Fiction by: Matt Pilgrim, Grade 12
The first sound to enter your ears will be the light jingle of metal complemented by the heavy, determined trod of hard heeled riding boots. Then you will hear the revolting noise of someone who is free from the burdens of hygiene gathering a fat wad of phlegm from the back of their throat before contemptuously flinging it at the floor. The man before you will no doubt take you by surprise, and the more your eyes linger upon his gritty appearance the more your heart quickens. The substantial amount of sweat previously clinging to your brow will find itself in new company as many more droplets join the crowded follicles of your greasy hair. You realize that you have been holding in your breath, but when you think to let it out, you do so slowly, for fear of catching his attention. This is because you are looking at the cold hard law made manifest, County Ranger Terrance Redford.
This man is known by all for his unflinching resolve and his ability to stare down anything short of a landslide. He is tall, broad shouldered, and walks as if his destination is all that matters. His tawny coat and chaps are covered with the dust of years while the tall leather boots at the base of his legs are caked in the mud of his latest patrol. An old Stetson casts a dark shadow over his face and a small feather juts out of the band around the top. The only item on his person not bearing the marks of age is a shining Smith & Wesson revolver strapped to his waist. If you are brave enough to cast a glance up at his face, you will see a mass of flesh that is more akin to an anvil than a human visage. Scars cross it like the many railways of this country, and a thick, black mustache explodes out above his chapped lips, cascading over the thin line below. If you have either a death wish or have a mind full of idiotic bravado you will dare to look into his eyes, deep pools of blue pierced at the center by a jet black pupil, an island in a sea of determination. What these eyes have seen people like you and I dare not contemplate, for that knowledge would overcome lesser individuals.
There are none alive who can say they know him better than the glances they steal when he walks down the street and to tell the truth, that is enough for most. Behind his impenetrable outer wall lies a man who is a ghost of what he once was. He does not remember those little but significant things that make us truly human. He has forgotten his love of music, but there was a time when he could lose himself in the melodies sung by his wife. Now that she is gone he has hardened himself against all emotion, locking away any softness he once had. His old pastimes of playing cards in town and drinking with his friends mean nothing to him now. He has no family left in this world to steady him and no allies to remind him of who he once was. He cares no longer for the little things that he used to, like the tucking in of his shirt and the polishing of his boots. In his younger days it all mattered; there was a person in him then. He liked to read books by the canyon a few miles out of town. Every night he would retire to the fireside and smoke from his pipe while he whittled away on his current project. He would rise in the morning before his wife and ride the whole day on patrol but when he returned in the evening she would have supper prepared for him. How much he loved her and the way she laughed we will never know. He doesn’t even remember what his favourite meal was; however whenever he smells a duck roasting something in the back of his mind begins to stir. His friends used to describe him as a man who knew when to laugh and when to be serious. They would meet him in the saloon for a whisky and a game of cards every so often. Many a good time was had on those evenings. You wonder if those memories would make him remember the man he once was.
Nowadays he is rarely seen, preferring to keep to the wilderness alone. By the campfire he looks at the stars every night and wonders what is left for him in this world, if indeed there is anything. Everything he owns can fit into his saddle bags and even then there is still room left. He leads a life of solitude, watching over the people of this county with ruthless efficiency. The only thing that keeps him going is the knowledge that there is always someone in need of help. He will walk down his road and never look back because that is the man he is.