The Cattle Rustler and the Kid

I present now the final page of my Western novel, The Cattle Rustler and the Kid. First published in 1986, the New York Times called it, "...the worst novel written in any language, anywhere in the world, ever." My critics, were less kind. Enjoy!



Flann O’Coonassa

Page 367 of 367

…all over my ass, with some kind of scrubbing brush,” said the rustler.
“How do you mean?” asked the kid, weeping.
“Ah, I’d rather not get into it,” answered the rustler, embarrassed to have brought it up.

The sheriff nodded to the hangman, just as the steeple clock of Dry Gulch Creek struck noon. A noose looped around the rustler's neck, drawing a rippling murmur from the hot, sweaty townsfolk.

“Any last words?” asked the preacher, loosening his collar with a bony index finger.
“Hah, you know me preacher,” replied the rustler, smiling.
“Not really,” replied the preacher.
“Well, can you take care of the kid for me?”
“Again, not really. I’m a preacher, not a crèche.”

The rustler looked down at the kid, whose cheeks, chin, neck and upper chest were drenched in snotty tears. His face looked tiny, like the hoof of a massive horse.

“Looks like you’ll be flying solo from now on, kid,” said the rustler.
“Please paw, don’t die.”
“I told you before, I ain’t your paw.”
“But maw said…”
“And I told you before, she ain’t your maw.”
“But granpaw says…”
“Look kid, we’ve been through all this. You can’t rely on nobody in this world but yourself. You gotta be strong now, you hear?”

The preacher leafed his bible, but the rustler declined any last rites.

“Best the kid doesn’t see this,” said the preacher, motioning the boy toward the gallows steps.
“Actually, I’d prefer he watched,” said the rustler.
“Fair enough. I guess a boy only becomes a man when he sees someone he loves being hung to death,” said the preacher with an uproarious belly laugh.
“What?” replied the rustler.
“Nothing,” said the preacher, already halfway down the gallows steps.

The kid threw his arms around the rustler.

“Don’t leave me,” he gurgled, his throat three-quarters full of snot and tears.
“You think I want this?” whined the rustler.
“I wish I could die with you,” gargled the kid.
“I wish it too. There’s something I need you to know before I die kid. It’s important. It’s about your real family.”
“My real family, what? What? Quick, tell me, tell me!” exclaimed the boy excitedly.
“Woah, slow down there champ. Let me get a word in edge-wise. Where was I? Ah yes, your real family. Bet you’re excited about this, eh? Well, you see it’s like this. Your real maw and paw live at the following address. I’ll tell you their names, after I give you the address. They live at…”

Suddenly, the trapdoor released and both the rustler and the kid fell earthward. The kid landed with a thud on the gravel. Dazed, he looked up to see the twitching feet of the rustler suspended above him. They twitched, and twitched, and then fell still. The kid didn’t cry. There were no tears left in him.

“Goodbye, my friend,” he said.

Turning into the midday sun, he motioned to walk away, but the rustler's feet started twitching again. The kid waited for them to stop twitching. He went to walk away, but again the feet started twitching. This happened several more times. Eventually the boy, fighting back the tears, pretended he didn’t notice the feet were still twitching, and strode defiantly toward the horizon. He briefly came back for his hat, and then returned to where he had left off, striding defiantly toward the horizon. The rustler's feet had stopped twitching permanently by then anyway.


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Rant by is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Copyright © 2009 Flann O'Coonassa