A breeze sweeps in off the plains, kicking up little eddies of dust in the rutted main street of the ramshackle township. The weather-beaten faces of grizzled onlookers gaze towards the saloon doors. They smash open, and a bespurred foot clumps out onto the boardwalk. A horse whinneys. The wounded gunslinger Mad Jacques staggers out into the glare of the midday sun, adjusts the brim of his stetson, steadies his footing and waits.
The crowd looks on, the faint murmer of their gossip barely audible above the creak of the shop signs. They long for a sheriff, but there is none, not in this place – not since those bad experiences with the Austrian and the Corsican. The winner of this little spat could determine all their fates – but they are rooting for neither party in this fight.
Then the chug and whistle of the noon train wafts in from the distance, getting closer… closer… With a screech and a flurry of smoke it grinds to a halt in the makeshift station. The shootist known only as “Tony” leaps down from his carriage, raises his head and gives the assembled masses a broad, insincere grin. “Hi guys!”
Yep, much like a certain classic movie, the build-up has seemed to drag for ages, the tension is at a peak, and neither of the people the plot revolves around seem to have too much support. But this time, as Chirac and Blair square up, it’s impossible to work out who’s Gary Cooper, as no one seems wholeheartedly prepared to give complete back up to either of them.
Tony’s been chatting up the likely next German Chancellor, but she’s not going to be much help until September. Mad Jaques, meanwhile, has the loose support of Gerhard the German – a rickety former brawler now well past his prime and unwilling to get involved in any more big fights – who’ll probably simply back the winner in a quest for a quiet retirement.
Everyone’s expecting a showdown. But what they don’t seem to realise is that both gunslingers have loaded up with dodgy bullets and their powder’s damp. Rather than either party landing a kill shot – or even winging their opponent – they’re going to have to resort to hair-pulling and name-calling. Both will come away looking ridiculous, and no one will have got anywhere.
Meanwhile, out of the sun at the back of the saloon, some shadowy figures are busy scribbling away, plotting out what to do when impotence and unpopularity finally take the two men squaring off outside out of the glare of public attention and the township can get back to trying to clean itself up.
(Oh, and thankfully European Democracy has picked apart the financial figures so I don’t have to – well worth a look – even though it gave me another headache…)