Down South

BY : Cyanide_Dreams
Category: 1 through F > 3:10 to Yuma (2007) > 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Dragon prints: 765
Disclaimer: Don't own any of the characters, they belong to Elmore Leonard, I just borrow them for fun.

It had been a long week. Dan’s bones ached by the time he got to the barn. His bad leg had started to crumple up. Cursing under his breath, he loosened the upper straps holding the wooden boot in place; blood flew once again and the rancher proceeded to store some gear. The sun was setting down amongst shades of orange and purple strokes. Once finished, he stood still, fixed on the horizon that shone behind the stable, watching the sun disappear.

There was no frown on his face now as a soft wind tussled his hair. Dan laid down on the hay. He was hot, tired and reeked. He stretched and tossed his right arm behind his head; left hand rubbing his left leg’s wired muscles, providing immediate relief. Around him, a handful of crickets had started humming their endless song. Good, he thought, darkness didn’t make him feel so ashamed of his loneliness and the needs it sometimes carved deep inside him.

He had neglected his body for far too long and now that he’d been eating far better he was pulling up some weight, regaining strength and his breathing rarely hissed. He walked straighter and his bad leg only gave him trouble after too many hours in the field, but all that recently recovered health had gradually brought back something that had long been missing: his sex drive. Dan knew that sooner or later it would have to be taken care of; last week, the urge of his body had woken him to a dampness he’s lost familiarity with.

Still…However strong it was, Dan refused to find relief in jacking off. Even though he’d touched himself enough as a horny teenager, now it just seemed out of the question. What would he do with himself, Dan mused.

Perhaps, he thought, he had just taken Alice for granted. Her warmth, her youth. Dan went back to when he had first laid eyes on her, admitting to himself that he had missed his wife even though they hadn’t been intimate for a long time. After he had lost his leg and drought brought debt, bed affairs hadn’t been doing so well. One day, he’d just stopped trying, for there was only so much rejection a man could take. Be it as it may, he still could not find it in him to blame her for leaving; she’d had her fair share of grief. She had also lost a son and each mourned the loss on their own. In the end, there wasn’t much to be said between them anyway. At least not anymore.

So, after she had helped taking care of his wounds and had nursed him back from the dead, she packed her bags. Dan gave her about half the money Butterfield’s railroad had paid him so she could have the greatest head start wherever she wanted to settle with their eldest son. The rancher himself had barely touched his part of the dough. Out of five hundred dollars, he had only spent enough to build a new barn, give needed maintenance to the house and buy a few heads. After all, water was flowing and rain clouds were had finally appeared over Bisbee last year. Everything was getting greener and cows were getting fatter. Still… something eluded him.

After escaping such a certain death at Contention, something had started eating him up. Mark’s passing had only deepened the gaping abyss and Alice’s departure had merely distracted him from it. Dan still wondered what it could be. He pondered at the nature of such emptiness and tried hard to remember how death had planted such a seed so deep inside his heart. Oh, and how it grew. Nurtured by loneliness it had turned into ravenous vine. Perhaps, that was what true sadness felt like, a painful and paralyzing numbness that could only pass for strange indifference. As when he had lost his leg. Perhaps life had gotten him so bad he couldn’t feel it no more and he’d just gone totally numb. Would things have been any different if he’d died?

Dan gave up a loud sigh thinking on how peaceful death would be. He would make sure his passing was as silent and uneventful as his life had been. Somewhere inside, he knew he should be grateful to be alive, but then again, he hadn’t found much to be alive for lately. Sure his son William was as good an excuse, but the boy had finally agreed to leave for his mother to beseech him a finer education. In the end, it would be better for Will to sell the land and use the money in clever ways only educated people knew of.

That left Dan with nothing but his utter lack of expectations, a stash of money too big to spend on himself -or anything else concerning the ranch- and an emotional blankness he had only started to recognize. He had once considered the possibility of going back to his good old Massachusetts, but every time he rose out with such intentions he would end up in the barn at the end of the day, unsaddling Dollette once again. He never unpacked the saddle bags though. He kept them on a corner instead, ready and at hand for whenever he felt truly untied to the land.

It had been months, but the last time he had found himself riding back he realized he had been living as if suspended in a long and uncertain period of his life, just waiting for someone to lose the rope he had so happily tied around his own neck.

He straightened up on the hay and sat with his good leg bent as he remembered. Waiting would sure be related to the gap he felt growing inside him, he mused. Perhaps, God hadn’t forgotten about him after all.

The rancher shook his head. It didn’t matter how long he had been waiting or how vast that apparent eternity seemed to last, nothing ever happened. Days had quietly turned into weeks and weeks had silently dragged into months. It had only been a year after Contention and it already felt like a lifetime. Maybe he had truly died back there and was still lying at that station, he thought with some relief.

Yes, he had died and gone to purgatory and he was waiting for some absurd epiphany to enlighten him in order for him to make his peace and break free. He kept his mind busy for a while, picturing his demise, then his own funeral, a sober and irrelevant service that consoled him more than he would ever admit to himself. He still allowed the small vanity of wondering who would attend the ceremony. Alice and William he accounted for sure. Butterfield and the town’s new sheriff, maybe. However, it didn't matter that much, Dan realized, for behind them, only but a few yards back and leaning on a tree as if he had found his own way into Dan’s imaginations, stood Ben Wade looking just the same as when they had parted ways. Dan surprised himself trying to figure out how the outlaw would look like after those twelve months...

Alice had pulled up some weight. She looked healthier, lusher; even sent a picture of her and William. She looked so pretty, and his son had grown at least two inches, his face was longer now. But what about Wade? Would he still be dressed the same in the first place? What would have he been up to since he had escaped? For Dan had read it in the paper, Emmy had kept the page for him. Had he recruited a new outfit or had he ran down to Mexico and shared the warm bed of a beautiful seniorita? Would he still smile so easily?

The rancher mused for a few minutes, thinking about how Wade crept into his mind every so often and evoked the image of the outlaw once again as well as he could. He started by that grin and went through that hat. By the time he was at The Hand of God he felt something coil deep inside his lower belly. The rancher gritted his teeth and dismissed his thoughts with a loud sigh. It was far too dangerous to go there.

Dan scratched his beard and rose to his feet. His leg had relaxed a bit. Maybe tomorrow he would ride to town and see himself to the barber. He sure as hell could get rid of that beard if summer kept running so hot. He started to walk to the house in a lazy mood. Yes, he would ride to town and enjoy the noise and the buzz. He smiled at the thought of indulging himself and stopping at the saloon to have a drink. See whatever was news about town. Do business. Talk, not much, but to whomever that wasn’t himself.

He didn’t bother to close the bedroom door. There wasn’t much need for privacy now. Dan sat on the bed, took off his boots and undressed, deciding he would wash himself in the morning. As soon as he touched the bed, he fell soundly asleep.

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