The Moon-Eyed Stud
by Justin Stanchfield
John Garret had never met the horse he couldn't break.
Until the last one.
The staircase creaked so loudly it sounded like someone dogged his footsteps. He
crossed the Antler's lobby then stopped to button his long black coat. They had
buried him in his suit, the white shirt with the scratchy collar and the long brown
pants. But, they hadn't nailed him in the box with his new boots, just the floppy
old pair he wore the day he died. Some might call it a tribute, a way to let the
devil know he'd died with his spurs on. More likely somebody at the K-Bar
decided it was a waste to plant a man with a pair of fifty dollar boots on his heels.
He reached for the door.
"Ever think Hell would be like this?"
Garret tried to ignore the voice from the other side of the room, but Shorty
O'Dowd wasn't having it. He stepped out from behind the hardwood bar with the
fancy brass rail and shuffled across the floor. "I was expecting a lot worse. How
about you, John? What did you expect Hell to be like?"
"Never gave it much thought one way or the other." Morning sunlight slanted
through the windows, and for just a moment even the Antler seemed cheerful and
warm. He stood in the sunbeam and rolled his left shoulder to work the stiffness
from it. Seemed the longer he stayed here, the harder it got to rouse out.
"You want breakfast?" Shorty asked.
"Don't see much sense in it."
"Reckon you're right. Ain't like a man gets hungry down here, is it?"
"Nope." Garret knew damn well it wasn't breakfast Shorty wanted. Soon as he
left, O'Dowd would pull out his bottle, the one that never seemed to run dry, and
try to get stinking drunk. He might as well throw down shots of horse piss.
Whiskey, like food, was something a body could do without once they shoveled
dirt over you. He buttoned the last hole on his coat and stepped outside.