The following piece was also short-listed on write-invite.com (on 25 June 2011). It is another piece that I did not think was anywhere near my best. It came second in the ballot.
The prompt was ‘Sherriff’. The piece is inspired (in fact, is little more than a rendering into prose after) a poem by Richard Hill called Cowboy which appears in anthology for teenagers edited by Roger McGough entitled Strictly Private.
Meanwood Valley is a topographical feature which happens to be in an inner-city district of Leeds.
Standoff in Meanwood Valley
The new sheriff walked into the saloon and cast a surly glance round the room. He did not like what he saw. “Two Blades” McGraw and Crazy Jake were playing pontoon and drinking whiskey. Jake drained his drink and opened another can (it was buy one, get one free at Patel’s International Store round the corner).
A tall figure seated sloppily in the corner stood up and opened his coat to reveal two pistols (one silver-coated and one of green and orange plastic). The sheriff ignored him. If he got a sweat on every time he saw a loaded gun, he would have a continual fever.
‘Name’s Slim Webster.’ drawled the tall figure. ‘I’m a gun-slinger, and I don’t care who knows it. Matter of fact, I like it better the more people do know it. What brings you into town? You look like you could do with a drink and new suit of clothes.’
‘I don’t drink, replied the sheriff,’ and glared at Two Blades’ and Jake’s table.
‘Game of cards?’ asked Crazy Jake, sounding as if he was trying to be friendly, which he often was, right up to the point where he would decide to kill some-one.
‘I don’t play cards.’
‘Well how do you pass the time?’ As if by way of a reply, the new sheriff buffed his badge against his shirt, and carefully re-pinned it on.
‘I put people who break the law in gaol. That’s what I do.’ Slim Webster flexed his long, strong fingers, and his hands hovered over his holsters.
The silence was unbearable. “One-Eye” Ford nervously scratched the area around his pink plastic patch, leaving a visible trail of dirt as he did so.
‘What’s your name, stranger?’ Slim asked the sheriff.
‘Jack Stone.’ He pronounced the words separately. Jack. Stone. Another pause. A few people who were near the door glanced at it. Slim flexed his fingers again. The sheriff did not move a muscle. They noticed for the first time that he was also armed.
Some-one spoke from outside.
‘Jack, time to come in now: your tea’s ready!’ called a strident female voice.