The boy struggled to raise the long gun to his shoulder, squinting his one good eye at the target. The gun exploded into his chest, kicking him back. He struggled to maintain his footing, but as he did, a large fist slammed into the side of his head, adding to the swelling already there, and dropping him to the ground.
"Missed again, boy! Damnit, you're wastin' cartridges!"
The voice boomed beside him, and the boy, maybe 10 or 11, flinched, scrambled to his feet, and began to reload. He swung the gun up again.
"Lookit! Lookit yer target!"
He fired, staggered backward, and waited for the fist.
He looked across the yard to see his target laying on the ground.
"That's it, lesson over."
He swiveled his head up at the man beside him, who wrenched the gun from him and turned away.
"Finish up here and bring them horses up. Get'em hitched, I got some supplies to fetch in town. Hurry up, boy!"
He tilted his head around, throbbing though it was, so he could see through the right eye to finish his chores. And he wondered again why he couldn't shoot better.
The round table in the saloon and Ezra's deck of cards entertained the seven for another evening, as JD and Buck argued over who had done the better job of protecting the town in another gun battle earlier that afternoon.
"Vin? Vin? Somebody make him pay attention."
Vin focused his attention on JD. "What? Sorry, JD, I weren't listenin'."
He caught a movement to his side and his hand shot out, catching the other man's wrist tightly, sloshing the drink being offered, then looked up into Chris' startled face.
"Easy, pard." Their eyes met, and Chris passed him the slightest of smiles. "Where ya been?"
Tanner shook his head, and rubbed his temple, trying to relieve the throbbing headache that had begun earlier.
He turned back to JD. "Yeah, Kid?"
"I said, could you teach me to shoot better?"
"Uh . . ." He looked around the table at his friends. "Sure, Kid, I'll give ya a lesson or two."
"Think I could ever learn to shoot like you do?" JD's enthusiasm bubbled out.
"I hope not." Vin answered quietly. "I hope not."
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