James R. Coggins

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Short Fiction

Jimmy the Gnat

“So how did your trip out west go?”

“Not so good. I was challenged to a gunfight by Jimmy the Gnat.”

“That’s a strange nickname. Was he a small man?”

“No, he was a gnat.”

“Oh. Did you agree to fight him?”

“Of course. I didn’t want people saying I was afraid of a gnat.”

“Of course not. How did the gunfight go?”

“Not so well. I couldn’t see his hands move. By the time I realized he had drawn his gun, he’d got off several rounds.”

“Did he hit you?”

“He says so, but his bullets were so small we never found the bullet holes.”

“Did you shoot back?”

“After a couple of minutes of just standing there, I got suspicious and pulled my gun.”

“Did you get him?”

“Are you kidding? Do you know how small a target a gnat is? The bullets all went over his head.”

“What did you do then?”

“He suggested we settle it man to man, with a fistfight.”

“Did that settle it?”

“Not really. It was about a half-hour before I realized the fight had started.”

“Did you hit him?”

“No. Do you realize how small a target . . .?”

“Yeah, I get the idea.”

“So we decided to settle it in the tradition of the west, by playing poker.”

“I suppose that didn’t work out either.”

“No. I think he was cheating, but I couldn’t see his hands move.”

“So what did you do?”

“I accused him of cheating, and he challenged me to a gunfight.”

“I can see where this is going. How did you ever resolve it?”

“About the third time through the cycle, I pulled out a magnifying glass to look at what he said was a royal flush, it was a hot, sunny day, and I accidentally fried him to a crisp.”

“I guess that put an end to your problem?”

“Not really. His brother Timmy accused me of killing his brother and challenged me to a gunfight. . . .”

Travel in a Strange Country

“In my country,” I said, “we have both large vehicles called buses, which can carry many people, and smaller vehicles called automobiles, which carry individuals or small groups of individuals.”

“Ah,” replied the stranger, “that is a wise plan. So, most people travel on the buses while the smaller vehicles are reserved for those with special needs – the old, the infirm, the blind and the lame.”

“Uh, well, actually, most people travel in the automobiles and it is the old, infirm, blind and lame who travel in the buses.”

“That surprises me. But surely the youngest and healthiest also use the buses?”

“Uh, no. In fact, many of the best automobiles are used mainly by the young and healthy, particularly young males.”

“But are buses not the more difficult way to travel?” the stranger asked. “Does this not mean that the old and the infirm must wait outside in the rain and cold and snow while the healthy travel in comfort? Does this not mean that the blind and lame must walk considerable distances to the places where the bus stops while the healthy are picked up at their doors?”

“Well, yes . . .” I admitted.

“It is a strange country you come from,” he replied.


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