The Cay-ote Killer (Kerry Black’s Contest for Carrot Ranch)

Swirled campfire gunsmoked ’round old Ernie’s head. His eyes shone in the firelight, two August moons ‘gainst a desert sky. “An’ that,” he whispered, “whers th’ last any cowboy heard o’ The Coyote Killer!”

“Wee-yoo!”

“Ah’ll be!”

The talk still swam ’round the camp like Loui’zana fireflies when a shadow fell ‘cross the nearest cactus; when a howl yipped ‘cross the open sky. “Aowhoooooo!”

Scramblin’ to horse, rock, cactus; no man dared admit what he clearly saw: a baying, skulkin’, fur-dressed man, jus’ like what Ernie’d said.

An,’ like’n old Ernie said, no man lived to tell it still.

Photo by Tomu00e1u0161 Malu00edk on Pexels.com

This’n was mah entry fer the contest what Colleen won. Hers were fantastic so’s I reckon I don’t feel so bad fer not even gettin’ an honorable mention. ūüėČ

©2020 Chel Owens

Honest-To-Goodness

Maybelline hadn’t been at the property fer long afore she knowed why they called it The Ranch. The smell alone was enough to put a gal off her vict’als, fer sure. She’d never seen or smelled outbuildin’s what could have their stink¬†seen afore a body could¬†smell¬†’em. But even the honest smell o’ horses wasn’t what told her.

It was the look of it all. Wild weavin’ grasses danced and clumped round lonely, broken fence posts. The wildflowers filled in the rest -at least, what wasn’t already filled by the Apens and Cedars.

The crownin’ glory of ev’rythin’ was the house. She leaned a bit, sure. She needed some paint what to make her decent. Maybelline even suspected a hole or few in the roof as she’d seen a bunch o’ sparrows take flight as she stomped up the path.

Still, a ranch couldn’t bear to keep such a name without use and purpose. That was the very reason Maybelline had made sure to ask around in town about settin’ up.

“Ah need a handyman, a-course,” she’d told the gossipy postwoman. “And I’ll be wan’in’ a few animals once he can patch up stalls or whatever else needs fixin’.”

“Sure, sure,” Postwoman Gloria had nodded. “You migh’ wanna post on the job board, yonder.”

Maybelline had, knowin’ full well Gloria would pass word ‘long much faster’n a postin’.

Sure shootin’, she’d barely stepped inter the house an hour later afore she heard callin’ from outside the warped kitchen winder. A waverin’ shadow became a solid form of a man against lunchtime sun as she walked back out to the wide, dusty porch.

He removed an honest-to-goodness cowboy hat, placed it against his chest. “Ma’am.”

Well, I do declare, Maybelline thought. “Howdy,” she answered, and smiled.

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Submitted for the Carrot Ranch Free-Write Contest.

Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-Two

(One full year of Wil! Click here for the very first one.)

The dame sat stiffly on the old couch, holding onto her man’s hand like a woman holds onto her man’s hand. They looked expectant, wary. Inspector Winters nodded to them, curtly. She hoped the gesture would get them talking. She needed them to talk, or she’d never get anywhere in the case of Yesterday’s Letter.
Her informants did not relax. Or talk. The clock ticked forward. Winters would have to break the ice, or they’d be frozen up like last week’s informant: permanently. She shuddered a bit at the memory.

But, that was all that was left of the Legend of Wilhelmina: a memory. Some folks liked to think they knew the true story, regardless. You’d think a person would know what could happen or not after living, but many seemed to believe the longest yarns a body ever told no matter how old they were. It didn’t take much for a new person to come through with some new-fangled doodad, telling some heap of story about something or other -and you’d have every body in town talking about it by sundown.
Never you mind the circumstances. It didn’t even matter if the person was a flaming green dragon. If he talked real smooth and pretty, they’d lap up the lies like Farmer Brown’s poor thirsty dog on a hot Tuesday.

This was not a Tuesday. To be precise, there were no longer days measured by irrelevant identifiers like names. If the current intelligent species had persisted in archaic traditions, the day would be Friday. Once the Governing Council of Stars had reasonably determined more accurate methods of counting time, proving the system to be based on unfair emphasis on only one ancient group of peoples, further proving to be based on ancient supernatural beliefs, the current method of a ten time cycle was enacted. This we know.
These facts were known to Family Unit W1NT3R as well, and yet they still felt tired at some times during Waking and felt awake at some times during Sleeping. As precise as travel, time, and other measurements were, their bodies were still organic and subject to faulty behaviors. Perhaps the beeping machine was the better species. Of course, it needed to be built and maintained by intelligent creatures. They were not obsolete yet.

Soon, Cynthia would be obsolete. The long, twisting plastic coil ran down the couch until it stabbed into the flesh of her left hand. Its contents ran smoothly, inexorably, into her unresisting blood stream. It healed for now, but some day it would be useless. Everyone had his end.

Wil gulped and hoped this was not the end. She had long wanted to be entrusted with the Scroll of Truth-telling. With it, she could complete her level of training and move on to working directly under Grandwizard Grinzdle. With it, she, too, would know the secrets of the land, and join her parents at Couch City.
Together, they would bring peace, happiness, and light to the world. Unified and powerful, they would fight this battle to its end. Secrets would be banished. Fear would have no place. Truth and love would triumph.

“Wil,” Rob said. “I have a letter I need to show you.”

In the hand that was not holding his wife, he held a small paper rectangle. It was the envelope he had taken so quickly to his room the day before, the one Wil had entered his room to search for.

She could see that it had been forwarded by the post office, that it had been written on with cursive, and that it bent a bit over her father’s grip. After she moved closer, Wil also saw that it was addressed to her.

Rob lifted his hand, holding the letter out to her.

 

Continued from Fifty-One.
Keep reading to Fifty-Three.

Wilhelmina Winters: Forty-Two

A coyote cry echoed from a-ways West, far from the sleepy town.

Jakob Jawchaw stood silent and dusty, his black arm holding the creaking weathered door open. He looked expectantly at his partner, the notorious Miss Mina, impatience crossing his stern, solid features.

Miss Mina missed the look, or chose to. Deadly as her reputation warned, she never sought disagreement. Disagreement came to her, she would say.

The dusty desert air swirled tumbleweeds down the wooden sidewalks, the soiled kerchief knotted at Jawchaw’s throat, and Mina’s lace hem round her ankles. It tugged at her matching parasol, but she tightened her gloved grip on its bamboo handle.

The outfit came straight from New York City -or, so the merchant claimed- and made Mina itch and fidget something terrible. She wasn’t accustomed to looking so uppity and womanlike. True, she still had her trusty six-shooter strapped to her hip -but, she’d had to strap it under her skirt. There was no quick draw where finery was concerned.

Fighting the urge to hoist the cumbersome ruffles to her knees to step more lightly, Mina closed her parasol and stepped past her partner into the store.

The noise of the open, dirt-blown land snapped off as Jawchaw snapped the door shut. Specks of sand and store dust floated sparsely in the tepid, still, inside quiet of Midtown General Store. The manager barely glanced up from his well-worn newspaper: the Times from last month, mailed to Midtown just last week.

Jawchaw and Mina looked around, making a point to glance over the town notices tacked to the wall. They were pleased to see their faces missing from among the sketches of wanted outlaws. They could conduct their business like regular folk, ‘stead of jumping at every noise and itching to pull a gun on every shadow.

Jawchaw moseyed over to the counter. Mina walked the way she’d seen the ladies do; though she stumbled a fair bit more, on account of being out of practice wearing heeled boots. She took so long reaching the front that Jawchaw was already peeling bills from his pocket to pay for their supplies.

The air inside moved slightly; the rush of desert was heard. Someone had opened the door. Attempting a calm reaction, the two outlaws looked to see who had done it.

It was Cowpoke Crandall and her son, Eric. Mina turned quickly back around, hoping their disguises were worth wearing. Crandall would never be drawn on a wanted poster; she was infamous for sticking her snub nose into every person’s business -crook or not. She’d raise a warning for sure.

Jawchaw saw the danger at once. He collected their vittles and slunk quietly behind a display of tools to clean house. Mina tripped on those darn heels, but made it to a stand of ladies’ hats and scarves.

Crandall either hadn’t seen them, or hadn’t thought to bother with them. She waddled to the counter, her homespun dress swaying as she moved.

Jawchaw and Mina saw their chance, and took it. They snuck to the door, keeping low behind bins and shelves and suchlike. Mina pushed her way out into freedom, glancing back for just a moment as they left.

She couldn’t be certain, but her sharpshooter eyes told her that Eric had seen them leave. In fact, Mina couldn’t shake the premonition that he’d had his eyes on her for quite some time.

 

Continued from Forty-One.
Keep reading to Forty-Two (Again).