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The Weatherby

For Round 7 of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that have a character come to town and someone leave town.
Bolt-action rifle.

The first time I heard Mr. Cargould's full name was the day he won first prize in the raffle. I was down at the station for the drawing, hoping to take one of the cash prizes, but no, 20 tickets to Mr. Cargould's one, and it's his name Janice pulls first from the bin: "The Weatherby bolt action rifle goes to: Mr. Preston T. Cargould!"

Mr. Cargould's your classic out-of-towner, the type who drives up from Massachusetts every summer and does his best to convince you he's as local as they come. He drives a Saab, which I remember only because of that bumper sticker: "Born in Maine, Living in Exile." I'd run into him at the general store every so often, dressed head-to-toe in L.L.Bean, asking about the winter, how were the deer flies, are the bass biting, that kind of thing. Doesn't even fish. Doesn't even know it's because of folks like him that the cost of milk and bread and beer goes up on Memorial Day and don't come down till Labor Day. And I promise you he doesn't hunt, probably never shot a gun in his life, which only made it worse how he aimed to keep Rob St. Clair's Weatherby for himself.

Rob had the cancer down below, costing his family something serious. That's why all of us at the fire department hosted the spaghetti dinner and the raffle, why we'd been selling tickets all summer and into the fall. There were a few cash prizes — $25, $50, $75 — but the rifle was just thrown in for show by Rob's wife, Janice, meant to be won and then returned on the sly. Common decency. Something that goes without saying, like throwing back a home-run ball hit by the opposing team.

The drawing was held the week before Thanksgiving. Summer folk were long gone. Rob was doing pretty poorly, spending a night here and there at the hospital in Farmington. Naturally, Janice had her hands full, so I offered to call Mr. Cargould for her.

I caught him at his office. He was all confused. "What raffle?"

"The benefit," I reminded him. "For Rob St. Clair."

"Oh, sure, the sick fellow. How's he doing?"

"Off his feed," I said.

"Pity," he said. "Well, I might be able to free up some time this weekend, drive up and collect it. And say, do I need to purchase a permit or a license or does that come with the gun?"

Not wanting him to bother Janice, I gave Mr. Cargould my number and told him to call me if he made it to town. I'd get the rifle myself, meet him at the station, keep Janice out of it as much as possible.

The wake was at the St. Clair home, but since we don't have a cemetery of our own in Mt. Vernon, the burial was in Readfield. The whole town emptied out, line of cars stretching clear from door to grave. I was at the cemetery, walking from my car, when my cell phone buzzed.

It was Mr. Cargould, at the station, explaining he'd just gotten in from Boston. Come to collect his prize, and hey, by the way, where is everybody?

"You're too late," I said, trying to sound pleasant, reminding myself I was at a funeral. "Sorry to make you drive all the way up here for nothing."

"But I—"

I cut him off.

"Preston," I said before hanging up, "we'll see you next summer."