It had been many a year since Bennet Holden had spent a day sober. Since the death of his wife and child, which he still blamed himself for, he'd spent his time at the bottom of a bottle of ale and with his money in chips at the card table.
"Ante up, Holden," Oscar said from across the table. "Let's git this hand started."
Bennet looked down at his chips and then at his cards.
"Aw, hell," he said. "I fold. You guys done cheated me."
He threw down his cards and finished off his whiskey, signalling for another from the barkeep.
"We ain't cheated you and you know it," Oscar said, taking away Bennet's cards. "Yer just lousy at cards."
"If'n y'ain't cheatin' me, how come I always walk outta here with a hole burnin' in my waistcoat?"
"Coz yer bad at cards!" Jake said, pawing the pot of chips closer to himself. He laid down a hand of four aces. "Y'always was."
"I'm supposin' so."
"P'raps y'oughta quit." said the third man from across the table that Bennet didn't recognize. His beard was long and grey, his face a Grand Canyon of deep scars and wrinkles, his skin baked in the sun like everybody else's. His had was pulled down over his eyes. The barkeep came and delivered Bennet's second drink. Coins exchanged hands.
"Why'd he wanna do a thing like that?" Oscar said, laughing from somewhere deep in his gut filled with rocks and bourbon. "Be like givin' up a woman's cunny and I can't see no sense in that neither!"
The men all laughed with a wolf-like gruffness. Bennet merely smiled and downed the drink in front of him.
"I think I might be takin' my leave tonight, boys."
"Now why's that?" Jake said. "We're just gettin' started." He cracked a smile.
"I'm leavin' coz I'd like to leave here with some a my pay still in my pocket!"
As he turned to leave, some of the whores from upstairs came over to the table wearing their négligées.
"Now boys," said the redhead known as Charlene. She put her palms down on the card table, revealing her voluptuous breasts to the players. "I heard you a talkin' 'bout cunny."
She leaned back and propped her leg up onto the table's surface. Chips, cards and ale glasses jumped.
"Perhaps you'd like to stop talkin' and get your hands around some." And she smiled a bright, toothy smile at the boys, making their only option acquiescence to her suggestions.
"'Fraid not tonight, ladies," Bennet said moving away, stumbling a little from the liquor. "Perhaps another night."
The cooed and pouted at him to stay but he kindly declined and made it out the doors.
Once at home, he sat in his favourite chair and stoked a fresh fire. He put the remainder of his pay in a small safe he hid behind his bed's headboard then went into his workshop. On his way into the home he'd passed his business's sign, "Bennet's Blacksmiths" and smiled. He still liked passng that sign. Now in the workshop, he checked on his machinery.
The coin press and paper-money press were still there, untouched, undisturbed.
"Good," he said, patting the cavas covering of the machines. "Good."
There was a shipment to go out tomorrow and he had to ride out to Presidio with it. It was going to be a long day and he figured he might as well try and get some sleep, try to sober up before the sun shines through his curtains and burns his eyes and makes him curse the lord.