Undead Man’s Hand – Chapter 40


From his veranda, Al enjoyed a smoke as he took in the show going on below.

Mortimer twirled the end of his mustache with his fingers as he regaled the crowd.

“And so, our hero made his way to the villain’s lair…”

A contingent of actors pretending to be unruly henchmen surrounded Bill.

“Wild Bill Hickok!” they shouted in unison. “That is very unfair!”

Shots were exchanged. All blank rounds. Each actor took a turn dying on stage as Hickok emerged victorious.

Mortimer continued his narration. “Hickok made quick work of Burly Bob’s gang, a gaggle of miscreants who were so sleazy.”

Bill addressed the audience directly. “It didn’t take much. It was really quite easy.”

The audience hooted and hollered.

An actor wearing a plaid shirt stepped out from behind the curtain. A cheap, poorly made beard had been glued to his face. He hammed it up for the crowd, taunting them and shouting out insults.

The crowd booed, prompting the actor to grab his crotch and reply, “Ahh, I got your boo right here!”

“Now ladies and gents,” Mortimer said as he held up a rotten tomato. “At this degenerate, your trash you may lob, for this man is none other than the vile criminal, Burly Bob!”

Mortimer hucked his tomato at Bob’s face, causing an explosion of disgustingly sour juice. The crowd followed suit, hurling all manner of expired fruits and vegetables and even, much to the poor actor’s chagrin, a few road apples.

“Hey seriously,” the actor said as he threw up his hands. “No shit and no rocks. I’m not making enough money to have shit and rocks thrown at me!”

The narrator leaned in and whispered into the actor’s ear. “You’re breaking character, imbecile.”

“I don’t care, Morty,” the actor said. “I should not have to get hit with a…”

Wap! It wasn’t the biggest rock, but it was big enough to stop the actor mid-sentence. He clutched his forehead and winced in pain as he continued to be pelted with produce and poop.

Seeing that the actor had taken enough abuse, Bill got the audience’s attention by firing a blank round into the air.

“Burly Bob!” shouted Bill. “Your reign of terror is through!”

The actor rubbed his forehead. “Damn it. That’s going to leave a mark.”

Mortimer leaned in to the actor’s ear again. “You’re on, dummy.”

“Huh?” the actor asked.

“Ahem,” Bill said. “I said, ‘Burly Bob, your reign of terror is through!’”

The actor looked around then adopted a deeper voice. “Oh yeah, Wild Bill? Well, I’ll show you!”

“Burly Bob” drew, only to drop his pistol and clutch his chest as Bill fired a blank in his direction.

The crowd gasped.

“Oh!” the actor cried as he staggered about the stage. “Oh Wild Bill, why did I not see? You are a better marksman than I and now you have…”

The actor plopped down on the stage and reached a hand up in the air. “…bested me.”

Claps. Cheers.

But the actor wasn’t done. “Oh sweat death! I feel your cold hand on my shoulder, escorting me to the afterlife…”

“What are you doing?!” Mortimer whispered.

The actor’s soliloquy continued. “And as you drag me down to the fiery depths of hell, I cannot help but dwell on the vast collection of poor decisions I made that delivered me to this lowly state. Oh if only I could turn back the hands of time and be a better man, that I could embrace a clean life and set an example for others to follow…”

“Die already!” Mortimer whispered.

“Eat a dick, Morty,” the actor whispered back. “I’ve played second fiddle in this troupe for five years now and I’m going to get my fame one way or the other.”

The actor raised his voice. “But change can never occur for a damned man such as I, for my fate is sealed and my torment will be eternal…”

“Fred,” Morty whispered. “You either die right now or I’ll pick one of a dozen actors who will be willing to take direction for half of what I pay you, you pathetic hack.”

“Fine,” Fred whispered. And then louder, “Oh! Oh! Bill Hickok’s bullet has pierced my guts and I am now dead!”

Fred crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue.

“Yes,” Mortimer said. “Now little didst our hero know…”

Fred interrupted the narrator. “Ack! Stone cold dead am I…”

Mortimer lost it. “That’s enough!” he shouted as he kicked Fred in the ribs.

The narrator straightened his tie and pressed on. “Now little didst our hero know that a damsel in distress was waiting to be rescued…”

The curtains parted and what appeared to be a shapely maiden walked out. She wore a blonde wig and a veil covered her face.

“Fear not, ma’am,” Bill said. “Burly Bob has been subdued!”

Fred lifted his head up. “I’m so dead!”

“I don’t even give a shit now,” Mortimer said, breaking character. “You’re fired Fred.”

Bertha bounced up on stage. “Morty! Who is that? Is she someone new?”

Morty did a double take. “What?! Why my dear, I thought she was you!”

The veiled woman moseyed on over to Bill.

“Wild Bill,” Mortimer said. “Will you accept a kiss as a reward from this comely lass?”

Bill lifted up the veil to reveal the face of a man with an actual beard. It wasn’t just glued on. He batted his eyelashes and puckered up.

The gunslinger dropped the veil. “Ugh. No thanks. I think I will pass.”

Mortimer strolled to the center of the stage. “And…scene!”

The cast emerged on stage and joined hands as they bowed. Naturally, the most applause was reserved for Bill as he bowed.

When the cheers died down, Mortimer removed his hat. “Good people of Deadwood,” Mortimer said. “My hat I shall now pass around. Whether a shilling or a bill, with your generosity, you will astound. As you are aware, it is not simple to provide such merriment and mirth, so I pray you will fork over the cost of what you think this show is worth.”

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