inspired by "Ed is Dead" by Van Caerndow
"Hey, Patty! Nice day to die, right amigo?"
I hated it when they called me that. My name wasn't Patrick and I wasn't of Irish descent. I was a native New Yorker, with a mother from Paris and a father from London. "Patty" was really just half of their name for me -- "Cow Patty" -- since in their eyes I was little more than cattle dung. Or, at the very least, it was what they thought of the cheap tin badge that read "United States Marshal" pinned to my coat. You would have thought that Uncle Sam could have at least made it out of silver or gold. If a man was going to put his life on the line for something then make its symbol worth a few dollars.
I looked around for the source of the greeting and saw Buck Roberts leaning up against a pillar on the front porch of the barber shop. Although his stance seemed casual, it was evident that he was more alert than he wanted to appear. While his left shoulder was leaning up against a pillar, his right arm was free and unimpeded. His coat was pulled back away from his holster, and his Colt rode very high; pulled up so that it could be drawn easily and quickly. I had no doubts at all that he was ready to draw and that his relaxed demeanor was all a sham.
The image of two gun fighters standing in an open street, 20 paces apart, facing each other, with a third party calling out "Draw!" is a storybook fantasy. No man in his right mind, or likely woman for that matter, would take such a risk and hope that their gun came out clean, it didn't misfire, their reaction time was quicker, or a countless other factors all went their way. To survive you used your wits and looked for advantage. You positioned yourself where the sun was in your opponent's eyes, when his hand was slick and sweaty and you waited for an opportunity when you were ready and he wasn't. There were two kinds of gun fighters -- those that manipulated the situation to win and dead ones.
I was at the disadvantage. I'd just gotten off the trail from hunting down a couple of cattle rustlers. I'd caught up with them trying to herd their ill gotten gains over the Rio Grande into Mexico. Of course, like the amateurs they were, they had this silly notion that the river provided this magical protection and that crossing the border saved them from answering for their crimes. So, I let them cross, watched them set up camp for the night "safely" in Mexico, and then I shot them in their sleep, tied their bodies on their horses, and brought them back for the bounty. I had finished dropping off the bodies at the undertaker and was heading to the telegraph office when I ran into Buck.
The sun was over Buck's head, but still pretty high in the sky. I saw that he was slightly higher than me, so any shot would need to be angled upward. The pillar he was leaning on gave him a bit of cover, though not much. I saw the hammer on his gun was already pulled back, indicating he had cocked it already and would have a shorter, lighter trigger pull. A gun pulls to the side and shoots left when a rightie has a heavy pull to cock a dual action gun. He was less likely to be affected by that factor than I and was more likely to fire straight on his first shot.
My boots were bleached white from the dust and the sun. My jeans were ripped and dirty. My shirt had salt stains all across the back and wet sweat marks in the pits. I smelled bad and looked worse. My gun was covered with a layer of dust and was jammed deep into my holster. I was still wearing my riding gloves and because of them, I didn't have a chance at getting off a clean first shot. I'd made a huge mistake in forgetting to leave them in my saddle bags. I had been tired from the long ride and for that one mistake, I was in deep trouble.
My mind raced as I searched for ideas. If I started to remove my gloves, Buck would shoot me cold when I had the right one half off and was unable to draw. Talking my way out of this was pointless since it was Buck's cousin I'd just dropped off at the undertaker. I could stall and hope that help arrived, perhaps the town Sheriff or a deputy, but it was unlikely to happen. I had few options open to me. I was unprepared, in the open, at a disadvantage, and facing a ready and competent gun man.
Buck's hand dropped to rest casually on his gun, indicating that he was about to draw. Any action I made would provoke him. Even pulling my coat back would do it. Damn, that sun was hot, baking down on me like the fires of hell, which I suspected I was personally going to see in the next few minutes. I felt the dribble on my left leg first, and then the warmth pooling in my boot as the urine flowed down my leg, leaving a dark trail meandering on the inside seam of my jeans. A couple of drops fell from my crotch onto the dust of the street where I was standing. Not only did I smell of sweat, but now I had just pee'd myself and was going to die smelling of urine. How simply delightful this was all becoming! I looked down at the mess I'd made of myself, and that one movement was all it took to coax Buck into action.
It wasn't anything like I expected it to be. I felt myself falling after a tremendous blow to my chest, like being punched. It didn't really hurt and the sound came a short eternity later. I don't really think I heard the shot clearly because my blood was already pounding in my ears and everything seemed muffled. I landed on my side, somehow turning slightly as I fell, so that my nose hit the ground first. I tasted blood, probably from my broken nose and my vision got blurry. I might have lost my hat when I fell, or it might still be on my head -- I just couldn't tell. My Marshal's badge was jabbing me in the chest and that hurt. It was strange how it didn't hurt at all where I had a hole the size of a man's fist in my back as the bullet had gone clean through me and yet the stab from a cheap tin badge was almost unbearable.
I don't quite know how, but I saw the rest of the scene from some sort of ghostly vantage point, floating above my body. There were three pools of blood on the dirt, one from my chest where the bullet entered, a larger one from my bleeding and broken nose, and an even larger one from the massive hole in my back. My coat had ripped at the exit wound and you could see right into me. I think that blubbery red thing was my heart, but I couldn't tell because it wasn't beating. Well, the good part was I didn't urinate myself again since I had emptied my bladder, but my bowels did release so that I soiled myself and also smelled of feces. I was glad when the undertaker arrived and dragged my body into his hand cart.
I looked at the sign again, "Wanted, U.S. Marshals. Apply Within" and decided that my fantasy had been too real. No matter that it was just a figment of my imagination, I knew that it could easily become real. This choice wasn't the right one for me; the life of the courageous lawman was for braver men. I was fated to be a simple undertaker who died of old age.