Arthur spat into the dirt, watching the gob tumble into a brown ball before kicking dirt over it. He looked down from the hill into the small livestock town and though most towns in America were about this size, this one seemed to have its stuff figured out more than others. Many towns in the west were inhabited by people who wanted to leave their old lives behind, wanted to start over. Arthur didn’t figure himself as one of them but he also didn’t want to remain in the same life he was in. He wasn’t exactly sure where he fit.
The town was about thirty years old, if that. The buildings showed wear but were still solid with new crystal glass in the windows. Livestock towns had money, Arthur knew that. They were all about exporting their goods whether they be animals or animal products. Farmers and ranchers weren’t dumb neither. They were friendly and kind but knew how to handle themselves when it got down to it. That’s why a lot of towns like this one didn’t need but one or two sheriffs around; the citizens knew how to defend themselves.
Arthur slowly made his way down the one road that went through the town, eyeing all the business signs, specifically for the one that said “Saloon.” He hitched his horse, Max, gave him a pat on the head and an oatcake before pushing open the double doors to the saloon. It was still early in the afternoon so only a few patrons were inside. Arthur knew them all to be regulars not only because it was a small town but because only regulars drank in bars before sundown.
“Ain’t seen you around here before, friend. What’ll it be?” Said the bartender as he threw a towel over his shoulder. His mustache was thick and twirled into little circles at the ends. His eyes were kind but curious.
“I’ll take a whisky,” said Arthur. He reached into his pocket and slapped a coin on the counter. As he did, he looked around the rest of the bar to see who was looking his way. No one was.
“Whisky it is,” the ‘tender said. “This here’s the good stuff” Rather than a shot, he poured it into a glass filling it about halfway up.
Arthur studied the glass. “That’s mighty generous of you,” he drawled.
“My way of saying ‘welcome,’” said the ‘tender through a smile. “What brings you into town, if I may ask?”
Arthur took a slug of the whisky, its smoky flavor burning as it made its way into his empty belly. “Looking for some work, you hirin’?” He asked.
“Not behind the bar. I have a pretty good handle on things here. I do know the ranch down the way is looking for some farmhands if you don’t mind getting your coveralls dirty.”
“I ain’t done much ranchin’,” Arthur said, stirring the whisky in the glass.
“Ain’t a whole lot to it. They tell ya what to do and ya do it. Not a whole lot of thinkin’ to be done. Just need a desire to work.”
“I’ll think about it,” Arthur said, finishing his glass. He put another coin on the counter and the bartender refilled his glass.
“What’s your name, mister?” Asked the bartender.
“Nice to meet you, Mister Morgan,” said the bartender, extending his hand over the bar.
Arthur reached out and took it. It was a firm shake and Arthur could feel the man’s calloused hands and rough skin.
“I’m Richard Johannsen, I own this bar and have for the last twenty years. It was the first watering hole in town, ya know,” the bartender said, obviously proud of the fact.
“It’s a nice place,” said Arthur.
“Ya know, Mister Morgan, I don’t need help behind the bar but if you could do me a favor, I’ll give ya payment. It’s a small job so the payment will be too, but I’ll be sure to keep you in mind for whenever I need a hand around here.”
“What’s the job?” Asked Arthur.
“Do you know where the doctor’s office is, just up the street?” Asked Johannsen.
“If you take a package over there for me, I’ll give you five dollars. Like I said, small job. What do you say?”
Arthur was hesitant to reply. “That’s it?”
“What’s in the package?”
“I wouldn’t worry yourself too much with that, sir. Just a weekly delivery. I ask you to mind your own and I’ll mind mine. That way we can build trust between one another,” said Johannsen.
“Don’t sound too bad.”
“Here,” Johannsen said, waving for Arthur to come around to the side of the bar. “Take this out the back door just there and bring it around to the rear of the doctor’s office. There’s a metal door there. Just knock and leave the package at the foot of it. When you return, I’ll have your payment.”
“Easy enough.” Arthur grabbed the package and made his way out.
Arthur walked behind the other businesses, the package under his arm. He wondered what was inside but decided it was probably better he not know. As he round the corner to the back of the doctor’s office, he saw the metal door attached to an addition at the rear of the office. It was a solid door with multiple locks. He knocked and placed the package down. As he turned to leave, a slat in the door opened.
“What you want?” A voice called.
“Delivery,” said Arthur.
“Noted. Get out of here quick-like,” the eyes in the slat said.
“Ain’t no need to be rude,” said Arthur. “Whatchu got going on in there anyway?” He asked, more so to annoy the man than out of genuine curiosity.
“I said git,” the eyes said. The slat slammed shut.
Arthur noted the extended addition and knew that with a door like that and no windows, whatever was going on in there was meant to be known only by those inside. He turned to leave and heard the door creak open and quickly shut behind him, the package now gone.
Arthur made his way back to Johannsen and received his payment. Johannsen thanked him for his services and told Arthur if he was interested, he could come back the same time next week. Arthur nodded, “and thanks for the whisky.”
He exited and unhitched Max but looked back at the doctor’s office and imagined the extension and his imagination ran wild with what was inside. The package would’ve been a tiny score, Arthur knew, but the back room of the doctor’s office could be a great one.