Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
I’s down at Calhoon’s Saloon washin’ the day’s grit outta my mouth with belts of sour mash. Was hotter’n a cat-house on nickel night with nothin’ to jaw on but leathery yarns told too many times.
Sudden-like, I feels a cold wind ‘cross my arm n’ the room goes graveyard-hush. So I turns my head ‘round, reeeea-l slow – n’there he was. The Stranger. Lookin’ right stumped.
An odd stick to look at. Outlandish digs – some sorta ashy, one-piece get-up fulla pockets n’whatnot. No granger, fer certain, but he weren’t no city-slicker, neither. Mighta taken ‘em fer a fancy gunslinger, but din’t see no shooter on ‘em.
Everybody was all bug-eyed like he’s a rattler, or juss walked through the wall er sumthin’. Then I re’lized, he was right next to me n’ there ain’t no way he coulda crost the room without me seein’ ‘em.
Real casual-like – like he done it a hunnerd times, he says, “Bar Tender. Two large, uncooked potatoes, please.” Then he says, “And a bottle of your finest whisky for the house.” Def’nit’ly a for’ner, but his anglish was al’right, I guess. Then he lays a chunk o’gold the size of my fist on the counter.
Well, that bar went from lynch mob to hootin’ fandago in two seconds flat n’ that Stranger becamed everybody’s bestest friend. I ain’t never seen ol’Calhoon move so fast. Lickety-split, he laid out two of Gramma’ Wilkes’ finest russets.
Then, the Stranger laid a black thingamajig on the counter n’ tugged two metal rods with wires outta the side n’ stuck ‘em into them taters. A red doohickey started a-blinkin’ on it. He was real anxious ‘bout sumthin’.
“You look like a man in a predicament,” I said gravely as Calhoon carefully measured our shots.
The Stranger scanned me with Chinaman eyes, but bigger n’ bluer. Bluest eyes I ever seen.
“Yeah, could say that.” His jaw tightened n’ he hobbled his lip.
Normally, I’da hobbled mine too, but I’s curious ‘bout this feller.
“Where you from, Stranger?”
“You should ask, ‘When you from?’ since, geographically, I haven’t moved.” Had me stumped.
“I’m from the forty-second century.”
“That near Cincinnati?”
We knocked our shots back. – mmmmm – Fine as cream gravy!
After that, he minded his contraption n’ I minded my own damn business, while everyone else got right roostered up.
Sumthin’s squawked like a turkey inna rainstorm.
“Damn! Found me.” He packed his plunder then whispered in my ear, “Word of advice, friend. Close your eyes. Count to a hundred.”
A green light blinked on his thingamajig, real fast. “And invest in the railroad.” His finger jabbed his whats-it n’ he juss vanished. Poof.
Well, I ain’t no idjit. I shut my peepers. If’n I hadn’t? Wouldn’t be able to tell y’all this tale. I’da fergot, juss like them others.
See, with my eyes closed, I heard some thangs, strange thangs. Thangs ain’t no words to describe. Sumbody, er sumthang came into Calhoon’s – lookin’ fer the Stranger, I s’pect. Who, er what, couldn’t tell. All’s I know is, when I finally peeked out my oculars, everybody was pee-tree-fied, not movin’ er breathin’.
Then suddenly, they’s carryin’ on s’if nothin’ happened.
Calhoon snaps out of it n’ spots the lump o’ gold n’ his eyes growed wide with ‘mazement. “Gerald,” he asks, “You finally hit it big with that dried up claim o’yours?”
He din’t remember nothin’.
Nobody did, ‘cept me.
I know opp’rtunity when I see’s it. I wrapped my paws ‘round that nugget with joyful relish. “Yessiree, Calhoon. I done did hit it big!”