by Jake Christie

a story.

The machinery in the tall wooden tower turned and clanked and wound and tensed. It wheezed and squealed until it seemed inevitable that it would break, then released and struck the clock bell with a resounding clang. Ravens roosting in the eaves took flight, content to return when the noise had abated. The bell clanged again and again even the bravest ravens had fled.

Far below the tower a creature who was far more brave stood on the sandy thoroughfare in the middle of town. The clock did not bother him, nor did the birds. As the wind pulled at his duster coat and played on the edge of his hat, spun the spurs on his boots and shook the gun in his holster, he stood perfectly still, and it seemed for a moment that there was not a thing in the world that could move him, let alone give him any bother at all.

At the still man's side, a smaller man with enough bother to meet the demands of an entire frontier town shifted from one foot to another. He looked up and down the deserted street, cinched his coat shut, peered at the clock tower, pulled out his pocket watch, put his pocket watch back, loosened his coat, and spat.

“He said noon, right?” he asked the taller man.

The tall man nodded. He stared straight ahead.

“That's what I thought,” said the short man. “High noon, actually. That's what he said. 'High noon at the center of town.' Well, we're here! If he can't be bothered to show up, maybe we shouldn't be bothered to stay. Maybe we should just leave.”

The short man kicked the dust off of his boots and made ready to leave. The tall man did not move. He stood as still as the clock tower, his gears making their own inexorable turns, and stared straight ahead.

“Fine,” said the short man, and stood as still as he could manage, which wasn't very still at all. “Whatever you say.”

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