I originally wanted to write a social commentary piece about how our institutions are lining up to form a “human conveyor belt”, churning out person after person of roughly the same flavor, with little tolerance for deviations. It was a good idea, one that didn’t quite hit the ground running, or spinning, or whatever it is that ideas are supposed to do when they hit the ground.
So instead, here are two very short stories (about 200 words apiece), written mostly as a joke, thanks to spammers on The Writer’s Tower. When one of them started with an ad for Oakley Sunglasses, it was too good an opportunity for too good a story to pass up. Here’s what came out of it:
PART 1: THE TOWN
Oakley “Sunglasses”. That’s what they called him, for the way his eyeglasses caught the sun in high noon. He squinted out into the silent town square, and his targets looked back at him with a certain disdain.
The Black Stars. Nasty Dan and Big Billy. Brothers hailing from the county on the other side of the badlands. Legend has it that the black tin star pinned to their vests once belonged to the unfortunate sheriffs who crossed them. Some said that the brothers themselves used to the sheriffs.
None of these meant a damn to Oakley. To his side, standing in the shade of the town inn, was his client, who exchanged glances with him: Edna, as lovely as she was dangerous.
“Those are your guys?” he asked.
The bigger one of the Two Black Stars – Big Billy, he assumed – spat into the ground.
“I’ve heard of you, Sunglasses,” Big Billy said. “Used to be a respectable gunfighter, didn’t you? What did she hire you for, $16?”
“Money’s money,” Oakley replied.
There was a beat, and the world seemed to skip a heartbeat.
Guns were drawn.
There was a sound of thunder.
PART 2: AFTERWARDS, IN THE DESERT…
The flightless bird did what it had to, and let out a squawk when it was done. It stepped over to Oakley, leaving the puddle of amber-colored piss behind.
Oakley looked up at his companion, glasses glinting in the golden sun.
“Glad we got that out of the way,” he growled. “Can we move on now?”
The ostrich squawked again, as though to indicate its agreement. This was silly, of course. Ostriches can’t comprehend human speech – their brains were smaller than their eyes. Then again, the same could be said for a great many people.
He closed his fist, and the two black tin stars clicked together in his hand. He felt the jagged holes – one in the middle of each star, where his bullet had struck – and found himself feeling slightly irritated that the holes didn’t align.
You can’t always get what you want.
Oakley hoisted himself up to his feet and limped over to the bird. With a grunt, he lifted himself onto the saddle, and tried his best to ignore the searing pain in his left thigh.
“What’s it they say?” Oakley mused, then remembered. “Ah, yes. Giddy-up, boy.”
The ostrich and its rider took off into the sunset.