‘The Bullet Catch’
Ringo and Pavel pull a fast one …
After the town was good and curious about the carnival tents going up, Pavel and I would go to whatever hole served brew. We’d play Queen’s War with my trap deck, him losing and cursing, ’til the crowd was thick and sauced. Pavel and I, best friends since age 3, had grown up feeling out crowds of drunk people. You go wrong, they turn on you. Go right, you make out with the contents of their pockets.
I was a better bad guy than Pavel. He was our strong man, but he had big baby eyes. I’d make an ugly show of winning, buying pints with his money without sharing. Then, when the crowd was ripe, Pavel would demand a chance to make his money back.
“Fastest bullet in the world? I bet 10 gold I can catch your bullet in my teeth.”
“You’re drunk, Pavey,” I’d say big-n-loud. “Ain’t no one can catch a bullet in his teeth.”
Then, Pavel’d claim I cheated, and people started crowding around. Pavel’d put on his big tent voice and say, “Who has a gold piece that says I can catch this puny cheater’s bullet?”
Most people didn’t believe but wanted to see a guy get shot in the mouth, that being the kind of towns we stopped in.
The more I protested, the more gold the crowd put down. When we’d got a half-circle round us, I’d take aim and then drop my piece, say I couldn’t shoot at my oldest friend. But the crowd was frothed up, so I’d take my first shot, let it go wide and straight through the wall behind Pavel. Ha!
If the crowd hated me before, they hated me worse then. I’d try to run off but if we worked them right, the crowd would haul me back. I’d put up my gun, wrist shaking and fire wide the other direction, make another perfect hole in the wall. That’s when Pavel’d squawk chicken at me, making me good-n-mad. I’d aim with my tongue out and one eye closed for effect and blast a blank right at Pavel’s chubby sweet face.
We had it practiced so he turned his head hard at the sound, fall down with a floor-cracking slam and the crowd would gather all over him. Then he’d flutter his big baby eyes open and give a big grin to the crowd, a bullet between his front teeth.
I made a show of handing over all the gold he’d lost to me in Queen’s War and the crowd had such a good time watching the show that they didn’t mind handing over what they’d bet plus a couple rounds besides, and then we made a show of being good friends again, which people always love to see. It was a great bit. I miss that big boy Pavel. I bet he’s still lifting up chairs of ladies with his pinky fingers in the big tent somewhere. “Lousy at life; amazing at shooting,” he’d always said to me. How right he was.