A month later, Fiddler’s Gulch was bustling with new life. As Slade walked down the main thoroughfare, he could see construction everywhere. Hammers pounding nails. Saws cutting wood. People working together to restore old shops and houses and even build new ones.
His better half had already opened up a new joint. He leaned up against the sign that read, “Miss Bonnie’s” and waited awhile. The door was open, so he poked his head in.
Miss Bonnie was looking as appetizing as ever. She dressed plainly, but had put a blue flower in her hair.
“Now girls,” Miss Bonnie said. “What is the most important thing for a woman to do?”
Miss Bonnie looked around the room. Her students sat at their desks. They were mostly young, in their teens and twenties, but there were a few in their thirties and even one or two that had some gray hair.
No one answered. Slade took a seat on a bench outside the school. When he sat, the other half of the sign was revealed. “School for Wayward Females.”
The wind carried the class discussion to Slade’s ears. He listened and smiled.
“Oh come on,” Miss Bonnie said. “We talked about this.”
“Take care of her man?” Maureen asked.
“Wrong!” Miss Bonnie bellowed. “Ten demerits, Maureen. Alice?”
“Be pretty,” Alice said. “So she can catch a man.”
Slade heard the disappointment in Miss Bonnie’s voice. “You’ve failed me miserably, Alice. Just sit there and think about what you’ve done. Jessica.”
“I know,” Jessica said. “Learn to cook and sew and clean so her man will be happy.”
“Jessica,” Miss Bonnie said. “A life is a long time to spend scrubbing out a man’s shitty britches. Is that what you want for yourself? Huh?”
“No,” Jessica replied.
“I didn’t think so.”
Realizing this show was too good to miss, Slade poked his head into the doorway again.
Miss Bonnie scrawled three words on the chalk board.
“Now everyone repeat after me…make that money!”
Teacher and students repeated this mantra a few more times until Miss Bonnie held up a shiny silver tipped bullet.
“This,” she said. “It’s the new currency now and the more of them you have, the better off you’ll be. I’m not saying don’t find a good man or fall in love, but the more of these you have, the more options you’ll have and the less you’ll have to put up with being treated like the shit under a man’s shoes.”
“This,” she said as she waved the bullet around for everyone to see. “Gives you the power to walk away, girls. And you never want to be without the power to walk away.”
Jessica raised her hand. “How do we get those?”
“Ooo,” Alice said as she raised her hand. “I know. We can all become.…ladies of the evening.”
Giggles ensued. Miss Bonnie pointed at Alice. “A year ago I’d of told you you’re right but now you’re wrong.”
“Well what else can we do to make money?” Maureen asked.
“Anything,” Miss Bonnie said. “If you’re good at something, then do it…for money. If you’re good at sewing, sew for money. If you’re good at cooking, cook for money. Find a skill. Do something productive. Get paid for it.”
“Ooo,” Jessica said as she waved her had around. “What if the men tell us to stop?”
“Jesus Christ,” Miss Bonnie said. “Have I taught you girls nothing? Tell them to fuck off!”
Alice appeared scandalized. “Miss Bonnie! This is subversive talk!”
“Yeah well, this is a subversive class,” Miss Bonnie said. “And it’s free so stop complaining. All right, that’s it for today. Remember, next week we’re going to talk about how to protect yourself from men, the zombie kind who want your brains and the pervert kind who want your…well, we’ll get into that later. Class dismissed.”
Slade watched as the students filed out the door. His beloved followed in a slow waddle, then plopped down next to him and started rubbing her belly.
“Oof. This varmint is taking her sweet time.”
“Interesting class, school marm,” Slade said.
“It’s a new world,” Miss Bonnie said. “Maybe some good can come out of it.”
Slade and Miss Bonnie snuggled up close.
“A penny for your thoughts,” Miss Bonnie said.
“You’ll pay me to talk?” Slade asked. “Times have changed.”
“Out with it,” Miss Bonnie said. “I can tell something’s eating at you.”
“What about him?”
“What do we think about him?”
“‘We?’” Miss Bonnie asked.
“You’re my advisor in all matters now,” Slade said.
“Shit,” Miss Bonnie said. “What did I do to deserve such a terrible position?”
Slade rolled his eyes.
“He seems nice,” Miss Bonnie said. “He looks like you, has a lot of similarities but…”
“What?” Slade asked.
“He’s positive,” Miss Bonnie said. “And you’re…”
“Not,” Slade said.
“You’re getting better,” Miss Bonnie said. “You’ve come a long way but there are times when you are so depressing you could make a laughing hyena want to hang itself.”
“Thanks,” Slade said.
“I said you’re getting better,” Miss Bonnie repeated.
Slade ran his fingers through Miss Bonnie’s hair and privately relished the joy of being able to do so whenever he wanted now, free of charge.
“He’s young,” Miss Bonnie said. “And a bit dopey. But he has obviously spent most of his life building you up in his head and he clearly worships the ground that you walk on.”
“So the old man gives me the shaft and this kid…”
“What?” Miss Bonnie asked.
“Gets the life I should have had,” Slade said.
Miss Bonnie sighed. “Was that his fault?”
“No,” Slade said.
“And did a psychopath try to feed you to a zombie when you were twenty?” Miss Bonnie asked.
“So maybe he hasn’t exactly had the best of luck either,” Miss Bonnie said. “But somehow he keeps a happy face anyway. You could learn from him.”
“And he could toughen up a bit,” Miss Bonnie said. “He could learn from you. Him as the Mayor, you as…”
“Don’t say it.”
“The Marshal,” Miss Bonnie said.
“I’m retired,” Slade said.
“Fine,” Miss Bonnie said. “As whatever you want to be. Point is, together, you two could do this town some good.”
“I guess,” Slade said.
“And it’s not as if there’s been a line of people showing up to love either of us in our lives,” Miss Bonnie said. “So if someone’s willing to be your brother…”
“I should take it,” Slade said.
The conversation was cut short by Tobias, who was running like a mad man down the street with one hand on his hat to keep it from falling off. “Rain!”
“Speak of the devil,” Rain said.
“Rain!” Tobias stopped when he reached the couple and leaned his hands on his knees, catching his breath. “You got to….see this.”
Slade stood. Miss Bonnie tried to but her little one had other plans. She let out another “oof” then sat back down and bid Slade to see whatever it was without her.
Together, Slade and Tobias ran through town, past all the hustle and bustle of a patch of desert that was thriving with new life.
“It’s him,” Tobias said. “It’s really him.”
“Who?” Slade asked.
“It’s… you’ve got to see!”
The Slades reached the edge of town, where the buildings stopped and the endless sand began. Out in the desert, a lone rider approached. He wore a long duster and from his hat to his boots, he was dressed all in black.
To top it all off, he had one hell of a mustache.
“It’s him, isn’t?” Tobias asked.
A few moments later, the rider brought his horse to a stop, then dismounted. He walked towards the Slade brothers with great confidence, as if they weren’t worthy of his presence.
The rider’s face was mean, so mean that one look could have dropped a horsefly at a hundred paces. He stood there silently for a bit and chewed on the wad of his tobacco in his mouth, then spit the juice out on the ground.
“Marshal Earp,” Slade said.
“Marshal Slade,” the rider replied.
“Oh,” Slade said. “I’m not a Marshal anymore.”
“So I heard,” Earp said. “We need to change that.”