Sometimes I fancy myself a gunslinger. I don't carry a sidearm and the last time I rode a horse, I fell off. Still, there are times when I fancy the storefronts are saloons and the downtown streets are gritty with Old West grime.
I imagine I hear clink, clink, clink with each step down these dusty roads. I fancy it's tumbleweed and not snow blowing across my path. My eyes scan shadows in all directions lest a rival lunge from the darkness to settle an old score. Not tonight, my friend. You don't want to become another notch in the carved-up grip of my gun.
Clink, clink, clink.
The police are a posse of lawmen called to this one-horse town to put things right. Crooks are outlaws with mugs posted in every two-bit town from hear to Reno. Train robbers, most of them. An ornery, slippery lot.
The corner stores are barber shops where you can get a shave and a haircut for a nickel. City buildings are houses of ill repute where you'll find women in frilly dresses with names like Lulu and Clementine. And there, dark and vacant on Lisbon Street, are the five and dime, the blacksmith shop, the undertakers place and the benzinery, all left empty when the gold rush was over and the town was left behind.
Clink, clink, clink. I haven't seen hide nor hair of Old Red Nose Nollie since the day of the poker cheat when he beat the devil around the stump. Still, I keep a hand on the butt of my revolver just in case. Because Red Nose Nollie is a lot like a rattlesnake. He can have his fangs in you before you even know he's there. He'll dry-gulch a man as soon as look at him.
But I'm feeling ace-high tonight. Lewiston is my frontier. I've got no one to ride the river with, but that's alright. I'm between hay and grass and I'm heeled. I've got no difficulty but to wait for someone to kick up a row somewhere and give me a time.
Clink, clink, clink.
It's the boots. Definitely the boots. Every winter I slip them on and it's like sliding into grand delusion. I don't walk toward the scene of the crime, I swagger. I don't simply stick a cigarette in my mouth and light it up. I do it with theatrical, gunslinger ease.
"Pardon, lawman. You reckon you'll corral that curly wolf tonight and put him at the end of the hemp?"
"Yep. Simone pure. That codger is as full as a tick by now, I reckon."
So what if I have no notion of what any of that means. So what if the officers are giving me strange looks and whispering into their radios. Lewiston is a lonely, cold place on a January night. If your beat is mischief after dark, you need a little delusion to get you through. Who wants to be a mere crime reporter when you can be Lascivious LaFlamme, feared and famed?
But the gunslinger fancy is short-lived, like most daydreams. Some idjit drives by in a sagging Plymouth with rap music shaking its frame. A cab driver lays on his horn because I have swaggered in front of him. The cell phone buzzes at my hip and for a horrible moment, I believe it is Red Nose Nollie with his poisonous rattle.
Reality crashes in as it always does. The boots are just boots again, footwear manufactured at one of the Lewiston mills along the canal. The stores sell cigarettes at five bucks a pack and lottery tickets are sold through electronic machines. Lawmen have cruisers instead of steeds and there are computers mounted on dashboards.
Lewiston is a cold and well-lit city again rather than an old frontier. But I like to think the city has an Old West mentality. There are outlaws and posses. There is cussing and more than a fair share of carousing. There are those who still come here to strike it rich or go belly up. Lewiston is a city with a gunslinger spirit.
But the fantasy is gone like smoke from the barrel of a Smith & Wesson. The only things strapped to my hip are the phone and the scanner. No six-shooter in battered leather holster. No shave and a haircut for a bit.
It's all for the best, really. Put a cowboy hat on me and I'll disappear. I bluff poorly at card tables. And if I haven't mentioned it already, I'll mention it now: The last time I rode a horse, I fell off.
That's about the long and short of it, I reckon.