Jack tapped the cards resting on the table nervously with his fingertips.  He knew he had nothing but he foolishly tried to buy the pot.  There was no easy way out at this point.

“Call.” Were the words that managed to escape his lips.

James glanced at his cards once again.  He did everything methodically, so much that Jack couldn’t figure what was going through his head.  Jack didn’t have the cards, he was certain of it.  The retired lawman all too easily saw Jack’s lie come apart and dig him further in the hole, so he decided to let McCall stew for a minute or two.  Jack saw that in his eyes only because he wanted Jack to see it.  Nobody liked to be played like that, but if Jack wanted a seat at this table, he would have to endure the condescension for a little while longer.

“Three fives.”  James answered.

Sweat beaded around McCall’s eyes.  There wasn’t a lot of shame in losing to this man, he just didn’t want to be the first to leave the table.  There was no way around it now, Jack did not have a winning hand.  He set his cards down slowly to reveal the two of spades, queen of clubs, king of diamonds, ten of hearts and jack of clubs.

“Broken straight. The pot’s mine, McCall.” James said confidently.  He smiled heartily as he pulled the chips toward himself and began the methodical task of stacking the clay discs by color. The dull clacks of the chips tapping together rang between Jack’s ears like hundreds of cicadas in the summer.  Jack lost $88 on the hand alone.  The retired lawman stroked his mustache for a time before looking back at Jack.  “I reckon you were all in on that.”

“Yeah.  I’m out.”  Jack answered meekly.  He slowly pushed out his chair and made way for the bar across the end of the gambling hall.

“McCall. Next time have the cards, you ain’t much of a liar.”  James quipped.  The rest of the players laughed in agreement as Jack left.

The bar wasn’t anything out of there ordinary for the Dakota Territory.  Just a simple wooden structure backed by cloth covered barrels.  A large mirror lined the wall behind it, showing Jack a view of the back room where the others continued the card game.  He watched himself for a minute or two with his hands crossed over the finished wooden surface before resting his head between his hands.

“What’ll it be, mister?”  A high pitched voice from behind the bar asked.  Jack was confused; he couldn’t see anybody behind the bar.

“Who’s talking at me?”  Jack asked hesitantly.

“Down here.”


A stool scooted across the wooden floor and set down with a fair amount of authority.  The thud echoed softly throughout the room.  A small man climbed awkwardly atop the stool where Jack could just see his head and shoulders over the bar.

“Sorry mister, I didn’t see you back there.”  Jack apologized.

“Nobody does.  What’ll it be?”  The small man smiled.

“Whiskey.”  Jack said.  The bartender dutifully climbed down from the stool and fetched a bottle from behind the bar.  He then pulled out a glass, and set both upon the bar.

– pop –  He pulled the cork from the bottle.

“You have a clean glass?”  Jack asked.

“In Deadwood?”  The bartender questioned.

“You have a point, little man.”  Jack chuckled a bit and shrugged.  “No matter, I just rather have the bottle anyway.”

The bartender smiled and pushed the bottle closer to Jack, and removed the glass.

“No fun losing is it, Jack?”

“How did you know my name?”  Jack asked.

“Overheard your card game.  Sometimes being this small has its advantages.”  The bartender replied.  “They weren’t all that nice were they?”  Jack took a swig from the bottle.

“Woof.  Good stuff you have here.”  Jack answered. The bourbon had a clean, subtly sweet but biting flavor.  Followed by a faint taste of burnt almond.  Odd, but Jack took another.  “Not really, but that’s the name of the game isn’t it?”  Jack answered the bartender’s question after the burning in his sinuses subsided.

Laughter erupted from the back off the room.

“So are you new here?  I haven’t seen you around at all.”  Jack asked.

“Not really. I have a tendency to be overlooked.”  The bartender responded.  “So, I can’t help but notice your iron there.”  Jack took another swig of the odd whiskey.  The bartender began to become a bit faded to Jack’s eyes.

“Oh yeah?  You mean Doris? Or Lucille?”  Jack asked.

“I guess the lady I can see.”  The bartender smiled through the fog in Jack’s eyes. “I’ve been thinking of picking one up myself.”

“Ha!  Now I know you haven’t been out here too long.”  Jack pulled the revolver from its holster.  He spun it vertically in his hand and watched it slip onto the bar.  “Whoops.” He said with a chuckle. “Colt 1851 Navy.  Do your part and it will get the job done five times over.”

The bartender picked up the revolver and inspected it.  Jack thought his small hands looked comical around its full size, rosewood grips.  Small fingerprints were left on the polished brass that Jack took note of for later. He took another swig of the whiskey, and fell further into the fog.

“Must have cost you a pretty penny.”  The bartender said softly.

“Not um, what the, the cost’ll be if ya don’t give it back, friend.”

The bartender slipped a fingernail underneath a cap and slipped it off. He half cocked the hammer and spun it past the empty chamber.  He handed the revolver back to Jack.  Jack looked wide-eyed at the mans quick movements but failed to take note of anything going on through the fog.

“Push the hammer froward next time. Not um, not very polite ya hear?”  Jack stumbled through the etiquette lesson.

“My apologies. What would you need something like this for around here?”  The bartender asked.

“For the self-righteous and the impolite alike.”  Jack answered.  He sighted the revolver at what he assumed was his reflection.  Holstered the gun and then awkwardly pointed it back at his reflection.  He could barely make out the front sight in the dim room.

Laughter erupted from the card game once again.  Jack looked at James’ profile.  Smiling from behind his growing stack of chips. He took another swig of whiskey.  Jack noticed that James had his back to the bar.

“So which was he? Self-righteous, or impolite?”

“Both.”  Jack answered, meekly.

“So what are you to do?  Stand here, stark raving mad?  Leave this iron without purpose?”

“It still has purpose.”  Jack replied.  He slowly returned the revolver back to its leather holster, doing his best not to shoot himself in here process.

Laughter erupted again.

“They were laughing at you aren’t they?  You couldn’t have lost that badly could you?”

“Would you, um, would you think that impolite?”  Jack asked.

“That’s not very polite at all.”

Jack looked down and saw the bartender’s hands holding a brass object that he couldn’t quite make out through the whiskey’s fog.

“May I?”  The bartender asked.  He clipped the brass cuff around Jack’s wrist. “I think you know what you need to do.”

Jack stumbled across to the end of the room.  He paid careful attention to the furniture that presented itself as motionless obstacles in the room. At least nobody else would get in his way.  Three players were in on this hand it appeared, and they were in hit he middle of the draw.  James, not noticing Jack quietly shifting behind him, sat motionless through the hand.

“How many?” The dealer asked.


The dealer tossed the card across the table in a slow spin.  James grabbed the card and added it to his hand.  Jack could make out the ace of spades, ace of clubs, eight of clubs and the eight of spades.  He couldn’t make out the fifth card.

“I’ll take two.”  Another player asked.

Barely through the numbness that accompanied whiskey, the brass cuff began to vibrate on Jack’s wrist.  It was not uncomfortable, but Jack wanted it to stop.  Was it prompting him to do something?  He thought about what he talked about with the bartender.  He looked back at the bar, the tiny bartender wasn’t there, or at least hidden once again.  The cuff kept vibrating until his hand rested on the revolver.  It stopped.  He took his hand off and it began to vibrate furiously.  It was prompting him to do something.

“Call.”  The retired lawman demanded.  Jack thought about James’ condescending tone after he  played out.  He thought of the laughter and the sneers from the other players.  He touched his Colt 1851 cap and ball revolver, and balanced its sights as best he could through the fog.  He pulled back the hammer, softly clicking into place.

“Damn you….”  Jack said with cold indignation.  The other players looked wide eyed at the lawman.  James sat looking at his cards methodically before looking up.

“Take that!”  Jack pulled back on there trigger.


The lawman stood up, confused but not afraid.

“Take what, McCall?”  He asked.  Jack pulled the hammer back again and jerked the trigger.


The lawman winced and settled himself.  Angered, he reached for his own S&W model 2.  He pulled back its hammer.

“I told you McCall, next time– have the cards.”

– boom –

The brass cuff began to make soft chiming sounds that only Jack seemed to notice.  He looked to see it unhinge itself from his wrist before everything went dark.

The Junction

The 8th of January