“Gee,” Jesse noted, squinting painfully into the sunset’s incessantly brilliant rays. “S’awfully bright.”
“Yea,” agreed his partner, Jessie, bouncing steadily on her trusty Appaloosa while her white-gloved hand attempted in vain to shield her watering eyes. “Sure is. Stings like an angry yellow jacket, it does.”
Silence. Awkward, uncomfortable riding. The shifting wind swept clay-red desert dust into miniature cyclones—dirt devils blowing coarse sand into the faces of the galloping duo. Jesse lashed his hand up quickly to catch his weathered Stetson as an Arizona gust tried to snatch it away. And still the fiery skyline beat its angry glare.
Jesse cleared his throat with nervous hesitation, quietly shooting sideways glances at Jessie. “So…”
“What?” Jessie replied without expression.
“We uh, we gonna keep ridin’?” asked the man wearing skull-emblazoned spurs and five o’clock shadow that appeared just after breakfast.
“Why wouldn’t we? Town’s not a mile behind us.”
“It’s just,” complained the man who not three hours ago had survived a quick-draw with half a dozen black-clad bandits, “I mean it’s terrible bright Jessie. S’hurtin’ my eyes.”
“You’re the one who suggested we head west.”
“Yeah but, I mean, I guess I wasn’t thinkin’ ‘bout the sunset ‘n’ all.”
“Jesse, we can’t stop. Even without trouble, next oasis is a full two days’ ride.”
“Well sure, but,” he fretfully winced as he was forced to peek forward to gather his bearings, the sunset no less stunning. Jessie stared at him with cold, stony eyes.
“Maybe,” he shrugged, “we could go back to town ‘til mornin’?”
“Back to town?” Jessie asked loudly with practical affront. “Back to town? The town where you just shot seven people?”
“Six!” he snapped to justify. “And they was gon’ steal that lady’s diamond necklace!”
“Seven, and you tore up half the town in that gunfight. And the diamonds weren’t even real.”
“Well, ok, if you count the mayor it’s seven—but he’s gonna live!”
“Jesse. You shot the mayor.”
“In the ass.”
“Well he shouldn’ta been standin’ there, should he ’ave!? Jessie, I can’t keep ridin’ into this sunset, I’s got sensitive corneas.”
Jessie slowed her mount—sigh-groaning in exaggerated exasperation—and begrudgingly turned her horse back eastward toward town. Jesse followed suit with thankful apology.
“Thank you Jessie,” he said with childish gratitude. His partner plowed ahead, whispering to herself.
“Killed a bear at eight, they said. I swear, if riding with you ain’t the dumbest thing…”
Though she did have to admit, it was better this direction.
Have a story you want to share? Let us share it with our audience: Share Your Story