Sunday 10 May 2020

Amar Agarwala, Prose 500 2020, Shortlist

A Tale From The Wild West

Sam Mendiz was known to be a good man, He was the designated Sheriff and guardian who defended the town of Santa Fe as if it were his home. The day Cano Navarro rode into town, he knew it was a bad omen. Cano was not just an infamous shootist, but the quickest draw in the Chihuahua desert. The man had the blood of many an innocent on his hands and meant big trouble wherever he set foot.

It did not take long for Cano to get into an ugly brawl with the townsfolk at the ramshackle bar, the only watering trough in the shanty town. Before long he shot and nearly killed the local banker Joe Delmer. News travelled fast to the Sheriff’s office and soon an angry Mendiz confronted Cano, who sought a gunfight saying, “You can keep your law as long as you can take me on. The winner takes it all Sheriff.”

“Get to the main street you rotten scoundrel, am ready,” the fearless Mendiz replied.

They stood facing one another – cowboy hats shading their eyes, revolvers sheathed by their holsters and hands hanging limply by their sides. The townsfolk waited to watch the gunfight with baited breath, when Santiago – the Sheriff’s page boy was asked to toss a copper coin. They’d draw the moment the coin hit the ground.

A split second before the coin hit the ground, a ruthless Cano drew and fired across the thirty yards before an eye could blink. The bullet struck Mendiz below the heart, and the Sheriff fell dead, his hands yet on the holster of his revolver.

The orphaned Santiago rushed where the Sheriff lay, the boy was inordinately fond of the man who had bought him up like a son. He then pulled out the heavy revolver from Mendiz’s holster and stood up, “Hey Mister... how bout another duel?”

“Go bury your old man. You need to grow up,” smirked the shootist.

“Bravery has nothing to do with age. Come fight me you coward,” the boy said through clenched teeth.

An astonished Cano half turned and before he fathomed the challenge, Santiago had already tossed the coin high in the air. All eyes along with Cano’s were on the coin as it rose up in the warm air, glinted in the late afternoon sun, before spinning down, by then Santiago had already levelled his gun at Cano and took aim.

Instinctively Cano turned around and drew out his revolver but at that split moment the coin hit the ground and a single shot was fired. The bullet pierced outlaw’s heart... as Santiago stood unblinking, the Sheriff’s revolver still smoking in his hand. He never imagined in his wildest dreams that his lessons with the Sheriff’s in firing a gun could be so effective. As the townsfolk burst into applause, Santiago knew the Sheriff would be proud of him.

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