A woman of about 32 with a beautiful round face, and pudge nose, dressed in a blue silk dress stood with one of her two sons way up in the top of the town's brick and mortar hightower that overlooked the growing town of Cassilla Tennessee, which was flowing with wagons, music, and wine. Below the cone shaped opening at the top of the tower was a ruby red stained glass. On it was the image of two angels intertwined in one another, wings propelling them, toward a single place of light on the ground with their arms outreached to some indescribable markings in the light. Above, engraved into the cone was a diamond, emerald, and sapphire mandala. The older boy of thirteen stood there in the opening and gazed out on life that way playing out before him.
Ragged men walked alongside the blazing horn instruments ringing out across the town, shoe shiners outside each of the taverns were slapping up leather, and he saw a starving poet laying down in the middle of the street. When the mother saw a mysterious stranger riding in on the outskirts of town dressed from head to toe in a gray continental suit and a ten gallon stetson hat, both gave off the illusion that he hadn’t just rode the many miles of dusty trail into town. An orange shall covered up his otherwise haggard face. With no doubt this gained the attention of everyone in town. All of the women on the front porch of a tavern called the vine stared out at this pilgrim. And despite the clean suit his haggard face told a story of a man walking the line between life and death. Where there was no beard to cover his face were only scars, a wretched breath that wreaked some splendid mixture of rot gut whiskey and spoiled guts, but his eyes were still lit by a fire born from hell. He tied his pony and as he walked under the town hall he was approached by some strange dingaling of a man. This was a towering body thin to the bone goofy man who informed the stranger he was the owner of an inn here in Casilla and had an inviting but odd manner.
“What brings you to town on this fine cool evenin mister?” The man asked half heartedly with a wicked smile wiping across his face. “I’m here on a favor for a friend. “I need a place to lay my head. Do you know a place I might stay?” He said in a deep but hushed tone. He’d noticed this oddball of a man leaving the entrance of the inn and basically skipping his way over to him and guessed the mans occupation while noting his red and white pinstripe suit and figured the occupation. The man’s smile grew wilder and more wicked until bursting into laughter before reaching out to grab the pilgrims hand. “No” were the only words that escaped from his mouth as he violently shook the strangers hand and trotted back across the street. A slight grin came over the pilgrims face as he nodded with his stetson hat and drifted around to the side of town hall to sit and look while sunset was beginning to sink deep into the West.
A boy around the age of ten was fumbling through a big wooden chest on the bottom floor of the hightower. He had long black hair that ran down to his shoulders and was overcome with joy when his greasy hands felt the fur of a beaver hat he’d been searching for. His smile was one of pure innocent joy. The child’s wide eyes rose to find his dad’s old Winchester rifle hanging on the wall above the chest. His body rang with chills of excitement as he stood up on the chest but his tiny little arms still couldn’t reach even when he leaned full tilt on the tips of his toes. A disgruntled and frustrated boy looked around the room. His eyes searched to find a small empty barrel he could put on top of the chest so he could reach. He jolted with excitement to grab the barrel and threw it up on the chest. Just as quickly he followed it up. He thought to himself that if he could just practice his aim well enough that one day he would be able to out shoot his older brother and if he practiced enough maybe even be a better shot than his own father. Up above through the creaking floor Tommy asked his mother, “Where is Little Johnny?”... Lucille stayed staring out the window lost in reverie.
“Mom! Ma! Where? Where do you think he is?” “What? Where who is?”She snapped in all her harshness. The boy frightened by the tone lowered his head and began to walk away. Lucille’s mind snapped back to conscious thought and reached and grabbed the boy.
“I’m sorry I snapped at you. Where who is my sweet boy?”
“Li… Little Johnny” The boy could hardly spit out of his mouth for terror still ran through his veins.
“I… I don’t know. Why don’t you go find him.” As the mother embraced her son with a big smile and a kiss on the cheek.
So a smile came about his face and he ran down each set of stairs to see if he could find little Johnny. He too gazed around the room to find the barrel now laying on the ground next to the chest as if someone had fallen off of it. But no one was there. Eventually he turned his eyes upward to find the gun was gone and he had no idea where Little Johnny was either. The lady Lucille stayed high in the tower scouting the brick and mortar town below but her eyes kept returning to the pilgrim who now sat in the shade of the town hall, back up against the wall and head held surprisingly high despite the appearance of his otherwise awful situation. Her curiosity was piqued.
The last rays of sunlight were reaching out across the Western sky as the East had already fallen into darkness and Little Johnny sat on the side of the tavern called The Vine. He’d encircled himself in barrels and loose pieces of firewood stacked as high as his shoulders in order to twist and turn and practice the speed of his aim. He’d duck down, throw his shoulders up with the rifle tucked to his shoulder, use the barrels or wood as a mount before ducking again to find another piece and so on moving as quick as he could to set up his aim and pretend to pull the trigger without making any contact with the iron. So on it went as he was wearing himself out thinking no one in the town would be able to see. Cover, aim, fake the shot, repeat.
The pilgrim meanwhile stayed where he was at against the wall of the town hall continuing between reverie and noticing every detail of the town. Almost as if he was reading a book he was lost somewhere between his imagination and reality. Finally the lights of town hall were the last of all the buildings in Cassila to be turned on interrupting every thought the pilgrim had in the most frustrating way. As if someone had suddenly yelled into his ear with a shriek to insight terror into his mind. But his movement remained graceful as he slowly slid back just outside of the light to continue his examination of this strange place. He’d then noticed the loud cheers roaring out from The Vine and peered that direction moving his eyes like a hawk on prey. That’s when he saw quick movements jumping out from the shadows across the way. Something popping up, setting, and dropping just as quick as it rose and his eyes keened in evermore.
The laughs and roars echoed out The Vine like a wave as the music stopped. The whole crowd was chanting, “Willie! Willie! Willie!” Willie was the most beloved in the town, second only to Sheriff Monroe who was his closest friend. And the two men walked out of The Vine smiling and telling jokes like those of old time friends. The strangers who’d stopped chearing listened to one drunk but charismatic man tell the tale of how Monroe and Willie knew each other long ago until they became men. One set to become a U.S Marshal for ten years before settling in Casilla to be Sherif, tired of always being on the move and the other hit the road to see what he could find, which wasn’t much, but if you asked anyone in the town of Casilla they’d all say he was the best guitar picker they’ve ever known. And so one day after stopping in town the two reunited and the old friendship blossomed once more and Willie too decided to settle in Casilla after being made an offer from the Vine that he said, “Was so high he thought he’d never come down!” So these two bizarre friends headed towards the Town Hall as they did every night after a show to shake hands with Mayor Helm, enjoy a cigar, and then the mayor and the sheriff would depart to discuss town matters leaving Willie alone.
So the lone traveler sat and watched as no one else had since noticed his presence after the greeting from the innkeeper. Well that he was aware of anyway. He sat amazed at this odd friendship between artist, mayor, and sheriff and was already keen that these three men were of the most respected in the town. He wondered how he’d never found such a relationship among men but quickly dispelled the thought as sentimental nonsense. The cigars were lit and laughter followed but the pilgrim wasn’t the only one who stood watching. Lucille still stood high in the tower staring far more evidently at this group of men. “How is the wife?” The Mayor inquired looking at the Sheriff who was the only out of the three who decided to marry. “Lucille?” She’s doing great. Why do you ask?” The sheriff became suspicious as the mayor almost never pried into his personal life. “Just trying to create conversation, that's all.”
“Well why don't you think of something a little more interesting like your usual points” the sheriff retorted as he almost always relied on Helm or Willie to drive the conversation forward. Willie’s eyes switched to the tower now himself. Lucille was standing back in the archway opening now not to be seen by any except those who are daring enough to look set a single candle there to be seen. “I just don’t feel like the usual dicking around” blurted out the mayor now followed by , “We're still out in the open and many are out. Lots of ears don't you think?” The sheriff, less political than the mayor, nodded in agreement. Willie on the other hand slammed the rest of the whiskey in his cup and threw the cigar to the ground and stomped it out. “Well fellas think I ought to be going now.” he said with all the charm in a drawl. “Where are you going?” The mayor now noticed he wasn’t the only one behaving out of character. Willie, already halfway down the street, called back, “I got an early morning, I thought tomorrow I’d get right with the Lord!” he said and chuckled as he stumbled out of sight. The light in the tower went away and none even noticed its presence.
The pilgrim meanwhile had turned his attention back to the flopping shadow in the distance which had been ongoing now for at least an hour and the lights of the town were all that shone on this dark night. He would look until he was sure of what it was he was seeing.
“Oh! Sheriff, I almost forgot I’ve got a new pistol to show you! You stay right here, I’ll grab it. And if you like it, it's yours to keep, I’ve got two of them anyhow.” The mayor said with all of his political luster. The lone man sitting on the side of the building still taking everything in had noticed by now it was a boy practicing his aim and began to chuckle as it reminded himself of the dreams of gun slinging he’d once entertained as a child. Few people remained and some had gathered not far from the light of the town hall but still stood in the shade.
Willie looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was behind him. He heard a door creek from the backside of the tower and Lucille’s ever enchanting voice invited him in. Lucille and Willie had wasted no time getting to business with their warm embrace as Lucille knew both children were out of the place. Then in the glimmer of light from the town hall a shot rang out across the town. Everything stopped. It was as if ringing echo was all to hear and time was stuck for all. All besides two who fell into each others loving arms oblivious to the world that wasn't in front of them.
The few people who were out scattered about and then reconvened at The Vine. The sheriff laid dead on the ground. The pilgrim eased his way back further into the shade until at a safe distance to disappear and lay his head below the stars on the trail he’d just traveled. Lucille and Willie remained in each other's loving arms and Mayor Helm came out to find the body of his dear friend and greatest, most beloved sheriff stiff and bloody on the ground. The boy sat behind the barrel and hung his head. Then the blood from his veins filled with adrenalin. The beat of his heart pumped through his chest. He set off running far into the land as his legs would go. The Mayor out of confusion and dread dropped the pistol and fell to his knees and ran his hands down his friends back and back up again. A look of indescribable pain swept over his face but his composure was one that was still strong in grace.
The man who’d scattered and now gathered back in dim lit Vine had worked through their initial shock to begin raising questions. The shock had turned to rage. “Who did it?” The man of short stature and ragged clothes began, “I personally shoot that son of a bitch that took our sheriff and kilt him.” “I agree with Ed! I loved that man! He personally came to see me everyday when my dear Melinda got sick and took care of me while I took care of her. Somebody needs to pay for this!” Shouted out the tallest and most finely dressed of the three men known as Tommy. The third of the men whose appearance and attitude shouted overwhelmingly that he must be the most average man to have walked the earth sat beside them with his head held down low. “Well what do you think Sam?” Tommy yelped while hitting him in the shoulder. Sam rose his head and had tears rolling down his cheek and shook his head in shame. “Well! What is it Sam?” Ed now fired in. “I… I…” his mouth stopped working and he thought he’d said what was on his mind but all that came out was a sigh and more weeping.
Tommy now stirring with disbelief and anticipation through his friend out the chair. “What is it Sam! I know you know something you got to say!” Sam turning his head back to his friends now filled with fiery rage that had overtaken his friends screamed, “I know who did it! I ought to go kill that son of a bitch right now!” “Who?” Both men chimed at the same time. “It… It was Willie…. Okay?” The words slurred out of his mouth like toxic ooze for the ears; they were words that none ever wished to hear. All three now taken aback at the realization of what had occurred sat in silence. Finally Ed reminded them they needed to go to the mayor with this news straight away.
Lucille and Willie now stood outside the back door which he’d entered earlier, arms holding each other tight as they peered into each other's souls in the silence of night. The two were so caught up in each other's presence they never even heard the echo of the bullet. But neither had anything left to say so they stayed arm in arm warming one another with the biggest of grins till Lucille interceded, “It’s time” softly into Willie’s ear. Willie let go immediately and his grin turned to despair. With a great deal of shame in his voice he said, “Goodnight Lucille” winked and gave her a kiss on the forehead. As he turned his thoughts turned to shame for he knew he was the one to blame. And Lucille watched as his shadow disappeared into the night.
“Mayor! Mayor! You’re never going to believe what Sam has to say about this!” Helm still knelt by his dearly departed friend's side, kissed his index and middle finger, blessed the man on his forehead and stood before the three men hardly able to speak. “What is it?” was all he could muster in a rather grim tone. “It was Willie who shot Monroe!” Ed blasted out. “What! That is nonsense! Willie and Monroe were best friends. I don’t need to hear this nonsense now.” He now shouted in utter disbelief. “No its true Mayor!” Ed snapped back. “Sam saw it. Tell him Sam. Come on now and tell him.” “It’s true” Sam mustered. “I saw Willie come back out into the light of Main Street. It looked at first like he’d lost something. Then his eyes were overcome with hellfire and he pulled out his pistol and shot Monroe.” “Help me get Monroe out of the street. We’re going to need the finest casket to bury him in tomorrow. But before we do that we’ll gather as many men as we can muster outside Willie’s little shack on the outskirts of town and put him in chains. I myself will handle this whole case.”
About the Creator
Welcome to my page! I am a writer whose interests are vast and believes in the art of the word. In my writing you will find Non-Fiction, Fiction, and poetry in pursuit of the value of language.