His arms were heavy as he raised them slowly from his side towards the level of his eye. His left eye closed while his right seized the spot at the rifle’s end and focused it on the man about to die. Below, the fatal man stood lonely in the street, ankles deep in the gutter, hands resting on his hips, tongue touching arid lips.
The quarry stood firm, he knew the sun was rising and the dust would soon be whispering into the air to hang spot-swaying above the trampled road. He flicked an empty can, it rose and glistened then rattled on stone and nestled beside a mud-stained box.
A noise, weighing the air, the man raised his head as a fox that smells the dead and stepped back to the wooden stage, his eyes fixed on the distant gap, the horizon of the road, the edge of town. Sweat trickled on the inside of his leg, coldly running down. The empty space on that edge of town clouded over; the dust beckoning the sound and as raising a corpse the cloud swirled and breathed life into four horsed men.
The sky was bright as the figures bobbed and stopped beside the wooden church.
They let their horses stand and rest, reins down, to paw the grass and nibble the white ringed birch above the stones. The rifle moved a little, gaining on the newest man, resting on his breast.
The single figure stood in the shade. His eyes roamed across the street to fix the group. One man, Sheriff Abbott, walked ahead, the rest spread out, a line across the road, chessmen on a mated field. Five men stood in the morning sun while flecks of cloud raced on. Alone, with hands loosely hung, the man stood breathing the morning air, clearing his head of the mechanics of the gun. Above, unknown, the bead moved on and trigger squeezed.
The hammer clicked and as below the nervous man reacted to the sound, a report came loud and metal smashed his chest, span him round. His hand felt firm as he lifted out his gun. Before he fell the group was less by one. Then shadows echoed with seven more shots and bullets smashed the wood and seared the skin and blood spat all around.
Time was brief but the air was full of acrid smoke before the shaken sand was settled on five bodies sprawled out flat. By the church, near the stones, a man tried to scream while blood gushed from the hole in his throat and he drowned with bubbling groans. Sheriff Abbott was dead, the sand where his back was lain all patterned in red. On the street four more lay still, sniffed at by a red-nosed dog.
The morning sun grew warm and heavy and settled on the scene. People opened their doors and looked about. The doctor and undertaker ventured out to complete the necessary chores.
Above, his heart was heavy from necessary wars.
related: Grey Riding, Silver Spur