Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

The Sheik

by Ken Rodgers

The Duke dominated the ball room. He glad-handed the ranchers and breeders, wore his smile and his big Stetson.

Bucko said, "Let's go talk to him."

I hesitated. It was like a greeting line at some political function instead of a party before a bull sale.

Bucko said, "Good evening, Duke."

"Evening, Bucko."

The Duke put out his hand. As he pumped my arm, I noticed a hog leg pistol stuck down the front of his trousers. I shot a glance at Bucko. He saw the pistol, too and grinned.

Bucko said, "Who the hell you going to shoot, Duke?"

"See that fellow over there? The one dressed like a sheik? If he tries anything, I'll blow his ass away."

I smelled liquor on his breath and cigar smoke, too. I looked at the sheik. He had a long scimitar slipped under a wide white belt. His blond hair and blue eyes looked lost in the middle eastern garb he wore. I had noticed him hanging around the barns and corrals snapping pictures of the bulls.

Bucko asked, "You know him, Duke?"

"Why hell yes. Known him all his life."

A fine looking woman stood next to the sheik. She had long black hair, a face like expensive porcelain. She didn't smile.

The Duke continued, "His parents have been my neighbors for years. Fine people. A few years ago he got messed up on LSD. Took that long knife and tried to gut himself. Got a scar from his right collar bone to his left hip."

We stared at the sheik and his woman. I noticed he was carrying a fancy black camera with a wide lens.

Bucko said, "Hell of a woman he has with him."

The Duke squinted his left eye, "He's got lots of those."

The woman glanced at us. Her eyes caught mine. I smiled. She didn't seem to notice. The sheik shot a sneer at the Duke.

The Duke said, "He threatened me a few years back. Came over to my house and waved that knife around. Said he was going to kill me."

The woman stared at the Duke, eyes like pieces of garnet.

"Ever since then, I keep my hog leg forty-four close by." He tapped the handle of his pistol. "I can split the bull's eye at fifty yards."

The wooden handle looked like shimmering waves churned by cold wind. The Duke's hand smothered it. The cylinder was blued and glinted oily clean.

Suddenly a flash lit the ballroom. I flinched. The long haired woman held the camera just below her chin. She smiled. I looked at the Duke. He was on one knee, pistol aimed in the direction of the sheik, finger on the trigger.

Ken Rodgers' essays have appeared in Tiny Lights. Trench Dining, his collection of poetry, is available from Running Wolf Press. He writes what he remembers.

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