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PostSubject: Broken   Sat Oct 01, 2016 9:29 am

So your prompt for the month of mists and mellow fruitfulness is the choice of Nancy Whiskey, and it's a great one.  Your mission for October, should you choose to accept it, is to give us your take on the following prompt in between between 4,000 and 150 words on


Broken   Computer smash


That can be anyone physically or emotionally broken, any kind of thing including an axle, a window or a limb.  It can relate to fixing, restoring or repairing things, people or relationships - or anything else your fertile imaginations can come up with.


Time to write
Writing


Don't forget to finish commenting on last month's story before you start writing.  Comments are the only thanks our writers get and late babies need as much love as early ones.    
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Sun Oct 02, 2016 11:35 am

I'd almost forgotten about this little piece I wrote many years ago.  It seems to fit, so I'll post it to kick off the month.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished


He clutched at his side, the blood seeping through his fingers betraying the burning pain burying deep into his guts. He groaned, dropping to his knees before falling forward, lacking the strength to even raise a hand to protect his face. A thought ran through his mind; he was through protecting himself. Hell, he was done with protecting anyone.

All the running was over. He knew that for certain, lying there in the dirt, the caustic tang of death filling his nostrils. He felt a vague sense of surprise at the peace sweeping over him. There was no fear, no regret and no bitterness at it all being over far too soon. He had drawn the fire deliberately. It had been a choice; one made in a snap to save his partner, but he had chosen this.

It was the right thing, an act which freed up a good man to live a full, rich life. And he knew that his cousin was a very, good man. Sure, the choices had stunk, and they made too many mistakes, but they had learned from them. Some might have said it had taken far too long, but more charitable folks would probably say that all that mattered was the fact they had learned eventually.

He would stand a much better chance on his own. They had both always known that they stood out too much as a pair, but neither of them had ever really discussed splitting up and making their own way in the world. That would have been too hard to face without support... It was too tough a subject to discuss.

But now he would be alone. They both would; but surely this was the easier road. The torment would be over soon and he knew he could never have lived with watching his friend being lowered into the dank, dark earth to lie forever cradled in the womb of the land he had loved. The vortex of emotions inside him was a foreign land; a place he rarely visited because everything was far too heightened and frightening. There was no control in that part of him. Hell, even the language seemed different when he was there. Watching another death would have made that ugly world engulf him in an agonizing, oppressive thunderhead of delirium. It would have eaten his sanity in a cannibalistic frenzy of desperation. It was right that he should go first and that the stronger partner could live on.
Where he would go?

The pain started to subside. Not just the physical wound, but the sores infecting his heart; the ones that ran too deep to acknowledge.

There was tranquility in the enveloping darkness. It was over.

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:54 pm

“Are we there yet?”


The old man turned around in his saddle.


“Are we there yet? You still askin’ me that question, now that you’re all of sixteen?”


The teen-ager grinned.


“’Course I am. You might not recognize me if I didn’t.”


“That’s possible.” He pulled up his reins and pointed at the rocky cliffs ahead.


“The entrance is up there. Just a little farther.”


“I don’t see anything.”


“You shouldn’t. The way in and out had to be hidden.”


“Didn’t do them outlaws much good in the end, though, did it?” The old man didn’t answer for a minute.


“No,” he said finally, “I guess it didn’t.” He clucked his tongue at his horse and it started moving forward again. The two men rode slowly over the rocky ground, gaining elevation as they got closer to their destination.


“Grandpa.”


“Hmm?”


“How come you know the secret way into Devil’s Hole?”


“It wasn’t secret after the raid.”


“Oh. Right.”


As they rode, the silence of the high country was underscored by a low rumbling.


“Grandpa. I hear something.”


“Do you. What do you think it is?”


“I ain’t sure, but it’s getting louder the higher we get.”


“You got good hearing, Tadpole. There’s a waterfall at the clearing. Means we’re getting close.”


“Sheesh. Must be a big one to hear it way out here.”


“Oh, it’ll do. ‘Course, early in summer like now, there’s a lot of run-off from the melt, and sound travels far in these mountains.”


“Can’t wait to see it.”


He smiled at the youthful enthusiasm. “You haven’t changed since you were a little tyke. Still impatient.”


“I know. And I know who I get it from, too. Are we almost there?”


The old man’s attention returned to the cliff face. “Matter of fact, we are. Do you see it?” The boy frowned in concentration.


“It don’t matter none. Just follow me.” He guided his horse towards what looked like a tumble-down of boulders, picking his way carefully while his grandson rode close behind. Suddenly a gap appeared, barely wide enough for the horses to pass through single file.


“Stay sharp, Tadpole. There might be some outlaw guarding this pass. We don’t want to get shot.”


“Don’t tease me, Grandpa. The last member of the Devil’s Hole Gang died in prison. Ain’t nobody here but ghosts.”


“Then we got to be extra careful. Outlaw ghosts can be more dangerous than a normal ghost.”


“Reverend Griswold says there’s no such thing as ghosts. He says believing in spirits is blasphemous.”


“Maybe I should have a talk with him, remind him of all his talk about holy spirit. Though the spirits you see here would be anything but holy.”


The boy looked doubtful. “I don’t think Mama would like that, Grandpa. You know she’s a Christian woman.”


“Yes, she is. My own child. Where did I go wrong with her?” he mused. “Maybe I should have a talk with her, too.” 


The trail twisted between rocky outcroppings that blocked the sunlight. The boy rode as close to his grandfather as he dared, not looking at the sheer cliffs that boxed them in. After a few long moments, he heard the old man laugh out loud.


“Grandpa! What is it?”


“Ride up, boy. We’re here. This is Devil’s Hole, in all its glory.”


He pulled up next to his grandfather and stopped, his gaze taking in everything.


“What a dump!”


The old man wheeled on the boy so quickly, he flinched. “A dump! Christ almighty! What’d you expect to see here after the Army cleaned this place out?”


“I’m sorry, Grandpa. I didn’t mean nothin’ by it. It’s just . . . all I heard about Devil’s Hole, all the stories you told me, I just thought it’d be . . .”


“Be what? The Brown Palace? This was an outlaw hideout.”


The boy shrugged his shoulders. “I guess I just thought there’d be . . . more. You know. I mean, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry lived here. They were famous. I figured they’d have some fancy place.”


“Well. . .” his grandfather said, looking around as if seeing the ruins of burnt and broken buildings for the first time. “Like I told you, Heyes and Curry ran a pretty tight ship here. Things went to hell in a handbasket once they were gone. After the hard winter of ’87-’88, the gang was broken down. When the governor called the Army in to clean out Devil’s Hole, what was left of the Devil’s Hole Gang didn’t even bother to post guards anymore. Like taking candy from a baby for the soldiers.”


He pointed at the ruins of what once was a large cabin, where two walls still stood about shoulder height. “That’s where we’ll camp. We’ll get some protection from the wind there. It can get chilly at night, even in summer.”


They settled their horses and organized their camp, nestled against the charred logs of the burned-out cabin. The boy gathered firewood while the old man organized their gear. The sun was setting behind the jagged mountain peaks, and the air was cooling. They huddled near the campfire, and the scent of beans and bacon cooking made their stomachs growl. They dug into their dinners with satisfaction.


“Eat a little slower, Tadpole. You want to actually taste your food before it hits your stomach.”


“Yes sir.” The movement of his fork slowed down for a few bites before it picked up speed again. When his plate was empty, he placed it reverently on the ground in front of him.


“Full already?”


“Yes sir.” He laced his fingers behind his head and rested against the blackened logs of the cabin’s wall.


“This is the life, Grandpa. Riding all day. Camping and sleeping out in nature. Cooking over an open fire. I wish we could do this all the time.”


“You’d miss that nice bed of yours. Sleeping on the ground gets old real fast. I should know. I done it often enough.”


“Not lately, though.”


The old man laughed. “You better believe it. Not lately. A bed’s better than sleeping on the ground any day of the week.”


“I think I could learn to like sleeping on the ground more often, if I could do it here.”


“Maybe in high summer, like this. If you were here when the first snow came, you’d be stuck here till the thaw. That’d take months. Most of the outlaws spent their winters someplace warm, like Texas.”


“Was that what Heyes and Curry would do?”


“Sometimes.” He put his plate down and, like his grandson, leaned back, stretching out his legs. “They liked the warmer weather same as the others, but they were more likely to be recognized. It was safer to stay at Devil’s Hole, and they did do that a couple winters.”


“Must’ve been kind of boring.”


“Oh yeah, but sometimes, they liked boring. Their lives were pretty exciting the rest of the year. They were safe here. They found out that being famous wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.”


The boy thought about that for a moment. “I’d like to be famous.”


The old man’s amused expression could barely be seen in the dim light cast by the glowing logs of their fire.


“Famous like Heyes and Curry? Your mother and the Reverend might not like that.”


“Why not? People are still writing stories and talking about them. I’d like to be known for something, too.”


“Be famous for reasons other than being a crook, okay? Because being famous for them meant being hunted. They were wanted dead or alive. That meant anyone could shoot ‘em dead, and be rewarded for murdering them.”


“But nobody did, did they? Heyes and Curry, they weren’t here when the Army came, because the Army would’ve bragged about it.”


“You got that right.”


“So where’d they go?”


“Good question.”


The boy peered closely at his grandfather, but saw no hints about what he was thinking.


“What do you think about that, Grandpa?”


“About what?”


“About what happened to Heyes and Curry.”


“Maybe they went to South America like Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid did.”


“No,” the boy insisted, “they were too smart to do a fool thing like that. They probably didn’t even speak South American.”


The old man hid his smile behind his coffee cup.


“No, I don’t think that they did.”


“So what then?” the boy wanted to know. “You must’ve heard all sorts of stories. Mama said you met an awful lot of people, from tramping all over the west with your partner when you were young.”


“She’s right about that. The tramping around the west, I mean. I been pretty much everywhere west of the Mississippi.”


“You been east of the Mississippi, haven’t you?”


“New Orleans, but that’s it. I like the west,” he said, waving one arm at the dark sky filled with the fires of the Milky Way. “Always have. I couldn’t breathe in cities.”


“I like the west, too.” The old man patted the boy’s knee.


“You and me both.”


“So did you hear what happened to Heyes and Curry?” The boy saw the old man hesitate. “You can tell me, Grandpa. I can keep a secret.”


“You think I know where them two ended up?”


“Maybe you do.” The boy poked the smoldering logs with a stick, making the logs crackle and send embers float upwards. “You know what Mr. Peterson says about you?”


“Why would I care about anything Mr. Peterson says? That man’s numb as a box of rocks.”


The boy ignored the interruption. “He says, even though you talk all the time, you don’t really say anything. He says you’re the most close-mouthed talker he ever knew.”


“Mr. Peterson needs to get a hobby to occupy his mind.”


“Grandpa, if you knew what happened to Heyes and Curry, would you tell me?”


“If I knew for sure, don’t you think I’d go for that reward?”


The boy actually snorted in disbelief. The old man looked at him with mild surprise. “Oh come on! Even I know about statute of limitations. They couldn’t get arrested today.”


“Not here in Wyoming. There’s no statute of limitations. If Hannibal Heyes showed up tomorrow on the streets of Laramie, he’d be put in prison for 20 years to life.”


The boy’s mouth hung open. “Really?”


“Really. So yeah,” he went on, “if I knew, wouldn’t I collect that reward? Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money, even today.”


The boy whistled slowly. “Sure is. We could buy us one of them motor cars from Detroit.”


“I guess we could.”


“So what happened to them?”


The man took off his hat and ran his fingers through his thick white hair before settling his hat snugly on his head.


“Hard to say. Once they realized that the governor – I should say, governors, because there was a regular parade of them in the 80’s – was conning them about the amnesty, there was two things they could do. One,” and he held up one finger, “was go back to robbing banks and trains. But they both knew the glory days of gentlemen robbers was over. Or, two,” and he held up two fingers, “they could just take new names and find some quiet place to live, where nobody knew them, and live out their lives peaceful-like. Since no one’s ever heard of them robbing anyone ever again, I’d say they took choice number two.”


“Wow.” The boy looked down, thinking hard. “You mean they could be living nearby us, running a store or hotel, or working in a bank. You could be going in to get a mortgage, and Hannibal Heyes might be the bank manager. You wouldn’t ever know he was a famous bank robber.”


“I guess not. Though it’s hard for me to figure Hannibal Heyes working in a bank without putting a few of those greenbacks in his pocket.”


“And what about the Kid? I don’t see him working a regular job.”


“Don’t be too sure. He might be a running a school for boys in Philadelphia, where his people came from.”


“Kid Curry back east? I don’t see that either, Grandpa. I don’t see that at all.”


“He’d be nigh as old as me. People change when they get older. You start getting old when you turn sixteen.”


“If you say so.” He yawned hugely, covering his mouth with one gloved hand. “All this fresh air is making me sleepy. Think I’ll turn in.”


“Go ahead, Tadpole. I might stretch my legs a bit before I hit the hay.”


“Okay.” He lay down on his bedroll and pulled the rough blankets over him. He watched as his grandfather placed more logs on the fire, and the flames rose and crackled in the night air.


“Grandpa.”


“Uh huh.”


“Thanks for bringing me here. This trip might be the best birthday present ever. But there is one thing. . . Grandpa, now that I’m sixteen, can you stop calling me Tadpole? That’s what you call a boy, and I’m a man now.”


“I’m awful used to calling you Tadpole, but I guess even an old dog like me can learn a few new tricks. What should I call you, now that you’ve entered manhood?”


The boy was oblivious to the teasing. “By my Christian name. That should be easy for you to remember, Grandpa, since Ma always said they gave me the name you suggested.”


“Alright. From now on, I’ll call you Thaddeus. Now go to sleep, Thaddeus.”


He shut his eyes tightly. “Yes sir!”


It wasn’t long before a few gentle snores emanated from underneath the blankets. The old man bent forward and pulled the blankets up, tucking them under Thaddeus’ chin. He stroked the downy cheek with gentle fingers.


“Don’t be in such a hurry to be a man,” he whispered. “It won’t hurt you none to be my Tadpole a while longer.”


He pushed himself up to a standing position, grimacing at the pain in his knees and hips. He wasn’t used to long hours in the saddle anymore, and the arthritis seemed to be worse in the evenings. He stood still until he felt steady enough to walk.


He felt his way around the charred timbers until he came out into the meadow. He let his feet guide him, without thinking about where he was going, around the remains of cabins, bunkhouse, stables, never stumbling. Sometimes he stopped and leaned one hand against the a broken wall, looking for . . . what? A sign? A memory? A ghost? After all the deaths the Army inflicted here, the place should be full of ghosts, but none appeared for him. As much as he strained to see them, they remained hidden.
How long had he been walking? Must be over an hour, he thought. He was getting cold, and his pace had slowed. Close by the waterfall were some huge boulders that had crashed down from the heights long ago. He remembered how they absorbed the sunlight on warm summer days. Maybe he’d feel better if he sat on one of them for a while.


The long slab of rock didn’t feel warm. In fact, it felt downright cold. Even so, it seemed to soothe his aching joints. He lay back and looked at the ruins of what was once a lively, bustling place. Now it was broken into pieces, so shattered that even he could barely tell where the buildings had once stood. He felt like the place reflected him. Between the arthritis and the lingering aches and pains from all the injuries he’d suffered in his reckless youth, he and Devil’s Hole were two peas in a pod. We’re both broken by age and assaults, but somehow, we’re still standing, even though standing could hurt like the devil.


He was lost in his thoughts and memories, when he became aware of a shape moving towards him. It looked like a man, moving around the abandoned buildings, going here and there, glistening under the glow of millions of stars. He pushed himself up onto his elbows, wishing he still wore his gun, and then silently cursing at himself. What use was a gun against a ghost? As he stared, the shape became more familiar, and a voice emerged over the roar of the crashing waterfall.


“Grandpa! Grandpa! Where are you?”


He struggled to get to his feet but failed, falling painfully back onto the hard cold surface.


“By the waterfall!”


The boy ran over to him.


“Are you okay, Grandpa? You been gone an awful long time.”


“Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself.” He heard his own voice, and felt bad. It wasn’t right to be sharp with the boy; he probably got scared when he woke up and didn’t know where his grandfather was.


“What were you doing out here all this time?”


“I’ve been looking for ghosts.”


Thaddeus nodded, as if that made perfect sense to him. “Find any?”


“No,” he sighed. “The only ghost here is me.”


He looked up at his grandson, taking in his height, his broad shoulders, his solid presence.


“I was wrong about you, Tadpole.”


“How so?”


“Maybe sixteen is a man after all. Maybe.”


The boy laughed a little. “Thanks for that.” He looked down at his grandfather, still laying on the flat boulder.


“Want some help getting up?”


“Guess I do.” He let the strong young arms reach under his and pull him up. He couldn’t help groaning in pain.


“Why don’t you let me help you, Grandpa? We’ll get you back by the fire. The warmth will feel good.”

He let himself lean into the boy’s strength. “Alright, Thaddeus. There’s nothing to see here anyway.”
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:33 pm

Yes, here we are; another scene from my stories that fits the prompt. I'll post an original story, if a bunny hops, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy another repeat.




Fifteen minutes into the ride back to the ranch, Heyes was still stoically silent and Jed was getting a little tired of feeling the stress coming off of him.  Even Karma was antsy in her jog-trot, tossing her head and mouthing her bit as her own sensitivity picked up on her human's mood.


  “Ya' still thinking about Abi?”  Jed finally asked, having reached the end of his patience.


  “What...?  OH.  No.”


  “Miranda then?”


  “No, not really.”


  “Well, Amy then.”


  “No!”


  “Well dagnabbit!  What are ya' thinkin' about!?”  Kid demanded.  “You're driving me crazy—and you always do this!”


  “What am I doing!?”  Heyes demanded in his own defence.  Karma spooked and started.


  “You're thinkin', that's what!”  Kid told him.  “You're givin' me a damn headache—you're thinkin' so loud!  Why don't ya' just talk about it so we can both relax!”


  “Nothin' to talk about.”


  Jed suddenly pulled Gov to a halt and Heyes had to bring Karma back around so that he faced his cousin.


  “Heyes, I swear; I'm not goin' another step until you start talkin' to me,”  Jed warned him.  “What the hell is goin' on in that head of yours?”


  Heyes was getting a little tense himself.  “I don't want to talk about it,”  he grumbled.


  “Tough!  I'm sick of listenin' to you thinkin'!”  Jed insisted.  “C'mon Heyes.  I know you ain't been sleepin' again.  Somethin's bothering ya'.  If it ain't the various ladies in your life than what is it?”


  Heyes' shoulders slumped and Jed knew he had him.  Heyes turned Karma's head towards the ranch again and nudged her back into a walk.  Jed pushed Gov into motion and came up alongside his partner.


  “C'mon Heyes.”  He gently nudged his partner this time.  “What's bothin' ya'?”


  “I thought it would go away,”  Heyes stated quietly.  “With everything else going on with Abi and Anya I was feeling kinda good and it got pushed to the back and I thought I was fine.  I even told myself; 'Yeah, Kid was wrong, I don't need to talk about it.  Everything's fine.'  Then we got back home and there was so much going on here, all the upheaval over me and Abi and then the governor pulling the rug out from under us.  Then your wedding ... it just got pushed to the back and I had so many other things on my mind ... I just figured I was over it.”


  “You're not over it though, are ya' Heyes?”  Jed asked him quietly.  He knew what this was about.  Finally!


  Heyes just shook his head.


  “Ya' havin' nightmares again?”


  “Yeah,”  Heyes admitted.  “Not real bad ones like before, you know.  I'm not waking up screaming or anything, but they're still bad enough.  They started out slowly.  Usually my dreams these days have been pretty good, you know; just normal dreams, but then the nightmares started up again and now they're getting worse.  I thought about asking David for some sleeping drafts, but then he'd wanna know what for and all that.  I didn't feel that I wanted to talk to him about this. He's never been through it, so ...”


  “Are ya' ready to talk to me about it?”  Jed asked him.


  Heyes just nodded again, not able to meet his cousin's eyes but he took a deep breath and settled in as the horses walked on.  They knew the way home.


  “He was such a bastard,”  Heyes commented quietly.


  “Yeah, he was,”  Jed agreed.


  “He made my life a living hell in that place.  And he enjoyed it too!”  Heyes continued with a little bit of heat.  “That bastard!  He enjoyed it.  You should have seen him Kid, you should have seen the way he gloated about killing the Doc.  I knew he was just trying to get me angry—get me to make a mistake, but even at that, I could tell.  He enjoyed it.  If anybody deserved killing; he did.”


  “Yeah,”  Kid agreed.  “He did deserve it.”


  “Yeah.”  Heyes nodded.  “All those years in prison, even before what he did to Doc, I wanted to kill him.  He was just a mean son-of-a-bitch.”


  “Yup.”


  “So why am I sick about it now?”


  “Why do ya' think?”


  “Oh, you're pulling a 'David' on me now,”  Heyes complained.  “If I knew why, I wouldn't be asking!”


  “C'mon Heyes,”  Jed prodded him.  “You know why.  After everything he did to you and what he did to Doc, why would you feel bad about killin' 'em?”


  Heyes rode on in silence for a few strides.  Jed didn't know if he was thinking about it or just didn't want to say.


  “Because I always prided myself on being able to think my way out of problems,”  Heyes finally reasoned.  “If somebody did me wrong I was above killing them.  I could come up with a scheme to get back at them.  I could ruin them, destroy their lives.  I could do worse to them than kill them because I was so much smarter than they were.  They were stupid beasts who only knew how to deal with adversaries through violence, but I was civilized....
  “Prison changed all that.  It dragged me down to their level because the only way to survive in that place; the only way to stay alive was to become just as brutal just as vicious as they were.  I wanted to kill Carson, Kid.  I didn't want him to be arrested, I didn't want the law to kill him.  I didn't even want him to be sent to prison which would have been a fate worse than death for him.  I wanted to kill him.
  “So when the opportunity came to go after him I took it.  I deliberately left you and Cage behind because I wanted to kill him myself.  Even if I had known at that point that Abi wasn't dead, I still would have gone after him.  Abi was just one more reason; one more justification.
  “I can still feel him Kid.  I can still smell his breath as we struggled for that gun and I was lost in it.  I never knew what they meant by a 'killing lust' before I went to prison.  I felt it for the first time when I got into that fight with Harris and Boeman.  It was all encompassing.  I didn't feel pain, I didn't hear Kenny yelling at me.  All I knew was that I wanted to kill.  I wanted to wring the life out whose ever throat I had between my hands.  It didn't even matter at that point who it was.  I wanted blood.
  “It scared me afterwards; to have lost control like that.  I swore I'd never let it happen again—and it didn't.  I fell back on my old scheming ways.  Anybody did me wrong and I was able to keep my cool, just like before. I'd get mad, but I could hide it—bide my time and exact my revenge when it suited me.  I was back to being myself again, back to being above all the rest of those animals.
  “So even when I knew I wanted to kill Carson I had myself convinced that it was just going to be like any other well planned out 'Hannibal Heyes' scheme.  It would be like blowing a safe or stopping a train. I'd plan it, do it and then be done with it.
  “But the animal re-surfaced and once I had Carson in my sites nothing else mattered.  I didn't feel the cold, I didn't feel the pain of him pounding on me.  The hammer of that gun was digging into the palm of my hand and I was aware of the pain, but it was as though I didn't feel it...as though I didn't care.
  “I was willing to die Kid.  I was willing to die myself as long as I took Carson with me.  There was no other thought in my mind.  That killing-lust, that total loss of control that I swore I would never allow to consume me again—did.  I was an animal again.  A wild, crazy beast with no intellect, no compassion, no remorse—no thought of consequence.  I was no better than Carson.
  “After it was all over with I kept telling myself that he deserved it.  That the law would have probably put him to death anyways and if not, well  he wasn't going to survive in prison.  Word would have gotten around about who he was, just like it did with Harris and the other inmates would have taken him out.  So why did I feel so sick about killing him?
  “Then I realized that it wasn't because of some moral issue.  It wasn't because of what our folks said, or the Sisters at Valparaiso about how it was wrong to take a life.  It was because I had seen myself at the lowest, most brutal level of humanity.  All my high intellect, all my fine talk, all my arrogance at never committing murder.  'Of all the trains and banks they robbed, they never killed anyone...'  Isn't that what that dime novel says?
  “What a load of crap!  I'd just never been put into the position before of needing to kill—of wanting to kill.  And as soon as I found myself in that position, suddenly I was a killer—just like all those other lowly forms of humanity that I'd been forced to live with.  I didn't like it.”


  Heyes stopped talking then—finally.  The horses plodded on, having settled themselves into a nice extended walk that would get them home quickly but not exert too much energy.  Jed remained quiet for a bit, taking in all his partner had said and wondering how he could ease his friend's pain.


  “We all have that in us Heyes; to kill,”  Jed finally told him.  “I found that out at an early age.  It just took you a little longer.  But you ain't nothin' like Carson.  Carson killed for pleasure; you said yourself that he enjoyed it.  You didn't enjoy killing—not even a bastard like Carson.
  “Being in that prison the way you were; it was bound to have an effect on your thinkin'.  They broke ya' Heyes, body and spirit.  Mitchell was certain he'd broke ya' permanent; that he'd destroyed ya' and  you were never going to come back.  But ya' did.  It's been a struggle for ya', I know that.  So does Jesse and Kenny and David.  Jeez; Belle, Miranda, the girls.  Abi.  We all know what you went through and what it did to ya'. 
  “But if you were like Carson, if you were like any of those other inmates at the prison who murdered for pleasure, do you think any of these people would have stuck by ya'?  You can bet that Kenny never would have signed those parole papers if he thought you were a cold-blooded killer—none of us would have.
  “I suppose livin' in that prison, surrounded by those kinds of people I can see how you might think that you became like them.  Maybe ya' did for a while, like you say; in order to survive in there.  But that isn't who or what you are.  You're comin' back Heyes, we can all see it.  You're healin'.  You're strong and you're gonna make it.”


  “Yeah?”


  “Yeah!”


  “Do ya' mind if I just take your word on that for now?”  Heyes asked him.  “Sometimes I'm not so sure I can do this on my own.”


  Jed grinned.  “You can lean on me anytime you need to, Partner.”
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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Mon Oct 10, 2016 1:32 pm

The wind whistles over the plain, bending the tall grass and flapping a torn current through one of the broken windows.  I steal a glance at my partner.  No, partner no more, but still my friend, and I looked I didn’t steal.  It’s been a long time since we’ve stolen anything – maybe not as long as some folks think, but long enough.


How far we’ve come, I muse, away from this building, this home for boys.  Home.  Yes, it was one for a few years.  One of the many homes we’ve had in our lives.  But we were never really at home here, though Lord knows they did their best.  We were possessed by the devil they said.  They were right in that, and I suspect they were as happy to have us leave as we were to leave.


A sound next to me draws my attention – a sigh.  We look at each other and back at the building.  It’s a burned out shell now – first a home for boys, then a junior college, now a ruin.  I guess we’ve stood the test of time better.  I may be bent, but I can walk on my own and am of sound mind.  My partner, friend, still stands tall, a shock of hair – now white – covering his head, his eyes dimmed but still watching, assessing the area for danger.  


By silent agreement we step through the gate to get closer, sheltering in the shadow, protected from the sun. He walks with a limp these days.  Old injuries coming back to haunt us, like my twisted back.  War wounds we call them.  “What war was that Daddy, Uncle?” they’d ask.  We laughed at their guesses but never told them the truth - not that truth.  Molly would distract them.  But Molly’s gone now; the children are grown and it’s the two of us again – partners, friends.


“Hey, Mister, hey.  You about ready to go?  My meter’s running, and it’s getting dark.”


We glance back at the cabby, leaning on his horseless carriage.  I remember when we saw our first one, we laughed out loud sure it could never replace a horse.  But now, now we even drive them ourselves – or we did when we were younger.  So many things have changed, telegraph, telephone, automobiles; some fool even flew an aero plane across the Atlantic Ocean all by himself just the other day.  Imagine.  But other things stay the same.  People don’t change.  I guess there will always be some good and some bad in all of us.


The cabby opens his mouth to call again, but I forestall him.  “We’re coming.  We’re done here, aren’t we, partner?” 


Together my friend and I walk down the path one more time that we walked down so many times before, before everything changed and nothing changed.
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:25 am

This is the last part of this story.  It can be read as a whole in the Sarah Whyment thread above if you want to read it all together.  

                               
The brown eyes stared out of the bunkhouse window at the quaggy, boggy mess.  It had been raining for two solid days now, and it seemed to be coming down in rods rather than drops.  Everything seemed soggy; even the air was moist, dank, and claggy in the exhausting, steaming summer heat.  The dust had mixed with the swirling rainwater in a thick paste which stuck to boots with a sucking determination.  In short, it was horrible out there; but Hannibal Heyes was watching the main house, especially now the door had opened and the local priest stumbled out of the front door as though ejected by force. 


He was quickly followed by a shocked-looking Mrs. Roseburn, who reached out to catch the clergyman who almost tripped over a porch chair.  She steadied him before yelling back into the darkness of the doorway and making the sign of the cross.  The angry husband followed them out, remonstrating theatrically and making the sign of the very cross, much to the silent amusement of the ex-outlaw leader.  It was clear Heyes’ plan was coming together.  The accusations of an affair with the schoolteacher had been openly made and Roseburn was suitably distracted from his current ambitions to look too closely at the detail.   A door opened behind him.  


“Hey, Smith.”  The call came from the foreman, Smart.  “Father Quigley wants his horse bringing round to the house.  It’s the roan in the end stall.”

Heyes turned.  “Sure.  I’ll get right on it.”

“Is your pal back from the dam yet?”

“I haven’t seen him.  Why?”

Smart scratched at his stubble.  “I sent him out to break that thing down hours ago.  The damn rain’s flooding us out and it’s got nowhere to go but back.  I sent him and two other fellas.”

“You want me to go and see if they’re alright?  That water’s sure building up.  It’s getting too near the feedlock.”

“Yeah, but get that holy man outta here first.  I swear Roseburn’s gonna kill him.  Darn fool turned up to counsel him on the evils of fornication.  If he keeps this up he’ll be meetin’ his boss sooner rather than later.”

OooOOOooo

Heyes’ horse thudded to a stop in the teeming rain near the group of men facing off near the wall holding back the great wall of water lurching and swelling against the constraining levee spilling over the side and drowning the surrounding fields and paddocks in an enveloping  confluence of river and floodwater.  He drank in the Kid’s stiff stance and dismounted, tying off the reins to nearby log, noting the fourth horse tethered nearby.  Three man and four horses.  His dark eyes darted around, but he could see neither hide not hair of the missing rider.  “Smart sent me to find out what’s taking you so long.”

The eldest of the other two cowhands gathered up a ball of sputum from somewhere deep inside his chest and gobbed it at the ground, where it slid provocatively close to the Kid’s foot in a slimy, greasy mess.  “This ‘un.”  He gestured to the gunman.  “He won’t let us go and break down the dam.”

“He threatened us,” the younger one objected.  “He fired a shot right by my foot.  I ain’t paid enough for these kinds of shenanigans.”

“He did, huh?”  Heyes eyes glinted with arcane humor only the Kid could read.  “Why’d he do that?”

“The dam.  We was sent to break it down and he won’t let us.”

“Thaddeus?” A dimple appeared in the left cheek.  “Want to tell me what’s gone on here?”

“They want to go onto the Martin’s land and blow up their dam.”  He shook his head, holding the men’s eyes all the while.  “And I ain’t gonna allow that.  They only get to work on Roseburn’s dam.”

“Yeah, but if we break Roseburn’s dam it won’t make no difference.  The Martins already made a bigger one in front of it so the water ain’t gonna go anywhere.”  He pointed at the rapids ripping down the slope, tearing up stones and sweeping away any shrubs in its way with angry white frills of spray.  “Look!  It’s runnin’ straight down into the meadow and runnin’ back to the house.”

“Yeah, well it would,” Heyes reasoned.  “Roseburn had us dig that out so it would irrigate the fields and water his place.  It was bound to get bigger if there was a flood.”

“But he don’t want gallons of the stuff in the meadow.  We’ve had three months of rain fall in just a day.” 

“Roseburn should have thought it through,” the Kid retorted.  “There’s a woman and child in the Martin house and it could be flooded if you blow up their dam.  It ain’t happenin’ on my watch.”

“He means it,” Heyes replied.  “He’s got a real soft spot for women and kids.  A real stickler.  He could have been preacher if it wasn’t for all the whiskey, women, and gambling.” 

“Well they ain’t payin’ our wages,” snapped the younger man.

 They all turned to look at the stranger cresting the top of the hill behind them, the jagged legs of his theodolite making the shadow look like an enormous spider.  “Who’s that?”

 “Some fella called Pettigrew.  Says he’s doin’ a survey or some sort.  He says Roseburn knows about it,” the older cowhand replied.

“He does,” Heyes agreed.  “I picked him up at the station for the boss.”

Pettigrew squelched his way across the waterlogged mud towards them.  “That’s me done for the day.  I can’t wait for a hot bath and a warm drink.”

“That’s it?  You just wander about looking through that box on legs and call it a day’s work?” barked the oldest man.

Pettigrew’s eyes widened.  “You stand there jawing and think you have the right to criticize me?   I don’t have time to chat to my pals.  I’ve got a report to write.”

The young man pointed at the Kid.  “We ain’t chattin’.  We’re arguin’.  We were sent to blow up this dam and this here fella won’t let us.”

“Blow it up?”  Pettigrew frowned.  “But there’s another huge one behind it.”

“We know,” snarled the older man.  “We want to break that down too.”

“That one?  It’d take you a week to blast through that.  Whoever did it knew how to handle explosives.  He carefully took down the whole hill and changed the topography completely.”

“Changed the what?” the cowhand demanded.

“The lay of the land, the physical features, the shape of the countryside,” smiled Pettigrew, warming to his subject.  “I know about this stuff.  It’s what I do.”  He pointed over at the second dam.  “That took down the top of the hill and laid it out beside it.  It effectively flattened the land but changed the route of the river.  I spoke to a little guy over there and he said that Roseburn dammed the river so they had to find another water supply.  After a bit they uncovered the spring that fed into the well, and used that instead.  I don’t suppose they knew what they were doing but it meant that the river would feed into the meadow from now on.”

“Yeah, and it backs right up to the house,” agreed the little ranch hand.  It’s flooding out the place.”
The Kid cast a knowing look over at his partner.  “It’s almost like somebody planned it.”

“But they couldn’t,” Heyes grinned.  “It’s not like anyone could know it was going to rain this hard.”

“And if someone was used to planning stuff usin’ the lay of the land and explosives they’d be doin’ better jobs than we are,” muttered the Kid bitterly.  “They sure wouldn’t be casual cowhands on a two-bit farm like the Martin place.  They wouldn’t be standin’ here in the pouring rain either.”

“He’s right,” Heyes agreed.  “That’d take someone expert at reading maps, knowing how and where to block the way with explosives, and the foresight to see how people would react to that.  That’s a real smart fella.”

“Or a swollen-headed blowhard,” muttered the Kid before turning back to the surveyor.  “So, we’ve got a week’s worth of explosions to clear the Martin’s dam?”

“At least,” he nodded.  “It’s easier to move that amount of earth down than aside.  Gravity helps, plus that’s wet now.  Sodden with water.  Mud moves in a different way to dry soil.  If it becomes wet enough it becomes a suspension and reduces the friction between the gains.  Quite often, all you’ll do is move it around.  It’s all academic anyway.  The decision’s been made.  We don’t want a flood plain.”

“Decision?” asked Heyes.

“Flood plain?” asked the Kid.
       
Pettigrew’s lips pursed.  “I’m not at liberty to say.”


“You’re surveying for the new railroad, aren’t you?” Heyes sparkled with innocence.  “This place is a flood plain?  You can’t build a railroad there can you?”

“I can’t say,” Pettigrew replied.

“You can’t?”  Heyes’ cheeks dimpled.   “But you don’t want a flood plain?  I think we know that if it wasn’t a railroad you’d say.  It’s got to be something heavy if damp soil won’t support it.”

“I can’t discuss it.”  Pettigrew bent over and started folding impossibly long legs from his contraption into the bag. 

“No need to, sir,” the Kid gestured with his head towards the Martin place.  “I’m goin’ over to make sure that lady is alright.  Tell the boys over at Roseburn’s place that there are three men watchin’ to make sure nobody tries anything and that one of them is me.  I won’t tolerate folks movin’ in on a woman alone.  Got that?” 

“Like I said earlier,” grumbled the younger man.  “I ain’t paid enough for this.  I could care less about about piles of mud.  I ain’t getting’ fired for some woman I don’t even know.”

“That’s a good philosophy,” the Kid replied turning and arctic stare on his old workmates.  “She ain’t worth dyin’ for either.  Keep off her land.”

oooOOOooo    

“What do you mean you’re not buying this place?” Roseburn’s eyes bulged in anger.  “My wife’s family gave her this land when we married.  It has to go or they’re in control forever.”

“So?” Pettigrew shrugged.  “She’s allowed to own land, although God alone knows why.  They haven’t got the strength to work it, but they can own it.  My wife has a dinner service and a set of silver spoons.  I think that’s more than enough, but the law says they can own stuff and that’s no business of mine.”

“If the land is sold it’ll be money in the bank and that’s a whole lot easier to control that land with the family all overlooking it.  I want rid.”

“Then you’d better find a buyer,” Pettigrew retorted.  “The railroad doesn’t want land that floods.  We can bypass the place, but this place is no use to us.  Nobody wants tracks to sink and buckle.” 

“This place needs to go.  I’m no rancher.  I’ve been forced into this by my wife’s family,” Roseburn’s eyes lit up with conspiratorial glee.  “How about I make it worth your while?”

The surveyor shook his head.  “Unless you’re prepared to set me and my family up for the rest of our lives it’s not worth it.  The railroad is a good career with a pension.  I’m not going to jeopardize that for a few dollars.  They’d see this place as a flood risk as soon as they started building and I’d be out on my ear.”  Pettigrew dropped his report on the table.  “As mayor you are entitled to have this.  You’re not entitled to special treatment.  Good day to you, sir.”

He turned on his heel and strode out the door leaving a fuming Roseburn rooted impotently to the spot.

oooOOOooo 

Mrs. Martin poured the coffee into the tin mugs as four ex-members of the Devil’s Hole Gang sat around her kitchen table.  “I reckon Hank’ll be real pleased when he gets home.”

“How long before he gets out of prison?” asked Heyes.

“About a week, maybe a couple of days added on for travellin’, but all this is better than I thought it could be.”  She reached over to top up Wheat’s cup, the weathered, muscled arm as brown as the wood of the furniture.  “I don’t know how you came up with all this, I really don’t.  How did you know the railroad wanted to buy the land?”

“Heyes is a real good planner, Mrs. Martin.  He knows stuff,” Kyle chortled.

“He guesses stuff,” Wheat corrected.  “But I’ve got to hand him this one.  He not only punished Roseburn for bullyin’ you, ma’am, he made sure your land got a good enough price to let you move on.”

“Well, I don’t want to stay beside him, that’s for sure,” she nodded.  “It’s a real good offer too.  More than we paid for it.  I’d never have got that for a dried-out farm from anywhere else.  We’ve had no water since spring.  I thought we were gonna starve.”  She smiled appreciatively at Heyes and Curry.  “When you two turned up I thought I you was trouble and that Roseburn had gotten tired of waitin’.”

“It was a happy accident, ma’am,” the Kid replied.  “We never even knew Hank had a wife, let alone that you lived here.”  He glanced over at Kyle and Wheat.  “I was real surprised to find this pair ridin’ in.  Once we knew everythin’ there was no question of us doin’ what it took.  Workin’ for Roseburn was the easiest way to find out more about him.”  
 
Wheat swung back in his chair.  “It was obvious to all of us that Roseburn wanted your land for either minin’ or the railroad.”

“Yes,” Heyes agreed.  “Especially when we met a native guide who’d been helpin’ surveyors.  It didn’t take much to put two and two together.  It was best for you to move.  It ain’t a good idea to stay put with a neighbor dispute. Life’s too short.  Get the best price you can and start again.  Either way a flood was going to make your land look more attractive to a prospective buyer than his.  It seemed the most peaceable way to get this sorted.”

“But to flood it?”  The woman’s bun sat like a ball of steel wool on her shaking head.  “You can’t plan a flood.”

Heyes’ grin widened.  “You can when you’ve been warned about it.  The Arapaho have lived around here forever and can read this land like the back of their hands.  When the fella in the bar said that the rains were coming it seemed a good idea to use it to our advantage.  He wasn’t going to be wrong about something that kept his folks alive for centuries.  It’s not so different to looking at a map to find the best way to block a track for a train robbery, and Kyle here is darned good at blasting the countryside to pieces.” 

“Aw, thanks.  I really enjoyed it.  I ain’t blowed up that much stuff in years.  Takin’ down that hill was so much fun I kept waitin’ for Heyes to tell me I was doin’ it wrong.”  The explosives man puffed out his chest in pride, grabbing at the backhanded compliment.  “I ain’t blown up that much stuff since the war.  By the time I was done Roseburn’s dam looked like a picket fence.  That river was never goin’ anywhere but down onto the paddocks after that.”

“You did a great job, Kyle.  You never did better work,” Heyes’ face dimpled.  “You leveled that slope and changed the land into something higher than Roseburn’s flood plain.  You got Mrs. Martin a way better price than anything Roseburn would have paid.”

“I can’t thank you enough,” Mrs. Martin replied.  “I’d have sold cheap.  I was getting’ real desperate.  This way we have a good price from the railroad and we can move on.  Have a fresh start.”

“You’re welcome, Mrs. Martin,” Wheat asserted.  “No matter what, we look after our own in the Devil’s Hole Gang.”

“That’s right,” the Kid’s blue eyes glittered earnestly.  “I’ve questioned a lot about the folks in the Devil’s Hole Gang; their honesty, their guts,  and their work-ethic.  Even their hygiene; but I’ve never questioned their loyalty.  We’ll stay until Hank gets back to make sure you’re safe and then we’ll be in our way.”

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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MoulinP

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Mon Oct 31, 2016 5:02 pm

Real life is interfering with me a lot at the moment so I haven't had time to write anything original this month. This is an extract from my ASJ universe that I've tweaked. There are several things broken in this so I hope it fits the prompt.

Broken

Heyes laughed humourlessly as he wrestled his younger son into his high chair. Billy was squealing with delight at the attention from his father and not co-operating.


“Bend your legs, Billy! Come on. There’s a good boy.”


Harry laughed at their father’s attempts to stuff his brother into the chair.


“Not funny, Harry. Not funny at all,” Heyes said, slightly out of breath with exasperation.


“’Tis,” grinned the small boy, cheekily.


Heyes growled. “Billy! Thank you. Finally!”


He puffed when the boy was in. Then he smiled and he gave Billy’s dark hair a ruffle, before turning to Harry. The older boy was sitting on the side of the chair.


“This way round, Harry, please.” He swung the boy’s legs round to the front and then shuffled the chair under the table. “There you go.”


Heyes had just taken his place at the table when he heard a crash from the kitchen. Heyes rubbed his eyes wearily. “Oh, Susan!” he heard Mary cry.


“I’m sorry, Mama,”


“Go and sit down!”


A moment later, a forlorn little girl shuffled into the dining room. She climbed onto her chair without a word and sat there, arms crossed over her doll, head down hiding her trembling bottom lip.


“What happened, Susan?” Heyes asked gently.


“Dropped the plates,” the little girl mumbled.


Heyes nodded. Yep that just about summed up the whole day. Not for the first time did he wonder whether running a band of outlaws was easier than having to deal with three small children under the age of five.


It was a while before Mary came into the dining room, carrying a tray bearing plates and a stew pot. She thumped it down without a word. Heyes and the children knew better than to say anything. Even Billy stopped squealing. Mary had just taken the lid off the stew pot, and stood, ladle in hand ready to serve up, when there was a knock on the outside door.


“Oh now who’s that?” she sighed, pushing back an escaped lock of hair with the back of her hand. She was tired. Heyes had been late home and dinner was probably spoilt. The children had run her ragged all day and a delay in getting them fed and put to bed was last thing she wanted.


“I’ll get it,” Heyes said, levering himself up quickly. He was not in her good books today. Stopping for a beer in the saloon before coming home had not gone down too well. Normally it was fine but today, obviously it wasn’t. “Serve up and start.”


As he crossed the hall with a frown. They weren’t expecting visitors, on a cold and wet night like this. Whoever it was must have a good reason to be out. He briefly toyed with the idea of getting his gun. As he had no cause to wear it now, it might take some finding. Then he would have to search for bullets and load it. He decided it wasn’t worth the effort. And the knocking sounded urgent.


A moment later, the front door was open he and was walking backwards into the hall, with his hands up. He groaned inwardly. Oh, this was all he needed today.


A man’s head appeared around the door looking both ways.


“You alone, Heyes?” he asked.


“Of course I’m not alone, Wheat, my family is here,” Heyes replied, irritably. “Put that away!” He gestured at the gun.


“Oh, right, sure.” As Wheat holstered his gun, he flipped the door behind him shut. He wrung his hands. “Sure is cold out tonight.”


“What are you doing here?” Heyes growled, in a low voice.


“Ain’t ya heard?” Wheat blinked in surprise.


“Heard what?” Heyes glowered menacingly.


“The Gang. It’s dang busted, Heyes. Broken.” Wheat hesitated and then in case Heyes didn’t understand. “No more. Finished.”


Heyes licked his lips, slowly. “No, I hadn’t heard that,” he said, quietly. “What happened?” He knew there must be a story. Else, why would Wheat be here? “Where’s Kyle?”


A flicker of pain crossed the face of the older man. Before he could answer, small feet stomped into the hall.


“Mama says she’s served up and if you don’t come now, it’ll be cold,” Susan said, firmly and then paused before lowering her voice. “Pappy, I don’t think she’s in an arguing mood today.” She shook her head furiously and eyed the big man with her father curiously. She clutched her doll tightly to her chest.


Heyes tore his eyes from Wheat and smiled down at his daughter. “Thank you sweetheart. Tell Mama, I’ll be right there.”


With a nod, Susan ran back into the dining room. Heyes turned back to Wheat. He looked the older man over, noting the lack of shaving and general unkemptness. Nothing unusual there but Wheat had a hollow look in his eyes. This man had a story to tell and Heyes was curious to know what it was.


“When was the last time you ate?”


Wheat considered. “Yester … yesterday lunch, I reckon.”


Heyes sighed and nodded. “We’re just sitting down to dinner. Come and join us. We’ll talk later.”


Wheat grinned. “That’s mighty good of ya Heyes. Don’t mind if I do. Can’t remember the last time I had a home cooked meal.”


“Yeah, yeah,” Heyes said, stopping him from going any further. “Give me your things and then I’ll show you where you can wash up.”


Wheat blinked at him.


“You’re kinda dirty, Wheat,” Heyes growled, impatiently.


“Oh. Yeah, sure,” Wheat said, in realisation and handed Heyes his hat.


Heyes looked at it in disgust and beat it against his leg, sending a cloud of dust into the air. He grunted as Wheat deposited his tan heavy canvas jacket into Heyes’ arms, followed by his gloves. Heyes looked at him. Wheat looked back. Then impatiently, Heyes nodded with his head to Wheat’s gun. Wheat frowned.


“There’s children here!” Heyes exclaimed.


“Oh. Yeah, sure.” He bent to untie the throng from around his thigh and then unbuckled the belt, before piling it on top of things Heyes held. “What now?” he asked, seeing the look on Heyes’
face.


“Something else?” Heyes asked, expectantly.


Wheat sucked in a breath. “Ya gonna leave me defenceless!” he growled.


“What’s gonna happen to you in my dining room?” Heyes growled.


Wheat grunted. He reached between his shoulder blades and pulled out a knife, laying it on top of the pile. “Sheesh Heyes ya never know …”


“See that door over there?” Heyes cut him off and indicated the door under the stairs. “Wash up in there and then come through into the dining room.”


Wheat nodded and sauntered off in that direction. Heyes watched him go with a sigh. Then conscious of the odour emanating from the pile of things he held, he scowled.


Heyes deposited Wheat’s things in the study then turned and locked the door behind him. Patting the pocket where he’d put the key, he looked thoughtfully at the door Wheat had headed for. Heyes went back into the dining room.


“Can we stretch to one more, Mary, please?” Although he said it as a request, it wasn’t and she frowned in surprise at his tone.


“Yes I think so. Who is it?” she snapped.


Before Heyes could answer, Wheat appeared behind him. Mary’s face fell and she raised an eyebrow at her husband. He just nodded reassuringly.


“Fine,” she said, getting up. “I’ll get another plate,” she murmured before disappearing in the direction of the kitchen.


“Take a seat next to Sue, Wheat,” Heyes said, indicating the spot.


“It’s Susan, Pappy,” reminded the small girl.


Heyes nodded, duly reminded.


“Looks like you’re running the gang again Heyes,” Wheat chortled as he walked behind him. “This time in miniature.”


Heyes smacked his lips and watched Wheat take his seat before he took his.


Susan turned to Wheat. “Hallo, I’m Susan. What’s your name?”


Wheat looked at Heyes for help. Heyes just smiled ruefully.


“Er well now Little Missy …. .” Wheat blustered. “Folks call me Wheat.”


“Please to meet you, Wheat. Put it there.” The small girl held out her hand, expecting to shake.


Wheat looked at Heyes, who nodded with a smile. Wheat self-consciously took the small hand and shook it, solemnly.


Mary came back with the plate, saw Wheat and Susan shaking hands, and looked a question at Heyes. He smiled back, tight lipped. With a sigh, she picked up the ladle.


“I hope you like beef stew.”


“Oh yes ma’am.” She passed a filled plate over. “Thank you ma’am. Much obliged ma’am.”


Wheat waited until the others had started before shovelling stew into his mouth. There was an uncomfortable silence around the dinner table but Wheat didn’t notice so intent was he.


“It’s … it’s Wheat isn’t it?” Mary asked suddenly and widened her eyes at Heyes when he glared at her.


“Yes ma’am.”


“Susan, sit on that chair properly young lady. Nobody here needs to see your underwear.”


“Yes Mama.”


“Didn’t you have a friend with you that last time you visited?” Mary paused. “In the middle of the night,” she added, icily.


Heyes noticed the look of pain crossing Wheat’s face again. Yes, there was definitely a story here for the telling.


“Yes ma’am,” Wheat mumbled and attended to his dinner.


“So where is he today?”


Heyes growled and shook his head at her.


“Er … he … couldn’t make it, ma’am.”


“Wheat. That’s a funny name,” said Susan, thankfully distracting the conversation.


“Susan! Be polite to our guest now.”


“Mama, I’m curious. I’ve haven’t heard that name before so I’m just asking. Pappy says you have to ask questions if you want to know things.”


Aware that Mary’s eyes were boring a hole in the top of his head, Heyes kept it down, hiding his smirk.


Wheat cleared his throat. “Well now Little Missy …”


“Susan.”


Wheat cleared his throat again. “It’s the name my folks gave me. Just like your folks call you Susan.”


“They named me after Pappy’s Mama. Who did your folks name you for?”


“Is that right?” Wheat looked at Heyes. “Heyes never told me his folks’ names.”


“So you’ve known Pappy for a long time then?”


Heyes and Mary swopped glances.


“Yeah, I reckon a fair while.”


“How long?”


Heyes smiled at his daughter’s persistence.


“Oh well I’ve known Heyes for …”


Heyes looked up to see Wheat’s mind considering.


“Must be … getting on for twelve years now.”


“My that is a long time! That’s older’n me!” Susan’s legs were drawn up on the chair again. Mary put out a hand to pat them down. “Why do you call Pappy, Heyes? His name is Joshua.”


Heyes winced. Wheat looked flustered and looked at him for help. Which wasn’t forthcoming. “Er well er … .” Heyes just smiled ruefully and Wheat snarled at him. “It’s er … well it’s like this Little Missy …”


“Susan.”


“Yes yes Susan. I’ll remember. Well see it’s … it’s a nickname. That’s it. A nickname.” Wheat looked pleased with himself and beamed at Heyes, who nodded.


At first, the explanation seemed to satisfy Susan and the room filled with sounds of eating.


“What’s it mean?” Susan asked suddenly.


Heyes sighed and swopped glances with Mary again.


“Huh?” grunted Wheat.


“Heyes. You give a nickname for a reason. What’s the reason?”


Wheat puffed and looked at Heyes for help. This time it was forthcoming.


“Eat your dinner, sweetheart, before it gets cold,” he said, sharply.


Susan sighed. “Yes Pappy.”
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
After dinner, Heyes and Wheat adjourned to the study.


“How old is Little Missy?” Wheat asked, as Heyes poured whiskey.


Heyes smiled. “Nearly five.”


“Was she the …?” Wheat mimed a bump.


“Yes she was,” Heyes nodded and handed Wheat a glass. He indicated a seat and sank into the
opposite one with a sigh. “Five going on fifty. She’s far too sharp for her own good sometimes.”


“And the boys?”


“Two and a half and …” Heyes looked at the ceiling as he thought. “Nineteen months.”


“Sheesh Heyes.” Wheat chortled. “When you get the hang of something you sure do like to practice don’t ya?”


Heyes smacked his lips, feeling slightly embarrassed.


“Ya’ve got yaself a real nice set up here Heyes,” Wheat said, looking round with interest. “All this from running a hardware store huh?”


“Nope not all of it. Remember Soapy?”


“Soapy Saunders? Yeah I remember ole Soapy.”


“He died a few years back. Left me a bit of money in his will. Enough for me to buy a parcel of land and have this house built.”


Wheat nodded. “Sure did make it hard for me to find ya. I rode all over. ‘Till I saw the name of the house. That kinda gave it away.” Wheat grinned. “Amnesty. Sheesh, Heyes.”


“It wasn’t my idea.” Heyes growled. “I was overruled,” he muttered, rolling his eyes. He set his glass down deliberately. “So Wheat, why were you looking for me? Can’t be jus’ to tell me ‘bout the gang? I would of read ‘bout that in the newspaper eventually.” He hesitated. “What happened to Kyle, Wheat?”


Wheat put his head down and Heyes prepared himself for some hard news. He didn’t press. He would let Wheat tell it in his own time.


“Me and the fellas held over the post office in Atkins.” He saw Heyes’ questioning look. “We’s strictly small time now Heyes.”


Heyes nodded and reached for his glass. “Go on.”


“Few of the town’s folk collected themselves into a posse didn’t they? Got the jump on us and we had to light out fast.” Wheat sniffed. “S’right. They weren’t no good. Heart weren’t in it for a long chase so we lost ‘em soon enough.” He took a deep breath. “Anways we’s pulled up to get our breath back. Y’know how it is.”


Heyes nodded. He did know how it is.


“Anyways all of a sudden Kyle’s horse rears up. Musta been spooked by something. Dunno what. Caught Kyle on the hop and he falls right off over the back.” Wheat swallowed hard. “Me and the boys started to laugh. Y’know Kyle. He was always falling off his horse one way or another.”


Heyes smiled faintly. “Yeah.”


“Only … this time …”, Wheat gasped. He put his head down and his breathing came in short jerky breaths. He took a gulp of his drink. “He didn’t get up Heyes. Broke his dang head on a rock didn’t he?” he finished, quickly. “Died right there in front of us.” Wheat shook his head. “Nothin’ we could do,” he forced out, struggling to contain his emotions.


Heyes saw the tears welling up in Wheat’s eyes and he leant over, putting a hand on Wheat’s arm.


“I’m sorry Wheat,” he said, softly. “He was a good man.”


They sat in silence. Wheat collecting himself, Heyes thinking back through his memories of the small scruffy man. Of all of the outlaws in Devil’s Hole, Kyle had the least harm in him. He wasn’t the brightest. He was often the butt of pranks and jokes but he took it all with good grace. Heyes smiled as he remembered him. His willingness to please. His enthusiasm, especially for blowing things up. He remember the laughs they’d shared. The danger they’d experienced together. The numerous close shaves. After the Kid, Kyle was probably the only one of the Devil’s Hole Gang that Heyes could call friend. He mourned his passing.


While Kyle had been his friend, to Wheat, Kyle had been his partner, just like the Kid was his partner. There was a special unbroken bond between partners. Even though the Kid lived two thousand miles away now, Heyes still felt him. He knew if things were wrong and he knew the Kid felt the same way. Heyes couldn’t imagine losing that bond and he felt for Wheat.


“It hit all the boys hard Heyes. We’s went back to the Hole but it was like a fire had gone out. Nobody wanted to talk ‘bout the next job. Lobo … he was the first to go. Said he had a cousin who ran with a gang up in Canada. Reckon they did things different up there so he thought he’d go try his luck up there.


“Then Preacher said he had the callin’ agin. Said it was time to go back into the fold. Or some such religious reason, I dunno.” He sighed. “He jus’ went one night. Nobody heard him go.
“Hank said he had enough money saved to try an’ make it with his family agin. If they’d have him. So he went not long after.


“That jus’ left me and Red and Sam. Don’t reckon you knows them Heyes. They came in after you left.”


Wheat sighed heavily. “Anyways they figured there was nothin’ left for them so they headed off. Dunno where.” He sighed again. “An’ it got me thinkin’ one night with just me an’ a bottle for company. ‘Bout what you said, Heyes.”


Heyes blinked. “I’ve said a lot of things, Wheat. Care to narrow it down a bit.” He didn’t mean to sound unkind and he winced when he realised perhaps he had.


Wheat didn’t seem to notice. “’Bout amnesty Heyes. Worked for you and the Kid. Right? An’ you two were much bigger crooks than I am.” Wheat licked his lips. “D’you reckon … that Governor would give me amnesty Heyes? Like yous two?”


Heyes took a deep breath. “I dunno Wheat. It’s a different Governor these days.”


“Jus’ a thought,” Wheat said, quickly and levered himself out of the chair. “Well I’d best be making tracks, Heyes. I jus’ came to tell ya ‘bout Kyle and the boys. Figgured ya’d wanna know what happened.”


“Thanks Wheat. But you don’t have to go. There’s a spare bed upstairs. You’re welcome to it.”


“Sheesh, Heyes. I don’t wanna get ya into trouble now.”


“No trouble, Wheat. It’s always made up. Just in case of sudden visitors.”


“I mean ain’t there that restriction on your amnesty? ‘Bout associating with criminal types. That’ll be me right enough.”


Heyes smiled. “Yeah there was but only for five years. Expired last June.” A typical Heyesian grin spread over his face and he got up. “Sit down Wheat. I’ll get you another drink.”


With glasses refilled, they settled again. Heyes looked at Wheat. “So, what would you do? If you got amnesty?”


Wheat shrugged. “Dunno. Don’t reckon I’m much good at anything except outlawin’. It might jus’ be too late for me to learn anything new.”


“You can’t think like that Wheat. You must have some idea.”


Wheat shook his head. “Naw! I’m pretty set in my ways. Ain’t got no family to go look up. Nothin’ like that.”


Heyes frowned. “I thought you had a brother. Sent you those awful cigars at Christmas.”


Wheat shook his head. “I ain’t got no brother,” he said, bitterly. “I bought those cigars so …” He put his head down and couldn’t continue. They both knew. It was so Wheat could pretend he wasn’t alone in the world. The Devil’s Hole Gang was his family. The loss of the Gang and Kyle had broken Wheat more than he realised and talking about it was suddenly all too much. He turned away from Heyes as the dam broke.


Heyes wasn’t immune to Wheat’s plight and he swallowed the lump in his own throat as he listened to the sobs that were escaping from the big man. He squeezed Wheat’s shoulder in sympathy.


“We can go and see Lom in the morning, Wheat. He’ll know how to talk to the Governor.” Heyes shook Wheat’s shoulder reassuring as the shudders of his grief took him again. “We’ll get you sorted, Wheat. Don’t worry.”


All Wheat could do was nod at that point. It was a while before he had composed himself to sit up straight again and then he was embarrassed.


“You won’t say nothin’ to the Kid? Or anyone ‘bout this will ya?”


Heyes smiled. “No, it’s just between us. Nobody else needs to know.”


“Thanks Heyes.” He hesitated. “You’re a good friend.”


They both knew that had never been the case. Heyes and Wheat had always been at loggerheads over one thing or another. The fact that Wheat was here with Heyes spoke volumes. It had taken guts for Wheat to come to him and Heyes respected him for that.


Perhaps things would be different between them in the future. Who knows? Sometimes things have to be broken first, in order to fix them.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Heyes lay on his back, one hand behind his head as he stared up at the ceiling. There was a half-moon tonight and a little light reflected through the curtains. He had been awake for hours thinking about Wheat. Mary was sound asleep beside him. He smiled at her and pulled the blankets over her a little more. He was a lucky man. He had a beautiful, independently-minded and intelligent wife. She had given him three happy and healthy children. He had a thriving business and with the publication of Hard to Go Straight, Volume 2, a lucrative writing career as well. He had a comfortable life now post amnesty. But he only had it by the grace of God. If things had been different, he could easily have ended up like Wheat. Or dead. Or in prison.


Wheat wasn’t a bad man but if he was serious about amnesty he would need help to stay on the straight and narrow. With Kyle gone, who would do that? Heyes shook his head. He didn’t have to help beyond talking to Lom for him. He was under no obligation. Hell, he couldn’t even count Wheat as a friend. Yet somehow, Heyes felt a responsibility for Wheat. He had come to him for help. Despite locking horns, day in, day out when they were both in Devil’s Hole, Heyes knew he couldn’t abandon Wheat.


There was an idea forming in his mind but he wasn’t sure that he wanted to give it serious thought. It could be a huge risk to his business. Just last week he had signed the lease on a new hardware store in Hardy City, thirty miles away. He needed a manager. Could that manager be Wheat? He shook his head. He didn’t know if Wheat would go for it. Could Wheat even cope with it? Could Heyes take the risk? To his livelihood, his reputation? Could he afford the time to hand-hold Wheat? All these things went through his mind as Mary stirred beside him.


“I know you’re awake,” she whispered.


“Yeah? How?”


“Because you’re talking to me!”


They laughed gently together. Heyes shifted his arm so Mary could snuggle closer. He hand went to the opening of his Henley and smoothed the patch of hair she found there. He kissed the top of head.


“Are you thinking about Wheat?”


“Yeah,” Heyes sighed, sadly. “He’s a broken man, Mary. I don’t want him on my conscience. I need to help him in some way.”


“You’ll think of something. You usually do.”


Heyes grunted.


“He and Susan seemed to hit it off,” she said, casually.


“Yeah.” Heyes laughed gently. “That was a surprise.” He paused. “Hey! You said you wanted help with the children perhaps ….”


“No! Find another way to help him.” Mary was firm.


“Just kidding. I’ve got an idea but I guess it depends on what the Governor says. I need to know that first before I can think on it some more.” He sighed.


“Do you think he’ll get it? Amnesty? Like you and Jed?”


“Dunno, Mary. I hope so.” He sighed. “There isn’t anything else for him.”


Both were silent for a while thinking about Wheat. Then Heyes said, “Sooo … As we’re both awake … and not doing any sleeping …”


Mary raised her head. He couldn’t see her smile but he knew it was there.

_________________
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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Cimarron

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Mon Oct 31, 2016 9:07 pm

“When they made you, Heyes, they broke the mold,” Preacher’s cadaverous grin did little to lighten his leader’s foul mood.  “And what a mold.  The bible says ‘a bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach’.”  He looked up at his leader’s angry eyes as he kneeled before him.  “Not that you’re always sober.  You ain’t got a wife,” he paused to snicker, “not of your own anyways.  You have been known to borrow another man’s when she was willin’.  And your behavior can’t rightly be described as good…”

“Where are you going with this,” Heyes demanded.  “Flattery isn’t going to make me any less angry at you all.  It was your shooting that spooked the horse.”

“Just that you’re real good at being our leader,” Preacher shrugged.  “Like I said.  They broke the mold.”

“Yup, the moldiest,” Kyle added earnestly.

The Kid’s eyes glittered with amusement.  “I’d quit the compliments and just work on his foot if I was you, Preacher.  He’s lost his sense of humor.  I think it’s broke.”

“Naw, it ain’t broke.  He can wiggle his toes.”

Heyes’ brows met in a scowl.  “That’s an old wife’s tale.  You can still move them when your foot’s broke.”

“Who’s the doc here?” Preacher demanded.

“Nobody,” snapped Heyes, “and that’s the problem.  That damned horse stamped on my foot so hard it might have crippled me for life.”

“Well, Mandy ain’t broke yet,” Kyle replied.  “She don’t know no different.  She’s just scared.”

“She is broken in.  You rode in on her,” The Kid frowned. 

“She’s kinda fresh.  She’s green-broke,” Kyle shuffled his feet uncomfortably.  “She’ll be a good horse.  She just needs a chance.  She never saw you.”

The brown eyes fixed on his explosives man.  “Tell you that did she?  If this foot is broken I’ll be out of action for weeks, Kyle.”

“I’ll put a compress of comfrey on it, Heyes.  That’ll help it heal,” Preacher soothed.  “Honest, you’ll be fine.”

“We won’t be fine if we miss that payroll,” barked Heyes.  “It’ll be another month at least.”  He looked down at the gloopy green paste being sloped onto his foot in disgust.  “What on earth is that?”

“That’s the comfrey.  Its other name is knit-bone.  This is an old family recipe.”

“Yeah?  Didn’t you say your family was all dead?” snorted Heyes.  “So you do think it’s really broken?”

“We can do the job without you,” Wheat thrust his thumbs into his belt.  “I’ll take over.”

“Nobody is takin’ over,” replied the Kid, holding Wheat’s eyes in a hard stare.  “We’re a gang.  We work together or not at all.”

“There ain’t no need for us to go hungry just because Heyes got a broke foot,” Wheat protested.  “We can still operate.  We’ll get a bigger share with one less too.”

“And who’s gonna break into the safe?” demanded the gunman.

“I’ll blow it open,” Kyle grinned.

“The last time you did that you scattered the contents for half a mile,” Heyes shook his head.  “Nope.  If I can’t do it the job’s off.”  He scanned the assembled outlaws.  “And you can thank that old cow of Kyle’s for it.”  He paused, wincing in pain as Preacher dragged his leader’s foot higher.

“Ha, look at that face.  My ma used to say that if the wind changed it’d stay like that,” quipped Kyle.

“Well, you can’t say you weren’t warned,” muttered the Kid.  “That looks real bad, Heyes.  You need it supported and properly rested.”  He raised his hand.  “The job’s off.  We ain’t doing the job until we have everyone we need fully fit.”  

Wheat’s moustache bristled.  “Who put you in charge?”  

“I did,” Heyes growled.  “When I asked him to be my lieutenant.  If you want to argue the point, I’m sure the Kid’ll be prepared to discuss it with you; man to man.”

The large outlaw’s mouth snapped shut and he suddenly developed a deep interest in the gritty earth beneath his feet.  “Nah, it’s fine.  Some time off won’t do us any harm.  We’ve been workin’ too hard anyway.” 
           
Kyle scratched the stubble on his chin.  “Well, if we ain’t gonna do the job what are we gonna do?”

Preacher wrapped a bandage around the wounded foot.  “Well, if we’re all laid off for a few weeks I guess I could take off and kick back.”  He tied off the dressing and climbed to his feet.  “You need to keep that up, Heyes.  I’ll check it tomorrow.  You want something for the pain?”

“Yeah, whiskey,” the outlaw leader leaned back with an air of resignation as a box was slid under his feet.  “I’ll sit here and watch Kyle get that horse under control.

“I was thinkin’, Heyes…,” Kyle began.

“Was it about making this up to me?” asked Heyes.  “If it isn’t, I’m not interested.”    

“Well, we could all git outta here and have fun and come back all refreshed for the job.  Some kinda break,” he glanced at the wrapped up foot, “like you got.”

 “You’re not funny, Kyle,” Heyes responded, but the sniggering of the assembled hoodlums said otherwise.  “Let’s see how I am tomorrow and we’ll decide then, but you’ve got a point.  A break might do us all good.  If I have to spend six weeks at the Hole cooped up with you lot I might just snap.”
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Distant Drums

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:28 pm

Broke
I may not be rich in money but I'm rich in life
I care about getting money
but I never hold it close. 
Money can't buy everything, but it can buy memories
Money can't last forever.

Not the way I use it
I have a good life,
I have wonderful friends, as much liquor as a man can hold,  

and most of all: I have him.                                                                                                                 
Trust is far better than having money
What would you choose?
Money or friend?
I am grateful for all the things God gave me
but curse him for what he took           

Money doesn't matter
We spend it as fast as we get it
On, booze, women, and cards.
Feeling alive means grabbing life by the throat
Before it grabs you

Put your arm around a waist and pull a soft woman close. No complications.                                                       .


I’m rich as long as the drink and adrenaline flow
I’m happy with the company and the laughs
I am happy with the adventures and the wins.
But sometimes I look around and see what I’m missing. Family and roots.              
I'm not building back up what I lost.  I live like there is no tomorrow
I live like there is no tomorrow because it was once almost true
Security can be stripped away in the blink of an eye
But memories stay


But they also act as a lesson
I am thankful Ma and Pa...
Thank you for giving me such a wonderful life with the best memories in the world
Thank you showing me true happiness and love 
Thank you, partner for supporting me, and sharing this journey
Thank you to the banks and the railways, for giving so bountifully.              
How can I ever be broke with memories like that?

_________________
Rome wasn't built in a day, but some of it was.  Like a bit of a wall or a chunk of a bridge.
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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:48 pm

The father’s eyes hardened at the sight of the grubby little scamp running towards his wagon.  He mentally started preparing his excuses for the state of the muddy clothes and torn shirt to his wife, but it was all a means to an end.  It would be worth it if it taught little Archie a lesson.  Nothing else seemed to work.  A pair of dirty hands grabbed at the seat to help the lad climb onto the seat beside him.  The father’s brows arched disapprovingly at the frog which jumped out of the gap where the button was missing from his filthy shirt. 

“Are there any more of them in there?  Your mother will go mad.”

“Nope,” Archie watched the little creature jump off towards the creek with a look of dismay.  “It took me ages to catch it.”

His father rolled his eyes.   “Not to worry son.  You’ll catch it as soon as your ma sees the state of you.”

He jerked the reins to jolt the horses into action.  “So how was your weekend?”

“It was great, pa.  The best ever!”  The boy twisted around excitedly and fixed his father with eyes alight with emotion.  “I love spendin’ times with the Currys.  Mrs. Curry makes the best pies, and Mr. Curry has a great big knife.”  He held his open hands out like a fisherman describing his catch.  “It’s huge.”

“That big, huh?” his parent chuckled.  “I think they call them swords.”

“He whittles with it, pa, and I got a turn.  Have you got a knife?  Can you whittle?”

“Anyone can whittle, Archie.  It ain’t difficult.”

“But have you got a knife?”

“Sure I have.  I keep it in the woodshed.”

Archie positively bounced up and down on his seat.  “Can we whittle, pa?  Can we? Can we?”

“Your ma ain’t too fond of whittling.  She’ll complain about the mess.” 

“Aw,” an impressive petted lip protruded from the grubby face.  “Mrs. Curry don’t bother none about the mess.”

“I know.  Your ma told me,” huffed his father.  “What did you see today?”

“I slept in Jed’s room.  It’s fantastic!  He has a room in the rafters and gets to it by a ladder.  All the kids share it.  The girls are at one end and the boys at another.  There’s only a curtain between them.  At night they all tell ghost stories to see who can make the girls cry.  I wish I had a room full of brothers like that.  I ain’t too fussed on the sisters.”

“We all get the family our good Lord gives us, Archie.  You have a proper bedroom with a lovely brass bed all to yourself.  Why would you want to squeeze in with all the Curry brothers?”

“It was like campin’.  I wouldn’t have spent years scared of the monster under the bed.”

He turned amused eyes on his son.  “I thought you said they told ghost stories.”

Archie mused for a moment.  “Brothers make bein’ scared a bit of a laugh.”

“Ya reckon?” chuckled the father.  “That’s not the way I remember it with mine.”

“Yeah, and I’d always have someone to play with.  I’d never be bored.  They ain’t made to sit and read like I am.  They get to run around and play.”

“Book readin’ is for your own good.”

“They get to play in the creek, pa.  They go swimmin’ nearly every day in the summer.  I wish I could do that.”

“Well, hang on till we get home.  When your ma sees the mess you are she might throw you in the creek herself.”

“They got four dogs, pa.  Four of ‘em.  Why can’t we have a dog?”

“Your ma doesn’t like them.  She says they’re messy creatures and that she’d end up looking after it.”

“But I promise I would tend it, pa.  I promise.”

The man nodded.  “Ask your mother.  But you’d be better doin’ it another day.  She’ll probably be in a bad mood when we get you home.”

“And cats.  They got eight cats.”

“Yup, no doubt they need ‘e to keep the rats down.”

“Why ain’t we got cats, pa?”

“Because I work in a bank and Jed’s pa is a farmer.  They need them to protect the produce.  We don’t.”

“If we don’t get a dog can we get a cat, pa?  The big calico just had kittens.  You should see them feed on her.  Suckin’ away like little hairy beans in a pod.  We could get one when they’re bigger.  Can we?  Can we?”  He stared hopefully at his pa’s profile but he kept his eyes on the road.

“Ask your ma.  Pets and the household are her business.”  He guided the wagon into the track leading to their own barn beside the clapboard house and watched his wife emerge from the front door.  “I’ve got to tend the horses.  What do you think you learned this weekend?”

“That I want to be a farmer when I grow up.  I want to have dogs, and whittle, and have loads of kids.  I want to be like the Currys.”

The father’s jaw set to mask his disappointment.  “No.  You’re goin’ to work hard at school and get a decent job at the bank like me.  The Currys are decent enough folks, but they’re broke.  Flat broke.”

“They’re the richest folks I know,” Archie protested.  “Look at all that land they’ve got, and animals.  Their house is bigger than ours.”

“They’re poor,” his father drew the wagon to a halt.  “Dirt poor.  Your ma let you stay there the weekend to find out what that life is like; up at dawn, work until you drop, and live hand to mouth.  Don’t you go rilin’ her with tales of how you want to neglect your studies to live like Jed Curry.  Got that?”

The lad dropped his head.  “Yes, pa.”

“Look, I know it looks fun on a fine summer day, but they’re out there doin’ back-breakin’ work in all weathers.  I want better for you.”  The man climbed down, his tone softening slightly.  “Just don’t say that to your ma and I’ll speak to her about gettin’ you one of those kittens, huh?”  

He watched his son light up with delight and bounce down from the vehicle.  “You will?”

“I will.  Now go and see your ma.”  He watched his son scamper over to the house and sighed under his breath to the horses.  “I swear that Jed Curry is a bad influence.  He’ll never so much as see hundred dollars in one place in his whole life.”
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Broken   Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:58 am

This is a reworked oldie with a whole new beginning. The ASJ bunnies aren't hopping much for me these days, but I wanted to play.

The Pugilist

Jed “Kid” Curry gave a wistful look at the hotel.  The small town he and his partner had just arrived in seemed grander than most, and a room at this establishment probably cost a pretty penny.  Their meager funds would not accommodate it.

Hannibal Heyes shared the same thought.  “This seems to be the only place in town to stay.  Strange there’s no boardinghouse.”

Curry sighed.  “My back can’t take another night on hard ground.  I dreamed of a soft bed last night.”

Heyes quipped, “We’ll just have to find softer ground for tonight, then.  Let’s get a beer.  Maybe the saloon will have some free eats.”

“Or a penny ante poker game where you can increase our stake.”

Heyes took in his surroundings.  “At that rate it’ll take two days playing all day to get enough to get a room and meal.  Where would we stay in the meantime?”

The partners walked their horses to the nearest watering hole.  As they tied the reins to the hitching post, they heard a loud voice coming from behind the saloon.  Curiosity getting the better of them, they strode around to see what was going on.

A man stood on a bench in front of a boxing ring.  He barked, “Throw your hat in the ring, gents.  All comers welcome.  Win two hundred fifty dollars if you finish the fight.  You don’t have to win to collect.”

People looked on.  There did not seem to be any takers.

“Now, gents, I don’t have to tell you – two hundred fifty dollars is more than most of you will see in a year or more.  Here’s your chance to get it in short order.”

Curry mused, “That’s a nice payday, Heyes.  If only …”

“’If only’ being the operative phrase here, meaning don’t bother.”

The blue eyes flashed.  “With that kind of money we could have the best room in that hotel for a month and feast like there’s no tomorrow.”

“If there is a tomorrow,” Heyes quipped.  “Seriously, Kid, it’s too dangerous.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  It’s a fight.  How bad could it be?” 

Before he realized what was happening, Hannibal Heyes watched in amazement as Curry tossed his hat into the air.  It landed on a corner pole of the ring as a breeze caught it.

“Have you lost your mind?”  Heyes was incredulous.  “Take that as a sign, Thaddeus. You’re not supposed to do this!  You have a ghost of a chance at best.”

“I can do it.”  Determined blue eyes met Heyes’ skeptical brown ones. 

The barker addressed Curry.  “You there!  Cowboy!  Is your hat in the ring or not?”

Kid noted the position of his hat.  Striding to the pole, he grabbed it, leaned over the ropes, and placed it in the ring. “It is now.”

The barker, a tall, thin fellow who appeared to be ten years older than Curry, extended his hand. “Fergus McGee.”

Kid shook.  “Thaddeus Jones.”

McGee regarded Kid.  “A little scrawny, eh? But you think you have what it takes to fight the champ?”

Looking beyond McGee to a muscular specimen about his height, standing stock-still with hands on his hips in the middle of the ring, the ex-outlaw’s eyes widened. “Su-sure …” Then, letting out a breath, he confirmed, “That’s two hundred fifty dollars just for fightin’ him, right?”

McGee raised his voice, so the growing crowd would hear. “That’s right, cowboy.  Two hundred and fifty big ones for getting in the ring and staying the distance – until the fight’s over!”

Bending to pick up his hat, the blond man asked, “When do we fight?”

“Be here by 2:00 p.m., sharp.  You’re allowed one second for tardiness.  You got gloves?”

“Gloves?” Kid raised an eyebrow and showed his gloved hands in an obvious gesture.

McGee rolled his eyes, and chuckles emanated from the crowd.  “Not riding gloves, son. Boxing gloves.”

Kid turned momentarily to Heyes, who shrugged. Then, he asked McGee, “What do ya need gloves for? Ya fight bare knuckle.”

“No bare knuckles here, son,” McGee crowed. “The champ fights under Queensberry rules. We’ll supply the gloves, don’t worry.”

“Queensberry rules?" Curry was confused. "What’re those.”

McGee sighed. “Rules for fighting, son. They’re posted over there – read them. You can read, can’t you?”

Kid nodded.

“Then, if you’re still interested, be here at two o’clock. If not, I'll presume you’ll be on your horse riding out of town!”

The crowd laughed. 

Kid Curry turned once more to meet the concerned countenance of his partner.  Doubt surfaced in his mind for a moment.  Shaking it off, he faced McGee.  “I’ll be here.”

*****

Seated at a table in the rear of the saloon, their nursed beers lukewarm, the partners leaned in close, keeping their voices low. 

“We should’ve stayed out on the trail. Then we wouldn’t be dealing with this nonsense. You’re gonna make a spectacle of yourself!”  Heyes rolled his eyes.  “And what if somebody recognizes us?”

“Heyes, listen to me. We don’t know the sheriff, and we gotta eat – well, I gotta.”

Heyes frowned.  “There’s beans in the saddlebags.”

Kid sighed. “Yeah, enough for maybe two more meals. And we’re out of flour and coffee. And never mind us, what about the horses?”

“We’ll pick up a few supplies and be fine foraging on the trail for a while.  Darn sight better than getting your brains bashed in, or worse, your shooting hand broken!” Heyes regarded his partner. “Ya know, Kid, sometimes your common sense flies out the window!”

“I can take him, Heyes. He’s not much bigger than me.”  Curry paused.  “I want a hot bath and soft bed so bad I can taste it.  You wanted it too.”

“I changed my mind.  He’s your height maybe, but he takes a bigger shirt size than you!  He’s the champ!  Do ya think he got that way by being able to be took by just anybody off the street?!”

Kid gave his partner his best earnest look. “Heyes, you’re good about keepin’ us fed and the horses watered, but four dollars and twenty-two cents ain’t goin’ far.  This is my chance to keep us goin’ for a while.”

Heyes sighed.  “Kid, I don’t like it.  You know that.”

“Yeah, I know. And I don’t either.”  Curry’s face for a moment held a twinge of doubt, which disappeared quickly.  “But I don’t see anybody throwin’ two hundred fifty dollars our way.”

“Let’s be patient and go out on the trail. Something’ll turn up.”

“This turned up.  It’s done.  I’m gonna do it!” Kid’s adamancy turned to a sheepish grin. “Will ya back me up?”

Heyes rolled his eyes. “Don’t I always?”

*****

At 1:45, the partners found themselves back at the ring.

McGee worked the crowd. “Come one, come all, ladies and gentlemen! See the Boston Strongboy take on a couple of cowboys! Can they floor the champ? First fight at two p.m.”

After his spiel, McGee approached the pair. “Okay, Jones, strip to the waist. Jack over there’ll fit your gloves. Good luck!” He walked away at a brisk clip. 

Kid smirked. “He’s all business.”

Heyes eyed his partner. “Because it is a business. That’s what they do.” He paused. “You can still back out, ya know.”

The blond man set his jaw. “No. I’m gonna do this.”

Heyes let out a breath.  “Okay, let’s have your shirts, then.”

Before Curry could do more than remove his hat, a man of short stature approached.  He carried several sets of padded gloves. “I’m Jack.  Over here.”

The partners followed him to just outside one part of the ring. Jack continued, “This’ll be your corner. Did ya read the rules?”

The two nodded.

“Good.” He turned to Heyes. “Then you know the second is allowed in the ring only during breaks. You can water him down and do what you have to do then." Then, to Kid. “Otherwise, you’re on your own. Any questions?”

Heyes spoke. “Yeah. The fight’s over …”

“When it’s over. You read the rules. It’s all there.” Jack regarded the pair, who glanced at each other. “Okay, now strip and let’s get this started. The champ likes to be prompt.”

As he watched his opponent in the opposite corner, Kid Curry stripped to the waist and handed his hat and shirts to Heyes. He then held his hands out to Jack, who hesitated.

Confused, Kid looked at the shorter man, then at his partner.

Heyes said, “Umm, Thaddeus … Your gunbelt …”

“Oh. Right.” The blond ex-outlaw locked eyes with Heyes, his breathing quickening a bit.

Heyes put a hand on Curry’s shoulder. The blond man slowly unbuckled the belt and untied the rawhide from around his thigh.  Hesitating a moment, he handed it to Heyes.

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep it safe.”

Kid replied, “I know.  Just feel naked without it.”

Heyes smiled.  “I’m happy to give it right back to you.”

Curry shook his head.  “When I’m done here.” 

Jack fitted Kid with boxing gloves and laced them up.  “Good luck to you, friend.  You’ll need it.”

The partners shared a look.  Heyes saw doubt for a brief moment in Curry’s eyes, before the more familiar stubborn determination returned.   

Both boxers were called to the center of the ring to review the rules with the referee and shake hands. Sent back to his corner, Kid sat on a stool. Heyes gave him one last word of encouragement before exiting through the ropes.

The bell rang.

*****

Hannibal Heyes grimaced and closed his eyes too many times during the next fourteen minutes. For sixty seconds after each three-minute round, he tried his best to staunch the bleeding on the increasing number of cuts on his partner’s face and torso. He held a cup to Curry’s lips to get water down his throat, lightly slapped his cheeks to get him to focus, and otherwise cheered him on.

He had to smile, though, at his partner’s bullheaded resolve.  Kid landed almost as many punches as his opponent, giving as good as he got for a while. But, by the third round, with each jab or hook he threw less intense, Curry could barely stand.

At the beginning of the fourth round, both fighters emerged from their corners.  Kid seemed renewed, but halfway through the round, he hit the dirt. After a ten count, the referee held up the champ’s hand and declared him the winner by knockout.

*****

“Mr. Smith?”

His alias sounding foreign to him in his light doze, Heyes startled at a tap on his arm.  The doctor answered Heyes’ queries before he could voice them. 

“He’s bruised and in pain, but you already know that. Nothing is broken as far as I can tell.  All the cuts are stitched up and bandaged. The eye looks bad but should be fine. He’s groggy now because of the medicine I gave him. He should rest for a few days and take it easy after that, and he’ll be good as new in a week or so – unless he gets some fool notion in his head again!” The older man shook his head. “I’ll never understand what gets into you young’uns sometimes.”

The sleepiness past, Heyes rose. “Can I see him now?”

The doctor nodded down the hall. “You know where he is. Keep an eye on him. I have to make rounds.”

Heyes grabbed his partner’s belongings, strode to the room, and peeked in. Kid lay on an examining table, covered to the chest by a sheet. He waved weakly to Heyes to enter.

Heyes’s breath caught at the sight of Curry’s bruised left eye.  His voice low, he remarked, “I hope you feel better than you look, but somehow I doubt it.”

Kid grimaced as he tried to re-position himself. “Probably the worse for wear.” A momentary chuckle became a moan.

“Just take it easy there, partner.” Pulling a chair close and sitting down, Heyes reached a hand to Kid’s shoulder, then lifted the sheet to survey the damage. “Looks like the doc cleaned you up pretty good,  That bath will probably have to wait until the stitches are out.  But are you ready for a light meal and that soft bed?”

Curry regarded Heyes with his one good eye.  He was weary.  “I’ll pass on the meal.  Got no money for a hotel.  Have to pay the livery and supplies …”

Heyes laughed. “And why’re you here?  In case you forgot, you did fight the champ, you know.”

“I know.  But I only stayed a few rounds.”

Heyes smiled. “That medicine must really be clouding your mind, Kid.  You forget already you finished the fight?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out and waved a thick wad of bills. “Don’t tell me you forgot about this?”

Kid’s good eye widened.

“McGee came by a bit ago and delivered this. Said the champ was hurting a bit after you.  He had a harder time of it in his second fight.  You gave as good as you got, Kid – for a while, anyway. So, I’ll get us a hotel room and get you settled. We’ll rest good for the next few days.” Heyes paused, grew somber. “It’s nice to have, but you didn’t have to do it, you know.”

The blond man yawned, losing his struggle to stay awake, “I know, Heyes.  Like I said … You have to play … and I have to eat.  Just did … what I had … to do …”


Note: According to Wikipedia, in 1883 and 1884, boxing champ John L. Sullivan, nicknamed "The Boston Strongboy," went on a coast-to-coast tour by train with five other boxers. It was scheduled to comprise 195 performances in 136 different cities and towns over 238 days. To help promote the tour, Sullivan announced that he would box anyone at any time during the tour under the Queensberry Rules for $250. He knocked out eleven men during the tour.

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