Kick off yer boots and sit a spell, friends. Here's a freebie, one o' my personal favorites. I hope y'all enjoy it . . . .
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SEVERELY MALADJUSTED
John Henry Mason never lost a fight. Such was his claim to fame back home in Dodge City, such it became wherever he traveled upon Life's dusty roads.
There's a first time for everything, though, John found himself thinkin' in spite of himself as he fought for air now beneath the vice-grip of his assailant's rock-hard forearm.
That dad-blamed Injun had jumped John from slap outta nowhere, like some wild coyote on peyote, and right away John cursed himself for lettin' his guard down even for a second. You couldn't do that, not with so many o' these savages still prowlin' around out here. Good way to get yourself scalped.
He'd been mindin' his own business, stoppin' only for a minute or two to take a load off by the river. Usin' his trusty black Stetson as a makeshift mug while he hummed "Oh, Susanna" and day-dreamed of his woman back home . . .
. . . when suddenly, with a primal war-cry, the red-man had lunged from atop that massive boulder overlookin' John Mason's temporary rest-stop. Before John knew what hit him he was down. With a mouthful of riverbed. The Injun got him in a nasty choke-hold from behind. John could feel the wild-man's hot breath on the back of his neck, smelled like ash and burnt jerky.
"You . . . red-skinned . . . dawg dick!" John wheezed, fumblin' for his Colt .45 in its bearskin holster on his hip.
Only thing John Mason hated worse than friggin' Injuns was rattlesnakes and claim-jumpers. And least rattlers and claim-jumpers had reasons for doin' the things they did.
Stinkin' Injuns, they was just mean for the sake of bein' so. Always so proud of it, too.
The sun beat down on the two fighting men like some fiery desert god, perhaps some ancient deity this Injun and his own tribe might've worshipped. That thought sickened a good God-fearin', sometimes-Church-goin' gent like John Henry Mason, made him start thrashin' harder than ever. Sweat rolled down his forehead, burned in his eyes, but he didn't let that bother him.
"YAAAGGGHHHH!" John bellowed, and he brought one booted heel down hard as he could on the savage's naked toes. His spur ripped flesh from the Injun's shin on the way down, drawin' gouts of dark Injun-blood, and the Injun screamed in animal agony. His hold on John's throat went slack.
"Aha!" John said, whirling to face the brave.
"I'm gonna kill you now, Chief Walkin' Turd."
Even as John boasted he rubbed at his bruised Adam's apple, coughed once . . . but that gleam in his eye sparkled nonetheless. He spat bloody saliva at the Injun's feet, bared his teeth and let that mischievous grin of his stretch from ear-to-ear.
John Henry Mason sure did love a good fight.
Mostly because John Mason never ever lost. Especially to no low-life Injun.
The Injun, John saw now, might have been his own age, perhaps slightly younger -- the varmint was small and wiry, but quite muscular, and it was so hard to tell with these bastards anyway, seein' how they all looked the same. His skin was very dark, leather-like and sun-worn, his face a hard mask of pure fury. His straight black hair -- so black it was almost blue, like the feathers of a raven -- fell just past the Injun's shoulders, kinda reminded John of that ebony-haired whore he'd spent the night with last week in one of Tombstone's finer brothels.
"Ready to die, boy?" John growled. "Maybe I'll scalp you, take that sissy-boy hair o' yours when I'm done, make a wig for my woman."
"Ma-yah wey! Hoo-dey, too-dey, gah-wah-gahm," replied the Injun. Taunting John. John couldn't wait to kill him now, though he hadn't the slightest clue what that asshole said.
"Same back at yer mama, tomahawk."
John came in swingin' fast and furious then -- he could have used his pistol, sure, but then that would have been too quick, better to pound this uncivilized prick with his very own bare white knuckles -- and immediately the Injun had his knife out.
Such a primitive tool, but John Mason respected its inherent danger all the same. Arcane markings decorated its rawhide hilt, swirled up and down the length of its jagged gray-brown blade. The business end appeared to have been painstakingly carved from stone. Or maybe bone.
"Nice piece you got there, Injun," John said. "Too bad you ain't gonna get a chance to use it. You're one dead red-skin."
The Injun almost seemed to smile at John. As if, just maybe, he understood.
And then suddenly the Injun swung -- faster than the eye, he moved -- lashin' out again and again and again with nary the slightest pause.
John Mason said, "Ugh," looked down.
His eyes went wide as cow-patties. He couldn't believe it.
The god-dang bastard had cut him! Not much -- but a little. Enough to sting, anyway. Along his abdomen, perfectly bisecting his washboard stomach, John saw a thin line of crimson that only a few seconds later actually started to leak.
"Why, you dirty son-of-a . . . "
Playtime was over. John Mason was gonna make this godless piece o' horse manure wish he was never freakin' born.
He didn't stand around waitin' for the Injun to cut him again. John's boot came up, and with a bellow of unbridled rage he kicked that no-good Injun so hard in the nuts his squaw must've felt it back home. The Injun yowled like a cat caught in a beartrap, grabbed himself and bent over.
"Haha," John Mason said.
Screw it. John figured, to hell with doin' this slow. You couldn't fight these red-skin sonsabitches fair anyhow. They wasn't even human.
So with that John Mason pulled out his Colt .45 -- even as he did he could smell that well-oiled gunsmell he loved so, and he smiled -- and he shot that stinkin' Injun three times.
POW! POW! POW!
Once in each kneecap. Once in the stomach, for good measure.
The Injun roared in agony. But only for a couple of minutes. His gut leaked dark fluids all over the place -- on the rocks, in the otherwise crystal-clear creek-water John Mason had been drinkin' just minutes before. He'd be retirin' to Injun Heaven any minute now.
"How ya like them apples, Geronimo?"
John spat in the red man's face before putting away his gun. Then he leaned down to retrieve the homemade knife his assailant had dropped beside a rotting steer skull nearby.
He admired the weapon, turnin' it over several times in his hands.
Without further ado, John Mason started sawin' at the Injun's neck, working at removin' that ugly, war-painted head from those thin but muscular shoulders.
"Got me a trophy now, Chief," he said. "Teach you to mess with ole' John Henry Mason."
John began to whistle "Oh, Susanna" as he worked.
Hackin', sawin'. Rippin' and tearin'. Through muscle and sinew and bone.
John Henry Mason never lost a fight, by God. Some folks just had to learn it the hard way.
Ten minutes later he sat up with a start, peered past the crest of the hill on the other side of the riverbank when he heard her urgent calling.
The only sound, otherwise, was the steady gurgle of water over rocks, the rhythmic drip-dripping of blood and viscous matter from the blade in his left hand.
"Johnnnn-nyyyyyy!" he heard her call, and he could imagine her there on the doorstep in her “Kiss the Cook” apron, one hand covered in flour up to her elbow, the other swallowed up in that “#1 Mom” potholder he'd made for her last Mother's Day.
Again: "Johnnn-nyyyyyyyyyyyy!" Her voice, so high and shrill.
Damn, woman. How it grated on his nerves.
"Johnny, baby! Come on! Dinner's ready!"
Somewhere down the block a dog barked, as if answering his mother's call all alone. Probably the Parkersons' Australian Shepherd, Gary, that big mean sumbitch.
Johnny Mason smirked. Dinner. Time sure flies when you're havin' fun.
"Johnny! Come on, baby!" She was yelling across the backyard now, her voice echoing all over the neighborhood. It was embarrassing.
"Tell your little friend he's welcome to eat with us too if he'd like! There's plenty for everyone!"
Johnny couldn't help but chuckle at that.
His little friend.
He gazed down at the shirtless, shoeless body before him now, at the face war-painted with Magic Marker scribbles, the body of the little black boy from down the street whose name he could never remember. The kid had been begging to play with Johnny ever since his family moved here two weeks ago, but before today Johnny had never really been interested.
Until the colored boy had proposed a game of "Cowboys and Indians."
Now that had sounded like fun.
"But I get to be the cowboy," Johnny had insisted, pocketing the gun he'd found in his dad's top dresser drawer, giving the nigger the knife.
"I get to be the cowboy, and you're the stinkin' Injun."
To which the black boy had nodded like that was the best damn plan he'd ever heard.
Johnny stood now, moved to wash his sticky red hands in the river before runnin' home to dinner beneath the day's slow-dying sun.
For more tales of "the severely maladjusted", check out my short story collection People Are Strange. Just click on the "Buy My Books" tab above for more info.
Thanks for reading!