A Western saloon... - Editor

by Coy Hall

Roth Cadman rode through the drizzling midnight rain towards the livery stable of Trinity Hill. Mud jumped from the street, up his leg and around his face. Rain fell in stinging drops. With the exception of a few dim lights shining from the saloon, the town looked deserted along Main Street. Cadman moved into the dry stable and dismounted. The livery, like the town around it, seemed deserted.

Maybe it’s the late hour, he thought to himself, pulling his things together and unsaddling the horse. But the explanation wasn’t convincing. Boom towns like Trinity weren’t in the habit of going to bed just after sundown. Cadman put the horse away and fed it. Beating the rain from his hat, he prepared to make a dash through the downpour towards the saloon. He needed a drink.

The sky rumbled with thunder. Wind moved the rain in sideway sheets across the dark, muddy vista.

Cadman stooped his shoulders and ran for it. The mud was three inches deep in places, and puddles, like small ponds, dotted the street. A plank sidewalk led up to the porch of the saloon. Cadman stood breathlessly beneath the awning, glancing inward over the batwing doors. People were inside, a lot of them, sitting quietly around the dim glow of candles.

Cadman did what he could before entering, smacking his hat against the rail and wiping the water and mud from his unshaven face. He was used to being alone, and used to being stuck out in the weather, but that didn’t mean it didn’t make him miserable. Nights like this made him feel like a stray dog.

As Cadman entered, the folks barely stirred. They turned and looked for the most part, then fell back to their solemn thoughts. Every table was full; people lined the bar shoulder to shoulder; the walls and steps were covered by those standing. There were more than a hundred people in the large room. For light, homemade candles, bitches as folks call them, constructed from tin cups and bacon grease lined the main bar and decorated the tables. Shadows danced in the few open spaces. A haunting aura hung about the room.

Not wanting trouble or attention, Cadman took the oddity in stride. His mind, though, was at work behind steady eyes as he made his through the labyrinth of people to the crowded bar. When he was a kid, his mother dragged him to church on Sundays. Anytime somebody in the congregation died, the church held a prolonged moment of silence. He remembered those mornings vividly, and how they chilled him to the core then. This silent group of folks at Trinity Hill brought him back to those days, stirring a long-dormant uneasiness.

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