Hey, Rube!

by 

Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

“You know, puny human, you’re about to die?” The voice reverberated off the store fronts, assailing the ears like broken glass. “You think you’re faster? That you can outgun me?” The biped stood stoic, unusually tall and peculiarly proportioned, bellowing down the dusty thoroughfare.

“Can’t say that I’m faster, and I’ve not got a gun quite like your cannon there, but I don’t plan on letting you kill me.” The retort came from a man not two thirds the height or weight of his rival, fidgeting uneasily at the other end of the street. Behind closed doors and shuttered windows, the townspeople sheltered themselves but, unable to let the showdown pass without witness, many could be seen peering cautiously through cracks. “The name’s Zigg. If you do intend to kill me, the least you could do is learn my name.”

“High noon, Ssegg.” Indifference slurred it, as much as the reptilian mouth did. “That’ss when I’ll kill you.” There was laughter beneath the words this time, one sound layered over the other. Zigg suddenly recalled his breakfast, and struggled to swallow it back down.

The clock tower ticked the minutes away before noon as horses shuffled uneasily at the hitch-post. Wind blew tumbleweeds past, and set the weathervane squealing on a nearby rooftop. The clock struck the first midday bell. Zigg studied the street carefully. Two bells, then three. Four bells, five.

“You know who’s going to be the death of you?” His lips slowly pulled back into a wide white grin. “Rube Goldberg.” The clock struck its sixth time.

The towering gunman cupped both hands behind his ear-vents, and bellowed back at him. “What? Rube who?” He slowly studied the doorways and closed windows, as though at any moment this ‘Rube’ would step from the shadows. Seven bells.

Zigg pinned the tall creature with an icy stare as he reached slowly down to the ground and plucked a fist sized rock from the dust at his feet. The alien watched with peripheral interest as he carefully drew back his arm and pitched the rock up at the creaking weathervane, the impact echoed in the eighth bell of twelve.

The weather vane spun wildly and broke loose, caterwauled down the corrugated steel roof, to alight on the rump of the closest tethered horse. The ninth bell struck as the horse reared, tearing the hitch-post off its mooring, and setting its three companions to bucking in unison. As one, they galloped up the main street, still attached to the length of railing. The horses passed the general store, two to either side of the sign post, as the clock struck for the tenth time, the impact snapping the post clean off at its base. The alien gunman stood fixated as the post was dragged towards the open street, propelled by the horsedrawn length of railing. The horses veered in opposite directions, slipping free of the rail, to race away through the city streets. The signpost dug into the dirt, then cart-wheeled end over end up the street past the gunman, to come to rest a dozen or so meters beyond him in a cloud of dust.

“That’ss your Rube Goldberg?” The question barely escaped his mouth as the clock struck twelve, and an explosion echoed down the street. The alien turned to face the smiling visage of his opponent behind the smoking barrel of a gun. He willed himself to try to speak, to move, but he couldn’t. Thick fluid oozed from his throat as he fell to his knees.

Zigg turned his gun to the sky, blew softly across the barrel-mouth, enjoying the sound for a moment before he continued. “You just gotta have a little imagination.” He tipped his hat as he slipped his gun back into its holster, turned and walked away.

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