These are short stories that are occasionally put up on Fridays, and which you can read for free. Enjoy!
“Damn Brits,” Immel said under his breath, but the sound carried.
“Damn Americans!” the unarmed Bart shot right back, stepping forward a few paces with venom in his eyes.
“Enough!” Karl shouted out. He was directing a harsh look toward Bart, but the Nor’wester’s back was turned to him. Immel wasn’t concerned with breaking off the argument, however. It was clear to him that he was about to die anyways.
“This is our damn land, you bastards – you shouldn’t be here anyways!”
“Easy, Michael,” Jones said, stepping forward slightly to try and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, maybe calm him down a bit. Immel took another step forward though, his eyes boring into Bart and his fists clenched.
“We whooped ya thirty years ago in a war and sent you redcoats scurryin’ back across the ocean and north across the border. Whooped ya thirty years ago and we’ll whoop ya again!”
Bart narrowed his eyes to that and took another step forward. He and Immel were only a few feet apart now.
“Only whoopin’ that’s gonna mean a damn this time is the one I give you right here and now,” he said.
“Enough!” Karl shouted out again, but it was no use. The men’s blood was up and a fight was in the offing. Rueben could see that as well, and he stepped forward to put a staying hand on Immel’s shoulder.
“Immel, this isn’t our–” Rueben said, his hand almost on the trapper’s shoulder.
“The hell it ain’t,” Immel said instead, shrugging off Rueben’s hand as he took another step forward.
“Ya dumb Yank!” Bart said, and he stepped forward to meet Immel’s charge. He brought his fists up first, threw a punch Immel’s way, but the trapper saw it coming and dodged out of the way. As Bart lunged forward, a bit off balance, Immel came back in with his right fist leading the way.
Immel hit Bart right in the eye and the Nor’wester staggered back a few steps.
“You bastard!” Karl shouted at seeing his friend go down. With all thoughts of stopping the argument now gone, he put up his rifle, realized he hadn’t reloaded it, then threw it down to put his fists up instead.
“Enough!” came the shout, from Rueben this time, and he stepped forward to try and grab hold of Immel once again.
“Goddamn it, if we’re gonna die then let’s die like men, fighting!” Immel shouted as Rueben got his hand on him and started to pull him back. He was shaking his fist at Bart and Karl and the other two Nor’westers behind them. Bart was just then shaking off the hit, getting ready to go in for another swing as well. Karl was waiting for him to make the first move.
“Get ahold of yourself,” Rueben said, turning so he was now in front of Immel. “Only way we’re dyin’ is if–”
“Rueben, watch out!”
The shout came from Jones and Rueben managed to narrow his eyes and begin his turn before Bart’s fist slammed into the back of his head. Rueben crumpled to the ground.
“Now you’re dead, you sombitch!” Immel shouted, and he charged forth a’ swinging. Behind the two, the Nor’Westers Will and Bern tried to find a shot with their rifles, but Bart and Karl kept getting in the way.
Immel’s first punch missed as Bart dodged. Bart threw his own punch, which Immel then dodged. That’s when Karl came forward and got a hit in on Immel’s exposed side, nearly doubling him over.
Bart came in next while behind them Jones began to move forward. That allowed Immel time to spin around, block a shot from Bart, and bring his fist down to slam into Bart’s stomach.
That knocked the Nor’wester back a few steps and Immel began to come in for more.
Beside him Karl and Jones began to go at it. Jones took a hit, then gave an even bigger one right back. Instead of putting up his fists to come back at him, however, Karl reached into his heavy coat and pulled out a pistol, a British New land Cavalry Pistol by the look of it. That stopped Jones dead in his tracks, his hands up in front of him and his eyes locked on Karl’s as he waited for the shot.
The shot came and Jones immediately put his hands down to his chest. There was no pain though, no blood either. He looked back up at Karl, and it was then that he noticed the small hole in the man’s throat, one just then starting to leak blood.
“Put it down,” Rueben said, looking past Jones and even past Immel to Bart. The trappers turned about then to look back. There was Rueben, kneeling on the ground with a smoking pistol in his hand and a trickle of blood running from his forehead. Both Jones and Immel followed his eyes and saw that the Nor’Wester had his hand on his own pistol, had just about gotten it out of his coat.
“One of mine, one of yours,” Rueben said as he laid the pistol on the snowy ground, never taking his eyes from Bart. He got up slowly then and began to back away, showing that he was serious about ending this peacefully.
“What are ya doin’?” Immel shouted at him as he laid the gun down.
“Taking a chance,” Rueben said, “taking a chance that these men don’t want anymore bloodshed.”
“Ha!” Bart laughed. “You’re a fool.” He pulled his own pistol fully out of his coat.
“Not that it matters,” Jones muttered, “all the others have rifles anyways.”
There were scoffs to that from the other Nor’Westers but no one said anything. All attention was on Bart. He had his own pistol trained on the American now. He gave a slight smile at Reuben’s comment. “We’re even there on the odds, I will admit, but…”
“But what?” Rueben said.
“…but I’m afraid those odds are still a bit much for me.”
“Then what do you propose we do?”
Bart took in a deep breath and let it out in a slow side, cocking his head to the side in a kind of half-shrug as he did so. “Well…we’ll have to kill you men, that’s what.” He took his eyes from Rueben and looked back at one of the men behind him. “Will, get ‘em lined up in that dip in the ground by the hillside there.” He cocked his head in that direction, and the Nor’westers and Americans looked that way. “Won’t take us long to kick that hillside dirt down on ‘em after it’s done,” he finished, looking back at Rueben with that slight smile again.
“Is that how a British gentleman wages war,” Rueben asked, his eyes narrowing at Bart, “breaking bread with a man before killing him in cold blood?”
Bart scoffed. “It’s how I wage war, Yank. Now, enough of delaying the inevitable.” He looked back at Will. “Line ‘em up.”
Will smiled as he stepped forward. “I’ll do this one myself,” he said as he reached Rueben and grabbed hold of his arm to pull him toward the hillside. He looked up into the American’s eyes. “Karl was my friend.”
Rueben just rolled his eyes to that and let himself be pulled forward. Behind him, the other Nor’westers got Immel and Jones and Hax moving that way as well. Soon all four were standing up against the hillside and in the small dip in the land that would serve as their graves.
“Form up!” Bart shouted, giving the order for his men to form into a firing line. They did so while he retrieved Bart’s pistol.
“At ready!” Bart shouted out next, giving the order for the men to put rifles to shoulder. They did so, and he did the same with Bart’s pistol.
“Oh, God!” Jones said at that point while Immel muttered, “Damn British bastards,” under his breath. Beside them Rueben remained silent while the Arikara Hax began to speak in his own language, perhaps his final prayers to whatever god or gods he held dear.
“Aim!” Bart shouted out, putting his arm up in the air and holding it there while continuing to aim with the pistol. Will and Bern put their rifles to their cheek and took aim.
“Well, this is it,” Jones said, and he closed his eyes in anticipation of the shots.