Friday, 22 July 2011


Court debuts... with true grit...

Thirty Miles North of Cheyenne

The coachman slumped in the upper bucket seat with his rifle across his lap, two holes in his chest. The horses neighed and stamped in the traces. The blackbeard leaned against the doorjamb of the stagecoach and deliberately reinserted two shells.

“Hope the rest of you plan on being better behaved,” he said. “Now get on out.”

The gang, five sweat-and horse-reeking bearded men, lined the passengers up beside the stagecoach: the guard blubbering in a foreign accent no one could understand; the Omaha cotton merchant in fancy tailored clothes, bowler hat dusty at his feet; the cotton merchant’s wife; the cotton merchant’s twin daughters, sixteen years old; the cotton merchant’s son, twelve. The gang kept their pistols and rifles leveled steady on the passengers.

The blackbeard spit out his rolly, smoked to the nub. The mulatto from Missouri relieved the cotton merchant of his ivory-handled pistol.

“We been out in the hills a long time,” said the blackbeard to the cotton merchant. “So we’re going to take your girls here down to the creek. And the boy, too, come to think of it.”

The drifter from Arizona wiped his nose and sniggered.

“Now you, mister,” said the blackbeard, “You can be peaceable about it, and you all walk out of here. Even if some of you will walk a little cockeyed.” The rest of the gang sniggered. “Or you can get heroic and get shot. Up to you. Either way we take your girls, and your boy, down to the creek.”

The cotton merchant’s wife in her tailored Omaha petticoats clothes moaned, and the children, clothed likewise and not understanding, cried into her skirts. The cotton merchant put arms round them all. The ruffles in his cuffs flapped in the dusty breeze.

“For the love of God, please … ” cotton merchant said.

“Shit,” said the new kid. He stepped forward, put a cold muzzle against the man’s ear, and fired.

The cotton merchant’s son tried to make a run for it. The drifter from Arizona got him in the gut with a boot tip and the boy, who’d got as far west as he was going to, went down retching.

“I don’t see why we got to haul them all the way down to the creek,” said the mulatto from Missouri.

The blackbeard inserted a new rolly in his mouth. A sudden gust put out the match he struck against his holster. “Guess I don’t see why neither,” he said, pulling out another.

The gang started in. Amidst the screaming and ripping and cussing the guard started to back away.

“For chrissakes,” said the mulatto from Missouri, tearing the bodice from one of the shrieking squirming twins, her cherry nipples taut in the midday sun. He shot the guard through the jaw.

The Apache thrust the cotton merchant’s scalp in his belt and leapt to the guard. The guard was on his belly crawling over dirt and bits of bone. Using the guard’s eye sockets for a hold, the Indian took the scalp.

Thrusting down his pants over the pistol-whipped naked wife, the new kid said, “You sure are a savage, chief.”

The Apache whooped.

“Christ Almighty,” said the blackbeard, taking a slug from the flask he found in the coachman’s pockets as he rummaged for the strongbox key, “Gag them up, will you. I can’t stand that screaming.”

Court's work is forthcoming in PANK and Shotgun Honey and has appeared in Night Train, Midwestern Gothic, Kyoto Review, Blackbird, Evergreen Review, Numero Cinq, Identity Theory, Pulp Metal, M-Brane Science Fiction, and others. You can find links at After a decade of the nomadic life in East Asia I'm at home in Wyoming, having an American adventure with my wife and two kids.


  1. Jeez, Court!
    Heavy hitting stuff this, and authentically set - felt like I was there. I was hoping the Apache was rescuing the poor family from the cutthroat bastards, but no such luck.
    Crackin' debut.

  2. The wild west was just that. No law west of the Pecos was true. And stuff like this was happening from the git go. Captured it perfect Court.

  3. Loved the harsh reality of this piece, Court and you completely nailed the language.

    Terrifying - this will stay with me.

  4. Hey Col and AJ and Lily - thanks for the kind words. The sort of Westerns where the ladies just get their petticoats rustled and the hero comes out on top (maybe a couple of his buddies buy it) has never seemed very authentic to me.

    All the same, I wasn't sure anyone would ever take this piece, so thanks to Col for putting it up!

  5. Certainly more realistic than Hollywood. People say they exaggerated the numbers shot, but they hardly mentioned the real life raping stuff like in this. Good work, Court.

  6. Well written nasty little piece. Well done.

  7. That was about as vivid and violent a story as I have read in a while. Well written, excellent imagery, and had me glued to the screen. Would def read more of the Banditos. The eye socket scalping was nasty, but packed a huge punch. Excellent work there Court!

  8. Damn, that is some cold stuff Court... that's why we invented cowboy heroes, because this is how it usually went down.

  9. Keith and Glenn and Sean and Thomas - thanks very much! I'm stoked to find you all saw what I was going for here. It wasn't all the white hats riding to the rescue out in the Old West ...

  10. Some of the best fiction is actually non-fiction stories. I agree with Lily on the language. Excellent work.

  11. Thanks, Erin!

  12. Court, you went all Blood Meridian on us. No cavalry to the rescue, just the valley of the shadow of death. Tough but riveting.

  13. No coincidence that that's one of my favorite books ever. Thanks, Mike.

  14. Late to this one, Court, but glad I caught up. A well written tale that says with you. Well done!

  15. Thanks, David. Appreciate the read and comment.