Die on my Feet
The year is 1883, the name is Wilf. As a child I was raised to steal. I always wanted to be a politician but the life of a thug chose me instead and there's no running from it now, it's who I am.
My friend Matunaagd is a Cree man. A bunch of white kids slaughtered his tribe and sent the kids off to this thing called a "residential school" where they try to make the kids white with brutality. Mat, as I call him, had his son taken and the rest of his family murdered and it's the only thing on his mind. The only thing left for him now is his hatred of the white man, except me of course, and he strives to make them hurt.
His son's name is Abooksigun and he's in Mat's prayers every night.
He prays to the great spirit, God... I don't agree but it's not like he antagonizes me about being an atheist so I won't antagonize him about his beliefs. As an atheist I think we need to create our own morality and play by our own rules, not the morality and rules dreamed up by some crazy man in antiquity.
Today we're robbing the richest man in Winnipeg, one Mr. Brown. Easy target, the family was sleeping the whole time and we were in and out with minimal commotion. Me and Mat are pros so it's no big deal.
The rich don't deserve their status above the poor. They're soft, they're weaselly and they're entitled. The poor are hardened, honest and humble. I don't think the rich deserve to live over the poor. I think we should share everything, but because they don't want to share I will force them to share with me. Yes, I'm a fan of Karl Marx. Yes, I am pretty well read for a thug.
Mat's philosophy is similar. He says you steal our land, we steal your shit. Me and him see eye to eye on a lot of issues, I think he deserves the spoils more than these rich pieces of shit.
We're at a saloon in Winnipeg. Drinking, celebrating our win. My soon to be friend Pete is playing a game of poker. Some guy gets caught cheating and Pete executes him right then and there. He did the right thing, there's no place in this world for cheaters.
Pete's an atheist as well but he takes it to different places than I do. I like him more since I agree with him on the fundamentals, but he thinks now that he doesn't believe in the old rules that there are no rules and he can do whatever he pleases to whomever he pleases. He thinks the world belongs to whoever has the strength and the balls to take it, and he thinks he's the man who will take the world.
He's an American and a staunch capitalist, but that's not my business. He escaped the states when he was up for charges on war crimes after the civil war years back. He fought for the confederacy and... Well, he's a confederate. I can see one day having to make a choice between him and Mat and... Of course I will choose Mat. But until that day comes we will get rich together.
I sleep with one eye open around Pete.
Outside the bar one of the men at the poker table calls Mat a dirt worshipper and tells him to go back to his tribe. Mat says "I am what's left of my tribe." He says "Oooh... Yeah... I remember when your tribe got wiped out. Good riddance. I hope your kids can be saved from savagery." "Oh we're the savages? Did we ever go into a white town, slaughter the adults and kidnap the children?" "Well no, because you're weak, you wouldn't have the balls." Mat pulls out his pistol and shoots him dead.
Pete says "Look, I don't care for you people, I think you're a problem, but I can see you're one of the good ones. That was incredible. Remind me to keep my opinions to myself." "If I hear any of that shit from you then you're the problem."
Today we're robbing one Mr. Rutherford, I hoped we could get in and out before we're noticed again but it appears he's got some security since we robbed that other guy. We sneak in, they're ready for us, guns drawn. I say "If you don't want to die, you're free to leave right now, remember I am notorious with my pistol." One of them puts his gun down and walks past, the other one cocks his gun. Pete reacts quick, no over thinking, just straight to what needs to be done, he shoots him in the stomach. He drops his gun and walks out the front door with his gut wound.
Rutherford is awakened by the commotion and comes down stairs, rifle in arms. He points the gun in our direction. I say "This was just meant to be a robbery, but we're prepared to murder too if it's the only option." He trembles. I draw my gun. I say "Put the gun down, go back up stairs, once we're gone you go tell the sheriff, we'll be long gone." He shoots at us but misses. I shoot him in the forehead.
Looks like we have to flee. It had to happen eventually. Can't get on a train, our faces have been plastered everywhere, we'll have to steal some horses.
About two hours into the journey Pete reminds us we're hungry and have no food. Mat tells us to wait here by the road and he takes his pistol into the forest. An hour later he comes back with a dead deer, the man is amazing. We had our fill but Mat was very distraught about how we've got all this meat and we can't eat it all and we have to waste a lot of it. We had nothing to salt it or preserve it and nobody around to give it to. He fought back tears and prayed for forgiveness. Pete finds this hysterical and says "You Indians..."
And then we arrive in the town of Brandon, where we can make a fresh start. At least for awhile, eventually either our past will catch up with us or we'll do something to get us wanted here. A life on the move. I figure if we keep going west every time we're chased out of a place we'll be able to end or days on the west coast.
Mat says we're close to the residential school where his son is held. I say "I know what you're thinking but that's suicide." He says "Maybe if you fuck up your life enough you won't care it's suicide." I say "...Maybe."
Apparently there's a mayoral election coming. At the first bar we went to we ran into a man running for mayor and I fell in love. He's not a communist, but a communist in the west is rarer than the buffalo we've nearly killed off.
I don't usually say much, but when I get drunk I get chatty. I tell him "I don't have politics, politics is a modern invention, I think we need to go back to a point before politics, when everybody shared with the tribe equally." He says "Well I'm a political man, I live and breathe politics and my views are a little more modern, but I like where your head's at, I'm a socialist myself." Pete says "Go back to Europe, the west is for capitalists." "Oh you're not wrong about that, everybody here is all about what they can do for themselves and not what they can do for their neighbour."
Pete just attacks his whole core belief system and he played it off with respect. The man is clearly a politician.
He says "Well you're going to want to vote for me, then, the current mayor is a staunch capitalist." I say "I'll do better than vote for you, I'll fund you." "Well more campaign funding is always welcome, if you have riches I'm sure I'll be able to put them to good use. But like I said, everybody here is a capitalist, I don't really think I have a chance."
"The name's Sam, by the way, Sam Smith."
What better way to get money to fund our new friend Sam than by robbing the current mayor. Take the money from the oppressor and give it to the common man. We're like Robin Hood if Robin Hood were slightly less gay. Slightly.
The mayor and his wife were out this evening so we figured easy job, but we didn't take into account the daughter. We blew the safe, which makes a lot of noise, and the daughter came running. As soon as she saw us she ran in the other direction, but Pete caught her. He says to her "Well little lady, looks like you're out of luck." He pushes her against the wall, drops his pants and raises her skirt and... Well, it was disgusting. I say "...Pete..." He says "You don't want my seconds?" I say "No..." Afterwards he tells her she never saw any of our faces, or we'll be back.
We bring the money to Sam, and I want to tell him how great it is that he can defeat his opponent with his own money, but I decided it's probably for the best that Sam has no idea where we got the money.
He says "Fellas like you... I'm not going to ask where you got this. Did you know the mayor was robbed last night?" "Was he? No, I hadn't heard." "...Well, thank you. And fuck that guy anyway, it was already dirty money when he got his hands on it."
In a poker game the next afternoon, I met some people... They don't care for Sam, they support the current mayor. He tells me "I support him in more ways than one. He can thank us for his position, we fund his campaign." I say "Interesting, I've recently started a career in politics myself, but my support is for the other guy." "Fucking socialist pussy, the west is not for him."
He tells me "I killed a couple fags the other day. Fucking hate them. An abomination." "I don't care what a man does behind closed doors." "So you're a fucking fag lover, eh? Figures you'd be a Sam Smith supporter." "Has nothing to do with socialism, don't even know his stance on the gays." "I bet you're a fucking faggot aren't you?" "What? Just because I'm okay with it?" "Well you're obviously not a man of God." "No, I am not, atheist." "Atheist socialist fag lover, eh?" "...Full house." "Fuck you."
Outside the bar. He comes up behind me and slaps me upside the head. "Fucker!" I say. He says "Want to see what it's like to fight a real man? Atheist fucking fag lover. And with a fucking Indian in tow too." Pete says "Hey man Mat's not bad." "You an Atheist too? I know the dirt worshipper isn't they never are. No they're even worse fucking pagans." "I am an Atheist."
"Well faggot here's my left hook." He throws a punch and I take it and throw one back. "Pretty tough for a faggot." "You know you sure talk about faggots a lot. One might think you're the faggot. You're so obsessed." "Those will be your last words" and he reaches for a pistol. Me, Mat and Pete draw our guns. His friends draw theirs. The proprietor of the saloon comes out with a rifle and says "Not here." Everybody puts their guns away.
He says "Remember the name. John Padgett. I'm the one who kills you."
Pete says "You know every time I have a brush with death I like to end the day with some opium." "Yeah okay. Been awhile."
We go to the opium den, sit down on the pillows and start smoking. John walks in.
"Oh, it's the faggots." "Hey, look, I respect you and what you do, I think we can coexist." "Some big words from the socialist, big surprise." "I guess I sometimes use big words... You ever read a book?" "I read the bible." "That's a pretty good book. Bunch of bullshit but some nice stories and philosophies." "It's not fucking philosophies." "Sorry, I don't mean to disparage your whole belief system."
He hits the pipe and sits down in front of me. "How can a man like you... I'm sure you've seen some shit. How can you go through life thinking when it's over it's just over? There's nothing waiting for you." "I try not to think about it..." "Yeah I wouldn't want to think about it either if I thought death was the end." "I figure any day on Earth could be my last so I best make the most of it." "But... If there's no heaven, no hell... You must just do whatever you want whenever you want, must be freeing to not have any consequences." "Well maybe for Pete." I look at Pete and he winks and finger guns me. "For me, I don't care about consequences, I do the right thing anyway." "Shit... The right thing. Then you go and be a socialist." "A faggot socialist." "Sorry, sometimes I talk about the faggots too much." "Didn't expect to hear an apology from you." "Well I'm high as shit."
We stare into eachother's eyes for awhile and then he lunges at me and we kiss. I'm a straight man, but what can I say, opium makes me curious. He stops and says "No..." And runs out of the den.
The next morning in the bar John's sitting alone at a table. I come sit next to him and say "Good morning. Well, afternoon." and he says nothing, just stares at his drink. I say "Everything okay?" He stares at his drink.
One of his crew comes up behind me and says "We need to talk." I get up and we walk into his hotel room. He says "You're not the first 'fag' John has done this with. Now personally I don't care, but don't get me wrong, I don't care when he kills his lovers either." "I see." "But you should know, this doesn't end in the two of you living happily ever after. This ends in one of you putting a bullet in the other." "I never thought for a second it would go any other way."
I go back and sit next to John and say "Look, we can pretend this never happened, lost in an opium daze." He says "Just because we had a moment of understanding doesn't mean I won't put a bullet in your head." "Likewise."
We got word about a shipment of gold coming through by train. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. We can fund Sam and then retire for the rest of our short lives. Which, well, may get a bit longer if we get to retire.
The train car has armed guards all down the train, so we're going to need the element of surprise. I'd prefer we figure out a way to do this where nobody has to die but I don't see any way we're going to get both in and out without a gunfight with the guards. I've heard stories about big gun battles on the roof of a train and I hope we get to do one.
So we board the train and go to the bathroom at different times. Climb out the window and onto the roof of the train. Then down the train to the car with the gold. We open the hatch on the roof. Pete goes down and signals to us there's guards on both sides. Suddenly John appears from the other end of the train.
"Oh look it's the faggot." "John." "This gold is ours." "The likelihood of us both surviving is small. This gold belongs to whoever survives." He pulls out his pistol, I pull out my pistol, Mat pulls out his pistol. He deeks to the side as I pull the trigger and it hits one of his crew who then falls off the train and didn't have a great landing. "Looks like we're at two versus two" I say. John puts his arms down... "You want to split it?" "Okay let's split it." The four of us go down to find Pete already killed all the guards on both ends. I say "Slick." He says "Thank you. The hell are they doing here?" "We're sharing this gold." "To hell with that." "Relax, we'll still be set for life." "Fucking fine."
I hate it every time I kill a man, I usually give them the option to not fuck with me and live, but sometimes shit goes haywire and there's nothing you can do.
We open the doors and the four of us push the gold out. Then we jump out, tuck and roll.
John says "Not bad for a faggot."
The next day at the saloon, the mayor and John's crew were drinking, celebrating. The mayor looks up at me with a big shit eating grin on his face and says "There they are! Sam's lackeys! I'm in such a good mood today I'm even happy for you." "Hmph." "Oh come now, we can get along! It's just politics that are between us. You don't take politics that seriously do you?" "I do." "Well then fine we're not friends." Pete says "I'll say!" and pulls out his pistol. I say "Pete, come now, we don't hate him that much."
Pete shoots him in the shoulder. I pull out my pistol and point it at Pete. "I've had enough of your erratic behaviour." He says "Oh come now, we're buds, I thought we were both of the thought 'who gives a shit'?" "I give a shit, Pete, and I'm sick of sleeping with one eye open. I'm sick of your unhinged behaviour. That little girl..." "Hey we're stinkin' fuckin' rich because of me." "You didn't have to kill the guards." "I think that I did." "Goodbye, Pete." "Hey I could just walk away. You don't have to do this. We can take our riches and go our separate ways." "I couldn't live with myself if I unleashed you on the world." And I shoot him in the chest.
After all that I think I need some opium...
I walk into the den, John right behind me. The proprietor says "Oh! It's the fun boys. You gonna make a scene again?" John blows his top and shoots him dead. I point my gun at him and say "That's not how we treat the people who get us high..." "He just called us faggots. I'm not a fucking faggot." I cock my gun. He says "...I thought we were in love..." and then I shoot him dead without my usual chance for mercy. The other people in the den cheer.
Mat says "What does this mean?" I say "...I don't know..." Everybody is staring at us. I say "I think it means... We need to leave." "So it's just me and you again I guess." "Guess so." "Good, I like it better that way." "Me too."
Mat says "I wonder where he put his gold..."
The next day is the election. Sam has half the bar him and his supporters and the mayor has the other half, though it's a bit more lonely there without John.
The only surviving member of John's crew comes up to us and says "I'm not going to avenge John so we can just leave eachother alone. Honestly I'm surprised he made it as long as he did, some day somebody was going to come along who can out gun him." I tilt my hat. He walks back to his table.
Somebody comes in and says "Polls are closed! Counting begins!" We all walk over to city hall and stand there and watch. The votes are counted and the current mayor wins. Sam says "It was a long shot..."
I tell Mat "Welp, there goes the last thing I was ever going to accomplish. Not much left to do now but go find your son." "I knew you'd come along eventually."
We stood at the door outside for over half an hour. A nun comes out and asks us who we are. Mat says "It's now or never." I pull out my pistol and tell her to stay out here while we take our business inside. We go door to door, Mat looks inside each room. A priest comes out and says "You two have no reason to be here." I say "Actually we have a pretty important reason to be here." He says "I'll sound the alarm!" I say "And that will be the last thing you ever do." He runs down the hallway and Mat shoots him in the back.
A few minutes later we find Abooksigun, but the moment we do is the moment the alarm sounds. Mat says "Take him outside! While I finish this." He drenches the classroom in whisky and lights a match.
On my way out two people try to stop me. I tell them if they let me go through they won't die, but they best leave now because this place is going up. They didn't let me go.
We wait outside for over an hour but Mat never shows. We wait and we wait until eventually the whole place is burned to the ground, and no Mat. The only possibility is he died in there.
"Don't worry... I'm gonna call you Abe. Don't worry Abe I'll do right by your father. I'll teach you to be as fearsome as he was. I know you'll be a good man since you came out of your father. The name's Wilf, by the way, I ain't gonna be your daddy, there's no replacing Mat, but I'll do my best to be your god daddy."
And we once again head further west. I hope to die on the coast.