You May Hear of a Killing
by Becca Borawski Jenkins
The heat made her an inch shorter as she watched the dust devil tread toward her down the only road in this not-even-a town. Her hands rested at her hips. No—her palms hovered, brushing the grips of her pistols. Shined clean this morning, barrels swabbed and greased. Readied. Loaded, unloaded, and loaded again. She worried her wrists would spasm if she didn’t relax, if she didn’t wait, though she’d been waiting for hours. Standing, gathering dust and eyes. Quarter till noon and not a whore draped from a window. Not a wagon to be seen. Not a man leering and spitting at a woman in pants standing alone in the center of town.
All eyes—she felt them—hidden.
In her mind, the effigy of a previous life—of mountains and Munsee, of blueberry jam and Mary Post’s maple. Of a father and mother who didn’t belong, even together, and a daughter doubly or triply so, from birth, much less now. A plague had driven her west—a hot wind, stunted wheat, the whip of a man, the words of the schooled, the whimper of her heart, a way out, a wide-open plain.
A fly bit where her hair met the skin of her neck. Where the man had grabbed a handful and held her down—back then, just now, again and again—all the same times she’d sworn she’d receive the wrong end never again.
In this place, where it took the sun days to travel from noon to night, where a person, and the skinny scarce animals, waited and waited for the sky to touch the ground, she had waited and waited for someone to care.
And she was done.
She relaxed the backs of her hands and found comfort in the warmth of her pistols. At the far end of her vision, a man stepped into the light, his shadow hidden beneath his boots. Her duty weighing hers to the ground. A self-assigned duty, a self-prescribed duel. No rustle in her petticoats. No breath of nature in her buckskins. No whisper from her mother long lost in the mountains, drowned in the river, but muffled long before then. No wishes from her father still sitting in his chair, in his cabin, on his ridge, no doubt with the bottle still in hand.
The man slowed his step and they both raised their arms out from their sides, in fairness and according to the rules of the game. She reached for the windows of the buildings beside her, she reached for the roofs, and then for the clouds. She reached for the past and then for the future. She reached for her heart and faintly recognized its beat.
The dust devil still spun its way toward her, lingering on the edges of her vision, now blurring the man’s fingertips, now obscuring his face, now stirring the ground at her feet.
The spasm shimmered up the back of her hand as her pistols rose.
Becca Borawski Jenkins holds an MFA in Cinema-Television Production from USC and has stories in Menacing Hedge, The Forge, Ghost Parachute, and Jellyfish Review. She recently received three Pushcart Prize nominations. She spent a year living off grid in a remote part of Idaho, and now roams North America in her RV. Find her online at http://beccabjenkins.com/ and on Twitter @BeccaNJP.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.