Yesterday’s post of the current conversation is here. You should read it before today’s, or it will make even less sense.

We’re almost done! I feel it…

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“Well then,” Sled said, “I guess all that’s left to say is, ‘hello, I must be going'”.

Sled climbed into the truck, rolled Harry’s skull inside his rib cage, then fastened the passenger seat belt across Harry’s rescued parts. He started the engine, then killed the engine and jumped out.

“Forgot my shovel.” Sled pulled it up from the pit. “This is a dirty business we’re in. Let’s come clean. I’m not a garbage man. Last night, I killed two sanitation workers with the lid from of a tomato can.”

Binder and Gag grabbed the handles of their handguns but left them holstered.

“I almost cut myself. Ever get stewed tomatoes in an open cut? Burn-city. This is the first dead guy’s uniform. The second dead guy’s pants may have fit better. This one’s snug in my crotchal area. Anyway, I haven’t slept in my state-provided bed in days, and I can’t remember my last shower or a meal that didn’t consist of found objects.”

Sled worked the handle of the shovel up and down. The blade sunk into the desert between his feet. “See, I know you two killed Harry, or more precisely, you put him in the pit to be eaten alive.”

Binder and Gag drew their handguns.

“I’m don’t hold grudges. You did what you had to do. I do that from time to time.”

Binder aimed his handgun at Sled’s chest. “I’ve got the torso, Gag, you take the head.” “Roger, head.” Gag said. He lined up his sights between Sled’s eyes.

“Gag? That’s your name? Your mom must have hated you. Matriarchal hatred for a son, that’s great motive for a killer.”

“Cut off the angles,” Binder said. He and Gag spread apart and moved closer. They stood within five feet of Sled, cutting off escape angles. The pit was behind him.

“If you two miss me from this distance, you need to find another profession.”

“You’ve got a choice,” Binder said. “Get in the pit, or die and be thrown in.”

“Nope. Holding out for a third option.”

“Either get in or be executed where you stand, just like Harry was.”

Sled stood upright and still, he held the pose of Oliver on the introduction of Green Acres television show, only Oliver held his pitch fork handle fork-up. Sled was the shovel blade-down.

“Nope. Not gonna happen.”

“Nope is not an option. Get in the pit or die.”

Sled glanced behind him. Smoke still rose. “Nope.”

“Have it your way.”

“I will.”

Binder glanced at Gag then back to Sled. “On my command…”. Binder and Gag secured their guns with two hands, widened their stances, and prepared to fire.

“For the record, my way would be less traditional. I’d eat your faces off, bite, rip, chew and swallow. Can we do that instead? Please?”

Binder and Gag looked at each other. Binder motioned for Gag to move back a step. They both did.

“Ready…”

“Well? I asked nicely.”

“Aim…”

“Are you cool me killing you two first, or what?”

“Are you cool with us killing you first,” Binder asked.

Sled considered the question. “Maybe. I need to call a time-out and think this through. Go back to the ready part.”

“Aim…”

“You didn’t say ready!”

“Enough games! Jump in the pit!”

Binder charged at Sled like a dog trying to intimidate its prey to jump. Sled reacted like Sled. He raised the shovel overhead and drove the blade through a downward arc, until it sunk deep into the dust.

Along the path, the tip of the blade caught Binder’s leg just below the knee, ripped jeans, removed flesh, and shaved off about half of Binder’s shin bone, like a whittler’s knife on wood. Binder didn’t make a sound at first, but from the expression on his face, he looked like he wanted to.

“Crap. I was aiming for the knee.”

Gag looked away. Sled quickly raised and lowered the shovel again into the front of Binder’s foot. Had he been barefoot, Binder would have seen his three middle toes nearly severed and pointing up, and the side toes pointing in opposite directions. As it was, all the damage was contained within the tight leather of Binder’s damaged boot that now opened like a hinge.

“Looks like a few little piggies for a coyote appetizer tonight,” Sled said. “Wait, do coyotes even like pork?”

“Kill him,” Binder yelled through the pain and grinding teeth. He gasped for air, then yelled again. He rolled into a ball. “Kill him!”

Binder fired in the general direction of Sled without aiming. The bullet ricocheted off something in the distance. He rolled in the dirt kicking with the boot heel of his good foot in pain and frustration, then started spraying bullets in various directions in desperation, hoping that a few hit Sled, and not caring if Gag got caught in so-called friendly fire.

“Get down, Gad,” Sled yelled, and Gag dropped rolled into a tight ball. He covered his head with both hands until the shooting stopped. The whole time, Sled stood still and waited to be hit or not hit.

Binder’s gun was empty but he kept pulling the trigger. The semi-auto made a cheap clicking sound with each finger pull. “Click, click, click, click, click.”

“Okay, you can stop now,” Sled said.

“Click, click, click, click, click.”

“Stop with the click-click-clicking. I hate that!”

“Click, click. Click… click… ”

Sled stepped on Binder’s shooting wrist, and brought down the shovel. The clicking stopped. Sled raked Binder’s hand into the pit. It was still holding the gun.

“Much better. Sorry to take it away, but you were annoying the crap out of me.” Binder was in the fetal position, rocking back and forth. “And you could have killed Gad. Gad, are you okay?”

“Gag.”

“That it is. Binder, use your shirt as a tourniquet. The kid’s getting nauseous.”

“No, the names Gag, not Gad.”

“Kill him,” Binder said. “Do it for me.”

“Kill for yourself, Gad. Nobody else.”

“Shoot him.”

“Shoot me. I would if I were you.”

Gag held his firearm with both hands pointed at Sled’s head. He didn’t speak.

“Do you need a command,” Sled asked. “Ready, aim, fire. Or not. How about a count in? One, two, three, Fire. Poof. No more Sled.”

“Don’t listen to him. Just shoot the man, Gag.” Binder yelled between screams of pain.

“For the last time, the name’s Gag!” He gripped his gun tighter and his hands began to tremble.

“I’ve got nothing to live for. I don’t even own a pet. Kill me, Gad. It’s okay.” Sled dropped the shovel and held out his arms. “Shoot.”

“But it’s Gag.” Gag’s hands and voice trembled.

“Look.” Sled held out both hands flat. They were as still as death. “Now look at yours. It’s impossible to kill a man when you’ve had time to think it over. I’m Sled, by the way.” Sled stepped forward and offered his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Gag.” Gag stood with every muscle taught. His grip was so tight that his gun was shaking and at times twitching.

“Gag, look at me. Give me the gun. You’re not going to kill me. If you shot, you’d miss me, even with the barrel down my throat.” Gag was expressionless. Sled put a finger in the end of the barrel and wiggled it. He unwrapped Gag’s fingers from the grip and took the gun. “That’s a good boy. Your momma would be proud.”

Sled kick-rolled Binder into the pit head-first. Binder fell, but he hooked his good foot on the rim of the pit in desperation. Sled put the barrel against the bottom of Binder’s heel and pulled the trigger. He fell.

Sled ejected the magazine from Gag’s gun and racked the slide so that the chambered round ejected. He caught the bullet and tossed it into the ash-filled pit to the left of Binder. Then he tossed the gun into the smoldering debris pile on the other side of the pit.

“If you can dig out the gun with your one good hand, find the bullet, and load it one-handed before the coyotes come, then you’ve earned yourself a suicide pass before the coyote dinner bell.”

“You’re weak,” Binder spit his words out. “I was not as generous with Harry.”

“What you don’t know about Harry is that, if you had given him the option of suicide, he would never have taken it, even if surrounded by coyotes. That’s the difference in him and you, or him and me for that matter.”

“Have a nice rest of your life,” Sled said.

“Wait. Please,” Binder begged. “Please just kill me. You’ve had your fun. Don’t leave me like this.”

“You’re right. I’ve had fun, but it’s time to grow up. End it your self.”

“I can’t. Look at me.”

“Look at me,” Sled said. “I can’t.”

Behind Sled, Gag was a slobbering and rocking in a tight fetal position. “Gag, find a new profession,” Sled said. “This one doesn’t suit you.“ Sled walked to the truck. As he reached for the driver’s door, he heard the lever action of one of the rifles behind him. Sled didn’t look back and he didn’t say a word. He got in the truck, started it up, and drove away.

*  *  *

Near the edge of the pit, a rifle barrel pressed under a chin. A young arm stretched down the length of a rifle. “It’s Gag,” a voice said. A thumb barely reached a trigger, slipped off once, twice, then a shot fired. Important parts of Gag’s head landed in the pit.

For the rest of the late morning, afternoon and early evening, cries and screams of help came from the pit. By sunset, the sounds became cries, screams and howls. There was no help.

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