The saloon doors swing open and a man walks in, a little too tall, a little too thin. The doors rock back and forth, back and forth, announcing his entry to the poorly lit bar. A seasoned drunk looks up at him, rubs his stubble, and shakes his head. A whore leans against the balcony railing and wolf-whistles, hoping to catch his attention. The man sits down, unmoved.
“What can I get you?” the bartender asks.
“Whiskey,” he replies, his voice low and gritty.
“A glass, and leave the bottle.”
He takes off his hat, beaten brown leather, and shakes the dust from his hair. It wafts towards the ground, a cloud of grit. The saloon grows quiet. Pool balls stop clacking and cards stop shuffling. He can feel glares piercing into his back like knives.
The bartender looks at the hat, sitting upside down on the bar, and back at the man. He squints and asks, “And who the hell will be paying for that?”
A rattle of coins on the bar is his only answer. The bartender grabs an unopened bottle, its insides glowing amber, and places it before the man. He nods and slinks away, wiping dirty hands on stained trousers.
The man pours a glass, half-full, and drinks it in a single, long gulp. He pours another and repeats the action. The noises behind him resume, people’s interest in the stranger already waning, just another drifter with a tongue to wet and a liver to spoil.
The drunk leans towards him, nearly falling off his stool. He props himself against the bar, eyes fixed on the man’s eyes. “You’re a goddamn robot, ain’t you?” he says.
The man takes a sip of his whiskey. “Android,” he says.
“Well what in the hell is the difference?”
The android shrugs.
“What’s the matter, robot? Your speech chip broken?” He smiles, showing his teeth, yellow and black. His breath smells like whiskey and bacteria.
The android shrugs again, looks forward into nothingness.
“Your goddamn hearing, too?” The drunk leans in closer still. He picks up the android’s hat and slips it onto his greasy head. “All that damn dirt in your circuits, I suppose. Ain’t no place on the plains for no goddamn gearbox.”
The android stands up and grabs the drunk by the throat. His stool clatters to the ground behind him. He clenches tight and walks the drunk across the bar and out the swinging doors, throws him down the two stairs and into the dust. A horse looks at him with a wide, dark eye, shakes its head and looks away.
“What in the hell?” the drunk says, dirt sticking to his sweaty face. He pulls himself to his feet, tottering slightly.
The android draws a revolver from its holster, a Colt .45. He points it at the man and clicks back the hammer. “You want to know the difference?”
The man slaps dirt from his trousers, mumbling to himself. “What goddamn difference?”
“Between a robot and an android. Do you want to know the difference?”
The drunk spits onto the ground. “I couldn’t care less, now,” he says.
He fires the gun and the bullet strikes the drunk in the throat. Blood splurts from the wound. The drunk gags and gasps, a hand pressed to the entry wound. He falls to his knees, drowning in his own blood, and looks up at the android with wild eyes, glassy and fearful. Blood drips onto the dusty ground.
“Robots can’t kill,” the android says.
He reaches down and retrieves his hat, slips it on his head, and turns around. He pushes past the gathering crowd, watching in silence, mouths agape. The drunk’s gurgling fills the air, a slow and painful struggle, edging closer to inevitable death.
The doors rock back and forth, back and forth. The android returns to his whiskey.
His novels are about outlaws, outcasts, and outsiders.