It was April 1, 1894 when a man with no name walked into Dodge.
Yes, he walked in. He didn’t ride in. But he was no April Fool’s joke.
He didn’t have a gun. Only a water pistol. And he looked so lost that everyone shunned him except a whore named KJ.
He thought she was a gift from God, and he kept believing that all of his life, even when the preachers told him she was from the Devil.
She felt that he was an outcast like her, and so she took him in hand, marched him up to her quarters, brought him food and water, then put him in a tub and washed him like a momma. She even let him play with a rubber ducky. He was so happy. His momma had died when he was an infant and even at age 27, he was still desperate for nurturing.
He stood naked before her in the tub and she dried him off, took him to bed, and anointed his feet with oil, wiping them with her hair. She made him whole, if only for a night.
The next day, she got him a job at the whorehouse. He mopped floors, scrubbed tubs, washed sheets, served drinks, and made everyone feel good by his abjectness. He was so low that you could only feel high by comparison.
In his early years in Dodge, he wanted so badly to be accepted that it was pathetic. He just radiated neediness. It repelled people. The only ones who accepted him were the whores and the evangelicals (whose headquarters were called “The Fire of Christ”).
Dodge was a rough city in these days. There were two warring camps — those who loved whores and those who hated whores.
In his spare time, he liked to write. He wrote stories about the whores. He got them printed up and sold them for a penny each at the bar.
The madam liked him and gave him a job performing with the girls, pretending to deflower them while the customers watched.
For the first few weeks, he felt like a man. More of a man than he had ever felt before. He stopped writing and devoted himself to ****ing.
Then one day, KJ said to him after a session, “You’re better than this.”
He thought about that for a while, and then told the madam he was done performing. He preferred to dust and to clean and to write his stories, which he now published in a weekly newsletter sold around town. He called it, “Your Moral Leader”.
If there was one advantage he had, it was that everybody underestimated him (except for KJ). When they bumped into him, they didn’t even say I’m sorry. When they saw him in the street, they didn’t nod. They just looked through him as though he didn’t exist. They didn’t even bother talking about him behind his back. He wasn’t a threat to anyone so he wasn’t worthy of gossip.
He didn’t get invited to the cool parties and he wasn’t welcome in any of the fashionable homes. He was welcome, for a while, at “The Fire of Christ” church.
They were the only church in town truly interested in helping sinners. They were the only church that gave step-by-step instructions on how to lead a good life. Their most famous pamphlet was called “The Five Levels of Pleasure”.
The Fire cleaned people up for a living. Even whores and gunslingers. They got them married. They got them mortgages. They got them to send their children to Christian schools.
One day the pastor pulled him aside for a private chat. “You need to stop working at that whorehouse,” said the pastor. “You need to stop writing about whores. You’re a smart man. You can find something else to do. If you don’t mend your ways, you’ll have to stop coming around here. You have a choice. Leave the whores behind or leave us behind.
“Who’s publishing your book, by the way?”
“Prometheus Books,” he said. “They’re an atheist press.”
The two of them enjoyed a knowing smile about the foolishness of atheism.
“I’ll clean up my life,” he promised. “Honest injun.”
The days went by and he found he couldn’t leave the whores behind. His bond with KJ was too tight. So he stopped going to church.
A couple of months later, the pastor called him in. “You need to choose right now between whores and Christ,” said the pastor.
“I guess I’ll choose the whores,” he said and walked outside feeling very alone. He didn’t know why he had chosen as he had. He just knew that being who he was, he couldn’t do anything else.
He loved KJ. Every morning after her shift was finished, they would get together and write stories and read them aloud to each other. She told him the secrets of the leaders of the town. He loved this.
Even though he had a very low social status, he yearned to climb. He yearned to do something magnificent for God. He yearned for greatness. He yearned to rub shoulders with the elite.
He had a problem. He only wanted to hang out with those who were above him in social status. He didn’t like playing tennis with anyone who was at his level, or, God forbid, below him. He only wanted to play with those who were better. They pushed him to be more than he was and he loved reaching for the stars, even while mucking out the stables.
He stumbled into gossip as a great social equalizer. KJ taught him how the town really worked.
At first, he didn’t know what to do with the information. He just stored it up. Then he started slipping hints of the things he knew into his stories and they started selling better.
Soon he was able to quit work and concentrate on his writing.
Whenever anyone threatened him for what he wrote, he explained it was purely fiction. And he looked so dumb, so pathetic and low, it was hard to feel angry at him.
As the months went by, he learned who he could write about obliquely and who he had to leave completely alone. He learned that if he wrote about people who were generally loathed, he’d get so much support that it would more than counterbalance the heat he’d receive from his victims.
And nobody could challenge him to a duel because he only had a water pistol. And a bad case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
One day he ran into his former pastor at the post office. “I’m mad, bad and dangerous to know,” he said with a leer.
The pastor took offense. “Let’s get down to cases, Sunny Jim. Your description of yourself is laughable. For the sake of accuracy, ‘Fey, gay and worthless to know’ is much better. You’re a fair-dinkum fraud, and one of these days I’ll gut you from stem to sternum, mate. Don’t think it won’t happen, you bloody ponce.”
He walked away feeling good. Feeling powerful. He had made the man of Christ lose his temper and use some words that were very un-Christian.
“This is power,” he thought. “Words are power. Information is power. There’s going to be a new sheriff in town, and he’s going to get all the girls.”
As the months went by, he grew bolder in his writing. He exposed more hypocrites. He presented it as doing God’s will. He cited the Talmudic tractate of Yoma 86B.
He began getting advertising from the major stores in Dodge. He at first subtly, and then not so subtly, let all the big shots in town know that they were either a target or a source.
He began publishing every day and sold his sheets for a dime each. He learned to locate all the disputes in town and then told each side in successive days, stirring the cauldron and putting the witches brew into print.
He was careful to only publish what he could get away with. He was careful to maintain alliances and he didn’t mind slipping away from town for a few days when things got really hot. He made sure to present himself in print as only the most humble servant of the truth, as God’s messenger delivering divine karma, and he was never happier than when he got his former pastor tarred, feathered and run out of town for a sexual indiscretion with an underage girl.
When the clergy of Dodge organized regular marches outside the home of a man who wouldn’t grant his wife a divorce through their Christian law court (the man was willing to give a divorce through a pastor in the next town), he protested in his daily newsletter. He asked how would the clergy like it if their home addresses were publicized when they made unpopular decisions?
When the clergy wanted to certify business ethics at every establishment in Dodge, he protested that the clergy had no expertise in determining business ethics. While simply abiding by the law of the land was enough for the clergy to grant an ethics badge, he pointed out that business ethics were far more complicated, and that one could sometimes do more good not following the law of the land than by always following the law of the land.
The certification drive fizzled.
When a bishop of the largest church in Dodge lost his temper, struck a congregant and called him a “f—er”, he publicized the affair in his newsletter and the bishop was transferred to another parish.
It was only gradually and over the course of years that the people of Dodge came to realize that there was a new sheriff in town. And the little blighter carried a water pistol.