A Fling for the Judge

Contributor: John Laneri

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It was a Sunday morning when Sheriff Matt Carson arrived at the Judge's house – a large Victorian located on a hilltop overlooking Neverton, a small community along the cattle trail to Fort Worth.

The Judge was none other than the Honorable Theodore Busard, a man that controlled the countryside with a firm hand, a powerful will and a rope that fit readily around many a neck.

Hurrying to the Judge’s office, the Sheriff – usually a relaxed, confident man – was justifiably tense, unsure of the Judge's intentions.

The old man looked up, peering over half glasses. “Take a seat Sheriff. We need to talk.” He pointed a gnarled finger to a stool then returned to his telescope, a newer model that kept him abreast of the happenings in his domain.

To the Sheriff’s eye, the Judge was an frightful man with a skeletal body residing in a wheelchair. Over his ears, tufts of hair sprang from either side of his skull, a characteristic that some said, hid the horns of the devil.

Pushing the telescope aside, the Judge turned to the Sheriff. “I need you to arrange a rendezvous with Aunt Jillie.”

“What kind of rendezvous did you have in mind?” the Sheriff asked carefully, certain the man was referring to Aunt Jillie, the attractive, fun loving proprietress of the finest establishment in Texas.

The Judge sat upright and screamed, “You know exactly what kind of rendezvous I’m referring too, so watch your tongue, young fellow.”

The Sheriff shifted uncomfortably, knowing the old man could be vicious.

“As I was saying,” the Judge continued, “You tell Aunt Jillie that I need a couple of her girls for the afternoon. It’s about time I get reacquainted with some of the finer young women in my town. And tell her, I'll provide some whiskey and a few choice steaks for her effort, so be here at three o'clock sharp.”

With that said, he returned to his telescope, indicating their conversation had concluded.

On returning to town, the Sheriff stopped at the boarding house to convey the news to Jillie. She met him at the door, smiling pleasantly until he related the Judges orders.

Naturally, she was reluctant to accept the Judge's demands until the Sheriff said, “Don't forget, the Judge likes to hang women. He enjoys watching their toes twitch. On the other hand, your girls might be just what it takes to put the old buzzard to rest for good.”

Jillie agreed, so at three o’clock that afternoon, they arrived at the Judge's house where they found him sitting in his wheelchair on the patio, a manicured area which overlooked a rocky hillside and the town three quarters of a mile in the distance.

The Judge opened an eye.

Hesitantly, Jillie stepped forward, her red hair glowing in the sunlight. “Your honor, I’d like to introduce two of my finest young ladies. They're like daughters to me.”

The Judge lifted his glasses and extended a hand to the first girl. “Come here little lady. I need to see your charming characteristics.”

She edged toward him, her cheeks blushing. “Pleased to meet you Mr. Judge.”

“You look delectable. What’s your name?”

“People call me Sally May. I'm good with spurs, but I can get a hand gun to firing like a Winchester rifle.”

The Judge’s mouth flew open just as a cough began to heave from deep within his chest. “You’re a mighty tempting young filly,” he sputtered, as he turned away to cast a wad of phloem to the side.

Finally, he turned to the other girl and studied her, saying, “Your green eyes remind me of my first wife... well maybe that was the other wife, the one I had to hang by the neck.”

Noticing Jillie and the Sheriff standing to the side, he turned to them. “You two get out of here. Go toss some horseshoes.”

As instructed, they drifted toward the horseshoe pit where they settled back to wait while the girls attempted to wake His Honor's honor.

The Sheriff said to Jillie, “I hope your girls know what they’re doing. The Judge can get mighty ornery.”

Give them time. They’re my best,” she replied, as she glanced about. “Care to pitch horseshoes while the steaks cook?”

“It's my favorite game,” he replied, knowing she always lost.

After haggling for awhile over a one dollar bet, Jillie eventually grabbed a shoe, aligned her sights, and launched the first one, a beauty that flipped end over end, coming to rest with a solid clang exactly where she intended – a perfect ringer.

She turned to him. “That was a nice toss for a lady.”

“Take another try. The contest is not over 'til it's over.”

Again, Jillie aligned her sights and launched a perfectly arched fling, one that looked good until it grazed the pole by the slightest fraction and began rolling toward the patio.

At the time, the girls were standing to the side discussing their next tactic. Unfortunately, they didn’t see the shoe flip onto the patio and give the wheelchair a gentle nudge. They also failed to see the chair gradually start moving toward the side of the hill.

By the time they missed the old Judge, he was well on its way to Neverton, rolling straight down the rocky incline directly toward the main street of town and a particularly large bolder about half way down.

On their way back to town, the Sheriff said, “I hope to remember today forever.”

“Why's that?” Jillie asked. “I'd like to forget about the Judge.”

“Me too,” he replied. “But, I need to remember not to toss horseshoes with you, if I start to get cranky in my old age.”

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several scientific journals as well as a number of internet blogs and short story print editions.
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