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      All those plans came to an end when Red had gotten in a fight with Jim. Jim had never seemed to like him and now Red wondered if Jim had it in for him. They had been in the bunkhouse playing poker with Frank and a few others. They all had been drinking and joking around and then Jim said something about Elisa. Red couldn't remember what Jim said, but he knew that he didn't want anyone talking about his Elisa.

      Red got angry and lunged at Jim. They brawled for quite a while. The others stayed out of it until he was finally getting his licks on Jim. Frank stepped in and stopped him. Frank told him to simmer down, that Jim wasn't going to fighting back anytime soon. Frank then said that he had better learn to watch his temper. Red thought he sounded like Uncle Orrin, saying he'd get himself into trouble one day.

      Once Old Man Dawson heard of the incident, he came and talked to Red. He said Jim carried grudges and would probably try and kill Red because of the whipping he had given Jim. Red understood and said he'd be ready, but Old Man Dawson wasn't finished. He said he had heard a couple men asking about Red in San Antonio and they told a story that he hadn't believed, but now he wasn't so sure. He thought it would be better if Red moved on. Red had left that day. That had been ten days ago.

      That afternoon Red came upon vultures picking through an animal carcass. He stopped for a moment to watch. One found a morsel and the other vultures began fighting for it. The vultures now reminded him of men like the ones he had seen on that first riverboat trip. He had seen more of the vultures again in New Orleans, when he'd taken to work as a bartender because he needed money to continue West. He had hated working as a bartender and had quit as soon as he had money for a railroad ticket.

      Red pulled out a silver-plated revolver and fired a couple shots at the vultures, scattering them. He started off again, fingering the revolver. He kept it as a reminder that he had nearly become what his father had so disdained. He had won the revolver in a card game one night in St. Louis. He had won the gun, when he had bluffed a drunk into a poker game. When he had shown it to Uncle Orrin a couple days later, Uncle Orrin had just shook his head and said that his father would never have stood for what he had done. After that, Red quit working at the docks and went to work for Elisa's father. He also quit hanging around the saloons for a while.

Absolut Paradigm

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