Chapter 7 – Tamale Heaven

Bandolero looked at the large red stain on the front of his shirt. He wondered whether he was afraid of what he’d find if he looked underneath, or didn’t care. If it was bad enough to die from, then the only question was how long it would take to die. If it wasn’t bad enough to die from, then the only question was how long it would take to heal. Either way, looking wouldn’t change anything. He placed the palm of his hand over the stain. It felt damp. He held his palm up before his eyes. They took a while to focus and, when they did, he saw it was smeared with red. This was probably not a good sign. It had been nearly an hour. If it wasn’t bad enough to die from, the stain ought to have dried by now. He laid his hand back to his lap and wrapped his fingers around the grip of the gun that lay there. It felt good, comfortable, and familiar. He had held many guns over the years, but he always knew his own gun. In Bandolero’s hand, it was another part of his own body. It responded to his mind just like his hands and fingers responded. It did his bidding just as they did. Scratching his butt, picking his nose, pulling the trigger; it made no difference.

“Hey, whatcha doin’ good buddy?”

Bandolero looked up, but didn’t see anyone. The voice had come from behind him, but he knew it well. It was his comrade, Blacky. A small smile formed on Bandolero’s parched lips. Blacky also felt good, comfortable, and familiar. They’d been through a lot together. For Bandolero, the bond between them was almost as strong as the bond between Bandolero and his gun. For Blacky, the bond was almost as strong as the bond beween Blacky and his horse.

“Just wonderin’,” answered Bandolero.

“‘Bout what? asked Blacky.

“Whether I’m gonna live or die,” answered Bandolero.

“Whew, wow,” Blacky responded. “What brought that on?”

“Ain’t you got eyes?” asked Bandolero, pointing the barrel of his gun at the stain on his shirt.

“Well, I warned you what could happen,” said Blacky, “the way you pour that damn sauce all over your tamales and then eat ’em with your fingers. How many didja eat, anyway?”

Bandolero belched and grinned. “Lost count around ten, I s’pose.”

“Well, there ya go,” said Blacky. “You know, those things are gonna kill you one of these days.”

“I know,” said Bandolero. “But I do love ’em!”

“Take a nap,” suggested Blacky. “That’ll generally cure what ails ya.”

“Think I will,” said Bandolero. As he closed his eyes a thought began to take shape in his mind, but he was unconscious before it could coalesce.

Blacky watched his friend in silence for a few moments. It was obvious there would be no point in saying anything further; not now, at least; possibly not ever. There was no way to tell. Actually, there was a way, but Blacky’s thoughts had turned elsewhere.

“I wonder if they have any more of those tamales?” he mused.