Adam Bennett is the co-founder of Zombie Pirate Publishing and his short story “Jackson’s Revenge” is featured in their SciFi anthology World War Four (which also features my short story “Joey,” but right now, that’s beside the point).
Yes, the tale mentions war and other planets, so the action is set sometime in the future and could definitely involve the aftermath of a fourth world war, but it also takes place in a bar and the weapons involved were merely pistols and swords, so I could easily imagine that the scene was sometime after the American Civil War. That’s a good thing, since it means the story is pretty much universal and you don’t have to be a hardcore science fiction fan to enjoy it.
Bennett’s short story is a study in misdirection, and the reader doesn’t get to find out the meaning of “Jackson’s Revenge” until the last several pages.
I like stories set in bars. I think those conversations tend to be more honest or at least more revealing, and not just because of the involvement of alcohol. There’s a line delivered by actor John Hoyt in the role of Dr. Phillip Boyce in the original Star Trek pilot episode The Cage (later re-edited into the award-winning two-part episode The Menagerie) when he’s serving a drink to a dejected, Captain Christopher Pike (played by Jeffery Hunter). Here’s the brief exchange between them:
Captain Christopher Pike: The devil’re you putting in there, ice?
Dr. Boyce: Who wants a warm martini?
Captain Christopher Pike: What makes you think I need one?
Dr. Boyce: Sometimes, a man’ll tell his bartender things he’ll… never tell his doctor.
I felt it especially appropriate since Jackson finally makes his confession to his bartender, who was also his partner (though not fully informed partner) in his revenge.
From my point of view, at least some of Jackson’s downfall was his own fault, but it’s amazing how well you can see in hindsight. Wars, no matter when or where they happen, leave a lot of broken people. This is where Bennett’s story begins and sadly ends with Jackson telling only one man the truth, hoping his lies will keep others from making the same mistake.