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Monday, May 7, 2018

WEST OF THE WEST

THE SHOT RANG OUT

The Shot Rang Out: 52 Western Short Stories is a compilation of 500 word Western micro-shorts, each starting with the same 18 words: The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor. 

These 52 stories by 52 different writers scatter off in 52 fascinating, action-filled directions, no two alike...To give you a taste of the tales you'll find inside The Shot Rang Out here is my contribution, West of the West, which finds Annie Rose, a desperate young girl, forced to choose between two untested skills in order to survive...

WEST OF THE WEST
PAUL BISHOP

I was fourteen and a girl on the bloom that August of 1895. I had the cheapest room on the second floor of the Magnolia boarding house in El Paso. The rundown building was on the edge of Chihuahuita where Mexicans and darkies lived with the Chinese coolies from the railroad.

Except for whores and drunkards, no white folk lived at the Magnolia. I wasn’t a drunk, but if I didn’t do something I’d soon be a whore at the Gallows Saloon across the street. Through the flyspecked glass of my room’s crooked window, I could see the batwing doors of that fine establishment. They swung open and closed, letting in the rough men who might soon be getting me to open and close my legs.

Mother died of fever when I was ten. Daddy took to drinkin’ for a while, but he was a doin’ man who made a livin’ with his wits. When he stuffed down his grief, I stuffed mine down too. We was pretty companionable.

Daddy taught me to read and write when I was real young. I think he only did it so I could read the stories he churned out for them penny dreadfuls. They sold by the bushel to folks back East who don’t know how boring the West really is.

I asked him why he made up such nonsense. He said he wrote about a place West of the West. It was a place that paid us eatin’ money. I read all them stories. They were pretty exciting, full of shooting and manly heroes who always won.

With mother gone, Daddy took me on his trips to get more stories. We traveled in a mule drawn wagon. I drove. Daddy sat in back writin’. In every town, Daddy went to the Western Union office and telegramed the editor who published his made up West of the West tales. When notified back, Western Union gave Daddy the money he was owed. Daddy would then go to the post office and send off his new stories.

Daddy used to write on big paper pads, but then he bought a newfangled thing he called a Ford typewriter with tippy-tappy keys. I don’t know if he wrote better stories, but he did tap ‘em out faster in the back of our wagon.

Daddy got scratched by a rusty wagon nail when we got to El Paso. It turned  gangrene and he died. Now all standing between me and becoming a soiled dove was what Daddy left behind...his Ford typewriter, blank paper, two ink ribbons, and the address of his editor—who didn’t know Daddy was dead.

I was scared. I didn’t know if I could do it. I’m not talkin’ about being a whore. That scared me more. I decided I best get West of the West. I rolled paper into the typing machine and began to tap out the words to my first story—The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor.

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