Peace

A short story I wrote in January, 1999, with some minor editing today.

He pulled his gun-belt tight, clasping the buckle, and reached over to grab his old brown cowboy hat. He walked towards the door. As he turned the handle, he looked over towards the bed and at her. He had known Linda only for a short while, but his feelings for her ran very deep. She was a very adventurous woman, and he felt like the only thing keeping her here, keeping her from fulfilling her potential, was him.

Linda was still asleep, resting peacefully in that large bed, not knowing he had woken up. He envied that peacefulness, a feeling he had never known in his life, but always craved. A tear ran down his cheek as he made his silent goodbye. He quietly opened the door and left.

He made his way towards the center of town. He was definitely nervous and stopped by the small saloon. He knew everyone there, but no one wanted to talk to him. Which was fine with him. He had no desire to talk to anyone right now. He ordered a shot of whiskey and slammed it down before looking at the clock behind the bar. Five ’til nine. It was time.

He pushed his way through the swinging door of the saloon and looked down the street. Roy was already waiting, wearing an outfit not all that different from his own. He also had an old, faded hat. His boots were dusty from the ride into town. And his gun also rested against his hip.

Roy wasn’t a bad man, not in any sense of the word. Hell, if circumstances had been different, he and Roy might have been partners, might have been able to run one of the biggest cattle outfits in the territory. But, a land dispute between their fathers had grown to the point of a feud, and the twisted code of honor of the West obliged these two sons of stubborn men to continue that feud. The feud had led to this.

He walked towards the center of the dusty street and faced Roy. Roy tipped his hat and he did the same. They both held a moment of silence, asking, in some way, for forgiveness from the other and, at the same time, forgiving the other for what might happen.

After a minute or two had passed, and some observers had started to peer through doors and windows, both he and Roy gave a silent signal that they should get things under way.

He dusted himself and checked his gun. He then steeled himself, planting both feet at shoulder width. He steadied his right hand above his gun. He looked over at Roy, who had done the same.

A tense second or two passed. Or was it an hour or two? It felt the same.

He noticed Roy’s hand twitch and time froze. His hand, feeling like a lead weight, found the cold metal of his revolver. His fingers wrapped themselves around the butt of the gun. He felt himself pull the gun out of the holster, aim, and fire. His bullet, right on mark, grazed Roy’s shoulder. He heard a scream of pain just as he heard the explosion of gunpowder from Roy’s gun. He could see the bullet slowly coming towards him. He spread his arms almost as if to embrace it. He heard more than felt the bullet enter his chest and lodge itself somewhere near his heart. For an eternity, he fell, his body making a dull thud when it hit the gound. A cloud of dust settled on him as his vision went black. His only thought as life left him was that maybe, now, he finally will have the peace he had craved.

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