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Dust and Dead Men
Dust and Dead Men
The uproar of howled cries and glasses tapping together filled the small bar room like echoes in an empty, hollow cave. Big Skinny Bar was the most popular bar in the small city, with the exception of popular meaning that all the drunks liked the place and the town was filled with about three thousand people. Most of the population of the town liked the bar and found it respectable with good food and, of course, great beer. There were others who hated the place, but they were not very popular among the people in the town. It is not good to be hated in a small town.
The bartender, Big Rick, was considered to the drunks as a “cool cat” and to the rest of the town he was considered a “good ol’ boy.” He was laid back and easily got along with the regulars that came in. He would allow the drunkards to get far more rowdy than other bars in town would, which was part of the reason why the bar was so popular. But the regulars also knew that under the counter was a twelve-gauge shotgun that Big Rick, as old stories went during happy hour, had no problem bringing out to quickly end a shenanigan. He had never been forced to pull the trigger. Rumors went around that Big Rick had too big of a heart to pull the trigger on anyone, even if it put his own life at risk. None of the drunks were willing to put that theory to the test, even with a high alcohol level.
Most of the drunks inside were normal, everyday ones, who knew their limits with their wallet and alcohol level, though both were usually broken. Occasionally a new one came in, scouting the place as though it was a military base, scared and wandering eyes trying to hide the immense fear trapped inside them. Some of them eventually became regular members or were never seen again. For the past two months, a new man came in regularly and sat at the end of the bar, sipping on a few glasses all day. He wore a dirty brown overcoat with a faded pair of blue jeans and old tennis shoes, with no change of outfit, but he did not smell. He was thin with a big, drooping beard. To Big Rick he looked like a young man, but he could not be sure because the man always had his hat tilted down. Whenever Rick would talk to him, the man would mumble something that he could not understand. Every day at closing time he would be the last one out. He was no trouble, but it was still odd to Big Rick the way he acted. He was too quiet and he seemed as if he was waiting for something or someone. Patiently waiting.
Big Rick made his usual rounds and talked friendly with the regulars. Then he went back behind his bar and cleaned some mugs. He glanced at the man, and as usual his head was tilted down and his hand was set on his drink. A newbie danced like a flimsy doll to the bar table and splashed his half-empty drink everywhere. Big Rick angrily wiped himself clean with the towel on his shoulder.
“I need ‘naher drink,” the drunk proclaimed.
“No, you don’t,” Big Rick replied firmly as he wiped the bar clean. His eye caught the man who sat at the end. His hat was tilted so far forward that his face was covered. Even with that, Big Rick felt like he was watching him.
“You dunt tell me whut to do Big Di-”
“That’s not my name,” Rick cut in curtly, “and there are ladies in the room, so watch your mouth. I’m not going to ask you again, go sit down before I throw you out.” Big Rick went under the bar for his gun, but he did not pull it out. The man with the tilted hat did not move; he stayed in the same position, his head leaning against the wall with his arms crossed.
The drunken man threw his mug at Big Rick and it knocked him in the head with a hollow thud, glass against skull. Rick stepped back, holding his head that started to bleed. The drunken man pulled out a knife and jumped on top of the bar. The regulars in the bar stood, knowing that this had never happened before. None of them really wanted to help, but were more concerned about a good show than Rick’s health. Big Rick was away from his hinged gun under the bar. Rick was much bigger than the drunk, but the knife was a major factor. Rick watched the shiny silver blaze through the man’s hand as if it was glowing. The drunken man told Rick for him to come on and fight him, his arms practically flapping with enthusiasm. The drunken man jumped down off the bar onto Big Rick’s side. Big Rick stepped back, knowing it was useless to try to fight a man with any sort of weapon. The drunken man surged toward him, but in the middle of his attack he froze as if his blood had turned to ice. Rick studied the now frozen man, thinking that it was some sort of joke that the regulars had pulled on him.
Then he stood straight, making Big Rick jump back like a cat when it found something it did not expect. The man’s eyes were glazed and one could tell that his mind was gone as if it had been taken from him suddenly. He stared at Big Rick and without a slur said, “I’m sorry.” He then hopped back over the bar stiffly, acting like he had a metal rod in his back. He threw his wallet to the ground and the regulars glanced at one another with questioning looks before hoarding after the loose change. He stepped outside and everyone watched him through the window, the show now more curiously scary than entertaining. The knife that the drunken man had threatened Big Rick with was still in his hand. He put the knife to his throat and sliced across. Blood poured onto the ground and he fell to his knees. The people in the bar gasped, the show becoming too realistic. The drunken man fell forward and laid dead, the heavy dust storm covering him like a seashell on a beach during a hurricane.
Suddenly the man in the tilted hat stood and dusted off his dirty coat. Big Rick turned to him with large eyes and studied him. The man had his hat tilted down like usual and he slowly walked to the bar. He gave Big Rick his tab and a bit of a tip.
“It’s not closing time yet,” Big Rick said. The man said nothing and continued walking to the door leading to where the dead drunk was. Rick felt something in him, a certain feeling that he could not afford to let pass. He had to learn more about the mysterious man, something about him was too intriguing to pass up like an explorer diving into the vast ocean. “Did you do that?” The man stopped. He stood motionless, as if Rick’s words had cursed him to become stone. “Thank you,” Big Rick said.
The man took off his hat, revealing a grand style of black hair that looked neatly combed and treated though it was always in a worn out hat. His small green eyes looked at Rick and at the regulars. He was indeed a young man as Rick had suspected. He said, “You’re welcome.”
“Did you find who you were looking for?” Big Rick did not know where the question came from.
The man walked to the door and said, “No. But I will. Take care now.” The man raised his hand and the bar went pitch-dark. Rick jolted forward as if he was getting shocked by electricity, his body practically lifting from the ground. Then darkness overtook them.
When they woke they did not realize that they had been out of it. Not a single person remembered the incident that had taken place, and they never would. Nor would they ever remember the mysterious man in the hat. They would never remember the drunken man that lay outside, covered in the camouflage of the sand, fading away like a lost soul in the infinite darkness.