Old Nick’s Garley
Pa’s summons turns the Garley gang on its heels.
Nick the dog heard him coming four days out. Three days out we saw the sun-flash off his hat badge.
I cocked my rifle at two days out. Speculation ran the gamut as to what the cloud of dust brought us. Couldn’t be nobody else since we lived at the end of Get-the-Hell-Out Road.
The other dogs started barking. Nick took off to get the rider in. I shot a few of the pack that tried to follow him.
The rocks cracked, and the rattlers hissed in the shade when the dried up horse dragged his rider up to the porch. I thought about shooting ’em. We were pretty crowded already.
Rick and Carlisle ranged up behind me. They weren’t runners from no government messenger. Buck, George and Coolie fingered their triggers behind them, not missing Fred and Codger, who’d slipped into the mesquite.
The messenger landed square on two feet. A diamondback blunted himself on the man’s chaps and slunk away. The man looked me in the eye, tipped six drops on his lips from his waterbag, and spat them at my feet.
I nodded. Coolie ducked out. I heard his bucklegged footsteps to the water barrel, the trickle of water scooped into the tin can, and his footsteps back to the porch.
The messenger held out his waterbag. Coolie tipped the can and poured our water into it. The parched rider gulped a mouthful. My men tensed. Rifles raised a fraction.
The rider swallowed, and the rifles lowered.
“Wat yer got, government man?” I jerked my chin at him.
“Summons for Mr. PWG Garley.”
We barked a laugh, all six of us. Nick sighed. “Garley’s been dead two winters.”
The rider staggered back. Rifles raised again, this time out of pity.
“Dead.” He wheezed. He spun around and threw his hat down. When he came and sat on the porch step with his back to us we all stepped back from him.
He leaped up and faced us. All rifles leveled at him. I held up my hand. He courted death movin’ so fast, but I wanted to know what he wanted with my pa.
“Then his heir’ll do.” The rider nodded at me and swigged another mouthful.
“Show me the summons.”
The rider took it from his saddle. I jerked my thumb and Buck took the horse to the stable.
The rider held the paper out. He couldn’t see the rest of us in the porch shade.
The sun beat hotter than a pig’s eyeball on my hand. I had hold of the roll, but the rider didn’t let go his end.
“I rode as fast as I could to get here.”
“You come a long way to take two winters.” The nearest government office was a week’s ride to the south. Did this summons come from Washington?
“Four winters. I was afraid for her. This ain’t no life for her. But I don’t want to die or live like you, so I come.”
“You gonna let me read it?”
“You can read?” He sneered. “What’s your name?”
“PWGF Garley.” I snatched the summons. “Mr. To you.”
That was my Pa’s name in black and white alright. Then some stuff about claiming a Miss DPW Garley. Custody, I sounded the word in my head. “Who’s she?”
Rich and Carlisle shuffled their feet. They hadn’t seen a she since their ma got bit by a rattler. Before Get-the-Hell-Out Road.
“Your grandpappy’s daughter’s kin.”
“How old?” I scanned for numbers.
“Four when the summons went down. So eight.”
Since he did the figures, I didn’t bother. I handed the summons back. “This ain’t no life for a she. Rest your horse the night.”
The rider stepped into the shade that now extended off the porch. “Nope. She’s only a week behind me.”
Old Nick lifted his head and growled.
I jerked my chin at him. “Make that four days.”
About the Author: Where are you from? Chances are, I’ve been there. Africa claims me as her child, Europe claims me as a nomad, Canada claims me as a settler. My voice, accent, outlook and style reflect all the places I have lived and loved. What do you love? I love children and hope never to grow too old to get down on the floor and build, romp, or fly through a child’s imagination. I love animals and am pleased to say, they seem to love me back. https://leoshine.micandpen.com/