Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Cowboys and Indians

By Andy Hamilton

The crosshairs track from the windscreen of one car to the next. Silence. She sits in the centre of a large double bed, folding strips of paper into smaller and smaller shapes. He is crouched behind the open window, watching everything that moves.
“Daddy? Daddy!”
“Yes sweetie?”
“Look,” she says as she lifts a triangular piece of red paper high into the air. “I’ve made a party dress. Just like one of Mommy’s.”
“Okay,” he says, his eyes still fixed on the window. “That’s nice.”

From the second story window he can see everything that approaches the house from the road. He can see a truck or large van from a mile away or more. He can see the gate, and behind it apple saplings, long ago strangled by hungry weeds. He can see the tiny stone well, were they had once tied twine to willow branches and pretended to fish. He can see the two black cars that sit in the driveway.
“Are we like cowboys?”
“Cowboys? What do you mean cowboys?”
“Like on the telly. Are we like those cowboys?”
“Do you mean, are we the good guys?”
"Ya… I suppose that’s sort-of what I mean.”
“Okay. Then yes, I think we’re cowboys.” He forces a smile. “Tha’ okay wit’ you part-ner?”
She nods and returns to folding paper.
“Yes sweetie.”
“Do you think that Mommy can see us?”
“Mommy. I think she can. I think she’s watching us right now.”
A mobile phone begins to ring underneath the giant white pillow at the head of the bed.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ll get it.”
“No!” he shouts and grabs for the phone. “No. It’s not for you. Okay, not for you.”

She presses her head into the great white pillow. Scraps of paper have settled on the bed, the floor, the windowsill. His ears are filled with silence.
“Sweetie,” he says. “Sweetie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. I just need to concentrate. Sweetie?”
She sits up and wipes her cheeks with the sleeves of her jumper.

“Maybe they’re asleep?” she says, at last.
“You think?”
“Ya, I always get sleepy in the car. Maybe they’re just having a little nap?”
“I dunno sweetie, it’s a funny place to fall asleep.”
“Not really actually, Mommy was always falling asleep in the car. Wasn’t she?”
The mobile phone, now on the floor beside his knees, starts to ring.
“For Gods sake!” he shouts and throws the phone out the open window. The tiny missile strikes the bonnet of the car closest to the house, and shatters into four pieces. “Shite,” he says, peering after it. “Shite”

A car door opens and a large man walks slowly to where the fragments of plastic and metal have collected. He kneels to examine them, tossing pieces carelessly here and there.
“Who is that?” she whispers.
“That’s the sheriff.”
“The sheriff! But we’re the cowboys, shouldn’t the sheriff be on our side?”
“You would think so, wouldn’t you,” he mutters.
“No sweetie, he’s not that sort of sheriff. He’s a bailiff.”
“I don’t get it?”
“That’s ‘cause it’s complicated. He is a sheriff, but he’s a different kind of sheriff from the ones in the Wild West.”
“Is he like a bad sheriff then?”
“I don’t know sweetie, maybe?”
“Hum, I still don’t get it.”
“I know,” he says. “I don’t really get it either.”
Four men are standing in the front garden. A tall man in a black suit looks up towards the bedroom window and shrugs.
“What’s it going to be?” he says.
She is crawling on the bed, stuffing small pieces of paper into her pockets.
“Why don’t you lie down behind the bed?” he asks. “Like when we play hide and seek?” His finger hovers over the trigger. “Pull the duvet down over your head. Go on now.”
They hear a knock on the front door.
“Daddy, I’m scared Daddy. I don’t want the bad sheriff to come into our house.”
“Don’t worry sweetie. I don’t want that either. Now you just get under the duvet. This well all be over soon. Go on now.”
“Daddy?” she says from underneath the duvet. “Do you think Mommy can see us?”
“I don’t know sweetie. I just don’t know.”


  1. Oh, that's heartbreaking. Very tightly written, with great character detail and dialogue. Like the way you come at things sideways and don't spell it out. Makes it a lot more powerful. You really have talent.

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment Derbhile, I hope you don't mind but I've added World of Writing to my blog links section. Cheers Andy