A Cowboy Like John Wayne
by Jason Morrow
When I was a little boy, I lived in an ordinary farmhouse that belonged to my family out in the
country. One night I woke up to the sound of a gunshot followed by a horrific scream. I ran
downstairs to find my Uncle Dan writhing in pain on the living room floor. He was in his
underwear wearing white leather cowboy boots and to the side of him laid a black ten-gallon hat
on the floor. Around his waist he wore an old brown leather gun belt with two holsters on each
side, but only one revolver holstered. The other laid on the floor beside him with blood slowly
pooling towards it. On the TV the speakers boomed with the sounds of explosions and horses
screaming. I felt a poisonous warmth in my heart “Jim..Jimmy! I need your help buddy!” Uncle
Dan crawled towards me with one hand, the other hand held the right side of his lower stomach
where blood was draining. He smeared crimson along the floor as he approached. The air
became thinner and I began to take short sporadic breaths. “Jimmy, buddy, I need you to help me
to my truck-gah! Shit!” He slipped to the ground, hitting the front of his face on the floorboards.
He pulled one arm up and tugged on my shirt. “You gotta carry me, buddy!” He reeked of booze
as I pulled him over my shoulders.
I dragged Uncle Dan out to his pickup and dropped him into the backseat. He slithered
in, closing the door with his boot while I climbed my way up onto the driver's seat. I turned to
look back at him; he looked away from me cursing and whimpered into the seats. My eyes
watered up and my breathing remained hectic, “Uncle-Uncle Dan? What....Where am I
supposed to go?” I said gobbling up each pathetic word.
He turned to me; his eyes were red and sullen. He flipped over onto his back and
continued holding onto his stomach. Both hands that were shielding the wound were painted red.
The fresh blood poured out and glazed over the dried scarlet that covered his yellowing skin. The
sight of this gory display traumatized me. My body began to shake violently as my heart beat
increased. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, bump, bump, bump, bump. My knees gave
out and I fell onto the seat and screamed, but nothing audible arrived.
“It’s okay buddy. It’s okay. Your...your idiot uncle just got carried away with playing
cowboy that’s all,” he began to chuckle to himself, “I’m a real John Wayne and shit...” His
laughing faded as he saw it didn’t help relieve my distress. “Jimmy, I’m fi-I’m going to be okay,
buddy.” He took a pained breath and wheezed the air out. He sat up a little and spat blood and
phlegm onto the floor of the truck.
“Shi-sorry. Jimmy, I need you...you to drive me down to the Lambert’s place.” My tears
had jumbled my vision, Uncle Dan was warped and unfocused. All that I could was yellow, pink,
red, and gray blobs. I sniffled and asked “The doctor’s house?” He nodded and told me that I had
to drive us down there quickly. “I don’t know how to drive, Uncle Dan...” He pulled himself
further back into the seat with his rear facing the cushions. “It’s alright, buddy. I’ll tell you what
to do. Ok? I’m... I’m here for ya, honey.”
I hated when he called me honey. Honey, for Uncle Dan, was reserved for the worst of
times. My dog ran away, he called me honey. Bullies on the schoolyard would beat me up every
day, he called me honey. My dad ran off, he called me honey. When my mom died, he called me
honey too many times to count. It was around my mom’s death that I came to the conclusion that
I hated being called honey. I still hate it, even now.
I turned around to face the wheel and wiped the tears from my face to see. “Okay. First
thing you gotta do is put the car into drive. You see the lever right next to ya? With all the
letters?” I looked down and found the gear shift. After spotting a big letter D, I calculated that
this meant Drive. I pulled on the lever only for it to remain in place. I began to pull on the lever
violently trying to force it down “Buddy! Buddy! You need to step down onto...” Uncle Dan
took a deep breath and exhaled shallowly “The break down on the floor. It's the left pedal down
I got down from the seat onto the floor and ducked under the wheel to find the gas and
brake pedals. I stood up and could barely see over the console through the opening of the wheel.
I pushed down on the brake and yanked the lever down onto L. Quickly, I pulled it back up to D.
I let my foot off the brake and the car inched forward slowly. I let out a little scream, then Uncle
Dan tapped on my arm leaving a small red fingerprint on my tricep. “Hey, you're okay honey.
Just focus on where the car is going right now, okay?” I nodded.
Holding the bottom of the wheel my shaking hands only steadied by the power grip I held
onto it. “Feel free....uh feel free to push on the gas a little. To go a little faster.” His voice was
exhausted and weak. I looked at him through the rearview mirror and saw his face as he laid
there. His face was supple with little wiry hairs that made up a thin mustache which was lightly
coated in snot. He had become a pale yellow, a contrast from his lightly tanned Irish skin. It
reminded me of the way mom looked in the hospital before I moved in with him.
I pushed on the gas and the whole truck thrusted forward. I ran over one the fence poles at the
entrance of the property. “Left! Turn left!” Uncle Dan yelled. It took me a second of deliberation
to figure out which way left was, but, eventually, I turned the correct way and started cruising
down the dirt road.
“That’s it, Jimmy. Now just keep driving until we reach the doc’s place,” he grunted “I
think I’m gonna close my eyes for a little-” I whipped my head around at him and screamed,
“You stay fucking awake, stupid!” I turned back to the road. Uncle Dan laughed painfully.
“You-you’re just like your mom! She did good with you, honey!” He had a dry cough which
continued for several seconds.
The smell of copper filled the inside of the truck, so I rolled down the window to relieve
myself of it. My mind began to slow down. I listened to the sound of the gravel and dirt
crunching under the tires as I descended down the road. The cicadas were out and they created a
loud white noise which echoed through the countryside. As I gained speed down the hill the
wind entered through the window and a cool breeze greeted me. As we approached the
Lambert’s home I remember looking up into the sky and seeing a purple and gray wash created
by the clouds. The trees were silhouetted by the night. Uncle Dan said something, but I didn’t
pay attention. I laid down the horn to wake up the doctor. He was a light sleeper.