Imagine, if you will, a small friendly town, somewhere out West. A friendly little town that’s just plain friendly to everyone, without any alien influence or demonic possession of any kind. Such a town is likely to attract all sorts of weary travellers. — ed. N.E. Lilly
The red and green carpet bag glanced off Earl’s shoulder. He could almost swear the Wells Fargo man had deliberately aimed his baggage directly at him. Well, forgive and forget, the good book says. He picked up the bag and headed in search of a hotel. He found one, though the accommodations were not to his liking. After stowing his belongings, he headed out to explore the new town. The Jupiter saloon was directly in the middle of things. Reluctantly, he pushed open the swinging doors and went inside.
As with all saloons, this one had a long narrow bar alongside the wall to his left. To his right, were a collection of chairs and tables. No two of them matched. Most of the chairs were occupied by men drinking and playing faro. A painting of a naked woman hung prominently above the bar. Behind the bar, stood a barkeep—a tall fellow with dark hair parted down the middle and a well-kept handlebar moustache. At the end of the bar stood a very pretty, red-haired saloon girl in a blue dress that revealed far too much cleavage. He certainly had his work cut-out for him.
“I’m Earl Calumet,” he declared to the barkeep.
The bartender nodded. “Our new preacher.”
“That would be me. Would you give me a lot of harassment if I ordered a sarsparilla?” he asked.
“Reverend Calumet, this is Rock Springs, the friendliest town in Wyoming. You can drink whatever you want here, as long as we got it,” the saloon girl advised him.
The barkeep popped open a bottle and placed it in front of Earl. “You need a glass?”
“No.” The sweet beverage tasted good after the long stage ride. “Last place, they tried to pull my pants down cause I don’t drink,” he announced after a few gulps.
“That’s not very friendly,” the saloon girl said. “We wouldn’t do that.” She moved uncomfortably close. “Heck, I kind of like a sarsparilla now and then. I’m Charlotte.”
“The Reverend Earl Calumet, ma’am.” They didn’t have women like her back home, at least not so public. He tried to remind himself things were different out west. To his relief, she smiled and retreated farther down the bar.
She was showing something to the barkeep. Charlotte was clutching a golden coin-like object she wore on a chain around her neck. “See, Adam gave me this. It’s gold.”
“Right pretty,” the barkeep agreed.
A familiar tune started playing on the piano. He’d nearly finished his drink as he turned toward the piano at the back of the saloon. Then, his sensibilities were offended—not by the piano, but by its player. The piano player was not using a stool and was, in fact, only three feet tall. This was a piano player with yellow, glowing eyes, green skin, and a rounded head with two antennae sticking out of it. The bottle made a loud thud when it hit the floor. “Jumping Lucifer.”
“Oh, that’s Adam,” Charlotte consoled him. “He likes to play the piano.”
She proved quite strong for a woman as she dragged him toward this hell-spawn with yellow glowing eyes.
“No, no, no,” she grabbed his hand. “Here, I’ll show you.” She proved quite strong for a woman as she dragged him toward this hell-spawn with yellow glowing eyes. “Adam, this here’s Earl, our new preacher.” She tried to pull Earl’s hand forward and extended one with four fingers, if you could call them fingers, to meet it.
Earl pulled back. “Tarnation.”
The little green man said. “They call me Adam because they cannot pronounce my name.”
“He’s from a planet in outer space,” Charlotte explained. She pointed upward. “Way off out yonder, somewhere.”
She shook her head. “No, from Kalar.”
“Much farther away,” Adam added. “In another solar system. Very far away.”
“Devil’s doings, I say,” Earl proclaimed. He noticed everyone else was drifting away from him. “What’s wrong with you people, cavorting with that?” He pointed at Adam. “That, thing.”
“Mister,” the barkeep said, “Adam’s been coming here for years, whenever he’s passing through. You, we just met you. If you’re wanting us to take up sides, you may be kind of disappointed.”
Earl stormed back to his room at the hotel. If only he hadn’t been fired in Louisiana. He buried his hands in his face. “Martians running around as plain as day.” He looked out the window, which faced the saloon across the street. That soiled dove was taking that Adam up the stairs—by the hand. “Surely not!” He felt like he was going to throw up and raced for the privy.
Later that evening, Earl had swallowed about three pieces of steak at the Rapids Café when the door opened and that saloon girl entered. A moment later, she was followed by Adam. They took a table across the room from him. He gobbled down another piece of steak, but had lost his appetite. Earl angrily threw his napkin on the table and marched out of the restaurant. The thought of a common whore eating in a public restaurant was bad enough, but eating with that thing was simply too much for him.
He sulked on his bed for, perhaps, twenty minutes, when there was a loud, sharp knock at the door. He wandered over and opened it.
A tall man wearing a leather vest with a shiny silver star pinned to it stood on the other side of the threshold. He moved into the room without waiting for an invite. “Are you the Reverend Earl Clement?”
“I’m Marshal Virgil Sampson.” He took a quick glance around the room. “Is there some reason you didn’t pay for your meal this evening?”
Until that moment, he hadn’t even thought of it. “I forgot. I was, uh, distracted.”
“How so?” the marshal asked.
“Well, this Adam creature, I seem to have more of a problem with him than you lot do. The thought of him touching that girl.”
“I see. Well, I’m sure if I run over the money they’ll be happy to forget the whole thing,” the marshal suggested.
Earl fumbled around and counted out some coins. He handed them over.
“Mister, it’s not really my business, but are you sure you’re cut out to be a man of the cloth?” the marshal asked..
It was incredible. Earl’s voice was crackling. “With that? You see nothing wrong with that running around. Would you want a woman who’s been with that?”
“She’s a prostitute, mister. Lots of men have been with her. In case you haven’t noticed, there ain’t a lot of women around these parts. You could be a bit more understanding. Adam’s been coming here for years. You, I just met you. Don’t be asking me to take up sides.”
Earl stretched back out on the bed. His anger eventually gave way to sleep.
The next morning, Earl was up bright and early. He strolled along, whistling, toward the church. It was a blue and white building with an impressive steeple. His sprits nearly soared when he caught a glimpse of stained glass. It was even better than he’d hoped. His pace quickened. He nearly ran, at least until he got to the edge of the property. Then, his mood quickly plummeted back to reality.
A hundred yards across the road from the church stood a very unusual contraption. It was silver and sparkly all over. It was nearly round with three legs holding it upright. The whole thing was nearly fifty feet in diameter. As if to taunt him, a stairway emerged from the side of it and two giggling women descended. One of them was Charlotte, the other one he did not recognize. They were followed by Adam. Charlotte gave him a kiss on the side of his green head and both of them started walking back toward town. The alien looked straight at Earl, then went back inside the shiny contraption.
Earl went into the church. The little church was immaculate. And, it even had real stained glass. The St. James Bible at the pulpit was massive. It would make a good thud if too many parishioners drifted off during his sermon. He slid his revolver next to it, then started arranging and tidying things up to his liking.
He’d worked for an hour, or so, then, suddenly, he sensed he was no longer alone. He looked up and noticed two antennae sticking out of the head of the shadow. Earl slowly turned and saw the backlit alien standing in the middle of the church. The rear door was still open, making Adam appear as more of a silhouette. The alien had never made a sound.
“You got some nerve coming in here!” Earl challenged.
Adam said, “I read your Bible last night.”
It sounded preposterous to Earl. “You read the whole Bible last night?”
“Yes. There are some mistakes in it I was curious about,” Adam said.
He pointed a shaking finger at Adam. “You come in God’s house and blaspheme the good book. Enough is enough.” Earl grabbed the revolver from the pulpit and pointed it at Adam’s head..
Adam was pointing back with a cylindrical object he hadn’t had before. There was a flash of light and the front half of Earl’s Frontier .45 was suddenly missing. The back half was suddenly so hot he had to throw it away.
Earl scratched his head. He didn’t recall seeing Adam actually leave.
“What in tarnation?”
“Ray gun,” Adam said.
“Enough is enough!”
“I agree. It is customary for two men to face each other on Main Street.”
“Not facing that devil ray,” Earl said.
“Revolvers will do. At noon.” The door closed.
Earl scratched his head. He didn’t recall seeing Adam actually leave.
At two minutes before noon, Earl was standing on Main Street with a borrowed revolver. A number of town folk were loitering about. The big clock above the bank chimed twelve times. When it stopped, Earl yelled “Where’s that demon from hell?”
“Right behind you,” Adam replied. He was wearing a gray Stetson hat, sort of tilted over his antennae. He had a revolver strapped on his side. It was a small revolver, the same shiny color as the big round thing parked near the church.
“That one of them four shot guns?” Earl asked.
“I only need one.” Adam moved his strange four-fingered hand near the butt of the gun and slowly backed away from Earl.
Earl grabbed at his gun. He only got it halfway out of the holster before the bullet from Adam’s gun tore through his left eye. Little bastard’s fast, was the last thought the Reverend Earl Clement ever had. He was dead before his body hit the ground.
Adam set up the pieces on the checkerboard. So few humans could play chess. Fewer still could play it well. He looked forward to these sessions. Right on time, the lanky form of Town Marshal Virgil Sampson slid into the chair across from him. Adam placed the empty beer glass on the table and let out a loud belch. “Good drink.”
Virgil opened with a pawn. Adam did likewise. Virgil brought out a knight. Adam moved a bishop.
“Adam, folks are talking,” Marshal Sampson said. “That’s the third preacher you killed, now.”
“He had it coming,” Adam replied.
“I ain’t sayin’ he didn’t. Ain’t sayin’ that at all. What I am sayin,” he brought out his other knight, “is folks are a might bit concerned. I’m a lawman and I never even shot anybody.”
Adam moved out his queen, which surprised his opponent. “Do you want me to leave? I’ll leave anyway, not come back?”
“Nobody’s sayin’ that. Can you, maybe, be a little less quick to shoot it out with every small-minded jackass who comes through town? That’s all I’m sayin,’ Adam.”
“I have considered stopping in Chicago, next time through.”
The marshal pointed out, “That’s your right, but big city folk aren’t as friendly as we are here in Rock Springs.”
“How unfortunate.” Adam moved his queen again. “Checkmate.” He took his empty beer mug over to the barkeep to get it refilled.
The next morning, Marshal Sampson was looking over the new edition of the Rock Springs Gazette and sipping a steaming cup of coffee. He was surprised to see Charlotte walking down the street. She wasn’t usually out in the mornings. “Mornin’ Miss Charlotte.”
She stopped for an instant. “Morning, Marshal.”
It was obvious she’d been crying. “Everything all right?” he asked.
“He’s gone.” She started crying again. “I don’t think he’s coming back.”
“May be right,” the marshal agreed.
Other works by David B. Riley
- Hanging Judge (May 25, 2008)