Community Planning – Old West Style

Contributor: John Laneri

- -
Hours after the fire, people continued to wander the ruins – their thoughts lost in the swirling wisps of smoke drifting from blackened rubble and scattered debris. They were in Neverton, a small community along the cattle trail to Fort Worth and each of them knew that life was about to change in their town.

In the saloon, Vernon Carter's eyebrows lifted heavily. “As mayor, I’m tellin’ you gents we have a serious problem confronting us. We need to get our brains together and think out a solution.”

He paused a moment, his eyes moving from face to face, studying the other two men on the town council.

“In fact,” he continued, his voice barely above a whisper, “Our town will dry up to nothing unless we come up with some serious thoughts. As I see it, things are about to change faster than a fellow can spit.”

Across from him, Roscoe Sayers, the newspaper editor, looked up, his lips quivering. He was a skinny, little man with bulging eyes and a balding head. “The community may never recover from the loss. It's a calamity that perverts the goodness in nature.” He turned away, his features grim.

To Roscoe’s side, Sheriff Matt Carson sat slumped with his head bowed and his boots propped on the back of a chair. Ordinarily, he was an easy man with a confident attitude. He opened an eye. “I feel like the world’s coming to an end. The Lord has truly forsaken us.”

“I hear what you’re sayin’,” Vernon replied, as he reached for a bottle of whiskey then poured a shot. “I haven’t eaten all day – no appetite. With her house gone, she doesn’t have reason to stay in our town... says she’s taking the girls and movin’ on.”

“Taking the girls!” the Sheriff said, coming to his feet and kicking the chair aside. “My God... it's worse than I thought. If we lose the girls, our community's doomed. We’ll see more brawling about town, certainly more gun fighting. Hell fire, we’re talking about Aunt Jillie's Boarding House, the finest establishment west of Fort Worth. Fellows can get powerfully restless when faced with a dry spell.”

With those words, a lengthy silence followed as each man searched for direction – anything to lift the weight of reality from their shoulders. Life, as they knew it, might never return to normal.

Finally after several minutes, Roscoe cleared his throat and edged forward, his eyes beginning to dance with that spark of energy only seen at Aunt Jillie's. “As reasonably intelligent men, we might consider other alternatives.”

“Like what?” the Sheriff asked, turning to him. “Most of your ideas are about as far fetched as using dynamite to clean outhouses.”

Roscoe glanced about, his manner turning cautious. “Maybe they are, but I’m of the opinion that we need to put some of the money from our Courthouse Building Fund to good use. It’s just sittin’ in the bank doing nothing."

The Sheriff returned to the table and lowered his voice, his words directed to Roscoe. “Are you talkin’ about using the town's tax money to build a new establishment for Jillie and the girls?”

“That seems the reasonable approach. We live in the present. The future can take care of itself.”

“Won’t the town people object?” Vernon asked, as he stepped into the conversation, his neck coloring. “You fellows are talking about taking money from the community coffers and using it for your own. That's almost criminal.”

The Sheriff turned to him. “Hold on a minute, if we take a positive attitude, the people won’t question our motives – they never do. And like Roscoe was sayin', the money's just sitting in the bank collecting cobwebs. For what it's worth, a courthouse isn’t all that important. What we need is a wholesome place offering the kind of services fellows appreciate – something to make life worth living.”

Vernon tapped his whiskey bottle on the table. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I’m hearin’ from you gents is that you want the community to provide the money to build a new establishment where Aunt Jillie and her girls can continue to enlighten fellows in a proper manner.”

The Sheriff and Roscoe looked toward one another and nodded their heads in agreement.

“Then as mayor, I'll make it an official. Our town needs to move forward. And, for the record, my two boys can build exactly what you fellows have in mind, provided of course, the town pays them a healthy price.”

“They're hired. We'll pay 'em full fee. And for your information, I’m already startin’ to feel like a new man. Dodging bullets is not my idea of clean livin'. What do you think, Roscoe?”

“I’m getting happier by the minute. Now, I’ll still have a place to sleep when the little lady throws me out in the streets.”

Vernon reached for the whiskey bottle and poured another shot. “You fellow make me proud to be a part of this town. For awhile though, you had me worried... thought maybe I'd have to go back to sleepin' with the missus. And, let me tell you, waking up to her is a mighty cruel way to face the day.

- - -
John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit can be found on the internet and in several print edition periodicals.
Read more »
These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google
  • Furl
  • Reddit
  • Spurl
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati

Help keep Linguistic Erosion alive! Visit our sponsors! :)- - -