Sundown Town by Richard Wayne Horton

+++++Those are big horses out front. Never seen horses like that. Course we’re your average tourists passing through. You get a bunch of us I bet.
+++++I never looked at ‘em very close. I’m gonna go look. Now that you point it out, they do look big. Big and black, which reminds me…
+++++I’ll have the hometown skillet with three eggs.
+++++What kind of cheese? We got country boy blue, farm wife Swiss or broom Hilda cheddar.
+++++Daddy, one of the horses switched its tail. There sure are a lot of flies out there.
+++++Switch, I mean Swiss for me. House coffee on the side, nothing special, just brown stuff in a white cup. Thank you, Brenda. Hon, you ready to order?
+++++I’m scared.
+++++I don’t see that on the menu. I’ll flip it. Nope. Not on the back either.
+++++Stop that. I think you know what I’m saying.
+++++Daddy, why was that lady sitting in the funeral car when we were out on the street and why is the funeral just sitting there not moving?
+++++Brenda, you work here! How bout it? What’s going on with that long old funeral rig with the six black horses? Who died? We looked in the glass on the hearse and there was just a coffin covered in black velvet. Impressive, if you ask me. And with the slant of the sun, and the light starting to have some red…
+++++Yeah, uh…you’ll need to order soon so you can be on your way. Folks like you don’t often find our accomodations to their liking after dark. Will the lady have a coffee?
+++++I’m scared.
+++++Brenda, y’all wouldn’t happen to have some Mocha Java, would you? Maybe that’s what “I’m scared” translates to. Ah! Here comes the Little White Milkmaid kids’ special for my little Sara! Glad this town happened to have an all day breakfast joint. And it’s integrated too! Like to see that. Everyone else is white. Let ‘em in, I say.
+++++Sounds like one of those huge black things hitched to the hearse wants a little action. Get those wheels a-creaking!
+++++Daddy, the lady in the funeral car was real pretty. She wore a white satin dress with lots of lace and she had a prayer book on her knee.
+++++OK, I’m gon’ go get the omelet and the Java for you! Not much time left. Darn that sun!
+++++And Daddy, tears were falling from her eyes right onto her prayer book. There were white roses all around her and the roses were crying too. Daddy, I think the funeral got stuck because a big sad thing was in the way. I knocked on the window but the lady never stopped crying. I knocked and knocked. I wish I could’ve crawled in and hugged her.
+++++Sara, now I got to tell you about…
+++++Here’s the Java. Ma’am? Ma’am? You go on and drink it, honey. Your husband’s omelet is on the grill right now. We’ll have you out of here safe and sound before the sun gets much lower. I don’t much like the color of the air out there.
+++++Mama, I’m through. I want to go pet the horses and talk to the sad lady. I love her.
+++++Brenda, how bout me and my princess going out and looking at that funeral rig while my omelet gets another flip?
+++++But mister, the eggs are coming in just a jif and I’m telling you, you don’t want to go near the horses or the lady right now because if her door opens… Sir?


+++++Well! This is better! It was get’n’ stuffy in that diner with all those scared folks. Give me your hand, sweety! Wo! Does it seem to you those funeral nags’ve gotten bigger? And look at the flies. The sun’s gone from yellow to orange. Sure is pretty. What?…Oh, OK, Brenda! We’ll be in there in a sec! OK, OK!
+++++Daddy, I want to see the sad lady! I love her so much!
+++++Good boy! Good horse! You’ve stood watch all day!
+++++Daddy! Come on!
+++++Sir! Your eggs are ready! Come back in!
+++++OK, Brenda, be there in a minute.
+++++Sir! Don’t go there! It’s too late to go anywhere near there!
+++++Now the sun is more red than orange. Hold on, sweety! We’ll go see the sad lady but don’t pull my hand so hard! Gee!
+++++Here she is, Daddy. The white roses are crying just like I said. The lady’s tears are falling on her prayer book.
+++++Sara! Quit that! You can’t knock on someone’s car window like that! You and I need to have a talk about white people. It’s painful and I didn’t want to do it before now.
+++++She’s looking up, Daddy!
+++++Hinininininah! Houff! Houff! Hinininininininah!
+++++She’s smiling, Daddy! I love her and I want to kiss her and make her sadness go away.
+++++Sir? I’m going to lock the door now!
+++++OK, Brenda. I, ah…


+++++Well, it’s still out there, Ma’am. The men in pickups won’t come while it’s there. It’s much more powerful and dreadful than they’ll ever be, so go ahead and drink your coffee.
+++++Seth? Sara? Where are they?
+++++They’re trapped outside with it now, Ma’am. I hope they’re safe but I never seen anyone before that wanted to go get close to it. I tried to warn you all. I don’t guess you saw the sign when you drove in.
+++++What sign?
+++++Oh, lord.
+++++Is this a sundown town?
+++++That’s one thing it is.
+++++Gimme those.
+++++The keys. I don’t know where my mind’s been. I’m going out.


+++++Little love, come and sit a while with me.

Richard Wayne Horton has published a flash fiction chapbook, Sticks & Bones, available from Meat For Tea Press.  He has received 2 Pushcart nominations, and has published in Lonesome October, Meat For Tea, Bull & Cross, Danse Macabre du Jour, The Blue Nib, Aphotic Realm, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and others.  His new book, Artists In The Underworld, is coming out in Fall or Winter of 2018 at Human Error Publishing.

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