The summer sun beats down savagely on the little village of Speculation, somewhere south of the Borders and north of the Amazon. A hawk cries in the distance as a tall man in a white hat, his face obscured by a narrow black mask, pushes through the swinging doors of Cantina Biblioteca, spurs jingling on the wooden floorboards.
The bartender is polishing glasses. In the far corner of the room, a thin man sits at a battered piano, playing “Nearer My God to Thee.” Several patrons sit at tables, talking and drinking. As the tall man in the white hat enters the room, all eyes turn to him, and the music and conversation cease.
Bartender: Ah, the Lawful Stranger! Amigo, it has been far too long. Welcome back.
Stranger: Thanks, Juan. I’ll take the usual. Powerful hot today.
Juan: When is it not? One iced milk coming up.
The piano player strikes up “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and the patrons resume their socializing.
Juan (sliding a tall glass of milk down the bar): So, what brings you to Speculation on such a miserable day?
Stranger: Same as always. Setting the example, drawing folks back to the straight and narrow, providing a haven of peace and security for the faithful. Showing the world how life ought to be lived.
Voice from Outside: Now, hold on just a consarned minute there!
The talking and music stop again as a short young man clad in black, sporting an impressive waxed mustache, bursts through the swinging doors.
Man in Black: Lawful Stranger, I’m-a callin’ you out! I’ve had my fill of yer beepity-beeping, sanctimonious, self-righteous beepity-beep!
Female Patron: Aaaieee! (faints)
Old Prospector: Holy frijoles, it’s the Potty Mouth Kid!
Kid (throwing hat to the ground in disgust): No, no, no! Just “The Kid!” Nothin’ more, nothin’ less. You yokels have been so sheltered by this so-called Lawful Stranger that you plumb forgot what regular folk talk like. Hang fire, I’m a model of restraint!
Stranger: Young man, we don’t cotton to such unrefined language in these parts. You see the effect it has on our more delicate citizenry. Somebody start fanning that lady! Prospector, put something soft under her head. Juan, we’ll need some cold water.
Juan: Coming up.
Kid: This is exactally the sort of flippity dippin’ hogwash I’m talkin’ about. There’s a whole planet full of people y’all can’t even communicate with ’cause he’s convinced you to always mind your p’s and q’s, and look down yer noses at plain speech, less’n you singe yer fragile consciences. Yer livin’ in a dadblamed fantasy world!
Another patron: Aaaieee! (faints)
Kid: Oh, for the love of pete. Stop that!
Prospector: Stranger’s right, Sonny. Our womenfolk in particular are pale flowers what wilt clean away when scorched by salty language.
Kid: That last one was a man.
Prospector: Oh, so he was. Can’t rightly account for that.
Kid: Enough of this falder-dee-rall. Stranger, it’s time you and me stepped outside and settled this once and for all.
Stranger: I’ve got nothing to prove to you, Kid. I stand for all that’s good and true. You’re a disruptive influence.
Kid: I’m fighting for the good and true, same as you. Difference is, I’m not preaching to the choir using the vocabulary of a ding-busted kiddygarden Sunday Schoolmarm. I go out into all the world and meet the broken and confused where they live.
Stranger: Potty mouth.
Just as the two men are about to come to blows, a shot rings out, and a fine mist of plaster drifts down from the ceiling.
Woman with Gun: I heard tell there was trouble brewin’ in the Cantina. Lo and behold, what do I find here? A pair of lawless vigilantes.
Stranger: Now hold on a minute, my good woman. I am not lawless.
Kid: Who the blinkety dinky dink are you, anyhow?
Patron: Aaiiee! (faints)
Stranger & Kid: Juan, get that man some cold water.
Juan: Coming up.
Woman: I am the Sheriff of this here town, Carlene Booker Armstrong, and this here is a gen-you-ine Matthew Henry rifle, with which I will perforate both your sorry hides if ever you show your little black masks around here again.
Kid: I ain’t broken no blad-ratted law.
Carlene: You’re a blasphemer. That’s all I need to know.
Stranger: Sheriff, I stand for everything you value. I don’t see why I should be lumped together with this juvenile delinquent.
Carlene: Oh, I know you, Mister High and Mighty. You talk the talk all right, but you’re always dabblin’ in imagination and metaphor and fantasy to make a point. You think you know what my townsfolk need better than I do. The citizens of this here town are simple souls who need simple, unvarnished goodness, told straight and direct. I’ll have no confusion runnin’ amuck here whilst I’m Sheriff. Now, scram. I’ve a quilting bee to preside over this afternoon, and I won’t be late on account of the likes of you two. (cocks rifle)
Stranger & Kid: Yes, ma’am.
They exit the cantina, and the sounds of conversation resume from within, accompanied by “Marching to Zion” on the piano.
Kid: Tarnation. Now what do we do?
Stranger: Find a more hospitable town, I expect. Maybe somewhere further south of the Borders and closer to the Amazon.
Kid: Mind if I join you?
Stranger: They do say misery loves company. Can you keep your mouth shut?
Stranger: Fair enough. Neither can I.