The dawn was all silvery, soft and moist, and the noise of my boots scratched through the grass and crunched over the stones in my path, and the morning birds sang quietly of my nighttime adventures. Mornin' fellas I said under my breath, and the breath rose from my lips like a steam locomotive and filed away over my shoulder and away. I hummed a tune I didn't know and considered things I'd not even dreamed of, and the walking back home was different than that walk had ever been before.

    Down in my pocket, riding with my watch and my pocket knife was a hundred dollar bill folded up with my usual fiver plus a couple of singles. I had played a game of grownup poker that night, and everyone was easy and relaxed except for that one guy, that one asshole, and that's whose money now resided with me, down in that pocket. There was also a deep sense of satisfaction riding along with that hundred dollar bill. Watching the look on his fat face when I had turned over the third deuce, beating him with a little bitty three of a kind, him with Kings and Aces and all his big talk and big raises. He was just mean as hell. It was such poetry. Hey all you morning birds, sing me a victory song...........

    I had finally come up to the road, climbing up the bar ditch and clearing the brush when I heard the sound of an engine up around the curve and out of sight. For some reason, maybe that rare hundred dollar bill in my jeans, I decided to drop back and see who was coming. I lowered on down behind some bramble and waited, and sure enough, here came old Fat Face, dusty Bronco sliding around the bend and gearing down slow to a crawl. He was looking for something and I figured it had to be me. All of a sudden I had a feeling in my belly I didn't like, the kind that starts in your balls and works right up to your brains.

    He rolled past me maybe thirty feet and stopped and sat for a long couple minutes. That bad feeling only got worse when his door opened and I saw what he had in his hand. The pistol looked about as big as a bowling trophy, and just as hard to handle. Watching him fumble around like he'd never had it out of the case just made me even more nervous. I was thinking, shit, if I gotta have a man draw down on me I'd rather he knew what he was doing than not.

    So, he's standing there in the dirt road in his slacks and black dress shoes, gut over a big stupid buckle and his short sleeve shirt and his tie all messed up and he's looking back over all the hedgerows I'd just crossed, and then he does the damnedest thing. He puts that great big hammer under his arm, unzips and starts to take a leak right into the morning breeze, piss blowing all over his shiny shoes. I can hear him cuss and then he turns his back to me, and before I even had a chance to think it over I was up out of the ditch with a length of blackjack branch pulled back like a baseball bat, and when he heard me coming he whirled around with his pecker in one hand trying to get his pistol out of his armpit with the other and peeing the whole time, and I clobbered him across his cheek so hard the branch broke in two. The pistol hit the dirt and he almost did too and then I hit him again across his shoulderblades with the piece I had left and pushed him straight into the open door of his truck and down he went.

    I put my foot over his pistol and waited while he cleared his head. I figured I'd have time to pick it up and throw it into the bushes and run if I had to, since he didn't look too nimble. In fact he looked pretty bad, leaning on the inside part of his open door with his head down and his pants still undone and some blood on his face. A bird back behind us mentioned something sort of quietly and then a couple more said something, and then they got quiet again and waited to see if the ruckus was really over.

    By now the adrenaline was so flooded over in me that my head was spinning, and I said mister, if you don't tell me this is over right now I'm gonna pick up your gun and shoot you so you'll bleed to death out here.

    He started laughing then, but it came out wrong because of the blood and his little soldier sticking out over the roof of his britches, and I just got madder than I've ever been. I bent over and got his gun and slipped the safety off and pointed it right above his head and squeezed off a round right through his driver's side window, and then another straight into his dash, and I started shouting at him, is this really that funny you fat sonofabitch, and then I was at his head and that big chrome .45 was rubbing all around his greasy ear and my teeth were clenched and I was really really close to blowing his useless brains out.

    He quit breathing and I did too and the birds held their breath and the breeze died down. I slid the muzzle down to his left eye and twisted it a little and when he turned his head away I stepped back. I moved the gun to my left hand, reached down and pulled out my roll, and with my teeth I pulled off that hundred dollar bill. His bloodshot eyes followed my moves and they grew to little black slits as I tore it into little bits and scattered them over the dirt. I held his pistol at my side, backed around his truck and over the road to the ditch and then up into the tree line, the hair on the back of my neck standing stiff the whole time, but when I turned around he was still where I'd left him, and then I was running through the trees and there were no songs in the forest right then. Just the sound of the locomotive breath of a 15-year-old boy turned man in the dawn of another day.