I had to do it.

I couldn’t just stand by while he hit her, no matter what she done fer a livin’. Mama wouldn’t be happy about me bein’ in that saloon, with the type of folks that frequent there. Fact is, I wouldn’t have been there ‘cept for that’s where the Doc was. Mama ain’t been well these past months and yesterday she took a turn for the worse. Doc was in there, playin out a hand of poker, so all I could do was to go in after him.

I straightened my hat, feelin’ to make sure there weren’t no loose hairs stickin’ out, and through those swinging doors I went. I was heeled, not that I’m any gunfighter, but I can hold my own. The smell of whisky hit me like a wild bull and me wearin’ red. I marched in, not allowin’ myself to be distracted by the gal dancin’ by the pianer or the randy tune fillin’ my ears, and headed straight for Doc’s table to state my business.

I was waiting for Doc to collect up his winin’s when I saw them by the end of the bar. I tried not to stare, but she was awful purty, standin’ there in her red an’ black frills, with her auburn tresses all piled up atop her head, just one little ringlet hangin’ down the side of her face, like an angel. She weren’t no angel though. Mama called women like her “hussies.”

She was talkin’ with a feller who was all duded up, like he was goin’ to some fancy shin-dig, what with his frilly shirt, and his red and gold vest. A gold watch chain hung acrost his middle, connectin’ right to left, and his boots looked to be pure snakeskin. Must of taken a passle full of adlers to cover them big feet o’ his.

I could tell right off they weren’t bein’ too friendly. He grabbed her by the arm, movin’ toward the stairs, and she pulled away, real quick-like. Then he backhanded her and she fell back against the stair railin’. That’s when I had to step in.

I got right straight to the point. No use beatin’ around the bush with such things. I told him that it ain’t right, a man hittin’ a lady like that, but he didn’t take too kindly to it. He told me to mind my business, reaching out for her, as if to draw her to him. I stepped up, puttin’ myself between them.

He breathed his hot, putrid whiskey breath in my face before he threw a right. The wind brushed past my ear, as I ducked out of the way. I may be small in size, but I’m lightnin’ quick. I lashed out with my own right, connecting squarely with his nose. A solid crack of bone breaking echoed through the place, which had suddenly become dead silent.

He went down hard, hitting a table, tipping it over, cards and money scattering every which way. I thought that would be the end of it, so I backed away. But he got up off of the sawdust floor, rising to his feet, and went straight for his gun. ‘Fore I knew it, my pistol was out, the shot ringin’ through my head. His shot scattered woodchips inches from my foot, but mine hit its mark, dead on. I watched the life drain out of his eyes, as he slumped to the floor in a heap.

Now here I sit, on a rickety cot, with bars on all sides. They’re diggin’ a plot for that feller up on Boot Hill now. They’ll prob’ly make him a wooden cross with his name scorched onto it. I hear talk on the street they’re expectin’ it to be overcast this afternoon when they lay him to rest, which will be a relief for the onlookers. Better to chance a little rain than to stand out there listenin’ to the preacher drawn on in this swelterin’ heat.

I’m not happy about what I done, but anyone can see that I had no choice. Anyone, that is, ‘cept for the Judge, who happens to be the brother of the man I shot. He didn’t take into account that I was a girl, no more than his brother had when he drew on me.

They’re buildin’ a gallows for me, right outside the jail window, where I can watch to be sure it’s done proper. It’s disheartenin’ to watch, but it passes the time. Looks like I’m goin’ to be the first girl to be hung in Colorado territory.

Doc said Mama’s real weak and needs lots a rest. I don’t know what she’ll will do without me bein’ there to take care of her. Doc says she’s awful upset. Mama always said I had a knack fer messin’ things up. I reckon she was right, ‘cause I sure did make a mess of things this time. But no one else was goin’ to step up for that little gal.

I just had to do it.

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—For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is her passion. Kaye has been a freelance writer for six years, with published work both online and in print. Kaye holds an M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with an emphasis in genre fiction, and is currently seeking a second emphasis in screenwriting. It is a very strange time indeed when Kaye does not have at least three WIPs going in addition to her schooling and writing for hire. Kaye also maintains a writing blog, “Writing to be Read”, where she publishes things of interest in the literary world.

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    […] or Google+, you may have seen my very recent post announcing that my flash fiction western story, I Had to Do It, has been picked up by Zetetic: A Record of Unusual […]

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