Boom Town Saga: All they have to do is outrun a gunshot.
September 2, 2019
Two flim-flam men are on the run. They’ve run before. It happens a lot when you live on the edge. And they don’t feel comfortable living anywhere else. Read an excerpt from Back Side of a Blue Moon.
Brother Shiloh did not ask Doc to repent. He didn’t mention a damn thing about salvation. He just stood there with faded overalls hanging off his sagging shoulders, as lean as a cane pole, with drops of sweat glistening atop his bald head and spittle running down from his chin. He was holding the shotgun softly but not tenderly, staring at Doc as if he didn’t amount to anything more than a stray raccoon hanging off the dying limb of a white oak tree.
“What do you plan on doing with that shotgun?” Doc said. He was quite a sight, dressed in a white suit and black cowboy boots, leaning against the side of a Cadillac V-16 roadster, running a hand through the black curls that fell across his forehead. He was a good head taller than Brother Shiloh, but he didn’t look that tall with a shotgun shifting slowly from his heart to his genitals and somewhere in between. Doc stood his ground and folded his arms in defiance.
“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” That’s what Brother Shiloh told him.
“You, sir, are not the Lord.”
“I’ve been deputized.”
“God don’t hire hit men.”
“He damn sure does in Ardmore.”
Brother Shiloh was crazy.
Doc knew it.
So did Waskom.
The shotgun was ignorant.
There was no time to pray.
He didn’t mind facing death.
He had done that before.
Doc had no interest in dying.
He turned the corner of the tabernacle and knocked down a blond-headed, barefoot little boy. Doc grabbed him on the run, lifted him off the ground, dusted off his pants, and jammed his own broad-brimmed hat on the tyke’s head. “Rain’s a coming,” he said. “Crawl under that hat, and you won’t ever get wet.” He sat the boy on the ground while in full stride and never looked back.
He had the Cadillac V-16 Roadster skidding into the gravel street by the time Waskom crawled into the front seat and Brother Shiloh pulled the trigger the second time. Lord, it sounded like thunder, and double ought buckshot fell like a hailstorm on the trunk. It left a ragged scar in the rear window – Brother Shiloh was running down the street, pulling shotgun shells out of his pocket, yelling things about the Good Lord that King James hadn’t covered in Genesis – and Doc had made two left turns, then a sharp right, before he found a highway headed south.
He had that crazy grin on his face.
Waskom had seen it before.
It meant everything was all right.
Everything was fine.
Brother Shiloh may have woke up most of Ardmore, but he had not disturbed the back door of God ‘s funeral parlor nor sent another sinner home.
Doc wiped the wrinkles out of his white jacket. He winked at Waskom.
“What you so happy about?” Waskom asked. It was a growl
“Not that I can tell.”
“Then you ought to be grinning, too.”
“You gonna be the death of me, Doc.”
“Someday, maybe.” Doc laughed out loud. “But not tonight, Waskom.”
The night was black like Henry Ford’s last Ford.
The moon was a ghostly splinter in the sky, hanging onto the tail of a western thunderhead that promised rain but had thus far delivered only fractured streaks of dry lightning.
The corduroy road was narrow but ran gun-barrel straight across the barren, wasted farmlands. Doc waited until he was a good two miles inside the Texas state line before he turned on the headlights.
Only one of them worked.
“They gonna catch us for sure,” Waskom said. His aging voice cracked. “That was a damn fool thing you did, Doc.”
“Steal the preacher’s car.”
“A man has his own set of rules.” Doc said. “I’ve got mine.”
“Which rule was this one?”
“What’s it say?”
“If the Lord can’t help you, help yourself.” Doc shrugged. “And that brings us to rule number fourteen.”
“What would that one be?”
“If you’re in a hurry, and I believe you can agree we were in a hurry, steal the fastest car in the parking lot.”
“They’re gonna put you in jail and hang me.”
“Someday, maybe.” Doc rolled down the car window and let the chill of an April night blow hard against his face. “But not tonight.”
Waskom sat in silence. His face was thick and carved from marble. He said he had been born old and never got any older. A World War I military campaign hat sat on the back of his head, and he was wearing brown jodhpurs, held up by navy blue suspenders. His white shirt was threadbare, and a bandanna hung loose around his neck.
The glow from the headlight, hanging loosely on the right side of the Cadillac, bounced off the road like a splatter of fireflies.
A full moon tumbled out of a cloud, orange and turning white.
The states had changed.
The landscape hadn’t.
Fences were down.
Rolls of barbed wire were as tangled as tumbleweeds.
Houses were abandoned.
Cattle ran loose in the fields.
“Where we headed?” Waskom asked at last.
“I’ll let you know when we run out of gas,” Doc said.
“How much gas we got?”
“Gauge is broke.”
“Maybe it’s empty.”
Doc laughed again. “I wouldn’t doubt it for a moment,” he said.
Waskom laid his head back against the seat and watched the sky through the broken windshield. If a star fell, he thought, it would be a good omen. He was still watching an empty sky when the first promise of daylight appeared atop the distant trees.
The stars gradually disappeared.
None of them fell.
Please click HERE to find Back Side of a Blue Moon on Amazon.