“I am Edward S. O’Reilly, but you can call me Tex.”
“Well, Tex,” I [Sluefoot Sue] said, “just what is it you think qualifies you to write about Pecos Bill?”
“Why, I know everything about him.”
“Is that so?” [Pecos] Bill asked.
“Huh,” said Bill. “I thought I heard you mention women?”
“You have touched upon the biggest selling point of my books,” O’Reilly cried. “I will whet your appetite with the story of Sluefoot Sue, the woman Bill loved best of all. You will think me the greatest liar on the planet. Bill saw Sluefoot Sue riding down the Rio Grande on a giant catfish. Their eyes met, and it was love at first sight.”
“Well, at least he’s got that right,” I murmured.
“Sluefoot Sue demanded as a wedding present a chance to ride Bill’s stallion Widowmaker. Right after saying ‘I do’, that plucky cowgirl mounted the great black stallion Indian fashion. She bounced up into the sky. Bill tried to lasso her with Shake the Snake, his longest and best-trained reptile, but she continued to bounce until she landed on the moon.”
“Huh,” Bill said. “Say it ain’t so.”
“Why sir, I say it is so!” exclaimed O’Reilly. “You cannot pass up this chance to own a piece of history.”
“How many books do you have there, my good man?”
“I have forty-three left. Will you take more than one, then?”
“I will take them all,” Bill replied. He dug a twenty-dollar gold piece out of his pocket. The fellow began to fumble for change. I held his book box for him.
“Ready, darlin’?” Bill asked.
“I am, honey-bunch.” Bill let out a whistle. I tossed the box into the air. Widowmaker’s heels connected with the box and it burst open in midair.
Bill and I both unlimbered our weapons. Book after book exploded and nary a one touched the ground.
Bill tipped O’Reilly’s dangling jaw shut. “Keep the change, son, to compensate you for the loss of your box.”
“Who — how — why — ?”
“I am Pecos Bill, and this lovely lady is my wife, Sluefoot Sue. Let me suggest that you quit making up nonsense about respectable people.”
“B-but — ”
Bill lassoed O’Reilly with Shake, his bronze mechanical snake-lasso. “There are no buts.”
O’Reilly nodded like a woodpecker on a grub-filled log. I gave out with a whistle. Out of the river rose the Catfish, our steam-powered sub. Its mouth clanked open. O’Reilly fell on his backside into the Texas dust, his jaw pretty much unhinged this time.