Men and Pain

Acacia tree in the desertThere is a disconnect in our society’s idea(s) of how men deal with pain. On the one hand there is the well-known fact that if a man catches a cold he thinks he’s going to die, and requires 24/7 nursing care until he is well again. On the other hand we have western movies in which the hero is shot seven times from twelve different directions in all the major limbs and internal organs and a few auxiliary ones, and yet struggles back up onto his horse and rides into town to save the day.

Both of these cannot be realistic at the same time.

In the interest of brutal honesty, therefore, I bring you the final scene from a newly rewritten western (One Bride for One Orphan).

(SFX: gunfire; shots ricocheting off rocks)
(During all this dialogue, our heroes are firing over and around rocks while bullets fly past them in the other direction.)
(Occasionally the camera shows the firefight from the other side, over the shoulders of five men in matching bandanas, hiding in a similar rock outcropping.)

JAKE: Billy, we got to get word back to the sheriff where the Holmes Boys hid the key to the widder’s safe.

BILLY: And yet here we are in a gunfight with those same Holmes Boys, lookin’ like to lose our lives.

JAKE: That’s some fine alliteration there, Billy.

BILLY: Dammit, Jake, this ain’t no time for your big-city east-coast fancy-ass Lit Crit.

JAKE: Right, Billy. Sorry.

BILLY: I’ll have to find a way to draw their fire, while you slip around these rocks out to where are horses are tied, and try to get away.

JAKE: You be careful, Billy. You know you got a hangnail last time you tried that.

BILLY: I’ll be careful, Jake. You just ride fast.

(Billy runs out from behind the rocks. At the same time five armed men appear on top of the boulders behind our heroes, and a fury of gunfire erupts. All of the men on the boulders fall to their deaths, but the shooting has stopped. The camera cuts to show that all the Holmes Boys are dead as well.)

BILLY (rolling on the ground in agony): I’m hit! I’m hit, Jake! Ride! Ride to the sheriff!

JAKE (coming over to where Billy is lying): Just let me see that. I had one or two first-aid courses in that east-coast big-city college you’re so fond o’ makin’ fun of.

BILLY: It’s no matter, Jake. I’m going to die.

JAKE: Shut up and let me work.

(Jake kneels next to Billy and looks him over. There is no blood anywhere. Billy moans and writhes on the ground.)

JAKE: Shoot, you ain’t been hit.

BILLY: (weakly, pointing to his left shoulder): Right … here.

JAKE (rips open Billy’s bloodless shirt, leans in closer to get a better look): You big sissy. That’s a skeeter bite.

BILLY: What?

JAKE: A skeeter bite. Here, let’s get you to your horse and ol’ Doc Ferguson can look at it when we get to town.

(Scene: Jake, riding slowly, leads a second horse across which a moaning Billy is draped. The camera zooms out until they are a speck on the landscape. Fade to credits.)

Copyright © 2017 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by لا روسا – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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