Stars, Dust and Thunder

​It was a ghost town. Ghosts sittin’ around weathered wooden tables, chawin on their vices, shootin’ the shit, playin’ cards, wondering who the stranger was. Their voices just sound hitting the back of his head and rollin down the sun-and wind-chapped leather that was his neck hide. He needed a shot. A hot tonic to numb while he leaned a leather forearm against the ancient bar, pondering all the miles his old Harley had carried him. The tender finally bothered to look his way. All it took was a look. A shot of rot gut slid down the bar top, clunking to a stop against a sore throttle hand. The biker simply gave a nod. Words were overrated. There were enough of those spillin’ from all the ghosts and cackling female phantasms. Nah. It was fine. Better’n most places he’d stopped recently. Now,  he wouldn’t say that he wasn’t welcome: just another ghost in a dirt town of threadbare Levis, cracked boots and the stains of life. The shot hit the back of his throat like a .44 hollow point. That’s the ticket. The glass clacked the bartop. A look. Another shot glass came sliding from afar. Stars came to his mind. They’re always there. And, he thought, they are completely indifferent to human existence; to war, to politics, to love and violence … to time. Nothin’ about human existence mattered to the jewels above that had witnessed everything that had ever happened since time began. But they seem to follow, don’t they? They were his source of direction, his comfort. Screw it. He tossed back the shot, clacked the glass down, tossed a twenty on the bar top and gave a “keep the change” look to the tender, then let his eyes scan the room for threats. Not a one. Just as he figured. Out the door. His boot steps hit the ground, sending puffs of dust up under each long stride. Swinging his leg over the Harley, he noticed an old timer walkin’ up, and a few honeys giggling behind the bar window at him. A flurry of tangled, lurid wet thoughts muddled his mind for a moment. But he just cracked a grin for ’em. Sorry ladies, not this time. While slippin’ his gloves on, he heard the old timer ask, “So, sonny, how long d’ya suppose yurr gonna live on that thing?” then he spat a stream of chaw to the dust. The biker gave a cordial sun burnt grin, said in a gravelly voice, “Just a flash of time, brother. And the stars won’t even notice.” The old timer went “hmm”, gave a nod of respect, and a minute later … watched the old shovel disappear in a grumble of dust and thunder …

— Erik Lehman (Cooper Thaine)


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