This entry is part of the NaNo Excerpt Blog Chain 2013 at Absolute Write.

“Goddamn yellow journalist,” Virginia cried, throwing down the paper on the bar at Portia’s. “That’s the last time I try to tell my side of the story to someone who made up his own nickname.” She was swaying a little and slurring as she spoke, which was easily explained by the small tower of upended empty shot glasses quietly weeping Madam Daisy-May Portia’s Patented Prosperity Falls Proof Tequila into the wood.

Prissy, seated next to her held up a finger, knocking over her own stack of glasses. “Yes, but imagine the lies that he might have made up if you hadn’t talked to him, Miss McNeill,” she slurred.

“You can stop calling me Miss McNeill,” Virginia said. “No one’s going to call me that unless they hit the bar when they’re aiming for the small of my back.”

“Oh, but I have to!” Prissy said, hiccuping. “I have to keep up decorum. And standards. Standards and decorum. As important in speech as in dress. After all, my plan to meet a strong husband in the Rangers is bust, so I must try extra hard to make up for it. With more class than Harvard.” She wobbled on her stool, spilling a shot of amber liquid on her starched white bustle. “Whoops! Good thing I have a line of credit with the tailor, though Daddy’s said that the next suit of clothes he makes me will be the last. I wonder if that’s a threat, or if he’s just doing tough love.”

“Adam says I can come home whenever I want, despite what this piss-yellow newspaper man says,” groaned Virginia. “But I can’t go back. I can’t. Not unless I’m crawling there wearing a potato sack. I have to make it on my own…somehow…to prove them all wrong. Prove that I have what it takes so they’ll beg for me to come back.”

“How long before you…crawl there in that potato sack?” Prissy belched.

“About two weeks,” said Virginia. “Renting a room upstairs is eating through what’s left of my Ranger pay like a starving dog through a dead man’s ass, and doing stable work at the livery is barely paying for Murgatroyd’s upkeep. I might have to send him back to Adam, but without me around, someone’s liable to send him to the glue factory.”

“I need to find something to do with myself, too,” said Prissy, miserably. “Something that’s not beneath my dignity.” She tipped her head forward onto the bar where it landed with a thump. Reynard the rat, eating crumbs from a plate, hoisted his nose at the sound. “Don’t look at me like that,” Prissy added.

“Maisy-Day! More tequila por favor!” cried Virginia, holding out the least dirty of her shot glasses. “The glass wants booze!”

“I think you’ve had enough, sugar,” said Daisy-May, behind the bar, as she very deliberately corked an enormous bottle of the house brew. “I should know, I was a drunkard in another life.”

“The same life you were a jimador?” Virginia grunted.

“No. The jimador was a teetotaler,” said Daisy-May. “And I’m still cutting you off.”

“What about me?” cried Prissy, her head still on the bar. “Can I get some more, or am I too drunk to get another? Gonna cut me off like a bad fingernail, Mrs. Portia?”

Daisy-May squinted at Prissy. “You’re drinking sarsaparilla, child.”

“So is that a yes, or a no?” Prissy slurred.

“Darling, there’s no alcohol in sarsaparilla,” said the proprietress. “It’s for teetotalers, children, mixing with booze, and calming upset stomachs.”

“Well what do you know, I do feel less upset in the stomach area, Mrs. Portia,” said Prissy, still addressing the bar. “Still feel pretty rotten everywhere else. How about a round of sarsa…sarasap…root beer for the whole place? You know I’m good for it.”

Daisy-May looked around her establishment. It was ten-thirty in the morning, and the only customer was an unemployed ranch hand losing at Faro to Daniel Evans the gambler. “Whatever you say, honey.”

Prissy didn’t respond; she had somehow passed out on the bar and had begun snoring loudly. Reynard the rat sniffed at his mistress and climbed up her increasingly stained outfit to her increasingly disheveled hair, where he made a little drey and curled up to sleep as well.

“What am I supposed to drown my sorrows in, if not your tequila?” Virginia moaned.

“Maybe that’s my subtle and ladylike way of telling you that sorrows are like fish, sweetheart,” said Daisy-May. “They can’t be drowned; getting them wet just makes them grow.”

“Ah, but a fish’ll still die if you put it in booze,” grunted Virginia, holding up a finger. “Don’t ask me how I know that. Mr. Rhodes was really sore about his goldfish, and how was I supposed to know that it was swimming in water and not single malt whiskey?”

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This entry is part of the NaNo Excerpt Blog Chain 2013 at Absolute Write.

“…never even seen a Savage Figure Eight. How do you suppose Caleb Jung found one?” Deputy Marshal Hopkins was saying. “Nobody liked those even when cap-and-ball was state of the art!”

“Probably bought it off a peddler for $5,” Cunningham grunted in return. “Remember the Elgin cutlass pistol he brought last year? After he missed with his first shot, he ran up and stabbed the target?”

“One of the O’Clellan Gang had an Elgin as his backup boot pistol,” Hopkins said. “Wasn’t even good for roasting meat on a spit after we pulled it off his carcass.”

“…still got to work that into every conversation, don’t you?” Cunningham muttered. “So, who have we got here? Miss McNeill, I see!”

“That’s right, Deputy Marshalls,” Virginia said. “I’m here to do my parents proud.”

“I rode with your parents when I was just a rookie Ranger myself,” said Hopkins approvingly. “It’s a shame they were taken from us so soon. I could have used their guns against the O’Clellans.”

Cunningham audibly sighed, and Virginia responded: “I hope to do them justice. I was to wear my mother’s own duster and kit until there was a…washing mishap.”

“Yes, that would have been most fitting,” said Hopkins, glancing at Virginia’s ragged and somewhat tatterdemalion rig with a critical eye. “We’ll have you fitted out properly at the Rangers’ quartermaster if it comes to that.”

Cunningham looked at the revolvers laid out as part of Virginia’s kit. “Most of our candidates are using Peacemakers,” he said with a note of surprise in his voice, “but I see you favor the Model 1875.”

Virginia nodded eagerly, trying to remember the lines Adam had told her to recite at just such a statement. “Yeah. Mr. Remington can go to hell. My parents used a Colt as Prosperity Rangers and that’s what I’ll use now.”

Cunningham and Hopkins looked at one another with meaningful, skeptical glances. “I…see,” Cunningham said. “Recite for us the Prosperity Charter, Miss McNeill. Why, and for what principles, did our forefathers reject the inequity of the east and come to the lands of the Ide in peace and brotherhood?”

“Ah…” Virginia said, pursing her lips. She knew this, she’d learned it in school, Adam had yammered on and on about it while she had daydreamed about rags to riches stories…why hadn’t she paid more attention? Why hadn’t she tried to listen for Talbot’s answer so she could copy it?

“Come on, out with it,” said Hopkins. “As I said before facing down the O’Clellans: he who hesitates is lost.”

“…really?” Cunningham murmured. “Really?”

“Uh…everyone’s equal…ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t matter,” Virginia said, bowdlerizing the concept as best she could.”

“Point the First: All shall be equal before the settlement of Prosperity Falls and before God, regardless of their sex, creed, or color!” barked Cunningham.

“Right, exactly, just like I said.” Virginia’s bullets weren’t all on the table; she was sweating them. “Er…Point the Second…disputes get solved peacefully…no war…no violence!”

“Point the Second: Real men solve their disputes peacefully, and there shall be no war and no recourse to violence save in direst need and then only in defense!” Hopkins cried. “Really, Miss McNeill, if this is a joke it is in exceptionally poor taste.”

Virginia bit her lip. Somehow, being called out for a lie—well, a bowdlerization—didn’t seem as easy to brush off as it had been for the eponymous hero of Alger’s Luke Larkin’s Luck weathering crooked Mr. Coleman. “Point the Third: Respect for the natives…settlers and Ide tribes trade and get along!”

“Point the Third: The Indians are the original posessors of the land and will be dealt with fairly and respectfully; trade and brotherly harmony shall be our watchwords!” corrected Cunningham. “As I said in the action at Slaughter Gulch, near isn’t nearly good enough.” The Deputy Marshal seemed slightly crushed when his witticism elicited no visible response.

“Point the Fourth: Self-sufficiency: Prosperity Falls makes everything it needs!” Virginia clenched her fists in anticipation of the brutal riposte Hopkins or Cunningham would respond with.

“That’s better,” said Hopkins. “Well recited, if only on that last point.”

Virginia sighed heavily.

“Gather up your kit and meet the others at the firing range,” Cunningham added. The pair then moved on to Jake, who flawlessly belted out the Prosperity Charter with a smug sidelong glance at Virginia.

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Adam handed Virginia her gunbelt with two Remington Model 1875 revolvers, freshly cleaned and oiled, nestled in its holsters. “The Rangers know their shooting irons. If you’re asked why you use a Remington 1875 instead of a Colt 1873, tell them ‘Mr. Colt can go to hell: my parents used a Remington as Prosperity Rangers and that’s what I’ll use now.'”

Virginia accepted the belt and buckled it on. “Why do I need to say that?” she said with wrinkled nose.

“Because that’s what I’d say if it were me.” Adam shook his lame leg. “I may have lost my shot but I can still have my say.”

“But I only use the Remingtons because you bought them for me.”

“Out, out! You’re already late,” Adam cried. “And remember what I told you to say.”

*

Cunningham looked at the revolvers laid out as part of Virginia’s kit. “Most of our candidates are using Peacemakers,” he said with a note of surprise in his voice, “but I see you favor the Model 1875.”

Virginia nodded eagerly, trying to remember the lines Adam had told her to recite at just such a statement. “Yeah. Mr. Remington can go to hell. My parents used a Colt as Prosperity Rangers and that’s what I’ll use now.”

Cunningham and Hopkins looked at one another with meaningful, skeptical glances. “I…see,” Cunningham said.