“Storm Damage” (in Sundown Western Tales, Sundown Press, January 2016).
I was twelve or thirteen years old, eating by myself in the Stockman’s café, when a grizzled old guy in our small Nebraska town sat down next to me. The beer on his breath overpowered the lunch time smell of coffee, fried chicken and potatoes, and his gnarled, spotted hand clutched unpredictably at his knee.
Like it was his solemn duty, he told me a decades old story of lust and lost love.
Through his bushy white beard, he admitted to being plenty lonely himself.
“Storm Damage” isn’t his story, exactly. The years have rounded the edges and my own experience added the sharp peaks and valleys.
But the idea started back in that smoky cafe, with a long gone old farmer talking to me like an adult, planting a seed of warning.
“The Scalper” (in Western Trail Blazer #10: Western Tales, Western Trail Blazer, December 2015)
Used to be there’d be a hundred different kinds of peddlers traipsing onto your farm place, hocking everything from lightning rods to horses and cows. Drunk barn painters and crooked calf wranglers wandered up every few weeks, and sometimes, if you felt sorry for them, you gave ‘em a few bucks.
“The Scalper” is a story about that kinda Joe. A down-on-his luck dreamer with a chance to step up in the world. If only he’s got the guile to make it happen.
Please pick up Western Tales #10 at Amazon.
In August last year, I wrote a single short story every day. The yarns ranged all over the place: from westerns to crime stories, to speculative fiction. Almost all of them fit into an established genre except this one.
Part alternate history, part love note to the library book sales that have helped populate my shelves, this story happened in about two hours start to finish, and was a lot of fun to write.