Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Letter of Commiseration to the Forthcoming Widow of Cotton Johnny Lassiter

A Letter of Commiseration to the Forthcoming Widow of Cotton Johnny Lassiter

Dear Mabel Cobb Lassiter, soon-to-be widow of Cotton Johnny Lassiter, a no-good, cheatin’, belly-crawlin’ horse thief if there ever was one. At high noon on the morrow, I, Zenas Blue Coldwater, sure as hog’s blood on a Arkansas toothpick, will pump that two-bit desert canary so full of lead the buzzards’ll have nothin’ to pick at.

I hear folks say you are a fine, upstandin’ woman, Mabel Cobb, in no way deservin’ of a yellow-belly varmint like Cotton Johnny, so bein’ the straight-shootin’ longrider that I is, with nary a crick of ill-temper in my craw, I done writin’ you this letter to set the record straight and to tender heart-felt commiseration should you reckon one solitary hair on this prairie dog's head be worth sheddin' a tear over.

I was suppin’ at the Long Branch, all fixed up in my best bib and tucker, settin’ down to a heapin’ plate of whistle berries and fried steak, when that boot-lickin’ yack Johnny Lassiter, hot as a whorehouse on nickel night, set off such a racket that I couldn’t no-how hear myself chew.

“Son,” I says to him, “you can’t keep trouble from visitin’, but you don’t have to offer it no chair.”

“Old man,” he says to me, “the wilder the colt, the better the hoss.”

Well, I’ll have you to know, the no-account scallywag was itchin’ to crawl his hump. He was all roostered up, spreadin’ lies as long as a line of muleskinners outside a cat wagon ‘bout how he was pirooting all the scarlet ladies at the hookshop. Then, after Belle Fourche gave ol’ Cotton the mitten, he swaller’d a hooter of Kansas sheep dip, hopped on top of the pie’ani and danced a jig like a cockeyed hyena.

I was wantin’ to think that tumbleweeds are best left to the fancy of a hot prairie whistler, but not lookin’ to see a hair-in-the-butter turn into a hell-fired brawl, I euchered the mutton-puncher into a game of buckin’ the tiger. Hell if the four-flusher didn’t want nothin’ but more trouble.

“Old Jackaroo,” he says to me, “never kick a prairie oyster on a hot day . . . and never squat with your spurs on.”

Well, I reckon he had a right chuckle at that.

“Son,” I says back to him, “lettin’ the cat out of the bag is a heap easier than puttin’ it back in.”

With nary a reason, he turned to Belle Fourche and started cussin’ to beat the Dutch. I tell you true, Mabel Cobb Lassiter, ain’t no Nancy-boy, lily-liver saddle stiff gonna rip sour on a lady, even if she is a soiled dove.

Therefore, on the morrow, with the sun right high, I will empty my blue lightning into the carcass of Cotton Johnny Lassiter. But afore I do, at my own request, Belle Forche will take a plate of salt horse, Texas butter and sinkers to the gallnipper’s room, ‘cause I ain’t sendin’ no man to hell on a empty stomach.


Zenas Blue Coldwater, Gunslinger (semi-retired)


Richard Osgood sits on the brink of hell, a caisson of snowballs at his side, tossing in one at a time to lower the temperature. Publication credits include, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Hobart, Dogzplot, LitChaos, The First Line, among others, and forthcoming in Clockwise Cat and Mudluscious. He continues to mourn the deaths of Steve Marriott and Syd Barrett.