Drinking with The Living Dead
I came out of the high desert with a thirst that needed quenching. The town if you could call two dozen run-down buildings that I found myself in wasn’t much to look at, but I spotted the saloon and pointed my palomino that way. I swung down and did my best to knock the trail dust off me as I headed for the door.
The town’s people in the saloon looked up nervously as I entered, but quickly relaxed as I made my way to the bar.
“What’ll it be?”
“Whiskey,” I told the barkeep as I slapped a silver dollar down.
He poured me a shot and I threw it back as the creek of the bat-wing doors drew my attention to the mirror behind the bar. The man that entered looked like an old trail hand with leathery skin pulled tightly over his face, giving him an almost skull appearance. His sunken eyes made the look even more clear. The town’s people quickly looked away from him, staring at their drinks or the floor as he passed.
The jingle of his rusty spurs was the only sound as he ambled over to the bar. With a glance I saw his clothes were coated with mud and the only thing about him not dirty was the pair of pistols he wore. The way the guns rode low on his hips with the holsters tied down told me he was a gunslinger without a doubt.
“Barkeep give me a shot and another for my new friend,” he said with a voice that sounded like it came from the other side of the grave.
“I thank you kindly, but I buy my own.”
“As sure as my name is Stanley Creed my friend you are going to drink with me or go for that piece of iron on your hip.”
I nodded and took the drink the barkeep slid my way. I downed it quickly and turned to leave.
“You can’t leave now. The game has just begun.”
He signaled the barkeep to set up another round. “I have to tell you a story for you to understand this game. I was once an outlaw, a man that took what I wanted with the barrel of my guns. I came to this town like you, needing to quince my thirst, but not a coin to my name. When the barkeep refused to serve me, I shot him dead and poured my own. I drank until I passed out and woke in the jail. I was hung for the price of a beer and cursed by the devil to never rest until a man could beat me.”
My hand shook as I down the shot and looked at the town’s people, but they never looked up.
“You out drink me, and I find my rest at last.”
“If I don’t?”
“Then you will find yours.”
I’m not much of a drinker and drinking against a dead man was crazy, but I had to believe I stood a chance, more of a one with a bottle than the gun. I nodded, and he signaled for another round. We threw them back, one after another, as I watched the time tick by. We moved to a table and sat facing each other as we took turns pouring. The bottle ran dry, and another was brought over. I soon stumbled outside to relieve myself, but as I looked at my horse, he stepped into the doorway.
“I’d shoot you out of that saddle before you got that nag turned around.”
I dropped my head and came back in. Round after round, bottle after bottle we drank how many shots I had downed I don’t know, but he showed no sign of stopping. I resigned myself to death as the sun peeked over the horizon, but he threw back one last shot and fell face down on the table. I was out of my chair like a shot and on my horse, even as the town’s people seem to fade away.
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