It was Exodus. Seth Cavill spat more bloody spittle-shit to stain his Sunday best, dirt thick wind hastening to bury the sordid affair. Toes wandered the floor with ballerina grace, loosening splinters in the support arm that held his soul, now more frayed than the noose that bore his neck.
Reverend Luis was middle aged, weary, on the trail to Minnesota yet now bogged to reside himself in this arid frontier backwater where men escaped to excavate fortune, dig or die. His ward today was Cavill. His last rites, last moments were to be enacted by Luis alone. His thoroughfare flock observed with passing indifference.
‘The man before you today has transgressed.’
Luis fumbled at something in his corduroy, perhaps the jacket itself, damp hands.
‘He has transgressed openly, in His eyes.’
He blew hot tired breath, took pondering steps.
‘And on this day, for this crime that denies him Heaven’s blessing he shall be cast down, lest we be dragged with him.’
A hoople in the audience cupped hands.
‘And what suppose this fella did in Christ’s eyes reverend?’
‘Well Mister Seth Cavill…’
‘I, stole-a, horse.’
Lungs were heaving under splintered ribs. Luis folded up the sheriff’s letter out of sight, the letter with the broken wax seal, the hold up in Montana, this hung man’s obscenities, arrest and punishment. Details regulated with less clarity, truth than four words, bloody spittle and rope. God loves as law abides.
‘I stole that damn horse, yes damn, damned.’
Luis found an opening.
‘I know son, the devil speaks through you, torturing you, not for much longer.’
He had no lustre for his conviction.
‘No he ain’t.’
‘Would he say that as he poisoned your mind to thieve, but we are here to forgive,’
‘No, he ain’t.’
Cavill’s bruised eye was wincing, waiting, watching for Luis to turn his crooked back.
‘No he ain’t reverend. The sheriff gotta devil tongue when he got whore’s tongue round him, and he gotta a devil’s fist when he cornered me.’
One man yelled cocksucker cockney and true for Cavill’s sake, and the hooples erupted into jittery fits, baying like hyenas, excited for blood.
‘But not me.’
Toes tottered the planks no more, they took solid stance. Luis turned finally and traced the bloody lines on Cavill’s face.
‘’I dug deep reverend, I dug deeper than Joe Pollock and his lot, ’til my nostrils were burnin’ from the sulphur reverend, no devil seeked to prick me with his pitchfork there. I ain’t none to you. I’m solid well. I took a horse damn near set it free when I knew what I done. I ain’t killed, I ain’t maimed, I ain’t raped. Ain’t no devil,’
Luis had none of his flock, none of his conviction, nothing but fingers etching forehead creases. Downcast eyes and rattling teeth.
‘What is your will?’
He put his hands to scrawl on paper.
‘I want stone and I want posies ‘til winter. I got none else.’
Luis paused, waited, and no ink touched ground.
The hooples had decimated in ranks. Ruffled skirted and polished folk took their turns to tune in on their way to chatter of slicked hair and melodrama, tobacco and advertising, things ripe as a moment, juicy as the cracked earth. Luis faced neither them nor condemned, Cavill’s hung with heavy head, and impatient gawkers threw idle laughter in their wake.
Luis wiped sweat and the sun bore heavy and he walked up to Cavill to loosely ensure all that was necessary would hold. Cavill met his one good pupil with Luis, and the moment between them was clear.
He walked away and faced a thin crowd, bespoke a psalm that was leafed from a Sunday in late April and took verse from a February funeral. His tongue fluttered and fell over the words and he took no second to repeat, just closed the bible and shielded his eyes from the light baring the dusty road before Minnesota naked.
There was a pull of a lever and hurried footsteps through the crowd, down the hazy thoroughfare and mercifully, mercilessly away from the struggling.
Luis was at home with eyes wandering out his inn window weary-like at the goings on of the town afar, and his sight met the saloon on the prairie hill where he knew too well the mayor and sheriff frequented, where whores could go. He’d not collected his mind and it was then he realised he still clutched his holy book and crumpled letter to heart, damp with sweat. So then he sat in his oaken chair, and no sooner did his bible fall to the ground closed did he fall into dreams, Moses killing the Egyptian, the Hebrew too.
Feverishly so the reverend tossed and turned.