Badlands Bard

Badlands Bard

by James Hensley

photo by amrodel

Travis’ boots kicked up dust motes with each tired step across the desert canvas. The sun dominated the yellow, cloudless sky, cracking the already parched earth. The heat didn’t bother Travis. He whistled a playful tune, and the scuffling of his boots seemed to keep rhythm with the melody.

Travis was on his way to Carrion Square, a dusty scrap town, much like the dusty scrap town he left earlier in the day, and all the others before. His real destination was the bartering capital of Silverbowl, but the shanty towns along the way usually provided him a meal and a safe place to sleep. He had little money to pay his way, no more than a handful of copper coins, but made up for it with theguitar strapped across his back. Musical instruments were in short supply, and those who could play them, even shorter. Eager innkeepers provided a meal and bed for anyone who could attract business and lift their patron’s spirits.  Occasionally, his performances afforded him a little nighttime company, though beautiful women were also harder to come by as of late.

A deep rumble in his stomach slowed his stride. He’d forgotten when last he’d eaten anything. Peering toward the horizon, he could just make out the rusted, metal structures of Carrion Square through the rippling heat rising off the ground. He didn’t plan on stopping until he arrived, but thought it best he eat something to keep his strength. Innkeepers usually didn’t keep their end of a deal until after he finished playing.

He produced a small, vacuum sealed pouch of dried meat from his satchel and gave the top tab a quick rip. He shoved a few hunks of meat into his mouth, which he washed down with a few swigs of water from his canteen. There was no time to stop for a full meal. The sun would soon begin its descent. The little he ate would have to be enough. After stuffing the pouch and the canteen back into the satchel, he continued his march.

He walked no more than fifteen minutes, and was only now close enough to make out individual buildings, when the angry voices of men yelling, and the high pitched, frightened screams of women echoed from the town.

”Bandits,” he said, spitting the distaste from his tongue.

He reached to the back of his belt and fingered the metal trigger of a silver revolver, an item even more rare than the guitar slung over his shoulder.  Glaring ahead through narrowed eyes, he grabbed the gun’s handle firmly and removed it from its resting place.

”Well,” he said to the air. “Looks like I’ll be earnin’ my dinner a little differently tonight.”

James Hensley is originally from Baltimore, MD, but now resides in Murray, KY.  He graduated from Murray State University with a theatre degree and has written and directed several one act plays. It wasn’t until 2011 that he discovered his true passion for writing.  His favorite authors include Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  When he’s not writing, James continues his intense research on the yellowish goo at the bottom of Spam cans.

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