The Sarsaparilla Drifter

The bat-winged double doors flew open smacking the saloon’s walls with an emphatic clap. He stood there, a bulky figure, face obscured in shadow, the dim sooty flutter of tallow candles warping his features into a caricature. His flat brimmed hat traced a line through the glowing window across the darkened, wagon rutted road behind him.

The drifter entered behind a mustache resembling a hedge of baleen protruding from his upper lip. He strode measuredly across the creaky pine plank floor, the double tap of each heel to toe footstep cracking the silence like gunshots. His stain spattered overcoat shifted to and fro with his movement revealing a glimpse of two tied down six-guns hanging low. A ragged old man in a shadowy corner muttered to himself, as he snatched a shot glass of rotgut whiskey with a shaky hand.

The drifter sidled up to the bar surveying his surroundings in a dead-eyed deliberate stare, the light catching a thin scar running through the grizzled stubble on his cheek. The bartender eased backward, the small of his back butting up against the counter beneath the bottles. His withered face drooped from his skull and two deep furrows at the corners of his mouth accentuated a pair of fuzzy pink cheeks that hung like dog jowls. His bottom lip quavered ever so slightly. “What’ll it be?” he asked.

The drifter leaned sideways against the end of the grimy bar cocked on an elbow, a turned shoulder toward the corner of the room, his back to the wall. He felt the glare of all eyes reading him like the tea stained wanted posters tacked up throughout town. “Sarsaparilla,” he answered.

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