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This Party Tip submitted by BizGirl - Aug 25th, 2008

    • Short Campfire Ghost Stories 8

    • The Shoot Out By Joan Lowery Nixon

      Go back to Short Campfire Ghost Stories

      Chip Doby slumped in the backseat of his family’s van. He wanted to be home in Phoenix with his best friends, Carlos and Dan. They’d saved enough from their allowances to spend all Saturday at the arcade. He’d saved, too, but a fat lot of good it had done him.
      “Tomorrow we’re taking a family trip to the town of Tombstone,” Chip’s mother had announced at breakfast on Friday. “We think everyone will enjoy a family outing.”
      “Tomorrow! But that’s Saturday!” Chip’s cereal spoon had fallen to the table, spattering milk and soggy Krispies across his T-shirt.
      His little sisters had giggled.
      “Sloppy, sloppy,” ten-year-old Abby had chanted, while seven-year-old Emily had made a face.
      But Mrs. Doby had said, “You’ll love it.” She’d beamed with excitement. “It will be great fun to see this historic Western town, and it will be painlessly educational too. It was named a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior back in the sixties.”
      Chip had groaned and dropped his forehead to the table, narrowly missing what was left of his cereal. “Tomorrow’s Saturday,” he’d said. “I’m supposed to hang out with Carlos and Dan.”
      “This is a marvelous opportunity, Chip,” his mother had answered patiently. “You can walk the streets of the town, visit the restored buildings, and see the people in costume. During the day they even have make-believe shoot-outs. It’s a wonderful look at the Old West in Arizona. Believe me, you’re going to enjoy it.”
      “Enjoy national historic stuff? Sure.”
      “Charles, sit up,” his father had said in a tone of voice that showed he meant business. As Chip had sat back in his chair, his dad had handed him a clean spoon, “And finish your breakfast. Your mother is right. You’re going to enjoy the history of this trip. Tombstone is where the famous Gunfight at the O.K Corral took place, with Wyatt Earp and his brothers and Doc Holiday.”
      Chip had groaned again. “Dad, I can’t go. I promised the guys-”
      Mr. Doby had frowned , so Chip had turned quickly to his mother. “Mom, how long is this trip?”
      “Only for the weekend,” she’d said. “We’ll be home Sunday evening.”
      “Then let me stay here alone,” Chip had pleaded. “I’m not a little kid. I’m thirteen. I’m old enough to take care of myself.”
      “Out of the question,” Mr. Doby had said.
      Chip hadn’t wanted to give up that easily. “Look, every week I mow Mr. Banks’s lawn and ours, and last week I helped put a coat of stain on the backyard deck. You told me I did a good job. You said I was resonsible. So if you meant what you said, then why can’t I be responsible enough to stay by myself?”
      “I did mean what I told you,” Mr. Doby had answered. “You’ve proved to be highly responsible in handling the jobs you’ve taken on, but that has nothing to do with your staying here in the house alone. You’re just not old enough, Chip.”
      Chip had looked at his mother. “Mom-”
      “Our decision had been made, and we’ll hear no more about it,” Mr. Doby had said. “Do you understand?”
      “Yeah,” Chip had mumbled, but he really hadn’t understood. As he sat in the car, riding through southern Arizona, all he thought about was the unfairness of it all.
      Off to the west lay brown, scrubby, low mountains and hills - the southern end of the Rocky Mountains that dribbled off like a gigantic brown lizard’s tail. Ahead, along Interstate 80, which steadily climbed in altitude through the desert landscape, stood a few colorful billboards advertising the route to Tombstone.
      As Mrs. Doby began reading aloud from her guidebook about the history of Tombstone, Chip wished he could plug his ears. Instead he had to hear about some miner from a million years ago who was told that the only thing he’d ever get out of his property was his Tombstone. So he jokingly called his mine and his town Tombstone. So what?
      All Chip could think about was Dan and Carlos having fun without him at the arcade. They’d be playing Deadly Aliens, and he wouldn’t.
      Chip was relieved when his dad pulled into the parking lot and his mom’s droning history lesson came to an end. But as Chip climbed from the van he stopped. “I heard gunshots,” he said.
      “That’s probably a reenactment of the gunfight,” Mrs. Doby said. She looked at her guidebook for reassurance. “We may have missed this one, but there will be another in a couple of hours. One is scheduled for two o’clock.”
      Emily’s eyes were wide. “Who gets shot?” she asked.
      “No one, sweetie,” Mr. Doby answered. “It’s all pretend.”
      “Come on,” Mrs. Doby said. “Let’s go. I want to see the Bird Cage Theater.”
      As they walked toward Fremont, the main street of the town, Chip hung back. He didn’t want to see a dumb theater or visit the stupid old-time stores, which his mom was sure to do. “I want to go off on my own. I can take care of myself,” he announced.
      His words came out so loudly that his parents stopped and started at him in surprise. Then Mr. and Mrs. Doby gave each other a long look.
      “Okay,” Mr. Doby answered pleasantly. He handed Chip some money and added, “Get yourself some lunch and meet us at two o’clock. We’ll be on Fremont Street, watching the gunfight.”
      Without another word, Chip’s family turned and walked on. Chip, who’d been ready to argue, stood without moving, not sure what to do next. He had a strange feeling that his family was glad to be rid of him. Well, who cared! They were the ones who’d insisted that he come in the first place. They were the ones who hadn’t trusted him to take care of himself.
      “You lost, kid?”
      Chip hadn’t noticed anyone nearby, se he was surprised to see a boy about sixteen or seventeen standing in front of him, his feet planted wide apart. The boy was wearing tight black pants, a black shirt, and a flat-brimmed hat the looked as if it had come out of a Clint Eastwood movie. Across his hips rode a gunbelt that held a pearl-handled gun, and the bottom end of the holster was tied with a rawhide string to his right thigh.
      Chip blinked. “Wow!” he said. “Do you work here?”
      Chip thought he saw a wave of sorrow pass over the boy’s face before he squared his shoulders and answered, “You might say so.”
      “You’re in the gunfight, aren’t you?”
      This time the boy’s nod was emphatic. “Yeah.”
      “Cool,” Chip said.
      The boy shook his head. “Nothin’s cool on a day like this. We need to get out of this sun and into some shade.”
      “Want me to get a couple of Cokes?” Chip asked.
      Nope. I don’t drink,” the boy said.
      Chip laughed at the oke, and the bot added, “Steady hands, steady nerves. It’s the only way to stay alive.”
      He led the way down a side street to a porch with a bench that stood well inside a pool of shade. He sat with his long legs outstretched.
      Chip sat beside him and said, “My name’s Chip Doby. What’s yours?”
      Raising one eyebrow, the boy asked, “Didn’t anybody ever tell you it’s dangerous to ask a man his name?”
      “No,” Chip answered. “Never.”
      The boy stared at Chip for a long while, then said, “You’re a real dude, aren’t you? Well, no offense taken. You can call me Billy. You on your own?”
      “I’m with my family,” Chip mumbled. He felt his face grow hot with embarrassment and hoped Billy didn’t notice. Chip quickly changed the subject. “So, are you in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral? What -”
      Billy interrupted. “A lot of people get it wrong. The gunfight wasn’t at the corral. It was on Fremont Street, down a couple of doors, in front of Fly’s Photography Gallery.” Billy muttered something under his breath, then said, “Those no-good Earp brothers - Wyatt, Morgan, and Virgil - they thought they was runnin’ this town.”
      “I thought Wyatt Earp was one of the good guys,” Chip said in surprise. “Wasn’t he a sheriff or something?”
      “Deputy sheriff, runnin’ for office of sheriff, and he didn’t care what he did or how he did it, long as it would make people vote for him.”
      Chip was puzzled. “Like what?”
      Billy winced, his eyes like slits. He slumped, his neck resting against the wall of the building, his hat pushed down over his forehead. “Like tryin’ to wipe out the Clantons and the McLaurys after makin’ ‘em look bad . . . ruinin’ their good names. He and that Virgil, who was servin’ as town marshal, spread lots of talk about the Clantons bein’ cattle rustlers, when they was just runnin’ a few head out of Mexico. And then, when a stage got held up outside of Contention, Wyatt tried to make folks believe the Clantons were in on it. There was lots of stagecoach robberies that summer, and Wyatt and Virgil threw suspicion on the Clantons.”
      “That wasn’t fair,” Chip blurted out.
      “No, it wasn’t. Then for no good reason Ike Clanton got tossed in Jail, and Wyatt clubbed Tom McLaury in the head with a gun.”
      “What did the Clantons do then?” Chip asked.
      Billy sat up, pushed his hat back, and looked Chip right in the eye. “You’ve got a family. You know how it is. Family comes first. Nothin’ else is more important. So, no matter what, the Clanton kin had to stick together. So dod the McLaury kin. They could either give up their property and leave town or stay and stand up to the Earps.”
      “What did they choose?”
      Billy leaned forward, staring down the street toward Fremont. “They did what they had to do,” he said. “They warned the Earps they were out to get ‘em, and on October twenty-six they met. The Clantons and McLaurys on one side, Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, and their friend Doc Holliday on the other.”
      Slowly Billy got up. He stood with knees bent, leaning slightly forward, his feet firmly planted, his right hand poised over the grip of his gun. Chip held his breath.
      In an instant, before Chip could blink, Billy’s gun was in his hand, pointing toward the imaginary Earps on Fremont Street.
      “Cool!” Chip said. “That was fast.”
      “Yup, I’m good,” Billy agreed.
      “With your job I guess you get a lot of practice.”
      “No doubt about it.”
      Chip thought a minute. “What exactly is your job in the gunfight?”
      “To get that snake Wyatt Earp,” Billy growled. “This time I will.” He drew his gun again.
      “Hey, that it easy,” Chip said. He kept his eye on Billy’s gun. “It’s only a reenactment. It’s make-believe. That’s all.”
      Billy started at him, his eyes dark and penetrating. “Is that what you think?”
      “S-Sure.” Chip’s voice was shaky. “I didn’t mean to make you mad or anything. I guess you have to feel the part, being one of the actors. Right?”
      Billy didn’t answer. He slowly returned his gun to its holster, then checked its placement on his thigh. He squared his hat and stood tall, throwing back his shoulders. “It’s time,” he said. “Wish me luck.”
      He stepped off the porch and strode down the street.
      Two o’clock already? Chip glanced at his wristwatch, then hurried after Billy.
      A crowd had begun to gather on both sides of Fremont Street. Next to Chip an elderly woman fanned herself, a man stuffed his mouth with handfuls of popcorn, and three shrieking little boys chased each other through and around their parents’ legs. Everywhere people chatted and laughed while they waited in anticipation.
      Chip felt a surprising sense of comfort as he caught a glimpse of his parents and sisters across the street. His family. Emily was seated on Mr. Doby’s shoulders, while Abby had found a perch at the edge of the boardwalk. He’d have fun telling Abby that he’d met one of the actors. She’d accuse him of bragging, but she’d want to hear all about it.
      And wait until he told Mom and Dad that Wyatt Earp wasn’t the big symbol of law and order they’d thought he was. So much for all that stuff Mom read in her guidebook.
      An announcr introduced the reenactment, but Chip didn’t pay much attention. He kept his eyes on Billy as Billy joined the other actors portraying the Clantons and the McLaurys. They stepped into the street, facing the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, who had entered the street at the end of the block.
      Slowly, carefully, the two groups of men walked toward each other. Suddenly gunshots rand out. The battle was on. Billy drew his gun with the same light-ning speed he’d shown Chip. He was fast, but Wyatt Earp was faster. Billy suddenly grabbed his hand; it was dripping blood. He shifted his gun to his left hand, aimed, and fired, but the Earps had the advantage. They were too quick for him. Billy dropped his gun, clutched his chest, and fell to the ground.
      “Billy! No!” Chip yelled.
      The man next to him turned in surprise. “Hey, kid, they’re only pretending,” he said.
      Suddenly the gunfight was over, and the crowd began to drift back to the shops. But Chip ran to Billy, who had picked himself up and was hobbling around the corner. “Billy! You were great!” Chip said.
      “Yeah,” Billy grunted. “I can take care of myself.”
      As Billy leaned against the nearby wall, Chip grabbed his hand to shake it, but it was wet and sticky.
      Chip looked at the red smear on his thumb. “What is this stuff, anyway?” he asked.
      “Blood,” Billy said.
      “I know it’s supposed to be, but I mean . . ” Chip stopped talking. He stared at Billy, who seemed to be fading away.
      “Next time I’ll get him,” Billy whispered. “Next time.”
      Chip found himself staring at a blank wall. “Billy?” he managed to croak, but there was no answer.
      “Here you are,” Mrs. Doby said. She put her arm around Chip’s shoulders, and he gave a start. “What’s the matter, Chip?” she asked. “Are you all right?”
      “I am,” Chip said, “but Billy isn’t.”
      Mr. Doby chuckled. “You must mean Billy Clanton,” he said. “We saw the gunfight. The actor who played Billy was very good.”
      “That was Billy,” Chip said in a low voice.
      “That’s what Dad just told you, doofus,” Abby said.
      “I mean the real Billy Clanton.”
      “Oh, sure. Am I’m Doc Holliday.”
      Emily began jumping up and down. “I’m thirsty! I’m thirsty!?
      “We’ll all get something to drink,” Mrs. Doby told her. “Chip, do you want to come with us?”
      “Yeah, Mom, I do,” Chip said. This was his family, and families should stick together - the way Billy had said.
      “It’s been fun, hasn’t it?” Mrs. Doby asked. “It’s not so bad to spend time with the family. Right?”
      “I guess,” Chip began, but saw his parents exchange one of those looks.
      Never mind. He couldn’t really explain his day. He’d keep Billy’s story to himself. No one would understand. Not his parents, his sisters, or even the guys.
      He glanced down at the red smear of dried blood on his thumb, and as he looked around the town, he knew he’d always remember this day.

      Go back to Short Campfire Ghost Stories

    • Tags: halloween ghost stories scary short campfire
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