I reckoned wrong.

I wasn't dead, just wished I was.

'You still alive?' It was Sled Driver.

'I think so,' I said. 'What about Albert?'

'I don't know,' Sled Driver said. 'He didn't get hit in the head this time.'

He dropped me back in the mud. A moment later he was back.

'Sucker's still alive,' he said. 'Toughest damn nigger I ever seen. And you ain't so bad yourself boy.'

Things got sort of hazy after that, but what pretty much happened was Sled Driver got us out of the rain and someone did some doctoring on us, and neither of us went belly up.

And the crowd didn't hold no grudge. Them vultures had them a new hero to suck after.


Didn't make no never mind that I hadn't killed Billy Bob or Blue Hat, it was enough I'd outdrawn them-or that's the way Sled Driver told it. He'd been lying on his belly across the way and said he'd seen it all. I reckon he had his face down in the mud most of the time hiding from hot lead, but what the hell, he wanted to tell it that way, that was okay with me. Mud Creek liked its heroes, and right then I was just glad to be in out of the rain and patched up.

Riley was even friendly. He came over next day and had me carried outside in a wicker chair and put up against the wall. They took my picture with that Mex's pistol, which I'd never used, then they took pictures of what was left of Billy Bob and Rot Toe, and the best looking of the group cause he wasn't burned up, Blue Hat. They even dragged old Jack over for a picture, then they took him out of there quick, as he wasn't smelling any better than before. Worse maybe. You see, that storm had gone on its way about the time Billy Bob died, and it had turned off sunny and hot. And the next day, the day they took the pictures, it was even sunnier and hotter. It was darn near turning the mud to powder, and it was heating up Jack something awful. Well, you know what I mean.

Some might say that it turning off clear that quick wasn't nothing more than East Texas weather, but I'd say that curse played its self out after it got what it came for. Billy Bob.

Wasn't a whole lot of praise given Albert, as you might figure. They didn't even let him stay where I was staying, as it was for white folks, But they treated him good, and Albert said later that where he was didn't have near as many rats as you'd expect.

Riley even went over and seen how he was doing and told him to get well soon. He didn't go as far as to ask him to have a drink with him or invite him to hang around the saloon when he was well, though. Riley had to cling to some standards, even if I was the hero of the hour and Albert, as Riley said, 'belonged' to me.

Isn't much more to tell. I just lived out the lie for about a week until I was over the pneumonia-which was why I'd had such a fever-and my wounds had healed a mite. When I could get around on a cane, I talked some townsfolk into going out to the garbage dump and bringing back the bodies of Rot Toe and Skinny. When Skinny started stinking the Magic Wagon up, and finally the town, they had had all they wanted of him and hauled him off to join the garbage.

Billy Bob and Hickok-minus his head-they bothered to bury in the clearing where we'd had our show that day.

I don't know what they done with Homer, Blue Hat, and Texas Jack, but I sort of figure on the garbage dump.

I paid a grave digger some bottles of Cure-All to put Skinny and Rot Toe down next to Billy Bob, and I gave him some more to dig Billy Bob up so I could put all his dime novels in there with him. I also put in a couple of Billy Bob's spare pistols, and I made sure the books about Hickok were set on what was left of his chest.

When Albert was healed up enough to travel, we got out of there, least another gunfighter come to town or Riley set me up against some fool with a pistol.


Me and Albert never did go back to Mud Creek, but once we were back in East Texas doing our show-doing it without a wrestling chimpanzee and a shooting act-we heard that one night the town caught fire and burned slap to the ground. That seemed fair.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. On the day Albert and me left Mud Creek, we stopped off at the graves as we went out. I made a cross out of those sideboards that had the Indian spirits in them, and I put it at the head of the mounds, dead center. On it I scratched deep with my pocketknife all their names, though I didn't know Skinny's real one, and wrote:


I don't know about you, but that seems about right to me.

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