Like a card sharp, Luke Watson knew his stuff. Hours on end, day after day, he practiced. Draw. Load. Spin. Fire. Draw. Load. Spin. Fire.

Not for any good reason. Luke just did it because he could, and because every time he did it, he felt at one with the gun. He knew just the right spin, how to quick draw his revolver, flip open the cylinder, slip in the bullet, snap it closed, spin and fire.

One bullet, one gun, one chance. Years of this, and he had it down to a fine science. Years of this and he got it, 50 times out of 50. Never failed to fire, never missed the mark. One bullet, one gun, one chance to get it right.

Word spread about a man who could fast draw an empty revolver, load one bullet, flip it closed and fire before any other man could draw and fire a fully-loaded gun. And the day came when it wasn’t enough to see him do it. The day came when somebody wanted to test him out, prove that Luke couldn’t do it.

Came a time when men placed bets. Those who went against Luke lost their week’s wages, what they hadn’t drank away, because the man who went up against him died. Draw. Load. Spin. Fire. Soon though, nobody wanted to take him on. They all went back to watching, and Luke went back to practicing. Every day. He knew somebody would eventually call him out.

Marty Short had never handled a gun of any kind in his entire life. Addled as he was from a kick in the head by a stubborn mule when Marty was eight-years-old, what part of his brains didn’t spill out of the crack, were pretty much scrambled around.

Women fascinated him. Especially those haughty ones who leaned over the porch railing, taunting him as he lumbered past. Some of them shook out their boobs and flopped them at him, inviting him to do things he had no idea any person could do, much less him.

Mud fascinated Marty. He played in it, rolled in it, fell into it in the middle of the drenched dirt road cutting through town, especially after a heavy rain. Everything turned slippery and slidey. Marty would take a running start, drop onto his side and slide halfway across the road.

And, guns fascinated him, though Marty had never in his life handled one, much less pulled the trigger on one and felt it buck. Oh, but he had seen Luke do his thing. Draw. Load. Spin. Fire. Time and time again, Marty had hidden around a corner and watched as Luke did this, leaving a dead man in the dusty road on a hot, dry summer day. Or, leaving him face down in a mud puddle after a wet, rainy day.

Today, Marty couldn’t help himself. Instead of thinking about the two men in the middle of the main drag, preparing to face off, all Marty could think of was that big, long, huge, wet, slick mud puddle. It was right there. Right in the middle of it all, and that mud puddle was calling his name.

Luke drew, loaded, spun the cylinder, and after a blurred flip of the wrist to close it, he fired. Another man died. The dead man hit the mud puddle just as Marty hit the peak of his slide, jamming right up against the fallen man who had bet his life and lost. That was when he noticed the revolver just settling into the mud beside him. He picked it up.

Luke, finished with what might be his last bet because there was nobody left stupid enough to take him on, empty revolver or not, turned to walk away. Marty’s finger found the trigger and pulled. The loud percussion and jumping weapon startled the man with the mentality of a little boy, and he let the weapon drop.

In a twist of irony, the slug tore into the back of Luke’s head and he never had to worry about losing a bet again. Marty never noticed. Another puddle of mud caught his eye, so the pistol remained where he dropped it, and with a whoop, Marty ran hard for his next slide.

— Earl Chessher

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