Challenged to Write at least 11 Stories:
1 for each character in this list:
Teaspon, Rachel, Sam, Emma,
Tompkins, Ike, Buck, Lou, Jimmy, Cody
There were 33 songs to choose from,
all of the songs are in the Statler Brothers
famous four part harmony.
note from Raye: These 11 stories ended up being my Pre- Post-
experiment. Taking all 11 characters through moment of their life
either before the Express or After. Hope you enjoy them.
|In England for the Queen's
Golden Jubilee, Cody meets with a reporter with a jaded view of the
|Sam wonders at the lonely
look of his hat and boots... where did he go wrong?
|This Ol' House
|Tompkins would rather eat
nails than take a delivery out to the station house... why?
|Ike learns something new
about the Family Bible
Haven't Done it Yet
|Rachel has cold feet
|I'd Rather Be
|She's tempting... very
Late for Roses
|Emma's trying to feel at
home, but it may be too late
of the 50s
|What was it like to be a
kid in this family?
|There's a Man
|Is working for the Judge
the way to become a man?
|Louise is caught in
Charlotte's room... can she get away?
|It's tough to be young and
I Was There
want to thank you, Mr. Cody, for
taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me.”
gave the reporter a gracious smile.
“Not a problem, Son. I’m always of a mind to speak with the media.
the good people of England have been most supportive of our little
told that ticket sales are at a
they?” The older man’s face
displayed his characteristic impish grin. “I’m mighty glad to hear
man shifted lightly in his seat,
crossing one leg over the other in order to balance his notepad as he
down word after word of information. Cody, if the truth be told would
gladly been a fly on the wall, just to read what the man had written.
has it that you and ‘Wild Bill’
Hickok were good friends.”
his head, Cody waved off the
suggestion. “Rumor, eh? On that account, the rumormongers would finally
one, but in this case they are right. Mr. Hickok and I knew each other
years. For a time,” Cody’s shoulders shook with genuine mirth, “we even
traveling with us, but Jimmy wasn’t the kind of man to do the same
and over again. So our show, while the money is good, wasn’t enough to
fingers tapped on his thigh with
a soothing rhythm. “So, while Jimmy took off for the excitement of the
road, we had to soldier on and build the show to this amazing
Cody’s voice rose to a trembling crescendo. “All who knew him miss him.
rest, well, Jimmy would have few qualms about telling the general
leave it well enough alone. He was a private man.”
The muscles around Cody’s
eyes tightened as the younger man gave a laugh. “He was one of the most
Pistoleers in your country. Quite the showman himself, if my memory
made do with a situation. I’ll not
say anymore than that.”
of respect for the dead?”
of respect for a friend.”
was a beat of time between them as
the reporter measured the mood, deciding if he should press for more.
saw your cavalcade of acts when I was
in America a few years ago. Can we expect the same show here? Or will
new acts to see?”
reached up and pushed his wide
brimmed hat back a few inches on his head, his fingers scratching up
hairline as he thought on the reporter’s question. “Well now, I think
you in our stands right around the time that Annie, our ‘Little Sure
joined up with the troop. I can assure you that we’ve been adding new
the show since we started it and we continue on that path until the
When will that be?”
wagged his finger at the younger
man. “Don’t know, really. I love a good show and so do many of my
When you really think about it, the way tickets are selling, it should
around until sometime in the twenty-first century.”
man paused in this fevered
scribbling. “Right.” He flipped to a prior page, the back end of his
tracing over a few notes that he’d put down the day before. “I’m told
sharp shooter, this ‘Sure Shot’, is purported to have received her
‘imaginative’ moniker from an Indian Chief… ah, what was his name…”
would be our Chief Sitting Bull, a
venerated elder of-” Cody paused in mid-recitation when he noticed that
report had discontinued writing completely. Looking up at the younger
face, framed by a starched white collar and a pretentious woolen suit,
found himself fighting to keep his temper in check. “Son, do you want
the reporter gave him a
lop-sided smile. “Of course.”
why do I have the distinct
impression that you find the show… beneath your notice.”
in his seat, the report tucked
his pencil into his breast pocket. “I just don’t see the draw of it
curiosity. Rampaging Indians, shootouts over a strong box of gold, Post
delivering mail… it makes for a charming story, but what else?”
Cody flexed his hands, his
fingers digging lightly into his thighs. “I guess for a man used to
about life. It must be less than interesting to meet a man that’s lived
you telling me that these ‘acts’
real as we wanted to make them.”
laughter was back, so was the
superior look in the reporter’s eyes. “What does that mean?”
can be over-rated.” He let out
a breath and lifted his hand, turning it over and over before his face.
killed men with this hand, shot them down with my rifle. I’ve been in
and watched…” he paused, taking deep breaths before continuing. “I’ve
friends and foes die before my eyes.
West is neither charming nor quaint
and I can tell you that. I have every right to look you straight in the
say, I was there.”
read all about your past, Mr.
Cody. Really, the stories were quiet enthralling, but-”
you pay to see the real ‘Wild’
should think that it would be a
bigger draw than something that’s no more than a ‘melodrama’ on
Cody pondered the man’s
words for a moment before he tried to answer. “The day that good people
see a man gunned down in the street, we revert back to the days when
clamored to see flesh ripped from a man. While I’m sure there are those
would truly enjoy seeing a bloody massacre of innocents I could not
myself for being a part of it. Surely, you can understand the necessity
‘softening the blow’ of reality, editing the story so that good and
folks can learn about a tragedy and not have it burned in their
the rest of time.”
picked up his hat and dusted off
the brim. “I appreciate the time that you afforded me today, sir, but
have to get back to the show. We are practicing around the clock to
one of our best shows… for the Queen, of course. If you will excuse me…”
didn’t wait for an answer. Setting
his hat on his head William Frederick Cody walked out of the room.
Hat & Boots
door slammed shut behind him before he dropped
his saddlebags to the floor.
now, what are we having for dinner?”
sandwiches? Great idea here let me help.”
hat rung around its customary hook by the door
with nothing to jostle it or knock it from its position. His boots
the floor one at a time bouncing off the wooden floorboards with a dull
the tops flopping down like dog ears to brush the dust on the floor.
moved across the floor, his feet kicking up
bunnies as he moved over to the food safe on the other side of the
room. Set up
on his chest of drawers, the little box held a few plates of food from
kitchen downstairs in the hotel. Flicking off the latch Sam pulled out
with some slices of ham. The bread, sent over by the widow Anders, was
on the top of safe and was quickly sliced, especially since it had
from sitting around for a few days.
into the chair at the table, he stared at
the ingredients laid out in a row. “Now that’s a pretty good meal if I
so myself.” He picked up a piece of the ham and laid it over the bread,
together nearly two full layers of meat. A slice of cheese went over
hoping that it would hold it all together under the bread.
drink.” Pushing his chair back, he poured a cup
of water from the pitcher and wished that it was coffee.
the lip of the cup to his mouth he closed
his eyes and imagined that it was coffee. Warm and rich, mixed with a
of fresh milk from Emma’s cow, come to think of it, the way she cured
was his favorite, the way she smiled at him… well, it was wonderful too.
eyes snapped open and he bent his head to hide
the color in his cheeks. ‘From what?’ argued his mind. ‘Who do you need
was something that bothered him about the
quiet in his room. Meals were a sullen nearly pathetic affair and Sam
and sick about it.
* * * *
turned heads by courting Emma. There were those
folks in town that frowned on a woman willing to live by her self
limits of the town. They wondered what it was in her life that kept her
from the rest of them and their incessant curiosity… Sam knew. He knew
was within her that kept her out at the station. Besides being allowed
and choose when she’d have contact with the people of Sweetwater there
peaceful atmosphere there.
some nights, right about the time that the sun
had just about given up and fallen back below the horizon he would sit
Emma on the porch swing and they’d listen.
to each other. They wouldn’t really need to
talk, not when the sky was filling up with darkness and the stars had
to sparkle with their own kind of music.
were the evenings that he missed the most.
that he’d walked away from Emma Shannon.
away and hated himself for it.
* * * *
widow Anders had been more than happy to shower
attention on him, once the gossip had died down. She wasn’t one eager
tongues wagging. Then again she wasn’t one to do much of anything
It wasn’t a skill he was eager to criticize or downplay, but it did
add an inch or two on his belt.
was a wonderful woman and invited him over for
dinner twice a week, but when they sat down to the meal she did little
than see to his needs and smile prettily at him. It was nice at first,
he missed the challenge of a meal with Emma.
woman knows how to carry on a conversation.
Emma could talk about a great number of topics and had strong opinions
practically everything and…’
caught himself in mid-thought. Emma was not to
be the center of his thoughts, not tonight.
up from the table, Sam put his plates and
utensils in a wide bucket to soak until he could scrub them clean in
* * *
Edwin was a young woman relatively new to town
and she was a rather forward young woman who made no bones about the
she fancied him. The main drawback?
size of her father’s influential carrier as retired Army General. There
fun or flirtation with Sarah, she got right to the point and it was a
unnerving. As was her apparent desire to find a man her father would
more her father seemed to hate him, the more
enamored that Miss Sarah became. It didn’t take long for her beauty and
infatuation with him to pale in comparison to the amount of energy it
play her games.
himself another full cup of water Sam Cain
leaned against the wall and pondered the cracks in the paint.
* * *
Emma was a real-life fire-breathing woman when
she was angry, but there were the times when she would soften up and
let a man
get close enough to see the strength that was in every inch of her soul. It was those moments that kept calling him
back, telling him to give up his need to protect her from gossip and
find out once
and for all how she felt about him.
back over at his hat hanging on the wall he
tried to imagine another hat beside it, then his gaze dropped and he
what kind of shoes would fit right there next to his old worn out
didn’t take him long to pick out the color of the
hat or even its shape. The decoration was a bit fuzzy to his
he knew the colors that he longed to see hanging there beside his. Long
burgundy ribbons, white carnations… right? The boots, how to admit that
memorized her shoes, or knew that her favorite boots were her favorites
they were comfortable and not fashionable.
certainly would be different with Miss Sarah
or with the widow, they were both lovely women. They just weren’t what
wanted. They just weren’t…
was tired. Tired of these one-sided dinner
with the air, tired of staring at the empty pillow on the other side of
bed… tired of staying away from Emma.
This Ol' House
reined in the horses on his delivery wagon
when the house came in sight. “Damn you, Robert.”
young assistant had taken ill with influenza and
hadn’t been to work in days. If it
hadn’t been for Doc Weathers coming over to give him the notice
Tompkins would have fired the boy for shirking his duty. It was just
boy was sick. Folks get sick from time to time. What it was that truly
the older man was the fact that he had to do this delivery himself.
he thought, ‘I could hire someone, even for
the day to bring this out.’ That was silly. He knew it. Still, he
to make the delivery, not for all the money in the world.
white walls of the house were aging, badly.
Tompkins wanted to walk right up to that woman’s front door and tell
‘Right’ he wasn’t going walk right up to that door and do anything.
the reins, Tompkins clucked at the team,
getting them to lurch into motion despite the weight they were pulling.
going to make the delivery, to follow through on his promise on the
Emma Shannon made. He was going to do it and get right back to town…
stiff drink. Or two.
old curmudgeon, Al Hunter, came ambling out of
the barn, stretching his back as he went, and one eye on the skies
Bringing his gaze down, he caught sight of Tompkins and held his hand
Tompkins raised his hand in a return
greeting and moved the team into the yard, pulling up beside the man.
here to make a delivery, Al.”
There was a distinct grouse in his voice as he
leveled a one-eyed glare at the mercantile owner. “How many times I
you that I’m called Teaspoon, Bill?”
gee howdy; excuse me if I don’t want to call
anyone by the name of something I tend to eat with. So, Mr. Hunter, if
could remember that I am Mr. Tompkins, Bill is reserved for friends.”
I am sorry if I did offend you. May I be
of some help, Mister Tompkins, sir?”
the break of the wagon the horses tossed
their heads at the sudden stop. “I’m
here to deliver supplies, this isn’t a social call.”
aback by the severity of the man’s tone,
Teaspoon thumbed his suspenders and stepped back a good foot or two.
much help as old as I am, and the boys the Express hired on ain’t
another day or so, but I can help as much as I can.”
hell, I can do it myself. Apparently I’m not as
old and infirm as you are.” Slowly he lowered himself down from the
seat of the
wagon. One leg followed the other onto the exterior steps and he made
around back pulling a list from his shirt pocket. “I have everything
ordered here. I assume that full payment will be forthcoming in a week
waved off the pointed look as he leaned
back against the barn wall. “You’ll get what’s comin’ to ya, Tompkins.
like we promised. You just keep them deliveries of yours on time and we
have the beginnings of a wonderful friendship.” He capped off his words
smile that Tompkins didn’t echo.
friendship don’t put money in the bank or pay my
suppliers, Hunter.” He hefted the first bag of feed into his arms and
to move past the other man. “You just keep that in mind.”
he stepped back into the sun he noticed that
Teaspoon was saddling a horse tied to the hitching post beside the
that I don’t go ‘gettin’ in your way, Mr. Tompkins, I’m gonna head into
and get some supplies of my own.”
store is closed. Since I’m obviously elsewhere.”
man shrugged as he pulled on his old black hat.
“Don’t recall that I’ve said a thing about goin’ to your store, Mr.
There are other such establishments in town and I am not bound by any
obligations to visit your store.” He swung up into the saddle and
at the man with an armful of flour bags. “And given my treatment, I
that I will think twice before I find myself in your store anytime
calling to his mount, Teaspoon Hunter eased
the mare into a slow walk toward town.
turned away and headed toward the
bunkhouse. “You want me to leave the supplies in the bunkhouse? You can
have the boys move it when they get here.”
seems like a waste of effort my good man.”
Nodding toward the house, Teaspoon gave him a passing smile. “I left
door open for you. You can go on in and put things away in Emma’s
that, he was gone.
stared down at the bags of flour in his
hands and gave a sharp sigh of disappointment. “Just put it inside the
set his jaw, teeth gnashing together. It’s
simple. Just put the goods inside and get back to town. ‘Don’t think
Just do it.’
* * * *
trip inside the house he averted his eyes from
the open door at the other end of the room. He
quickly stacked the cans on the shelves and
laid the sacks of provisions on the lower shelves. When it came down to
final box of supplies the old crate he’d packed the goods in fell to
of the cans ended up at his feet, smashing into
his toes and rolling across the floor. With a curse he tried to follow
reaching in different directions in a vain attempt to gather them all
Emma Shannon returned.
set the rescued cans up on the shelves and gave a
quick count. Eleven cans six of peaches and five more of preserved
was the last can? His eyes scoured the floor, under the stove, the…
inside the living room of the house, beneath one of the dining chairs a
can sitting on its curved side. He could leave it, he reasoned. He
it there and let Miss Shannon pick it up when she returned, but another
was louder. One that called him a coward.
to his feet, he straightened his back and
walked into the living room.
put a hand on the back of a chair and prepared to
lean down and grab the wayward can when he stopped short.
room was filled with quilts and pillows, a
needlework sampler adorned one wall and small trinkets dressed up
was a warm, lived-in room and William Tompkins
hated it. It turned his stomach and gave him a knot of pain his head
threatened to ruin the rest of his day.
took a moment, but he finally stooped down and
picked up the last can, setting it on its shelf in the pantry and
quick retreat out of the back door. He scrambled up into the wagon seat
released the brake before the reins were firmly in his hands. His
in his throat as the horses stumbled into a lumbering trot.
quickly away from the house, Tompkins paused
a moment, slowing their progress as he turned on the bench to have one
old house. Our house. Emma Shannon’s ruined it
Sally. All those… things everywhere. The colors… nothing like we’d
Nothing like what I’d promised you when we started out West.”
McSwain family never really owned much of
anything, but what they did own they took special care of.
family Bible was one of those things. It was his
mother’s comfort and she told him its stories again and again at the
end of the
day when she tucked him into bed. In fact, while he was sick, he lived
those stories, especially the story of David and Goliath.
the fever raged through his body he would
dream of the Philistines as the sickness in his body, ripping things to
setting fire to his skin and through the pain and fear he waited for
come, waiting for something to fix it all, make it all go away.
won’t God make me better?”
McSwain rung out the cloth in her hand, draining
the water back into the bowl. She paused for a moment pressing the back
hand to her forehead, her shoulders sagging in the long shadows of the
not like that, Ike.” She unrolled the towel and laid it gently against
forehead giving him a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “The Lord
pick and choose to suffer illness on one person or another. The Lord
up, gives us hope for the future. Hope that things will be better with
rising of the sun.”
laid his hand on hers, feeling the gentle warmth
of her skin through the fever.
we just have to try and take care of you and do
everything we can to make sure you’re brave until the fever breaks.”
He sagged back against the mattress, the
towel cool against his skin.
brave, just like my father.”
was a moment of silence as he carefully
watched her expression. With the darkness in the room he couldn’t be
sure that she was smiling, but he could hear her breathing… slow and
steady. “You don’t talk about him much.”
she sighed, “I don’t, but that’s neither here
nor there, sweetheart.”
got up from her chair and Ike fought the urge to
make a grab for her hand and keep her beside him. Althea stopped near
fireplace, lifting up the family bible from its place beside her
picture and turned back to her son.
I shown you the entries in the Bible?”
shook his head and watched his mother advance
across the room, waiting. She sat beside
him on the bed and reached over to readjust the blankets around him.
long fingers she opened the cover of the Bible and turned a few pages
until he could see handwriting in the book.
wrote in it!”
laughed her voice melodic in its amusement.
“Yes, my mother. She wrote here-” She pointed at the top of the page. “My father’s name. Isaac Morgan. Then my
father’s birth date and hers. Then the day they married. My sister,
birth date and then mine. Here.”
struggled to brace himself up on his elbows to
see directly into the book. “What’s that number on the end of your Pa’s
hand lifted up and swiped away a tear on her
cheek. “He died, years before you were born.”
Pa right beside your name.”
right,” she slid her finger down to smooth
it over his father’s name, “That was the last entry that my mother
gave this Bible to me when I married your father and I’ve entered in
all of the
important memories of our family right here.”
me.” Ike saw the neat numbers printed in his
mother’s handwriting and recognized his own name. “When I was born.”
right, and your sister, too.” She smiled and
ran her hand over the entire page, her voice colored with her smiles.
book isn’t just the word of God, Ike. This book is our family’s history
something that tells our story.”
day he fell asleep listening to his mother
reading David and Goliath again, the words echoing in his head as his
blossomed with his hopes and imagination.
David stood in the field, tiny in comparison
to his foe. Goliath stood; assured that no shepherd boy could ever harm
The Philistines mocked the boy, calling to him to surrender, give up
might spare his life. Instead, the boy reached into his pouch and
pulled a small
round stone and fitted it into the curve of his sling. The men laughed
folly, reeling back with their laughter, blinded by their conceit. It
that laughter that the rock sang through the air. Arching through the
searching out his target.
awoke in the early light of dawn and climbed
from the bed, wincing at the chill of the floor boards as his feet
the few feet to the rocking chair where his mother slept. Lifting up
he sat down on her lap and pulled her arms around his body, leaning
* * * *
next few weeks were wonderful as far as Ike was
concerned. His Pa made him a kite, the best kite there had ever been
and Ma had
made his favorite kind of chicken at every chance they had. He was in
good mood that even his little sister ‘borrowing’ his colored pencils
make him mad.
started learning to read the Bible with his
mother, sitting beside her sounding out the words to his favorite
ones he knew by heart. And sometimes, when he woke up before the others
family, he’d sneak over to the fireplace and pull down the family
turning the leather-bound book in his hands and reading the names and
remembered his mother’s words... heard her soft
contralto in his mind. “This book is our
family’s history something that tells our story.”
there, hunched over his family Bible he knew. He
knew how to add to their story… how to tell the story of their family,
struggle to make a home on the hill. He’d draw the picture of their
his family happy and smiling. He’d record it for his mother. He’d put
it in the
Bible so she’d never forget.
to himself he slipped the Bible back up onto
the mantle and went back to bed, imagining his mother’s surprise.
You Just Haven't Done it Yet
looked in the mirror and couldn’t help but cry.
The woman staring back at her, well, she wasn’t that woman.
hairstyle, elegant crystal bobs swinging from
her ears, even the lack of face paint… it was all because Henry Dunne
liked to see her, the way God made her.
was the difference she told herself. When Henry
said something like that he meant it, then again, so had Thad. It’s
Thad meant it in a different way.
Thad she was good enough to lay down with… good
enough for a meal or two brought back from the restaurant, but with
Henry was candlelight and gentle words.
it was… the smile he liked so much. “Oh my…”
the Reverend’s wife appeared behind her and Rachel turned to greet the
who had allowed her to use her home, stand here at her mirror, become
her floor, “aren’t you a vision!”
felt her heart rise into her throat and then
plummet to her feet. “I feel as fat as a buffalo and I’m sure everyone
that I’m sweating all over.”
woman’s gentle hands smoothed over her
shoulders, righting the fabric so it didn’t bunch against her skin.
you believe any of those thoughts; just put them out of your mind.”
and your mister will be wonderful parents when
the time comes and he looks to be as smitten as my Edward. He won’t
anything but the fact that you’re there and you’re going to be his for
of his life.”
hand covered her belly and she leaned closer
to the older woman. “How did you-”
did I know that you were expecting?” Her peal
of laughter was delightful and showered down around them both. “Sweet
women don’t miss much, do we? Especially if we’re looking into the
suddenly felt very very uncomfortable… very
very… naked. “I… I…”
dear,” the concern on the woman’s face was
plain to see, “are you quite alright?” When Rachel didn’t answer her,
Reverend’s wife took her hand and drew her to a settee along the wall.
I haven’t overwhelmed you. My husband would be very cross with me for
really.” Rachel was in a hurry to assure the
woman that she was fine. “You’ve been so kind to us.”
is what we do, dear.”
don’t seem to understand. You don’t know who I
was snap of light in her pale blue eyes. “Then
why don’t you tell me.”
chin dropped a fraction of an inch as she lowered
her voice. “I love, Henry;” The seriousness of her gaze seemed to stop
older woman from interjecting, and so she continued, “but he’s not the
I’ve been with.” Rachel took a shuddering breath before adding on. “But
to you, on everything I hold dear he is the man I will love until I
over, the Reverend’s wife gave her knotted
hands a gentle pat. “I don’t doubt that my dear. I saw the way you
him when my husband agreed to marry the two of you.” She blushed like a
girl. “I dare say he feels the same way.”
what he says. Henry says that he loves me
all the time. I just worry,” she couldn’t bear to look up at the older
“that he’ll wake up one day and realize that I’m too much trouble and
have run in the other direction the first time he saw me.”
my, it sounds like you’ve got a case of cold
feet,” she gave another reassuring pat to Rachel’s hands; “it will
wait until you’re standing there… he’s holding your hands and looking
eyes.” She looked over at the ornate picture frame on the side table,
promises to love you and hold you for the rest-”
not ready for this.” Rachel launched
herself from the settee and
moved to the doorway. She paused there listening to the voices from
preacher’s deep bass tones matched harmony with Henry’s light Irish
the two men laughed over some shared joke. “I’m not going to be good
whirled back around to see her companion shake her head with a
look. “It’s not for the lack of trying. It’s not. I love him beyond
he deserves a blushing bride-”
you truly fit the bill, my dear.”
hands fluttered over her face, her skin
heated to the touch, her heart pounding deep within her chest. “I don’t
how to be normal… I don’t know how to be a lady, a wife, a… a mother.”
coursing through her veins. “I’m no one to tell a child how to decide
from wrong. I’ve been through so many… mistakes in my life. I’ve done,”
her head in her hands, “so many horrible, selfish, sinful things.
looked at the Reverend’s wife, true horror in
her expression. “How am I going to take care of a husband and a… a
I’ve never even been able to really care for myself. There’s no school
eyes threatened to rain down tears over her
gown, but the Reverend’s wife quietly came forward and took the younger
in her arms. “You may see yourself in that way, but I don’t… your man
either. He sees the good in you. He sees the love in your heart as I
when you tell me that you worry over being a good wife and mother I can
you with all honesty that I don’t it’s because I know that you can be…
you just haven’t done it yet.”
Henry bellowed up the stairs. “I’m an impatient
dear?” Rachel felt the corners of her mouth
turn up, mirroring that of her new friend. “Do we go downstairs for a
was a moment when Rachel considered running
away. Running away from Henry, from this town, from her life. Then, she
remembered his words when she told him she was pregnant… with Thad’s
“Dinna worry, my darlin’, it matters only that the child is yours…
enough to make him ours in my heart.”
a sure nod Rachel accepted a bouquet of
gathered blossoms and a handkerchief, quickly blotting away the tears
tracked across her skin. “I’m ready… I’m ready for anything as long as
you both are truly blessed.”
I’m a man in a marryin’ mood! Come down
here and make me happy!”
her new friend a wink Rachel leaned out over
the banister and called down. “Keep up your bellowin’ and bellyachin’
Dunne and I’ll drop something nice and heavy on your head and make you
love to see you try, darlin’!”
Henry, I’m coming!”
let’s not keep him waiting.” The two new
friends linked their arms and descended the stairs together.
I'd Rather Be Sorry
shadow slid across the floor and covered the toe
of his boot. Inside he groaned, he couldn’t take another beating.
her honeyed tones were dipped in ice, “if
that’s the kind of reception I’m liable to get from you, then I think
be my last visit.”
He looked up and the pain in his neck forced
him to bend to the side. “Polly.”
that is my name and I will thank you not to
use it anymore. Really, Mister Hunter. Using a woman’s first name is a
familiarity… or even intimacy.” Her eyes narrowed slightly as she gave
cold look. “We wouldn’t want folks to think we were… intimate, would
got up to his feet silently cursing Deputy Moore
for his handiwork that morning. “Don’t get yourself in a twist, Miz
you’d rather not be associated with a rabble-rouser like me, I’m sure
for the best. After all, your father has been very clear on the
took a few hesitant steps forward, drawn by her
lips and the heady scent of her perfume.
no,” she waved her hands before him, warding him
off, “you stay right there or I’ll tell my Daddy.”
Polly?” His voice slowed, the tone dropping
deep in his chest as he drew in breath after breath of her light lilac
“You’ll tell your Daddy that I was close enough to touch you?”
hands slowly fell to her sides and she shook her
head. “Not really. I wouldn’t tell him that.”
He arched his brow and slipped his hand
through the bars to cup her cheek, gently sliding his thumb over her
“What if I did touch you? What would Daddy say then?”
wouldn’t… couldn’t tell him.”
wouldn’t?” He slipped his hand into her hair,
twisting a little curl from the nape of her neck around his index
know it’s dangerous for a girl like you to visit the jail.”
eyes snapped open and a hand reached up to
squeeze around one of the iron bars next to his face. “I’m no girl. I’m
woman, if you haven’t noticed.”
he gave her a sly smile, “I noticed alright.”
nearly chuckled at her tone. It was hopeful and
unaffected. She was pleased.
see the way you swish around the front office,
those kid boots of yours look right nice peekin’ out from under those
petticoats you like to wear.”
tried to look affronted. “A gentlemen would
never discuss a woman’s petticoats. It’s just not done in polite
that’s the kind of company you want, you’re in
the wrong place, Missy.” He looked from one end of the cells to the
“There’s no gentlemen comin’ through a place like this. You better rush
one of them ‘social halls’ and see who you can scare up there. I ain’t
been to the social halls and found them-”
He offered, looking for rise in her color.
got exactly what he wanted. “I never said boring…
perhaps lacking is a better word for it.”
doesn’t sound much better.”
that why you’re here, Miss Watts?” He let go of
her hair and she swayed back before she righted herself. “Are you
something to keep your interest? Cuz’ if that’s all you’re after, then
Deputy Moore would be more than willing to oblige.”
Polly looked at him with a sour expression.
“He’s so… rough.”
laughed a good hearty laugh that had her folding
her arms in a pretty pout. “Rough? Darlin’ have you taken a good look
He looked around at the long shadows in the room. “Granted, there ain’t
sunlight in the back here, but you have to know that a man stupid
enough to get
himself locked up his first day in town is bound to be a bit on the
he couldn’t help the slight tinge of
frustration in his voice, “what are you doin’ back here, you know there
no one to ‘save you’ if I get evil thoughts in my head.”
looked away expecting her to look outraged or shocked;
he expected anything but her next words.
don’t want to be saved from you; I want to be
here with you.”
heart hit the floor somewhere about his spurs
and the wood seemed to shift beneath him as he looked into her warm
“Don’t play with a man like that.”
not playing at anything, I meant what I said.”
I took one look at you yesterday and I knew.”
sick… in the head if you think that your
Daddy would let you go any further with this… this…”
you tell me that I don’t know what I want.
I’m a willful young woman, Mister Hunter and I will not be dissuaded
make up my mind.”
looked at her, the determined angle of her chin,
the fire flashing in her eyes, turning them amber in the dusty light
them. She sure was pretty angry. ‘Hell,’ he thought, ‘she sure looks
think I’m the one in danger here, sweetness. Any
man with eyes would fall for you.”
don’t want just any man. I want you.”
his head, he turned away from the bars,
trying to recover his sanity. He swung back around, determined to chase
off. “You won’t feel that way when your Daddy hears you say that.” He
get her to see the truth. “You’ll be sorry you ever came here to see
most likely shoot me first and then send you off to a convent for even
like you do.”
be more sorry than anything if I don’t go
after what I want, and make no mistake about this. I want you, Al
what I want… I get.”
through the iron bars she grabbed a hold of
his shirt and pulled him forward, momentum doing most of the work that
meet her halfway in the dusty room. Their lips met and his eyes widened
surprise as the willful little miss curled his toes with her kiss.
left him gasping for air a moment later and he
knew he was gone. He knew he was going to be strung up when her Daddy
out, but somehow he didn’t care.
Too Late for Roses
Sheldon and the Widow Allen just didn’t want to
leave and darn the fact that her father had drilled manners into her
long as she remembered. Still, the way these women talked about the
town, it set Emma’s teeth to gnashing.
that boy at the livery doesn’t have a lick
of sense about him. He’s been seen at the Saloon, mooning over that new
the one with the long brown hair.”
Mrs. Sheldon shot a disapproving look at her
friend, “I wouldn’t know what the Saloon girls look like, since I
anywhere near that den of evil.”
know,” Emma found the silence between the two
as the perfect opportunity to interject for a moment, “while I would be
delighted to sit here and share this time with you ladies, I’m sure you
understand the mountain of housework that I have to do before Sam gets
I believe I do,” the widow gave her a smile,
“do you need any help?”
was pretty sure the last thing in the world she
wanted to do was ask either woman to stay a second longer. So she had
fast. “I was planning on cleaning out the fireplace and there are the
clean and I do believe that I have to-”
Sheldon snapped the case of her watch shut and
gave a distinct cough. “Oh dear, I just remembered. Laura? Didn’t we
Millie that we would help her with the… the meeting she was-”
meeting?” She caught the narrowed look and
quickly changed her own expression. “Of course! The meeting! How silly
I was. I
completely forgot! We should be going.”
two women couldn’t seem to stand fast enough and
nearly didn’t wait for Emma to hold the door open for them. “Well, you
to tell Millie that I’ll be happy to help if you need me.”
Mrs. Sheldon gave her a quick pat on her
shoulder, “we’ll call, dear. Don’t you worry about it.”
ushered the widow down the stairs and Emma
followed after them, picking up her watering can as she descended
The two ladies, contrary to their insistence that they were in a hurry,
as they walked, one then the other looking back over their shoulders as
moved through her little garden, watering as she went.
was determined not to give them the
satisfaction, not to give them the power they so desperately wanted,
to see her pain.
as the two ladies reached the corner of
Main Street, Emma stopped her watering and raised a hand in greeting.
ladies froze like cigar-store statues, their
eyes wide as saucers. They were caught at they knew it.
Sheldon recovered first, her hands reaching for
the widow to drag her along as she started down the street. Their
started up again as they rounded the corner and Emma knew that their
now that those ‘ladies’ are gone, let’s see
what we can do to help you.”
down beside the gnarled branches of the little
bush and carefully poured water down around the base.
watched as the water seeped into the ground and
reaching out with her fingers she touched the dirt. Lifting her hand up
looked at her fingers. “Dry.” Emma gave a long sigh and poured more
around the base of the plant. “You are thirsty, but that’s fine with
going to make you healthy again. Just you wait.”
back on her heels she shielded her eyes from
the sun and scanned the sky from one end to the other looking for
was a fruitless search but it didn’t really matter.
didn’t serve to dampen her determination.
know,” she began again, her fingers gently
followed a branch from the trunk to the tip, careful not to snap the
fingers of the plant, “they say it’s to late for roses, but what do
How do they know what can and can’t be done?”
fingers were trembling and she pulled her hands
back from the rosebush and wiped them on her skirts, feeling the fabric
and forth across her skin warming them in the cool air.
do they know anything at all? They spend their
time poking their noses into everyone else’s business. They just don’t
what’s possible, they just want to-”
what’s makin’ the prettiest woman in these
parts talk to herself?”
turned and threw her arms around her husband.
He tried to back away with a laughing protest. “I’m covered in dust and
three days worth.”
held on even tighter. “I don’t care! You’re
home… you’re home!”
he kissed her temple and held her face
between his hands to get a good look at her, “if I’d known that this
to be my welcome home, I’d go away more.”
smacked him on his shoulder. “Don’t you dare! I
hate it when you’re away.”
expression changed, there was less laughter in his
eyes, the corners of his mouth relaxed and he pressed a kiss to her
don’t like it either, darlin’, not one bit.”
nodded, a smile barely cracking through her
serious expression. “When do you have to go again?”
for a few weeks, maybe a month.”
smile gentled, relaxing with the news. “A few
all I wanted.”
just want you…”
blushed, her face flushing red in her cheeks as
her hands smoothed over his chest, shoulders, and down his arms until
covered his. “That, I can give you, Sam… I just wish-”
cut off her words with a kiss, gently brushing
his lips against hers. “You don’t have to ‘give’ me anything, Emma. As
I have you, that’s all I need.”
fell against him a moment later, her arms
circling around his chest, her breath warm against his chest. “I just
Sam heard the overly bright sound of his
voice and struggled to tame it so she wouldn’t hear. “You’re everything
Emma… don’t worry about the rest.”
Child of the 50s
They rode up to the outskirts of town and Kid waited
daddy set the break on the wagon before getting down. He'd learned the
hard way that he wasn't supposed to get down until they were good and
"Hey, Kid, wake up." Jed was hissing in his ear a hand
rocking his shoulder back and forth. "Let's go."
climbed down first reaching up to help his brother down. Daddy's cane
cracked across his forearm. "He ain't no girl… let him get hi'self
down, or he'll be needin' you to do it for him until he dies."
Jed clutched his arm to his body, breathing through the
pain. "Sorry, Daddy."
clapped his hand down his elder son's shoulder and spurred him forward,
oblivious to the hiss of pain that passed his son's lips. "Don't be
sorry, son… be a man."
Kid stood for a moment, watching
the two walk down the lane. He felt his brother's pain, they'd both
received the same kind of blows from time to time, but there was a…
connection that existed between Jed and their Daddy that he never felt.
He'd witnessed it sure enough, but whenever it came down to him, their
Daddy never could seem to muster up more than a tolerance.
"Come on now, Boy… don't be wasting our day. We've got
marketing to do."
moved quickly down the road, even with Daddy's cane, they moved quite
quickly, passing by the ramshackle houses at the edge of town.
Ramshackle but still better than their own dwelling.
a block down from the wagon they all turned at the sudden clatter of a
wooden door against its frame. A man stood on the step, his massive
body clothed in a simple brown cotton cover-all that strapped over a
dim white shirt. He saw them in the next moment, his eyes solemn and
posture slipping in recognition.
The man stepped down slowly, his head bowing in greeting.
Kid's steps faltered for a moment, the venom in his
father's voice was palpable.
his hand onto Jed's shoulder he steered his eldest over to the far side
of the street. "Wouldn't know their right place unless you shove their
faces in it." They continued on with Kid right on their heels. "You
just pay them no never mind, son… they don't know much more than what
Ain't nothin' much you have to worry about from them,
'ceptin' when they get
too angry or too stupid to know any better."
sudden shift in the bush at his side nearly wrenched a gasp from Kid's
lips, but he kept silent. Daddy didn't like it when they went all weak
and girly on him.
Instead, Kid turned his head to the side and peered in
through the leafy mess.
"Shh!" Two dark brown eyes peered back at him, spread
across a dark brown nose.
tripped over his toes and nearly fell into the back of Jed's legs, but
he managed to stop himself from making the embarrassing blunder. As
they continued on, Kid turned around and peered back at the bush.
It was an instant admiration that Kid felt deep
down inside himself. He wanted to be able to hide like that. Hide in
the brambles and brush, keep out of his Daddy's way.
was truly something grand in the idea. Then again… he could just be a
better son. Surely that would make his Daddy happier.
Vaughn called out to them from his doorstep and ambled down his stone
walk to meet their daddy at the fence. "You look like a man off to
"That I am, Thomas."
The older man leaning over his wooden fence gave their
father a close look.
"Then why the sour look, my friend? What's got you in
such a state?"
"You aughta have a talk with that boy, Bobby. His darkie
done stare at us as though we'd care to take notice of him."
"Nerve that boy has, buyin' a big monster like that.
Shouldn't get a man you can't beat down on your own."
nodded, his lips pursed together. "It's just not wise." He let out a
long sigh and looked down at Jed. "'sides, there are those of us that
would be grateful for the help, but then we jus' can't afford no
darkie." He ruffled his fingers through Jed's hair. "Jus' don't seem
fair… a hard workin' man like me jus' can't afford to own one… not with
two young sons in the house, eattin' me outta house and home."
right," Vaughn agreed, "can't do a single thing to help ourselves if
men are just able to flaunt their darkies right underneath our noses."
"That's right," grumbled their Daddy, "If'n they're just
lookin' to drive us
outta Virginia and buy up our land, then they'll just
have to think again… we don't scare so easy… do we boys?"
and Jed shook their heads, they didn't even really think about the
question. It didn't pay to think around daddy. He never liked it when
you got smart.
There's a Man In There
found his way into the Judge’s house long
after he was sure everyone had gone to sleep. He knew if he was caught,
Judge wouldn’t hesitate to have him beaten… to have Brad beat him. They weren’t allowed in the house uninvited…
they weren’t anything more than hired hands when you got down to it.
had always put words of doubt in his head.
Doubts that said the Judge wasn’t the man he wanted to look up to. God
his father hadn’t been any kind of man at all, beating his Ma for every
perceived offense. That kind of man wasn’t good for anything more than
he’d met the Judge he’d been fresh from two
days in jail with a knot on his head the size of a big ol’ goose egg
mad as hell farmer with a few less eggs in the hen house. The Judge had
him an offer that a boy just couldn’t refuse. He’d pay that ornery
the eggs out of his own pocket, if Jimmy would consent to work for him
first, it had been like something from Heaven… a
second chance to make his life into something and he grabbed onto it
hands, never planning to let go. Even when the work was hard and put a
his back, he made it through. When his hands blistered up and someone
gloves, he didn’t stop for the blood.
that mattered was that once in awhile… when the
Judge was pleased with him, Jimmy got an invitation to the table.
first time, had been about the most scared he’d
ever been in his life. He must have washed his hands near twenty times
felt like he was presentable for the table. He’d used his best shirt,
worn a hole through his pants dusting off the dirt from workin’ in the
remembered Mrs. Travis, the old housekeeper.
She’d come to the door clucking over his lack of compartment…
whatever she’d said. The old biddy had fairly attacked him with
looked like the hind end of a turkey. She’d waved it at him while he
her hands. “Come on, Missus Travis, I’m clean enough.”
humph, clean enough ain’t nearly clean
enough to my way of thinking.”
sorry, really, but-” the clock on the kitchen
wall had chimed a gentle reminder, it was 5:45pm, “The Judge told me
not to be
late.” He wanted to shove past her, push beyond the wall of calico that
him out, but that kind of behavior probably would get him banished from
house. In an instant his expression changed from reticent to rattled.
what probably got her, his hang dog
expression. It had been known to turn Mamas into mush when used the
seemed to soften up in a moment, her eyes
crinkling up in the corners as she lowered the duster. “Then you better
inside, and,” she gave him a smile as she pushed a plate of rolls in
“while you’re headed in there, be a dear and put these on the table.”
had walked into the dining room, picking his
steps to keep the sound of his boots from echoing off the walls and
lifting the basket of rolls under his nose so he could smell the
roll off of their flaky tops in waves.
night had passed in a blur, the only thing that
he could remember clearly the next morning was the sweet rosemary scent
Clara’s hair as she leaned over to hand him a napkin and the warm smile
the Judge had bestowed on him at the end of the night. “You did a good
tonight, Hickok. It shows that what I’ve been teaching you has been
judge’s hand had been warm on his shoulder as he
showed Jimmy to the door. Pausing at the entrance of the house he’d
over the yard and then settled his gaze on Jimmy’s upturned eager face.
keep up your practice, Hickok… you keep your mind where it belongs… on
work… and we’ll… we’ll make a man out of you.”
hidden in the dark living room of the Judge’s
house he searched around on the floor, he didn’t know what to think.
had prided himself on being a learned man, a man who could read and
when Clara had given him the opportunity to learn, to read a book,
the book that Clara had given him. “Robinson Crusoe.” He’d said the
and over under his breath in the last few hours. It was such a strange
but Clara had said it was an adventure and that was enough for him.
crouched down beside the fireplace and sifted
through the ashes with his fingers, feeling for the flat piece of
he’d seen on the edge of the grate. A few more minutes and still
set his lips together, determined to forget what had happened. The
destruction of the book had hurt Jimmy in places that he didn’t know he
gift… his present had burned before his eyes and
he’d done nothing about it. He’d let it happen, and now, he feared,
learn to be anything more than the Judge’s gunman. How would he be able
above anything unless he found a way to stand up for what he wanted?
chimes resonated through the room from the
standing clock along the wall and Jimmy scrambled to his feet, fearing
worst with the sudden explosion of sound. He lifted his face, catching
glint of light from the lantern left burning in the hall.
oily light cast long shadows across his face,
lengthening his features in the wall mirror. He looked older, tired,
Was that his future? Was he going to become that kind of man?
he going to be the kind of man capable of
bending things to his will?
hung his head and drew in a long shaking breath.
What kind of will did he have anyway? What kind of will could a man
still let another decide his life?
shook his head and turned. Turned his back on
the room and all of its fancy trappings. This wasn’t for him. None of
didn’t want to do what it took to keep it. Clara was a sweetheart, a
but he didn’t have the killer edge that the Judge wanted him to have…
him to have.
faced Brad, faced him down the end of his Colt
and knew, somewhere in a part of his mind that couldn’t quite make
sense of it,
knew that Brad had been more than willing to kill him, if the time ever
left the Enright house with his face turned up
into the dark night sky. Left it behind him as he went to pack his
head out for the world that the Judge had told him was out there,
teach him things.
that’s where he was going, to find a place where
he could learn about being a man by doing it.
Leaving On Her Mind
“It’s so pretty… it’s
sinful.” Lou laughed at herself, wiggling her toes against the fancy
Oriental carpet on the floor. “I wish it was mine.”
Fingers wiggled across the expanse of satin as it lay over her stomach,
enjoying the smooth feel of the fabric beneath the pads of her fingers
and the slight rasp of it against her middle. It was a multitude of
sensations that filled her from head to toe and one of them was fear.
This wasn’t her room and these weren’t her clothes.
Louise blushed in the mirror, smiling as she ran her hands over the
silken drawers she’d borrowed from the laundry pile. Her smile faded as
her own body failed to measure up to the other women in the boarding
house. Whereas the same garment looked so elegant and ‘curvy’ on
them, on her scrawny little body it gaped and puffed… obviously empty
in all the wrong places.
The door opened before she could change her clothes. “Well, hello
When Louise looked back into the mirror and saw the man, there was a
moment of relief that it wasn’t Charlotte, and then a moment later she
was frozen in fear.
He stepped closer “What’s your name, little girl?”
She was caught. Her clothes on the bed a good three feet away and he
was in the way. “I … I .. .um… Charlotte’s not here… I just, I’m just-”
“A tempting morsel… an aperitif to whet my palate? Or a mouse caught in
“Look mister, I don’t rightly know what all you’re sayin’ but I’m just
the laundry girl… I was just,” she turned her head away, “I was just
trying on some things. Look, I shouldn’t even be in here… I’m real
sorry, Mister, I-”
His hand was suddenly on her shoulder and she turned back around to
protest, but she realized that from his vantage point, over a head
taller than she, he could see straight down into the gaping front of
the camisole. She grabbed at the material, fingertips tearing through
the worn lace trim. “Look, I don’t know what you’re after, but you
shouldn’t be in here with me… I have work to do.”
“Work? Oh yes,” he murmured, his hand coming up to cup her chin and
tilt her face up toward him, “that’s exactly what I had in mind.”
Lou’s stomach turned, a knot forming in the pit of her stomach where
her supper should have been. “I’ve got more laundry and-”
“Thomas Harper, you know we have rules in this house.” Charlotte stood
in the doorway, leaning against the open frame. “You know you’re not
supposed to be in here until Wicks opens the doors for business.”
He pulled Lou up against his side and smiled at Charlotte. “Yeah, yeah…
I know, but now that I’m here, we can have a party… you, me... and,” he
jostled Lou, nearly shaking her teeth out of her jaw, “little missy
here can have ourselves a private party.”
She wanted to disappear… she wanted to fade away into the shadows… and
even as Lou stared longingly at the door, she knew she was in trouble
with Charlotte. She could read that in her eyes.
The older woman fell into her role perfectly, her voice dropped into
her throat, deep and sultry, and her hips began to swing gently back
and forth, attracting his notice. He loosened his hold on her
shoulders, but Lou didn’t dart for the door, something in her gut told
her that the danger wasn’t over.
“Now, Thomas. Let’s make a deal… you and I.”
He grinned as he watched her lacquered fingertips drift slowly over her
ample bosom. “I’m listening.”
“Good.” She stopped right in front of where he was, her hand lifting to
trail down the side of his face and down onto his shoulder. “Now, I
know you to be a man of educated tastes… an innocent little thing like
her will just slow us down...” Charlotte lifted his hand off of Lou’s
shoulder, “so we’ll just send her on her way and-”
He shrugged out of Charlotte’s grasp and clutched at Lou’s arms, his
fingers biting in hard enough to make her gasp. “I say we keep her
around… you could always teach her a thing or two.”
Her eyes were pleading, begging Charlotte to set her free, but
Charlotte only pinched her to keep her from saying anything.
“That’s not the deal that I had in mind, Thomas… and you know me, if
I’m not happy… no one is happy.”
“Oh? Is that it? Are you,” he pushed Louise to the side and wrapped
both of his hands around Charlotte’s tiny waist, “are you tellin’ me
what to do?” Laughing, he pulled her tight up against his body. “You
know I like it when you order me around.”
“Oh, you do?” Charlotte leaned her head to the side, giving him access
to slobber over her neck, while she grabbed Lou’s shoulder with her
hand and shoved her toward the door with a sharp look.
Lou didn’t stop to think… she didn’t even stop to grab her clothes… she
He was angry. He was angry
and young… and that meant, careless. Red Bear had often asked his
younger brother if he had a wish to die young. Little Buck didn’t know
any better than to say, “Why not?”
Running away had seemed like so much fun. He’d planned it for days,
planned it while he waited for the right time, when all were busy with
preparations for the next feast. He doubted that anyone would
question his absence… or that they would even care. They all
hated him, hated what he reminded them of. He should know. He
hated who he was too.
It took him the better part of an hour to get himself horribly and
irrevocably lost. He looked up one moment and realized that none of the
trees looked familiar and the rocks were a color he had never seen
before. The reds and oranges seemed tinged with an unsettling green as
if the leaves were starting to blend right into the face of the rocks
Turning around, Buck realized that the opening he had just come through
seemed to disappear, the lengthening shadows of the late afternoon sun.
For a few heartbreaking moments he thought of crying out, calling for
someone to come and get him.
Then, in the next moment, he realized that his greater fear was that
they’d hear… they’d hear him begging for help… and they wouldn’t come.
That they’d leave him out here and go back to the camp, laughing.
He’d heard it over and over. He had no talent for scouting. The Kiowa
boys held him in contempt for that alone, taunting him as if it made
him less of a Kiowa… and maybe it did. By his age, most Kiowa boys
could find their way around the surrounding countryside without aid,
but Buck was forever in his brother’s shadow.
Their mother had made the decree herself.
Oh, their father fought her, his voice bleeding anger when they argued
over him. He wanted ‘the boy’ to fend for himself… find his own way.
Then, there was the fear that the hard edge to his father’s voice held
another want… that he’d go off on his own… go off and never come back.
Well. That wasn’t going to happen. He’d show them.
Fisting his hands, Buck strode over to the wall of rock and felt around
for a hand hold. “Up. I need to go up.” One hand after another… one
foot and then another he made his way slowly up the rock face, pebbles
and edges digging into his palms. Biting back the tears and ignoring
the dull red stains he left on the striated stone, Buck continued up
and up until he felt just above his head a flat expanse of rock.
Convinced he had finally reached the top, he slung his arm up and over
his head and pulled his body up.
“SCREE!” Buck’s vision was filled with talons and red-brown feathers
beating at his face.
“Stop… stop!” He waved his hand around, trying to ward off the
creature, but instead of scaring it away, his desperation seemed to
anger it. “Stop!” Talons bit into his forearm, clamping down so hard
that it took precious seconds before he actually felt the pain. “Let
With one hand firmly dug into rock and the other held by the angry
talons of the hawk, Buck didn’t expect the very thing he begged for.
The instant the hawk let go, he lost his purchase on the rock and
tumbled backwards into the open air.
He fell like a stone, heavy and unmoving, his eyes watching as the hawk
swept up into the sky, spreading its wings as it laughed at him.
“Bucks don’t fly.”
Buck shut his eyes and wished to be alone just as hard as he wished for
help a few minutes ago. Maybe if he pretended to be asleep then Red
Bear would leave him alone, and-
Red Bear pushed his shoulder. “Get up… you can’t pretend to be dead. I
don’t think we’d be that lucky.”
The tone of his words was in jest, but there was an edge to them, just
as harsh and cutting as the stones had been, and Buck knew there would
be hell to pay if he didn’t listen.
Opening his eyes, he rolled gingerly onto his side, the back of his
head shooting pain through the rest of his skull. “I’m not ready to go
“You were lost, again.” Red Bear had found a seat for himself, just a
couple of feet away. Legs gracefully folded beneath him he looked every
inch the Chief’s son. Without looking down, Buck was sure his clothes
were covered in dirt and sticks and his hair must look as though a wind
storm had pulled it away from his head. “You were told to stay where I
“I was bored.” He was going to ignore the pout that had formed from his
lips. He couldn’t help it. “You left me behind.”
Red Bear sighed and gave him a pointed look. “I was courting Dancing
Bird and we did not need… your company.”
Buck’s shoulders sagged at the rebuke. At eighteen, Red Bear was a man…
a man who would marry as soon as he found a maiden he wanted as his
own. He’d waited, bowing to the pressure that his mother had put on
him, making him his brother’s protector.
Buck had heard as much from Red Bear himself, when his brother wanted
to make him mad… mad enough to return home to their mother. “Then
why did you come for me? I would have found my way home. I was climbing
the rocks to see the village from height. To see as the birds do and
find my way home. I did not need you to come.”
The knowing look set him in his place. He turned his gaze down to the
ground and pulled himself up regardless of the pain throbbing through
his head. He would not admit by word or deed exactly how much he had
injured himself. “Our mother has sent me to find you. To find you and
bring you home to her so that she may swaddle you like the babe that
you are… that you always will be.”
Folding his arms Buck gave his brother a haughty look. “Find your
woman, leave me alone.”
“Leave you?” Red Bear’s laughter bounced off of the walls of rock
surrounding them and made the sounds multiply as if a score of men
stood around them. “No, I will not leave you, Little Buck.” He reached
over and tousled the long lengths of hair.
“I’m not a baby, not anymore. I can climb… nearly as high as you can,
His brother stared at him as though through his eyes he could see deep
into Buck’s soul. “What I see is a boy trying to be a man by proving
that he knows little of what it takes to be strong… to be a man… to be
Kiowa. You seek comfort when you should fight… You run when you should
stand…” He seemed to give the matter great consideration. “Then that is
what we shall call you… the boy who runs. Running Buck.”
Red Bear unfolded his legs, stretching himself to his full height and
pulled Buck along with him, his firm hand tucked under his brother's
arm. “You will come with me and beg our mother’s forgiveness for her
Buck shrugged away and gave him a sour stare. “I beg of no one.”
“You do what I tell you, or I will do worse than knock you on your
Shoving Buck toward the gap in the rock barely visible to Buck’s
searching eyes. Red Bear saw the stones and dust kicked up by his angry
feet. He chuckled at his brother. “Running Buck. You have earned the
*note: I understand that Buck and Red Bear would not have spoken in the
English language, but I lack the skills to translate the dialogue into
Kiowa and that most of you wouldn’t be able to read it if I did, so
we’ll just have to pretend we all have our universal translators on.