by Douglas W. Milliken
The whole town had gathered around the church because Hollace Whitaker was holed up inside and we knew and he knew that he pretty much had to die. It wasn’t anything personal. It was, in fact, the definition of impersonal. A man can’t shoot his wife and expect to continue drinking coffee and plowing fields and shooting deer like all the rest of us who just want sometimes to kill our wives but never do. Everyone knew that, maybe Hollace best of all. But clearly that didn’t mean he had to like it. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have bivouacked in the church. He knew no one would open fire and blast apart the new altar or the cross over the pulpit that that miserable old carcass Halston Smith had carved with his own two crippled hands. He shot his wife and trotted directly to the only safe place in town. So we gathered around and kicked at the dust and shouted for him to come out, and when he shouted back that we could all go fuck our own selves, some folks looked genuinely hurt. We all liked Hollace. Couldn’t he see that?
Eventually, Hollace’s brother John showed up. John ran a ranch quite a piece outside of town. His horse was lathered and crazy-eyed from the long, fast ride. John rode up to where we were gathered and got off his horse and held out the reins for anyone to take hold. Then he walked to the church’s backdoor. He didn’t announce himself, but he wasn’t acting sneaky either. He did not take off his boots or spurs. Hollace was still near the front of the church, shouting whatever craziness came into his head. John walked through the backdoor and for a while things got quiet *** Read on! ***