It was the holiday season, and I really needed a glass of whiskey. That being unavailable, I settled for gin.
“I’ll tell you now,” my friend Georgie grumbled over his own drink. “He said he didn’t believe it, but I swear it’s the Lord’s truth.”
“You swear everyday.” I said back in modest dismissal.
Georgie’s mustache overtook the glass as he took another swig; a string of spit stretched from his chapped lips to the glass rim as he put it down. He looked up from under a mistletoe with a drunken pride. “Well, now I have the proof.”
It was the habit of those who frequented the Hog’s Head at the end of the week to recant those “stunners” of stories they encountered throughout their life—oftentimes repeatedly. The Yuletide festivities only added fuel to the raconteurs’ fire. And tonight, Georgie was hot with a new one:
You’ve all heard of the gunman Billy Jones no doubt (and so Georgie began). Billy Jones who knocked off five banks in the course of one week … Billy Jones who topped the most wanted list yet always slipped through the authorities’ fingers … Billy Jones of whom it was said even bullets were too afraid to meet head on and as such ducked and dodged every which way around his person.
Of course you have.
Well, it was late that night in December. It was Christmas Eve, in fact, when in through those very doors, those old wooden doors the color of scotch, who walks into the Hog’s Head but none other than Billy Jones himself.
He emerged into the room slowly, the same way a shadow seems to appear behind you during the sun’s first peek on a cloudy day. Topping his head was a black cowboy hat shading dark brooding eyes; in his mouth, he held a fat stubby cigar with his two front teeth so that his face was perpetually in a grimace.
Now, as soon as the first onlooker noticed who it was, silence befell the room. Many eyes in that room that night were immediately drawn to Jones’s side, where a colt .45 hung at his side. Butch—you know Butch who owns this joint—doesn’t allow guns inside see, but no one had the gall to tell Billy he couldn’t bring in his gun for fear of gaining one bullet as a souvenir of their encounter with the notorious gunman Billy Jones.
Anyway, he sat down and ordered a drink. Georgie forgot actually what drink he ordered, which depending on how you look at it is no wonder or quite a surprise as he sat down right smack dab next to Georgie.
Now, nobody—nobody at all—said a word to Jones as he strolled into the bar and ordered that drink. For a brief moment, Georgie had felt sorry for Billy Jones—what a trifling life it must seem at times to have no one talk to you at all. But then Georgie thought no wonder Billy Jones was so ignored; people said Billy robbed like one who had no soul. They said everything Billy touched would turn rotten to the core, that he couldn’t do no good even if he wanted to.
“This your hang out?” Billy asked through a gruff voice breaking Georgie’s reverie.
“Yep.” He said clearing his throat.
“It’s a nice place this.”
“Yep,” George said not quite sure how to make conversation with the land’s most notorious outlaw, a man who they said gambled only with the devil himself.
“What’s your name?”
The notorious outlaw grinned. “You know my name, don’t ya?”
Billy Jones took a big huff of his cubby cigar and let the smoke seep out of his mouth at the bar. “A man like me doesn’t have many friends this season … or any season for that matter?”
Georgie stayed silent, staring into his glass.
“You don’t need to hide your eyes from me,” he spoke slowly.
“I wasn’t …”
“But you best not lie to me.” Jones had eyes that could pierce the night sky.
Georgie gulped down a nervous jitter.
“No, George. After tonight, I’m going to be a new man.”
Georgie didn’t dare avert his eyes, but he didn’t dare make eye contact either. His gaze hovered in and around the mythical stature of the gunman Billy Jones. “Is that so?”
Billy Jones nodded. “That is indeed so.”
“No more robberies?”
Jones only smiled and finished his drink. “Nope, just redemption.”
He left without saying another word.
Beautiful! I loved it!
Loved it! Never expected the ending and that is only part of the reason. I liked the subtle and entwined descriptions of the characters.