You are hereby requested to appear at the Watering Hole Saloon, Sunday night at 9:00 pm.

Come alone and come armed.

~  High Plains Vigilantes for American Justice

My stomach did a flip- flop, my fingertips tingled. Carefully I put the slip of paper back in the envelope and stuffed it inside my Kevlar vest. There must be some mistake. Not to mention, the Watering Hole was such a dive. Only the drovers and the dregs drank there. — from Sunday Night Knife & Gun Club; Episode #3 of Nurse Kit Carson’s Adventures, a series of connected short stories featuring a jaded nurse in America’s dystopian Wild West.

That evening seven of us gathered at a convenient bar. Gloria, Stacy, Tamra, Christa, Molly, Bob and I. We took turns reading aloud from my short story in progress.

The evening was not only a lot of fun, it was also instructive to the writing (and drinking) process. Specifically, I found it useful to hear the words, the dialogue, spoken aloud, out of the mouths of critics I trusted. They read it cold, no rehearsal.  My story became a shared story, it became interactive as the readers took on accents and attitude when they put on the “reading hat” – a cowboy hat passed around the table to signify whose turn it was. Other props included a stethoscope and a toy pistol. Commeraderie, food, and drink was involved; it would have been entertaining no matter what. But it was valuable to me as a writer because like a director at a table reading I heard what worked, what needed work, and what just plain sucked. As a bonus, I got some new ideas to include. The table reading was so fun I’ve decided to make it a regular part of my writing process.  Join me?

Sunday Night Knife & Gun Club, a 29 page installment, will make its debut on Amazon’s Kindle platform May 1, 2019 for a whopping 99 cents.

A big thank you to Susan Keogh for editing, to Lawrence Gregory for providing editorial feedback, to M.G. Manelis for designing the covers for both Saturday Night and Sunday Night Knife & Gun Club! And a thanks to Albert Roberts for designing the cover to the original short story, Friday Night Knife & Gun Club.

 

 

Kit Carson, RN

The winter had been a long one and it was not yet spring. I was driving to work, late again, mind busy, overflowing with to-do lists, should-have-done lists, the occasional misplaced memory blowing through like a random tumbleweed. Last week’s lynching, the way the dead man’s boots twitched, a dog dreaming. Tonto’s forearms, his concentration when he draws his bow (a warm tingling down south, picturing his muscles tensed, the arrow poised). Those men we left for dead down in the hospital morgue. Random images. Floaters. Blink, they’re gone and a new day’s shit pile to deal with.

My pickup, a Dodge Power Wagon, galloping along with never a word of complaint. Oil change and new tires all the way around – that put a dent in my charge card but I felt indestructible in that badass machine. Love my sexy set of wheels, she’s fully restored (except for a broken window and glove box latch) and only five more years of payments! Lately, a family had taken up residence in the back, hanging a blue plastic tarp over the bed, tent-like, to keep out the sleet and snow. Beneath the tarp a string of lights lent a bit of cheer to the situation. I’d never actually seen any of them, they were invisible to me, but I couldn’t help notice little scraps of their existence. A glove dropped in the snow. An empty water bottle under the wheel. Sometimes when I got into the cab I smelled green chili and pork simmering in the back. But I kept my blinders on. Hell, I had enough to worry about looking after my own. Those people were no concern of mine.

Traffic in town was heavy that Sunday night, a regular stampede. Used to be Sundays were slow but lately there’d been a rush of interlopers to the city of High Plains and the whole Front Range. They came for the silver, they came for the gold, they came for the oil and gas, they come for the dope. It’s boom or bust baby, and High Plains was booming. Me, I’m practically a native, I’ve got the bumper sticker to prove it.

I stepped on the gas and was making up for lost time when I saw a lasso of blue and red lights in the rearview. Shit damn hellsafire, I don’t need this.

Braking and signaling (and hoping my lights weren’t burned out), I pulled off the highway onto the shoulder. What will I say?  Cops and nurses, we supposedly have an affinity or something. I’ll tell him I’m late for my shift and give him the look, you know the look. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll let me off. Unless… What if it’s one of Bully Ratzer’s deputies? What if he knows the dancer Balmy Wether is under my protection, that she’s living under my roof, babysitting my kids, taking online courses to get her high school diploma? What if he knows she’s ready to rat out the sheriff of High Plains?

A flashlight in my face, a tap on the window. “Roll ’em down, cowgirl.”

My stomach, in knots. “It won’t roll down,” I said, speaking loudly, so he could hear me through the glass. “It’s broken. The window’s broken.”

“Keep your hands where I can see ’em.”

I gripped the steering wheel to keep my hands from shaking.

“Now open the door. Easy does it, nice and slow. Keep your right hand on the wheel.”

I did as he bid.

“Atta girl.”

The hombre was tall. Over six feet, I reckoned. I couldn’t even see his face way up there.

“Now, let me see your papers. Driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance. No sudden moves, cowgirl. ”

The click of a safety being released triggered my heart rate to 130 sinus tach, with a couple of PVCs thrown in. I could accurately gauge its rate and rhythm because heartbeats are my business. Critical care and emergency nursing, my expertise. Swallowing hard, I reached over to open the glove box and the damn door fell off in my hand.  Of course it did; I had forgotten about the broken latch. Out poured an avalanche of shit – old gasoline receipts, unopened pack of tampons and an empty pack of Marlboros, CPR pocket mask, a box of nine millimeter bullets and a wad of paper napkins from Waco Taco. Somewhere amid the detritus of my road life I found what I was looking for. Handed over my paperwork and awaited my fate.

***

I hope you enjoyed this sample!  The short story is available to pre-order on Amazon Kindle, to be released May 1, 2019.