The Old West. A time of true grit. A wide open land full of good, bad, and ugly. A place where a fist full of dollars could get you anything, and men lived and died unforgiven. It was a time when heroes were larger than life, but still, some were bigger than others. Standing on a hill overlooking a small settlement town was a short squat little man with a long ginger beard. He stood next to his trusty horse as he surveyed the land before him. He had ridden a long time through the desert, with his steed as his only companion, and thus was relieved to see the town standing there.
“C’mon, Lucy, I’ve heard tell of this town before. It’s a little place they call Bean Can Valley.” The little cowboy hopped back on his horse and spurred her on until they had finally ridden past the sign that bore the town’s name. It was a cozy little town, with the usual buildings. A bank, a saloon, a jail, the things necessary for a civilization. But it was the local saloon that the man was aiming to visit.
“Ah,” he said, licking his lips, “the local watering hole.” Above the door hung a sign to the saloon that, as it happened, read, “The Local Watering Hole.” The little man made his way in through the dual swinging doors, looking for a nice wet drink in the dry desert heat. Inside the saloon it was bustling with men and women who meant to stave off the boredom and hardships of everyday life on the frontier. At the counter the squat cowboy was barely visible, save the top of his brown hat.
“This is what they call a, uh, recurring problem.” he said to himself. “I guess I’ll just do what I always do in a situation like this. Hey mister!” he said, tugging on the shirt of the man seated next to where he was standing. The man looked down, annoyed to have been interrupted from what surely must have been deep contemplation.
“What do you want?” asked the perturbed man. The little cowboy waved his arms in the air like a child.
“The name’s Dusty Nichols and I need some help,” he said. “Pick me up, come on, pick me up. I need to order a drink!” The man looked Dusty up and down and then laughed.
“Leave me alone, you little weirdo.” he said, going back to his beer. Dusty grasped the man’s shirt tighter.
“Pick me up, pick me up!” he cried, tugging on the stranger’s shirt now so rapidly that it pulled the man down to his level. “If you don’t I’ll just, I’ll–” Dusty began to mount the stool and climb the man like a little flesh hill. Finally he situated himself on the man’s lap.
“See,” Dusty said, “this is much better now. I can see over the bar and order a drink.” The man on which Dusty sat shifted uncomfortably.
“I should probably go.” He said after a moment. People were beginning to stare at the pair of men. Dusty readjusted himself with a smile.
“No, you can stay. We’ll have a drink.” he said. All the commotion had finally caught the attention of the bartender, a nice looking young woman with dark skin and her brunette hair down around her face.
“I’m just going, Abigail.” said the man to the bartender. He picked the little man up from under the arms like a baby and placed him on the stool they had been sharing. Then, looking down in shame, he walked away, leaving Dusty sitting alone with the bartender.
“Can I get you anything, cowboy?” asked Abigail. Dusty tipped his hat to the woman behind the counter.
“What can I get you, Dusty?” She asked. Dusty shifted in his seat and leaned in with a suspicious look on his face.
“Say, how’d you know my name?” He asked.
“Um, you just…never mind.” Abigail said, dismissing the strange little man. Then a voice cut in from beside Dusty, a rough, hard voice that sounded like it had seen a lot of the action that had come to define the old west.
“If’n I might make a suggestion,” said the gruff voice, “you might try the sarsaparilla.” He tipped the bottle in his hand toward Dusty. The little cowboy stroked his beard, considering the drink before him.
“Sassy…sushi…yeah, I’ll have what he’s having.” He said. “Thanks for the recommendation, partner.” he added. Abigail fetched a dark brown bottle from behind the counter and set it before Dusty, popping the top for him, as she thought he might just try to chew it off. The man beside Dusty cleared his throat after taking another drink.
“Cheers. Now, you may ask yourself, who is this handsome stranger who sits beside you? With a squint so powerful you wonder if he’s got eyes, and a jawline stronger than the coast.” He paused dramatically for a moment. Dusty said nothing. “Well they call me…the Man With No Moniker.” Dusty continued his silence, scratching his head.
“Say, isn’t that, I mean, in itself, isn’t that a moniker?” The Man With No Moniker rubbed the back of his head uncomfortably.
“S’pose it might be…” He finally said. He took another drink from his bottle, thoughtfully. “If’n I knew what a moniker was,” he concluded. There was a moment of silence between the two men, then finally the Man With No Moniker spoke once again.
“Say, y’know, yer kinda funny lookin’ for a cowboy.” Dusty laughed at this observation.
“Oh, this ain’t nothin’. One time in Amarillo I ran around buck naked, greased up, trying my best to avoid a pack of rodeo clowns with nothing but a horseshoe over my peck–” The bartender shushed him with a harsh look and threw a thumb over her shoulder.
“Sir, this is a family establishment, please.” Dusty followed her thumb and saw a family sitting together at a round table.
“C’mon son,” said the father, patting his son on the back, I bought ya whiskey, don’t let it go to waste.” The young boy nodded with a frown.
“Yes, papa.” Dusty sat back in his seat, impressed by the family values in the small town. However, at another table a tall, muscular bald man with an eyepatch over his right eye shot up from his seat, angry.
“Did someone say…family friendly?” he cried. And with his last words, he flipped his small wooden table over, causing all the bottles to fly off in every direction. “I’ll show ya friendly!” he shouted as he pounded his chest. Then he flew across the room in a single bound and threw his fist into the Man WIth No Moniker’s handsome face with a meaty thud.
“Oof.” called the Man With No Moniker as he fell hard onto the bar. It was then that an all too excited patron cupped his hands around his mouth and called out:
“Bar fight!” Abigail swung her arms wildly, a look of horror stuck on her face.
“No! No bar fight!” But it was no use, the scene around her exploded into chaos, the men and women in the area throwing their bottles and chairs, and themselves, at each other. Exchanging fists and kicks while wearing smiles. Up at the bar the father and the son who had been drinking together stood at the counter. The father slid the son along the bar like a washrag.
“Sorry son,” he said, “it’s a fist fight, nothing personal.”
“Yes, papa.” Replied the son. Meanwhile, though he sat in a sea of commotion, Dusty reamined calmly sipping his sarsaparilla.
“Can’t a man drink in peace anymore?” He asked, shaking his head. The man with the eyepatch picked up the little man by his dark vest. Dusty did not react, instead he continued to sip from his bottle.
“No, you can’t drink in peace here!” yelled the bald man. Dusty seemed to ignore this comment.
“Friend,” Dusty said, thoughtfully as he pointed to the man with the eyepatch’s ugly striped shirt, “what is that shirt?” The angry man brought Dusty’s face close to his, grimacing angrily.
“It’s comfortable.” He cried. With a sudden jerk, Dusty went flying through the air like an arrow.
“Nobody touch,” he began as he soared through the air. He found himself suspended, grasping for his hat which had flown off in the chaos. He continued his trajectory and crashed through the bar window, and then through another window to whatever building was next door. “My Drink.” He concluded as he hit the ground with a loud thud.
Dusty laid on the floor, cut and bruised, covered in little bits of glass. He was in a new location, a general store it looked like, but everything was upside down.
“Ooh, this is a new kind of pain.” he said. Then he heard the voice of a woman coming from the back of the store.
“What is this? Look at my window!” Suddenly there was a young woman with dark hair and olive skin standing over him. She bent down, looking at the little cowboy who laid in a heap on her floor. Dusty raised a finger in the air.
“Sorry ma’am. This was not my intention. I’d also like to say, in advance, it is not my intention to get blood on your very stiff wooden floor. You see, a large, one eyed fella done this to me.” The young woman firmly placed her hands on her hips.
“Hmph. That would be Doogan. He’s nothing but a dumb thug.” She walked back to the counter and leaned on her elbows with a sigh. “This place has been nothing but trouble since that railroad baron showed up with his goons. Doogan is one of them.” Dusty coughed.
“I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I reckon you’re about to launch into an anecdote of some kind, and please note that I am listening. But I’m just gonna lie here and try to scoop some of this blood back into my body.”
“It all started a few weeks ago,” the young woman began, “we got a visitor named Grover Braxton in Bean Can Valley. Him and his friends were always carrying on, drinking, fighting and such, tearing the place up. It was Abigail, who’s window glass now calls your body its home, that heard what Grover’s business was.” She leaned over the counter to make sure Dusty was still breathing.
“See, Grover and his boys were scoping the place out, looking to build a railroad through Bean Can Valley. All in the name of making some money. Displacing an entire town of innocent people just to get some cash.” The young woman looked out the broken window listlessly.
“So they took to terrorizing the town, looking to drive us off in order to build their blasted railroad. And it’s a tactic that’s been working, I’m afraid to say. And just a few days ago, the old sheriff ran off in the middle of the night. I’m sure you can imagine how they got to him.” She said, crossing her arms angrily.
“Actually,” interjected Dusty, “I ain’t got no imagination left after I got kicked in the head by a horse.”
“But this is my home,” continued the woman, ignoring Dusty, “I’ve spent so much of my life here. My father brought us here from China, and this store is all that’s left of him. I can’t just leave.” She paused for a moment and then a look of determination crept across her face.
“If I could just…or if anyone could get those bastards out of town I’d, why, I’d give ‘em a lifetime supply of the Zhu Family recipe beef jerky. Dusty wormed his way up to the counter. He reached it and tried to prop himself up, his head leaning backwards.
“Now, uh, miss…” Dusty began.
“Daisy.” The young woman supplied. Dusty was now on his feet, leaning against the counter with a grin.
“Miss Daisy, is that the kind of offer you’d give a downpayment on?” He asked, licking his lips. A moment later, Dusty was walking out of Zhu’s General Store chewing on a piece of beef jerky, with a sack full more under his arm. He chewed loudly as he thought about the predicament before him.
“Well, it’s time to get to business. Maybe I oughta find some help. Oh, there’s my old friend.” He said, spotting the Man WIth No Moniker, who was near a horse. Dusty approached the handsome man and extended his free hand.
“Hey, pal,” he began, “I got a proposition for ya. How would you like to help me–” but before he could finish, the Man With No Moniker slapped his hand away.
“Forget it.” He spat. “I’m outta this town.” The Man WIth No Moniker jumped onto his horse with a frown. Dusty stroked his thick beard.
“But ain’t you some kinda hero? Some kinda archetype?” He asked.
“Archetype be damned, this place, and the whole west, too! I’m headin’ to the city!” The Man WIth No Moniker yelled, spurring his horse into motion. Dusty looked on in wonder as he watched the man ride off into the desert.
“A sad, sad man. Oh well, I guess I’m on my own now.” Dusty kicked at the dirt then turned and headed into town, looking around intently. He approached two men standing outside the saloon. One was big and muscular with dark skin and a cowboy hat. The other was fat, dressed in a nice suit, smoking a big cigar. Dusty looked up at the pair.
“Say, fellas, you happen to know where I can find a fat railroad man by the name of Grover?” The muscular cowboy stifled a laugh. The fat man just looked down at Dusty rather plainly.
“I just might, partner.” He said, blowing a cloud of smoke in Dusty’s direction. He then patted Dusty on the head like he was a child. “I just might.” Dusty looked at him for a moment.
“May I gather by your condescension that you’re Grover?” Dusty asked.
“Why, that’s very good my little friend.” Grover said with a Chesire grin.
“Now I’m here to–” Dusty began, but he was interrupted by another direct cloud of smoke in his face. He coughed and tried to clear the air around him by waving his hand, wafting the smoke away.
“I don’t care why you’re here, little man. Do you know what happens if you cross me?” Dusty looked at the fat man for a second.
“Might I…” he began, then he violently snatched Grover by the lapels, bringing him down to eye level. The two stood face to face. “Get to the other side?” he finished, eyes twitching with anger. The two stood for a moment, staring at each other.
“I like you, partner, I do. You’re fiery. Rufus.” Grover snapped his fingers and the muscular cowboy beside him approached Dusty. Picking up the little man, he sent him sailing through the air. With a loud crash, Dusty went flying through yet another window, screaming all the way. He landed hard in the saloon, back on a sturdy wooden table. Through the sound of buzzing in his ears he could hear Abigail lamenting the loss of another window.
“Oh, my window, my precious, expensive window.” She said, bringing her hands up to her face. The man sitting at the table which Dusty had landed on placed a drink on Dusty’s stomach. He was a handsome man with a white cowboy hat and some stubble. He smirked as he looked down at Dusty.
“When did you get new coasters, Abigail?” He asked. The bartender stood with her hands on her hips.
“Aloysius Jameson, I am not in the mood for jokes.” Abigail cried. Jameson tipped his hat toward her.
“I apologize, Ma’am. Now let’s get this man a drink. He’s been through the window.” Aloysius said, gesturing toward Dusty, who was once again cleaning himself of broken glass.
“Several, actually.” Dusty corrected. As the pair sat there staring at each other, Jameson nodded his head toward the bar.
“Abigail, let’s have a private audience.” He helped Dusty off the table and the pair followed Abigail to the counter of the bar. Once there, she opened a secret side compartment and ushered them into a small room.
“A secret room.” Said Dusty with enthusiasm. “What’s this for?” he asked, looking around in excitement. Jameson took a seat and a sip of his whiskey.
“Tell me your story, little man. Why you flying through windows so much today?” He asked. Over the next few minutes Dusty relayed what had happened to him, and the quest he had undertaken to save the town.
“So,” said Aloysius slowly, “you aim to rid Bean Can Valley of Grover?”
“Well, let me tell you, friend, I’d do a whole awful lot for jerky. A whole lot.” Jameson looked at the squat little man for a moment.
“Yes, I believe that,” he said finally. He cleared his throat and after a moment spoke again. “Anyhow, I might be inclined to help you out with your goal.” Dusty leaned back, resting his hands behind his head.
“I don’t know, maybe you should leave it to the professionals.” He said.
“Pal,” Jameson began, leaning in and pointing hard on the table., “I’m an ex-gun fighter. I’ve killed more than I like to recall. And Now all I want is a chance at a quiet life on my ranch here in the Valley. With my family. But that won’t happen if this railroad comes through.” He sat back in his chair, agitated. “Besides, what kind of ‘professional’ gets his tail handed to him the way you did, anyway?” He asked. Dusty drew a pistol from his belt and tapped it against his head.
“Listen here, I’ll have you know I’m fighting this battle with my brain. I’m playing the long game as written in the Art of War by Sun Tzu. I’m out thinkin’ ‘em.” he said with a chuckle.
“Is that thing loaded?” Aloysius asked, backing away from the little cowboy.
“Always.” Dusty responded with a wink. Jameson stood up and propped himself against the secret door, his arms folded.
“Well, you seem pretty willing to die. Er, I mean, that is, you seem pretty durable. Yeah, durable. Given how much glass your body has absorbed. Maybe you can help me out.” He grabbed the handle to the door and turned his head over his shoulder. “Listen, they’ve set up a camp for the railroad workers not too far out of town. They have all their tools and supplies, getting ready to start construction. But you and I, we can set them back right good. Meet me there after nightfall and we’ll strike the first blow.” Without waiting for an answer, the old gunslinger left the room.
The moonlight was the only light that showed that night. Dusty had passed the time reading The Art of War, albeit upside down, but he didn’t notice or care. He rode his horse gently up to the meeting point, the largest rock that he could see.
“This is the place, girl.” He said, dismounting the horse looking around for Aloysius. All he saw was a small camp of slumbering railroad workers, their freshly pitched tents gently flapping in the wind.
“Jameson? I don’t see ya, but I think I see your plan…” He quietly produced his pistol with an ominous grin. “Time to get to murderin’.” he said, gingerly approaching the campsite. Before he got too far, a pair of hands grabbed him and pulled him to the other side of the rock where he had hidden Lucy. It was Jameson, who stood there alarmed.
“That’s not the plan!” he whispered harshly through gritted teeth. “We’re not going to kill those people, we’re just going to steal their supplies.” Dusty produced a jug from underneath his hat and took a drink, deep in thought about the plan.
“Yeah, yeah, I s’pose that’s a good plan too.” Jameson snatched the old jar away from the little cowboy.
“What’s this? Are you getting drunk before an important operation?”
“Oh no,” Dusty responded, “it’s pure honey.” Then he leaned in close to Jameson so their faces were almost touching. “I milked the bees myself.” He paused for a moment to lick his lips and then offered Jameson a drink.
“Wouldn’t you know, I just kicked the stuff.” The gunslinger said, shaking his head. “C’mon, let’s go.” he added.
Their assault was on a large crate that laid there in the desert unprotected. Jameson had pried it open and Dusty had promptly dove in like it was a swimming hole. He was now upside down, legs wiggling in the air as he dug around for parts to steal.
“Dusty.” Aloysius hissed. “What are you doing?” Dusty sprang up like a diver for air, a fist full of parts in each hand.
“I’m stealing parts, like in the plan.” Dusty said indignantly.
“You don’t need to pocket the parts, I already got the wagon hitched up and ready to go. All we have to do is get the crate in there. We’re just gonna take ‘em and dump ‘em somewhere they won’t find ‘em.” Jameson pointed toward the rock where Dustry had hidden his horse. “You can get your–” but before he could finish his sentence, Dusty, like a flash of lightning, mounted the same horse as Jameson. He wrapped his arms around the gunslinger’s waist with excitement.
“Ride.” he whispered to the other man.
“You can just get your horse. Please get your horse.” Aloysius said.
“Ride.” Dusty yelled. There was a noise from behind them.
“Hey!” cried a voice. The pair looked back. A groggy man stuck his head out of the tent closest to them. “What are you doing?” He asked, angry and confused. He shook his head, waking up a little more. “Are you stealing our supplies?” He demanded. He looked crestfallen now, frowning. “That’s mean.” He said finally. Aloysius looked around uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his head.
“Oh, no, partner, no. We’re just…night time…railroad…he paused, hoping for something else to come to his mind. “Inspectors?” he said with a shrug. In the panic of being discovered, Dusty quickly smacked the backside of the horse.
“Let’s get out of here!” He yelled. As the horse dashed off, Dusty’s beard went flying into his face. “I’m sorry.” He said. “I panicked.” Back at the camp, the groggy worker was now fully awake and alerting the other men. He thrust his thumb to a pair standing beside him.
“Hey, you’re not the nighttime railroad inspectors, they just got here!” He yelled. The pair of thieves held on tight to the horse as bullets began to fly around them, shot by the workers from the camp. A stray bullet caught Dusty’s honey jar, which was now hanging from his belt.
“My honey!” Dusty yelled, throwing his arms up in anger. In a flash he had whirled around on the horse so that he was back to back with Jameson, his guns drawn. “Vultures! Cowards! Thieves!” he yelled as he pulled the trigger, sending bullets flying back in the direction of the men who were shooting at them.
“Hey, there’s no need for such hurtful words! We got feelings too.” said a camp worker as he returned fire. “Now say you’re sorry.” He demanded as he squeezed off another shot. Dusty shook his fist in the air.
“Never!” He cried.
“Dusty.” Jameson cried, trying to get the little man’s attention. But it failed to do so. “Dusty!” he yelled louder this time, and the little cowboy turned his head.
“What?” He demanded. But all Jameson could do was point ahead. For before him stood a wide chasm between two cliffs, and they were heading right for it. Dusty held onto his hat.
“Oh boy.” he cried. The pair held onto each other, screaming in unison. In desperation, Dusty kicked at the crate of supplies, separating them from the wagon as the horse lept into mid air. The parts fell into the gorge below them. The pair continued to scream. The cart attached to the horse met the bottom of the canyon with a terrible crashing noise, then there was silence. Finally, on the other side of the gorge a set of hands emerged, gripping to the edge of the opposite cliff. Then, another. The two men were still alive. They pulled themselves up and rested on their elbows, relaxing for a moment. They then noticed a desperate pair of hooves clinging to the ledge like another pair of hands.
“Help me with this.” Dusty demanded, and the two men hoisted their horse back on to safe ground.
“I thought you were a goner for sure, girl.” Aloysius said with a sigh. The horse simply neighed in contentment to be alive. Then, from across the canyon a voice rang out.
“We can still shoot you!” Called a railroad worker, his gun raised. Dusty stood up and with a dash of vigor, smacked his backside and began to gyrate.
“Aw, you can’t hit nothin’ you already proved that!” he yelled. On the other side of the gorge, the man put down his gun and hung his head.
“Aw, fellas,” he said with a somber tone, “it ain’t no use. I’m tired of that man and his brazen buttocks. Let’s go back to bed.” Dusty jumped up and clicked his heels together in celebration.
“Haha,” cried Dusty, “I knew you weren’t gonna do anything. But the men on the other side had already begun to lay back down, making an impromptu camp out of dirt and rocks.
“Hey, you already won!” one of the men shouted. “Now shut up, we’re trying to go back to sleep!” across the way Dusty shrank back and began to laugh under his breath as if to heed the man’s wishes.
After the confrontation, the pair rode back off toward town, taking the long way to avoid any more of Grover’s goons. The whole way Dusty sat backwards but didn’t seem to notice.
“Boy, we showed them.” He said with a smile. “I’d like to see them build that bingo hall now.” Aloysius cleared his throat but knew it was no good to correct the little cowboy. Instead, he simply thanked him for his help.
“That oughta hold them off for a while.” Aloysius said. The pair dismounted and began to shake hands when they felt a presence behind them. They turned to see Doogan and Rufus. With lightning quickness, Doogan swept Dusty off the ground, holding him by his vest.
“Boss wants a word with you two. And he gets what he wants.” the goon said.
“Well I want spaghetti, am I gonna get what I want?” asked Dusty. Doogan just shook his head, but Rufus leaned in and said quietly:
“Spaghetti does sound pretty good right now.”
“Of course it does. It always sounds good, but we have a job to do right now.” replied Doogan. Rufus lowered his eyes to the ground as the pair marched Dusty and Aloysius back toward the saloon. Jameson walked through the door, Rufus behind him.
“Very good,” said Grover with a pleased smile on his face, “but where’s the little fat one?” As if in response to this question, Dusty came flying through another window. Abigail could be heard swearing about her newly broken window over the crashing sound of shattering glass. Dusty, covered in glass once more, raised a finger in the air.
“Alright, I am ready to hear you out, sir.” he said limply. The little man was scooped off the floor and sat at Grover’s table, next to Aloysius.
“Now,” Grover began, “Not too long ago, some of my supplies went flying off a cliff. It was quite obviously you two. My men described a ‘tall, handsome man,’ and a ‘noisy, obese leprechaun.’” Dusty gasped at this description.
“How could you describe my pal Aloysius that way?” he cried.
“Not to mention that this was found on site.” Grover said, producing the shattered honey jar that had once been attached to the little cowboy’s hip. One it was etched “Property of Dusty Nichols” Dusty let out an impressed whistle.
“Well, that’s a mighty compelling argument, sure.”
“Now, you will either pay me for those supplies and get out of town, or, the far more likely outcome,” Grover ran a finger across his throat. “I’ll make an example out of you.” The two men stared at each other in silence.
It was only about ten minutes later that the pair stood in the middle of town, each with a noose around their neck.
“Now ain’t this a fine situation?” Dusty asked, shaking his head.
“Dusty, I tried to tell you that spitting on the man ain’t no form of currency.” Aloysius said with a frown. Grover stood before them, addressing the grim crowd that had gathered to watch the hanging.
“Good people of Bean Can Valley,” he began, wringing his hands together, “these two trifling thieves have sabotaged my business endeavors. I know you may not like this railway, but I hope that these two can teach you a simple lesson.” The fat man violently clenched his fists. “You can’t fight progress. Now, hang them.” Dusty and Aloysius looked at each other with uncertainty, then there was the noise of the platform being removed from beneath them. The pair began to hack and cough as the noose tightened around their necks. Dusty kicked his little legs as fast as he could, but nothing was happening. The precious air that was key to life had no way of reaching his lungs. Luckily for the odd pair, Daisy Zhu sat perched on the roof of her General Store with a rifle. She lowered her body and aimed the gun.
“I don’t aim to see two good men hanged by that monster. Hold on boys.” She said to herself. She let off two shots and the bullets flew true, hitting their marks, severing the ropes that hung the two men. They fell to the ground, bits of rope around their neck, writhing around, gasping for air.
“Good timing and an even better shot. We owe someone big.” Said Jameson. Dusty let out a loud dry cough.
“I had the situation under control.” He said. An incensed Grover threw his arms up in the air.
“Kill them! And kill whoever fired that shot!” Dusty and Aloysius had gathered enough breath to now be standing, back to back, with their hands still bound before them.
“So, enjoying your time in Bean Can Valley?” asked Aloysius.
“More or less.” Replied Dusty. Soon Doogan was upon them, pointing his gun at the helpless pair with a maniacal grin.
“Sorry fellas, this is personal, on account of I hate you so–” but he couldn’t finish his sentence. From behind, a large wooden board came swooping down and made contact with the back of his bald head. He crumpled to the ground. Behind him, holding a plank of wood, stood Abigail, who huffed with anger.
“That’s for all my windows!” She yelled at the unconscious man. After a moment she produced a knife from her apron and began to cut the ropes on Aloysius and Dusty’s hands. The pair stood there rubbing their sore wrists.
“Much obliged.” Aloysius said. “But you may want to get out of here before things get too crazy.” He said. As he spoke Dusty jumped on the back of the nearest goon and began to gnaw on his head. Grover, close by, retreated to the cover of two barrels and yelled.
“Kill those two and anyone who helps them. A hundred dollars to the man who rids me of these lunatics.” Up above him, still on the rooftop, Daisy fired away, then put her gun down for a moment.
“Bean Can Valley,” she cried, “now’s the time to fight for your home. Don’t let these vile men bully you anymore!”
“Yeah, come and fight me!” yelled a cocky Rufus as he smashed the heads of two innocent bystanders together. As the towns folk collapsed, a shot rang out and Rufus’ hat flew from his head. “Yow.” he cried, groping at his head. He turned around to see that standing there, gun drawn, was Aloysius.
“Let’s dance.” he said to the big cowboy.
“Ballet or tango, little man?” Rufus asked. The pair drew closer, Aloysius threw away his gun, as the other man was unarmed. “I’m gonna rip your head off. You ain’t no fighter anymore.” Rufus said as he lunged at Aloysius.
“But I do have a strong pair of boots.” Jameson responded, and brought the toe of his boot right up into Rufus’ groin. The big man grasped at the wounded area and collapsed, tears forming in his eyes. Dusty rolled along the ground, having been thrown like a bowling ball. He picked himself up and dusted himself off.
“That’s a dirty shot, Jameson. Nice, but dirty.” he said.
“Do you see the size of that man? He would kill me.” Aloysius responded.
“Oh, most definitely.” Dusty replied. The pair of men ran off, looking for some sort of cover as they noticed the formation of an angry mob, and it was headed their way. The leader of the mob pointed in their direction.
“Kill ‘em! That’s a hundred dollars we can make!”
“Let’s get outta here.” Cried Dusty, holding onto his hat as he scrambled away. They found some safety behind a pair of large wooden crates.
“Stay down,” called Aloysius, “that’s old Ten Bullet Bob. His compulsions only allow him to fire ten bullets at a time.” Ten Bullet Bob opened fire. Dusty counted to ten and waited.
“Ok, what now? That mob got any more compulsions? Buddy?” But there was no reply, as Aloysius had his eyes shut tight and his hands on his guns. Suddenly he shot up and fired left, right, and center with such alarming speed that Dusty could hardly keep up with his movement. The gunslinger let off round after round, quicker than lighting, causing the mob before him to disperse. All except Ten Bullet Bob, who lay on the ground in agony.
“Ooh, ow, you shot me in the…well pretty much everywhere.” Bob cried as he writhed in pain. From behind the crates Dusty looked up at his partner in amazement.
“That was some fine shooting, pal.” Aloysius simply shook his head and narrowed his eyes.
“All I want is my ranch,” he responded. Bob, nearly unconscious now, gave the gun fighter a thumbs up.
“You still got it, Aloysius.” Bob said.
“Thanks, Bob.” Aloysius replied. Amidst all the chaos and confusion, Grover had found a lasso and came out from his hiding place.
“You absolute morons!” he yelled. “I’ll have my revenge!” there was a cry from the rooftop.
“Dusty!” called Daisy. The little cowboy looked around in surprise.
“My God, he’s kidnapped Daisy.” Dusty shouted. But then he looked down and realized the rope was around him.
“No,” Daisy cried, “he’s got you!”
“So he does.” murmured Dusty. Grover gave a hard tug on the rope and dashed off on a horse he had stolen, dragging Dusty behind him on the hard ground. He bounced violently as Grover rode on laughing.
“You deserve this.” Grover said, shaking his fist at the little man.
“I’m starting to feel a tinge of regret.” Dusty admitted. “Or is that internal bleeding?” Grover pulled on the reins of the horse, causing it to come to a full stop just outside of town. He had brought Dusty to a large tree near a cliff.
“You couldn’t just leave me be. No, you had to stick your nose where it didn’t belong, cowboy.” Grover said, dismounting the horse. Dusty, covered in dirt and blood stood up and started to remove the rope from around him.
“If I was you, I’d worry more about where I’m gonna put my foot.” Dusty said. “Which is down! Because I’ve had enough.” He concluded. As Dusty approached the railway man, Grover put up his hands in a gesture to stop the little man in his tracks.
“Hold on there, tough guy. Don’t you try anything, or else.” Grover spread out his arms over five TNT plungers, their cords running toward town. He motioned toward the Valley. “The dynamite will level the whole town. We set it up for when the tracks were going to be built. But you’ve forced my hand.” He lunged for the plungers, but not before Dusty, his gun drawn, let off several rounds. Grover covered his eyes, waiting for the bullets to hit him, but none did. Gingerly, he opened an eye and examined his body, which was bullet hole free. He looked at Dusty, who was covering his own eyes, then he looked down at the TNT plungers. Each wire had been severed by a bullet.
“You…you hit them all.” Grover said in awe.
“I did?!” Dusty said in amazement. Grover snatched off his hat and threw it to the ground in a tantrum.
“Why can’t you just leave me alone and let me destroy these people’s homes in peace?” Grover sniveled. Dusty thought about this a moment, rubbing his bearded chin.
“Truthfully, I just don’t care for you much.” he paused. “And there’s jerky at stake.” Grover furiously threw his hands in the air.
“You did this for beef jerky? You idiot? I could have given you all the jerky in the world. But now you’re done for!” Grover angrily drew his gun and after a split second the two men fired at each other. The smoke stood in the air for a moment and then cleared to show both men still standing.
“I missed?” cried Grover. Dusty stood there and began to grin, revealing the bullet that he had caught between his teeth.
“Impossible.” Grover said. Dusty swallowed the bullet with gusto.
“Impossibly delicious.” Dusty said, rubbing his stomach in satisfaction. Grover brought his hands up to his fat face, totally resigned.
“You’re some sort of freak. But you got no aim because you missed me too!”
“Did I? Asked Dusty, pointing up toward the tree. Grover turned around and looked up just in time to see a beehive falling from the tree. The hive smashed right on his head, encompassing it like a mask.
“Ah! Bees! You used bees? Why?!” Grover demanded as he desperately clawed at the hive on his head.
“The bees have always been a friend to ol’ Dusty Nichols.” Dusty said with a smile as he holstered his gun. Grover ran off and collapsed near the edge of the cliff, bees buzzing angrily around his body. Dusty, satisfied with his victory, clapped his hands together and promptly stole the man’s horse to ride back into town. He was welcomed with a hero’s greeting, waiving to all the folks in the town.
“Fear not, Bean Can Valley, I have rid you of the evil railroad man! And now the cowboy must ride away!” Daisy approached his horse, a sack full of jerky under her arm.
“Here’s your reward. Where do you think you’ll go now?” she asked.
“Wherever I’m needed, I reckon.” he turned and began to ride into the sunset when a small boy from town began to run after him, waving his arms wildly.
“Dusty!” yelled the little boy, “come back! Come back Dusty!”
“Dusty! Dusty! Dusty!” Dusty shook his head and came up from the blackness.He shook his head as he realized everything he had seen was but a mere vision. Aloysius stood over him on the cliff under the tree.
“I thought you were dead. He shot you.” Aloysius said, leaning over the little man.
“You mean the bees…the jerky, was it a hallucination? I didn’t save the day? He got away?” Dusty said, laying back in the dirt, disappointed.
“Oh, no,” said Aloysius, shaking his head, “you did a real number on him, pal.” he jerked a thumb toward the crumpled form of Grover on the ground, who was now without his upper head thanks to Dusty’s bullet.
“C’mon, let me help you up.” Aloysius said, scooping the little cowboy up in his arms. “Let’s get you back to town, partner.”
“The bees, the bees…” Dusty said weakly.
“I know, I know, the bees. There, there.” Aloysius said, silencing the little man.
“Well we did it, we saved Bean Can Valley.” Dusty said.
“So we did.” agreed Aloysius. They walked back into town, Dusty still being carried like a child.
“You’ll get your ranch life after all.” Dusty said.
“And you’ll get your–” But Aloysius was interrupted as he tripped on a rock, causing Dusty to go flying through the air.
“Not again!” Dusty cried as he went crashing through the last good window that Abigail had left. From behind the bar, Abigail shook with fury and she began to cry in anger.