Word Count 705
He awoke to a groan and sweat. It was a slow awakening, one eye, then the other in time with the miniature miner chipping away at the rocks rolling in his head. Reaching up with both hands to center his face and to stop the swinging of the many lamps floating above him, he lost his balance. Pinwheeling his arms as his crossed ankles lifted off his desk, the chair tilted further back on its two legs and deposited him onto the floor.
The crash woke up the prisoners in the back room of the jail and they started howling like male cats scenting a female in heat. The additional noise caused a second miner to set up shop in his skull and he yelled for the jailed drunks behind the closed door to shut up. With their tone deaf singing for most of the evening and the heat of the deep summer night, his sleep quota was sadly depleted. His every nerve ending was hyperactive and his brain was pounding. Craving coffee, he slowly rolled over off the offending chair and crawled toward the stove in the corner. Pulling himself up, he half-heartedly poked at the ashes in the bottom until he found some glowing embers hidden among the fluffy gray matter. Pulling paper, kindling and a log from his stash beside the stove, he stuffed them down the hole and hoped that they would catch. From the pitcher he kept nearby, he poured water into the skillet and dumped the last of his coffee into it.
Stumbling over to the window he wiped his dirty hands down his filthy shirt splattered with coffee and yesterday morning’s breakfast. He grabbed at the curtains the old widow Thompson had bestowed on the previous sheriff in a fit of romantic rage. Tugging them aside to gauge the time, he was struck by the pinpoint sunlight destined for his face. It stabbed his eyes and he yanked the curtains back and groaned as he went back to his desk.
Half blinded, he’d forgotten about the chair on the floor and went sprawling when his calves hit it. He felt the splinters from the rough wooden floor enter his chin and the palms of his hands. Cursing he rolled over and wondered if it was worth trying to get up again. The two miners were hammering in stereo sequence now and the drunks had taken up another chorus of their off-key singing.
Coffee. He needed coffee. He didn’t want to make a habit of starting his day picking himself off the floor, but in this case, it would be worth it if he got his coffee. So, once again, he pulled himself up and dragged his sorry body over to the stove. It wasn’t his blood-shot eyes that first told him something was wrong, it was his nose. Smoke was pouring out of the stove and billowing up over his boiling skillet of coffee contaminating the brown elixir. Looking at the stove pipe he knew, once again, he’d failed to open the damper.
Grabbing the hot metal, he twisted it opened and then felt the burning sensation in the palm of his hand. His gloves were on the desk and his soggy brain was starting to wake up to pain. The room was filled with smoke, his lungs were protesting by forcing coughing and hacking, and his instincts insisted that he exit to the left. He did.
Throwing the door open, he rushed out of the office in his bare socks. One large toe was poking through a hole. With his eyes streaming tears, he didn’t see the warped plank and that pink toe was stubbed. He hopped around on one foot as his hands caressed the injured digit. His hopping took him too close to the end of the porch and he took a full gainer into the horse trough. As Sheriff Val Crawford sunk down into the cooling water, he heard the clapping.
Raising himself above the edge of the trough he stared into the smiling faces of the three Lancers as they clapped. Scott and Johnny were laughing and shouted “Encore! Encore!” Val grinned, waved and slowly lowered himself back under the water.
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