Flash Fiction Challenge: Showdown at Smith Rock

2014 May Day 1 Smith Rock Corral Flash Fiction Prompt
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Yup, Blackjack McDougal was in there, all right. His tracks led you to this very spot. Strange that he’d let you corner him this way. But you’re not stupid – you figure it must be a trap.

He wasn’t going to get away with it, no, not this time. The cavalry was on its way. Not just any cavalry either: X-Troop. They had a score to settle with McDougal, too. That’s all great, but you’d really like to capture McDougal yourself, and finally prove to the town that you’re worthy of being sheriff. A rattlesnake moved across the trail ahead. That gave you an idea that made you smile…

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

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12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Showdown at Smith Rock”

  1. I’m pulled out of my dream by the alarm blaring on my nightstand located directly to the right of me. I’m dreading today with a passion. McDougal, my boss, wants me to come into work an hour early this morning to get everything prepared for our guests. As I’m stepping out of the shower the phone rings.

    “Are you awake? Have you left the house yet?” was the first thing McDougal said as soon as I answered. Is it that hard for at least a ‘Good morning David, how are you?’ before you get right to business? He’s always been this way, but I put up with him for the family.

    “Yes sir” I lied. I haven’t even finished drying off yet.

    “Ok good, I need you to pick up something before the Xcelera team gets here. Remember, we need everything to go smoothly today or we might not have jobs by September. Stop by Hoffmans and pick up a bottle of white wine for the CEO. People from Japan like wine right?”

    “I’m not sure sir, but I will turn around and buy a bottle” I lie again.

    I get dressed and walk down to my car. I drive to Hoffmans and pick up the wine he asked for. I just pull into my parking spot as I see what it looks like the Xcelera team filing out of a large black SUV. I sigh to myself and mentally prepare for the day ahead. Wish me luck.

  2. “I knew you’d be dumb enough to follow.”

    McDougal stepped from shadows; the sun glinting off the barrel of his pistol. With a tip of his derby hat, he flashed the very grin that had become so famous.

    I knew better than to draw iron against him, especially when he already had me lined up. He was a good shot; I’d seen him take down faster men than me. I had to stall him, though. I had to buy myself some time.

    “X-Troop is coming, McDougal.”

    Hands hovering just above my hips, I shifted my feet until they were squarely in line with my shoulders. Back straightened, I inhaled deeply. Eyes closed. I held the breath, to the count of four, and then released. The hairs on my neck stood like those pins the china man sticks in the sick folk.

    “Kill me if you want, but you won’t make it out of this alive.” I said.

    The power surged downward through my body, dissipating into the dry earth below. Dizziness swept over me; my knees beginning to buckle.

    McDougal laughed. “You’re not the yellowbelly I once took you for, Sheriff.” He spit a wad of tobacco juice into the shuffling dirt between his feet. “Thinkin’ maybe I’ll keep you alive. Thinkin’ maybe I’ll use you as a hostage. Hell, I’m thinkin’ I might – ”

    It was the screams, though, that pulled me back to reality. Screams; and the echoing buzz of a thousand rattlesnakes slithering towards their feast.

  3. Las Brujas

    Never was one for myths and legends. Maybe, if I was, I would have been better prepared… I saw the X-troop be turned away by a woman who must be workin’ for McDougal; McDougal had a dozen men with him. I decided to wait for the night’s full moon; I’d put snake venom in their food, by mornin’ the town will love me.

    It happened ‘round midnight; screams from McDougal’s camp filled the air. I ran to see what was happenin’. When I got there, everyone, but McDougal, was dead. He was kneelin’ before two brujas: cryin’.
    “See the fear in one and not the other, Ethel?” the ugly witch said, “he must think himself brave.” I knew not how my face appeared but inside I felt afraid. The fair witch made no reply but just looked at me and said.
    “Step into the light; show your face.” As if under a spell, I obeyed. She gasps.
    “You’re that boy; how is it you live?” Turnin’ to Ugly she continued. “Morgan, we will let this one live.”
    “Over my broken broom,” She says, “no man can witness a witches match and live!”
    “You will not kill a Childfate!” Ethel commanded. With a hiss, Ugly attacks Dreamy. Their dual kills McDougal, and I run. Before I can get to my horse, Dreamy overtakes me; apparently, she won. Standing before me she whispers.
    “Childfate dream and forget this night.” And with that, I knew no more till dawn.

    WC: 248

  4. ***FINALIST***

    It was just like the snake hunting you did with your brothers when you were a kid. Them snakes, they always had a second opening to get out of their holes. Sure they had their bites to contend with but with enough noise and the promise of freedom you could avoid the bite and catch yourself a big one.


    The X-Troop came in all hootin’ and hollerin’ like you knew they would. Only problem was, the second opening had been further up the ridge than you expected. If you hadn’t been watchin’ for it, you wouldn’t have seen Blackjack struggling up the hill.

    With a hop onto the back of your horse it was nothin’ but a quick ride to get in close, close enough for a shot at that snake as it tried to get away. As you pull in close you see the situation better than a minute ago. It isn’t that he was strugglin’ up the hill. Blackjack McDougal was caught by the snake for real.

    Nothin’ but a Bowie knife in hand he stood toe to scale with a rattler that didn’t look to give him an inch. Decisions like this make it hard to be a lawman sometimes. That pleading look in his eyes as he gave you a quick glance, well, you couldn’t just let that slide.

    You put a bullet in the head of the snake then drop some cuffs at Blackjack McDougals feet then say, “Your move.”

  5. If I wanted to catch McDougal before X-Troop did, I knew I needed to hurry. I had seen it play out before. A rattler hides in a hole and waits. What he doesn’t know is the mongoose is ready for him. This time, McDougal is the snake and I’m the mongoose.

    I took the leather satchel off my shoulder and riffled through it until I found the rope I was looking for. I tied the rope to a medium sized rock, wedged it under a large boulder, and dug the surrounding dirt and rock away. I knew it was a risk, but with luck and a bit of gravity, it was a risk worth taking.

    I checked my six shooter and started the climb down from my rocky overlook, making sure the rope I was carrying wouldn’t snag on anything.

    Knowing McDougal couldn’t resist easy prey; I crouched behind a large stone, took a deep breath, and let out the loudest scream of terror I could manage. It didn’t take long for the dastardly bandit to appear.

    As he passed I yanked the rope in my hands. Moments later the large boulder came crashing down to earth, almost taking McDougal out in the process. Before the chaos had ended, I snuck out of my hiding place, pistol in hand, and approached the unaware man.

    “Looks like you lost this hand, Blackjack!” I said as McDougal turned to see the butt of my gun slam into his head.

  6. “Gosh durnit!” I blurted out. “How can I get my little pony around that crazy fence?!” This was gonna be no fun… I had to hurry and find that outlaw somewhere in those caves. I could hear horses coming up behind me.

    “Bang! Bang!” came the sound from the sheriff’s gun behind me. I froze, watching swirls of dust dance up my leg from the bullets marking an X in the dirt in front of me.

    “What in blazes is a wanted man doin’ up here in these parts?” Mike O’Curran growled. “Lookin’ to go after that big bounty, are ya?”

    I froze. My right hand was shaking so much I could barely hold onto my shotgun. The tall ugly sheriff cast a long shadow clear down the path toward a bunch of startled prairie dogs.

    “Drop that ole’ gun down, partner,” O’Curran joked. Then he laughed. “I reckon you ain’t collectin’ no re-ward today!”

    Yup, he caught me again, out trying to get that money to pay the taxes on my grandpa’s ranch. I wondered how steak was gonna taste coming out of a can, like townfolk had to eat.

    “I told you to drop…” He stopped.

    “BONG!” I turned around just in time to see old Blackjack hitting’ the sheriff over the head with a great big fry pan. Down went the big lawman.

    “I’m gonna be collectin’ a re-ward on you, Smitty!” Blackjack howled, throwing me some cuffs to put on. The game was over.

  7. ***FINALIST***

    Deputy David Chua knew his grandfather and grandfather’s grandfather were watching over him when he spied the rattlesnake sidewinding across the trail between him and the dugout where Blackjack McDougal was holed up.

    Chua knew McDougal couldn’t be flushed by one man nor taken alive by the Tenth Cavalry’s X Troop. But he promised Sheriff Bones McClure, killed by McDougal three days before, he’d bring the bastard back to hang.

    The deputy began singing a prayer McDougal would never understand. Chua was counting on it. From within the stifling cabin, The killer heard the chanting and poked his .44 out the door ahead of him.

    “What the hell…?” McDougal said as a half-naked brown man staggered toward him, singing and holding what looked like a live rattlesnake.

    “Best back off, boy,” McDougal called as the apparition danced closer. McDougal figured he’d shoot the madman when he was twenty feet away, but then he saw him brush the snake with a feather and put the uncoiled diamondback in his mouth. Transfixed by the absurdity of the sight, McDougal stepped from the doorway.

    His hands now free, Chua reached behind his back for the Peacemaker stuffed in his belt and shot McDougal through the shoulder.

    After he brought the killer in, town fathers agreed to name Chua sheriff…even if he was “just an ‘injun’.”

    “Oh, he’s more’n that,” an old-timer said. “You flatheels know Dave’s clan’s been handling snakes for generations? Christ, “chua” is even Hopi for snake!”

  8. Sweat dripped down my back as I studied Smith Rock canyon. I’d tracked Blackjack McDougal all day. The trail had been just a little too easy to follow for it not to be a trap. Blackjack was probably watching them now. The town already questioned her right to be sheriff. She couldn’t afford another mishap.

    “What do you think, Tin?” I asked my four-legged partner. “Do we wait for X-Troop cavalry or take him ourselves?”

    Tin’s tail flopped, creating clouds of parched dirt. His whimper said what I was thinking. There was no way we could do this alone. My shoulders drooped and I turned away, almost stepping on a rattler. Tin growled and we retreated to a safe distance.

    “I got an idea, Tin.”

    It didn’t take long to make the necessary preparations. The sound of hundreds of rattlesnakes echoed around the canyon followed by Blackjack’s screams. Swaying brush marked Blackjack’s trail as he charged out of the trees and into the wooden fence. A full flip landed him at my feet. I grinned and pointed my riffle at his chest.

    “Problems, Blackjack?”

    “There are hundreds of them, Sheriff Cand,” he blubbered. “You’ve got to save me.”

    The rattling reached a defining pitch as Tin leaped over the fence and stood over Blackjack, teeth bared. Blackjack’s face was whiter than a daisy. I struggled not to laugh.

    “Nah, that’s just Deputy Tin. I reprogramed his bark synthesizer. I always said your rattlesnake phobia would be your downfall.”

  9. Arockalypse

    The boy woke screaming again, but this time it was his father who rushed to his side.
    The deafening thunder, so distant in the days before, now seemed to overtake them.
    “Hurry!” cried his father.
    The panic in his voice frightened the boy. His mom had always sounded so calm and reassuring, even after they had lost relatives and friends.
    “Where’s Mom?”
    Their bags were packed. For the past few weeks those bags were always packed. They hurried from the ranch house where they had lived for the past untroubled weeks. The van was running, it’s engine barely audible against the chaotic roar of the swiftly changing landscape.
    “Sit with Mom!” his father shouted.
    But his mother wasn’t waiting for them in the van.
    She stood alone in the yard, within touching distance of that useless fence, all hope lost.
    She turned, shook her head, and opened her arms to them, fingers twitching.
    “No more,” she mouthed, eyes full of tears. “Not again.”
    Leaving their suitcases, they came together, mother and father and son. The liquid rocks erupted and bubbled skyward, then fell and harden like craggy broken spikes. Holding hands, the family stood and watched, so transfixed by the natural yet unnatural phenomenon unfolding before their eyes, they failed to register the deadly low tremors building just beneath their feet.

  10. Duel (100 words)

    We’re savage. Deplorable. But we have honor. So long as we get our steps in, we’ll keep it, win or lose.


    Dust flits at the scuffle of our boots. Clouds drag over peaks; silent witnesses to our brutality.

    …Four. Five….

    A snake skitters across my course before sinking into the canyon. Its regal brown body blends in amongst the brush, tongue unceremoniously probing. The king in exile’s hiss is shallow, dry, desperate to be quenched.

    …Nine. Ten.

    Our pivots scrape up earth, our pistols roar.

    I will be seeing the lithe lord’s old throne soon enough. But not today.

  11. ***FINALIST***

    “McDougal, I know you’re up there.”

    Silence. The only sound I hear is the rustling of the wind and the echo of my voice.

    “I ain’t coming up there, McDougal. I know a trap when I see one. There’s only one way out and that’s through me.”

    Still no reply.

    “Time is on my side, boy. X-troop will be here in a few hours. They’ll come up there and hunt you down like an animal. There’s no escape, so you best surrender to me.”

    The troops will take no prisoners, but if he surrenders to me, at least he’ll stand trial and get a chance to convince the judge that it was self-defense.

    “Sheriff,” he cried, “ain’t no damn way you’re taking me alive. We both know Judge Watson hates my guts.”

    “Why’s that, McDougal?”

    “On account of me having sex with his youngest daughter.”

    “Damn it, son,” I reply, laughing. “You’re dumber than I thought.”

    “Maybe so, but it was damn good while it lasted.”

    I walk back to my horse and grab Rattlesnake, my trusty rifle. I named her after my ex-wife, for reasons best left unexplained.

    “You ain’t gonna make this easy on yourself, are you, boy?”

    “Why start now, Sheriff?” he asks, chuckling.

    “I’m coming to get you, son.”

    “Watch you don’t step on a rattler,” he says, howling with laughter.

    I load the first bullet into the chamber and reply, “You best pray Rattlesnake don’t find you first!”

  12. McDougal’s trail ended at Jedidiah Crumb’s old shack. Sheriff Ward adjusted his badge and spit. He had a perfect view. Jesus, Sallylynn McDougal’s incessant talking irritated him. “Woman, I suggest you shut your trap.” His southern drawl made anything he said sound like a growl.

    “I’m just suggestin’ that a good spot would be up in them hills, past the fence.”

    “I can’t do that.”

    Blackjack McDougal had been a thorn in his side long enough. His cheating at every card game made him a hated man, and no one would ever begrudge him a chance to take him out. The Sheriff kicked the bag with the rattler. “Since I don’t like guns, they think I can’t do my job.” But his plan was genius.

    “I’ll toss it on the bed,” said Sallylynn.

    “Hurry up before Grover and his X-Troop get here and take all my glory.”

    “Your glory. That’s a laugh.”

    He waited.


    Ward got to the shack just in time to see the last of Blackjack’s convulsions, Sallylynn clapping as if it were a sideshow. She planted a dusty kiss on his parched lips. “Now let’s get rid of him.”

    “Hell. No one will believe me if I don’t bring the body back, Sallylynn.”

    Her head cocked. Cavalry horses. “They’re coming. But I’ll be the only one goin’ back.”

    She tossed the rattler at Ward. His scream carried no further than the sagebrush. Sallylynn clapped and stomped her feet. Two shows in one day. She was thrilled.

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