Topic #103: : Word List: Use at least three - hale, nephew, ruffle, virus, warren
Thankful by: Cindy Rotten to the Core by: Dede
A Simple Gesture by: Miss Raye
by: Cindy

Rachel rang the bell to call the children in from lunch recess. As they were gathering and heading back toward the schoolhouse, she walked back to her desk, hung her shawl on the peg by the chalkboard, and turned to face the room again.

By ones and twos the children filed in, hanging up their coats and taking their seats. Their cheeks were rosy from the crisp autumn day.

As they settled in, Rachel felt a moment of melancholy pass over her. There were so many empty desks compared with the previous year. But the war and its influence had spread like a *virus,* even as far as Rock Creek. Most of the trouble was spilling over from the guerilla warfare that had earned nearby Kansas the nickname of “bloody.” Several families had packed up in recent months, mostly to head further west.

She shook that thought away, pulling her attention back to the present. It wouldn’t do to let her mind wander to those who were gone, not at the expense of those who were still here to learn.

“Well, let’s get back to work,” she said, leaning against the desk. “How many of you have been reading the newspaper like I suggested?”

Nearly every hand rose into the air, and Rachel smiled. “That’s very good. So, let’s see what you’ve learned. “There’s a special day coming up. Can anyone tell me what it is?”

Several hands shot into the air and she picked one. “Yes, *Warren.*”

“It’s called Thanksgiving.” He said the unfamiliar word slowly, as if testing it on his tongue.

“Very good. And who declared it? Abigail?”

“Abraham Lincoln.”

“Yes, that’s right,” Rachel encouraged. “And who is Mr. Lincoln? Yes, Andrew.”

“He’s the President,” the boy replied. “My father is…”

“The great-*nephew* of Thomas Jefferson,” most of the rest of the class intoned, laughing.

Rachel struggled not to laugh with them. Warren Suggs didn’t miss many opportunities to brag about his family’s connections. She didn’t know if the relationship was real or not, but Warren certainly believed it. Knowing the boy’s father, Edgar, it could be true – or it could all be part of an elaborate con.

Warren sat back with a huff and crossed his arms, not saying anything else. Rather than let the moment fester, Rachel moved on. “President Lincoln announced the holiday,” she said. “Do you know who was most responsible for convincing him to do that? Yes, Sarah.”

“Sarah Josepha *Hale.* She has the same name as me!”

“Yes, she does,” Rachel agreed, “and you’re right. Who knows what else Mrs. Hale is well known for?”

A small girl with blond pigtails slowly raised her hand, much to Rachel’s surprise. “Yes, Bethany.” It was the first time she could recall the girl volunteering in class.

“The Godey’s Lady’s Book, Mrs. Dunne.”

“That’s absolutely right. She edits and writes for that magazine. Have you read it Bethany?”

The girl looked down and nodded, nervously fiddling with the *ruffle* on her blouse. “My mama gets it. Sometimes I look at it.”

“It’s a very famous magazine,” Rachel said. “And Mrs. Hale is very influential. That’s how she was able to get this holiday approved. Now, what is Thanksgiving all about?”

“It’s about being thankful,” one boy offered.

“And what are you thankful for?” Rachel prompted.

“Ummm… my pa and my ma, I guess.”

Rachel smiled and nodded. “What else are we thankful for?”

“We had a good harvest.”

“Our roof got fixed so it don’t leak no more.”

“I’ve got a baby sister.”

“I got a new puppy!”

“My pa got a job helpin’ build the railroad line.”

“Is anyone thankful for school?” Rachel asked, still smiling.

There was a moment of silence before a few children softly muttered, “Yes.”

“What are you thankful for, Mrs. Dunne?”

The question caught Rachel off-guard; she was used to asking, not answering. “Well, I’m thankful for all of you,” she replied. “And for my family here.”

After a moment of puzzled silence, little Peter Keller finally spoke up. “My ma said you didn’t have any family in Rock Creek.”

“Oh, but I do,” Rachel said. “Marshal Hunter and his wife Polly are my family. So is Buck Cross over at the livery, and Janusz Terkovsky, the blacksmith.” And the way things had been going recently, her relationship with Janusz might really be changing…

“But, how can they be your family?” Warren asked. “I mean, they ain’t your ma, or your pa, or brothers or something.”

Rachel stood up and walked closer to the desks. “There are different kinds of family,” she said softly. “There’s the family you’re born with, like your parents, brothers, and sisters. And there’s the family you make when you get married and have children of your own. But there’s also the family that exists just because they’re special to you right here.” She crossed her hands over her heart and paused. “That’s the kind of family I have.”

“I’m glad you’ve got family like that, Mrs. Dunne,” Bethany said.

“I am too, Bethany. I am too,” Rachel replied. “I’m very thankful.”

Rotten to the Core
by: Dede

Buck watched the wind *ruffle* the dirt, sending it dancing across the walkway, as he, Jimmy, and Kid loaded the wagon. It was a peaceful day and he liked that. Bent over to pick up one of the bags of meal, he was pushed head first into a stack of crates.

“Get out of the way breed!”

Pulling himself up with Kid’s help, Buck stepped forward and stared at the young man in front of him. “I didn’t realize I was invisible.”

“You gonna take his sass, Lester?”

Though he didn’t recognize “Lester,” Buck glanced over to see Marvin Crawley from the tannery grinning and pushing for a fight. Daniel Baker was behind the two, his eyes darting around nervously as he chewed on his fingernail.

“Best say yer sorry for blockin’ the path,” sneered Marvin.

“You’re the one that owes the apology,” said Kid angrily, as he stepped up on Buck’s right. Jimmy quietly leaned against the wagon, eyeing the instigators.

“I ain’t apologizin’ to no Injun,” snapped Lester. He crossed his arms over his chest belligerently.

The expressions on Jimmy’s and Kid’s faces told Buck they were ready to fight for him but Buck knew that wasn’t the best idea. Especially since they were in front of Tompkins’ store.

“They aren’t worth it,” said Buck softly. With his hand on Kid’s arm, he turned towards the supplies. “Let’s just finish loading this.”

“Figured you’d run,” challenged Lester, as he snorted. “His kind always does.”

When Jimmy took a step forward Buck shook his head and pointed towards the supplies. Annoyed, Jimmy pursed his lips but did as Buck wished and moved to the back of the wagon.

Lester swaggered towards them. “You Express riders ain’t worth a lick. Havin’ an Injun’ wor –” Suddenly Lester was silenced by the flat side of a length of wood making contact with his face. “OW!”

Cody peered over the wood he was carrying on his shoulder. “Well now ‘scuse me, didn’t see ya’ standin’ there. Course, standin’ in the doorway ain’t the smartest place to be. You could get hurt.” Before the man could respond, Cody walked to the wagon and placed the wood gently on top of the supplies. “This should be it.”

“You stupid idiot,” screamed Lester, as he rubbed his forehead. A large knot was already showing.

“What’s goin’ on here?” The burly shopkeeper stomped out of the store and glared at the group as Lou walked from behind him, eyeing her friends curiously.

“He hit me,” accused Lester, pointing at Cody as his two friends nodded vehemently.

Tompkins glanced back at Cody who shrugged innocently. “He was standin’ in the doorway and I didn’t see him. I apologized.”

“That Injun was the cause,” said Marvin spitefully. All eyes were on Buck now.

Prepared for the berating he knew Tompkins would give him, Buck clenched his fists and steeled himself. But to Buck’s great surprise, Tompkins just sniffed and turned back to face the threesome.

“What’re y’all doin’ here?” He crossed his arms over his chest and looked from one to another.

“I’m here to buy somethin’,” said Lester, haughtily.

“As in payin’ cash?” Tompkins’ brow raised in suspicion. “Cause you ain’t gettin’ nothin’ on account.”

“I need nails,” growled Lester. “Buildin’ my aunt a *warren*. Since it’s hers put it on her bill.” Lester moved towards the bins that held the nails.

In one swift move, Tompkins pulled a mallet down from its hook and blocked Lester’s path. “It’ll be hard to hammer with broken fingers.”

All but Buck laughed at the flushed look of embarrassment on Lester’s face. Buck was too busy trying to figure out why Tompkins hadn’t said a word against Buck. Stunned, he came to the conclusion that if he’d been knocked off the top of Tompkins’ animosity list, this Lester person must be pretty bad.

“I’ll get you for that old man,” threatened Lester. Marvin and Daniel tried to push Lester down the sidewalk but were stopped by a tall man blocking the way.

“These boys causin’ problems Mr. Tompkins?” The marshal’s gaze held the three boys still.

“Nothin’ I can’t handle Sam,” the shopkeeper said pleasantly. “Gotta get back to work.” He replaced the mallet and walked into his store.

“Then you boys best move on,” said Sam carefully. The three boys left but not without Lester muttering threats under his breath. Sam kept his eye on them as they hurried down the walk.

“Who is that with Marvin and Daniel?” asked Lou. They were all watching the mischief-makers leave.

“Don’t know but he sure is hateful,” answered Cody.

“That there is Lester Gosnell,” said Sam. He grinned at the shocked expressions on the boys’ faces.

“Related to Miss Gosnell the new teacher?” asked Jimmy incredulously, as he shook his head.

“The very same,” said Sam, chuckling. “He happens to be her *nephew*.”

“Wait,” said Kid, his brow furrowed. “They can’t be far from the same age.”

“Yep, seems he’s like her half-nephew or somethin’. His pa is her half-brother and much older than she is.” Sam shrugged. “All I know is he’s been here for only five days and started trouble when his feet hit this street.”

“And she’s so nice,” murmured Cody, a wicked grin spread across his face. Jimmy nudged him and the two snickered.

“Ask me, he’s just a *virus*, causin’ hate wherever he goes.” The boys and Sam turned to see Tompkins standing in the doorway. “He’s no good and you know it.”

Sam nodded. “Yep. He does have a right *hale* mean streak.” With a heavy sigh, Sam waved at the boys and Tompkins. “Best be gettin’ back to my walk, y’all take care.”

“And we’d better get back to the station,” said Lou. Jimmy and Cody pulled themselves onto their horses as Kid and Lou climbed up onto the wagon seat. “Buck you comin’?”

He turned to see Lou grinning and everyone staring at him, including Tompkins. Blushing, he untied the reins to his horse and climbed up.

“Tell Emma I’ll have that fabric in next week,” called Tompkins over his shoulder as he walked into his store.

“Will do,” yelled Kid and snapped the reins, setting the horses in motion. Jimmy followed but Cody stayed back with Buck, who wasn’t moving yet.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” said Buck softly. “Just wonder how someone as nice as Miss Gosnell can be related to someone as rotten as he is.”

“Well, we’ll just have to show her how nice we are,” drawled Cody. He leaned over, slapped Buck on the shoulder, and nudged Soda forward to catch up to the wagon.

Buck rolled his eyes and laughed. “Time to go home,” he murmured. As he rode away, he decided that Cody’s idea was a good one.

A Simple Gesture
by: Miss Raye

Louise peered around the corner at the cluster of folks standing in the entrance of the Mission. The tall elegant woman seemed to dwarf the nuns, not in size but in manner. She was a tall woman, but as Louise moved closer she saw that her looks didn’t improve with closer inspection. Her lips were red from pressing together too hard… her eyes dark with contempt… the woman was much better from a distance, Louise surmised and looked at the boy beside her with an instantaneous sympathy.

“Mind you, I’m ‘not’ abandoning my *nephew* here.” Her tone was nearly lost in her distasteful sniffle as if the Mission weren’t fit for her presence. “My husband and I have postponed our trip long enough and I can’t see how waiting is going to make it any better.”

By the sudden quiver in the boy’s shoulders Louise guessed that he was the ‘it.’

Sister Mary Francis reached out to the boy and the tall woman nearly rapped her fan across the nun’s knuckles. “I’m sure he’s over his … *virus*,” she stepped back as if she herself couldn’t stand to be too close to him, “he’s not quite *hale* and hearty yet, but it’s probably better if you don’t ‘touch’ him quite yet.”

Reaching into her reticule, the woman pulled out a letter and handed it to the nearest nun. “Here is a letter addressed to our banker, explaining things. He will give you money to care for the boy…” she lifted her nose in the air, “as long as the sums are reasonable.”

Tugging at the lace *ruffle*s at the edge of her cuffs she turned toward the door. She was nearly swallowed up by the blinding light beyond the door when the boy suddenly turned on the heels of his shoes and ran after her.

Sister Mary Francis was the one charged with going after him and bringing him back into the Mission, his head hanging dejectedly from his neck, shoulders hunched as though the weight of the world rested on him.

Louise caught the mist of tears in the young nun’s eyes and as they passed by her hiding place she stepped out into the soft light of the hallway. “Welcome,” the word was the only greeting she could think of when faced with his sorrowful eyes, “I’m Louise.”

He looked down at the hand she offered him. It was a long moment before he held out his own and took her hand in a gentle grip. “I’m *Warren*.”

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