By Dayvid Arcee
Wilford the Tanner glides the first brush-line of oil onto the leather. He tries to keep his eye on the brush, but his gaze trails behind, watching the satisfying rich tones escape from the leather as the oil soaks in. He catches a glimpse of Wild Bill riding purposefully past, closes the window, and hunches toward the shiny brush so he won’t see any more distractions. Wilford starts the next line of oil as booming voices shout out-of-view. A shot rings out, that’s to be expected, but Wilford is frozen in fear from knowing what’s coming for him next.
Someone is going to come in, and they’re going to start talking about what just happened. That might be okay, but then it would happen again. The next person in the shop was going to talk about it too, and Wilford would be heartless if he didn’t show just as much interest the second time. Then again, over and over, everyone chirping on about what the world was coming to, a horrible waste, so senseless, Wilford terrified that his attention might waver, or that he might share a thought that differs from theirs, then they’d…
The door flings open and Wild Bill strides in.
Wild Bill grabs a belt, slaps some change on the counter, and is gone. Phew. Wilford envies Bill. Wilford knows he won’t get through this event unscolded, but Bill is safe. Nobody wants to talk to Bill. The worst that awaits Bill is a quiet cell or a bullet he never had to listen to. A better punishment would be putting the jail in the harness shop so every day everyone passing through would yell at the guilty instead of Wilford.
No, he needed to stop dreaming and make an escape plan: he could block his door shut, but what if he hid silently right in the noisy crowd? Face-to-face people listen, but in a big crowd everybody yells everything! And one of the loud ones will surely be the preacher. Nobody dares mention that they disagree with the preacher, so if cornered Wilford can copy him!
Come to think of it, the preacher would have a word with him if he found out how selfish Wilford was being. Feeling sorry for himself, when someone out there is dead. He takes a deep breath and forces himself to go outside. It’s James Brayton who was shot. James was only close to his old uncle Chester, who never talks much. Old Chester needs help with carrying supplies, keeping his house up, and I bet he’ll be even quieter now that his nephew is dead!
Wilford looks around to make sure nobody heard him think that.
Chester’s porch has been leaning. Now’s the time to get out and go work on that.
The hammering will drive out the noise.