Monday, August 26, 2019
Bonus Fiction: A Baron Kendal story
Baron Kendal wound down the mountain trail leading his faithful steed, Kia (Kills Idiots with Alacrity).
Kia had been seriously lamed when he stumbled while crossing a washout in the path and Kendal had seriously doubts that he would be able to get him to the small village at the edge of the desert.
The village was the last outpost of humanity this side of the eighty-mile-wide desert. The stream that had bubbled and danced with the zest of youth up in the mountains sank into the gravel and sand just outside the village limits. There was no more surface water until the traveler reached the other side.
It was not physically possible for a single man to traverse the nearly featureless landscape on foot. The only sure way was to ride a horse experienced in the ways of the desert and to carry lots of water.
The Baron was in a bit of a quandary. His beloved nephew was due to have his Bar Mitzvah in five days. Kia would not be healed in that short amount of time, nor was there time for Baron Kendal to walk around the desert. Older sisters make no accommodations for the limitations imposed by Newtonian physics. His only option was to rent a horse at the livery stable.
Normally boyish of mien and seemingly slight of build, the Baron’s face could switch to towering thunderheads of rage, much like the storms that swept across the waters in his ancestral home on the rocky shores of Canada. Many a man had crossed the Baron only to learn he was made of whipcord, sinew and steel cable, honed by decades of martial arts.
He was informed that the proprietor of the livery stable was a gentleman named S. Whiplash. Something about the town tickled his sixth-sense for danger as he passed the Whiplash Hotel, Whiplash Tavern, Whiplash House-of-Pleasure and the Whiplash Pawnshop. Obviously, Whiplash was very well-to-do for the owner of a livery stable.
To Baron Kendal’s surprise, Whiplash only had two horses in his stable, which seemed at odds with the amount of revenue he must have been drawing from the business. Also disconcerting was that both horses were much finer than the usual nags found in a western livery stable.
Whiplash informed the Baron that the only way to cross the desert was to start just before dawn and to make it in a single, twenty-hour push.
Twigged by a premonition, the Baron insisted that Whiplash accompany him as a guide for ten times the normal price. Whiplash demurred at first but the Baron insisted, for the Baron knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men. He used to work in the IT department of a large University.
Whiplash finally agreed when the Baron threatened he would find another means across the desert.
As noon approached, the two riders found themselves getting close to Thumb Rock, a towering island of breccia projecting upward from the pale dust of the desert. Kendal knew from experience that breccia is riddled with nooks and crannies, much loved by rodents and venomous reptiles alike.
And then Kendal started to see the skeletons scattered between the clumps of tamarisk bushes.
“Do you notice something odd about those dead people?” Kendal asked Whiplash as Kendal’s horse became more and more restless.
“You mean that their clothing hasn’t faded so they haven’t been baking in the sun all that long?” Whiplash suggested.
“Good point. But no, none of them have guns in their holsters and many of them have their shirts pulled up, as if somebody stole their money-belts.” Baron Kendal said.
Whiplash fixed Kendal with a gimlet eye. “Crows and ravens like shiny things.” as the wind fluttered the buckskin fringes of his black shirt and chaps.
Kendal wiped his face with his kerchief and suggested they take a break.
After swigging from their canteens and giving the horses a drink, Kendal took the reins of the horse Whiplash had been riding and smoothly swung himself into the saddle.
“What the hell are you doing?” Whiplash shouted.
“It is a long ride. Your horse is gassed from hauling your fat anatomy across the desert while mine is still as fresh as a daisy. I am going to ride your horse to give it a break.” Kendal said as he casually rested his free hand on his pistol.
Whiplash gripped the horse’s reins in a death-grip as they started out.
Near the base of Thumb Rock, the horse started bucking. Whiplash attempted to hold on but counting money and backhanding mouthy whores does not develop many muscles.
Whiplash was quickly thrown and the horse streaked back toward town.
Baron Kendal wheeled the horse he was riding to pursue the fleeing horse.
“Wait! I need a ride!” Whiplash cried in terror.
“I am sure the horse is just over the next rise. I will be right back.” Kendal assured Whiplash.
But of course, the horse was not waiting over the next rise.
Following the tracks, Kendal was not surprised to see that the horse continued in a bee-line all the way to town. Unencumbered by a rider, the horse never slowed below a trot.
Kendal found the horse contentedly munching on a manger filled with carrots, oats and other delectable horsey-treats.
A couple of days later, Kendal and a local town boy crossed the desert, swinging wide to avoid Thumb Rock.
In a thousand parallel universes a thousand Baron Kendals smiled a saintly smile in unison. They could not tell their companions why they suddenly smiled, but somehow they knew that somewhere, somebody had evened things up with a bully and perhaps even come out of the deal a few shekels ahead.
(This is a retelling of a story I read somewhere. If any of my readers can point to the original, I want to provide a proper attribution.)