This Saturday I’m riding down to historic Fort Smith with my friend Ruth Weeks to attend a book signing by the great-grandson of Rooster Cogburn.
Last night, at the NW Arkansas Writers Workshop, Dusty Richards told us about the contest being sponsored by Cogburn and High Hill Press.
A four sentence western.
Now I don’t usually write westerns, but as a kid, I sat next to my dad through every John Wayne movie ever made and I can’t help but be inspired by horse sweat and six-guns. So I figured I’d give this western short-short story a try.
Here’s my story. If you’d like to give it try yourself, scroll down to bottom of the page and hit the first link. It’ll take right to the contest.
Here’s my story and, oh yeah, Greg Camp, keep your fingers off the edit key until the end and then, yeah, I really would appreciate your expertise.
At the ridge-line he reined in the mare, bent low over the sweating neck of the horse so that the winter branches of hickory and pin oak framed the small form silhouetted in the open door of the cabin in the hollow below, the woman looking up the hill exactly as if she’d been there waiting patiently for him through all these endless months of the joining of folks in marriage, the burying of a baby in the rocky soil of the Ozarks, the uplifting as the spirit moved over a tent revival while folks leaped in joy, hands raised to the heavens, glorying in the holy ghost as another poor sinner was knocked flat to the ground with the devil plum defeated by the abundant power of God, as though the woman at the open door had stood right there through every star-filled night, while he huddled around an open fire and watched the stars turn in the sky and imagined her just like this, watching the horizon for his return, patient even as he tarried.
The bay side-stepped and tossed her head, and the saddle-preacher gathered the reins and spoke low, his words forming a silvery fog that hung in the motionless air for a moment before floating wraith-like to join a shimmering cloud of cooling sweat rising from the horse. Winter-robbed of all but palest gold, dawn’s fingers crept over the eastern rise and glinted cold, blue light from the woman’s hand–a deep, lethal-blue flash the preacher knew all too well as the gem-like color of a tiny, husband-killing bottle of arsenic, no bigger surely than the first seed of sin born in David’s heart when first he looked upon Bathsheba.
The snarling voice of the woman’s husband boomed into the morning air, floated up the hill and roused the preacher to spur his horse down into the hollow even as he watched the woman bring the blue bottle to her mouth, her head thrown back, her tender, white throat exposed as she swallowed his dreams drop by drop, condemned him to hell for all eternity.