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It Could Be Worse · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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You Can Pay in Gold or Lead
I heard the whistle of the bullet before it smashed the mirror behind Luanne’s bar. The split second before the mirror gathered a spider-web of cracks and Luanne screamed, I’d just made out the face of Rex Ratchen glaring from the saloon doors. Rex’s unmistakable leer, so often made after I’d thrown him into the county jail, likewise disappeared in the smattering of glass.

I dropped my whiskey and fell to the ground. The whistle and heat of the shot stayed in my ear like I’d laid too close to a crackling campfire for too long. Landing on the floor with a roll, I hustled to get myself righted. Seen some folks who can shoot good laying on their side, but hell if I ever learned the trick. Easier to shoot something tall than something long, my experience shows.

Rex let off another shot. The hole in the floor was six inches wide from where I got a foothold. Staying on one knee, I drew my Colt.

You see a lot when bullets are flying. Everything around you becomes clear as a glass chandelier, even if everything’s going to hell in a hand-basket. I saw it when I was in the Army, and I saw it when Rex was letting loose in Luanne’s. Charley Gumph the gambler huddled under a table, his fat belly heaving and thick hands shaking. Rich Vogel was holding his ears and hollering some gibberish from the floor. Cards were swept from the tables and glasses crashed as the last refugees scrambled for cover.

But what I saw the most that split-second was Rex Ratchen. His beard of black, tangled hair obscured his whole neck. The shirt he wore seemed a size too small, his fat body pushing against the fabric like water pushing against a dam. A polished, brown-handled Schofield filled his left hand. His hat, a black Stetson with a series of notches punched into the rim, bobbed as he drew the hammer back again.

And I knew, right there and then, he was looking for another notch.

I cocked the Colt just as he let another round loose. The whistle went by my other ear, the ringing and heat filling both sides of my head. But I knew luck was on my side: Rex was shooting one-handed and he was shooting too far away. The doors were about fifteen feet from where I’d been sitting, and with the roll, I was at twenty-five. Had he been thinking straight, he would’ve walked right up to me and shot me in the back of the head. But Rex wasn’t the smartest fellow in the world, and, both hands gripping the rusty black Colt, I let a shot off to remind him what happens when you make stupid decisions around an Arizona sheriff.

Despite standing still as a statue for his first three shots, Rex lurched to the side quicker than I could pull the trigger. While my roll wouldn’t win any prizes, Rex’s sprawl made my reflexes look downright Olympian. I readied the Colt and rushed toward the table he’d landed behind.

Somewhat dazed and laying on his left side, he fired twice at me as I closed the distance.

Not even a graze on my arm. Like I said, shooting on your side is foolish.

I fired, and a loud howl filled the room. The bullet got him in the right leg, just above the knee.

“Give yourself up, Rex!” I hollered. “No use keeping up this foolishness!” I pulled the hammer back one more time, the click the punctuation mark to my command.

Maybe it was hearing the voice of his former jailer, maybe it was the pain in his leg, maybe it was just that pig-headed stubbornness of his. Whatever it was, Rex launched himself up faster than I’d ever seen a man do. The Schofield was nearly righted my direction before I let off my shot.

Rex fell across the table and slammed into the floor. Once he settled, I approached him with a hesitant step. The Colt’s hammer clicked; I’d seen too many owlhoots play dead to take any chances.

I stared down at Rex, his eyes already growing glassy as he stared up at the ceiling. It took me a few moments to find where the shot had landed. Against my Christian nature, I chuckled when I finally found the spot.

Right in the middle of the crown, the Stetson had punched its final notch.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Monokeras
A wild-west gunfight, for no particular reason that the story deigns to tell us about. One of the guys ends up dead, the other (who is the narrator and didn't shoot first, so he's the one we root for) lives. The End.

The writing is competent and clear, and there's some promise of character in the narrative voice -- though at this length it doesn't really get a fair chance to distance itself from regular cowboy noir.

I'm not really sure where the prompt connects to this.

All in all, my reaction is as to spiked lemonade: Meh.
#2 · 2
Probably the most blunt story in this batch, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s sometimes nice to read something that just presents a situation and describes how the protagonist gets out of it. The action was understandable and didn’t lag too much. I also liked how the story reincorporated ideas, like the notches on Rex’s hat and the sheriff’s talk about how most people can’t shoot on their sides. These were repeated naturally throughout the story and did a decent set-up for when the sheriff finally turns the tables on Rex.

The problems mostly come from the fact that there’s so much focus on the plot that there’s not much focus on the characters themselves. Rex is just the black-hatted outlaw and the narrator is just the Wild West sheriff, and that’s all there is to them. I thought there was going to be an interesting switch toward the end, where maybe Rex was wrongfully imprisoned and the sheriff had actually been an abusive bastard and Rex was the actual hero; the fact the sheriff laughs when he realizes where he shot Rex seems like something a villain would do. But nope, Rex was just a bad dude and the sheriff’s laughing just because he has a weird sense of humor, I guess (to be fair, not an unusual trait to have in Arizona). There was also a relative lack of description regarding what Luanne’s Bar looked like, which didn’t envelop me in the Western aesthetic as much as it should have.

If there’s any revisions in the future, I think the author should probably flesh out these characters a bit more. You don’t have to do the “Rex was the true hero” idea I suggested, but there should at least be something more to these gunslingers than “we’re shooting at each other”. Show us just how noble the sheriff is or how vile Rex is and how they eventually have to face-off one way or the other. Also show a little more of Luanne’s bar and what this saloon in the middle of Arizona feels like. A little bit of characterization and setting description will go a long way to making this story fire on all cylinders.
#3 · 1
It’s a fair description of a ‘having it out’, far west mode. You seem to have a propensity for fat people, somehow. It’s a bit caricatural, you know, saloon, holes in the hat, all that stuff. Not very original, neither the decor, nor the scenario.

Execution is fine. The problem is more in the aftertaste. That’s where I concur with >>Troposphere. Once you have finished it, you can’t help but feeling something round the line of ‘okay, fine, but what's the takeaway?’. That, plus the tenuous link to the prompt, makes it a good read, but as many slices of life, that’s all about it.

Also he rolled ten feet on the floor? That’s a hell of a roll :p
#4 · 3
Pretty amusing scene, but I feel like it's lacking the back story to make me care that much about the characters. Rex has apparently been in this guy's jail before, but for what? Probably not the notches in his hat, or he wouldn't have gotten out of jail so soon. So were his other kills considered justified, or just nothing could be proven? I like the way you try to fill out the scene by mentioning what a couple of other characters in the bar are doing, but there's just not enough space to do that much with it. It's a good way to suggest he has a history with these other folks as well, but there isn't the word count to flesh any of them out. You end up having to mention a bunch of them collectively, which makes me wonder why the gambler is being singled out. He must have some significance to Our Hero, but we don't get why. It gets a bit repetitive that both he and Rex are described as fat, and the rest being vaguely grouped together doesn't give me a clear picture of how crowded this saloon is.

So: great as an in-the-moment scene, but lacking the context to make a story out of it.
#5 ·
More daka to be sure
Poetry of grim bullets
Gold corrupts, lead is pure