Saturday, December 16, 2006

Duke Dookums, Frontier Hero; Part II

(Missed Part I? Click here.)

Duke strode manfully up the steps of the saloon and knocked open the swinging doors with a single movement of his broad shoulders. As soon as he entered, the entire room quieted and every head turned toward him. The piano player, who had been engaged in a highly energetic version of “Do Your Ears Hang Low,” leaped from the piano stool and began cowering behind the instrument.

Ignoring the many pairs of eyes locked on his every move, Duke walked to the bar and leaned against it with an attitude of supreme indifference.

“Can I get you a drink, sir?” The bartender picked up a glass from the shelf and held it expectantly with shaking hands.

“I’ve had a hard day,” Duke said. “I’ll need something to wash the dust of the trail from my parched throat.”

“Well, we have some mighty fine whiskey that should do the trick.”

“Nah,” Duke said. “That’s not powerful enough for a Frontier Hero like me. I need something to soften the ragged edges of my palate and soothe my nerves. Hey, that would make a great opening line for a poem. Hold on just a minute.” He fished in his pockets for a notepad and pencil. “I’d better write that down before I forget.” He began writing, his brow furrowed in concentration as he made the notation.

Just as he was finishing, a large man wearing dirty jeans and a bright, checkered vest rose from a chair on the far side of the room. Due to his highly-trained Frontier Hero senses, Duke sensed the movement and looked up to see the man walking toward him. He put away the paper and pencil, and then pushed himself away from the bar.

The other man stopped a few feet away and looked at Duke with disdain. “You write poetry?” Not taking his eyes off Duke, he sent a stream of dark liquid toward a spittoon at the end of the bar, making a direct hit.

Duke smiled confidently. “Why, yes. Are you an arts lover, as well? Perhaps you’d be interested in a few verses of my latest creation. I call it ‘Dewdrop.’”

The man paled and backed away a step, an expression of horror on his lean, unshaven face. “No, I don’t wanna hear it! What are you, anyway, some kind of sissy?”

“That, my fine felonious friend, would depend on how many kinds of sissies exist in the world. I know of only one, so I’d have to take exception to your implication. You, on the other hand, exhibit certain signs of weakness. Take your vest, for example.”

“But it’s already mine,” the other man said, thoroughly confused.

Duke sighed. “My point exactly. Notice the pattern and the color scheme…”

“Are you makin’ fun of my vest?”

“I would never mock another man’s choice of wardrobe, except to say he should take care not to become hypocritical in his judgments of others.”

The swinging doors opened suddenly and the old man from the porch stood in the opening, the golden light from the saloon bathing his thin features in…well, golden light.

“He done called you a sissy and a hypocrite,” the old man said, eyes wild with anticipation. “Are ya’ gonna make ‘im draw, Wayward Phil?”

Wayward Phil fixed Duke with a discerning eye for a few minutes. Appearing at last to come to a decision, he grunted and put the eye back into his pocket. “Yeah,” he said. “I think I will.” Phil’s hands hovered over his holsters and he spread his legs a bit to obtain maximum balance. “Prepare to draw, stranger.”

Duke sighed, as if drawing on his last reserves of patience and assumed a stance similar to that of his foe. “I hate to do this, Phil, my man. I take no pleasure in humiliating my foes in public.” Then he snorted with laughter. “Who am I kidding? Of course, I do! Come on, Wayward Phil, if that’s really your name. Let’s do it!”

Wayward seemed a bit taken aback by Duke’s willingness to challenge him to a duel, but he knew backing down now would finish him in this town. He pointed to the old man, who was still standing in the doorway. “Give the count, Old Man.” Turning to Duke, he said, “At the count of three, we’ll draw. And may the best man win.”

“In that case, there’s really no need to proceed,” Duke said. “After all, we both know what the ultimate outcome will be.”

“You’re not gonna talk your way outta this one, stranger.”

“As you will,” Duke said, and shifted his broad shoulders as if to loosen up for the task ahead. “By the way, you don’t mind if I set these aside, do you? They can get a bit cumbersome.” He deflated the broad shoulders, folded them with care, and placed them gently on the bar. “Don’t spill anything on them,” he told the bartender. “The warranty just expired and I don’t have the cash to buy a new set.” Turning back to Phil, he took up his previous stance and the Old Man began counting.

“One…two…two an’ a half…two an’ three-quarters…two an’ seven-eighths…”

“Come on!” said Duke and Phil simultaneously.

The Old Man leaped into the air and clicked his heels, while throwing his arms into the air. “Three!”

The ensuing action was so fast it seemed to be in slow motion, although how that is possible is anyone’s guess. Both men made a mad grab for their holsters and whipped out pencil and paper.

At first it seemed Duke would make quick work of his foe, as his depiction of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel began to take shape on the paper before the stunned eyes of the onlookers. But then, just as he was completing a particularly angelic-looking cherub, the lead in his pencil snapped and he was forced to pause while he sharpened the tip.

Although built into the side of his holster, the use of the sharpener nevertheless cost him precious moments and by the time he was able to return to his masterpiece, Wayward Phil was well on his way toward putting the final touches on a fairly stunning portrayal of the Grand Canyon.

Several tense moments passed while Duke struggled to overtake his opponent, and the crowd, which had gathered in closer to the combatants until they were completely encircled, held their collective breaths.

“Finito!” exclaimed Duke, and held up the drawing for his still-frantically scribbling opponent to see. A huge sigh filled the room and several people collapsed onto the sawdust floor from the stress of the action and a lack of oxygen. The sigh fled in panic.

Wayward Phil stared at the picture in disbelief and then down at his own drawing. “Dang it! I just had a tad more shading to do!” He stamped his booted foot on the floor in anger and stared at Duke with eyes full of hatred. “Nobody’s ever made a fool out of me before, stranger.”

“Ah!” Duke said, raising one finger, as if preparing to impart a few gems of wisdom. “But you’ve never before encountered Duke Dookums, Frontier Hero!”

The bartender stared at Duke with the usual awe. “You’re Duke Dookums?”

“That I am,” Duke said, hugging himself. He reached over, retrieved the shoulders from the bar, and quickly inflated them.

“Have a drink on the house,” the bartender said. “It’d be a pleasure to serve a man of your reputation and stature. What’ll you have? Whiskey?”

“No,” Duke said. “As I said, that’s not powerful enough for a Frontier Hero like me. I need something to soften the ragged edges of my palate and soothe my nerves. Hey, that would make a great opening line for a poem…wait, I think we’ve already been through this. Just give me a sarsaparilla.”


Paul FooDaddy Brand said...

I like the recurring hugging of himself every time Duke says "that I am". It makes him seem so...tough? No. Dangerous? Nah. Umm...

Confident! Yeah. Confident and well-adjusted with a healthy sense of self-worth.

Definitely a Frontier Hero if'n thar ever wure one.

Anonymous said...

this story was not too bad morally, except the scene set in a bar. that was unnessecary.

Paul FooDaddy Brand said...

Okay. Now we know you're just fooling around, Anonymous. This is kinda fun! Betcha this is someone we know. But who?

Anonymous said...

i do not 'fool around' with matters of righteous living. and after reading this story again, i was apalled to find even more issues. first of all, there are several times when whiskey is mentioned. secondly the character of Duke makes mention of another man's dressing habits, inferring that that man is a member of the homosexual comunity. thirdly this part 'Phil’s hands hovered over his holsters and he spread his legs a bit to obtain maximum balance' gives a hint of sexuality to a otherwise fairly innocent story. fourthly the characters of the story always refer to the elderly gentlman as 'old man.' this shows a disrespect for the elderly among us and does not present a good example to younger people who might see this web-site. Fifthly Duke takes off the broad shoulders. at first I thought this was funny until i realized he would also have to remove his shirt as well to do this. sixthly the story mentions Duke drawing a cherub. everybody knows cherubs are naked. this is not the image you should be giving readers. that is all for now but i will be keeping an eye on this website. it has potentiel as long as it does not become too worldly.

Jack W. Regan said...

Anon, if I may say so without sounding too disrespectful (just in case you're elderly), you're a NUT! But, please, stick around. I'm really enjoying this. Oh, and I think you mean "imply," not "infer." And use a spell-checker. And capitalize each word that starts a sentence. And use a little in-sentence punctuation. And keep writing us!

Paul FooDaddy Brand said...

"Everybody knows cherubs are naked." That's hilarious! I'd have that printed on a T-shirt or bumper sticker.