Flash! Friday # 24

Yeeehaw! Flash! Friday Round 24 is now closed. Thank you so much for coming out to ride with us this week. Please don’t forget to read & comment on the stories–your input is such an encouragement to all these fine writers. The judge’s results will post tomorrow (Saturday ET). See you then!

HOWDY, y’all, and welcome to #FlashFridayFic Round 24. Got somethin’ in your craw? a hitch in your giddyap? Well, shoot, we gotta prompt fer that! This round, Flash! Friday goes all western all day. {{And by “western” I mean, quite obviously, aliens ‘n’ cowboys, or Lancelot-meets-Zane Grey, or Agatha-Christie-meets-Louis-L’Amour, or the heartwarming Laura Ingalls/Janette Oke, or whatever direction your  marvelous Muse leads you. Just one rule: HAVE FUN! (Oh, all right, technically slightly more than one rule; here are the guidelines). }}

Round 24 posse leader/circuit judge is none other than the cool cowboy himself, SVW member Dan Radmacher. (Be sure to check out his judge page to see how to steer clear of the noose.)

And now… draw on three. 1… 2….

Word limit: Exactly 250-word story, no more, no less, based on the photo prompt. (Imagine your story’s the ‘baccy and the comment wall’s the spittoon, see?)

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (250 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one.

* Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday’s on Chattanooga time)

Winners: will post tomorrow (Saturday)

Prize: A rough-and-tumble e-trophy e-dragon e-badge, a personalized varmint’s page here at FF, a rowdy, hoot ‘n’ holler 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME shot with a .45 into a row of tin cans at fifty paces (at least emotionally speaking). NOTE: Winning and non-winning stories alike remain eligible for selection for Monday’s Flash Points. 

* Follow @FlashFridayFic on Twitter for up-to-date news/announcements/tips for surviving a gunfight with a dragon.  And now for your prompt:

Photo by John C. H. Grabill

Photo by John C. H. Grabill

121 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 24

  1. @StephenWilds
    Loose Ends – 250 words

    Colt chewed on the matchstick as he assessed the campsite in front of him from atop Sombra. He pulled the match and struck it hard against the old beaten saddle, thinking as he lit the cigarette and tossed the dead match to the ground, oral fixation fulfilled.

    “Just missed ya, Zeb.”

    Embers smoked where the fire once was. The ground around the site had been brushed over, hiding the tracks of which direction they fled. The Marshal knew though, if his hunch was right the outlaws and led by Zeb were headed for El Ray.

    Colt took a second look, making sure he hadn’t missed anything. He heard a rustling in the brush. Before Kelly could stand, Colt’s hand had moved like lightning, other hand already on the hammer.

    “Why hello there Kelly, Zeb leave you behind?”

    “No no,” the blonde protested, removing her hat slowly, using her bandana to try and clean her face, a sympathy plea. “It’s me whose left him, Marshal. I couldn’t do it anymore. He’s so cruel.”

    Colt smirked, adjusting slightly in his saddle.

    “I don’t believe you, Kelly. You killed those two whores in Branford because they looked prettier than you. You cut one of them from throat to snatch and shoved your money in the slit, if’n I’m remembering right.”

    “A misunderstanding. That was Zed. He’s the monster.”

    “I know, darlin,” Colt said as his finger pulled and sent two bullets in her chest. “I aim to get him too, don’t you worry.”


  2. Standoff

    ‘Amelia!’ he roared. ‘Come on out here, now!’

    She’d seen him coming, but not in time. No chance to get Baby out of her crib, bundled up and ready to run. She’d hesitated too long, and now he was outside her house, stalking back and forth like an angry bear. She couldn’t see his gun, but she knew it was there, not far from his hungry hands.

    ‘Amelia! I’m not gon’ wait much longer!’

    Her breaths quickened, and thoughts began to pile up as her panic grew. How’d he even found them? She’d done so much to cover her tracks. Hadn’t she? Laid a trail to suggest she’d gone to Kansas City… Left clues she’d married, even. She must’ve made a mistake, somewhere along the line.

    She could smell that old liquor stench. The moist heat of his breath, smothering her. The pressure in her chest almost grew too much.

    Then, her burning eyes fell on her father’s old shotgun, lying in the corner.

    ‘I know you’re in there, woman! You and that brat both!’ He spat, sudden as a slap. ‘I’m comin’ in, Amelia. See if I don’t!’

    Daddy’s gun was unloaded, she knew. She couldn’t reach the bullets, on top of the tallboy, without being seen through the window. Baby stirred, moaning in her sleep.

    Fast and quick, Amelia slid towards the gun, cold and heavy in her hands. Two short breaths, and she pulled open the door. Stepping out, she levelled the empty weapon at his heart.

    250 words excluding title


  3. .
    250 words.

    At noon, they came looking for a herd.
    “There’s nothing here. No herd! Go home! This is my land.”
    “Victor, we know you’ve been performing some kinda alchemy up here. Devil’s work,” said the ringleader.
    “Take your stifled minds and your rifles home. There’s nothing here.”
    “You stop your la-di-da-ing. Hand them over, Victor. Save yourself a lynching.”

    The piercing yowl sent up from the barn granted my life more time.
    ” Whataya waiting for? Get yourselves over there,” he called to his men.
    Armed with rifles and ropes (for they saw no beauty in wings), they rode at the barn. They were unprepared for the strength a creature harnessed from the Earth’s power would have.
    Flames licked at their horses then lashed at them as the creature’s terror grew in the bedlam of rope and bullet. The abomination sent horses and riders home.

    But a lava sky now bubbles above the town stirring anger and fear.
    By midnight, more of them will have joined the hunt.

    I call at the burning heavens, “Know this before I die, I am truly sorry!
    Now, you charge at the skies. But it is I who is the monster!
    I created you for a world that could only shun you. I promised you more.
    I have failed.”

    So, here is my last request, if one day you hear an old boy speak of The Monster, Dragonstein, make certain that it is the man and not the creature of which he speaks.


    • I like this for a lot of reasons, but mainly the last few lines – The Monster, Dragonstein! How clever. I also love the line ‘Stop your la-di-da-ing’ – that’s going to be my new motto. 🙂 Really enjoyed this.


    • I agree with Sinead–this was so funny and clever. You fit in a dragon AND a pet peeve of mine about poor Mary Shelley’s work (are you an English teacher by any chance??). Awesome.


      • That’s some dragony perception you have there! Yes, until I had my four young kids. Thanks for the lovely comment.


  4. Saddle sore by @dmcahill – 245 words

    Caro Mamma,

    A caval donato non si guarda in bocca; or as they say here, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. But after today, I may not look at horses again. Gino and Paulo would laugh if they could see me, for no Italian cavaliere would ever wear these ridiculous pants. Here they say it makes you look manly, but mostly they make me walk funny. But oggi, I am grateful to the good people at Pears who don’t care how I speak their lingo, but want to pay me $5 for this photo. It will be enough to buy my train ticket to the real west and I can stop washing dishes in this dusty city named after angels.

    They say this a place for dreams, any dreams, but I don’t see it. All I see is a tower of Babel, with souls working more hours than they should to do tasks the locals look down on. But this dishwasher has other plans.

    So mamma, please don’t show the photo around, but know that your boy is doing all he can to make you proud. Some day one day I will have more money to send and you can come visit my workshop. Watch me blow hot glass into shape and show them what a vero artist is and knock off socks. But for now I am content to be a $5 cavaliere.



  5. John sat on his horse in the Patagonian plains, beneath the bright yellow-orange sun, and the pale, crystal blue, cloud free sky. The wind was brisk, with a cold bite to it. John smiled. He rode his horse in a small circle, observing the cattle in all directions. The radio on his belt beeped, “John, check-in.”

    John pushed the talk button, “Everything’s good here.”

    “In an hour, Freddy’ll be there to relieve you.”

    “Clear.” John looked up at the big sky and laughed. Gods, Tierra Del Fuego was beautiful. Empty of the oceans of houses, roads, buildings, shopping centers, and cars that coated the East Coast of the US. It was everything he’d ever wanted.

    He remembered his old life. Married, two kids, a good job as an accountant. He remembered the kids growing up, and leaving home, his wife of 30 years leaving him, the company he worked for letting him go. He’d worked hard and done everything he was supposed to do. And in the end, he’d lost everything.

    It took him two years to work up the courage to reach for his childhood dream. He wanted to be a cowboy. Herding cattle. Riding a horse. Hell, he didn’t care if he didn’t make any money at all, as long as he had food to eat, and a place to sleep.

    As he sat on his horse, watching the cattle, John sang his favorite song. Kid Rock’s I Wanna Be A Cowboy. “Damn,” he thought. “Life is good.”

    250 words


  6. Title: Jake and Clem
    Author: J.M. Mendur

    “I don’t believe it,” said Jake.

    “Neither do I,” said Clem. “I mean, I’d heard about them, sure, but I thought it was just tall tales by the campfire. You know, like when crazy old Fergus was talking about seeing the future and how machines called horseless carriages were going to replace most of us out here on the range.”

    “Well that’s just stupid,” Jake said. “No one can see into the future. Those guys are different. They’re from the past. They must have been hiding out here for a long, long time.”

    “Centaurs,” Clem said, his mind in shock from the wonder of it all.

    “Centaurs,” Jake said, shaking his head. “What do you want to do?”

    “Sit still for now,” Clem said. “Look there. Adam is riding out to talk with them.”

    “He’s riding Jebediah,” Jake said. “There ain’t no horse faster than Jebediah in the whole territory. Think he’s expecting trouble?”

    “Naw,” Clem said. “I shouldn’t think so. Oh, wait. He’s almost there.”

    The two of them watched as Adam and Jebediah stopped a short distance away from the centaurs. One of the centaurs, a huge creature the size of a Percheron or a Clydesdale, stepped forward. He raised his arm, then threw a spear with such force that it pierced Adam’s heart and flung him backwards off Jebediah for a dozen yards.

    “Damn,” Clem said. “Looks like we’re gonna have to run for it.”

    Jake whinnied, then bucked Clem off. “What do you mean ‘we,’ paleface?”

    Author’s Note: 250 words, excluding title and author lines. I loved the expression on the horse’s face in the photo, thought man + horse = centaur, recently saw the trailer for the new Lone Ranger movie, and remembered the old joke. The story practically wrote itself.


  7. @jfliebling
    (245 words, excluding title)
    “Spit and Image”

    “There aint nothin wrong about a man with a mus-tache Pawl.”
    “My dear James it is just so…bristly.”
    Paul trotted his horse over in elegant rising-trot. He reached for James’ cheek and twirled the moustache carefully, first the left side and then the right. James sat still, the scowl fixed.
    “There. Now will you pose again?” The muscles on the side of James’ jaw flexed and tensed.
    “Fine,” he hissed.
    He remained slumped in the saddle as Paul trotted back to the photographer. “Can we try it again? On three. One, two, wait! James… will you please sit upright?”
    “Cowboys don’ sit upright Pawl!”
    “Well this cowboy does. Okay James?”
    “Will ya stop callin’ me James? It’s Jimmy. J-i-mm-y. Jimmy.”
    The horse whickered and took a step forward as James slapped his hat against his thigh.
    “Now you’ve done it James. The horse is all out of sorts.”
    Paul trotted forward again. He licked his fingers and ran them over the horse’s forehead, straightening its fringe. He threw a glance back to the photographer, whose red face emerged from under the black drape. His glare rivalled that of James.
    “You want to look good for the election poster, don’t you? Well, right now, you only look good for a Wanted poster. What do we say about image?”
    James mumbled, twirling his horse’s mane.
    “What was that?” repeated Paul.
    “Image image image.”
    “Now, sit up straight and smile. We have an election to win.”


  8. Photo shoot

    “This ok for ya?”

    “Yeah that’s it, that’s great! Just stay still like that for me.”

    “How much longer do I gotta stay like this?”

    “Nearly there” said Jake as he poked his head out from underneath his photographer’s cowl, squinted at the man sat on the horse.

    “Alright, now look down at your nose at me, and frown a bit – that’s it! Look mean!” he said, then ducked under the cowl again.

    Eli put on his best scowl. “Say, you done taken pitchers of any of ma friends?”

    “Like who?”

    “Clayton McGraw, or Lantry Dawson?”

    “Sure, in fact I think I shot one of ’em just last week”

    Eli wrinkled up his nose and squinted at the camera. “Shot?”

    “Here we go!”

    Flash, bang – the horse reared and Eli fell to the ground.

    Jake ducked out from under the cowl, looked over at Eli’s still body as the horse bolted.

    Frowning slightly, Jake walked over to where Eli lay face down in the dirt then stood looking down at him for a few moments, biting his bottom lip. Couching down next to him, Jake took a hold of Eli’s shoulder and turned him onto his back.

    Eli’s head lolled to one side, blood dribbling out of the corner of his cracked lips and blossoming through the breast of his shirt.

    “Yup, I shot that bastard alright; just like I’ll shoot the rest of your gang for what you did to my mother and father when you raided our ranch last year.”



    250 words


  9. Sam knew He shouldn’t have rode through the eerie cave however, couldn’t resist adventure! Now he was astride Beauty in a plain that, well there was nothing familiar about this huge plain!
    Sam trotted Beauty onwards and round and round but there was nothing but grassland to see for miles. Strangely, as Beauty trotted onwards, Sam kept his eyes peeled for well anything that was
    remotely familiar he couldn’t help beginning to worry a little as he couldn’t even spot the cave now. It had vanished! Perhaps it was a little too eerie, He couldn’t remember if it had ever looked quite so eerie before he rode through
    it and he’d done that a few times! He couldn’t see any signs of civilisation yet there must be some because there were a few cattle and the odd stray horse unless the animals ruled here?!
    Sam laughed as he encouraged Beauty into a canter. This plain was such a spacious area for a little light hearted canter and a gallop! The Faster Beauty galloped the more
    Sam’s moods lifted. He’d never been able to ride beauty like this before.It was phenomenal.

    Suddenly Beauty froze, before Sam had time to take in what was happening he was being lifted to his feet and saluted. “Marshal, there you are we’ve been waiting so long” Sam, although a little freaked, felt his spirits rise. These men expected him to be their marshal and he had an adventure, even if he was back in 1813!

    (resubmitted … 250)


  10. Leaving the Ranch
    250 words

    The day had finally arrived. Hank was leaving Froghead Ranch once and for all. He wanted nothing more than to simply take his horse and ride over the hills he had viewed every day for the last two decades and keep going. He wanted to never look back. He had said his goodbyes, he owed the others nothing now.

    The stretch of prairie deep in Oklahoma territory he had tilled, surveyed and patrolled most of his life was to be a thing of the past now. The land had brought nothing but broken bone and broken spirit. One last “giddyup” and he and his horse, Poulet, were on their way to Denver and a life of splendor.

    He could not force the word off his tongue. He rode into the pasture and stared back at the place he knew as home. Memories of cattle drives, foal births, shoeing gone awry, washed over him. Then came the memories of laughter and joy around the dinner table, chasing scared lambs through heavy rains, and a love long since gone.

    He allowed himself a slight smile as he looked upon the manor house one last time. He had painted the window boxes so many times through the years he no longer knew if he was unsure if he would actually miss those at all. He saw shadows through the curtains, already back to their usual business, already past his departure.

    Hank reigned up on Poulet, steering up the hill.

    “It’s time, boy. Giddyup.”


  11. “Sir? It’s for you.”

    “Ain’t nuthin fer me, mister.”

    Sam holds up the phone. “No, seriously. It’s for you.”

    “I ain’t takin’ some fool object from you, weirdo. Bugger off.”

    “Please, sir, it’s a phone. A phone call. For you. You just talk into it.”

    “Talk into? I dunno where you hail from, stranger, but nobody’s foolin’ me into talking to some little metal thing that’s too small to shoe mah horse an’ too big ta pick mah teeth.”

    “Sir, I’ll say it again, it’s a phone. You use it to talk to people. Who are far away. You can hear them, in here.” Sam holds up the phone again. “And if you don’t mind my saying, sir, it’s an important call.”

    “Then you talk to it,” says the cowboy. “I gotta bring in mah cattle.”

    Dust flies, and the cowboy’s a hundred yards away in no time. Sam brings the phone to his own ear.

    “Nice job, Ace.”

    “Shut up. He’s never seen a phone before, much less talked into one.”

    “Well then, you better relay the message yourself.”

    “Now that he’s seen me? He’s gonna avoid me like the plague. Thinks I’m a weirdo.”

    “Then point out the family resemblance.”

    “Oh, that’ll help. He’ll accuse me of witchcraft.”

    “I didn’t send you back there for a vacation. You tell him to stay away from that Fernando Gonzalez, hear, or we got no future. Poof. Got it?”

    “Fine.” Sam stuffs the phone in his pocket and yells, “Grandpa? Wait!”

    250 words


  12. @BaseballMama621
    250 words

    He wasn’t much more than a boy during the war and was too young to witness such horrors. Tucker followed his older brother to war, learning early on it was too much for him. He knew he had to do something other than shoot to kill so Tucker waited for an opportunity. It began as a one-time ride carrying a hidden scrap of paper. His pocket held words scribbled on paper which he discreetly passed to an officer, leading to a shift in the war. Some men were curious about the young soldier that loved riding at night in order to clear his head while most officers wanted him dead.

    There were too many gravesides Tucker couldn’t bring himself to visit. By the end of the war he had scars and secrets driving him west. War changed him as it had many others so it was natural for him to get away from the memories keeping him awake at night.

    The cowboys never ask Tucker why he’s so quiet. Tucker’s silence is hiding his drawl which would surely give away his home place. The wrong people knowing that fact could lead to Tucker’s death. It was too risky, so Tucker remained quiet. He reckoned cowboys were a quiet bunch anyway.

    Tucker heard tales of a man taking pictures and selling them. He knew to avoid him and didn’t notice the stranger in the clearing until it was too late.

    Tucker waited until nightfall before riding into the safety of darkness.


  13. Title: A Bad Day Riding Mr. Bad Man

    Being on this howling prairie annoyed me. It was expansive and spectacular, but I was on a horse – a horse that didn’t like me too much. To top it off, I was tricked into coming here by my friends to help them kill a man – on my day off.
    “This is so not necessary.” I was decked out in old Western gear, and the horse I had for the day, Mr. Bad Man, was not impressed.
    “A job’s a job,” Cassie said as she trotted ahead on a black stallion named Majestic. The owner must have been sweet on her.
    “We have to dress like this because of the pocket dimension,” smarmed David on a horse named Last Call. “Once we kill him, we’ll get paid, and we’ll go back to regular clothes.”
    Mr. Bad Man huffed at David’s confidence. First thing the horse and I have agreed on today.
    “You mean YOU have to. This isn’t my job. I would’ve brought my Barrett and headshot him from outside town! And we could do it without dressing like we’re from Toy Story!”
    “Well, I like Jessie, so I’ll take that compliment.”
    “If she’s Jessie, who am I?”
    “Bullseye.” Cassie was the only one that laughed.
    “Ha ha. Well, we’d get there faster if you’d speed up your horse!”
    “Do that and I’ll buck you” seemed to be Bad Man’s answer.
    “Let’s see YOU try it then.”
    He tried & I swear that damn horse smiled as he bucked David off.

    @JSHyena/250 Words


    • What the hell! A line didn’t show up. The third to last line should’ve said “Do that and I’ll buck you” seemed to be Bad Man’s answer. I don’t know why it didn’t show.


      • I assure you the dragons did not eat your line, though I wouldn’t put it past the cowboy, who looks ornery. I’ve restored it for you.


  14. The Lone Stranger

    She wasn’t concentrating on her walk to work this morning; cars, vans, lorries, thundered by. She was oblivious, her mind elsewhere, trying to unravel this conundrum. That’s what she did; she puzzled, she dwelt – she avoided.

    It started when she found the old shoe box in her grandfather’s attic. Avoiding the pain of his loss, she’d busied herself packing up chipped vases, dented old tankards, other belongings, each one telling stories of age and frailty.

    The box had housed piles of yellowing, old photographs. Blurred, grainy images; a Victorian-era portrait, so ‘proper’; a wedding in WWII soldier’s uniform…their lives through the years, each inscribed with a place and date.

    Except one. A man on a horse. With the words, “The day it began”.

    She had pinned them to her wall at home, losing herself in them, sensing a connection, but only seeing it last night.

    Looking away from camera, walking off-shot, turning away, in the background; in every one a man, dark haired, scarf around his neck. Always, whatever the date, the exact same man. The man on the horse.

    She stepped out to cross the road, immediately deafened by the blaring horn, and screeching breaks. Turning, she saw the car careering towards her, such speed, simultaneously in slow motion. Next she was flying through the air, conscious of strong arms around her, landing back on the pavement, winded, beneath someone.

    Opening her eyes she saw him in crisp, high-definition, realising immediately who he was.


    250 words


  15. Gold in Them Thar Hills
    (250–edited, please and thank you!)

    “It’s high noon….”
    “How’s come ever’thang in the West happens at high noon? What’s so gol’dern magical about high noon, anyhow?”
    “How’m I s’posed to know? I just does what they tell me. They tol’ me to be here at high noon, I’s here at high noon.”
    “Well, dad blammit, me too. What the hell’re we s’posed to be shootin’ each other fer?”
    “Hell if I know. Didn’t nobody tell you nothin’?”
    “Didn’t nobody tell me a damn thang. You?”
    “Not a damn thang here neither.”
    “Well, shoot. How’s about we go ‘n git us some whiskey an’ some women?”
    “Sounds fine by me. I got no beef with ya.”
    “I got no beef with you neither. You jus’ as good as anybody else to play cards and git drunk with.”
    “Sounds fine by me.”
    “Well, let’s go on then. Time’s a wastin’ an’ I got all this here pouch o’gold janglin’ in my pocket.”
    “Gold?!” Shorty’s eyes narrowed. “Now where’d you git that thar gold from, pardner?”
    Lefty gulped audibly, “Er, what gold?”
    “The gold you just done tol’ me about! The gold the boss was missin’ and the gold he tol’ me you done stole, fool!” Shorty pulled the gun from his holster, and aimed it right between Lefty’s eyes. “You best toss it over here, Lefty, or this here’ll be yer las’ high noon.”
    “Dad blammit, Shorty! Now why’d you have to go an’ remember ‘bout the dang gold fer? We could’a had us a nice afternoon.”


  16. Blood and Honey

    A single gunshot echoed across the plain. Startled, Honey lifted her head. As her gaze came to rest on the figures cresting the horizon, Honey heard her human mutter obscenities under his breath. She recognized the black horses and their riders. Her heart started to beat faster.

    The shadow riders had been following them for three days. Last night, Honey had carried her human through the underbrush in the darkness, hoping to leave the shadow riders far behind. For a while they both believed they had succeeded. Stopping to rest and eat had clearly been a mistake.

    Honey’s muscles were poised to run. She waited for the command from her human, but it didn’t come.

    As the riders drew closer, Honey’s heart pounded like a stampede. She danced nervously and whinnied to express her distress. Why did her human sit so quietly?

    The shadow riders were so close now that Honey could see their faces, both horse and human. Hollow eyes inside skeletal heads. Their clothing and skin ragged, torn, and missing in places. Honey reared up in fear.

    Finally, her human moved. He leaned down to stroke her neck and whisper in her ear.

    “Darlin’ Honey, a man couldn’t ask for a more loyal horse, but I can’t be running forever. And it ain’t your time.” He hopped to the ground, leaned his head against hers one last time, then turned and began walking toward the shadow riders, leaving a trail a blood in the grass as he went.

    250 words


  17. Several people have missed it. The instructions say: “250-word story based on the photo prompt. Exactly.” If you’re new to Flash Friday, it might not be clear, but Rebekah lets everyone know if there’s any leeway in the word count. Sometimes it’s five or 10 words on either side. Sometimes you have to hit it exactly. Today is an exact day. Rebekah, can those who misunderstood alter their already submitted stories?


  18. @KaySully7
    250 Words

    Healing Nature

    “Nature heals the wounds, son.” My father said as he dropped an old hat on my head after I’d clambered up onto my horse. I was a lanky boy of sixteen, not looking forward to heading up the mountain. I’d fallen off a bronco the week before, broke my tail bone. Riding would be agony. Riding with grumpy Uncle Jake would be even more so.

    Uncle Jake was a quiet man. He’d had a bad time in the military I’d heard. He was the image of a cowboy, worn leather chaps and a sun-bleached hat. My fingers ached for a chance to fire his Colt Peace Maker, with its shiny barrel. His mustache was something to aspire to. Uncle Jake had no children. He never coddled me if I was bruised from falling from my horse.

    The weather in the valley was hot, but the sweat on my neck cooled as we traveled up the mountain. As we climbed higher Uncle Jake straightened in the saddle, as if his old army wound didn’t bother him anymore. He began whistling, something I’d never heard him do before. He even waxed poetic about a twisted old tree on the side of the trail. Over the course of the trip I heard stories and songs from my strict uncle. He became a happy man.

    I forgot all about my broken tail bone in the presence of my uncle’s transformation. Suddenly, my father’s words made sense.


  19. **************REBEKAH’S NOTE: The following story is written by a darling 8-year-old friend of mine who fell in love with the cowboy in the photo. This is the first whole story she’s ever written and her first writing contest ever. Everyone please behave themselves in the comments on her story, or I’ll sic the draggins on you.*******************

    “The Cowboys”
    By “Crystal Alden”

    He stared.

    He stared again. He could not look away now.

    Someone to meet.

    Someone to fight.

    Someone who’s coming closer. CLOSER?

    “What do you want?” he said. The “he” was Old Rope himself, the most famous cowboy in the South. “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” he repeated.

    “What do you think? I want THEM,” said the mysterious person in black.

    “TELL ME NOW WHAT YOU WANT!!!” Old Rope yelled (technically screaming, except that cowboys don’t scream).

    “I want the rubies, diamonds, emeralds, pearls, and gold,” the mysterious man said.

    “How did you know about that?” Old Rope said, almost falling off his horse with surprise.

    “Call me ‘New Hat, the Second,’” said the man, whose name seems to be New Hat, the Second. “And yes,” he said, taking off his hat and doing a little bow with his head, “I have been spying on you, my friend.”

    Then Old Rope whistled. “I won’t have you stealing MY jewels.”

    Then, however, New Hat clapped, which Old Rope did at the same time. Old Rope’s men surrounded New Hat, and New Hat’s men surrounded Old Rope.

    “Fine,” Old Rope said. “I will give you the jewels on one condition.”

    “Whatever it is, I’ll give it to you!” New Hat said, starry-eyed and smiling.

    “You have to give me everything you own,” Old Rope said.

    “Never,” said New Hat.

    “Then I guess we’re stuck here,” said Old Rope.

    “Guess so,” said New Hat.

    And as far as I know, they’re standing there still.

    (250 words)


  20. I LOVE that ending! It is so true to the old tall tales of the west (and even back to the colonial period) — fits perfectly! Fantastic job, Crystal! You have a very wonderful story here! 😀


  21. Posse Pose.

    “Damn it, Jake! Can’t you get that hoss to stand in the right place?”
    “What ya talkin’ about, Len?”
    Maybe it was the way he drawled out my name, more like Lynne than Len. Maybe, it was that he was being obtuse. And maybe I thought the whole ‘Posse’ thing sucked anyway. “What I mean – Jake,” I said copying his inflection, “is that you’ve got to line up your pony with the shadow, otherwise this photograph’s going to look all crooked and… crap!”
    “It’s not my fault, Len, that you gotta take these movie stills, but how’m I suppose to see dis horse’s shadow from up here; how’m I suppose t’line it up, hah?”
    “Just pull her back a little,” I growled and my tightening fist triggered the cable release. The shutter clicked that moment for immortality. They were both looking at me like I was the poor dumb animal.
    “Beats me why we have to have this tomfoolery scenery in the,” Jake began.
    “It’s because the lighting’s got to be right.”
    “An’ bringin’ dis poor horse into the studio an’ all.”
    “No distractions. We can get the hoss to look at the camera.” I snapped my thumb and fingers. “See, easier!”
    “Well yer better position her right, tho’ I don’t see how I’m suppose t’keep her in position if she decides she wants t’shake a leg.”
    I sighed and made my way over.
    “Anyhow, beats me why you can’t just take it outside, Len, an’ Photoshop it later.”

    250 words


  22. Legacy

    Coil of rope, gloves, bandana, leather pants, pistol. Jackson really embodied the Old West. Janie giggled. The horse looked as unamused as her rider.

    “You cut that out now, y’hear?”

    Janie rolled her lips between her teeth, stifling the laughter. Maggie – the horse – shook her head in a complex figure eight.

    Jackson patted her neck, sighing. “You wanted to do this, remember?” The western drawl disappeared. “Your dad would kill me if he found out.”

    Janie swished her long, ruffled skirt, sobering. Her mother’s costume fit her well. Jackson dismounted and stalked toward her.

    “You look just –“

    “I know.” That was all anyone’d said to her since she’d put on the dress.

    “Changed your mind?”

    Janie squinted at him from beneath her brows. Maggie snorted. Jackson cocked his weight into one hip, watching her patiently. Janie dropped her gaze, twisting the toe of her boot in the dust.

    “It’s alright, kid.” She hated when he called her that. “Just run and get Sarah.”

    Janie’s chin lifted several notches. “I can do this.”

    “You’ll giggle, or cry. Not exactly playing the part.” Janie’s eyes decided to water. “Listen, your dad’s right. You’re too young for this – maybe in a couple years…”

    “My mom started when she was fourteen!” Janie claimed defiantly. “Besides, Sarah’s got the day off.”

    “Well we’ll get by without a bargirl, then.” He turned back to Maggie.

    “Jackson!” She called, petulantly, but the tears were gone.

    He sighed again, lips twisting as he nodded. “Alright, kid. C’mon.”

    250 words 🙂 (@AriaGlazki)


  23. Searching for Stars

    “A knight in shining armour is all I ask for, just how difficult is it to write me one?” Her words echoed up into space, the storyteller appeared to no longer be listening.

    She had spent chapter one daydreaming about her potential rescuer and now found herself dumped here with this cowboy!

    Stray characters from different plots cut and pasted to a barren blank page with not even a windswept piece of tumbleweed in sight.

    “Excuse me miss.”

    The cowboy tipped his hat at her and she spied his bald head underneath, she’d already noticed the moustache – he wasn’t ideal hero material.

    “I understand you are upset but I’m not happy being stranded here either. I had dreams of being an astronaut.”

    He had the softly spoken voice of a proper gentleman.

    Remembering her princess manner’s she hitched up her skirt a touch, stepped forward and asked “What exactly is an astronaut?”

    He jumped down from his horse. He was taller than she first thought and his eyes started to sparkle as he explained. “An astronaut is someone who flies to the stars.”

    “All the way up there?”

    They both gazed upwards.

    It was getting dark; pinpricks of light dotted the sky.

    Their book was closing. The storyteller was giving up on them both.

    “I don’t want my story to end like this.” The princess yelled.

    “Then come with me.” The cowboy swept her off her feet up onto is horse and they rode off together in search of stars…

    250 words


  24. Dedicated to my Uncle Ed; his dream was the inspiration.

    Just an Old Cowhand

    I heard my mother explaining to my daughter the pictures in the old family album. Their soft laughter made me smile, and my mother sounded happy. And peaceful.

    Then, I heard my daughter ask, “Who’s this cowboy?”

    I dashed into the living room just as my mother said, “I shoulda torn up this picture.”

    “Mother, don’t you dare,” I ordered when she started to remove it from the album. She glared at me, tossed the book on the coffee table, then stomped up the stairs.

    “Mommy, why did the cowboy make Nana so mad?”

    I sat beside my daughter and held the album so she could see the picture again. “Remember how I explained you don’t have a grandfather because he went away?” She nodded. “Your grandfather wanted to be a cowboy, but he met Nana. They got married, and Uncle Andy and I were born. After that, the only way he could be a cowboy was to go to a dude ranch in Texas, but he never came back.”

    “Oh, I see.”

    I sent my daughter off to play. One day I could tell her there had been no dude ranch, just the Einstein-Rosen Bridge he’d built in his workshop and shown me right before he stepped through it and emerged in 1888. The picture was the proof it worked.

    Some time soon, I knew, I would flip the switch on the machine still in the workshop and take his granddaughter to meet him.

    Yippee kai yay, Pops!

    250 words
    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)


  25. Cowboy
    By Allison Garcia

    Hank spit onto the already damp earth. He shook the dew off his hat and stretched his stiff muscles. Yesterday had almost finished him off. The coyotes in these parts were sneaky little devils, but he had shown ‘em. His mustache twitched into a smile that quickly faded.

    He had to be more careful today. If it hadn’t’ a rained, the fire mighta spread. He took his pouch of tobacco out of his pocket and attempted to roll himself a smoke. He cursed as it spilled onto the ground. Reaching for his flask, he threw back a gulp of the firewater. Just to keep him steady.

    Hank felt the liquid warm up his cold, aching limbs. Starting to feel himself, he took a drag on his freshly rolled cigarette. He picked out some dry kindling for the fire. Only what he needed to heat up a strong, black cup of coffee. The last piece to his morning routine and then he’d be on his way.

    He shook his head as he waited for it to brew. It seemed the longer he herded cattle, the longer he took in the morning to pull himself together. Some days he needed to stop mid-day. The days seemed to drag on this trip. And he missed Bessie.

    He poured a bit of whiskey into his mug. He had promised her he’d stay away from it this trip, but somehow the bottle had made it into his pack.

    Damn vices. They get ya every time.


  26. Saddle sore (250 exact this time excluding title) @dmcahill
    (Apologies for previous version and its weird word count which included the title)

    Caro Mamma,

    A caval donato non si guarda in bocca; or as they say here, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. But after today, I may not look at horses again. Gino and Paulo would laugh if they could see me, for no Italian cavaliere would ever wear these ridiculous pants. Here they say it makes you look manly, but mostly they make me walk funny. But oggi, I am grateful to the good people at Pears who don’t care how I speak their lingo, but want to pay me $5 for this photo. To be a real American cowboy. It will be enough to buy my train ticket to the west and I can stop washing dishes in this dusty city named after angels.

    They say this a place for dreams, any dreams, but I don’t see it. All I see is a tower of Babel, with souls working more hours than they should to do tasks the locals look down on. But this little dishwasher has other plans.

    So mamma, please don’t show this photo around the village, but know that your boy Roberto is doing all he can to make you proud. Some day one day I will have more money to send to you and you can come visit my workshop. Watch me blow hot glass into shapes and show them what a vero artist is and knock off socks. But for now I am content to be just your $5 cavaliere.



    • Sheesh. That cowboy’s a no-good varmint. He eats some words from stories, adds words to others. STRING ‘IM UP!


  27. Skinny Pete
    by @todayschapter
    250 words excluding title

    Skinny Pete sauntered into the drinking hole, dusty from the long ride. He placed his hat on the bar and ordered a water from the grisly barman.
    “We don’t be servin no water here. It’s whiskey or nothin.”
    Pete leaned in closer, “We both know you water your whiskey down, just make mine very watered down.”
    The barman bared his teeth, well tooth, “Are you accusing me of cheatin honest folks out of booze?”
    Pete stared around the bar at the misfits and reprobates that made up the clientele, “Nope, I am sure if an honest person ever came in here you would serve them real whiskey.”
    Chairs scraped and guns were drawn. The irony of men like these desperate to defend their honour after a heavy night of thieving and whoring. Pete counted six of them, all itching to prove how big and tough they were. Well they certainly were big. This was hardly a fair fight. He sighed, “Alright you lot, let’s take this outside.”
    He strolled out through the swinging doors and stood with the sun at his back. They lined up like dominos. They squinted and swayed from the drink. They didn’t warn him, they just pointed their guns and started shooting. He stood very still as the bullets whizzed past his meagre frame. When he heard the clicks of empty chambers he calmly shot each of them centre mass, one bullet each. Then he strolled back inside and said, “Ok fine, I’ll take that whiskey.”


  28. “What d’ya’ reckon it is, Maisy?” Clive squinted into the sun. “Nutin’ good, dat’s what.”

    “Well, I s’pose we’d better go’n check it out.” Clive pulled at the reins. Maisy yanked back, shaking her head vehemently.

    “Now, no need t’be like dat, Maisy, we’s jus’ takin’ a look-see.” He patted her on the neck, “C’mon.” He pulled again on the reins.

    Maisy tore the reins out of Clive’s hand, huffed loudly, and danced backward two or three steps.

    “Now, I’m sure it ain’t nutin’ we can’t take care of,” He patted his holster, “Dere’s no need t’git all lathered up.” He grabbed the reins again and stroked her neck. “I ain’t never steered ya’ wrong. Yer the fastest thing on four legs born un’er d’sun, dere ain’t nutin’ t’be worried about.”

    He leaned into her with his knee and managed to coax several steps out of her before she balked and reared. “C’mon, Maisy! We’s jus’ gonna check-”

    Clive glanced back toward the sun. A shadow was growing.

    Maisy bucked and reared, throwing Clive from the saddle. She tore off in the opposite direction.

    “Now, dat was uncalled for.” He said, standing to his feet and rubbing his backside. “Dere ain’t no reason-”

    A great shape flew overhead, buffeting him with its passage. The beast soon dove upon Maisy and lifted her in its claws. The great creature shrieked victory.

    “Ya’ stirred up a hornets nest now, Creature. Dat dere’s my horse.” He pulled out his Colt and opened fire.

    250 words “exactly” 😉


  29. A New Sheriff in Town

    “It’s the new sheriff!”

    “C’mon, Jake, Buttercup,” Wyatt West said to his horse and his herding dog, respectively.

    “Thank goodness!” the mayor said.


    “We have much to discuss.”

    “Sheriff Wayne died suddenly, I hear?”




    “I’ll start an investigation tomorrow.”

    “I’m afraid it’s too late for that.”

    “Another dead?”


    “How do you know it was outlaws?”

    “The cattle had multiple bullet wounds.”

    “Now, then.”

    Sheriff West whistled twice. Buttercup appeared on command and the sheriff mounted Jake; they headed to the edge of town. In thirty minutes, the group was nearing a camp. The sheriff spotted a tree and tied Jake to a branch—too much of a risk.

    With the camp in sight, the sheriff realized it wasn’t an outlaws’ camp: it belonged to assassins. Knowing this was not something he could handle alone, West headed back to share his findings with the mayor.

    “I’ll need a crew. Guns, ammunition. We’ll ambush. Tonight.”

    “Tonight, sir?”

    “They won’t expect it.”

    The mayor nodded, excusing himself.

    By twilight, Sheriff West and nine men approached the assassins, armed. The enemies were seated by the fire: a better scenario than anticipated. Sheriff West motioned for his men to move: strategy was to surround the men and fire together, on command. They were in place in blinks. Locking eyes with Buttercup, Sheriff West nodded. She howled.

    Like dominoes, the assassins fell to the ground: the men’s shots were true.

    “All in a day’s work, Buttercup. Our town is safe now.”

    250 words


  30. His Story


    His shadow seemed to ripple, dancing beneath the baking sky, light-footed in his horse’s footsteps, crunching slowly on the drought-stricken grass. He glared between the brim of his hat and the fur of his moustache, eyeing the sluggish river through the heat haze.

    Eyeing his escape, beyond the dust plume rising from the horizon.

    Eagerly, he spurred his horse onward, onward into the teeth of justice, the teeth of the storm.

    Gunshots rang out,

    Bullets whistled their promises of death, opening up blooming flowers of pain across his chest.

    Not again.

    He woke in the prison cell, today he would hang.

    Not again.

    He was granted another reprieve, another chance at freedom.

    But if he failed, the race would be run again.

    He woke in the prison cell.

    Today he would not run.

    Today he would hang.




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