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It was dawn, and the men were growing fatigued from the heat. Southern Californian weather tends to be dry and scorching during the summer, and today was no exception. Sweat rolled down James Daniel’s neck, and formed a reservoir at the collar of his paisley bandanna. He wasn’t sweating because of the heat; his nerves had him constantly on his toes, and gave him good reason to sweat. If it weren’t for the circumstances, however, this would have been a pleasant day. James was used to the heat; he’d grown rather fond of it in the past three years. But this wasn’t the moment to appreciate the climate, and he had already been lingering in his position for far too long.
The man next to him was also sweating. Even from the feet of distance between them, James could almost see his reflection in the beads of sweat forming on the man’s temple. There was no doubt that he was nervous, and rightfully so, as this situation would make any man quiver in his boots.
James took off his wide-brimmed felt hat, careful to leave one hand and finger firmly planted on the trigger of his .45 Cold, and aimed always at its intent.
“This here is my jurisdiction, and this town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” said the Nervous Man.
‘What a silly line,’ thought James, ‘and it doesn’t even apply. There are three of us!’ He looked over at the man on his left. He was a bit darker than the first man, and had a face that never changed its staunch, serious expression. He almost looked like someone who had consistently woken up on the wrong side of the bed, and today was no different.
James ignored the incorrect statement. Momma always told him never to miss a good chance to shut up. Instead, he thought about the Serious Man’s six-shooter aimed directly at his own head. As the sun caught the steel of his barrel, it shot rays of light into James’ eyes. Perhaps this was foresight into what was soon to come. But that’s very unlikely.
The Serious Man was in a very similar dilemma. Even as his gun was directed at James, there was another, the gun of the Nervous Man, just a few inches from his face, and ready to fire at his slightest move. This was a Mexican Standoff: three guns, three men, and no visible solution.
If James were to shoot, eliminating the Nervous Man, the Serious Man would surely kill James. As momma always said, the cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man or take unfair advantage. So he waited. After all, nobody ever drowned in their own sweat.
Hours passed, and the tension didn’t ease. The Serious Man seemed to be burning his gaze into the side of James’ neck. His focus was so intense, James thought that perhaps he had fallen asleep, right there, with his eyes wide open. The Nervous Man stood silently, only moving to swat the flies which had been attracted to the pools of sweat that lay on his brow. Finally, James spoke:
Neither of them had had any sort of reprieve since dawn. And when cowboys get hungry, they get reckless. This was going to end very soon.
The Nervous Man’s sweat began to pour onto his lashes. This scene had gone on much longer than they had anticipated.
The Serious Man was uneasy. His trigger-finger eased up, as if he were ready to let down his position. He still stared at James.
Sweat flushed into the Nervous Man’s eyes. He was blind.
‘Who… But I didn’t. That can’t have happened. There were no bullets.’
‘These were blanks! They can’t kill a man!’
The boom operator rushes onstage. He checks the man’s pulse. Dead.
“WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!?” yells the director, “You just SHOT Ben!”
As James Daniel is being pushed, handcuffed, into the police van, he thinks about something that his momma used to tell him: ‘If you get thrown from a horse, you have to get up and get back on. Unless you landed on a cactus; then you have to roll around and scream in pain.’