Not Used to the Dust

I’m a Yank. A northeastern Yank with furniture building roots. We don’t get dust where I’m from. I’d heard the southwestern territories get dusty, but I never imagined the extent. The stage kicked up a formidable amount of dust, but I could deal with it. Around 5pm, though, the sky was occluded in all directions by a dust cloud. When the storm finally hit, my visibility was cut to mere feet.

I closed my eyes and shoved my nose and mouth deep into my kerchief and made for the nearest saloon. The rotgut helped cleanse my mouth of grit. A group of old Rebs were playing cards in a corner (I could tell they were Rebs by the prominent Bonnie Blues on their coats and bags). The dust was blowing as fierce as ever, so I joined them for a few friendly games before the coy white-hair across from me stared me down. He held my eyes transfixed and held up a lazy finger.

“Yank, ” was all he said.

“I am,” was all I said.

“Tell you what, Doodle, these two’re gonna sit this round out. I got somethin’ good to wager.”

I knew there was some sort of catch. I also knew Arizona and New Mexico Territories were grey zones and that, even though we had banded together against The Menace, Northerners weren’t much liked here.

“What’s the rest of that bet?” I asked.

“You win, you get what I have. I win, you go back out in the street and whistle Dixie.”

I had to smile at that. I had imagined something violent or a wager that I leave town. This seemed like more of a prank and, what’s more, I thought that if I played along the group would respect me.

“Deal ’em,” I said.

It was a low scoring game, as five card usually is. It came down to Queen high and a pair of threes, in my favor.

“Well, shit,” the old man spat and slumped into his chair.

“Again?” I asked.

“You already won, Yankee.”

“I win, you buy us a round. You win, I buy us a round and go into the street to whistle Dixie.”

Without a word, the younger slouch to my right started dealing cards with a goofy grin on his face. I didn’t fare as well on this deal; nine high to three of a kind. The slouch started a slow, low shit-kicker chuckle and the old man grinned. I had the bartender bring over three  shots and stood up to walk outside.

“Yankee,” the old man called, “back here at noon tomorrow for your winnings.”

I nodded and walked out.

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