Josh Irby

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True Grits 7: In which I face death

This is  the last part of a seven part story on Grit called True Grits’ Guide to a Grittier and More Successful Life. I suggest you read part onetwothreefourfive, and six before continuing on. Make sure you join the discussion in the comments below.


The noon sun made me squint as I walked out onto the main street. It could have been a scene straight out of a spaghetti Western; except for my Gap jeans and polo shirt.

I was trying to stay positive, as True Grits had coached me, but I kept visualizing my wife’s eulogy at the funeral. At least I would make the news. “Businessman Shot Dead in Showdown on Movie Set.”

Photo by Matthew Lee High (Creative Commons)

Photo by Matthew Lee High (Creative Commons)

As I crossed towards True Grits in the center of the street, I saw my enemy for the first time. He was tall and thin with a cattleman hat pulled down over his pale face.  His dark eyes stared up at me from under his brim. Standing next to True Grits, he looked like a ghost.

True Grits had a pistol in each hand.

“Now listen close, ‘cause it means your life. You’ve got one bullet each.  You’ll take your weapon and walk off ten paces in the street. When the clock tower strikes twelve, fire at will.”

Resistance wasn’t looking at True Grits. In fact, he did not seem to notice him at all. He glared coldly into my eyes.

True Grits continued his instructions. “If you draw before the chimes end or try any funny business, I’ll cut you down before you can twitch a finger. You understand?”

“Understood,” I said.

Resistance held my gaze. “Lucky for you it’s a nice day to die.”

I turned away.

True Grits held out the revolvers. The metal felt cold and heavy in my hand. I holstered it, trying to steady my shaking hand. If I had to die today, I would die like a man.

Resistance began to back away from me down the vacant street. His eyes remained locked on mine. As I began to move towards my end of the road, the noon chimes began to ring.


Yesterday I was in a boardroom closing down my business. Today I am on Main Street facing off in showdown. So much has changed.

True Grits’ leather holster chaffed against my jeans as my feet shuffled backwards through the dirt.


Had I known the “interview” would end like this, I wouldn’t have come. I would have run. But now that I am here, would I do it again? I was surprised by the answer that rose to my mind. Yes. I would. What I’ve learned is worth it.


A bead of sweat, starting at my scalp, began its descent down the bridge of my nose.

If this is my last day of life, at least I know I am living it like a whale and not a mayfly. I am fighting for something valuable. I am taking risks for the sake of the future.


If I get out of this alive, I’m not giving up on my company. I quit too easily. I sold out on my dream because it got too hard. I don’t know how, but I’m not quitting my dream.


Resistance stopped backing up and began digging his heels in the dirt. His hand hung loose by his side, fingertips only inches from his revolver.

Though we were now at least 20 yards apart, I could feel his eyes boring into mine.


Facing death, I felt a new appreciation of life. It was as if, right there on Main Street, I was preparing to exit the womb.

This time around, I will be more patient. I’m going to work, but I’m also going to wait. Life is too precious to rush.


I couldn’t see True Grits—he told me not to take my eyes off the enemy—but I could feel his presence. Knowing he was on the street with me sent a wave of calm through my jittery body. While this was my battle to fight, I knew I was not fighting it alone.


I stopped and stood facing Resistance—facing fear itself. Somehow, baring my body to the enemy felt right. Although I was still afraid, I did not feel the shame that usually accompanies fear. I was afraid but unashamed of my fear.

So this is what courage feels like.


Resistance began to shift nervously, changing his weight from foot to foot. I realized I had lost count of the chimes. Had he? The tendons in my hand grew taut.


I couldn’t remember whether that was the ninth or tenth chime, but I knew the end was drawing near.

Whatever my future holds, I was going to face it with hope.

I thought of Ma True Grits waking up each morning with a sense of expectancy. That’s what I want. That’s what I will have. And it starts today.


With the chime, my stomach rose up in my chest. I hope True Grits knows what he’s doing.

In my mind, I saw my wife’s face. She was smiling. I apologized to her for the man I had been. We embraced.

I promise you if I get out of this alive, I will be different.

With all the force and courage I could gather, I stared back into the eyes of Resistance.

So this is how it ends.


A jerk of Resistance’s hand.
A flash of sun reflected off metal.
A burst of smoke.
A loud crack echoing.
A smell of burnt powder.
A searing pain.

Then, silence.

Resistance stood across from me with his pistol outstretched and a crooked smile across his face. I remained still, both arms relaxed at my side, revolver still resting in my holster.

When Resistance realized I had not yet drawn my weapon—and was still standing—his grin disappeared. I slowly drew the pistol from my side, raising it until I could see Resistance at the end of the barrel.

His face grew taught with horror. I pulled the trigger.

Then everything went black.


When I came to, True Grits was kneeling beside me. A hot pain radiated from my left shoulder. True Grits pulled a knife from his pocket and cut back by shirt.

“You’ll live. The bullet passed through the meat. But we need to stop the bleedin’.”

He pressed a cloth to the wound. I stifled a cry.

“Told you he couldn’t shoot straight.”

I pushed my upper body off the ground with my good hand and looked down the road towards Resistance. There was blood on the ground but no other sign of him.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You hit him. Right in the gut. He went down for minute then scampered off behind the buildin’. I don’t think you gotta worry ‘bout him for a while.”

“Good.” I laid my head back on the ground.

“Resistance, he’s a persistent son-of-a-gun, but next time he comes ‘round, he’ll know you shoot back.”

Even though my hair was caked with sweat, I welcomed the sun on my face. It felt new—like it must have the day my parents carried me home from the hospital. And I knew why. I felt new, like the day of my birth. My whole life was before me. I could do with it whatever I wanted.

Resistance tried to kill me. But facing him left me more alive.

True Grits helped me to my feet. I stood tall. The pain in my shoulder could not diminish the joy in my heart.

Life, consider this your warning. I’m coming for you next.

[box] Question9 for Discussion: How has facing Resistance made you stronger or more alive?

If you liked this series, make sure you subscribe to stay connected to future projects.[/box]

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