It took a minute to clear my head. The last thing I remembered was a long fall and then suddenly I’m sitting in the dust in the middle of what appeared to be a movie set based loosely on the Old West. Damned if there weren’t tumbleweeds rolling past and all.
I stood up and found I was parched. My lips felt like little pieces of cracked leather and my throat was raw. As much as I wanted to cough and get rid of the dust that had found its way to my mouth I didn’t dare.
“Go on, check the well.”
I heard a voice behind me. I turned to see a man leaning against what appeared to be an old saloon. His face had too many lines on it and although he was wearing chaps I could see that his legs seemed to bend in the wrong direction. Like the kind of insect that comes to mind when you talk about legs bending the wrong way.
Usually I would immediately come up with the kind of insect but I was just too damned thirsty.
From inside the saloon I could hear raised voices. Eager to take my mind of my need for refreshments I walked up to the little swinging doors you always see in westerns and took a look inside.
There were two men, both who seemed to have legs that bent the right way, sitting across a wooden table across from each other and seemingly in a heated argument.
“Obviously the peanut is the preferred nut of the poor!” one of them bellowed.
Not to be outdone the other bellowed his choice of the almond with equal fervor.
“How can you say that?” the first one thundered. “The almond is clearly the nut of the middle class.”
“You’re batshit crazy I tell you!” the second man countered, “The almond is the nut of the common folk.”
The first man fell back in shock.
“The almond? The almond the nut of the common man? Are you mad?”
Neither had bothered to mention if the nuts in question were salted or unsalted but the question ran through my mind just the same and reminded me how much I needed a drink.
“Go on then, check the well” the cricket-man chimed in.
My attention was brought back to the two men at the table as the second man began to make his case.
“Was there or was there not an entire advertising campaign based solely around the image of a peanut dressed up in a top hat and cane? Is this the preferred wardrobe of the masses? Was there a fashion memo I missed?”
A satisfied grin began to crawl across this weathered mug.
“You’re seriously going to base your argument on a giant peanut wearing a monocle?” The first man sat back with a look that was equal parts disbelief and disgust.
Feeling the argument turn in his favor the second man made his closing argument “Why would a peanut company lie?”
“Why do all commercials lie? Everybody knows that the cashew is the rich man’s nut. Just because one doesn’t waltz around in a TV ad with a monocle doesn’t mean that it’s not the favorite nut of the upper class. It goes cashew for the rich, almond for the middle class and, sitting on every counter in every shitty little bar across the impoverished landscape, is a bowel of the lowly peanut!”
Every time they mentioned a peanut I imagined them covered in salt. I imagined them sitting in my dry mouth. I could almost taste them.
“Go on son, check the well.”
Did I mention the big cowboy hat that sat on top of the man who had been asking me to check the well the whole time?
It was large and until that moment he’d kept it leaning so far forward that I’d yet to even see his eyes. Just his mouth and the few teeth that called it home. I spun around and glared at him and he stared back and I finally saw them. With the hat now pushed back I could make out his two grey eyes. I lost all my enthusiasm for confrontation and my fists unclenched.
Suddenly I had to find that well.
I rushed out the front as the little doors swung wildly behind me, leaving behind the two men and their inane debate. At the end of the dirt road that ran through the center of this make-believe town I could make out a well. Heart pumping I ran to it, wild with thirst.
Sure enough there was a rope with a bucket at the end of it and I hurled it into the black depths only to hear it crash against the solidness below. My tongue was a withered thing in my mouth. My head swam.
He was right behind me. Dressed as Mr. Peanut but still sporting those aforementioned I-think-it’s-a-praying-mantis-I-was-thinking-about legs.
“There’s no water in hell.”
Lance Manion is the author of five short story collections; Merciful Flush, Results May Vary, The Ball Washer, Homo sayswhaticus, and his latest The Trembling Fist, which is his fifthest yet. His work has been called demented, hilarious, quirky and well outside the mainstream. He contributes to many online flash fiction sites and blogs daily on his website http://www.lancemanion.com.