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We’re up on a little rise over the gulch and the man hasn’t seen us yet which means that this is no place for him to be because he should have noticed us by now, it means that this is not a natural place for him to be. He does not understand the desert and he is away from his home.
“I don’t like it,” I tell Joseph.
“Me neither. But what do you think of it?”
“Well, he’s not going to shoot at us, if that’s what you mean, unless we scare him.”
“Well who’s going to scare who? He’s the one got a fucking bag over his head.”
“I guess he’s got something to hide.”
I watch him move from the fire on over to his horse. His horse starts and hooves at the ground.
“His horse knows we’re here and he doesn’t know and he doesn’t even know that his horse knows. So the only danger he represents to us is that he’s a stupid enough son of a bitch that he might pull a gun on a stranger without measuring the cost to himself…” This is what I tell Joseph.
“But then you could just shoot him.”
“Just because I shoot people doesn’t mean I just shoot people Joseph.”
“That does not make any sense Billy.”
“You head out on the trail with a cook you gonna make him cook every meal for you?”
“Why not? We’d eat better than if I did it myself.”
“Well maybe he don’t want to cook.”
“What’s he a cook for then?”
“Don’t be deliberate. Maybe he wants a rest.”
“What’s he all tired out for?”
“From all the cookin’.”
“Cookin’ ain’t such hard work when you know how.”
“Neither is killin’ unless you have to do it every day.”
“But I’m payin’ this bastard ain’t I, to cook? You said so yourself.”
“Goddamit Joseph you are deliberately messing up the comparison I am trying to make here. I am talking about shooting men. I am sayin’ that I have lost the taste for it entire.”
“I thought you were talking about cooking.”
“Fuck cooking. I’m tired of shooting, that is what I am saying.”
“But you’ll do it though… if he does?’
“Think he will?”
“What are you planning to do, sell tickets for it? No. I do not think that he will.”
“Why not?”
“Because I think that he will go to his grave from age with the both of us still crouched up here talking about cooking and shooting, and because I think he’s got a bag over his head and that signifies to me he’s got bigger problems than just being worried about what we might do, also that he probably can’t see for shit and will probably hit you instead of me.”
“I’ll hang back a bit then.”
“I used to be a force to be reckoned with in these parts.”
“You still are.”
“No I ain’t neither. I ain’t even a force to be reckoned with in this gulch.”
“Why do you suppose he wears that big fur coat?”
“Why don’t you go on down and ask him?”
“I ain’t that curious.”
“You worried about a fur coat and he’s got a big burlap bag over his head. And you ain’t curious about that at all?”
“A bit.”
“Well let me know what he says about it.”
“Fuck you Joseph.”
“Or maybe we should just send your imaginary cook down there to ask him.”
“Just fuck you.”

(from I am Billy the Kid, Anvil Press, 2022)

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