The Devil's Right Hand

by LadySmith

Requested by:Gina the Dormouse
Word Count:959
Summary:"About the time that Daddy left to fight the big war, I saw my first pistol in the general store" The early life of Mal Reynolds, as told by Steve Earle.

Sometimes, there are little things, little indications of the way things are going to go, that you look back on and nod, and go "yessir, that's where it all started."


I was thirteen, I think, and Granddad had come home for one of his visits. Only saw him twice a year, so as much as I loved him, can't rightly say as he raised me. But when he did come home, he was a sweet old man, and it hurt me to see him get a little weaker every time I saw him. He was old beyond his years.

"Granddad, if the work's making you sick, can't you just quit?" I remember asking him that, the day before he left the last time.

I'll remember the sound of him laughing till my dying day. "I'm afraid it's not that simple, Malcolm."

Then he hugged me, told me to be a good boy. The next day he got on a company shuttle and never came back.

Later that week we went into town to do the shopping, and it so happened that we got there the same day Whedon's General Store got in a shipment of revolvers.

To this day I couldn't tell you what I was thinking. Maybe I was just that mad that Grandpa had to go away again. Maybe I knew what her answer would be, and needed to be told. Maybe I was just a dumb kid.

"Grandma," I turned to her and said, just as she was picking up a sack of flour, "I think we should get me one of those new guns."

She turned around and looked at me, real slow, and said "Excuse me, Malcolm? You want me to buy you a gun?"

A homesteader took one look at Grandma, grabbed his wife and kid and scurried out the door, but I forged ahead. "Well, sure, I mean I'm the man of the house, and Granddad's hardly home, and there's wolves, and..." I can't rightly remember what I was going to say next, because that's when she slapped me across the face to make my head spin.

"Malcolm Robert Reynolds! Don't you lie to me! The rifle we have at home is a hunting weapon. Those pistols are made to kill people, nothing else! You don't need one of those to make you a man!"

We stared at each other for a minute, and I was plumb angry with her till I noticed how scared she was. Right terrified. So without another word, I picked up the sack of flour from where she'd dropped it, and gave it back to her.

She took it, then looked at me with these sad eyes before putting the flour on the counter and hugging me tight. "A pistol is the devil's right hand, Mal," she whispered, petting my hair. "Don't you ever forget that."

She had this way, even when she was screaming at me for some idiot thing I'd done, that meant everything she said had "I love you" tucked in somewhere. I guess that's why when she finally dropped from the work five years later and the company bastards took the ranch, I forgot what she said, I only remembered how she said it. How I'd never hear her say anything that way again. I bought that pistol from the general store, and started looking for a way to make those bastards pay.


Life has a way of reminding you of the important things you forget, though. The first time I killed a man, it wasn't in battle. It was a card game.

I was in this piece of go-se bar on a Company moon called Chase, just trying to have a quiet drink. There'd been rumblings about the Alliance getting too big for its britches, and talk of a bunch of us getting together and showing them what for. Since the Alliance and the Company had been right cozy with each other on Shadow at least, it was sounding good to me. I was wondering just who I'd talk to about this when a fight broke out at the card table next to me.

One of the biggest rutters in god's own 'verse jumped up from the table and pointed a gun at the other player, screaming about how he'd been cheated. A few folk tried to talk him down, but I just stuck to my drink. Not my problem.

But then he said something that quick caught my ear. "By god, I can't wait till the Alliance comes in and takes over this hole like it will all the Company worlds! Get some gorram civilization!" He was going to continue on in that vein for a while, I reckon, but I'll never know 'cause just then I shot him.

At least, that's what I assume what happened. All I remember is that he leapt back from the table in a flash of light, fell on the floor, and started bleeding something awful from a hole in his chest that hadn't been there before. I looked down, and there at the end of my arm was the devil's right hand.

"I forgot, Grandma," I whispered as the bar broke out into brawls, "I forgot."


Maybe you read about the Chase riots. How in less than a week the Company had lost its hold on the moon, and the Independents started getting organized, finally believing they could stop the Alliance from swallowing up everything in sight. Maybe you even heard that it started in a bar, one man shooting another over a card table.

But nowhere will you hear who that man was, or why he did it.

I don't know my damn self. Nothing touched the trigger but the devil's right hand.

Author's Notes

Acknowledgements go out to my fiance Mike McCall for his support and advice, and Len Haluk for the world's best last-minute beta. Mistakes are mine, not theirs.

I would like to apologize to all the die-hard Firefly fans out these for the lack of proper chinese in this fic. Had I more time, I would have looked up a few choice phrases and substituted them in here and there with foot notes. This was written in one awful hurry, however, so you'll just have to make do with "plain talk", supplemented by a few things I got memorized.

My fiance swears up and down that Mal Reynolds was raised by his Grandma on a ranch on Shadow, though other sources say it was his mother. As I don't have the DVDs accessable, and could not find transcripts, I decided to trust him. If it was Mal's mother after all, tell me so I can blame him. :D

I could find no references anywhere to Mal's middle name, so I decided to make one up for him. (Grand)parental scolding just ain't right without at least three names getting screamed at you.

The Devil's Right Hand

Steve Earle

        About the time that Daddy left to fight the big war
        I saw my first pistol in the general store
        In the general store, when I was thirteen
        Thought it was the finest thing I ever had seen
        So l asked if I could have one someday when I grew up
        Mama dropped a dozen eggs, she really blew up
        She really blew up and I didn't understand
        Mama said the pistol is the devil's right hand
        The devil's right hand, the devil's right hand
        Mama said the pistol is the devil's right hand
        My very first pistol was a cap and ball Colt
        Shoot as fast as lightnin' but it loads a mite slow
        Loads a mite slow and soon I found out
        It can get you into trouble but it can't get you out
        So then I went and bought myself a Colt 45
        Called a peacemaker but I never knew why
        Never knew why, I didn't understand
        Cause Mama said the pistol is the devil's right hand
        The devil's right hand, the devil's right hand
        Mama said the pistol is the devil's right hand
        Well I get into a card game in a company town
        Caught a miner cheating I shot the dog down
        Shot the dog down, watched the man fall
        Never touched his holster, never had a chance to draw
        The trial was in the morning and they drug me out of bed
        Asked me how I pleaded, not guilty I said
        Not guilty I said, you've got the wrong man
        Nothing touched the trigger but the devil's right hand
        The devil's right hand, the devil's right hand
        Mama said the pistol is the devil's right hand