This week we had to write a story about two characters meeting for the final time, whether they know it or not. Word Limit: 400
The saloon doors flung open, framing Rutherford Shanks behind a cloud of dust. A collective sigh filled the room.
“Don’t ya’ll go worryin’ yer perty lil’ heads.” His spurs clacked as he headed for the bar. “Only here for one man. Barkeep! Whiskey!”
The bartender grabbed the edges of the bar, making a concerted effort to furl his brow. “Mr. Shanks, your business is appreciated. But you ain’t paid me goin’ on three months now.”
Rutherford scoffed, placing his Colt on the bar. “Sure we can’t make an arrangement?”
“Ruthie!” A crackled voice called out from a far table. “Stop struttin’ around like a cock in heat. I got your whiskey over here.”
Rutherford grabbed his firearm and headed for the old man. The vein in his neck throbbed as the smell of the rotten bastard engulfed him. “You senile flycatcher. I have half a mind to shoot you right now.” He grabbed the bottle and took a deep swig. “But first I’m going to take your money.”
The old man snorted. “I may only have half a mind left, but you and I know you only kill cheats.”
“And you are a cheat!” He leaned forward in his chair. “I just ain’t caught you yet.”
“So, deal then?”
Rutherford dealt the cards, knowing full well they were stacked. As suspected, he found himself with a full house.
“I’ll check,” said the old man, bemused.
“I’ll take three cards.” Rutherford sent them over, one from the top of the deck, two from the bottom.
“And the dealer stays.” He glared at the old man, desperate to catch him this time . “But you knew that.”
“So uptight, Ruthie. You’d be happier if you relaxed a bit. I’ll bet ten.”
“I’ll be happier when you’re six feet deep in horseshit. Speaking of which, I’ll bet my horse. Worth at least forty.”
“Hardly, but I’ll call it anyway.”
Rutherford laid down his cards, kings over sevens.
“Four of a kind, Ruthie!” The old man grinned, his cracked yellow teeth mocking Rutherford. He laid down his cards.
Rutherford looked down, then up at the old man, returning the grin.
“What is it?” The old man looked at his cards. “Oh.”
K: Rutherford’s got a really great arc here – we’re annoyed with him, then we pity him, then we admire his ingenuity. There are just a couple of problems in all this: one, we spend too much time talking. For such a cerebral scene, some of this should be subtext. Two, I wish we knew the old man a little more. I’ll admit that I wouldn’t care about #2 if #1 was tight. There’s potential greatness here, but it’s all too…on the surface.
DK: Another personal hangup, perhaps: reading a blow by blow description of cards didn’t turn out as interesting as I thought it might be. The dialects and flavor of the characters were really fun, though.
MG: Another fine set-piece, very well rounded in how it evokes a sense of time and place. Not a whole lot here to make it rise above an already quite fine field of stories, though, even with the enjoyable resolution.
Like the last story, I wrote this on a plane with a splitting headache. I agree with the judge’s comments. I definitely could have made this tighter with more subtext. My brain just wasn’t having it. Thankfully, my team pulled it out and we narrowly avoided another elimination. With 13 players left, the Walrus has 6 of them. Here’s hoping we’ll have half at the end of the next story.