By Manny Jasus

A classic confrontation.

Alright fine, 11:46 AM’s a little early to start tossin’em back. But I had to meet a man in the street at noon – duel to the death or some crap like that – though I still couldn’t figure it. Was he sore ’cause I beat him at cards? Some sap-suckin’ desperado lookin’ for his take? I thought bendin my elbow a bit would help me remember. But the only thing I got to the bottom of was a glass.

“You uh, gonna keep spinnin that thing on the bar? You ain’t careful it might go off. My ‘surance don’t cover that sorta thing.” The bartender’s joke was dry. My whiskey was watered somethin’ fierce. Guess they balanced each other out in the end.

Then it was time. I got up slow, tryin to stay in step with the buzzing in my head. Too far ahead, I’d end up on the floor. Too far behind, same thing. Grabbed my hat from the bar and pulled it over my eyes so the sun wouldn’t rail me in the face when I walked out into the dusty street.

He was a big ‘un – noticed that first. Stupid look on his face – close second. His black duster was long and his gut kept it from closing like a rowdy crowd through batwing doors. He shifted the sliver of wood in his yellow teeth from one side of his mouth to the other, tumbling over dry lips like logs over dusty ground. Then he rolled his eyes down to my right hand. It hung relaxed at the end of a slightly bent arm, two inches from my belt. My first two fingers twitched like an old habit, waiting, longing to move – to draw first.

“Forgot your piece uh?” He was smug. Jackass.

“Left it on the bar. Figured the ‘tender could pawn it to settle up.”

“Ha! That old dirt-digga you lugged ’round was better for bangin nails anyway!”

I started towards him. Thirty paces away.

“What can I say, gotta soft spot for antiques. Which reminds me, your ol’ lady says hi.”

Twenty paces.

His eyes bulged and seemed to pop outta their meaty sockets. “Yeah?! I … YOU … !”

Ten paces.

Then I remembered where I’d seen that wide-eyed fury before, and why he’d called me out. He had some stupid score to settle. Some mangy bruise on his ego he’d been lickin’ like a wounded dog all this time – prob’ly wanted me to kiss it better. Problem was, I’d all but forgotten the whole thing. Whole lotta nothin far as I was concerned – fun kids have when they’re young and don’t know better.

Five paces.

Down the street, a bell clanged noon. It was on. Big ‘un made a moist popping noise with his lips as he pawed at the holster on his belt. It was stuck. Poor bastard.

One.

I frowned and nodded once, then punched him hard in the face, right between his arrogant little eyes. He took a step back and stumbled to a knee. Then he toppled, eyes rolled – out before he hit the ground. His right arm slid lazily off his gut, dangling over the edge of the sidewalk. As it hit the curb, his hand opened, dropping his phone in the street. It bounced twice before sliding to rest a few feet away.

Turns out, drawing first doesn’t always mean you win.

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