With The Toss of a Coin

Marti Carlson



“Kid, it’s too dangerous.”  Heyes glared warningly at his partner.


“Yeah, it’s dangerous, but I wouldn’t say it’s too dangerous.”  Kid gave Heyes a look just as threatening as the one he was getting.


“So what’re we even talking about this for?  I do the dangerous work, you back me up.  That’s the way we always do it.”


“Yeah, that’s the way we always do it, because you always get your way.  Don’t make it the right way all the time.”


Something in his partner’s tone told Heyes there was more to this.  “What’s eatin’ at you, Kid?  You don’t fight me over little things like who’s gonna distract the sheriff.  What’s goin’ on?”


“Yeah, well, you’re the leader, everybody knows that.  May not like it, you bein’ younger’n them an’ all, but they know it.  But me…”  Kid’s voice trailed off.


Heyes waited.   And waited.   It seemed Kid had said all he was going to say.  “What about you?” he gently prodded.


“You don’t know what they say about me in the bunkhouse.”


“Who’s been sayin’ what about you?!”  Heyes roared.  He jumped to his feet now, fists balled and ready to strike at whoever had been talking down about his friend.


“Well, Wheat said…”


“Wheat Carlson.”  Heyes snorted, an ugly sneer curling his lip.  “Since when did you ever give a hoot about what that coyote said.”


“I don’t, Heyes, you know I don’t.  But you also know there’s them that do.”


“Hell, yeah, I know it.  Bunch of sheep.”  Heyes seated himself by Kid again.  “Hell, Kid, I don’t care what Wheat says…”


“Yeah, and neither do I.  But when the boys I’m ridin’ with say I’m not pullin’ my weight, that you keep me out of trouble, then, well, I wanna do somethin’ that’ll show ‘em, like doin’ somethin’ you usually do.  That’ll show ‘em.”


“Tell ya what, Kid.  Let’s decide this fair and square.  Let’s toss a coin.”


“Toss a coin?  Heyes, this is too serious…”


“I am serious.  We’re partners.  We’re both qualified.  We both wanna do this, but only one of us can.  We can’t agree who should take the risk, so let Chance decide.  You game?” 


“Alright.  I’m game.  But we should do it in front of the gang, so they’ll know it weren’t rigged.”


“Aw, to hell with them.  I’m leader, they’ll do what I say or get the hell out.”  Heyes’ face had that determined look that everyone who knew him knew well enough not to argue with.  He reached into the small pocket of his vest and fished out a coin.  Flicking it into the air with his thumb, he said “Call it,” as it tumbled end over end up in the cool night air, then back down.  Kid called his choice just before it landed in Heyes’ outstretched palm.  Heyes slapped the coin on the back of his other wrist, gave Kid a quick look.  “You ready?”




Heyes uncovered the coin, not letting Kid see the result.  “Well, whadda ya know…”


                                                *                      *                      *       


“Kid, you hungry?”  Heyes asked as they rode, trail dusty and weary, into Salt Flats.


“Yeah, I could do with a bite,” Kid grinned.  “How much money you got?” 


“Two bits.”


“That include your lucky coin?”


“Naw, I’m not that hungry!  How ‘bout you, how much you got?”


“One dollar and fifteen cents.”


“Buck sixty-five, should buy us a decent breakfast,” Heyes replied.  “Let’s see what’s on the menu over there.”


But Salt Flats was in the middle of nowhere; it cost a small fortune to bring in the staples, let alone eggs, butter and the like.  The town’s only eating room charged a dollar and a half for two eggs, three strips of bacon, and a biscuit; coffee, fifteen cents a cup.  The two stared at the outrageous prices and sighed. 


“Well, Kid, looks like only one of us gets to eat ‘til we find some work.  Let’s toss a coin.”

“Nope.  You eat.  I’ll be fine.”  Just then, Kid’s stomach gave a healthy growl.


“Tell ya what.  Winner eats, loser gets coffee.”


“Heyes, I hate to say it, but you’re on.”


Heyes tossed his “lucky” coin in the air.  “Call it.”


Kid called.


Heyes caught the coin, covered it on his wrist.  Hiding the result from Kid, he whistled.  “Well, whadda ya know…”


                                                *                      *                      *


“You ever seen a prettier gal, Heyes?”


“Nope, don’t think so.  But I saw her first.”


“The hell you say!  I saw her first!”


“Let’s toss a coin.”


Kid grinned his sunniest smile.  “Still tossin’ that ‘lucky’ coin?”


                                                *                      *                      *