the duel 

israel maley

A crowd had already formed on the sides. Dozens of people sat and waited under the sun; men, women, and children. Everyone in the village. Dust picked up with the gentle breeze that passed every now and again. The buildings creaked.

Jesse arrived at 11:54AM. His bandana was wrapped around his neck and his revolver holstered on his right hip. He stood straight facing the empty dust road in front of him. The crowd all stared at him waiting for him to say anything; he didn’t.

Butch entered a minute later—with his scarred revolver on his hip and his hair all shaved off. His wrinkled skin kept under a sandy shirt and a twenty year old vest covered with blood stains. Dust dust plumed up with each one of Butch’s footsteps. The crowd went so silent one would think it was a ghost town. Butch spit on the ground and yelled, “This is your last chance to back down, boy.”

Jesse stayed silent and didn’t even move. Butch chuckled, “It’s your life.”

Seconds felt like hours as the bell tower neared noon. No one dared make even a peep. Butch lit a crude cigarette and puffed out a few clouds of smoke. He wet coughed, then flicked the cigarette to the ground with most of it unused. “If you think this’ll be an easy fight, think again boy. I won’t give up control of this town so easily.”

Jesse didn’t respond. He didn’t even move. The bell tower struck 11:59. He moved for the first time in minutes to stretch his neck, then returned to his stance. Butch breathed in deeply, and put his hand above his revolver, a hair’s length away from touching. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face. Jesse pulled his bandana up over his face. No one in the crowd dared take a breath.

The ring of the bell tower pierced the silence. Butch shot his hand onto the handle of his revolver and heaved up. He shot his finger to the trigger and fired. A puff of smoke blasted out of the barrel. Jesse hadn’t even reached for his revolver. The bullet pierced his chest and he stepped back with a violent jerk of his body. But as everyone expected Jesse to fall to the ground, he stayed standing. His eyes glared at Butch. Butch had a slight grin thinking it was over. But this grin disappeared as Jesse took a step forward. Then another. Blood started to soak his vest but Jesse acted as if there wasn’t anything there.

Butch brought the revolver up and aimed again. Another plume of smoke came blasting out of the barrel and the bullet struck Jesse’s shoulder. Blood spurted out of the wound but Jesse kept walking forward. Butch’s breathing quickened. He started to backtrack while he aimed the revolver up one more time. He pressed the trigger, the barrel clicked forward, but nothing came out. It was jammed.

Butch swore as Jesse’s speed quickened with him closing the distance between him and Butch. Butch opened the revolver to try and fix the jam. His hands were moving and shaking at the speed of light. The crowd did nothing but watch.

Butch clicked back the hammer as he unjammed the revolver and aimed up. Jesse’s trail of blood stretched far back, and before Butch could pull the trigger Jesse closed in. Jesse slapped the gun away from him, just as Butch pulled the trigger. A bullet shot into the ground. Sand jumped up.

Jesse tackled Butch to the ground with a strength Butch couldn’t explain. He tore the revolver from Butch’s hand. Jesse started to punch Butch’s face back and forth until it was bloody and bruised. Jesse grabbed the revolver and pulled the hammer back. He pressed it against the bottom of Butch’s chin. There was a second or two of silence and anticipation from the crowd, then Jesse pulled the trigger. A loud explosion rang; Butch’s brains splattered on the ground as the bullet ripped through his head.

The crowd all moved their eyes to Jesse as he stood up. Butch laid lifeless on the ground under him. Blood from both of them mixed in the sand. He turned around and got a good look of the crowd. All sorts people that came there to watch this. He pulled the bandana down from his face, breathed in, and was just about to say something, before he collapsed to the ground. He laid right next to Butch. His eyes were open—lifeless. More blood spilled out onto the ground. The crowd stayed silent looking at them, then looked at each other. The first words spoken in minutes was by a small child. He asked his mom, with a whisper, “Who won?”

 

Israel Maley is a freshman majoring in English with a minor in linguistics. He likes to write fiction; his favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy. He is from upstate New York in a town near Lake George. His favorite book is "The Martian" by Andy Weir.