This is going to be the second story prompt I write on this blog, and I have not yet added guidelines or limiters. I'm lazy, so what?
And I like not feeling pinned down by character or word counts.
I still try to keep things brief but... sometimes things get away from me.
This entry's word was given to me by my own cousin, Ethan, who is joining the blog as a guest writer (sometime this week [maybe today, we'll see]).
I'm not going to gush about him because he's going to read this, and I don't want my praise to give him a big head.
All I can say is I'm excited to see what he does here, and with his future. Without further stalling, here's my prompt.
Word: Culture. Provided by Ethan.
Martin pulled a canteen from his belt and poured its contents down his throat. Clear trails of liquid dampened his shirt, and the bandana fastened around his neck. With the hard sun beating on his back, Martin had never been so grateful for cool water.
Once he was sure the canteen was empty, Martin tossed it aside; he had made his way back to Prosperity, and, depending on what happened next, he'd either have no need for a canteen, or never need water again.
He took a step forward, followed by another, forcing himself to trudge through the swirling dust and the raining heat until he found Redman's Retreat, and pushed through the saloon's doors.
It was just as scorching within as it was on the outside, the only difference being the complete lack of fresh air that had at least seemed to lessen the heat. No, within Redman's Retreat, the temperature seemed to increase tenfold; as sweat clung to every man's skin, and the stench of cheap food and cheaper spirits churned around them.
Martin set his eyes on a chair to his right, and he remembered the throbbing ache in his thigh from his brush with Jeremiah Fields.
Speak of the Devil.
Martin groaned as he lumbered across the saloon, eyes slowly turning towards him as he made his way to the dice tables stacked against the corner. Among them, sat a group too occupied with their games of chance to pay Martin any mind, and that was just as he preferred it.
He quieted his groans as he approached them, and loomed over the table ominously before setting his hand on it. The action earned him a lazy glance from the man sitting closest to him, who then cursed as his eyes widened in realization.
"Martin?" the man squealed.
"Hello, Henry," Martin grumbled, staring down the man in front of him.
At the mention of Martin's name, the rest of the gamblers moved their attention to him. He counted four of them, with Jeremiah sitting opposite him.
Did you think we were done?
Jeremiah usually kept no less than six of his minions around to wipe his ass, but Martin knew he had grown confident after their encounter beyond Pale's Ridge.
He might've grinned if he had the will to do so.
"Well, look at you, Martin," Jeremiah smirked, in the manner a highwayman might greet a federal marshal.
"Jeremiah," Martin nodded, scanning the other three, "Quentin, Jose, Manuel."
Martin's left hand steadily rose to trace the brim of his hat.
The rest of Jeremiah's men nodded in return, except for Henry, who didn't dare make a move so close to him.
"Where's George?" Martin inquired, his eyes returning to Jeremiah.
The man's face wrinkled at the question, the creases on his face folding even further.
"We had a disagreement," he admitted, stroking his dark blonde beard, "He's gone off to cool down."
It seemed as if Jeremiah would open his mouth to add more, but instead, his eyes widened as his posse abruptly rose from their seats. They all stared at Martin anxiously.
"Don't do anything foolish, now, Martin," Jeremiah chastised, his eyes beginning to narrow.
A finger tapped Martin's shoulder, and he hesitatingly shifted to face it.
"I'm going to have to ask you to leave, son," the aged barkeep requested.
"I haven't-," Martin tried.
"I don't want any trouble," the old man pushed, motioning to Martin's hip.
Martin hadn't realized it, but his hand had begun to hover over the Paterson resting in its holster.
"I- I didn't-," he started.
"I'm going to have to insist," the man urged, "I won't give you trouble for the floor, but I can't have no squabbles here."
Martin turned to look at the floor and saw the trail of blood and mud he had left in his wake. Recognizing the stains stretched across the wood planks reminded him of why he had come, and the gnawing in his leg only served to spur him on.
In one quick movement, he had pulled his pistol and pivoted back towards Jeremiah. He had managed to pull back the hammer and almost touch the trigger as it folded outwards, but Henry and Quentin grabbed his arms, and Manuel struck the weapon from his hands.
"Damn you, bastards!" Martin yelled as they forced him onto the ground.
"Please, take it outs-," the barkeep started.
"Enough yammering!" Jeremiah barked, "You'll be compensated for your trouble, as long as you leave well enough alone."
Martin looked back at the old man, hoping he might push for them to stop, but he didn't. He slunk away and said nothing as Martin was forced onto his knees.
"L-let's settle this outside, Jeremiah," Martin groaned, "Quickdraw, you and me. One last run."
Jeremiah made his way towards Martin and pulled his pistol from the floor.
"I don't think so," Jeremiah sighed, "I'd rather not leave anything up to chance this time."
He leveled the Paterson with Martin's chest, and gingerly nudged the trigger.
"Je-Jeremiah!" Martin cried, flailing against his captors.
There was a glimmer in Jeremiah's eyes, one that Martin thought might have been reluctance; until he fired three rounds into his chest. One after the other after the other. It was then he realized it was nothing more than a flicker of delight.
They let Martin go, and he crumpled onto the dirty, wood floor. His new wounds mingling with the blood of his old one.
He had expected the searing pain to leave him howling in agony, but he only felt lightheaded, just a bit more than when he had first walked in. It was a strange feeling for him, though, as he felt his life flow onto the ground.
Martin thought of cursing Jeremiah with his last few breaths, drag him and his mother with whatever few words he had left. However, he knew he had no right to do it.
I did this to myself. I came in here looking for blood, and I found it. This was always how it was gonna end.
Martin laughed, a spout of crimson draining from his lips as he choked.
It's part of our #culture.
He shut his eyes and never opened them again.
Hope you enjoyed this, and that it didn't drag on too long.
The Ranger, now going to watch 3:10 to Yuma