The Colonel’s blue eyes shifted ever so slightly. His crow’s feet appeared rugged and deep in the low light of the lantern hanging from the entryway trellis.
“Now, son, let’s be reasonable gentlemen and take a walk.” His voice was measured. “Talk about whatever it is aggrieves you.”
John Cunningham, Jr., son of the recently deceased Corporal John Cunningham, Sr., left the tip of his father’s .31 caliber “Baby Dragoon” revolver pointed at the Colonel’s heart.
“You have no right to talk reasonable with that thing hanging over your home,” John said, nodding toward the flag fluttering proudly in the moist São Paulo breeze. He fought back a retching feeling rising from his belly. A light rain swept across the pristine rectangle of woven wool hanging above the entryway of the ramshackle cabin: Thirteen white stars swam in crisscrossed rivers of blue, surrounded by triangles of blood-red sand.
“Look, I don’t know you from Adam, son, and–
“I am not your son, so you had best stop calling me that.” John cocked the hammer. “Now are you going to welcome a weary traveler into your house or not?”
The Colonel turned his head slightly, but his eyes never left John’s. John could see a crack of light emanating from one side of the door.
“I don’t know why you’re raising old ghosts, but I am most certain we can hash this out without resorting to–”
“Whoever’s in there, you had better not be itchin’ to be clever,” John shouted over the Colonel’s shoulder. The cylinder was fully loaded, five rounds, and he had a couple of spares in his coat pocket as well.
“Sarah,” The Colonel said with a raised voice which, somehow, still sounded genteel. “Tell your mama to put on a pot. We have a guest.”
“Don’t nobody do nothin’,” John said right after.
He spoke in a quieter tone to the Colonel. “Walk.”
Though he was glad to escape the sticky, Brazilian drizzle and the strange animal sounds emanating from the surrounding ferns, John felt a low reticence. Old ghosts was right. He was stepping into shadows of something from which he knew there was no return.
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