the merry adventures of mister l’amour

by dschapman

l’amour can’t see straight. his eyes are beaded up and crusty. he had a few drinks before a gundown and has been drunk since. until now, in the belly of a bear den, the monsters giant and powerful, and himself in the guts of hell. all he had left were drugs. there were drugs on all the corpses of past men who had found themselves in the bear den. junkies, all of them. and l’amour, a drunk. so he crawls like a worm out of the cave, and staggers back to town. but he’s spent all his cash money, which wasn’t much, on ammo. and no one will give him a drink. but l’amour doesn’t even want a goddamn drink, he wants to be cured. they’ve got meds for that. he just needs to the see doctor. l’amour was never a drunk. not like this… doctor, please. but the doctor won’t see him. he’s got too many bleeding patients. l’amour doesn’t have a choice. he’s to shrivel up and die, or keep drinking. so he’ll drink on. there’s plenty of whiskey in those wastes… and so he prepares to leave town, to go south, to find the legendary smiling jack, and kill him, for his legendary shotgun.

but first he sells back his ammo and goes to the bar. he doesn’t need that many rounds; he’s a better shot than that. and when he puts that money down, and the ghoul behind the counter slides him a tumbler, everything feels allright again. l’amour feels like himself. like he’s ready to kill. and kill he will. he’s on his game. this town is his; this whole wasteland is his… ‘take it from me if you can, you bastards…’

he doesn’t care to go alone, though. he could use a good man. and jericho is in the bar. old jericho, triggerfingered somebitch with teeth like black tar. young, tough, and brave. spits like a marine. they’d worked together before, long ago, when l’amour was young, and reckless. l’amour grew out of it; jericho did not. jericho is no l’amour. but no one is no l’amour; l’amour’s the best. jericho knows l’amour is in the bar and has been ignoring him. l’amour takes his time drinking. – and he had such beautiful cursive… – but his gut still hurts. it’s all clearing up, though. that central rowdiness. that awareness. that constipation. he sells the bartender a few scavenged cartons of smokes and then gets up to leave. he doesn’t move though.

– say, jericho, i’ll be damned!

jericho is cleaning a gun and doesn’t look up. – i bet you will be.

– listen, what say you and i go get smilin’ jack?

jericho looks up. – come again, l’amour?

– just what i said. what do you say, jericho? get’n bored around this town, ain’t you? you gotta be. i know i am, and i just got here. how long you been here? eight? nine weeks?

– hah! what do you know about it? nothing. i’m waiting on something. just what makes you think i’d want to go out into the wastes with you, anyway?

– why not?

– you’re reputation precedes you, l’amour. you seem to’ve turned a little… soft-hearted since we worked together as kids.

– soft hearted!

– you heard what i said. soft hearted. let’s talk when you toughen up a little.

quentin’s expression seeps back into a snarl. too soft hearted… too soft hearted! perhaps l’amour was a merciful man. perhaps he was a decent man. perhaps; but he was only decent for the percentage in it, only merciful because it wasn’t in his best interest to be otherwise. by rights, l’amour was soft hearted by coincidence, not by soft heartedness. and if that rat jericho thought he was tougher, more mean, more mean!, than him, that was one thing, but to think l’amour too goddamned soft hearted a man was another –

quentin l’amour draws his sawed-off shotgun from his side and aims at jericho. jericho jerks defensively but hesitates, unsure of how to react. then l’amour spins around and starts firing into the bar; he blows the head off a whore, old betsy ross, and blows out the legs of the bartender, whose pretty little stockings riddle with shot which puddles with blood. he fires two shells at the resident mutt, once in the back and once in the back of the head. and he fires at some local punk, who tries to make a great escape running out the back door, but does not make it. his back erupts in blood and he falls forward, on his face, into the dirt.

– am i still too fucking soft hearted? l’amour asks, sheathing his shotgun, and sitting down directly across from jericho.

– no. jericho leans back and crosses his arms. he laughs. you dirty bastard.

neither of them have any dreams, and plans… jericho because he has no family, no friends, no addictions, only black mute strength and raw lack of inhibition. and l’amour because he’s drunk. and when l’amour wasn’t drunk he was nothing other than the best, a man’s man and a lady’s man and somehow sometimes a gentleman. but in a matter of minutes they will leave town. l’amour will stop by his house – the nicest in town, he owns this town – to take a piss and play a game of pool. he’ll get a drink from his wine cellar, polish out his sidearm, and then, off into the setting western sun, they will walk.