Calamity Em: A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Adventure

25 Jun

Hey dudes and dudettes! To kick things off, I thought I’d share with you something I wrote for my sister’s birthday a few months ago. In the series “Whipcracker Tales”, I give you Calamity Em: A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Adventure, starring my sister as the eponymous Calamity Em.

Note: I realize the format is kinda screwy unless you have actual pages, so just pay attention to the page numbers I’ll provide before each one. Also, it’s a short story, but it’ll take up a bit of space, so don’t be daunted by the long post!


“Enough talk,” said Calamity Em, her auburn hair ruffled by the dusty breeze. “It’s about time we finished this once and fer all.”

“I couldn’t agree more, missy,” said Gunpowder Pete. With a glint like a rattler’s fang his pistol whipped out of the holster and pointed at Em, quivering expectantly in his plump palm. “Any last words, you yeller-bellied, egg-suckin’ varmint?”

Calamity Em grinned like a puma on the prowl. Calm and steady, she tipped up her hat, and looked Gunpowder Pete dead in the eye.


If Calamity Em draws her pistol to fight, turn to page 2.

If Calamity Em dodges behind the whiskey barrel, turn to page 3.


Calamity Em’s pistol, Daisy, spun out of the holster with deadly grace and traced a poetic arc through the dusty air.

Bullets already sizzling past her hat, Em shouted out at her adversary, “You met Daisy yet, Pete? She’s a real eloquent speaker.”

Daisy made three profound arguments that day, each one finding a special place in Gunpowder Pete’s heart. Well, to be accurate, the third was more in the stomach area, but Calamity Em was never one for dwelling on the past. She let Daisy do her talking while she ran forward, her eyes flashing, laughing and howling like an Amazonian warrior. She didn’t stop until Daisy was spent, and by that time Gunpowder Pete was…well, let’s just say he wasn’t going to be lighting any more innocent fuses anytime soon.

Turn to page 4.


Gunpowder Pete’s bullet whizzed past Calamity Em’s cheek, so close she could feel the force of it as it went past. Always a tactical thinker, Em decided on the best and most honourable course of action, which in this case was to hightail it out of that two-bit town as fast as her long, sultry legs could carry her.

She dove with feline grace behind a nearby barrel of whiskey and heard Gunpowder Pete yelling incomprehensible insults and threats. There was a crack as a bullet went straight through the barrel above Em’s head, releasing a jet of liquor onto the ground.

Em tilted her head back, took a hearty swig, and bolted behind the saloon and towards the train, which was just beginning to pull out of the station.

Turn to page 5.


Back in the saloon, Calamity Em was throwing back some spirits to calm her own. She always got shaky after a fight. It wasn’t fear, or weakness, but something about a good, old-fashioned brawl was downright pleasant to her. She never felt happier than when she was pluggin’ some fool-headed crook, and it caused her no end of uncomfortableness to know it. Most folks yearn for a quiet life, but not Calamity Em. She loved noise – the blast of a steam whistle, the crack and pop of a gun fight, every part of the joyous sensory experience that made up being a buckaroo. And not just any buckaroo, neither. The best in the West, that’s what she was. And she knew it. And so what if she enjoyed it?

What’s wrong with lovin’ what you do?

Consarn it, she thought, as her vision blurred. The liquor must be gettin’ to me.

Turn to page 6.


The steam whistle screamed and the huge, black, iron-clad train began its slow, laborious chuggin’ out of the station.

Calamity Em knew it would be close.

She ran, dust kicking up under her snakeskin pumps. Bullets followed her, hot and vicious, and she weaved and dodged like an injun squaw doing a rain dance. The train was leaving!

Calamity Em’s eyes narrowed. No way she was missin’ that train.

She poured on the speed, her breath chuffing just as hard as the train’s engine. Gunpowder Pete was right on her tail. How on this sweet earth, she thought absentmindedly, could such a fat feller move so durn quick?

The train yanked out of the station and Calamity Em jumped. She flew through the air with the grace of a bird…

…and landed with an almighty crash in the dust.

Turn to page 6.


Calamity Em woke, her eyes bleary and her head throbbing.

“Wh…where am I?”

A grin grinned down at her, yellow and stinkin’ of tobacco. “Yer in the pit of the beast, missy,” said the grin. “And yer goin’ nowheres quick!”

Em opened her eyes, and the grin slowly grew into the shape of a bandit, leering down at her. His posse surrounded him, hooting and cheering. It appeared to Em that she was in a cave, bound with rope and on her back in the dirt. It also appeared that there was a two-tooth requirement in this posse – and that was a maximum.

Calamity Em struggled, trying to free herself of the ropes. “Now, now, critter,” said the leader. “We won’t be havin’ any of that tomfoolery.”

Turn to page 7.


Em spat out her gag, and spat out a retort.

“I’m no fool,” she said. “And my name ain’t Tom.”

Perhaps not her best, but that was the least of Em’s worries. The gang moved off to the entrance of the cave, where they had a fire going and some foul-smelling meat smoking over it. Without wasting a second, Em wriggled her hands down to her boot and slipped out the nasty little dagger she kept hidden in there.

Before you could say “sarsaparilla” she was standing before the bandits at the edge of the cave, their shocked faces staring up at her beautiful brown hair, swaying gently in the breeze, the dagger in her hand.

“Afternoon, boys,” she said. “Howdy do.”

If Calamity Em fights the posse, turn to page 8.

If Calamity Em leads the posse further into the cave, turn to page 9.


The posse howled, pulling their grimy pistols out of their dirty holsters. Calamity Em, her favourite hat shading her eyes, smiled.

The fight that followed was spectacular. Em was at her best – dirty, off the deep end, and dangerous. She was resplendent in the bright sunlight, her coat whipping through the air as she spun, Daisy spitting and barking at the hoodlums, who fell like a house of cheap cards.

Em walked up to the last one, who was on his knees, gasping. “I won’t tell you nothin’,” he coughed.

Daisy clicked as her hammer slid gently into place, her muzzle coming to rest dead between the bandit’s eyes.

“Naw, don’t kill me! I’ll tell yer! She’s being held by… by Glass-Eye Jack. Now lemme go!”

“I’ll think about it,” said Em, and Daisy decided for her.

Turn to page 10.


Em turned and bolted into the dark of the cave, the bandits hot on her heels. She wasn’t worried.

She was Calamity Em, after all. She’d gotten outta worse fixes than this one.

As she flashed through the dark of the cave, she heard the yells of the bandits growin’ less angry and more fearful.

Clearly, they were scared of the dark, which was exactly what Em was counting on. “Come on, varmints!” she taunted. “Come and git me!”

But nobody did, and she grinned as she heard the bandits turning tail and runnin’.

What she knew, that that gang o’ rabbity fools didn’t, was that there was a back entrance to this cave, one she had traversed many times before as a child.

“Shoulda thought twice before doin’ the tango with Calamity Em,” said Em, and dashed towards the exit.

Turn to page 10.


Calamity Em walked through the dust towards the shack silhouetted at the top of the hill. Inside lived her longtime rival and all-round nogoodnik, Glass-Eye Jack, and he held captive someone very precious to Em.

Her hands trembled just thinking about it.

Rosie was her best friend in all the world, and Glass-Eye had crossed the line when he captured her. He was an extremely dangerous man – but Em was just as deadly, and she had come too far, and been through too durn much, to give up now.

She reached the front gate, her blood boiling, and called out, “Jack! I’m here to collect what’s mine! Now you git out here and hand her over ‘fore things git unpleasant!”

Slowly, the door of the shack opened. Em walked up, and entered.

Turn to page 11.


Glass-Eye Jack grinned, his prospector’s hat high on his sweaty brow. “What a surprise,” he said in his creaky voice.

Calamity Em, unmoving, growled, “Give her over.”

Jack cackled, and gestured to a large box under a tarp. “Y’mean old Begonia here? Now why would I go and do a fool thing like that?” He whipped off the tarp, and Em held back a gasp as she saw Rosie, her faithful canine companion, locked in the cage beside Jack. He grinned. “She’s m’new best friend.”

“Her name’s Rosie,” said Em, trying to control herself, “and she’s mine.”

“Well she don’t come cheap,” said Glass-Eye Jack. “You want her that bad, you gotta pay up.”

And he opened his mouth and laughed.

If Calamity Em fights Jack, turn to page 12.

If Calamity Em tries to bargain, turn to page 13.


Jack had barely opened his mouth in derisive laughter when Em’s fist hit his face so hard his namesake flew out of its socket and landed on the floor some distance away. His cackle turned into a scream, and Em was already at the cage, Daisy cracking open the lock. A quick once-over was enough to determine that Rosie was the picture of health, if a little shaken. Em smiled and whispered, “That’s my girl,” and turned back to Glass-Eye Jack, who was on his hands and knees on the floor.

“Next time I see yer mug, Jack, it’ll be the last.”

“Got that right,” he snarled. “Now git.”

“Happy to oblige.”

Em picked up Rosie, and carried her gently out the door.

Turn to page 14.


“Now Jack,” said Em, her eyes wide and bright. “Y’wouldn’t stand by and see a poor girl suffer, would yer? Rosie and me, we’re pals. And she’s got a delicate constitution. Cages don’t agree with ‘er.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed, and he said, “Don’t try that guff with me, girly. Gonna take more than feminine wiles t’separate me and Begonia.”

Daisy was pointed square at his good eye before he had a chance to blink. “Dunno, Jack,” said Em, smiling broadly. “Daisy here…she’s pretty wily.”

Jack looked furious – he knew he was beat. He began throwing insults at Em, but she was too busy opening the cage and picking up Rosie to notice.

“Pleasure doin’ business with you, Jack.”

And Calamity Em walked out the door.

Turn to page 14.


Back in the sunlight, Calamity Em was walking, her best friend by her side, both of them beaming and content.

It had been a long time, a long durn time, but Rosie looked up at Em and she knew that it was as if no time at all had passed. Em smiled. Perhaps it was finally time for Calamity Em to hang up her favourite hat and carve out her own slice of quiet.

She smiled again, tipped her hat, and said,

“Come on, girl. Let’s go home.”



2 Responses to “Calamity Em: A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Adventure”

  1. khyew July 2, 2009 at 7:32 pm #

    I went through the story in such a way that I didn’t ever find out that Daisy was the name of Calamity’s gun and was very puzzled when she pointed “her” at Jack in order to bargain an escape with Rosie.

    1 -> 3 (dodge) -> 4 -> 6 -> 7 -> 9 (chase) -> 10 -> 11 -> 13 (bargain) 14

  2. jcdynamite July 2, 2009 at 8:00 pm #

    Whoops. I see the problem here. Next time I’ll make sure to not include options where she doesn’t blow people’s faces off.

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