What better way to ask for dues than with a short story? Our ever-creative membership chair, Cliff Hui, penned a hilarious western-themed dues reminder that makes you want to whip out your shooter… I mean, checkbook. You can also join or renew online at https://cwc-berkeley.org/about/join-us.

The Tab
By Clifford Hui

The saloon doors swung open and a dark shadow fell across the rectangle of light on the floor. The shadow was almost as dark as the death-black clothes of Big Bart who strode across the wooden floor. Each “clump” of his boots was accompanied by the “chung” of his spurs and a cloud of dust leaping from his boots and cuffs. When he got to the bar, he pushed two cowboys apart to make more room for himself. They spun around crouched and ready for action, but when they saw it was Big Bart, they just quietly moved farther down the bar.

Bart tilted his black hat back on his head, and then, in a voice etched by too much cheap whiskey and scorched by too much cigarette smoke, he growled to the bartender, “Whiskey, barkeep.” And he put a big coin on the counter.

Ned the bartender glanced at the sawed-off shotgun he kept under the edge of the bar and reached for a whisky bottle and a shot glass. He filled the glass and pushed it toward Bart.

Bart tossed down the drink. “Gimme ’nother.” He wiped his mouth on his shirt sleeve, his dark beard stubble making a scratching sound.

Ned poured him another. Then, with his drooping mustache barely moving, Ned asked, “You wanna settle up your tab now, Bart?”

“Tab? I don’t got a tab here.”

“Oh, I don’t mean a bar tab. I mean pay your dues for the Writers Club.”

“I ain’t in no riders club. I ride alone.” He drank half his whiskey.

“I mean the club you joined so that the western novel you’re writing could get critiqued.”

“Oh, that club. Yeah. What’s the damage?”

“Active, Associate, and Supporting members pay forty-five dollars for the year starting July first; emeritus pay fifteen; students pay twenty. Just make your check payable to ‘CWC-BB’ and give it… ”

“A check?! Hah! I don’t put money in banks, I take it out.” He reached across the bar, grabbed Ned by the front of his shirt, and pulled him over until they were nose to nose. “Are you funnin’ me, barkeep?” Ned groped for his shotgun but it was just out of reach.

Then a firm voice from Bart’s right, “Let him go, Bart.”

The cowboys at the bar stepped back. Bart slowly turned to his right, his eyes narrowed and his jaw set. He saw a clean-shaven cowboy in a white shirt and hat, his elbows on the bar, sipping a mug of sarsaparilla. A five-pointed star was pinned to his chest.

Bart half-smiled, and let go of Ned. “Well, if it ain’t Sheriff Buck Chastity. If you woulda been a snake, I woulda got myself bit.”

“I wouldn’t put it that way, Bart. That’s a hackneyed expression… poor writing technique.”

Bart scowled. “You in the writin’ club?”

“Yep. I’m handing my dues to Madelen at the meeting on June seventeenth. If I miss it, I’m sending my check (made payable to CWC-BB) to P.O. Box 6447, Alameda, CA 94501. You going to the meeting?”

“Maybe I am; maybe I ain’t; maybe I’m going to the critique group; maybe I ain’t; maybe it’s none of your #%@^*&! business.” He tossed down the remainder of his whiskey and slammed the glass down on the counter.

“That’s a lot of semicolons, Bart. You can’t handle that many semicolons.”

“I’ve had enough of you, Chastity. We’re havin’ it out right now.” Bart stepped back from the bar and squared himself to Buck. His right hand slid down to rest by his gun. “I’m callin’ you out. Fill your hand, Chastity.”

The sheriff put down his sarsaparilla, stepped back, and faced Bart with his right hand at his gun.
The sound of chair legs scraping against the floor as they were pushed back from the poker tables was accompanied by the sound of boots rushing out of the saloon. Ned grabbed his shotgun and ducked down behind the bar.

Bart and Buck faced each other; their eyes narrowed.

[to be continued…]