DISCLAIMER: Characters all belong to someone else. No infringement intended, sorry for any made.
Who knows where these things come from, but here they are. I hope you’ll let me know if you like it, and if you don’t, let me rest blissfully unawares. And yes, I’m leaving poor Buck alone this time.
The two men shared the small stream, but that was about it, or so it seemed. Vin bent into the cool water without hesitation, while Ezra washed himself carefully, and with some disdain about the poor accommodations.
“Just water, Ezra; don’t matter if it come out of the creek or out of a hotel basin, long as your washin’ in it anyhow.”
“I am used to better accoutrements than you, perhaps, Mr Tanner.”
Vin gazed at him then turned his face to the breaking sun. The mountains framed the glow of the morning and dew glistened on the grass.
“Don’t get no better than this, Ezra.”
“You and I will never agree on that, Mr Tanner.” Vin grinned, and Ezra was so taken with the man’s absolute joy that he was drawn to watch him. He had acted like young JD ever since they had broken away from civilization, and Ezra wondered what about this emptiness could change a man so. Ezra found beauty in fine cloth, craftsmanship, skill and comfort, not in the wilds of the land. The tracker slammed his open palm into the stream, shooting a cascade of cold water into Ezra’s face.
“Tanner, I am washing here because I have the culture that you so definitely lack. You, however, are here because our compatriots can no longer stand the smell of buffalo. Since you apparently have been stewing in it for a number of years now, you may have grown immune to it’s charms, but I would suggest if you intend to ride with companions in the forseeable future, that you spend your time washing and not aggravating me.”
“Sure Ezra, whatever.”
The man, it seemed, was immune to insults, Ezra noted. Either that, or more likely, his vocabulary did not allow him to know when one was thrown straight at him.
“Can you elaborate, Mr Tanner?”
Vin was drying his face with the tail of his loose shirt, and he looked carefully over at Ezra.
“Where’s your pea shooter you call a gun?”
“In my shirt, why?”
“Cause we got company.”
Ezra turned around to find a large, cinnamon colored bear standing a few yards away. She was rearing slightly on her hind legs, testing the air, testing the scent of the two men before her.
“Is that a grizzly bear?”
“Nope, it’s a black.”
“It is not black.”
“They ain’t all black. But grizzly’s are bigger and they got a big hump on their back.”
Ezra found it interesting that Vin suddenly seemed to want to chat about this. Black bears were supposed to be smaller, the gambler thought. He’d seen one in a cage once, on a wagon in a side show, and it seemed much smaller than this one. Of course, then he’d had his gun at his side, not 25 feet away on the other side of a large, hairy, smelly, predatory animal that seemed to be deciding on breakfast.
“Do black bears attack?”
“They’re bears, Ezra, course they do.”
“And you , Mr Tanner, you know all about handling bears, do you?”
“Nope, seen plenty, ain’t never been this close without a sidearm, though. You’re ‘sposed to be able to stay real quiet and calm and maybe then they go away.”
“And if they don’t?”
“Then they attack you.”
“Do you have any suggestions for our survival should that thought occur to this particular bear?”
“I figger you should smile at her, show her that gold tooth o’ yours.”
Ezra looked sharply at Vin, who was smiling broadly.
“Cause if you’re looking at her smiling, I figger I get a head start on out runnin’ you.”
“Hilarious, Mr Tanner, hilarious.”
The bear continued sniffing the air, making small grunting noises and bouncing her front feet up and down on the ground in front of her.
“I have seen the lumbering stride you so laughingly refer to as running, Mr Tanner, and I should warn you, my business has required me to move quickly on occasion, and I am quite a bit more fleet of foot than you. Do you have any other suggestions to remedy our immediate predicament?”
“Camp’s too far, less one of the boys comes down here, we’re on our own. Best we wait and see what she wants to do.”
“And you think she may just decide to go elsewhere for breakfast?”
“Maybe.” Ezra watched as Vin began loosening his shirt strings at the collar, and pulling it slowly over his head.
“Are you undressing to make yourself more palatable for her, Mr Tanner?”
“You know Ezra, half the time I got no idea what you’re sayin’.” Vin held his shirt loosely in one hand, and watched the bear intently as he spoke.
“And most of the time, Mr Tanner, I have no idea what you are doing.”
“Ain’t that the way it’s sposed to be?” The tracker bounced tentatively on his toes, watching the bear, then shot a look over to Ezra. “Case this don’t work out , I already told Chris my carcass is his. Hope y’all understand.”
Ezra tipped his imaginary hat to Vin. “Not in the slightest, my friend, not in the slightest.”
Suddenly, Vin let out an earsplitting roar that Ezra was sure must have come from the bear. The tracker raised up on his toes and threw his bare arms up into the air, waving his shirt and running straight at the creature before them. Ezra likened this feeling to the few times when he had watched an adversary draw an entire evening’s pot away from the table. It hadn’t happened often, but it was such a stark, trembling fear that latched onto his heart that he recalled the feeling clearly. Now, it took him again as he watched Vin Tanner rush to his violent and bloody death. It occurred to him briefly he should take this opportunity to move, to run, to cry out for help from the others, just a few hundred yards away in camp, but he was rooted to the spot.
The bear, clearly as shaken by the apparition before her as Ezra was, dropped her forelegs to the ground , turned tail and ran. She scooted into the trees and disappeared. Ezra wondered for a moment if she had ever really been there at all.
Vin let out a final whoop and turned back to Ezra with a smile. “Worked out pretty good, huh?”
“Mr Tanner, you amaze me.”
“Absolutely amaze me.”
“Yep, you do me sometimes, too, Ezra.”
“Your command of the English language is pathetic, but I do think you have a remarkable relationship with creatures of the wild.” “I could teach you a little about animals if you want.”
“No, Mr Tanner, I believe I know more than ever wanted to know about bears at this point, but, I would like to discuss the ransom of your body should you die in your youth. Which, at this point, is looking like a sure bet.”
“Go to hell, Ezra.” Vin answered affectionately.
“You first, Mr Tanner, you first.”
“Now, that, Ezra, is a sure bet!”