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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 559

Procopio, the bartender of a small, isolated mountain town, well known among his clientele for keeping up with the community’s daily gossip, re-creates the incidents that led to a man’s death. Because the details in the newspaper are skimpy, the bartender’s story explains how the dead man’s luck changed for...

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Procopio, the bartender of a small, isolated mountain town, well known among his clientele for keeping up with the community’s daily gossip, re-creates the incidents that led to a man’s death. Because the details in the newspaper are skimpy, the bartender’s story explains how the dead man’s luck changed for the worse the day he found a mysterious pistol. From that moment, the man, who had been a reserved outcast from the community, was known as the man who found a pistol.

The narrator feels a mysterious interest in Procopio’s story, because he also has found an enigmatic object. He remembers an incident that took place in an isolated area in the Jemez Mountains. During a car trip with his wife, he stopped to eat lunch by a stream, where he found a double-bladed ax submerged in the water. Wondering about the ownership of the worn-out tool, far from a camp or logging area, he took the ax out of the water. At that moment, he felt the uncomfortable sensation of being observed. Afraid, he put the ax back into the stream and left the place at once.

Meanwhile, the narrator learns from Procopio about the man who found a pistol. The man moved to Corrales, wishing to find peace away from the busy university town in which he worked as a teacher. His daily routine took him to Procopio’s bar after his afternoon walk along an irrigation ditch, located in a remote part of town. In the ditch he found a pistol, and after futile attempts to find its owner, he decided to keep it.

The narrator attempts to fill in gaps in Procopio’s story by inquiries among acquaintances of the man who found a pistol, but he finds little information. The man was from Texas, and during his childhood there had been a shooting incident that involved one of his brothers. Nobody, including the man’s wife, seemed to know the end of that episode. In his quest for information, the narrator experiences a mysterious frenzy that leads him to visit all the places known to the man who found a pistol, and to search in vain for the place where he himself had once found the double-bladed ax.

One afternoon the man who found a pistol got drunk and, in an attack of panic, tried to give his pistol to another patron of the bar, who refused it. That was his last day at the bar. Immediately thereafter he drew away from human contact, even that of his wife, who, tired of doing all the house chores, abandoned him. The man gave up all responsibilities and developed an inexplicable fear of being alone. The town’s delivery boy moved in with the man to keep him company, and was present the night of the man’s death. The boy swore that, after many nights of hearing mysterious door knocks that the man who found a pistol attributed to a ghost, the man decided to face his visitor. To the boy’s terror, he saw the man’s double on the other side of the door. The latter coldly fired the pistol at his double, then fell mysteriously dead by his own shot. In desperation, the boy took the pistol from the corpse and threw it away in the fields.

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