THE HIGH NOON SHOWDOWN
ERIC J. KRAUSE
Orange County, California, U.S.A.
Blogging at: Eric's Writing Spot
Y'know, Dave? The guy I live with? The guy I'm gonna drag down the aisle in September? He's crazy for westerns. Crazy like a spotted bug.
The bookshelf is bulging with Louis L'amour - and those books are skinny, barely even actual books, more like novelettes that ate too many beans for supper. And I don't think there's a John Wayne or Clint McSquint movie that hasn't passed by his baby blues at least a hunnert times.
In case you didn't notice, I don't write much in the western department.
But because Dave loves me, he listens dutifully every Thursday night as I read him my fridayflash before sending it into the blogosphere. He smiles where it seems likely a smile might be required. He sheds tasteful jewelled tears whenever I hold up the "CRY" sign. And he gives hugs and praise no matter what piece of crap just coughed out of my lungs like an overheated hairball.
I highly recommend every writer have their own Dave in-residence.
However, I never sense real enthusiasm. Perhaps I should read my flash wearing nothing but chaps and a rakish grin. Perhaps that would work. Perhaps he'd run screaming out the front door.
Or perhaps I just need to write more like Eric J. Krause.
Eric's an American, eh.
Which is why he sent me a story for American Week. (Right now he's sitting in front of his computer wondering what the hell he was thinking. I know, Eric, I can tell.)
When I opened the e-mail I saw immediately that it was a western. Hey, I wasn't born yesterday. I know a few things.
So I ask Dave if he'd like to hear it. He starts to make a face, trying to figure out the right excuse because it's bad enough that he has to hear my stories without hearing other people's, especially some 35-year-old substitute teacher I've been corresponding with from California. But I'm pushy so he says OK and I start reading it out loud, waiting for him to say, 'Gee, Cath, your stories are WAY better than his…" but he doesn't.
Not only that, he starts smiling.
And he laughs.
And he's ENJOYING it.
"That was a really, really good story," he says when I'm done.
Not just one really. Two reallies. That's double the really.
I now have to see the chiropractor to get my nose put back in joint.
Well, all I can say is this: if my Dave loves a story, you know it's a good shoot-em-up story.
In an e-mail, Eric tells me he's "really thrilled a Western fanatic enjoyed it."
That's another really, but who's counting.
Eric himself is not a Western fanatic. He writes all kinds of stories. Anybody who reads his stuff on fridayflash every week will see he has many sides to him. His human interest story about helping his grandfather learn how to use a computer just absolutely broke my heart and made me laugh all at the same time. Last week's flash was a hugely successful sci-fi with a knock-it-out-of-the-park twist at the end. He calls what he does "speculative fiction" and his main interests are science fiction, horror and fantasy.
He is currently shopping out his first novel to literary agents. It's a young adult story that combines baseball and sci-fi. He's also hard at work on his second novel, a horror story for young adults.
He's a writing machine, in other words, something he feels compelled to do.
"As for why I write, I guess the only answer I can give is that I have to. There are too many stories crawling out of my brain that I have to write down. Believe me," he says, "I'd much rather just watch TV, surf the Internet and play video games (I'm a lazy, lazy man), but that's not an option.
"These stories need to come out – it hurts too much to hold them in and they usually end up oozing out my nose and ears, which is an unpleasant experience for everyone involved."
He says there isn't much of a story behind the writing of this story, The High Noon Showdown.
"It actually came to me via a writing prompt which read, 'It's noon and nothing is concluded.' My thoughts instantly jumped to two gunslingers staring each other down across a dusty old west street at high noon. But of course, I had to put a spin on it…"
He couldn't have picked a better topic for American Week.
Westerns have a decidedly American feel to them. Why is anyone's guess. Canada has a wild west, Canada had a gold rush but somehow the stories of that ilk are pale compared to American versions.
Eric says, "What embodies America more than the idea of shoot first, ask questions later gunslingers? They do what they want, when they want. That's the American dream right there. From what I understand though (mainly from watching the History Channel), there was very little of this going on in reality.
"Most old west towns, while maybe not being sleepy little burgs, weren't the all-out war zones Hollywood portrays them as. I believe, appropriately enough for our purposes, the dime-store novels were mostly responsible for starting the rootin'-tooting' wild west. Nothing like having people buy into the fiction and call it reality, right?"
Like most kids, and my Dave, a grown-up kid, Eric watched his fair share of Western movies.
"When I was younger I loved the movies Young Guns and Young Guns 2. Emilio Estevez and Kiefer Sutherland were … Hold on, there's a commotion coming from outside. Let me check it out. Eep! Torches and pitchforks! Um, as I was saying, John Wayne is the greatest western movie star ever. Please don't burn down my house."
See, I knew there was more violence in the States than in Canada. We have pitchforks here, but no torches. Y'know, and that's a good thing because the torches might melt our igloos.
Eric's house, while more flammable than mine, couldn't be in a better location – he's only a few miles from Disneyland! I mean, come on – Disneyland! Can it possibly get better than that? He shares his home with his "lovely wife" Amber, whom he has been deliriously-in-love with and married to for 11 years. Newlyweds, practically, living next to Mickey Mouse. If you've noticed Eric's blogger photo, you'll see all these little green men in the background. They aren't his children, or his cousins, they're the martian fellas from Toy Story and the picture was taken at Disneyland.
I bet Eric knows a lot of celebrities, living as he does in the Governator's sunny state. I bet he has Arnold and Maria over for dinner all the time.
When he's not entertaining the Terminator or writing, Eric loves himself a good book. His favourite is Barry Slept Here by Dave Barry.
"Seriously," he says, "if you haven't read this book, pick up a copy. It's hilarious! How does this sum up America, you might be asking? It's totally made up, loosely based on a sprinkling of facts here and there. It probably has about as many facts as most Americans know about the history of our country.
"Don't believe me? Cynical, am I? Have you ever seen Jay Leno's man-on-the-street interviews? Yeah. Think about that for a minute.
"Being American is like being in an extended, dysfunctional family. There is constant bickering, which can be quite violent at times. But when the chips are down, we got each other's backs. Oh, and we also have Fox Animation Domination Sundays.
"God Bless America!"
The High Noon Showdown
By Eric J. Krause
He peered down the dusty road at his adversary, the notorious Buster the Kid. This would be settled right here, right now. Or, more appropriately, when the town clock struck the twelfth bell of noon.
The first bell. His fingers itched, but he kept his hands off of his pistols. Grabbing them early meant disqualification, and he didn't want to imagine what that meant. No doubt someone along the rooftops had their sights set on him in case of default.
The second bell. A bead of sweat trickled down his forehead. He didn't dare move to wipe it off for fear that someone would think he jumped the gun.
The third bell. Were the stories of Buster the Kid true? Had he really brought down over a hundred slingers in duels just like this? Staring into the maniac's eyes, he could believe it.
The fourth bell. He wouldn't be just another notch on this outlaw's belt. This quiet burg had put up with the terror for far too long. It was time to end the fear and bring the peaceful times back.
The fifth bell. Though a crowd stood along both sides of the street, nary a sound could be heard. If a stereotypical tumbleweed blew through at that moment, he'd be able to hear every quiet bounce from one end of town to the other.
The sixth bell. Was there any fear on Buster the Kid's face? No. If the slinger felt anything, it was well hidden. Only a scowl of extreme distaste looked back at him. Good thing looks couldn't really kill, or Buster would already have another victim.
The seventh bell. He doubted his own stare held as much menace. With the hot iron ball of doubt sitting and stewing in his stomach, he was lucky his lunch stayed down. Vomiting would be a twitch enough to get him shot, he was sure.
The eighth bell. He needed to focus.
The ninth bell. Focus. Focus. Focus.
The tenth bell. Focus. Focus. Focus.
The eleventh bell. A calm enveloped him. Nothing existed but he and Buster the Kid.
The twelfth bell. Without conscious thought, his guns flew up. Buster the Kid's stuck in their holsters, and he had a few extra seconds to take careful aim. One laser point stopped between Buster's eyes, while the second stuck in the middle of the outlaw's chest. Quick, fluid trigger pulls ended Buster's tyranny.
The mayor hurried towards him, his arm outstretched to shake hands. "Huzzah! Wild West Town has a new hero, a new Kid! Tell all these good folks your name, partner."
He glanced around at the dozens of spectators, a few of whom were already heading to the next attraction, and found the proud stares of his parents. He looked over at the robot of Buster lowering back down under the street and smiled. "Billy," he managed to squeak out.
"Let's give three cheers for our hero! Whoop it up for Billy the Kid! Hip-hip-Hooray! Hip-hip-Hooray! Hip-hip-Hooray!"
This one's for you, Eric - perhaps it doesn't match the light tone of your story, but to me Johnny Cash is iconic as John Wayne. And I just love this song. Hope you enjoy it, too. Thanks for the story.