Merc Rule 13

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

Merc Rule 13: The pen is mightier than the sword in the hands of the expert knife thrower.

Every merc knows their way around a blade well enough to keep a boot knife—or six—stashed for special occasions. But few are the mercs with that rare gift to rain down pointy death at 50 paces with naught more’n feather and quill.

One such merc is Stab McKay, Wasteland Poet. That’s right, the same fella who writes all those bad greeting cards. With a handle like Stab you can guess he didn’t earn the name writing pleasant limericks.

Anyway, I like to think I’m handy with a knife. And a damn sight better’n Spivey. Me and a couple others are kicked back at Granny Lemieux’s Guns and Grub waiting around for work. So I suggest we get a friendly game of Drunken Daggers going.

For those that don’t know the rules, they’re short and sweet. You can play in teams, or mono y mono. Two mercs throw knives, and whoever hits furthest from the bull’s-eye—and the rest of his team—does a shot of whatever hooch was agreed upon at the start of the match. In this case, napalm shooter. Then the next pair throw, and so on down the line until every available knife has been loosed.

The idea being that the longer the game goes, the more liquored up the players get, and the harder it is to bury a knife in the board. When it’s all said and done the losers pay the tab. Might sound dangerous, but it’s good for the saloon. ‘Cause no matter who wins, the bar’s collecting one bear of a tab.

So I go in strategically. Stab’s the best knife thrower east of the Blue Line and Spivey ain’t gonna let me pair with him come hell or high water. But something occurs to me, so I let Spivey and Stab pair up. I recruit Boozer Hayes. Figure if I can beat Spivey, it don’t matter if Stab beats Boozer. After ten rounds we’ll all be drunk to a seven on the Marquez scale. All except Boozer, who stays stone sober even when he swimming in whiskey. And then, when Stab is bleary-eyed and seeing double, Boozer can take the win.

We start hucking daggers. I’m throwing a hair better’n Spivey and just good enough to keep him and Stab drinking. Stab is beating the almighty piss outta Boozer, hitting bull’s-eye after bull’s-eye, so he’s keeping the pair of us drinking. The drunker we get, the more the game starts to edge out. Me and Spivey are both throwing for shit, and Stab is just drunk enough that Boozer finally lands one closer to the center than he does. So now we’re up by one throw, and there’s only three knives left.

I hold mine, aim carefully, and loose that beauty across the bar… Except I miss the board altogether, burying the knife into a wanted poster hanging up along side. Now all Spivey has to do is hit the board. And he does.

We’re tied up, and me and Boozer have to choke down two more napalm shooters. Boozer picks up the last dagger, winks at me, and thunks it in just shy of center.

Logically, I’m thinking it’s about time to celebrate.

Stab shakes his head. “Not so fast,” he says. “Didn’t get my last throw.” I tell him we’re all outta knives. He gives me a crooked grin and swipes the metal pen from my memoirs. He turns and throws it backhand. It whistles end over end and bites into the wood just inside of Boozer’s.

Spivey claps me on the shoulder and laughs like he’s never seen anything funnier in his life.

That’s right. That bastard Stab McKay, Wasteland Poet beat us with a writing utensil… There’s a joke or two in there somewhere.

I guess I don’t have to tell you I won’t play Drunken Daggers opposite of Stab anymore. That, and I don’t trust him around my good pens.

Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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