- December 25, 2022
Wild Love in a Wild West
“You have to keep going, they’re going kill you, *ah* not me,” I try to tell him. Ben doesn’t listen, he keeps my arm hung over his shoulder, and keeps on walking.
The forest around us wasn’t meant to be trotted on by someone with a bullet in their gut. I truly don’t think any of this land was meant for us.
These trees were downright mythical to me. I lived on a plantation, the family business. Daddy never let us go to far, never let his darling daughters go to town. I always thought it was because of the roaming bands of freed niggers that he used to tell us about. He said that giving them rights made them wild, uncivilized unlike our Ben, and others.
Daddy didn’t know that he was my Ben back then.
At least not until another one of the slaves Daddy didn’t let go caught us in the barn. We’ve told people that story, or really I have, and everyone’s laughed at it. An old nana sees my blonde locks and hears me hollering. She thinks it’s my sister with the sneaky neighbor boy and instead finds me with Ben.
We ran, took some money, Daddy’s gun, and ran. I use to miss home, my sisters, Momma, even the old nana who caught us, but I would have missed Ben more. I coulda went back after Daddy was dead, I couldn’t go back to my Ben after they’d’ve shot him.
First thing that horrified me was the lies. Daddy lied about everything, how the slaves were better off as slaves, how they became uncivilized and violent. Negroes are just like everybody else, just… didn’t get a fair shake.
Reported Daddy, that was hard, I knew that would destroy the farm, but he shouldn’t own people. I shouldn’t have owned people. I love someone I owned and I didn’t do anything about for so long.
God, how many stupid white folk I’ve met over the past two years.
I wanted Daddy to go jail, I wanted Momma and Lucy to keep the house, to pay the poor negroes who stayed, or to find something else. I don’t know if they did, I just know that Daddy came after us after they tried to jail him. His friends got him out of it, and had us painted outlaws, or more so Ben.
He told the sheriff that Ben raped me, that he kidnapped me and was stealing me out west. Load of horseshit that was but nobody cared. We had lawmen after us, and the horses got us out west, Texas first, then north, and more north after that. Eventually, they put bounties on us, and I taught Ben how to shoot.
I liked shooting, always did, but shooting rabbits when I wasn’t supposed to isn’t the same as a person.
I remember the first time, my first kill when we were out on the plains, not the Great Plains, just some flat land. I was in the tent, I was content, wiggle your eyebrows content, and I heard the cock of a gun. I had a revolver then, gave the rifle to Ben, easier to learn, at least to me.
I opened my eyes and my revolver was in front of me, so it wasn’t him with mine.
Then I heard the bounty hunter. “Ya look just like that negro from Georgia, ya think so, Jim?”
“I do, his face look just like ‘em,” Jim said.
I heard this all before, this same old spiel, the taunts and the games. They always wanted to taunt Ben first, I hated that… but at the same time…
If they didn’t like taunting him they would have shot him before I could do anything.
I grabbed my revolver and scooted towards the opening of the tent. I opened the tent with it, and saw two would-be bounty hunters if I ever saw it.
The trench coats, the hats, the stirrups and boots. They were men I heard stories about when we first got here. These were men who would put a bullet between my eyes with their own eyes closed.
“Where’s the girlie ya kidnapped?”
“Kidnapped?” Ben asked. At that point we didn’t realize exactly what Daddy told people about Ben, we just ran after we heard them coming.
“Yeah, the poor girl you took and had your dirty way with,” the first one threatens. I didn’t think this then, but now I laugh about it. I like it when he has his dirty way.
The bounty hunter pointed his rifle closer as the other one holsters his. He was going to look for me, and went straight to the tent. He didn’t pay attention, no he didn’t.
He opened it and found my gun in pointing in his face.
“Nice and slow, fucker.”
I thought I sounded really cool, but really, I was terrified. I’ve killed more people since then, comes with the territory, but at that point I was just a girl looking to lay down somewhere my own. I knew I looked the part though, because I watched the color drain from that hunter’s eyes.
I pressured him backwards as I stepped out of the tent, and felt the wind against my legs. He looked me up in down in Ben’s shirt, and he called to his partner, “I don’t think we got a raper, Jim.”
Jim was looking at me with a gun to his partner’s head, with the gun clearly shaking in my hands. Jim didn’t seem very smart with his stupid mustache, but he had a nice trench coat though. He wore a girl color, yellow, my color.
He talked a lot too and thought this was all funny when his partner didn’t. “Heh, heh, it seems like she likes that negro -UFF!”
Ben tackled him when he wasn’t looking and knocked the gun from his hand. The two started fighting and struggling, and they left me and the one.
Oh Christ, they left me and him.
I wish I had been with the talker, it would have been easier to shoot him in the face. Heard enough stupid men talking shit out their ass to last me a lifetime. Apparently, they didn’t like that I’d rather fuck a nigger than their flabby little white dicks.
This man in front of me, he wasn’t dirty, he wasn’t stupid, and he stayed calm with a gun to his forehead. Those men are the scariest, those men have nothing to lose, they don’t care about nothing, or at least they’re best at lying about it.
“Coulda left us alone,” I grumbled, tried to hold in the tremor in my throat.
“It was just a bounty, couldn’t care less about why there was a bounty,” he answered me. His eyes were on mine, locked, I couldn’t look away because he wouldn’t.
“It’s not just a bounty to me.”
“I’m sure,” he admitted, and then he admitted further, “and I don’t care.”
I felt myself grinding my teeth at that, I mean how stupid did you have to be to say something like that to a woman with a gun to your head? I heard Ben cry out, and my eyes turned to see Jim punch my Ben in the face, his nice face.
Then I saw my man twitch and I jabbed the barrel against his forehead. “‘I don’t care’ is a funny thing to say to the person with the gun to your head.”
“It would be if you were going to shoot me,” he answered. He didn’t stay still, he bent his head down, and let his black hat touch the tip of the revolver’s barrel. “If you were going to shoot me, you would have did it when your negro boy toy tackled the idiot. Now it’s all about making sure you don’t pull the trigger by accident.”
At the moment, I had no idea what he was talking about it. Then he grabbed the revolver by the barrel, and moved it to the side, right before cracking me across the face.
I went to the ground and I saw his hand go for his holster. I don’t know how I worked that fast, but I panicked and I jumped for it. It was fight or flight instinct, nothing else. Grabbed his wrist and his knee met my chin.
I hit the back of my head on the hard ground and nearly blacked out, but I saw him standing over me with the revolver, I thought that was it, really it, and Ben called my name.
The real bounty hunter turned his head for a moment, and that’s all I needed.
I tripped him up and he fell into the campfire from earlier. The stones were still hot, and he screamed as it burned.
I sat up to see Ben racing for us, his face bloody, his chest covered in red, and then I saw Jim behind him, getting his gun off the ground. I saw the gun closer to me, mine, the one I dropped.
It was instinct. I picked it up and shot it.
I blew Jim’s head off.
I killed him. I killed a man.
I ended his life, I ended everything he was, and everything he coulda ever been. I didn’t know him, maybe he was having an off day, maybe he could have learned to be a better man, maybe he was to be the father of a better man, but he couldn’t be after he met me.
I killed him. I might have shot myself then and there if I knew that I’d kill many more.
Ben was in shock, having seen me kill someone. I almost dropped the gun, my hands were shaking so bad. The other man, the scary one, the one who’s name I’ll never know…
He pushed himself up with this righteous fury in his eyes, and I knew he wasn’t a man I wanted to kill. He was a man wronged and I was the woman who wronged him. It was like he truly thought he didn’t deserve it, like he shouldn’t be putting up with this shit.
But when his hand went for the gun he dropped, I shot him.
I only got him in the stomach. It wasn’t as bloody or as explosive as shooting Jim’s head. It slipped into his stomach, and made a little hole. He wasn’t dead.
I shot him again.
And again, and again, until the gun was empty.
Pow. POW. POW!
That was my second kill, and it still frightens me how much easier it was than the first.
I don’t remember much after that, I remember my Ben holding me, lying to me that it was going to be okay. That we’ll find a place away from all this and forget about it, live our lives, but that’s not how it works.
We killed two people, I killed two people. Yes, self defense is legal, but not when you’re a wanted criminal and the people you killed were looking to bring you in. The only thing worse would have been shooting the sheriff and his deputy.
We were outlaws then, we didn’t know it yet but we were. Ben could have run away, he didn’t kill nobody, but he loved me, and he stayed.
We changed, put on our clothes, packed up our tent, and I took the scary one’s hat. I thought Jim was my color, I was wrong. I took the scary one’s gambler hat, it was black. Ben got his brown one later.
From then on, the bounty only raised the more bounty hunters I killed, and then eventually who Ben killed too. It just kept getting higher. After two years lawmen from three different states were looking for us.
I don’t even know where we are now, just that we’re trotting through a forest in the Midwest, and that the law and bounty hunters had caught up to us again. Only this time, some bitch in a red duster and a red hat was faster on the draw. Put a bullet right through my yellow shirt, snapped the black suspender, and got a bullet herself in return.
Now I stumble through the forest as Ben struggles to pull me along. All I can think about now after all the reminiscing, is how it isn’t fair. It started because I liked this negro, loved him, and it’s ending because people wanted to kill him for it.
I guess it is ironic that I’m dying first.
I tell him again, even though I know this good man won’t do it, to leave me. “Ben, I shot that woman, they know who I am, they don’t know it’s you yet.”
He hushes me with a finger to my lips. “I ain’t leaving those blonde locks,” he tells me, his funny way of saying he won’t leave me behind. He’s said it once or twice before.
I just tighten my hand on his shoulder.
We keep running, running through the forest, and we see a cabin, broken down. No one living in it. Ben tells me, “We have a bit of lead, we can stitch you up in there.”
I know this is a bad idea, to give up the lead we have. “Goddamnit, Ben, we don’t have anything to stitch me up with. Please,” I start begging, “just leave me.”
He ignores me, he keeps walking and pulls me along, my black hat still on my head. He walks up to the old cabin, nothing special about it outside of the fact that it’s convenient to what he wants and not me.
Goddamnit, fucking almighty why won’t he go? I can’t go to hell knowing I brought him with me. I can’t die knowing he was never free. Never free from Daddy, and now he’s not free because of me. He’s always been hunted and looking over his shoulder because of a stupid girl named Abigail.
I grab the column, and he gets pulled back by me. “Abby, let’s go,” he tells me.
“No, no you go, Ben, now,” I tell him. I’d yell but the pain is settling in.
Nothing worse than a gutshot they say, and they weren’t lying. I’ve been shot before in the shoulder. It went through me, left a hole. I’d rather have a hole in me than feel my guts move, shift, and tear around a bullet.
“We’re not doing this,” he yells at me when I don’t have the strength to yell back. He turns around and kicks the door open. I don’t think he checked if it was locked.
I’m not strong enough to fight him, he grabs me and pulls me in. He lays me down right next to the door, under the window so he look out and hold the door shut.
I can hear them coming, and he does too. He uses the incoming sun to shine over him. He knows that they’re running into the sun so he dips his head right near the window to look.
“How many are there?” I ask him, as I lay down on my side only to push myself up again.
“I count three,” he tells me, “I think they’re the same guys from the bar, with the woman you shot, probably want revenge.”
“Who’d want to avenge that bitch,” I snort, causing myself more pain.
“Abby,” he warns me.
“With that tacky coat and hat.” I go on as the pain goes on.
“Seriously, who the fuck did that cunt think she was talking shit about my yellow-”
“Abby,” he snaps, “the more you talk, the more pain you’re in, I can see it.”
I look up at him, wondering what his problem is. “So?”
“I,” he stutters, “I… don’t like watching you suffer.”
This is the man I’m dying for, the man I love. He cares too much, he should have left me when he had the chance. He may still have a chance, but I don’t. Gut shot means you’re a goner. The fact that I ain’t screaming in pain just means that death is numbing it. I shouldn’t make it through the night.
Hell, who knows if I’ll make it through the hour.
“Kiss me, you fucking dummy,” I tell him.
He smirks. I offer him my hand to pull me too him, and he takes it.
He leans in front of the window, and pulls me up. With the light, shining on his beautiful, sweaty face, he brings his hand to mine. He lifts me up so I can get what may be our last one.
The blood sprays over my face.
“AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! NOOO!!!!! NOO!!!!! NO!!!!! NOOOOO!!!!!”
Who’s that screaming?
I’m screaming as he falls on top of me. I’m screaming as he’s bleeding on top of me. I’m screaming because I’m never going to get that kiss.
I’m screaming, and I’m screaming, and I’m screaming.
That was it, that was all that’s left.
I roll over, push him onto his back, put my hands to his shoulders and shake him. The bullet went right through his temple, destroyed everything. Ben died quick.
There’s nothing left.
People say sometimes that they don’t notice when they’re crying, but they’re fucking morons. I feel it, I hear it, I scream it as the tears flow. The only thing in my life is dead, nothing lives on after that. I’m dead, I died with him then.
I hear the footsteps trotting up and I grab my revolver. Someone else is going to die too.
The door opens and the first person who walks through I blow away.
POW! POW! POW! POW! POW! POW!
All six bullets into that same bitch in the red coat. I thought I killed her before, but I sure did now. She hits the door, knocks her hat off her head and slumps to the ground. She falls and she’s dead, and now I have nothing left to fight with.
This old man with his wrinkly pink skin and pure white mustache rushes in. He looks in and turns back to say, “Stop.” He tells whoever is outside, “Don’t come in.”
I hear a boy say, “Okay.”
This old man, this old rotting son of a bitch, looks at me with a smirk on his face. Even through his thick white mustache I can see it. “You’re gonna wish it was me who walked in first, then your shots would have counted.” His smile looks so dopy, with the hat and mustache, I wish I had the strength to get that rifle off Ben’s back.
I don’t even think about the insanity of what he just said, not when the juices are flowing.
That’s when I notice that certain juices aren’t flowing.
I look over at the red coated bitch I shot, and see no blood pooling onto the floor.
I see her face now. It’s pretty, and so its been wasted. Maybe a native, maybe black, maybe both, I can’t tell and I don’t care. I just care about the way her lips twitch, and they smile.
I care about the way the bullets fall out of her chest, and I count seven holes instead of six in her chest. I did shoot her before
I’m horrified by how she rolls her neck, grunts, and holds her hand out for the old man to lift her up. She bends down to pick up her red hat as if she was never shot in the first place. I look up and I see this snide grin, and it pisses me off.
She walks over to me, and I stand up to my feet. As soon as I’m on my feet a revolver is pointed at my head, and I don’t flinch. Death stares me in the face, and I have nothing to lose, I have nothing left. I’m who I killed.
“Any last words?”
“Are you the devil?” I ask her.
She smirks. “No, but I use to write him letters.” She thinks its a joke, my death is a joke as I stand up, bleeding out, and she’s not. She gets to keep on living.
She’s what could have been, looking at her, she’s what any future with Ben could have looked like. It’s like my dreams are outliving me, and get to shoot me in the face.
“Huh?” she asks as she cocks the hammer.
“How much was the bounty?”
“$500 each, dead or alive,” the old man answers.
Huh, only $500 for white girl and her runaway negro. Over a dozen people died for $1000.
“I hope you choke on it.”
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