Just What the Neighborhood Needs, Another Wacko

Contributor: Jim Harrington

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I crouched behind a lilac bush and watched the horse gallop down the street and stop in front of my place. I hadn't received any mail for three days and wondered what was going on. I thought maybe kids were pranking me.

The rider wore a Stetson, chaps, and cowboy boots with silver inlays in the toes. His back was hunched, and he must have weighed 125 pounds stepping out of the tub. He rode a black stallion big enough to win a game of chicken with a bulldozer. His pants were AWOL.

"Hey, pardner," I said, as he reached down and opened my mailbox. "What the hell ya think you're doin'?" I didn't normally talk like this, and even odder I felt like spitting into a bucket.

He snatched my mail out of the box, rifled through it, and spurred the horse on to Fred's. I sauntered over--I'd never sauntered before either--and repeated my question. He looked at me like I was the one who belonged in the hoosegow.

"Only advertisements." He looked at me and shrugged. "Same as you get every day."

We stared at each other for a moment and when I didn't respond, he reached down and opened Fred's box. The horse snorted and pounded the ground as if instructed to count to three. I took a step back.

"Well, it just ain't right--stealin' a man's mail," I said, my thumbs hooked in the waist of my jeans.

When I realized where my hands were, I lowered them and watched the rider take Fred's mail. It didn't look any more important than mine. Still…

I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to get into an argument with anybody, especially someone not wearing pants. I couldn't call the police. They'd ask lots of questions and make me write stuff down. I was too busy for that.

I looked up and spotted Fred waving at me through the window. I couldn't see him well enough, even squinting over my glasses, to know if he was waving me inside or telling me to get away. I knew he wouldn't come out until the guy left, then he'd blame me for his mail being stolen. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Fred knew about the half-naked highwayman before I did.

I turned to see the rider put something back in Fred's mailbox. Without looking at me, he said, "Bill. I got enough of my own." He closed the box and picked up the reins.

"Well, tomorrow I'll be out here with a gun," I said. "So you better not come back." I realized my hands were at my sides as if I was reaching for a pair of holstered, pearl-handled beauties.

"Tomorrow's Sunday," he said and rode off to Edith Clanton's.

I watched him stop at two more boxes before I turned and headed into the setting sun, even though it was only two o'clock in the afternoon.

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Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. He serves as Fiction Editor for Apollo's Lyre ( http://apollos-lyre.tripod.com/index.html) and Flash Markets Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles (http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/). Jim's Six Questions For . . . blog (http://sixquestionsfor.blogspot.com/) provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.
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