Jess - II
Jess pushed open the bat-wing doors of the Lost Arrow Saloon and stepped out into the balmy night. It was over now. He had just blown the brains out of the two men who had fucked his young wife brutally enough to kill her. He pulled the cork from the full bottle of whiskey and drank deeply. It tasted good. Maybe he should ride out of town a few miles, make his camp for the night and get drunk, he thought. He doubted anyone would follow him to seek revenge, or even justice, for the two murders. The whores and the men in the Lost Arrow Saloon had seemed grateful for the killings. That’s what he had done, though, murdered the two men in cold blood.
The big mule pinned its ears and curled its lips as Jess flicked the reins from the hitch rail. Jess snapped the mule on a nostril with his index finger and growled, “Don’t you even think about it, Ben. I ain’t in the mood to fuck with you.” Ben bumped Jess hard in the chest with his muzzle. In spite of his mood, Jess chuckled. “Godammit, you are an ornery bastard!” He grabbed one of the mule’s ears and gave it a sharp tug.
Jess put his left foot in the stirrup and lazily swung his right leg over the saddle and mounted the mule. Ben pivoted his head around and nipped at Jess’ toe. Jess tugged sharply on the off-rein and growled, “You just gotta do it…don’t you? Point our ugly head south and your asshole north, Ben. It’s comin’ on winter where we came from, so let’s stay warm for awhile.” Jess pointed Ben’s ass to the north and they left the Lost Arrow Saloon and two corpses behind.
As Ben jogged south out of town, Jess noticed lamps had been lit in windows of the few houses and in the small apartments above the dark business store-fronts. He supposed the sounds of his gunshots had awakened the residents who had turned-in early for sleep, or a piece of ass, maybe both. Jess had often turned-in early with his wife.
Ben kicked a hind hoof out at something, not just once, but twice. That was normal; Ben liked to kick---but usually at Jess. Jess turned enough in the saddle to look down and to the rear. Trotting along with them was a mongrel dog; black as Ben in color, and almost as ugly to look at. It had a big head, long neck, long gangly legs and large floppy ears. Jess grinned and said to the dog, “Well, dog, you are a handsome devil…almost as handsome as Ben here. Are you as good natured too?” The dog looked up toward the sound of Jess’ voice, bared its teeth and growled. Jess laughed and turned forward in the saddle.
Several miles fell behind Jess, Ben, and now the dog, as they continued south. Jess could no longer see any light from the town when he stopped to look behind and check his back-trail. As he had thought, nobody followed. He’d look for a comfortable place to make camp soon.
Tired. He was both physically and emotionally very tired. He hadn’t realized how tired, until now. The flames of the small fire licked at the night and the pot of beans. The burning wood crackled and Ben snored. Jess looked over toward the big mule laying just a few yards away. The animal was on its side, legs stretched straight out and he was for sure snoring. Jess smiled. “Damdest mule I ever saw,” he mumbled softly. “You sure are a different kind of critter, Ben. Meaner than a pissed-off snake most of the time and more unpredictable than a woman, always.” The word “woman” brought images of his dead wife into his mind. Tears began a sudden flow down his face. Jess wiped them away quickly with the back of his hand, shook his head hard from side-to-side, and took another big drink of the whiskey. God he was tired!
Behind him the dog growled. Jess snapped his mind back to the present. He heard and saw the pot of beans bubbling over. He set the cup of whiskey aside and quickly crawled the short distance to the fire. With a sturdy stick of wood he lifted the pot by its wire-loop handle from the heat. “Thanks,” he said to the dog, “my daydreaming damn near ruined my supper.” Startled by the commotion, Ben thrashed his way onto his feet. The mule shook, farted, and then trotted off toward the nearby spring and its pool of water.
Jess had set the pot of beans on a fallen log to cool while he rummaged through his saddle bags for the slab of bacon and the package of hard biscuits. He noticed the dog sitting near the pot of beans rapidly licking its muzzle and brushing the ground with its tail. Jess wondered if the dog had ever been able to eat its fill. He put an extra ration of bacon and two additional biscuits in his frying pan.
Jess scooped a generous amount of the now cooled beans onto his tin plate. He was as hungry as he was tired. He cut several pieces of the well cooked thick bacon in half and dropped them on the beans. He put two of the biscuits, warmed and softened by hot bacon grease on top of the pile. Jess grinned and set the heaping plate of food down in front of the mongrel dog. “Here,” he said, “you protected it; I guess you can have some of it.” Without hesitation, the dog began to devour the food. Jess picked up the frying pan, poured off the remaining grease from the bacon and ladled in beans and biscuits for him. With a tired sigh, he sat down on his bedroll, poured another generous amount of whiskey into the cup and ate his meal.
The dog licked the plate clean, pushing it across the ground as it sought every drop and crumb. Jess, soaking up the remains from the frying pan with one last biscuit, laughed at the dog’s tenacity with the tin plate and said. “You seemed to like the beans, boy!” Through a mouth full of soggy biscuit he added, “Maybe that’d be a good name for you…Beans.” Jess swallowed the biscuit, washed it down with a couple of big swallows of whiskey and laughed. The dog, Beans, trotted off in the direction of Ben.
Jess picked up the whiskey bottle to pour another dollop in the cup. The bottle was half empty and Jess was beginning to feel the effects. I’d better not, he thought. Instead, he got up off the ground, found the dog’s plate, picked up the frying pan and staggered toward the spring to wash the dishes and his utensils. He would cover the pot of beans and eat what remained for breakfast.
Ben was grazing on the lush grass that surrounded the spring. The animal rolled its eyes and pinned its ears as Jess came near with his dishes. Jess, stumbling a bit, walked next to the mule and leaned against its hindquarter. “Don’t worry, asshole, we aren’t going anywhere. I’m going to do the dishes and get in my bedroll,” he mumbled. “Where’s that damn dog?” Not getting any response from the mule, of course, Jess carefully made his way over to the pool of water and washed his plate, pan and utensils.
Returning to camp, Jess put his eating equipment and the bottle of whiskey back into his saddlebags and unrolled his bedroll. He stripped down to his underwear, threw a few more pieces of wood on the fire then took a piss. While doing that, he looked around for the dog. Not seeing or hearing it; he looked down at the puddle of urine forming on the ground and muttered, “Sure, I fed ya and now you’ve gone on your way. Well, I can’t tolerate a mean cur anyway. Good riddance.”
Within moments of laying his head on a rolled rain-slicker he used for a pillow, Jess drifted into a deep sleep. Crickets chirped their nightly song. A family of coyotes yipped in the distance. In the dying fire one small log rolled off another. Ben moved to graze a little closer to his master’s camp---to be his sentry. A small fluffy cloud drifted angel-like across the face of the moon.
Beans curled and pressed his body against the back of Jess’ legs.