Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Traildust PART TEN

Though he had gotten quite a head-start on him, the man was not worried about the American who had escaped after the gunfight. His escape had been amusing and impressive, something the man could rarely say about anyway on the wrong end of his pistols. The town he'd come from had fired at him but relented when the man had killed two of the guards. When he came into town the mayor addressed him with fear and anger.
"What do you want, you godless sonofabitch?" he shook a pistol at the man.
"A horse," the man said. "I got my saddle here but I need a new horse. Mine got shot."
"What makes you think we'd sell you a horse?" the mayor cocked the hammer on his pistol. "What makes you think I won't just shoot you down right now for what you done to my daughter?"
"Because you'da done it already," the man took his coin bag from his pocket. "And my coin is still good here. 'Sides, you don't know who's man I am."
The man smiled and it was so unnerving that the mayor holstered his piece and yelled for a horse to be brought to the man, for which the man parted with more gold than he preferred but he knew better than to argue under the circtumstances.
He had moved on now to another town within a day's ride. Before leaving the old town, though, he'd stuck around to watch the buzzards fly in and start picking apart the bodies of the dead men that lay strewn in the desert sand. The sun had already started to make them stink. Their eyes were grey and lifeless, arms stretched out towards weapons they could never reach.
The man pondered for a moment on where the soul might go after death, and if the final breath of a man was the soul escaping. He chuckled at this, musing on how many last breaths had gone unheard. A man was to be judged by the quality and character of his final words. That was what his father had always taught him and, if that were true, then many men he'd killed were of no consequence in the universe at all. Most spouted the same unoriginal blatherings of frightened dying men, cursing the man or his family or his soul. There were but a few that stuck to mind.
A man in a bar who had looked at him in a manor not to his liking had whispered in his ear before passing, "Shame I should die under this roof, surrounded by stinking, drunk men and not under the stars with my wife".
The man had liked that very much. Most injuns he'd killed had uttered something in their native, foreign tongue and most blacks merely prayed to the mercy of god. But, again, there had been exceptions. From what he could tell, white men and Mexicans cursed their killer's soul, black men prayed to god above for mercy and pity and injuns spoke in their unknowable tongue, probably speaking words to mother earth and the spirits and the animals. He hadn't yet killed a Chinaman, but looked forward to it.
Buzzards and creatures of carrion eat the eyes of the dead first, for they are soft and easy to get at. The dead men lay with eyes like black holes, bleeding, staring with no sight into the burning sun and sand while huge birds clawed at their chest and thrust their pointed beaks into their flesh. The man liked watching buzzards eat. It all seemed so natural to him.
It didn't take long to reach another town. One had popped up just under a day's ride away, as the sun lay high in the cloudless blue, and he had stopped in for some rest and food. He did not feel like drink or whores, he needed his mind clear for tracking the American. To clear his mind and think about where he would go, if he were a frightened man with a gunman on his tail, he took a walk around the small town on its dusty clay roads. Not long into his stroll he came upon a Jew wearing the typical long coat and hat of men of that religion. Two men were next to him, walking, and he heard one of the men say the word rabbi which he knew was the Jewish priest.
"You," the man said, "Jew."
The three men stopped and looked at him. Fear was already in their eyes.
"What do you do?"
"Me?" the man in the centre, with the coat and hat, gestured to himself. The man nodded. "I am a rabbi to these men and other Jews in the town, and to some people in towns around the area."
"That's like a priest, ain't it?"
The rabbi nodded. "It is, but for people of the Jewish faith."
"The Jewish faith."
The rabbi nodded again. The two men flanking him eyed each other, not knowing what to do.
"Correct me if my figuring is wrong, rabbi," the man approached the three Jews. They stood their ground. "But the Jews are not believers in Christ, are they?"
"No," the rabbi said, "we are not. We believe, for certain, that he was likely a real man, flesh and blood like the rest of us, but was not the moshiach, the messiah."
"How can you believe that?"
The rabbi shrugged. "It is in our faith, much like Christ is the foundation of yours. There were tennants for the moshiach to match, and Jesus did not match them."
"He did not live up to your Jewish expectations of the messiah?" The man placed his hand on his pistol.
"That is a matter for the Jews of the day," the rabbi eyed the pistol. "But no, he is not a messiah to us. We wait for ours, still, to come."
The man conisdered this a moment. "You are still expecting a messiah to come for you?"
The rabbi nodded. "That, too, is a tennant of our faith."
"Well hallelujah, for I have come."
The man drew his pistol and fired at the three Jews, striking each three of them in the heart. The two men flanking the rabbi fell down dead, but the rabbi still lived, clutching his breat. Many scared bystanders stood silently and watched. The rabbi's lips were moving and the man leaned down to listen to him speak.
"Your last words?" the man said.
"It is of no consequence that you kill me, for you only harm yourself. I am a man of god like any of your priests, and he shall look after me. You have felled to faithful men with me, and for this you will be punished."
"I've heard all this before, rabbi," the man put the gun to the rabbi's chin. "Anything else?"
"Though a bullet has felled me, the sun is still beautiful and the world is still here. I am nothing more than someone who existed and lived on a planet not entirely our own. You, too, are of no consequence at all."
And then, the rabbi died. The man stayed there for a moment, leaning over the still-warm body, and pondered the words. Before standing he whispered, "I've never killed a Jew before. Thank you, rabbi."
He stood, then, and walked away to his cabin where no one bothered him until he road out the next morning, in search of the American who had run away.

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