“Howdy,” the sheriff said.
The young man got off his horse.
After tying his horse to the hitching rack, he took off his long frock coat revealing a pistol belt hung low on his right hip.
“In town long?” the sheriff asked.
The young man took one last drag from the small cigar dangling from thin lips and crushed it under a dusty boot.
“Long enough for a drink if that’s all right with you.”
“Just as long as there’s no trouble.”
“I’m real peaceable. All I want’s a drink and to be left alone.”
“You know people won’t leave you alone. You have a reputation.”
“Am I in trouble in your town, Sheriff?”
The kid nodded and didn’t look over his shoulder as he strolled into the saloon.
The sheriff took a folded poster out of his breast pocket and opened it.
“$500,” he said out loud.
He put the poster back in his pocket and went in the saloon. The kid was standing at the end of the bar drinking a beer. The place was quiet with the patrons watching the kid.
“Whiskey, Bill,” the sheriff said.
Bill nodded and took his hand off the shotgun under the bar.
The sheriff took his drink and went to the kid.
“Mind if I drink with you?”
“Not at all.”
The sheriff saw Bill reach down to feel the shotgun. He shook his head.
“That bartender has a nervous hand,” the kid said. “I don’t want no trouble.”
“It might be a good idea if you finished your drink and rode on.”
“Not very hospitable, Sheriff. You treat all your visitors like this?”
“Not all of our visitors are hired killers and on the run.”
“I’m not on the run. I’m just passing through.”
The kid took a big sip of his beer.
“Sure is good.”
The kid held up his mug to Bill.
“You have good beer, Bill. Hope you get to keep serving it.”
Bill took his hand off the shotgun and moved to the other end of the bar.
“Easy, Kid,” the sheriff said. “Bill’s just protecting his place.”
“Nothing to protect it from, Sheriff.”
The kid finished his beer and said, “I’ll think I’ll have another.”
“I wish you wouldn’t.”
The sheriff finished his whiskey.
“Look, Kid, you have a big reward on your head and I don’t want no one here collecting it.”
“Why not? It would give your town a big name.”
“Every hothead and kid who thinks he can shoot will show up here. We don’t need that.”
“Okay, Sheriff, I’ll go. It’s not very friendly here anyway.”
The pair walked out together. The kid mounted up.
“Nice talking to you, Sheriff. Maybe I’ll be back around these parts some other time.” The kid tipped his hat. “And we can have another drink together.”
The sheriff nodded and watched the kid ride off. He was almost to the edge of town when a rifle shot rang out. The kid tumbled out of his saddle.
“Hard times will fall on this town,” the sheriff said watching the crowd gather.
Lowell Bergeron lives in Iowa, Louisiana with his wife, Fae, and granddaughter, Kaitlyn. He’s been interested in writing, especially short stories, for a long time. He had an article printed in one of his local magazines.