The Still, Small Voice of the Outlaw Within


(Adapted from an award-winning 2001 Austin Writer’s Guild radio script)

Fiction, by Michael Abedin

Tried to tell Frank and Jesse, don’t go ridin’ into Northfield, Minnesota.

Told the Kid, don’t be walkin’ into dark rooms in the middle of the night, not when Garrett’s on your trail.

And I sure as hell told Hickock, never, ever sit with your back to the door in Deadwood.

Think they listened? Hell, no.

Most of ‘em hardly ever listen.

You take them Earp boys, though. Ol’ Wyatt, he listened real good. Told him the Clantons was waitin’ down at the OK Corral with them cowboys from Texas. Told him don’t worry about Ike, he’s a coward. Give the scattergun to Holliday and stay out of his way, let them make the first play.

Virgil and Morgan, they didn’t listen and got themselves shot, but in his whole life, Wyatt never took a bullet. Couple hit his saddle, couple passed through his clothes, but not a one touched his body. Always said he felt like he was guided, somehow.

And he was.

By me.

Plenty more like me, of course. Some call us spirits or ghosts, and some of us get carried away from time to time and put on a show, pop up where people can see us or hear us, get called angels, devils, demons. That little gal in France, the one who whupped the English, Joan what’s-her-name? Her voices is what she called us.

The ones who listen best tend to call us spirit guides, or just guides, my own personal preference. They’re the ones you like to work with. Gets kinda tiresome talkin’ to folks who don’t listen.

Myself, I specialize in working with folks who don’t always play by the rules. Outlaws, I reckon you’d call ‘em, although most of ‘em have been back and forth on both sides of the law, often as not.

Them Plains Indian tribes was always a favorite. Really took a likin’ to old Sittin’ Bull and Crazy Horse. Told Crazy Horse one day if he’d ride back and forth in front of the bluecoat cavalry and sing those medicine songs of his, I’d make sure not a single bullet hit him. Damn if he didn’t do it, and damn if I wasn’t good as my word. Cavalry boys shot more than a hundred rounds at him, he never got a scratch.

Told him and Sittin’ Bull if they’d camp with the Cheyenne near that creek they called the Greasy Grass, that dumbass Custer would ride right in, and they could pick off his Seventh Cav like fish in a barrel. Worked, too.

Gunfighters, though, they was the best. Hardin, Masterson, Bass. Crazy as hoot owls, but damn sure fun to work with, whether they listened or not. Clyde Barrow and that little gal Bonnie? Shot up half of Texas and Oklahoma. Lord, I do miss ‘em, every one of ‘em. Nothin’ like ‘em anymore.

Gettin’ as how it’s so borin’, I’ve taken to droppin’ in on folks from time to time, borrow a body for a bit, just to remember what it’s like. Some ol’ boy wakes up on fancy sheets, next to a gal wouldn’t usually give him the time of day? That’s me, sometimes.

Got a new one to work with, though, one of them televangelists gets people lathered up about their sins, then gets ‘em to give him money. Steals a damn sight more in one weekend than Frank and Jesse stole in their whole lifetimes.

This particular young fella comes from West Texas, small town out past Abilene. Fancy dresser, likes to wear white suits and hand-tooled black boots with pointy toes and turquoise inlays. Right now, he’s out in California, getting’ ready to preach the gospel in a fancy hotel ballroom filled to the rafters with the faithful, waitin’ to be saved.

Chandelier in there covers most of the whole dang room, wrought iron and solid crystals, weighs about a ton – and there’s a earthquake comin’.

Reckon I better let him know. Hope he listens.

Probably won’t, though.

Most of ‘em hardly ever listen.


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Austin All Natural

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