This is a preview of the first pages for the upcoming short story, “Warm Wood”.
I am a avid fan of spaghetti westerns and wanted to write a story with my own take on an iconic weapon, the 1873 Winchester repeating rifle, more well known as… The Gun That Won The West.
Long ago the West was a wild place. Back when to be called wild meant so much more. It meant you were free. Free as the fertile land that stretched to the setting sun on the horizon. Without boundaries, without ruler-ship it would kill as easy as it gave life. So man set out to tame the West. To trek across the expanse of the continent, bringing with them a chain made of railroad lines and uprooted earth. The West lashed out against the encroaching man, with lightning, wind, rain, and ice. But man had dug into the world with teeth and claws of steel and cut wood. It was then that many said that magic left that part of the world.
“What’s that? You lookin’ for a seventy-three Winchester?” Harold snorted behind the bar and went back to cleaning the same glass he had just put down.
“THE GUN THAT WON THE WEST!” A man yelled in a slur near the end of the bar, his raised mug spilling beer on the floor next to him.
“God dammit Jim! Quit yer yelling and go back to sleep.”
Harold waited for the drunk to put down his head on the bar before starting again, his voice low as if he forgot about the stranger in front of him that asked him the question in the first place.
“Was never sure when this fine nation began to refer the 1873 Winchester repeating rifle by that name. I remember as a lad watching whenever those lone rider type fellows would come into town-you’d be sure he was sporting a Winchester.” He said with a small smile brought forth by fond memory.
“Men made them personal too. Tassels on the end and crude names carved in the stock. Name seemed to always belong to a pretty lady.”
Harold snorted again in amusement, “Stands to reckon that the silent strangers had relationship issues. Or at least held onto some of the strangest forms of affection that’ll ever be seen.”
Harold’s voice drifted off in memory, remembering a sweet voice that seemed to linger in the oak timber of the bar long after it went away. The stranger placed a fray dollar note on the counter for another drink.
Taking it Harold started up again, “Either way one thing you can be sure of mister. Man may have discovered the West, but it was a woman who won it.
The stranger in front of looked up suddenly, his eyes shimmering with a moment of rich color, “Why do you say that?” His voice was younger then Harold expected for his looks but thought nothing more it. He poured two beers from behind the bar and handed one to the stranger.
“Ever hear of the story of a Winchester that turned into a woman?”
Her name was Olivia. The man had given up his own name a long time ago. Longer than most men in his line of work stay alive. Though it difficult to average a man’s lifespan during those harsh days. Almost no one made it to see wrinkles and brittle bones.
“If I do, I’m gonna thank the Lord. Days of peace and quiet might ease the splintering voices in my head.” The man thought as he chuckled in the faintest of sounds.
It was enough though for his companion to hear it and ask him, “What is so amusing?”
“Hmm? Oh nothing to bother your sweet little head with.” She glared at him in slight frustration from the obvious joke. He chuckled a little louder this time adjusting himself in the saddle. His thigh brushed against the butt of a sheathed rifle, the supple leather reflecting the setting rays of sun as it set on what the man remarked was a good day.
“I thought finding peace like this in the world was a foolish dream.” He chanced a glance at his partner as she braided a section of hair from her horse’s main.
“Something intangible.” He said to himself, careful this time that Olivia would not overhear.
The travelers stopped at the bank of a river as the sun settled behind a distant range of mountains.
“Look, there is snow on the peaks.” The man did not follow her eyes at first, more interested to watch his partner sit eloquently in the branch of the tree that they had pitched the horses against. He had not heard her climb up nor could he explain how the slender branch did not seemed to be strained from taking her weight. Her legs kicked ever so slightly, on verge of portraying childish enthusiasm. He then allowed himself to look up into the summits. The snow that she had seen was barely visible to him and simply colored the tips in a light grey.
“Most likely the last of winter. Nothing but heat from here on out you know.”
“I do hate this place you have taken me. It is far too warm for my liking.” She let out a yawn and stretched out on the branch like a cat, leaves rustling alongside her.
“I thought you liked the sun.” The man circled the tree for fallen sticks to use for a fire. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain as something struck the top of his head. He looked at the small twig that was just thrown and then up at his companion.
“I think that one should suffice to start a flame. And do not think I am so simple as to like or dislike the temperatures of the day. Do not forget that I am-”
“Impossible.” He said, able to dodge the second twig with a quick tilt of the head.