Friday, 25 August 2017

Beware! Micro-Tales: A Bad Flagful Of Uglies

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A Bad Flagful Of Uglies

"Duck, you sucker!"
   Bullets whistled over their heads as they crunched down behind the ridge, a pair of tight balls creaking in leather.
   Wrong place at the wrong time. The war had come to town before they could get out.
   Tuco the bandita licked his parched lips and peered down the chambers of his trusty Colt. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead. "Hey, Blondie."
   His companion, the tall and stoic bounty hunter, scanned their surroundings with his steely, thin blue eyes.
   The nervy Tuco exercised his shooting fingers, stretching and rubbing the fingertips. "You got a plan?"
   Not a word was forthcoming.
   "I know you Blondie, you always got a plan."
   "I got a headache, I know that much."
   Nearby was the body of an unlucky soldier in Confederate grey. Flies explored the many bullet wounds.
   "Eh Blondie. The sooner they quit with this fighting, the sooner we can head for the border in peace, huh?"
   Blondie let out a long sad breath. "Not a lot of peace to be had these days. Wherever we wind up."
   Tuco was needing to chat to ease the tension. "One thing I tell you. No way I'm joining no Army. Man got to be an idiot to sign up. The only thing Tuco fights for is himself."
   The sun beat down hard. Vultures circled overhead.
   "Tuco, any principle in life you would fight a war for?"
   "Principle? Pah - Pesos, my friend! I'd fight for pesos. I wouldn't die for principle."
   Blondie played Devil's advocate: "They give you dollars in the Southern Army, enough for you?"
   "Army dollars - pittance! You'd fight for idiots too, hey!" Tuco mimed animatedly with his hands. "They gain a mile, lose a mile... guard the bridge, hold the bridge, die for the bridge... I mean, what is a bridge? They die for bricks!"
   Blondie peered through a crack in the rocks down towards the old town square, now a ruined battlefield occupied by a tired rabble of Confederate troops. A bunch of black slaves were working amongst them as labourers, attempting to shore up rickety buildings. Left out in the sun were several crates of what was clearly assorted ammo, yet to find their new store.
   "The grey backs have got their slaves doing their dirty work."
   "Fighting to stay slaves, huh! Fighting for their masters."
   Blondie's eyes glittered. "Waiting for their moment, maybe..."
   A lot of horses and mules milled about near the broken stables, none tied up.
   "It seems to me, in war or peace... these Southern men - those with the whip hand - they just want the owning of everything they can get. Land, people..."
   "Eh, the people. Man shouldn't own people like they do."
   Sure the angle was covered, and overcoming any momentary pang of conscience, Tuco crawled forward on the hard dirt and, shooing away the flies, gingerly felt the dead man's pockets for anything usable. "Tempting though, eh Blondie?"
   Blondie glowered at him with even more contempt than usual. "Nope. Give me my horse, and provisions... and let each man to his own."
   Tuco made the mistake of looking into the dead Confederate's glassy eyes. Sickened, he retreated to his starting position, crossing himself and muttering to Mother Mary as he did so. Then:
   "Did he really die for a damned flag?" Tuco crossed himself again.
   Blondie lined up his stolen Spencer rifle using his left arm to lean on. His eyes sharpened to pinpricks.
   Three shots. The first hit the old church bell, which clanged out gloriously like Christmas day to draw attention.
   The second hit the nearest crate of munitions, setting off a chain reaction of hand grenades and gunpowder that might just provide enough confusion for the slave workforce to turn on their masters, just as the assorted livestock fled in every direction.
   The third went through the rope holding up the hastily-hoisted Confederate flag in the town square. If Tuco and Blondie had looked back, they'd have seen the unsecured flag tumble free of its pole, and flop unceremoniously onto a convenient freshly-laid pile of steaming horseshit.
   But they were already on their way.

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