Merc Rule 5

Written by J. D. Wiley --- Art by J. D. Wiley

Merc Rule 5: Always sleep upwind from camp. -Chili-House Javier 

If you ain’t met Chili-house Javier, you won’t be able to appreciate this rule. Even so, you can guess he didn’t get the name for his prowess as a pit fighter. Don’t get me wrong he knows his way around the ring. But there ain’t a bastard across the Red Frontier that can cook a pot of chili half as mean as ol’ Javier. Calls it his four-pepper extravaganza.

It’s magic on the tip of your tongue, fire down your throat, and a hurricane on the way out. One bowl of his signature recipe and you’ll never be able to enjoy anyone else’s chili ever again. But like all good things, there’s a price to pay. A drawback, you might say. What his fans affectionately refer to as “the aftershock.” Believe you me, you don’t wanna be around to smell it. There are stories about it for a reason.

So me, Spivey, French Hicks, and Chili-House Javier are on the road. Tracking some of the vilest Ashland scum to ever haunt the Red Frontier. The Sons of Perdition. Cannibals, and flesh carvers. They torture their victims, mutilate ’em, and worse. We mean to catch up to ’em and send ’em to meet Old Man Death. Chasing after a dark piece o’ work like that requires good company. Few things raise a man’s spirits like a good meal.

We work up a cook fire and Javier gets his stew bubbling. Our stomachs are aching for a taste before he’s even got the seasonings in. But we wait around the fire, all googly-eyed and eager as four beavers watching a log. When we finally get our food, me, Spivey, and Frenchie wolf it down like we ain’t ate all week. Javier is the only one who knows how to savor a meal, and the three of us are just watching his eyes roll into the back of his head with every bite.

After dinner, we set up our tents and bed rolls and spread out for the night. It ain’t long before we’re keeping the tent warm, compliments of Javier’s four-pepper extravaganza. And after four hours of smelling the sour insides of ten filthy mercs’ lower intestines, ain’t a one of us could smell a pile of shit if we were up to our nose in it.

Funny thing about that was French Hicks was our ranger. It was his bloodhound sense of smell was guiding us to the group we were tracking. Pretty easy to sniff out carrion eaters dragging a flesh cart. But we weren’t smelling anything that night but Javier’s famous chili.

Halfway through the night, we wake up to an awful racket. Someone is banging the dinner cymbal. None other than Chili-House Javier himself. Turns out the Sons of Perdition were moving to ambush our camp. Couldn’t smell ’em until they were right up on us. Lucky for us, Javier’s tent was far enough away, and upwind, that his nose wasn’t blinded by our flatulence.

If it weren’t for him, we might have ended up in some chili ourselves.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you never want to sleep downwind from camp. Especially if you’re traveling with Chili-house Javier.

Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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