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Twist of Time



Standing in the middle of a crowd of about one hundred people, I was staring at the vision that was fifty feet in front of me. It was dead silent, the only sound was the creaking of old, dry wood and the suttle whistling of the wind.

A man had been hanged and his lifeless body was swaying back and forth on above this platform, in clear view for all that wished to gawk could.

I looked to my left and saw men, women and children standing as a witness to what had just happened. I couldn’t figure out where I was or how I came about to standing in this spot.

I had to be dreaming. Dreaming of an old western you see in those John Wayne movies. The women were all plain looking, wearing drab dresses that swept to the ground. Men wearing blue jeans, button down long sleeved shirts and sweat stained cowboy hats.

I was about to pinch myself to wake up from this awful dream when I felt a slap against the back of my head.

“Come on Nick, we’ve seen enough and we gotta get moving before we get noticed.”

I looked over towards the familiar voice and true to my suspicions, AJ McLean was standing next to me dressed in all black leather and a black cowboy hat, chomping on a long piece of wheat.

He pulled my arm towards the direction he was heading, around a building. As we rounded the corner, I discovered Kevin, Howie and Brian each wearing different shades of cowboy hats, each of them sweat stained and worn looking.

“What the hell kind of dream is this?” I asked.

“Nick get the hell on your ride, we ain’t got time to chit-chat,” Kevin directed with a glare.

This was too damn funny, I thought to myself. After three tries of trying to get into the saddle of the dark black maned and tan horse, I finally reached my goal.

“Did you stop in the saloon before AJ found you or something? I swear Nick,” Brian remarked in a thick southern drawl.

Brian made a clicking noise and his horse flicked it’s ears back and then obeyed the command and slowly walked.

Okay, I remember this crap in those westerns I watched sometimes when we were holed up in a room ontour. I gently nudged my horse in the ribs and leaned my body forward. The horse rewarded my efforts by gently moving out and walked alongside Brian’s horse.

The ride was quiet the roughly two mile stretch out of town. I mustered up the courage and finally asked them what was burning in my mind.

“So, guys, is this just a mini vacation before we start up the European leg of the tour?”

“Whoa..... ho....whoa,” AJ barked as he pulled up on the reigns to his black horse. Once stopped, he turned and reached out and grabbed my saddle horn. “Nick, what the hell are you talking about? Europe? You’ve never been out of New Mexico a day in your life!”

“Ha ha, really funny AJ. Seriously, when’s this dream gonna end?”

“Kevin! Nick’s giving us troubles again,” Brian called out to his cousin that was far ahead of the group.

“Oh for pete sake Nick!” Kevin shouted as he directed his horse back towards them. “You said you wanted a cut, don’t be pulling this crap on us again, okay? We’re almost to Norwalk and the stage will be running this here trail, if we play it right we’ll score at least five hundred dollars,” Kevin pointed out.

I laughed out loud. Suddenly I had four pairs of eyes glaring at me.

“What’s so funny Nick?” Brian asked.

“Five hundred dollars, Brian? Come on, you make that easily in less than ten minutes when we’re touring,” I replied.

I heard a distinct click of a gun. “Okay Nick, I’m growing tired of your stupid remarks, you wanted a cut, you’re stuck with us now for life, unless you’d like me to disinherit you with this,” AJ grumbled as he pointed the cocked weapon at me.

Okay this was just great. Here I am in a middle of a stupid dream with Kevin, Howie, AJ and Brian, we’re robbers and stuck in some bad budgeted western movie, how much worse can this get?

“Shit, my horse threw a shoe, Carter, get off your horse, you can walk the first 15 with my horse,” AJ barked.

I just had to ask that, didn’t I?

~*~*~*~*~

The dust stuck in my throat as I walked behind the rest of the guys on their horses, leading AJ’s by the reigns as he rode my horse.

“This isn’t fair,” I mumbled to myself as I stepped in yet another pile of horse shit. God, I seemed to have radar for that. I was tired, sweaty and my feet hurt. These boots were uncomfortable and I knew I was getting blisters.

“Nick y’all complain a tad too much,” Brian hollered over his shoulder.

“Where is it that we’re heading to anyways?” I asked as I choked on another mouthful of dust.

“NORWALK!”

I winced. “God, you guys didn’t have to yell at me, I just forgot.”

It was quiet except for the nickering of a horse and the buzzing of flies as the four of them stared at me.

“Okay, so why was it that we’re going to Norwalk?”

“Let me at him,” AJ shouted as he jumped off his horse and ran towards me.

I knew what his intentions were and I dropped the reigns to the horse and took off running like a madman trying to put distance between me and AJ. No good, he was skinnier than me and he always managed to catch me. This time though was a little different than what I was used to. He tackled me and threw me down to the ground, smacking my face with his smelly, dirty, dusty hat.

“You sonofabitch! You’ve been irritating me since the beginning of this damn ride and now it’s fair game Carter,” AJ yelled between blows with the hat.

“AJ! Get back on your ride, we don’t have time to play right now, it’s gonna get dark soon and if my calculations are right, we should be at the stage house in an hour. We can get some grub and bunk for the night,” Kevin directed.

I still had my hands up by my face in clenched fists as AJ stopped to listen to Kevin yelling. I closed my eyes and aimed for his face when he wasn’t looking.

Contact.

“Carter, dammit, you’re an ass,” AJ shouted.

Covering his left eye with his black leather gloved hand, AJ stood up, grabbing his hat and dusting it off on the side of his leg. He walked back to my horse.

“No McLean, my ride, stay the hell away from my ride,” I commanded as I jumped up to my feet and brushed past him and evidently got on the horse on the wrong side because it tried to bite my leg as I was laying across the saddle.

“I swear Nick, you sure you didn’t get to that saloon?” Brian asked again.

“Ha ha Brian, real good one,” I replied. “I’m not old enough.”

“Not old enough for what?” Brian questioned.

“You know, drink?”

Brian never answered, he just shook his head and laughed.

The hour seemed to last forever before we rode up to a weathered old building. There was a huge rusty metal water tower that had the words ‘Plainwell’ painted crudely in red letters on the side. There was an old red barn that looked like a slight wind would cause it to topple over in back of the building.

I hung back and followed the rest of the guy’s lead. Kevin as usual took control of the situation. As we got off our horses, AJ was walking his towards the barn, talking to some sweaty old man that was standing near a fire pit.

As we walked into the building, I was greeted by a host of smells of home cooked food. I looked at the table that was lined with a red and white checkered table cloth, steel plates and silverware set, waiting for people to sit down and eat.

A heavy set woman with gray hair that was pulled back tightly into a bun walked out of the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron.

“Howdy boys, four of ya for supper?”

“No there’s five of us ma’am,” Brian replied.

“Go ahead and wash up out back, I’ll have the table ready for you when you get back,” the woman directed. “My name’s Wilma.”

I followed Kevin and the rest back out the front door. I was expecting a bathroom or something where we could wash up at, but Kevin stopped at the watering trough where the horses were drinking. He, Howie and Brian stopped, scooped water up and splashed it on their faces, sharing the towel that was draped over a post.

“What’s your problem Nick?” Howie asked when he must have detected my disgust at the thought of splashing water that a horse was drinking in my face.

“Um, where’s the bathroom?” I asked, hesitantly.

“Bathroom? What the hell are you talking about?” Howie shot back.

I soon realized my mistake in asking that question when Howie pointed his finger towards a tiny box-like building and AJ walking out fastening his pants.

“An outhouse? You gotta be kidding me,” I mumbled as I trudged down the worn path towards the building. This was just getting worse by the minute.

~*~*~*~


The food that was spread out on the table was enough to cause your heart to stop and arteries to clog. As I took a seat directly across from Brian, I noticed that the usual tossed salad, light dressing and skinless chicken person was busily shoveling out a huge pile of mashed potatoes and spooning out tons of thick gravy over them.

“Hey, you supposed to be eating like that?” I asked as I watched him plop a huge piece of fried chicken on the platter.

“What you talkin about, Nick?” Brian asked through a mouthful a food.

God, that was definately out of character for him.

“Nevermind,” I apologised.

I over at Howie and Kevin. They were both piling the food on their plates too, checkered napkins tucked in their shirt collars. I reached down and grabbed the napkin and copied them and tucked it inside my collar and grabbed the bowl of biscuits and gravy.

“What you want to drink, fellas?” Wilma asked as she set a bowl of asparagas on the table.

“I’ll have icewater, please,” I replied.

Wilma stared at me for a moment and then started to laugh. “Icewater? You must be the funny one in your circle, eh?” She plunked down a glass and poured out rusty colored water into it.

“Here AJ, you go ahead,” I said as I nudged the dirty water towards him.

AJ grabbed the glass and thirstily chugged the water down. I could feel a lump forming in my throat, threatening to throw up at any given moment.

“Would you rather have milk?” Wilma asked.

I shook my head yes and Brian also commented that milk sounded good to him as well.

Wilma returned with a pitcher and glasses myself and Brian. I looked down at the milk she had poured before drinking it and I could have sworn I saw a small bit of hay floating ontop. Taking a gulp of the milk I started choking. It was the worst taste that my mouth had ever encountered. The milk was thick and creamy but the flavor was indescribable, not soured milk but it definately wasn’t sweet.

I glanced at Brian to see his reaction from the milk. He set the cup back down and was hungrily digging into his drumstick, a milk moustache on his upper lip which. I was floored watching him as he ate, he was usually so reserved, he could have been the poster boy for manners but here he was milk on his face and eating most of the meal with his fingers.

“Dig in Nick, after breakfast tommorrow, we might not be eatin for days,” Kevin commented.

I looked warily at the food in the table. Okay, the water was messed up, the milk was gross, could the food be ruined as well? I shrugged my shoulders as I reached for the platter of fried chicken. This was gonna be interesting.

~*~*~*~


After the meal was finished, AJ burped loudly and pulled out a small purple velvet pouch and what looked like cigarette papers. He skillfully started to roll his own cigarette.

Kevin shoved the dishes off to one side of the table that was stained with coffee rings and opened up a map. Brian leaned forward to look at the map, a toothpick pursed between his lips.

Shifting his eyes side to side, making sure Wilma wasn’t coming into the room, Kevin set about in describing the plan for robbing the stagecoach. “Okay, as I was sayin yesterday, we should be getting five hundred dollars each so that will be a hundred dollar cut for each of us.”

I just leaned back in my chair and shook my head as I was snickering.

“What is so funny Nick? Are you sure you that sasperilla wasn’t a little old?” Brian quizzed.

“How many times do I have to tell you, I didn’t drink at that bar.

“Don’t rightly know, just checkin,” Brian replied with that thick southern accent.

“Like I said befer I was rudely interrupted,” Kevin started out again, staring at me. “We git five hundred here and then we go from there. To hell with that Billy the Kid, we’re better than he ever were.”

“Billy the Kid!?” That was all I needed to hear, god my stomach hurt from laughing this hard. I stopped laughing quickly when I heard the distinctive sound of a gun clicking.

“Kevin, just give me three minutes with him, please? Three minutes and I’ll shut up,” AJ begged.

“Why AJ?”

“Cause I’m getting sick of hearing Carter act all perfect on us like he’s better than we are. Barthrooms and telephones? Who the hell does he think he is? I want to know what he did with my buddy Nick, the one who went weeks without bathing.”

Updated: 12/23/00

~*~*~*~


Gross. That was the only way to describe the feeling as I walked out of the building, and followed Brian outside to where the horses were tethered.

We woke up at first sunlight, I really didn’t have too much choice since the windows didn’t have curtains in them and the sunlight was shining right on my face. No shower, no brushing teeth. I was having a hard time adapting to this weird lifestyle. I took the glass of rusty water and stepped outside and swished the water in my mouth quickly and spit it out.

After we ate a breakfast that consisted of burnt bacon and scrambled eggs with coffee that had the grounds floating ontop of the water, Kevin elected me and Brian to go out and get the horses ready to ride out.

As Brian grabbed a red blanket and a saddle, he nodded his head over to the other saddles and blankets laying ontop of hay bales.

This was going to be interesting.

I watched Brian toss the blanket on the horse’s back and then throw the saddle ontop of the blanket, reaching down and pulling up on some strap things.

I copied his actions as best as I could, but I wound up only putting together one horse to his four. Oh well, hey at least one is better than none.

“Boy Nicky, you sure are slow today, you usually whip them on,” Brian commented as I patted AJ’s horse on the side of it’s neck.

I shrugged my shoulders. Brian took the reins to three of the horses and I took the reins to the other two. One of my horses didn’t seem to like my leading him as he flipped his ears back and dragged his feet. I wound up yanking on the reins, silently praying this beast would cooperate with me.

AJ grabbed the reins to his horse out of my hands. He glared at me for a moment before getting on. He certainly didn’t like me for some reason.

“Okay, let’s ride out,” Kevin commanded as he kicked his horse into the side causing it to start out in a gallop.

Just great, I didn’t know if I could do this. I closed my eyes and quickly kicked my heels into the side of my animal. I could feel it lurch and take off with me bouncing up and down in the saddle.

“SONOFABITCH!”

We pulled the reigns back on our horses when we heard AJ yell out. I looked back over my shoulder to find him sprawled out on the sandy ground, his saddle off to one side, his horse still running without it’s rider.

Crap, I knew there was one step I was missing when I was watching Brian.

AJ stuck his forefinger and thumb in his mouth and let out a shrill whistle making the horse turn around an trot back to him.

Grabbing his hat and brushing it off, AJ stood up and walked over towards the blanket and then the saddle.

“Who the hell put the saddle on this morning?” AJ sputtered as he bent over to pick up the saddle.

I swallowed hard, I knew this was going to anger him.

“It was Kid Nick,” Brian laughed.

“Figures as much, you did this deliberately, didn’t you, Carter?” AJ growled.

“No, um, I was busy watching Brian and I kinda forgot, sorry,” I quietly apologised. “You’re sorry!?” AJ ranted as he reached into his holster and pulled out a shiny, silver gun.

“Alex, put it away, you’re wasting time,” Howie reprimanded. “We’re gonna miss that stage you can have it out with Nick later.”

AJ glared at me as he put the gun back into his holster. After he got his saddle fixed, we rode without incident to a hill overlooking a worn path.

Kevin pulled a gold watch out from the front pocket of his vest. Popping the lid open, he observed the time.

“Stage is due in ten minutes, we almost didn’t make it,” he remarked glancing over at AJ and me.

“Oh that would have been tragic missing out on a hundred dollar cut,” I joked. Instead of laughter coming back at my remark, I received stares from the four of them. Stares and dead silence. The only noise was flies buzzing around us.

Man, we stunk.

The sound of thundering in the distance caused Kevin to sit tall in his saddle. He held his hand up.

“S-h-h-h-h-h.”

“No one’s talking Kev,” I corrected.

I heard a clicking of a gun and turned in the direction of the sound. Sure enough, AJ was sitting there holding his gun, resting it across the top of his hand, a sick smile played on his lips.

“Ok,” I softly replied.

“Okay guys, draw your guns, let’s get ready,” Kevin directed as he pulled a scarf over his face.

I watched as the rest of the group copied Kevin’s moves. Brian looked sort of dumb, a navy blue bandanna covered his mouth and nose, leaving only his blue eyes peeking out. I couldn’t help but laugh. I pulled the scarf over my face and drew this gun that I was wearing.

At a precise choreographed moment, Kevin led us down the hill, guns in the air, each of them firing the weapon off towards the sky.

As the stagecoach stopped, Kevin reached over and grabbed the door open. There was a man, two women and a small infant inside the coach.

“Gimme all your money and your jewels,” AJ growled.

“Oh, please don’t hurt us,” the man pleaded in an Irish accent as he handed the items over to AJ.

AJ looked at what the man had handed over.

“This is all you had?” He threw the wallet and a gold ring back at them.

Howie and Brian were ontop of the stagecoach, pulling a chest off the top and lowering it down to Kevin.

“Kid, you could at least help here,” Kevin barked at me.

I reluctantly led my horse over towards him and reached up and took the opposite end of the heavy black chest.

Kevin told me to throw it on the ground and I followed his instructions. He told the stage driver to leave and the man didn’t hesitate once he was told to go.

AJ aimed his gun at the lock on the box and fired one shot into the lock, busting it. He put the gun back in his holster and anxiously flipped the box open.

“Shit, I can’t believe this!” Kevin and Brian said in unison.

I looked over their shoulders.

AJ pushed Kevin and Brian aside. He reached into the box and pulled out a book.

“What the hell?” AJ mumbled as he looked at the thick leather covered book. “We got a case of bibles, what the hell are we gonna do with bibles?”

I started laughing. God, what a screwed up mess. The 1800’s and we couldn’t score $500.

“That’s it Kid, you’re mine now,” AJ growled as he pointed the gun at me.

“Yeah right AJ,” I laughed.

Suddenly I heard a gunshot and felt a firey heat in my stomach. I quickly placed my hand over the pain and when I pulled it back, it was covered in blood.

Then the rest of the guys all drew their guns and pointed them at me. I closed my eyes tight.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

I jumped and opened my eyes. John Wayne was on the television screen. Wait, a television screen? I narrowed my eyes at the set. There were four men on horseback, riding away, leaving John Wayne for dead.

Four? Could it be?

The door to the hotel room clicked open and Brian shoved his way through, carrying three sacks of groceries.

“Geeze Nick, finally wake up? I left and you were talking in your sleep,” Brian commented.

I leaned against the headboard of the bed, running my hands through my hair.

“Weird dream, we were cowboys and you were nasty,” I replied. “You guys ganged up on me and shot and killed me.”

“Yeah, sure Nick. How many times do I have to tell you that you can’t eat pizza before you take a nap?”

“Too many,” I mumbled, staring at the TV set. For a brief second, I could have sworn the men that were riding off into the sunset resembled AJ, Kevin, Howie and Brian. I opened my mouth to get Brian to look at the screen, but I decided to just fold my arms across my chest and let it go. I didn’t want him to think I had completely lost it. He would for sure have the hotel doctor look at me and then I would have been screwed. No, this was all just a weird dream.

The End