Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2089323
Tomorrow the posse will set out looking for Bad Bob, but there's a matter about a dog...
Dead or Alive
Description not necessary
You'll know him if you meet him
Mathias read the sign over and over, well not the whole sign...not the big words; but he knew the word "reward" and was able to sound out most of the rest. People in town had been talking. People in town always talked and usually he didn't pay them no mind, but when the sound of money comes up, so do his ears.
Rumor was they were getting together a posse. This "Bad Bob" was supposed to be bad news. Everyone had heard of him. He'd been in all the papers. But not until now had there been an actual reward sign up in their very own town. That meant if they caught him, the law would come to them instead of them having to take him to the law. That sounded like about as good a deal as a man could get around here if he's looking to make money without having an actual job, though Mathias had a job, but with the unsteady pay, he sometimes thought he didn't.
Mathias set his mind to it. He was joining that posse. There would probably only be a couple of men who would join. Oh, they'd all talk about it, but in the end, they'd have to chop firewood or help the missus with some task or another or have any assortment of reasons why they'd back out. But all the better for Mathias--he wasn't much good at cyphering and didn't know exactly how much he'd get even if he knew how many men were coming, but he did know fewer men meant more money and that was fine by him.
He started walking down the boardwalk, heels making the familiar dull thud with just the hint of an echo. He liked the sound better than walking on the dirt. It was right safer too. What with drunk cowboys with their horses and occasionally even drunk horses with their cowboys, the boardwalk was the place to be, even if the uneven planks caused the most manly man to trip occasionally.
He moseyed in the direction of the general store, wondering if there was still enough credit left for him to buy a new posse-joining hat...a nice white one, to show who the good guys were.
Mathias pushed open the door to the general store, loose glass rattled in the panes.
Theirs was a good relationship. Cleveland didn't ask the typical battery of questions about the wife, the farm, and such. He asked if that was all, if Mathias wanted to pay cash or credit, and left it at that. Mathias repaid him in kind by always paying his bill on time...when he had money.
Eyeing a hat he liked, he looked at the price tag. It was steep, but after all, the good guys have to be recognizable and besides, there's always a price to pay when you're avoiding paying with your soul--that's what the good reverend always said just before he took up the collection.
Mathias tried it on. It fit. It fit like a felted halo. It felt good. It felt good to be good. Besides, a white hat could be a might bit cooler on the long posse ride. He carried the newest member of his posse-joining outfit to the counter. Yes, sir. He'd wear that new pair of jeans he got last year, along with...well, he hadn't picked the shirt yet. He knew his wife would have a say in that once he brought his new hat home. Plunking it down on the counter, a little smile of pride crawled across his weathered face.
"Sorry, Mathias. It'll have to be cash this time. You don't have enough left on the account." Almost as if he could read the question mark in Mathias' mind, "The missus stopped by and ordered some special dog food for that new hunting hound of yours."
That dog...again! Ever since his wife got that dog for him as a gift several months ago, it's been nothing but trouble. He picked up the hat and carefully deposited it back on the rack, on the back side of the rack, for safe keeping, just in case someone got it in their head that they too needed a new posse-joining hat.
He decided to head over to the saloon to drown his sorrows in sarsaparilla. At least neither his wife nor his dog ran up the tab there.
"The usual, Sam."
"Sure, Mathias. Sarsaparilla comin' right up. So you joinin' th' posse? They's leavin' a little after first light if you wanna go. Mickey's over there. He's takin' a head count so's he'll know when they're good t' leave. I'll just put this on yer tab."
Sam was a chatty type. Not the type Mathias tended to hang around, but he figured for a bar keep, it was the best way to be. It's hard to get someone to talk if they're the quiet type, but you can always get someone to shut up...well, maybe not Sam, specifically, but in general, it was a rule Mathias had faith in. Sit quietly long enough and eventually everyone shuts up--everyone but Sam, that is. He'd just talk to himself.
Mathias ambled over to Mickey, sitting in the corner, chatting it up with a small group of men.
The men each spoke their usual greeting.
"You comin' to join the posse, Mathias?" Mickey looked him straight in the eye. Daring him to back down.
Jeb slapped him on the back, "Oh, good for you, Mathias! I really wish I could, but I got a whole tree full of firewood that needs choppin'."
"Yeah, me too. But the missus has a whole mess of chores lined up for me. I probably won't git done till old Bad Bob is good and locked up at the capital." Johnny said as he pushed his hat farther back on his head.
He had a habit of wearing his hat inside. That always annoyed Mathias.
"And bring that new hound o' yorn. We could use a good scent tracker in case we pick up his trail." Mickey kept eye contact. It wasn't a request.
"I don't think she's ready, Mickey. You know, I haven't had time to do any real proper trainin' with her. Besides, she's a retriever, not a scent hound."
"A dog's a dog. She'll figure it out. 'Sides, we're fixin' to 'retrieve' us a Bad Bob."
The boys laughed. Mathias pasted on a smile.
"It's good trainin'. If you don't bring her, we'll just swing by and pick her up on the way outta town."
"Well, Ethel won't be too keen on us runnin' off with her new toy."
The boys roared with laughter before Mickey spoke again, "You act like she's a pet. Don't tell me that wife o' yorn has gone and turned your huntin' dog into a pet."
"No. Not yet..." The truth was, he was embarrassed by his dog and certainly had no idea how she'd perform. He hadn't had a chance to take her out on the trail but once or twice, himself. And those were just short excursions to the lake near the house. The dog was a mighty fine swimmer, but he hadn't really ever tried to test out her nose and he'd need a dog with an exceptional nose to get them to lay off him.
"Be at Henry's place just after first light. Bring provisions for three o' four days and bring that dog." Mickey looked down at his drink before taking a big swallow, emptying the glass. He smacked it on the table, signaling for another round.
Mathias got up. He had a lot to do before tomorrow morning. Not the least of which was to figure out what he was going to do about that dog of his.
Mathias opened the door to the smell of fresh bread and chicken stew. His mouth began watering immediately before he noticed his wife ladling some out for the dog. That dog. What happened to that dog?!?
"That too, but..."
"Do you like it? It's called a 'continental clip.' I saw it in a magazine. It's all the rage in New York."
Rage? If she wanted to see rage, he, well, he wasn't really the raging type. Instead he looked at his hunting dog and said, "Looks like she got run over by a combine."
"Now, Mathias! You stop that right now. She looks beautiful." Then turning to the 50 pound beast. "Don't you Fifi? Yes, you do! That's right. Tell mommy how beautiful you look."
Fifi just kept eating...Mathias' dinner.
"A farm dog belongs on the farm, not in the house and you said her name was 'Fierce.'"
"Fierce Pleasure's her registered name, but I got tired of calling her 'Fierce.' Besides, it doesn't fit her. Does it, girl? No, it doesn't. It doesn't fit you at all. You're not fierce, are you?" Ethel dropped a biscuit in the dog's bowl.
He started pulling out some clean socks and underwear from the drawer in the other room. He needed to pack, plus he didn't want to face his wife when he told her the news. "Well, she's goin' with me n' the boys on the posse tomorrow."
"Posse? Oh no she isn't, Mathias Daniel! She'll do no such thing!"
"It's my dog and she's goin'."
"Well, but she's a hunting dog, not a posse dog."
"Posses hunt men." He couldn't believe it. He might actually win this argument. Either way, that dog was going.
"Well, you haven't been training her like you should. You've said so yourself."
"The posse's good trainin'. She's goin'." He saw the wells of her eyes beginning to fill so he said, "Go out and feed the chickens. They looked hungry on the way in."
He heard her start to sob as she and Fifi headed to the chicken house. He should have bought her some penny candy while at the general store. That usually seemed to mend her wounds.
The light was just peeking over the Montana hills when Mathias was finishing packing his mule for the trip. He was dreading going. Not that he was scared, well, he was a little scared, but the kind of scared that made a man feel alive. But he was dreading bringing along his new dog. She wasn't what folks were used to seeing around these parts and if she didn't perform, he'd never hear the end of it. Even if she did, he still might not.
He checked the cinch on his saddle before swinging atop his horse. He'd already said a tearful goodbye to his wife. Well, her goodbye was tearful, and mostly for the dog, at that. He whistled and the dog followed as he started up the road to Henry's place.
Laughter broke out as he drew near. And it only got louder the closer he came...not because he was getting closer, but because his dog was and they were getting a better and better look at her with every inch they approached.
He figured he'd better play it cool. He came alongside them and pretended not to notice that some were now starting to wipe their eyes with handkerchiefs that were supposed to be relegated to use only for dust storms and looking cool.
Laughing so hard he looked like he might fall off his horse, Henry points at the dog, "W--wh--" He struggled to get the words out through his fit of laughter. "What kind," more laughter, "of...of d--dog" and still more laughter, "is...that? It looks...it looks...it looks like a sh--sheep got" he couldn't control himself. "Run over b--b--b--by a c--c--"
Through fits of hysterics, Mickey was able to finish, "A c--combine!"
Unbelievably, the laughter got even LOUDER!
Mathias sat up straight in his saddle. "She's a poodle and her name is Fierce."
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