"The Fastest Gun in New Jersey"
I had been coming to the video store for three years -- nearly every other
day, despite the long hours I worked as a systems analyst -- before I realized that the clerk was the legendary outlaw Johnny
It started merely as an enigmatic hunch. While the clerk appeared to be
in his mid-twenties, rather than 156-years-old as Ringo would have to be, I couldn't shake the suspicion that the man who
handled my rentals was, in fact, the King of the Cowboys. My initial clue was the speed and ease with which he used the pistol-shaped
laser scanner that read the bar code on each DVD: He had the sure hand of an experienced gunfighter. Next, I saw his name
tag, which had "Johnny" in blue letters. The clincher came when I noticed the address of the video store: 1882 Adam Street.
Johnny Ringo had allegedly died in 1882.
Still, I had some doubts. The clerk, a shaggy-haired, smiley fellow, did
not look much like the photo of Johnny Ringo in books about the Old West. There, a grave Ringo had far more hair on his upper
lip than he had on his neatly combed head. Moreover, I had trouble fathoming what the desperado was doing in New Jersey. Then
the obvious explanation hit me: He was hiding out, in the disguise of a young video store clerk, from the law or, maybe, his
old nemesis Doc Holliday, who perhaps had rejoined the Earp clan to hunt him down.
To test my theory about the clerk's identity, I began to rent movies that
featured Ringo as a character to see if they would attract any particular attention from Johnny. First, I brought "Tombstone"
up to the register, but Johnny checked it out without glancing at me. The day after that, however, I tried "Gunfight at the
OK Corral" (a classic), and Johnny commented that it was one of his favorites. And surely I detected a look in his eye that
confidentially admitted the secret we both knew.
I returned home to ponder how to handle this spectacular information. The
next day, I made my way back to the video store with a plan in mind. When I spotted Johnny behind the counter, I marched right
up to him.
"Listen: I am aware that you're Johnny Ringo," I said, "and I don't want
to cause any trouble for you if you're on the lam. But it seems a shame that a legend of the Wild West should have to stay
holed up in New Jersey. If Doc Holliday and his buddies are after you, let me help. Together we can handle them: no more hiding.
We'll bust out of this video store with our guns blazing. I understand that they say you committed suicide in 1882, but we
know that real outlaws never die. Take me with you, and we'll ride West again."
BIO: Brett Yates lives in New Jersey, where he spends his time reading, writing,
watching movies, and striving to remain generally unfadeable. His role models include Fyodor Dostoevsky and Allen Iverson.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or, often, at the Spotswood Diner.