The sound of birdsong woke me up that crisp, clear morning somewhere in Colorado. Sun not quite up, hint of Fall in the air, not another soul in sight. I got up, stretched and yawned and started my daily pooja. Feller I met off a riverboat taught me that word. Said he was an Injun, but I do believe he lied, his skin no darker’n mine and his accent, kinda sing-song, unlike any Injun I ever heard. Anyways, this feller was kinda religious, said he had to do things in a partic’lar way every day and if he did ’em right then the day would be good and he’d be on his way to heaven. Don’t reckon I’m heaven-bound mysel, but I sure do like it when days go right. ‘Pooja’ he called his routine, and pooja is what I call mine. I like order and routine; my Maw was a disorderly woman, always distracting or being distracted, living a messy life. Guess she made me what I am, organized.
So after my yawn and stretch I amble down to the creek and exercise and clean all my bodily orifices, start with my ears and work down. That don’t take no more’n a few minutes, then I splash my eyes with water and fill the coffeepot while I’m at it. Then I kin light a small fire, dry wood, no smoke and think about breakfast. This day, just as the fire caught, I glanced to the north and there was a little puff of dirt. Sho ’nuff, a few seconds later there was another puff near it, then a third. Some stranger riding up the dustbowl, I guessed, and waited for the glint of sunlight on steel. Yep, somebody coming, prob’ly on horseback, maybe still a coupla miles away. I greased my skillet and started heating beans. Then while I waited I started cleaning and oiling and checking my guns.
The stranger reined in about twenty yards back. “Howdy, pardner,” he called friendly-like. I looked hm over with care. Didn’t look like no lawman or bounty-hunter or renegade Injun. I nodded to him; early morning I’m not real inclined to be talkative. He dismounted stiffly, pulled a cloth sack from inside his bedroll. “That coffee sure smells good. And them beans too. Mind if I pitch in some grub and share with you?”
I put my rifle down and started on a handgun while I considered. Dude didn’t look dangerous, not even wearing his gunbelt, but too sociable by half, ’nuff to make a man suspicious. “Got some ham right here, Kid,” he went on.
“Name’s Bill,” I said curtly, slightly irritated.
“Bill, I’m Jim Kerran, pleased ta meetcha.” He smiled again. I watched quietly as he added some pretty good-looking slices of ham to the skillet. Conversation is no part of my pooja, it’s unsettling so early in the day. Ham smelt OK though. Jim reached for the coffeepot, kinda making hissel at home. I glowered in warning, but he ignored me. “Here,” he said, passing the first cupful to me. I took it, placed it carefully on a flat rock at my side. I never take that first mouthful of coffee until after two spoons of beans. He swigged his, hot and black, and smiled in contentment. “Great coffee, thanks. Now I’ve got some peppers here that I’ll just add to the skillet…” I never did like greens of any kind; green food is for animals. My Maw thought different; “Eat yer greens, Billy, they’ll make you a good strong man.” How I hated her nagging at me, trying to force me to eat that lizard-shit. Now this dude, this Jim Kerran, was trying to act the same way, fix my meals, drink my coffee, disturb my morning pooja. Something snapped inside me. My revolver was already in my hand, loaded, waiting patiently. I shot him, one bullet right through the heart point-blank, and watched the stupid look on his face as he slowly toppled backwards. I had to grab the skillet handle real quick with my left hand, to stop it spilling my beans as he fell.
‘Tain’t too often I hafta kill a man before breakfast. Kinda spoils the whole day. But a man’s morning pooja should be respected, every dude knows that. Guess he had it coming to him.
Copyright 2016 Flight of Eagles