Coming in just under the wire with this week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge. The theme this week is Stolen Titles (Stephen King Edition). Chuck gave us ten Stephen King book titles. Pick one and run with it for up to 1,000 words, preferably not in the horror genre. I picked The Colorado Kid. For some reason, that has always suggested a Western to me. So that’s what I did. I used exactly 1,000 words. Please to enjoy.
THE COLORADO KID
A tumbleweed tumbled weedily across the path worn through the dusty plain by horse after horse traveling between the edge of town and the watering hole just over the next rise and down the hill behind that one tree with the little knobs sticking out on the backside of the trunk that everyone thought had been caused by the hailstorm that had blown through back about fifteen years before.
Louie Champlain adjusted the faded grey bowler hat on his head as sat astride his horse Pancho, a spavined, swaybacked old nag that was one stumble short of being turned into jerky. Louie had noticed his Uncle Joby watching hungrily as he and Pancho rode out of the corral on more than one occasion the last couple of weeks. He leaned forward and patted Pancho on the neck. “Don’t worry amigo,” he whispered. I won’t let them have you.”
Pancho blew a raspberry and kept plodding along, turning his head to watch the tumbleweed disappear over the next hill. He didn’t have to see the watering hole to know how to get there. He’d been walking this trail since before it was a trail. Pancho was one of the few in town who knew how those knobs had really gotten on that tree trunk. And he wasn’t talking.
They arrived at the watering hole to find another horse and rider already there. The other horse was a magnificent palomino, his golden coat shining in the sunlight and the silver of his mane reflecting the afternoon’s glory for all to see. His head was lowered to the surface of the pond where he was drinking the cool water. Louie reined Pancho to a halt and stared. He knew that horse.
A man came out from behind the tree. Louie knew him as well. The fact that he was fastening his pants told Louie he had probably been tending to nature’s call on the backside of the tree. Pancho wondered if there were any new knobs on the trunk. He blew another raspberry.
The man looked up at the sound and grinned. He was wearing a buckskin shirt and pants that matched the tawny gold of the horse’s coat. The shirt was trimmed with silver fringe of the exact hue of the horse’s mane and tail. Leather gloves of the same color were tucked into his wide brown belt. A snowy white Stetson hat sat a rakish angle on his head and a deep purple bandana was tied around his neck.
The horse’s name was Sundance. The man was the Colorado Kid.
Louie let go of his reins and slid off Pancho’s back. Gratefully, Pancho ambled over to the water hole. He and Sundance whickered greetings to each other and Pancho began to drink. Louie stood, transfixed by the refraction of the sunlight off the Kid’s ivory grin. After a few seconds he shook off the hypnotic effect and spoke. “How you been, Kid? Been a while since you been home.”
“I’m not here to visit,” said the Kid, walking over and shaking hands with Louie. They walked over to the tree and sat down in the sparse shade provided by the scraggly branches. “I’m just passing by and thought we’d stop a spell and rest up before heading on. We’re in hot pursuit.” As Pancho drank Sundance rolled his eyes in his direction.
“Who y’all after today?”
“Lumbago Bill. He’s been writing funny checks at the mercantile over in Foster.”
Louie whistled. “What a bastard.” He balled his left hand into a fist and pounded it into his open right palm. “You got Ike Milkerson for that last fall and Sandy Jessie two years ago. You’d think these punks would learn their lesson at some point.”
“You’d think,” but the Kid shook his head. “We’re trying to extend the frontier out here, trying to survive in a harsh, unforgiving world. We need to be doing everything we can to make the road easier for everyone. Sound financial policies and practices would be a great place to start.”
Over at the pond Pancho paused in his drinking to snort. Sundance huffed in agreement. Neither man heard the byplay. Realizing this, both horses lowered their heads and drank a little more. It was hot and the water was cool. A few extra quarts never hurt anyone.
“I won’t keep you,” said Louie. “Sounds like you’ve got important work to be about.”
The Kid whistled. Sundance tipped Pancho a knowing look and headed over to his rider. “We’re heading towards Shumate,” said the Kid. “There’s a sale on at the general store there. It’s the kind of temptation Lumbago Bill can never resist, not this close to the first of the month, anyway. Hopefully we’ll get there before he does anything rash.”
“I know you’ll get him,” said Louie.
The Kid nodded and tipped his hat, sunlight flashing off the chrome ornaments on the band into Louie’s eyes. Louie squinted against the glare. When he uncovered his eyes, the Colorado Kid was gone.
“It beats me how he does that, Pancho,” said Louie, an admiring tone in his voice. “Lordy, but he’s a banty rooster. I wish I could match his combination of sartorial panache, confident swagger, and righteous morality. There aren’t too many people who can manage that.” He bent down and filled his canteen from the pond.
Pancho kept his own counsel. Privately he thought Sundance was the strength of that duo—any horse worth his oats kept his rider on the right path, not the other way around. He let Louie think as he wanted, though, another trait of a superior equine companion. He walked over and let Louie climb up on to his back.
Louie took his bowler hat off, brushed the dust off the dome and wiped the sweat from his face with a deep purple bandana that he pocketed without a scrap of irony. He clicked his tongue at Pancho. They climbed the hill slowly, heading back into town.