How to die by the rules... By Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie

Copyright 1985, 1986 by Gregory S. Swann. All Rights Reserved.
Direct inquiries to CIS I.D. 75115,1341.

How to die by the rules...

By Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie

        "And, of course," said the Spy, "we both wish to insure that our duel
is perfectly fair. That neither side has an unfair advantage over the other..."
        "Oh, of course," said the Horseman. "I intend to win fair and
        "So to insure greater fairness, we should both renounce use of our
        "Well... If you say so," said the Horseman. "I want a fair fight."
        It wasn't until this point that I suspected things might not be
completely kosher. Funny that a crooked duel should seem more remarkable than
the fact of the duel itself. I guess that's because single-combat in some
form is a barroom tradition. Not every sot carries it out to ten paces with
seconds, but men of stature are apt to take things more seriously.
        Men such as the Horseman, a gentleman in every respect: courtly,
cool, courageous. The white stetson he never failed to tip for the ladies hid a
full head of rich brown hair, and the bright twinkle of his eyes and proud
strength of his body belied the lines of age carved into his skin. Men such as
the Spy: demure, detached, deferential. His black fur hat and the turned-up
collar of his heavy overcoat made him seem like a man on sentry, in solitude,
on a frigid night.
        "Yes," said the Spy. "You will give up your gun. I will give up my
gun. Then neither will fear the other's gun. That will make things fair."
        "Well...," said the Horseman. "Okay." He put his six-shooter on the
ground beside the Spy's submachinegun.
        How silly these things are: two men have too much to drink, one makes a
cutting remark about what passes for housekeeping in the other's home, and
soon The Honor Of Womanhood is at stake. Why is it that women don't fight for
their own honor? Could it be The Honor Of Manhood instead?
        The Spy pulled a long knife from the breast pocket of his overcoat. "Do
you have a knife?"
        "Why, no," said the Horseman. "I just brought my gun."
        "Well, then. Since you do not have a knife, you will not have to
renounce the use of it." He put the knife back into his overcoat. He
stuffed his hand into a side pocket and pulled out a blackjack. "And do you
have a club?"
        "No, no," said the Horseman. "I don't carry a club."
        "So you do not have to give it up." He put the blackjack back into one
pocket and pulled a smaller knife from the other. "And do you have another
        "I don't have any knives."
        "Then you have no knives to give up. How lucky for you."
        The Horseman said, "I only want what's fair."
        The Spy had returned the knife to his coat pocket. From his waistcoat
he drew a small pistol. "Do you have another gun?
        "No, no. I only brought one gun."
        "That is well for you," said the Spy, "since you would have brought it
only to renounce use of it."
        "Yes," said the Horseman. "That's only fair. But I =do= have a
bullet-proof vest."
        " do?"
        "Yes. Don't you?"
        "No," said the Spy, shaking his head regretfully. "In my country we do
not have the technology to produce such weaponry."
        "Gee... That's too bad."
        "Yes. But don't you think wearing that weapon gives you an unfair
advantage in this duel? You have a vest. I have no vest."
        "Yes, yes, you're right," said the Horseman. "It's not right for me to
take advantage of your country's hard luck. I'll take off the vest. That's
only fair..."
        "...!," I said. I had been content to be an uninvolved observer,
but sometimes you just have to step in. "Are you =crazy=?!?"
        "What...?," said the Horseman. "Are you talking to me?"
        "Yes, you moron! =You= have no weapons. =He= has a blackjack, two
knives and a gun. You cannot hope to win this fight. Your only hope to live
through it is to =keep that vest=!"
        The Spy said: "That would be =very= unfair! Think of what the people
would say if you destroy me in an unfair fight!"
        I said to the Spy, "And if you destroy him in an unfair fight...?"
        He shrugged.
        "He's right," the Horseman said to me. "We can't have a fair fight if I
have an unfair advantage over him. That's only right..."
        "Right? By what code?"
        "By the Code of the West, Son. The Code of the West..."
        "And if he has an unfair advantage over you...?"
        "But I haven't!," insisted the Spy. "He has a vest. I have no vest.
How is that fair?"
        "Yes," said the Horseman. "How is that fair?" He schucked the vest.
"I'll win this fight without it!"
        "...will you?," I said, but neither seemed to hear.
        "Now then," said the Spy. "We will stand back to back, take ten
paces, then turn and attack."
        The Horseman looked from one empty hand to the other. "...okay."
        They stood with their shoulders touching, then the Horseman began to
loudly count off his paces. The Spy did not pace; he turned in place and waited
for the Horseman to finish. He pulled his other gun from his waistcoat.
        The Horseman turned and said: "Human Rights abuses!"
        The Spy shot him with the derringer. It caught the Horseman in
the sternum.
        "Oof!," he said. "Forced labor camps!"
        The Spy pulled the large knife from his overcoat. Taking careful aim,
he threw it at the Horseman. It stuck in his belly.
        "Arg! ...treaty violations!"
        The Spy pulled the small knife from his pocket. He closed on the
Horseman and planted the knife in his rib-cage.
        "Awk! hegemony...!"
        The Spy pulled the blackjack from his other pocket. He used it to
club the Horseman. There was the sickening sound of crumbling skull.
        "Urk! ...Sakharov...!," the Horseman hissed with his last breath.
        The Spy leaned over and pulled the large knife from The Horseman's
spent carcass. He wiped off the blood on his trouser leg, then used the point
to pick his teeth. His expression spoke of boredom.

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