The Hundredth Meridian

A Good Day to Live

The hoof falls sounded measured as time, sixty beats to a minute, 3,600 to the hour, stretching out behind and ahead of them, inexorable like the past, like the future unforeseen, perhaps inevitable.  Time neither slowed nor accelerated in approaching the good or the bad, though sometimes you could swear it did one or the other.  Reining the horse back did no good at all; spurring it forward did no harm.  He who dies today is quit for tomorrow.

The country was magnificent.  He had that to appreciate anyway, and Rich Core tried to make it sufficient.  Black and leaden in winter, the sharp blue mountains floated free at the horizon on a shimmering mirage above the spaced clumps of freshly green acacia and mesquite receding in ordered pattern across the gravel hills.  Jeweled small birds perched on the ends of the blooming yucca stalks; the sky was high, clear, and silver blue; and the air, cool still at early morning, was cloying and unfresh, pungent with the musk of a myriad desert loves.  A good day to die, as the Sioux liked to say.  For a Sioux, any day was a good day to die.  That was only one of a number of reasons Rich could think of for not wanting to be a Sioux.  

He was making this trip on account of his vow to Dave Travis, and he wouldn’t have vowed any such vow if he’d had reason to expect that he’d be a married man when the time came for him to honor it.  Life...

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