Ben Wade

Ten after three. The train approached in a cloud of dust

and soot, hauling men to their death in Yuma, trailing sin

as if it was no weight at all. The metal wheels glared

bright and shrieking as the train, clunking like a gun,

made one last stop at Contention, Arizona, blowing heat

out of its core and into the world.

The man with his hat askew nodded— acknowledging the world

and its perverse sense of irony— to his companion. Dust

rolled off his shoulders like a cloak, and sin

spilled down his hands. His sharp blue eyes glared

fiercely, his hands itching to fire The Hand of God, the gun—

a legend with a curse. If only he could feel the heat

and rush of another battle. Into his eyes, sweat and heat

dribbled and festered. Perhaps in another world

he would have let the child die like his father, turn to dust

and ash. But maybe this atonement would compensate for sin

such as his. Surely his wizened and blackened soul that glared

from between his ribs where scars from gun

and knife had passed over, like the gun

in his holster, would weigh him down to depths of heat

and anguish. Nothing could save him from the world

or the noose that waited for him. Like dust

he would be swept away. His boots, black as sin,

forced him into the train, into the gazes that glared

from the eyes of thieves and murderers. Sunlight glared

between the cracks and chinks of the compartment. His gun

was taken from him as the train began to move. Heat

enveloped the man in an embrace. For an instant, the world

was silent but for the beat drumming in his ears. Dust

swirled in eddies around his feet, around the sin

that spilled from his hands. The man rubbed the sin

from his hands, wiped the blood that glared

crimson onto his pants. Though he was without gun

or knife, he felt confidant that the noose waiting in the heat,

was not for him. Perhaps the irony of the world

was not without its quirks. The man whistled, dust

tickling his nose. A whiny bellowed in the heat. His world

glared brighter as dust and horse rose in sight,

and he shot forward like a gun, free of sin and train.