Fiction: The Last Cowboy
By Jack Moody
The fuck you expect me ta say?
Sorry? You want me ta cry? Plead? Scream? You want me ta look all ya’ll in the eyes, red-faced and remorseful? Well, fuck you.
No, I’m not done.
I see your hand itchin’, sir, but ya’ll are gon’ have ta wait. I’ve done my waitin’. I’ve had my voice taken away, my words silenced and disregarded. Ya’ll had your turn. Now the shoe’s on the other foot, and ya’ll are gon’ have ta tap them feet and sit in that stink accumulatin’. It’s only gon’ be worse, so thank ya lucky stars for that. Ya’ll got lots of ‘em, I reckon. ‘Cause ya’ll are the ones over there. That’s proof enough. Ain’t it?
You know I was a smart boy? Top of my class, yessir. Straight As ‘cept for the occasional B or two that would sneak in from time ta time. Nobody’s perfect, though—am I right? Sir? Can’t imagine you did much better than that. Fact, I’d wager you did a whole lot worse than that, ‘cause there ain’t no way this was your chosen profession. Ha. Sheeit. Bet you wanted ta be a—an astronaut or somethin’. Am I right, sir? Veterinarian? Cowboy? Hell, I wanted ta be a cowboy. Then I grew up. Can’t all be cowboys.
Ma’am? Yes, ma’am—you. I see you brought your child. That’s mighty white a’ ya, lettin’ ya boy see his sister’s killer face justice.
Justice. Heh. That’s funny.
I see that hate in ya heart, and so I reckon you can see the hate in mine. Birds of a feather, right? Does it not bother you that there ain’t no evidence? No, uh, fingerprints? Motive? Modus operandi? Whatnot? No? You just wanna look a man in the eyes and have that man over there tell you the man you lookin’ at is the right man. Then maybe you’ll get your justice. Don’t need ta add up, no. Just need that justice. But ma’am, I don’t fully fault you for that. You’re a woman in pain. I know that. Pain has a funny way of cloudin’ ya senses. So you hear the right words and see the man they tellin’ you is the right man, then that’s all you need, ‘cause you just want that pain gone. So ma’am, I sympathize, I do. That’s why I’m gon’ say this: Whether I’m the right man or not, this ain’t gon’ alleviate nothin’. Maybe you know that, but you’re willin’ ta give it a shot regardless. ‘Cause a’ that pain. But your boy, he don’t need that hate in ya heart passed down. And that’s exactly what you’re doin’. Just know that. That’s a generational curse you’re creatin’ taday.
So I’m gon’ say this for the last goddamn time—not ta you, ma’am, not any a’ ya’ll, and certainly not ta you, sir. I’m gon’ say it ta you, boy: I did not do it. I did not do what those men tell you I did. And these men ain’t cowboys. Hate ta be the one ta tell ya, but, boy, there ain’t no cowboys left. Not one. This world went ta hell in a hand basket long before your time.
Don’t you cry, now. One other thing about this world: It’ll eat you alive if you show it weakness. And I’m not sayin’ that showin’ tears is showin’ weakness, but that’s just how the world sees it. I’m tellin’ you that ‘cause that’s somethin’ I sure wish my daddy had told me. But he didn’t.
See, maybe ya’ll want me ta say I’m a bad man ‘cause my upbringin’ made me so—that my daddy, he molded me into a monster. Ya’ll wanna make sense a’ things. Sure. But nothin’s so cut n’ dry. Black n’ white. Never. We all in pain, though. So we might never truly see that as fact. Too blinded, stumblin’ over this earth in agony. It’s a shame, ain’t it? Now that’llbring ya ta tears if you can step back for a moment and look at it. But that pain. Can’t see shit.
Bein’ in that cell for as long as I was, it gives ya a long time ta think. About all the moments that lead ta the one you find yourself in presently. And I tried callin’ out to a higher power. I read the Bible. Over and over I read it, ‘til I got paper cuts on all my fingers—here, look: you can see ‘em right there. That’s one more thing I didn’t lie about. I reckon if you walked in ta that cell and opened up that bible right now, you’d see my own blood stainin’ the pages. So much so you couldn’t even read the words ta Luke 6:37 no more, but that’s fine ‘cause I got it seared in ta my heart and I’ll tell ya’ll right now what it says beneath that blood: Do not judge, and YOU will not be judged. Do not condemn, and YOU will not be condemned. Forgive, and YOU will be forgiven.
Now can I get a goddamn AMEN?
Am I a good man in the eyes of the Lord? Well, I don’t know. But I know He forgives, and so you, sir—you, ma’am—all a’ ya’ll: I FORGIVE YOU for your trespasses against ME.
My mind is unclouded, and I’m lettin’ go a’ the pain now. I’m lettin’ go a’ the hate. I hope you do the same. ‘Cause one day, when I’m absolved—and I promise ya’ll I WILL be—ya’ll will have lived ya whole lives with a dark cloud over ya heads, and it won’t be until that very moment that ya’ll will realize the storm was never there ta begin with. ‘Cause ya’ll created that ya’selves.
Yessir, I’m finished.
Nothin’ else on my conscience. Not a damn thing.
Go ‘head, pull the lever.
I’ll see you in Hell or otherwise.
Pull the fuckin’ lev—
Jack Moody is a novelist and short story writer from wherever he happens to be at the time. He is the author of the novel Crooked Smile, the short story collection Dancing to Broken Records, and the forthcoming novella The Monotony of Everlasting, out October 1st, 2022 with Anxiety Press. He is a former staff writer for the literary magazine and podcast Brick Moon Fiction, and his work has appeared in multiple publications including Expat Press, Misery Tourism, Maudlin House, Punk Noir Magazine, Scatter of Ashes, Paper and Ink Magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Bear Creek Gazette, and The Saturday Evening Post. He didn't go to college.