Sarah and Ma have had their chicken dinner at the Diner and finished it off with apple pie covered with a dollop of Cinnamon Ice Cream. Sometimes I write things that really make me hungry.
From last time ...
"Gimme the keys I gave you. He's gotta paint that Jeep tonight. I'll leave 'em up front, under the counter. You can get 'em in the morning."
"Okay, Ma. Good night."
And now ...
Jake sat on a wooden milk crate in the moonlight, dragging on a Camel, watching the last of the Sons of Nevada drive off into the night, the cars leaving a heavy cloud of dust which the moon made look like a smothering pall. The air was still and electric with the tensions that had built up during the evening - his hands shook with suppressed emotion.
The meeting had not gone well. Some of the men wanted to move now. Some of them wanted to take over the state capitol building and make a statement NOW. Keeping that faction under control had been problematic for some time and they weren't getting any quieter in their demands. Jake thought sure things were going to come to blows, tonight, but at the last minute one of the men showed up drunk. He had a hooker with him and a couple of cases of Coors icing in the back of his pickup truck and suddenly everybody's interest took off in a new direction and, for the moment, the issue was forgotten. By them. Not by Jake. And he knew the whole thing was going to come back, again, at the next meeting.
"If there IS a next meeting", Jake muttered to himself. "Them fuckers are nuts."
Jake walked back into his store, closing the door just before the slow roll of dust could follow him in and coat everything with a thin film of yellow-brown grime. He hated the dust out here. It got into everything and he was constantly cleaning it up.
He heard a gun cock, behind him, near the door.
"How many times have I told you fuckers to keep your hands off the weapons in here?" He turned around to see Skinny Wilkins standing next to the door with a .38 Police Special pointed right at his chest.
"What the fuck, Skinny. What're you doin'?'
"Put yer hands up, Jake. Where I can see 'em. C'mon! Up! Up! I ain't foolin' here."
Jake raised his hands.
"I can see that, Skinny. What's this all about? You holdin' me up or somethin'?"
"No! No! Not that, Not that. Don't want no money. No. No money."
"Then what, Skinny? What do you want? And point that thing somewhere else, okay? The way your hand is shakin', you're gonna shoot somebody."
"Yeah, Jake. Gotta shoot. Gotta shoot YOU. We decided. Yeah. Decided. You gotta go, Jake. Takin' too long, Jake. Been talkin' 'bout all this stuff way too long. You gotta go!"
"Who put you up to this, Skinny? Who told you to shoot me?"
"Nobody. Nobody told me. We decided. All of us. Me and ... and ... We decided, that's all. Now turn around."
"What .. so you can shoot me in the back? Not on your life, Skinny. If you're gonna shoot me, your gonna do it lookin' me right square in the eye."
"Turn around I said!!" Skinny pointed the gun toward the floor, squeezed the trigger, and it went off with a sharp, thunderous smack to the ears.
"Skinny, you shitbird fucker! Look what you ... Skinny, where did you get the bullets for that gun?"
Skinny was standing there, peering down the barrel of the gun with a puzzled look on his face. Jake walked over and took the gun from his hand.
"Over there. I got the bullets over there. The box that's on the counter."
"These? You loaded your gun with bullets you stole from me? THESE bullets?"
Skinny nodded his head.
Jake reached across the counter and got his Colt .45 from the holster that held it just out of sight, under the lip of the counter.
"Run, Skinny. Before I change my mind and put a hole in you. And here. Take your gun with you. And Skinny ... don't try shootin' nobody with it. Not til you get some new loads. Now get out."
He was out the door like a shot. Jake watched Skinny disappear into the dust and the red glow of taillights that were waiting for him a little way down the road. There was trouble now. Trouble and it was going to get worse before it got any better.
"Goddammit!!!", Jake shouted. He kicked the door shut with a bang.
"I shoulda shot that fucker", Jake muttered to himself. He picked up the box of bullets off the counter, closed the top and put them back on the shelf.
"Thanks, Vito. You saved my life. Asshole."