Fair Is Fair [A short story]
“I should kill you where you stand, you little piece of shit!” Freddie Burnton roared, his usually melodic down-home drawl nearly bursting at the seams with indignation and rage. Beneath him crouched quivering young Jamie McAllistar, hands raised to God for salvation, and eyes brimming over hot with both water- and fear. “No, Mr. Burnton, no please, don’t!” Jamie cried out in sharp falsetto, his words echoing through the teeth of his jagged, rattling, broken glass sobs. The shining silver Colt .44 revolver that Freddie Burnton clasped tightly in his left hand was poised to fire, and raised directly towards Jamie McAllistar’s head.
The red wooden door to the musty workshop slammed open with a bang. “What in the?” Boon McAllistar faltered for a moment, unable to believe his eyes. When he spoke again it was with an odd tone. One heavy with regret, and sadness. The tone of a man who was prepared to do what he believed had to be done. “Fred, what in God’s name are you doing to my boy?” The words shook out of the elder McAllistar’s mouth and into the still room as if he had tipped his weatherworn chin, held fast and poured them all at once. And there they lay, dead for a moment, until. “What am I doing, Boonie?” Freddie’s voice rumbled and quaked in the stillness of the intimate room. “What am I doing?” The second time Freddie Burnton said it, his whole body began to shake, his composure finally succumbing to his bidding, furious rage. “I’m doing what’s got to be done, Boone, that’s what.” Freddie spoke matter of factly enough between his great huffs of righteous vitriol, but his lids were wide and full of something not commonly seen in the eyes of a man.
“What did I ever do to you, Sir?” Jamie McAllistar bleated from the mangy, sawdust and packed dirt floor, Freddie’s Colt revolver still pointed squarely between his eyes. “Whatever it was, I’m sorry!” The young boy squealed out the last word in a such a pitiful manner that Freddie almost shot him dead right then and there. But no. Fair is fair, after all, and he would get what was owned.
“Freddie please, there’s got to be some kind of a mistake here. Leave the boy alone!” Boone McAllistar threw his words desperately high into the room. “What has he ever done to you?” With these last few words, a strange silence fell. A silence full of mirth, and bewilderment. And of fear and guilt.
Freddie’s whole body was rocking to and fro, his person like that of a ship caught out deep to see, alone and without design. His mind fully encompassed by his rancor, his heart held adamant for what was to come; his thumb pulled back heavily on the hammer of the shining, silver, Colt .44 revolver that he still so desperately clutched. Methodically and without hesitation, Freddie pushed the cold barrel of the revolver up towards young Jamie McAllistar’s warbling and whimpering mouth. “Fair is fair, young man.” Freddie’s words hit the dirt like great dark granite stones being laid upon a traitor's chest; one after the next, crushing finally anything that was left of the young McAllistar boy at last. As the cold gunmetal pushed it’s way past the boy’s now flapping and belligerent lips the sharp aroma of shit and piss began to rise to meet it.
“Look at me now, boy.” Freddie roared, bloodlust etched deeply in every inch of what he had become. “Did you think she wouldn't tell me what happened?” Freddie shouted incredulously. “Did you think that she wouldn’t say a word?” As Freddie spoke the gun balled firmly in his left fist began to reach itself deeper into the young McAllistar boys throat, heedless of the soft pink flesh that stood so delicately to meet it. Jamie only spluttered and gagged, defeated. “That fucking hat of yours, boy.” Freddie purred, stroking the soft lightly tanned leather ten gallon that even now was perched still resolutely upon the young boys head. “She recognized that hat. You thought it was dark enough in the back of that barn, but man- those damn turquoise beads.” Almost laughing to himself as he said it, Freddie fingered one of the hanging light blue stones that dangled around the rim of Jamie McAllistar’s bright tanned leather hat. “She recognized those beads.” As Freddie spoke those final words, he could feel it. This is what he had to do. “Fair is fair, young man.” Freddie drawled pleasantly enough, grabbing the boys hat deliberately as he did, and throwing it across the dust covered floor. He spoke again in a hush. “Fair is fair.”
“Freddie, wait!” Boone McAllistar shouted harshly, his voice ragged from how heavy his breath had become. “Please wait, Freddie,” Boone begged, his whole crooked, twisted being wrought sharply in heartache and despair. “How long have we been friends, Fred, Please.” Anguish oozed out of every syllable he spoke. “Hear me out.” For a moment Freddie’s finger lingered still on the delicate metal trigger of his .44, unsure of what he would have it do next. Then, just ever so slightly, he relaxed. Turning his head just slightly to his old friends desperate, breaking face, he said sharply. “What?”
“It was me, Fred.” Boone McAllistar spoke slowly, resigned to his fate. “It was me, not the boy- me” Freddie Burnton could only stare in disbelief. “You?” Fred spoke quietly as if all of the sudden he had forgotten how his words might sound. “But how-?” Boon cut him off before he could continue. “I’d been drinking, and thinking about Martha and how long she been gone. And I seen that hat there, sitting out on the kitchen table. You know, that used to be my hat, huh? Back before you and I even met. Back when I was a boy.” As he said the words, Boone McAllistar began to gaze off into the far corner of the room, as if for just a moment seeing past these dark, musty walls- if only for just one last time.
Jamie McAllistar’s wretched cry of sullen relief suddenly billowed forth from deep within his now clawing and clambering body, moving with him as he scuttled away from Freddie, and away from Freddie’s gun. “You?” Freddie said it again, disbelief scratching at every inch of the word. He was staring at Boone now, shocked by the truth of it. “I was drunk, Fred.” Boonie allowed the words to escape his teeth in a pitiful hiss. “And with that hat on, Hell, all the sudden I had just felt so damn young.” Boone looked down at his feet, and then back up at Fred as he said it. “And she just looked so beautiful.”
Fred Burnton screamed. “Fair is fair, Boonie.” As he raised the gleaming metal Colt .44 revolver to meet his old friends face. “Fair is fair!” He screamed again.
And suddenly a new sound echoed throughout McAllistar’s small, dank workshop. A great resounding noise, stunning in its deliverance. Fred Burnton began to turn his head, a quizzical look on his face as if he were about to ask, what had happened? But he seemed to think better of it. Instead, he slid gracefully to the floor, meeting when he did the pool of his own blood that had already begun to run, think and hot, down his back and legs and to meet the ground beneath them. Above Fred, Jamie stood; his pants full of shit and piss, and fury in his eyes. A ruby stained ax was held firmly within his hands, both of which were balled into trembling, alabaster fists. Jamie McAllistar just stood there, staring at what he had done, until he softy again mewled at last. “I got him, Dad.” There was only silence. At last Jamie’s eyes finally moved away from the grizzly scene before him, and settled for the first time above it, upon his father's twisted, mortified face. “I got hi-” The young boy faltered for a moment, aghast. “Dad!?” Jamie screamed, unbelieving. “Dad, no!”
Boone McAllistar could only look at his son, his old and withered eyes overflowing with a lifetime's worth of guilt and fear. With his right hand, he held his boy’s small and feeble body away from his, far at arm's length, holding him at bay as he kicked and screamed. With his left, he thumbed the hammer on Fred Burnton’s shining silver metal Colt .44 revolver, as if making sure it was still there. It was. Good. In one fluid motion, the elder McAllistar pointed the revolver up, tucked it’s barrel tightly under his old, weatherbeaten chin, took a slow breath in, and spoke. “Fair is fair, young man.” Boone McAllistar closed his eyes and grit his teeth. His son began to scream louder now, beating at the broken man’s still outstretched arm, vying for just one last chance to change his so clearly shattered mind. But Boone did not let go, and once he had made up his mind, there was no changing it. Somehow, Boone McAllistar smiled. “Fair is fair, after all.”
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