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The Hats

The sun slid behind a row of tile roofs, but those last few rays felt like a branding iron against Pete’s desert-scorched forehead.

“God almighty, I never thought we’d see another town in our lives!” He cracked a dry smile that popped like frying bacon.

“What is this place?” Paul asked his brother with a voice that sounded like sand in a windstorm.

Pete studied the backs of the buildings and shrugged. “Some sort of town, I reckon, so there’s bound to be vittles and drink.”

He teetered through an alleyway between two shops, and Paul shuffled along behind him. Out on the still-sunlit main street of the village, a man in tattered clothes staggered past.

“Excuse me, sir.” Pete stepped out of the shadows. “Is there a waterin’ hole in this town?”

The man turned his droopy face toward Pete, and his eyes shot open wide. He whooped in terror, turned tail, and sprinted down the street.

“What’s wrong with that fella?” Paul asked as the man disappear into a storefront with a tattered sign above the door.

“Just a skittish old drunk,” Pete said. “C’mon…that’s the saloon.”

“Now you’re talkin’!” Paul followed his brother, but as they approached the tavern, the batwings swung open and a man in black stumbled out onto the walkway, as if shot from a cannon.

A nervous, jostling crowd trembled just inside, gawking at the two men.

“You’re not welcome here,” the preacher said, holding a metal cross in front of his body.

Pete frowned. “Guess it’s time for us to move on, Paul. This is a strange town, anyway.”

He pivoted on a heel of his boot and headed off across the street, Paul in tow.

Two lonely hats floated past the far row of buildings, then disappeared into the golden sunset.

Published inFlash Fiction

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