To Pass the Time of Day

by Beth Green

Part of the Pun Stories collection.

Author's Note: Those who throw dirt are sure to lose ground.

It was a dull, dreary day in the town of Four Corners. The dullness was on account of the fact that Four Corners had acquired itself seven peacekeepers. Whereas previously to the arrival of the 'Magnificent Seven' rowdies tended to congregate in the small town, nowadays rabble-rousers tended to give Four Corners a wide berth. The dreariness was due to the rain that had been falling nonstop since early morning. The peacekeepers had chosen to remain comfortable and dry in the confines of their favorite gathering place, the saloon. They were currently occupied in the activity of trading tall tales between games of cards.

Vin Tanner had passed the morning pleasantly enough in the saloon's dim interior. His fellow peacekeepers provided a welcome contrast to the otherwise gloomy day.

It was Chris' turn to deal. Predictably enough, Chris called for a standard game of five-card draw. The initial round of betting proceeded quickly enough. Both Josiah and Nathan tossed in their hands. The second round of betting was a different story. JD had been playing conservatively for most of the day. More than a few eyebrows were raised when JD declined to draw any more cards.

Buck agonized over the significance of that action. "Now, kid, I hope that you don't think that I think that just because you didn't get any more cards that you're sitting there with four aces or some such thing. Nope, you can't fool old Buck. You're bluffing. At least, I think you are." Buck glared suspiciously at his friend. "Then again, maybe you ain't."

Chris impatiently interrupted. "Come on, Buck, make up your mind. You in or out?"

Buck sat back, making a disgusted sound deep in his throat. After a minute, he threw down his cards. "Aw, hell, I ain't gonna take the chance. I fold."

Vin quickly did the same, as did Chris. Ezra was not so hasty. "I must say that I am as conflicted as Mr. Wilmington. That being said, I feel confident enough of the cards that I myself am holding that I see your bet, and will, in fact, double the wager." Ezra raised an eyebrow. "Do you, Sir, accept the challenge?"

JD tried unsuccessfully to raise his own eyebrow. Shoving his own contribution into the pot, JD announced, "I'll see your bet, and raise you, too."

Ezra announced, "I call."

JD laid down his cards with a flourish. "I may not have four aces, but I got three of 'em, and a pair of queens to keep 'em company."

Ezra blandly laid out his own cards. "While I may not have any aces, I do have one, two, three, and four kings. I believe that my four of a kind outranks your full house." Ezra gathered in his winnings with a smile of satisfaction.

JD slammed his hand against the table in frustration. "Damn it, Ezra, that was the best hand I had all day. Why couldn't you pull out them four kings last hand, when Buck took the pot with a pair of tens?"

Ezra simply shrugged. "That is why they call it the luck of the draw." JD's friends took a few minutes to tease him about his unfortunate turn of luck.

Buck took his turn at heaping humiliation on JD, then began one of his big windys. "I remember a time down in Texas when I was playing cards with a lady by the name of Lucky Lulu . . ."

Vin took advantage of the pause in the action to rise from the table. He announced, "I'm gonna sit out the next couple of hands. Just wanna stretch my legs a bit." In truth, after hours of being surrounded by the odors of stale beer and wet hide coats, Vin felt the need for a breath of fresh air, no matter how damp. Besides which, he'd heard the tale that Buck was in the process of telling about half a dozen times before, in one form or another. The women got prettier every time Buck spun the yarn, and his actions grew all the more heroic. The end result was that Vin happened to be standing out on the boardwalk when the cry of, "Stop! Thief!" rang out.

As one of the peacekeepers of the town of Four Corners, Vin's reflexes were such that he immediately responded to the plea. A scruffy man was being pursued by a local shopkeeper. They were heading straight for Vin. The tracker smiled and stuck out a booted foot. The fleeing thief never saw the obstacle in his path, and went flying in a satisfying display of somersaulting limbs. Vin hurried over to the fallen man, wanting to relieve him of any weapons before the alleged thief could make use of them.

Unfortunately circumstances were such that Vin never completed the action. In the process of bending over the thief, the peacekeeper felt something hit him in the back. He had been off-balance to start with, due to his half-squatting position, so that it didn't take much force to send him sprawling. Vin abruptly found himself planted face-first in the mud. He tried to rise quickly to his own defense, but the gummy clay was acting like quicksand, trying to keep him tied to the ground. If the unseen second man had wanted to kill Vin, he'd already be dead. The fact that he was still alive meant that somebody was in for a world of hurt, courtesy of one Vin Tanner. Vin managed to raise himself up as far as his hands and knees, spitting dirt and cursing all the while. He was desperately trying to remove enough of the clinging mud so that he could see well enough to dispense a little old-fashioned justice. "Damn coward, to hit a man from behind!"

Fortunately for Vin, his fellow peacekeepers had come running at the first cry of, "Stop, thief!" They were just in time to witness the second man swing a sack at Vin hard enough to send the tracker down into the muddy street.

Chris pulled out his gun, wanting to put a quick end to things. He cursed silently to himself. The only weapon in sight was his own Colt .45. Much as he wanted to put a bullet in somebody, Chris supposed it really wasn't necessary. His fellow peacekeepers had the situation well in hand. In Josiah's case, that was meant quite literally. He'd simply caught up to one of the fleeing men and wrapped him a in a bear hug.

The second, bushwhacking thief had gone running after his attack on Vin. He was quickly cornered by Buck and JD. The man had a sack with something heavy in it that he was swinging at anyone who came within reach.

After being hit for the third time with the sack, Buck decided that he'd had enough. "Ouch, dammit!" He drew his Colt Peacemaker, holding it aimed steadily between the flailing man's eyes. "Mister, I've had more than enough of your nonsense. If you don't want me to put a hole right where your third eye would be, you'd better get rid of that damn sack!"

The thief's eyes grew wide at the implied threat. Nevertheless, he did not immediately put down the sack. In fact, he clutched it closer to his person.

JD cautioned, "Mister, my friend here ain't foolin'. You've gone and got old Buck mad. There's not a whole lot of folks around who can tell you what happens when Buck gets mad, 'cause most of 'em are dead. Unless you want to join them, you'd better do what the man says."

The thief reluctantly complied, letting the sack drop to the mud at his feet. Buck turned to JD. "That 'most of 'em are dead' part, I liked that. But 'old Buck?' 'Old' Buck? Just because you're still some wet behind the ears kid, ain't no cause for you to be calling anyone around here 'old.'"

JD snorted. "Geez, Buck, I didn't mean anything by it. But, now that I think about it, it's not so much that I'm young, it's just that you're, well, 'old.'" Buck tried to knock JD's hat off in retaliation. However, JD had been expecting something of the sort, and easily ducked away from Buck's reaching hand.

Ezra ignored their antics, concentrating instead on the mud-splattered sack. He used a kerchief to cover his hand, then reached for the sack. He removed the heavy object that had resulted in the repeated blows to Buck's pride. It was a dun-colored statue, unremarkable in appearance except for the glowing red eyes. Ezra examined the object more closely, the eyes drawing him in. He couldn't help the avaricious smile that crossed his face. The eyes were rubies, rather flawless and valuable.

By this time Vin and the others had joined them. Vin shook his head. "All that fuss over some ugly old statue."

Josiah contradicted his statement. "While certainly not of the finest workmanship, that is not just any old statue. It's a representation of the Norse god of thunder, Thor. You can tell by the lighting bolt on the base of the statue, as well as the large hammer he's carrying.

Curious, Buck asked, "What would a thunder god need with a hammer?"

Josiah proceeded to explain. "The hammer is Thor's weapon of choice. He uses it, among other things, to smite giants with. The echo of the hammer's blow is heard by mere mortals down on earth as the rumbling sound of thunder."

JD waved off the explanation. "That's all a lot of stuff and nonsense. I agree with Vin, that's one ugly statue."

The owner of the statue finally joined them. He was a middle aged, paunchy, balding man. He anxiously retrieved the statue from Ezra. "Thank you! I feared that I would never see Thor again. I could not help but overhear your comment. I quite agree, the statue is basically hideous. It is simply a means of transporting two very valuable rubies. I had hoped that, given the inauspicious setting, no one would notice that the statue's eyes were, in fact, rubies." He sighed. "It seems I was mistaken."

Vin shook his head, rubbing ineffectually at his mud-splattered body. His eyes narrowed when Ezra began to laugh. He ground his teeth together, the threat evident in his voice as he asked, "What's so funny?"

Ezra took a moment to try to contain his laughter. He was unsuccessful, finally managing to gasp out, "I'm sorry," *gasp*, "but I could not help but reflect upon the fact that," *snort* *chuckle* *gasp* "that was a fight for Thor eyes."

Vin held out a hand and stiff-armed a still-chortling Ezra into the mud. Ezra tried to grab Vin in return but succeeded only in throwing the tracker off-balance. It was enough. Like a comical set of dominoes, Vin fell into JD, who had been half-turned toward Buck. Buck was unable to support both JD and Vin. All three of them ended up joining Ezra in the dirt.

Chris jumped away, smiling in amused relief that he had been standing far enough away from his friends so as to have escaped all but a few of the clods of mud that were launched into the air by their falling bodies. He gave a tug on the brim of his hat, then stated, "Nathan, Josiah, how about we take these fellas on over to the jail?"

Nathan commented, "Normally I'd stay here in case one of these darn fools manages to break his neck slipping and sliding." Nathan was interrupted as he had to pause and duck a ball of mud tossed by one of his grounded friends. "However, the idea of heading someplace warm and dry and as far away from here as possible sounds mighty good to me."

Nathan, Josiah and Chris headed off toward the jail, the protesting voices of their friends fading into the background.

"I was not laughing at you . . . then."

"This is all your fault."

"Maybe it's Thor's fault for makin' all this rain."

"He's the thunder god, not the rain god, you imbecile."


Author's Notes: I'm sorry, but I was visiting a website called and I couldn't resist. <weg>

"A fight for Thor eyes, indeed."

"Shut up, Ezra."