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Tin Star Town

horror by Gay Degani

Donnie came out of the town park restroom and handed Zach a tangled hairpiece, then tucked his own ponytail into a cowboy hat.

“Seeing that don’t make me feel better,” he said. “I ain’t ready to die for no bank job.”

Zach peered at the high-desert landscape, the sun burning down in waves. Beyond the willows, up a scrubby knoll, he saw what Donnie saw. A cemetery, headstones scattered like broken teeth among the weeds.

He frowned. “No one’s gonna die.”

“Nobody’s gotten away with robbing that bank, not since the Apache Kid shot Sheriff Reynolds.”

“Where’d you hear this?”

“Lady over to the Goodwill.”

“Don’t tell me you brought up robbing banks while you were picking out our disguises?”

“I didn’t,” Donnie said. “I swear. We was jawing and she brought it up, and I said I’d never heard of any Apache Kid, and she said one of the Clanton Boys got killed later by a different sheriff while doing the bank. Revenge for the first sheriff getting shot.”

“When’d this all happen?”

“A hundred years ago.”

“Donnie. Jesus.”

Zach shook his head. Strode to the rented Ford, climbed in and started the engine. Thought about leaving Donnie in this sorry-ass weed patch local folks called a town park, but he needed him, couldn’t do the bank job alone.

Donnie opened the driver’s door and Zach slid over. Glancing at the cemetery sizzling in the sun, Zach felt cold air creep along his spine.

They’d driven U.S. 70 west from North Carolina until most of their money and all of their highway ran out in Globe Arizona. Dusty and tired, they’d cruised down the main drag of the old mining town and stopped in front of a modest brick building, The First City Bank. “Corner buildings,” Zach had said, “make the best targets.”

After they’d snooped around inside and out, Zach pronounced the bank “doable” over coffee at McDonalds. “Go in quiet, slip a note to the teller, leave with cash.”

“What about that security guard?” Donnie asked while dunking his chin hair in a cup of water, washing away Egg McMuffin crumbs. “She looks kind of tough.”

Zach wanted to shoot him.


Donnie pulled up to the curb on one side of the bank as dark clouds rolled in and fat drops of rain splashed against the windshield.

Zach jammed his gun in his waistband and started to open the door.

“Something about this don’t feel right,” said Donnie.

Zach leaned over and yanked Donnie’s goatee. “Shut the fuck up. All you gotta do is drive. I’ll be out in two minutes.”

Zach slouched into the bank, head poked down like a hen pecking for food. He glanced at the security guard, all five-foot of her. Kind of cute, maybe thirty. He scratched his wig to make sure it was on tight.

The bank was almost empty. Two female customers, one in front of him, one filling out a slip at a table. One teller.

When it was his turn, Zach leveled his eyes at the gawky man behind the counter. Slid him the Empty your drawer note. Zach moved his t-shirt up so the guy could see the gun in his Goodwill Sansabelt slacks.

The teller screeched “GUN!” The women screamed. An old man limped out of the vault cursing.

Zach drew his pistol and whirled toward the entrance just as a sharp pain cut along the side of his head. The security guard stood her ground, her fired gun still extended. Clutching his ear, Zach barreled past her, spinning her aside, and rammed his way through the bright glass doors.

Donnie was out of the car, pacing, wringing his hands, his cowboy hat dripping rain.

“Get in, get in, get in,” Zach shouted. His head burned, but he managed to jerk open the car door and fall into the seat as the Ford pulled away from the curb. In his side-view mirror, he saw Donnie standing in the wet street, waving his arms.

Cold air blew against his cheek. He turned toward the driver. Blinked.

The security guard was grinning at him, her gun pointed at his forehead, left hand on the wheel.

“What? How’d you do that?”

“You think you boys can come and rob my bank, you got another think coming.” Her voice was husky and deep as a man’s.

Zach sat, mouth open, stumbled through the possibilities.

A siren sounded. Flasher lights flickered into the Ford .

“That’ll be my great-grandson,” she said as she braked to a stop.

“Your great grand—” Zach’s eyes widened.

The woman’s face began to contort. A faint outline of light and shape separated from her body. The being—the airy figure of a man—was huge, and he struggled out of her like a fat man struggles out of a too-small sports coat.

His last appendage came out of her mouth. The girl slumped forward as the big man drifted into the back seat.

A rap on the passenger window startled Zach. He bit his tongue. Blood filled his mouth. The door opened and he tumbled to the asphalt at the feet a uniformed officer.

The officer asked, “You all right?”

Zach’s voice shook. “ I am not all right.” But then he realized the cop was looking past him at the security guard.

She was shivering. “He’s all yours, Officer Reynolds. I’m fine.”

“Good work,” said the cop. “You’re the best thing ever happened to this town.”

“But it was you saved the bank last time, don’t forget.”

Zach looked at them as they flirted. Thought about making a run for it, shuffled into a crawl, but at the rear of the car stood the ghostly shape of the other lawman, a bullet hole straight on through the tin star he wore over his heart.

Donnie’s Sheriff Reynolds. Come down from Boot Hill, still protecting his little town from the bad guys.

Copyright October 2009 by Gay Degani

Gay Degani lives in southern California. She blogs about writing at Words in Place.

[Return to October 2009 stories]

13 Responses

  1. […] Tin Star Town […]

  2. Gay puts the ‘haunt’ in this ghost story. So many great lines. Sizzling graveyards, scrubby knolls, graves like broken teeth (! Oh yeah, baby, it’s October!) The dialect is fantastic as well. Always look forward to your stories.

  3. I love this line: “A cemetery, headstones scattered like broken teeth among the weeds.”

    Great story!

  4. Thanks Jodi and Laura. So excited to be a part of K.C.’s new zine and to stretch out of the kind of thing I usually write. The prompts take me to places I wouldn’t expect to go.

  5. I love your stories, Gay, and print them up each time to share. You get better all the time. Keep sending them.

  6. Cool, Gay. Why don’t the main dudes ever listen to their sidekicks?!

  7. Absolutely brilliant story, Gay. I just love it.

  8. Wow! What a great story, Gay! Wonderful characters, dialog, images, descriptions, and it sent a chill up my spine!

  9. As usual your words just tumble out and hit the mark.
    Good going Gay!! Mama D

  10. That is a great one, Gay!

  11. […] Day Fiction 2008 and Best of Every Day Fiction Two, Night Train, 3 A.M. Magazine, Tattoo Highway, 10Flash, The Battered Suitcase, and Salt River Review.   « Why Writing Groups? | […]

  12. […]  ”Tin Star Town” was the result of a prompt from 10Flash which offers a new prompt every quarter.  This one was “ two people, one of them wounded, on the run following a botched bank robbery.”  […]

  13. Nice little story. Complete and holds together very well. I want another one, just like the other one

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