It Ends In Valdosta
by John McAuley
Gunsmoke darkened the full moon that had followed me for two nights and two thousand miles.
Halfway to Georgia my car started wheezing louder than my lungs, so I stole a Mustang from a Ford dealership in Houston; on a Saturday night nobody'd miss it until after I'd righted a wrong from over a hundred years ago.
That's when all the men in my family started dying before they reached fifty. I'm forty-nine. I have untreatable tuberculosis.
All I'll miss in this damn world is my son. He went to mechanic's school and has his own shop now. I'm proud of him and he ain't ashamed of me. He visited me regularly when I was in Arizona State Prison.
That's where I heard something interesting about Valdosta, Georgia--and figured out how to give my boy a chance.
I was shaky hungry, so my first stop in Valdosta was at a diner.
The waitress's name was Kate. She asked if I was a real cowboy. Must've been the hat. I didn't mention the ancient Colt .45 out in the Mustang.
Kate liked talking. Especially about Doc Holliday growing up here. "Heck, his daddy was even the mayor. And the last of the Holliday men still lives in town," she said.
When I left a five dollar tip Kate smiled and said, "Well, thanks sweetie. What's your name?"
"I'm Michael Clanton. Friends call me Ike."
Then I put on my hat and went to do a killing.