Salvation at the Flop

Four louche gauchos walk into a bar, fall over, get up, sit down and take off their hats.

It is night.

A double knuckle-shuffle, and they are, for all practical purposes: North, South, East, West. Here's the deal: acey, deucey, deucey, drunken one-eyed Lucy. Aroma of rum punch fills the air (fisticuffs!).

The band plays.

North straddles his stool delicately, dangling cowboy matter in the warm, moist silences of his chaps.

South (a closet Russian Formalist) cups a suicidal king and a boatload of waiting jetsam. Surveiling the room, he considers the advice once given him by an amateur ornithologist: animals always sense it first.

In succession: light, heat, fear, bile, carcass removal. All foreshadowing. Be ready.

A blue-eyed wanker from Upper Shit Creek, East sits sockless and ashiver. We pity him. We heap shapeless goodwill on the youthful bowler perched upon his knee. He is a mawkish fruitfly, and worse, a lightweight. Still, he holds a pair of eights and a fervent hope for salvation at the flop.

The dimness, not meant for deconstruction, is due to poor lamps. The whores wear rouge--insincere manifestation of youth and health. Motto: never let them hear you cough.

That young Turk of Scottish descent is West. He loves moonlit strolls, cocker spaniels, and the smell of dishwater. He's brooding on the bank job they've done, and waiting on an inside straight. He wonders who's going to pull, and when.

When the shit goes down, you better be ready! That's what I say.

I am ignored.

The bartender looks wary, though. No fool he. The rest hear the noise and not the screaming. Take your cues from the bartender; it behooves you.

Enter Tin Star; handlebar moustache, undiagnosed rash under his underarms. The band, all nerves, hopscotches, then gets back on beat.

Under the card table, four tense flexors flex forefingers. But play on. Ignoring Law, the bridge club oils its gears, pouring libations to the larynx, and now turning raucous. Hearts are all aflutter. Clubs, too.

The men with cards look for excuses to pull. Law looks for rationality amid the entropy of a tejas saloon.

Where are the ranchers? The bank tellers? The ticket takers, bakers, horseshoe makers, miners, casual diners and reformed orthodox Civil War veterans? Throw a stone at Uncle Jack's, two doors down with a world-renowned double whiskey-whiskey. The market's free hand, and no other, has made the socio-economic distinction between dive and destination. The chaff, back at our flophouse, shrugs nervously.

So: things are getting stinky. Tin Star pulls up his pants. East takes a trick. North makes love to his holster. West visually sorts through the human produce of onion-faced onlookers. South sighs, but with a twitch. No sudden moves, now. Easy.

Animals sense it first, East's heard. He can spot only antlers on the wall. They look all right. Their sighting, though, triggers a finger that fingers a trigger. East picks a target (human) and waits.

Idem per idem, the barkeep says. And when, hanging on the bar rail, Law turns to order, the 'keep's snuck out back, kept walking, and gotten into bed.

It is night.

The tension, could you mount it, would look good next to the unused samovar in the corner. Idem per idem.

Upstairs, the fleas are screaming in their mattresses. Fearless rats cower in kitchen cabinets. In other chambers, bullets om with the atomic vibration of an expectance of fulfillment of universal purpose.

It is night. The band plays. Fleas scream. Bullets om. Chips click. Piss tinkles. A chair scrapes. Wait. Wait.

Sight lines tie knots in the wafting smoke. North eyes East. East-Tin Star. Tin Star-West. South-Diamond Jack. Ad astra. There's money here somewhere. Moral obligation? Something itches; scratches. It's tense.

You better be ready! Consider the foreshadowing. You better be ready.

The bartender is long gone.

Who skins it first? Goes for gat? Who eats Mexican lead? Whose shirt mops bar tops? Blood waters sawdust? How goes it all down? Wait. Wait.

Confusion. Anger. Borderline tedium. Unfulfilled expectations. I'm ready to walk out, to skip to the end, to close up, TO GO. Wait. Wait:

From East's sleeve, an ace leaks.


Alarums. Excursions. Explosions. Exeunt.

About the author:

Kelvin Gordon is a liar and a scumbag.