You know?"

He had phrased it badly. Von wasn't much for words. He tended to let his actions speak for him. He thought his brothers would understand.

They did.

"We'll talk about it some more," said Travis with a shake of his head. He had thought it didn’t matter what others thought of him. Apparently he was wrong.


That's not the end obviously. But I have decided to retire this particular story from Manic Monday. I've got a lot of work to do with it so that it doesn't become a western cliche. I may post more eventually, but if I do you'll find it on Words for Wednesday. Thanks to all for your encouragement.

24 comments:

  1. Darn, I knew it was coming to an end, without ending but I didn't want it to stop there... I'll be waiting for more :)

  1. Well, BLOW me down, Travis. I was BLOWN away by your story. I don't want it to end like this, so I hope you write more of it soon.

  1. Gattina says:

    Is this an extray of a story of yours ? Couldn't read it all time is blowing me to other manic mondays ! Thanks for your comment !

  1. Great job! I always love to kick back and read your stories. :)
    Happy Monday!

  1. lisa says:

    Well then I will look for the continuation on Wednesdays! Good tale Travis.

  1. Turnbaby says:

    I LOVE this story and I am glad you are moving it. It's excellent evocative writing and it deserves an appropriate venue. Great job and thanks for the help.

    Smooch

  1. Matt-Man says:

    Good job Trav...Keep it up!!

  1. I'll be looking for the next chapter...

  1. Meribah says:

    You certainly have a way with words, Trav. Keep up the good work!

  1. This was very good. I've always been partial to western stories, with a twist I might add. Personally I think you are hovering over the cliche here, but not quite submerged in it, which it great. It's a fantastic read and I look forward to reading more on this. Keep up the excellent work.

  1. Morgen says:

    Well shootfire.
    First, let me say how much of a craving for steak I have now after reading the Morgan's meal....

    Second, I'm sorry to see you're retiring the saga of the bounties from Manic Monday, but trust me I understand. I think an on-going storyline would be better suited to your own pace - and not co-existing so much with another's "theme".
    I love your detail and the way that you can evoke characterization in such brief prose.

    Oh - I wanted to ask: is this the first time you've had a character named Travis in one of your fictional stories? I've always shied away from having my name on a character, and wondered what it's like for you. Do you relate most to him, or do you find parts of yourself in all your main characters?

    Okay, I realize this isn't writing 101, I just am curious about your process.
    Thanks for being a loyal Manic Monday writer. I've truly enjoyed your work here these Mondays and look forward to both reading more about the Morgans on Wednesday AND seeing what you come up with for next week!

    cheers,
    morgen

  1. Claire says:

    I was lurking before as i didn't have time to read it properly. So i have come back and i am glad i did.

  1. Bond says:

    Ah my good friend... you hit the same fork in the road as i did with Her Fate.

    yes, retire it and come back with something different.

    between the two of us, we should have 15-20 unfinished manuscripts by the end of 2007!

    LOL

    Liked the way you brought this one around and came back to Travis thinking about Lucinda May's grandmother- nice touch there

  1. Anndi says:

    Dear bro...

    I love this story. And for you to take time with it and not force it is the right choice for a writer.

    Blogs are a place to post thoughts, dreams, funny stuff and the odd (look, some of the stories you all have been coming up with are odd - in a special way) short story. But the true writing shall come in the long form, and I'll be first in line to get my copy of whatever it is you publish. I'm just wondering what the jacket photo's going to look like...

    Thanks for the laughs this weekend.. I needed a major giggle fit, and my Sultan of Silly is just the man for the job.

    Love you,

    Lil sis

  1. JohnH985 says:

    Very good story, Trav. The characters are becoming more than just mere names, but I'm starting to feel for them as you tell the story. Hope you post more of it when you get it worked out.

  1. I follow you all over the same sites and decided it was time for a visit.
    Hello!!!
    I enjoyed your story. Good dialog. My husband watches Tombstone every time it's on TV, which I think is just about every weekend ;^), besides owning the DVD.
    You have a wonderful site...

  1. Travis says:

    Heather: There should be more, I just don't know when.

    Janna: Thanks!

    Imma: **blush**

    Gattina: This is part of what I expect will become a novella. Thanks for stopping by.

    CWM: Glad to be able to entertain ya!

    Lisa: I will do my best not to disappoint.

  1. Travis says:

    Turn: Yes, I need to let it breathe and work itself out. And thank YOU!

    Matt: Aye Cap'n!

    Katherine: Me too!

    Meri: **tosses the puppy extra scoobie snacks**

    Lucas: Thanks for the feedback. This one has one or two twists - not the kind you write though - and I'm hoping they keep it circling high above the cliche.

  1. Travis says:

    Mo,

    Glad you understand. I'm looking forward to creating more intense quick hits for the themes. I really do enjoy it.

    I have characters in another story with the last name of Travis. What I wanted in this story was very strong western style names. Von, Reese, Web, Travis - I thought they would help with atmosphere.

    I connect with almost all of my characters on some level. This Travis is kind of special, because as an older brother myself I'm fascinated to examine what it's like to be younger, or youngest.

    I love to talk writing!!! Thanks for your interest.

  1. Travis says:

    Claire: Lurk away darlin! Glad you enjoyed it.

    John: Thanks for the feedback on the way the characters feel. I always feel I struggle with character, so sometimes I tend to overwrite. But character is so critical to this story - I'm glad to hear it's working.

    Gracie: I've seen your name around too. I'll be by your site as soon as I can. Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Travis says:

    V,

    Yup. I'm enjoying the MM theme, but this story with no real name needs a little more time and room to grow. And it needs a dang title! LOL.

    Her Fate deserves to be finished. I hope you're getting time to get it mapped out.

    Lucy May & Travis are pivotal to the story arc. In fact, I've actually already written the ending. No hints!! I realized when I decided to retire this from the theme that I needed to get a reference to them into this section.

    So this weekend will be about something completely new!

  1. Travis says:

    Ann,

    Insightful as always my dear. The short fiction exercises are useful for me to practice some technique at which I'm not so good. I'm really looking forward to it.

    This weekend was hilarious! I needed that too.

    Are you out of your funk now??

    Love ya darlin!

  1. This is a good piece of writing. It's like having someone break off a chunk of cheese and offer it up to you with a slice of fresh bread. It's raw. It has style.

    Travis I like this, and it makes me want to read more. It also makes me want to go out and do something I haven't done in a helluva long time: read a western or two, maybe read some Zane Gray.