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Ending a Life
Mr. George H. Summers drawled, “I wouldn’ say I regret doin’ some o’ those things I done, but I sure as hell wouldn’ say I mightily enjoyed it. Stealin’ them horses was an easy thing, and I aren’t ashamed to have gone an’ done it. But killin’ folks started to put my mind at troubles, I tell ya Buck. Never once had I planned to do it, I swear upon it, but I was mighty drunk and a leetle angered at the fellows, so I on’y hope that God can forgive me. I suspect that mos’ folks would say I mos’ly have all kind traits inside o’ me, if they knew me well enough.” He raised his hand to his mouth and nibbled his ragged fingernails.
I dragged my weary hooves across the bridge, all the while listening to Summers rattle on. Every time I took a step, his lank, golden hair bounced on his unnaturally round head. He was barely distinguishable from a very pale shell-less turtle. His looks alone made me cringe. My, if I didn’t know any better, I would just as soon buck him straight to hell as carry him a foot farther. After all, Buck was my name, and it’s what I do best. Summers had told me that we were going all the way past Laramie today, and that really put a spur in my side. I had been secretly hoping that I might get some rest on this fine and sleepy morning. But I was not to be obliged, as at that moment, Summers so rudely prodded me into a canter. I looked to the sky, and judging by the sun, it was only eight o’clock in the morning. This was bound to be a long day.
I sank to the ground, exhausted. Summers tied a rope around my neck, then shuffled to a lone tree. He wrapped the other end of my rope around the tree and made an expert knot. Considering his own handiwork, Summers leaned against the tree and slid to the ground. He began to prepare a meager lunch for himself.
After watching me for a moment, he said, “Go awn! Drink some o’ that water.” He pointed to a small creek. I struggled to my feet. As I walked toward the divine liquid, the rope became taut. I was still several feet away from the creek. Listening to his chuckles, I strained futilely at my bonds. I soon gave up, and skulked back to the shade of the tree. My, I did not care for that George H. Summers. Ever since he stole me from that fellow back in Walden and so cunningly escaped, I haven’t liked him, but this dropped him to a whole new level. He must have been just about the devil. And I hadn’t even seen his worst yet.
That afternoon, about three o’clock, Summers drew me to a stop next to a clear pool wedged in a standing of trees. He squinted at the water for a long hard moment. Then he twisted in his saddle to look the way we had just come. Summers started biting his fingernails. His eyes glazed, as if deep in thought.
“Hounds ‘il be after me,” he said flatly. “Need tuh change meh smells.”
Summers dismounted and stripped till he was indecent. He began to ease into the water, so I quickly lapped up as much as I could. Being a classy horse, I would rather not drink something such a vulgar man had touched with such vulgar body parts.
As he bathed, I slept contentedly.
An hour later, we were walking through a heavily wooded area when I heard a shout.
Summers jumped, quickly collected himself, and turned to see the intruder. A man wearing a gargantuan cowboy hat energetically bobbed towards us. He was leading a shockingly attractive mare, but she smelled too clean for my taste. As he neared, a glint of silver caught my attention. A shiny five-pointed star glimmered on his chest. I can’t read, but a brilliant beast like myself could easily guess what is written on such an accessory.
“Howdy,” he said again.
“Howdy.” Summers’ voice shook, but he instantly coughed and said, “Excuse meh, haven’t been uh feelin’ too good lately.”
“Shame for that, Sir. I’m Bath. Alfred Bath. Sheriff of Laramie.” Bath was a skinny, haggard man, though his face showed no unkindness. Dark locks of wavy hair covered his forehead.
“Pleased tuh meetcha.” An awkward silence followed.
“And you are?”
“Howard Watkins.” Summers shifted slightly on my back.
“Well, Mr. Watkins, what business do you have in these here parts?”
Summers gulped. “Just passin’ through.”
“You don’t say! Going all the way to the coast, eh?”
“Yessir.” Summers was sounding more and more strained.
Bath glanced at me. “Shoudn’ work that animal so hard.”
I liked Sheriff Alfred Bath.
“Yessir.” Summers was nearly crying.
“Well, I won’t stop you from your travels any longer Mr… I’m sorry, just tell me your name again please.”
Something flashed across Bath’s face. It could have been fear, anger, sadness, or all of them.
“Have a nice day, Mr. Watson.”
Summers grunted noncommittally. Bath turned and skipped away, humming a cheery tune.
Snap! Click! Summers bit his fingernails.
Releasing my reins, he slowly and quietly pulled his pistol free of its holster. He checked to make sure it was loaded, and then cocked it. He brought it up to point at Bath. His arm was fully extended, as if he wanted the gun as far away from himself as possible. Summers took a deep, heaving breath, and his finger tightened. I bucked. The shot rang out, and the bullet whistled by Bath. He spun and dove behind a tree, scrabbling for his pistol. The she-horse galloped away, frightened. I bucked again, throwing Summers high in the air. He crashed to the ground with a satisfying thump. His pistol skittered away into a thick clump of shrubs. Summers cursed and dove after it. I stood by, watching the action. Bath cautiously peeked from his hiding place to see Summers struggling through the brush. Bath ran forward, holding his gun at the ready. Summers realized that Bath stood above him, and slowly turned to face the Sheriff.
“Don’t shoot me, I’m unarmed!”
“I ain’t gonna shoot you,” said Bath, breathing heavily. “I will arrest you, though. Now get up off the ground.”
Summers adopted a resigned look as he straightened to his full height. His leg twitched. My eyes flicked to Summers lower back. I stiffened. Sticking out of his pants was the handle of the pistol. Summers must have found the pistol almost immediately after losing it and then only pretended to be searching for it. I neighed nervously. It was clear how this was going to end.
Summers’ voice interrupted my thoughts. “Sheriff, I am an awnest man and…” As he talked so innocently, his hand snaked to his back, and he cocked the pistol. Bath began to lower his weapon. “…my point is, I am sure that if ya’ knew meh, you would think I had mostly kindly traits.” And with that, Summers yanked the gun out of his pants and shot Bath in the chest. Bath sank to the ground.
Summers grinned, and kneeled next to Bath. “Have a nice day, Mr. Bath,” Summers said in an uncanny imitation of Bath’s own voice. Bath’s lips moved soundlessly. Summers turned to face me. A smile creased his pink, toothless face. “Let’s go, Buck.”