Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Wild Bunch Wednesday - Pivotal Moment

Today is the third Wild Bunch Wednesday. The idea is Joanne's Walpole's (Terry James) and throughout July, I and several other bloggers below will be posting extracts from our western novels.

Terry James at Joanne Walpole's blog
Jack Giles at Broken Trails
Lance Howard at Dark Bits
Jack Martin at The Tainted Archive
IJ Parnham at The Culbin Trail

This week the theme is the pivotal moment. I'm providing an extract from my last BHW The Gallows Gang in which Nat McBain finds himself for perfectly logical reasons manacled to the bars of a cage that contains a raving psychopath and a fizzing stick of dynamite.

'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,' The Preacher intoned, 'I will fear no evil, Psalm twenty-three, verse four.'

'For God's sake stop preaching and help me get this off,' Nathaniel shouted, tearing at the laces to remove his boot.

The prisoners had left them to their fate, but Nathaniel reckoned if he could knock the dynamite out of the cage that fate might not be the one Turner had wanted. The stick lay fifteen feet away and beyond his reach, but it was only four feet from the edge of the cage, spluttering through the last inch of fuse.

He slipped his boot off then drew back his arm, but The Preacher grabbed that arm.

'Anyone,' he muttered, his voice shaking with righteous indignation, 'who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death, Leviticus twenty-four, verse sixteen.'

'And you'll join me,' Nathaniel snapped, tearing his hand away. Then he hurled the boot at the stick.

But the act of getting his arm away from The Preacher's grip had veered his aim and the boot flew two feet wide and thudded into the bars.

Nathaniel grunted with irritation and uttered another blasphemy, this time with an added oath, but as if in answer to his plea, the boot rebounded from the bars, skittered across the base of the cage and nudged the stick.

The force with which it hit was minimal but it was enough to send the stick spinning diagonally across the cage. It came to rest three feet closer to Nathaniel but only a foot from the edge of the cage.

The Preacher provided another appropriate quote predicting that Nathaniel's repeated blasphemies meant he wouldn't enjoy the afterlife, but Nathaniel didn't plan on finding out whether he was right just yet.

'Be quiet,' he muttered.

'In the beginning,' The Preacher said, 'God created the heavens and the earth.'

Nathaniel removed his other boot. He ignored The Preacher and his ramblings to avoid him veering his aim again as he took careful aim at the stick.

The Preacher continued speaking. 'The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep.'

The flame spluttered into the stick itself. Only seconds remained...

'The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.'

Nathaniel drew back his arm then threw the boot.

'And God said...' The Preacher said, raising his voice.

The boot flew across the cage and hit the dynamite square on.

'...Let there be light...'

The stick bounded away, hit a bar, bobbed up, looking for a moment as if it'd rebound into the cage, but then sank from view outside.

'But there wasn't light,' Nathaniel shouted, 'Nathaniel one, verse one.'

Then he turned away, curling himself into a ball.

(c) I. J. Parnham 2008, published by Robert Hale Ltd and available from all good on-line retailers such as Amazon



Great description getting that dynamite to blow alongside the sermon.

Scott Parker said...

Oh man, was that a fun passage. I liked the pacing and back-and-forth nature of the prose. Good job. Now, I'll admit, I want to read the book.

Steve M said...

Excellent Ian. Gonna have to hunt that book out now...

Howard said...

Awesome excerpt and wonderful cover!

Jack said...

This is writing at its best. Reader left in suspense.