Under the Cliffs

by sentimentalsurrealist

            Told the cop about how the ex-priest made peace with his god in the last five days of his life, and the cop told me as we walked down into the basement of the station that maybe I should make peace with mine. Place was so dark I might as well have had my eyes closed. Took a minute for those eyes to adjust to it. The cop sat me down at a desk which a filing cabinet sat beneath.
            “God didn’t help me make one step of my way,” I told the cop. Shut his fat face right up.
            Went onto say about how, two weeks before his death, the ex-priest took one look at my wife and confided in a mutual friend that he was gonna leave the ministry. The mutual friend was the one who told me that, and who got me thinking maybe I should put the ex-priest in his place. Didn’t mean to kill the guy, wasn’t me who suggested the duel. That was the ex-priest’s idea. An old-fashioned duel in a woman’s honor.
            “Sounds like he still had a dick underneath that cowl,” said the cop.
            “You watch what you say about my wife,” I replied. Next thing I knew, I punched the cop with my meaty fist. Squashed the guy’s mango of a nose.
             “Punch away, champ. You’re the one going to jail. Let’s talk a little more about that priest.”
            So I gave the pig a little more, a little about how my wife didn’t want nothing to do with a duel regardless of her honor. She didn’t want me dying and didn’t want me killing. So I thought well hell I can be the bigger man here and I went to the ex-priest to call it off. This was now three days before the ex-priest bit the dust. But the ex-priest had a good belly laugh at this. Tipped his toupee at me, showing off his round bald head, and said, “My you sure are the proper gentleman. You know what happens to proper gentlemen’s wives? Improper gentlemen take them to bed and have a ball.”
            “So what was I supposed to do?” I asked the cop. “Was I supposed to let that pass?”
            Ex-priest wanted the duel to be out in the valley, beneath those two thousand year old cliffs where you’d stumble onto fossils if you dug deep enough, the ones that faced the wind with proud dignity as it beat the tar out of them. No seconds, he said, just twenty paces, turn and fire, like they did it in the old days. I checked and raised, insisting we have it at high noon, with the sun beating straight down on us. Ex-priest’s eyes lit up when I said that. So we shook hands, and when we did, I could see he the cuffs of old cowl hanging underneath the blue sport coat and white undershirt he’d taken to wearing around town. Quite a sight.
              My wife packed up and left when she learned the duel was on, and I’m not sure if she’s coming back. Not right, if you ask me, because it was for her I did this.
            “Noble of you,” said the cop, rolling his eyes. His nose was blanketed in blood, but you could still see a bit of skin underneath.
            “My wife made the same quip,” I replied. “You gonna let me tell this or not?”
            “Tell away,” the cop said. “It’s your confession.”
            “All I’m guilty of is defending my honor. Not a jury alive can say no to that.”
            Like I told you, my honor’s courtroom was the valley. I scoped the place out a day before the ex-priest got gunned down. Wasn’t no civilization around for three miles. Just me, him and the cliffs. The ex-priest waddled in, stomach bobbling, and I felt a little sick to my stomach when that gun of his came out, because I never wanted to kill a man. In fact, I doubled over and vomited a little, and the sicko had him another good belly laugh. Some priest. Still wearing that cowl, and had a big gold crucifix dangling from his neck. So we stood back to back, me a few inches taller than him, him a few inches broader than me, and we did our paces. As we started our twenty paces, it was silent as a teenager sneaking into his room at five in the morning, but the silence was shattered by a bullet. The ex-priest had turned around and fired at his sixth shot, but he missed me by a few yards. Must’ve fired before he was all the way around.
            “So what could I have done?” I asked the cop. “Wasn’t like I could run away or nothing, because he’d just take another shot at me and aim better this time.”
            The cop stroked his beard. “Shouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place.”
            “You got no dignity,” I replied. “Priest got shot a few minutes after that. Self-defense.”
            “You stupid or something?” asked the cop. “You’re not gonna get self-defense for killing a guy in a duel.”
            He dug through the filing cabinet and pulled out a paper. “You wanna sign this?” he asked.
            “Sure,” I replied, checking all the boxes and scrawling my signature on the piece of paper. “I’ll get off.”