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a short tale published by Diane L. Walton on Smashwords

© 2012 Diane L. Walton

They hanged Shorty McConnell for murdering that big American fellow whose name nobody can quite remember. At the trial, Shorty claimed it was because the guy had cheated him at poker, but the judge wasn't too sympathetic. They'd found the fellow's fancy gold watch on Shorty when the Mounties caught him, and he couldn't exactly say it had been a gift. And he certainly couldn't say he won it. Shorty was a notoriously bad poker player. And if he'd been cheated-- well-- he should have known better.

The hanging sure was quite the social event. People brought picnic lunches and lemonade, and every family seemed to have a long-lost relative or a visitor from out of town. Even newspaper reporters came from down east, where they didn't hang very many people, it seemed. It wasn't that we wanted Shorty to be hanged, but it was the first exciting thing to happen in Deep Coulee, in, well, years. And after such a long, hard winter everybody needed a little entertainment. We figured Shorty would understand.

Of course the ladies and children didn't sit and watch the actual hanging. They stayed around the corner and waited until Shorty had been properly boxed up. Even some of the men discretely turned their heads at the last split second before the trap door opened, and poor old Shorty's neck was snapped. It was over quick. The doc pronounced him dead, shook hands with the hangman, and then the undertaker took charge. I never could understand how a man could enjoy the work as much as he did. Shorty would have just had a pauper's burial, except that Mary's girls from the rented rooms over the saloon took up a silver collection, to pay for a decent funeral. They did it up fine, dressed all in black like a bunch of rich widows. A couple of them even got up to speak at the graveside, sniffling into silk handkerchiefs. They all said what a kind and generous man Shorty had been, even if he did put a bullet in the back of that American fellow. Lord knows, he spent enough of his money on them when he was alive. Shorty would have been right pleased at the kind of send-off the town gave him. Treated him better than he'd been treated when he was living.

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