Standoff (Flash Fiction)

They both leapt to their feet in a mirror image of reaction. Their wooden chairs fell back behind them, and they drew their pistols.

“Put it down,” Bob shouted. “I ain’t yella! I’ll shoot ya dead now and here!”

Brian scowled. His cheeks were swollen with tobacco and spit. “You think you ain’t yella? I’m more ain’t yella!” Brian’s eyes narrowed behind his bushy eyebrows. “I’m so not yella that I’m thinking of killing you just for the fun of it. I ain’t even in need of principle.”

“Now, gentlemen, let’s not have any sort of unpleasantness,” said the dealer.

“Shut that trap,” Bob said. He tightened his fist on the pistol. “This here snake in the grass thinks I’ve been cheatin’ and intends to lack the decency to say so in public.” Bob shook his bald head. A few white strands drifted from behind his ears. “I don’t take kindly to people besmearing my good name.”

Brian launched a juicy spit to the floor. He laughed. “Yeah, that figures, you dirty hen.” He nodded his head at the card dealer. “This old man’s so yella he’ll only say bad things about you behind yer back!”

“Now you just hold your tongue, devil!” Bob waved his gun around in the air. “I ain’t yella just because I got a streak of kindness in me.” He began to work his way around the table to the back door. “Every good fellow knows that the secret to good eavesdropping is not getting caught. Just because I’m careful with my words don’t make me yella.”

Brian hunched down low and pulled his pistol up to his face like he were aiming a rifle. “I outta blast you outta your boots.”

“You ain’t got the guts,” Bob said. He pushed against the back door with his butt. The door didn’t budge. “I’ve seen grapes with more nerve than you.”

Brian’s face twisted into a grimace. He bumped into his own chair while walking backwards to the front of the saloon. “I shit pieces of corn bigger than you!”

From then on, the conversation devolved into the snarling yells of two old men trying to find a way out. They would play cards again, together, like they always had, the same time next week.

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