As you start to push some keys in the memory bank of my mind, you may just feel the hot, dry desert winds start to blow. You may hear the low murmurs of free range cattle; if you're lucky, you may even glimpse a road-runner speeding by.
All of these sensations emanate from a wonderful birding excursion I took to Arizona back in the May of 2009. Arizona is a natural wonderland, and is a highly favored spot among birders, due it's predilection to attract Mexican species of birds across the border (Birder's Without Borders).
In honor of that wonderful entry in my data bank, I want to pen a trilogy of reflections, all inspired by the Grand Canyon state itself. Here's a fine bit of fiction on the deadliest enemy known to man, in one of the deadliest towns in the old west: Tombstone, Arizona.
Though the music was blasting from the Birdcage Saloon, Christian would not be distracted from his purpose. He had come out to the Bloodbought Corral to fight his enemy: sin.
"You know what to expect," he said, addressing himself while rubbing his ill-shaven face. "Big, bold, and deadly," he surmised, based on his previous encounters with those transgressions that so easily tripped him up before.
"Yep, lust, murder, stealin', things that are too big to slip under my watchful eye." With each mental reference to his previous mistakes, he winced. He was here to make sure those mistakes were at an end.
Psst... came a low hiss from behind a few barrels.
Christian stood firmly at attention; could this finally be his foe?
Psst... came the same invitation, this time from another part of the corral.
His mind began to race; his heart began to palpitate.
Suddenly the air was filled with pssts, polluting the airwaves to such a degree that even the bawdy tune from the Birdcage was overtaken.
By now, Christian's heart was full of fear; his eyes were filled with a fiery anger.
"Christian," came a voice he didn't recognize.
"I'm here," he replied, with all the defiance he could muster.
"Here to play, are you?" the voice taunted, with all the malice in the world.
"I'm here to win a battle," he said, finding courage from the deepest parts of his being.
"Hmmm," the voice intoned. As doubt was expressed as to the victor, the voice found form. From behind the barrels emerged a well- dressed, well-groomed, respectable looking man. His sharp-shooter apparel shimmered in the noon-day sun, and when he opened his mouth, his brilliant teeth brought the world down in admiration.
"Victory, eh?" The man calmly inspected his slim, keenly polished gun, keeping Christian in his eye at the same time.
"The victory is in hand," announced Christian, slowly regaining his composure. "I'm already a victor through..."
"Through whom?" The sharp-shooter cut in. "Who wins your victories?
"Christ..." He began, but was abruptly cut off once again.
"-ian?" The well-groomed one smirked.
"What do you mean?" Christian growled, commandingly.
"You were going to attribute your victories to Christ," the slim man began, but at the mention of Christ, his expression dropped, and a fierce look of anger crossed his face.
"You...You..." he stuttered, saving face "You were going to let all the glory go there" he said, pointing up, "when, we all know, the glory should go...there," he finished, pointing at Christian.
"No," Christian objected.
"Yes," the man rebutted. "Fair is fair. You know, you're the talk of the town."
"The way you handle that gun, is simply...amazing," The stranger said, after a short pause, as if he were searching for an appropriate adjective.
"Really? I'm famous?" Christian asked, with slight tones of hesitation in his voice.
"Oh yes, my friend," the stranger said, circling Christian like a vulture eyeing his next meal. "The way you slaughtered Lust was simply superb."
"Really?" Christian enjoined.
"More than superb: fantastic!" The man grinned like a Cheshire cat, his face growing larger with each note of praise. "And no one has ever seen Lying go down so fast."
"Really," Christian said. There were no tones of questioning in his voice this time.
"Yes, you...are...the...victor." The man grinned wider and wider until his eyes felt cramped.
"Yes, my name isn't recognized enough. I've got a whole new outlook because of you Mr...." Christian stared the strange man down. "What's your name?"
Christian froze. He had heard of Pride, and was aware of his expertise at winning gunfights.
Tiny beads of sweat started to form on Christian’s brow; his nerves began their fight or flight deliberations.
"Oh, don’t worry about me.” Pride responded to his adversary’s reaction. “I'm not a giant sin, like Lust, or Drunkenness,” and he slowly turned his back, facing away from the angry Christian.
Pride set his teeth on edge; Christian had drawn a gun on him while he had his back turned.
"No, in fact, most people don't even know I'm there." Pride grimaced as he felt the gun sink a little further into his back.
Christian was not going to come this far to lose the battle.
"You're done, Pride!" he screamed, loud enough to stop the music at the Birdcage; loud enough to draw all the townsfolk into the street, to see what was happening.
"Oh come on," Pride coolly pleaded. "Who gets hurt by pride? Pride's not such a big deal..."
Those last words struck Christian hard.
He looked to himself.
He looked to the crowd.
But he didn't look up.
"Pride's not...such a big deal," Christian muttered, almost mechanically. And with that, he dropped the gun.
Before anyone could even blink, Pride had shot Christian.
"No I'm not so big," Pride sneered, firing another shot into the downed Christian. "I’m only the reason there's a hell."
Christian gasped as Pride gave him a swift kick to the stomach.
"I only caused God's greatest treasure, humanity, thousands of years of turmoil and suffering and mayhem."
"But no, I'm no big deal."
And with one final kick to the stomach, Pride grinned his sleaziest grin,
bowed to the onlookers, and disappeared…
Leaving only a bruised Christian in the corral, with a new-found reason to look up when Pride comes to town.
I'm sharing this with Brag on God Fridays, and Spiritual Sundays.