Word count 1,000
A short story of 1000 or fewer written for the 2022 Lancer Writers Challenge
Thanks to Anna (Starry Diadem) for the beta work. All mistakes are mine.
Boots propped on his desk, Val leaned back in his chair, coffee cup in hand, giving Scott a disconcerted look.
The oldest Lancer boy had strolled into his office a few minutes earlier asking one of the darndest questions he’d ever heard….well, maybe the second or third, but it was right up there.
“Why’re you asking?”
“I just want to know.”
“Does Johnny know you’re here?”
“I don’t need my little brother’s permission to talk to you. So —”
“So, he don’t know?
“Can you just answer the question?”
“But why?” Val took a sip of coffee, cringing at the taste. He glanced at the coffee pot on the pot-bellied stove wishing for his frying pan. “You planning on calling someone out?”
“No… no, nothing like that.” Scott looked shocked at the implication. “It’s just that… We’ve been home almost a year, and I’ve noticed that the number of gunfights Johnny’s been in has dropped during the winter.”
Val laughed. “You keeping count?”
“As a matter of fact, I am. I’ve given it considerable thought and want to know if there is any month safer than the others for Johnny to come to town.”
Val dropped his feet and rolled forward, sloshing coffee down the front of his shirt. He glanced down and shrugged. Plenty of other stains to hide it. “I dunno I’ve ever thought on it, but now that you’re askin’….”
Scott leaned in, waiting.
Val set his coffee on the desk, rubbed his scruffy chin, and focused on a knotty hole in the far wall. He’d looked at that hole every day since he took office and wondered more than once if he could put a bullet clean through it.
“Val, it’s a simple question. What’s the best month for a gunfight?”
“January? So, I should be more concerned with Johnny being in a gunfight in January than in other months?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But you said—”
“I said the best month for a gunfight was January. Didn’t say there were more or less in January than in any other month, but now that I’m thinkin’ on it, January might be the safest month for the boy.”
Scott threw his head back and sighed.
“What brought this on, anyway?”
“Last night, after dinner, I saw Johnny flexing his right hand, and then again this morning. I asked him if it was bothering him, and he said….”
Scott stared across the room, and Val could have sworn he was looking at the same knotty hole.
“Well, I ain’t got all day. What’d he say?”
“Well, he said he needed to practice more, which isn’t new. He’s said it before, and I know he worries about losing the flexibility of his hand.”
Val nodded. “So, that’s why you’re in here bothering me?”
“Val, I worry about him and wonder if one month is better than another if he had to draw on a man. So I came to you.”
“We’ve established that. Why January?”
Val sat his coffee down and slowly nodded. “The sun.”
Standing, Val moved to his office window. “The sun in January is so damn unpredictable.”
Scott joined Val and looked out onto the busy street. “Unpredictable?”
“You gonna keep repeatin’ everything I say?”
“No, I’m not,” Scott scowled. “I’m just trying to understand where you’re going.”
Val adjusted the window shade. “You ever think about the sun in January?”
“No, I can’t say I have. Is there something special about it?”
“It isn’t real strong, and it’s lower in the sky.”
Scott peered through the window, straining to see the sky. “Go on.”
“Most times in January, there are lots of clouds covering the sun, or there ain’t no sun at all.
Other times there are a few clouds, and the sun is just peeking through. So, if you’ve got the bad luck to be facing it, it don’t work agin you so much as other months.”
“And that means…what?”
“If you’re in a gunfight, January is a good month. That is, if you’re north of the border in, say…Wyoming or Texas, or even Arizona, where it gets cloudy. Now Mexico’s another story.”
“I see.” Scott nodded and then caught himself. “Wait, no, I don’t see.”
“North of the border, your gun hand gets cold, and sometimes it’s hard to get your gun out of a stiff holster. So January’s not the best month north of the border.”
“Wait a minute,” Scott shook his head. “So January’s not the best month for a gunfight after all?
“Then what about Mexico?” Scott frowned.
“The sun’s always shining there, and you’re damn lucky to find a cloud.”
“Wait a minute. First, you said January is a good month for a gunfight, then point out all the flaws of the month. Val Crawford, I think you’re full of it.”
“Well, if you don’t believe me, ask Johnny.” Val nodded towards the street.
A moment later, the door opened, and Johnny stepped inside. “Scott, I’ve been looking for you. Val, has he been in here bothering you?”
“Naw, he’s not bothering me, but he’s got a question for you.” Val looked at Scott.
“Yes, I do,” Scott nodded. “Johnny, in your expert opinion, what’s the best month for a gunfight.”
Johnny looked at Scott and then Val and back again. “Hell, any month I walk away without catching a bullet is a damn good month.”
“Scott, when it comes right down to it, no month is better than any other. You play the cards you’re dealt and hope Lady Luck is on your side. What did Val tell you?”
Johnny thought for a moment. “Yeah, makes sense.” He gave Val a knowing look and a faint smile. “The sun.”
Val grinned. “Yep. The sun.”
Scott shook his head and threw up his hands. “I give up.” Turning he stomped out, slamming the door behind him.
Johnny looked at Val. “What? Something I said?”
LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here. You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or Email SandySha directly.
6 thoughts on “The Best Month For A Gunfight by SandySha”
Trust Val to come up with the right answer! 👏👏👏
That made me chuckle. Good story.
Hey, Sandy! I loved this story! Poor Scott tried to get a straight answer out of Val, then Johnny and never found out anything… Love the banter… and the silly! I’ll be reading this one again!
I don’t blame Scott for giving up. Val and Johnny are something else when they get together. For some reason the “Like” button doesn’t seem to be working.