“The Famous Outlaw” by David James

David James


            He rides into town on a retarded horse, falling off five times before reaching the saloon. His horse has a tendency to trip over its own hooves, like steps or bowling balls. The cowboy wears a helmet to safeguard against personal head injuries.
            Unknowingly, he ties himself to the hitching post while the horse wanders down main street, looking for a barber shop.
            Within ten minutes, the outlaw realizes what he did and quickly associates this as being the reason for his failure to enter the saloon. He unties the rope and barges in. “Give me dirty milk in a clean glass,” he says to the bartender so everyone hears.
            As evidence of his brilliant courage, he carries his left nipple and mustache in a leather pouch, both shot off during bank robberies. Later, as you know, he made thousands of dollars selling the banks to riverfront store owners in Mississippi.
            His mother and father never met in person, although we do have an extensive series of letters from their correspondences, each containing diagrams of tattoos and question marks. Nothing is known for sure about his childhood. The rumors now circulating state he used to be a choir boy at the age of two.
            He finishes his drink and walks out without paying. The street is empty except for some children who are watching his horse kick in the side of the General Store. He gives them each a bullet and rides off into the sunset. The children stand close to the buildings, waving goodbye. The outlaw turns to wave when his horse trips, throwing him head over heels. The dust slowly evaporates and he is still lying on the ground.
            The children keep waving. They can tell he’s famous.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

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