February 11, 2007

The Adagio Kid

Gunslinger pushes through the doors of the saloon. Glares around at the shudder that rises among the barflies, the gamblers, the piano man. Pushes away the dance hall girl who sidles up against his shoulder, orders her to wait for him upstairs.

“I’m a’lookin’ fer th’ Adagio Kid. Hear tell he frequents these parts. Hear tell he c’n be found here of an evenin’.”

Throats clear, and everyone looks away from the dark rear corner of the room, which is exactly where the newcomer turns his gaze. Where a chair scrapes on the splintery, bullet-gouged floor; where a lean man stretches up from his seat like a cobra uncoiling.

“You’d be looking for me, then. What is it you want?”

The gunslinger’s nostrils flare, snorting one after the other. “Hear tell you mean to slow down time. Hear tell the world’s too fast fer yeh. Mean to bring it back to a sane pace. Back to long books and unmiked music, back to movies ‘bout people’s lives, back to softly swingin’ songs. Back to talkin’ ‘stead a shoutin’, back to sayin’ what yeh mean. Well, I’m a’gonna show yeh who’s too fast fer yeh.”

Lightning quick, the stranger’s hand goes to his gun and brings it out blazing. The Adagio Kid smiles. He sees the bullets streaming toward him through air, slow as Zeno’s tortoise. He picks one out of the air with his fingertips, flicks it over his shoulder. He blows another out of his path. Just for fun, he lets some of them close in on him, closer, closer, and moves a millimeter out of their paths at the last instant.

The interloper’s Colt hangs empty, his jaw hangs slack.

“If one person slows down, it slows the whole world. Now get going, mister—pronto.”

With a deceptively languid gesture, the Adagio Kid darts a caught bullet straight at the gunman’s chest. Watching it spin toward him, the gunfighter gapes, and runs out of the barroom and races through the street, agitating the dust.

A grin forms gradually on the Adagio Kid’s face. He wraps a leisurely arm around the dance hall girl. “Come on, Sad Eyes, let’s mosey on up.” And with all the time in the world, they climb the stairs thoughtfully, step by deliberate step, as the piano player starts the Mozart K. 540.

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