Posts : 8718
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: Light Sat Dec 01, 2018 5:12 am|| |
The last challenge of 2018, and it's time to give you one of those words which can be used more than one way again. In the spirit of the season, you prompt is;
That can be something which is not heavy, an actual physical light like a candle or lamp, or just a brightness of mood or general illumination.
Don't forget to comment on last month's stories before moving on to December, as comments are the only thanks our writers get.
Posts : 1356
Join date : 2013-08-27
Age : 45
Location : The Hideout
|Subject: Re: Light Sun Dec 16, 2018 11:14 pm|| |
I really wanted to write another 'Letters to Santa' story this year, but I'm trying to finish writing a book for a couple of Christmas presents, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to get one done or not. I wanted to join in though, so here's a repost of the first three 'Letters' stories. Hope it's okay to do this. If not, Admin, feel free to delete this. And I don't expect this to be polled.
Dear Mr. Claus,
Howdy. How're you doing? I'm fine. I'm just writing to remind you that I've been
extremely... very...well,...pretty good this year. I've gotten good grades in school and done my chores at home like Ma and Pa tell me to.
Now, you may have heard of some rumors flying around about me and I wanted to set the record straight. Firstly, about those fish in the horse trough. I caught them early that morning and I wanted them to stay fresh 'til suppertime. If you've ever ate fresh fish, you should understand. I don't know why Pa got so mad. I was just helping to provide food for the family.
Now about the flag pole incident at school. Yes, I tied George to the flag pole, BUT, he had it coming. He had been picking on my cousin Jed and family's got to watch out for family. Jed's just a little fellow and I got to take up for him. Surely you can't hold that against me. I got to watch Jed's back 'cause he's always getting in trouble. But not bad trouble, so be sure and leave him some presents too.
Okay, about that snake in the teacher's desk drawer. It was just a harmless little garter snake. I didn't know she was THAT scared of them. And I know I convinced her it somehow crawled in there overnight when she came to. I apologize for that but I couldn't tell the truth because Pa would've whooped my hindend and then it would get sore. And if it was sore, I wouldn't be able to sit comfortably in school and wouldn't be able to pay attention, therefore messing up my learning. So you see, I had to keep it a secret for my own good.
As for the disappearing cookies out of Ma's cookie jar, the teacher said in school that because of the fifth amandment, you didn't have to tell on yourself, so I ain't. I plead innocent on all counts.
Now with that out of the way, I have an idea for you. Instead of bringing me a couple of toys and clothes, (by the way, do you realize you give more clothes to kids than toys. Might want to check into that), why don't you just leave me a bunch of money in my stocking. That way, I could get Ma to take me into town and I could get what I want and you would have more room in your sleigh for other stuff. To seal the deal, I promise to leave you a cookie and a glass of Pa's whiskey under the tree. I know you probably get hungry flying all over the world. Just don't tell Pa I'm going to borrow some of his whiskey. I don't think he likes to share it 'cause he tells me to stay away from it.
Speaking of Pa and Ma, please leave them something nice too, just make sure I get mine first.
Well, my candle is about to burn out and I won't have no light so I better stop writing. I hope you have a nice trip around the world and don't get lost. I suggest you take a map with you just in case.
Oh, and by the way, better just use the door instead of coming down the chimney. Pa will probably have a fire built and you would burn your rear.
Your extremely well-behaved friend,
Dear Mister Santa Claws,
Howdy. How are you? I am fine. My name is Jed and I am 6. I live in Kansas. I have been real good this year. I gots a cuple of kwestions for you.
1. Why do you use raindeers instead of horses? Horses would be better. And faster too. I ain't never saw no raindeers befor.
2. There's this rumor that you got a bunch of elfs or somethin' up there runnin' around doin' all your work. Insted of presents, could you just bring me one of them fellers? I need somebody to do my chores around the house so's I can have mor time to play with Han. Han's my cusin. He helpt me lern to write so's I could send you a letter this year. Pleese bring him one of them elfs too.
Oh, and can I pleese have a slingshot? There's some crows gets in the cornfild each year just askin' to be shot.
Pleese leave Ma and Pa somethin' nice under the tree. And my sister too I gess. She piks on me but she ain't all that bad. How about givin' her one present and a bag of roks. I think that's fair for her.
I ain't much for words so's I'm pretty much done. Like I said, I been real good this year.
The Letters 2
Dear Mr. Claus,
Hi. We need to talk. Now, I've been
real...okay, mostly... good all...for part...of the year, so I deserve a lot of good gifts under the tree Christmas morning. 'Good gifts', meaning toys, candy, money, and other things someone of my age enjoys. As I recall, last year, I suggested that you check your toy to clothes ratio and apparently you didn't because I STILL got more clothes than other stuff. You REALLY need to keep check of that this year or kids may start doubting if you truly know if they're good year round or not. You don't need that kind of controversy. Think of what it would do to your public image.
One other thing before I tell you the reasons behind some of my actions this past year. As you know, my stocking is where you leave the candy and fruit you bring. The candy was fine last year, (really good...bring lots more), but I have to question the fruit. Seems you just went into Ma's kitchen and got some apples to give me. I know because when I saw the fruit basket at breakfast, I noticed something was wrong with it. Then I figured it out. Two apples were missing and nobody in the family ate an apple Christmas Eve night. Besides, I had noticed a small bruise on one of the apples a couple of days earlier and that same apple came out of my stocking. You know, a thing like that could make one question you. Are you running out of money to buy and make stuff for us children? Or is Ma the one stuffing the stockings? You need to get your gang working on the problem before it gets out of hand. By the way, I marked all the fruit in the kitchen a certain way this year so I'll know if it happens again.
Now, about these alleged incidents that happened this past year. I can explain.
First, I'd like to address the outhouse scandal at school. Yes, I will admit that I found a way to lock the outhouse door and was charging admission for kids to use it. (That little, insignificant scheme was working fine until the teacher had some bad beans at lunch and had an...accident...because she couldn't get in). BUT, I had a REALLY good reason for doing such a thing. You see, Ma's birthday was coming up and there was this hand bag she looked at everytime we went into town. I was just trying to raise the money to get it for her. You can't blame a boy for wanting to make his Ma happy now, can you?
Okay, on to the science 'experiment'. For science class, each one of us had to come up with a small experiment to try. Just so happened, pepper was one of the first things that went through my mind. So, that is the reason I threw pepper in the teacher's face the next day. I wanted to see if she would sneeze. The other three people I did it to sneezed also. I was just doing my best to get an 'A' for science and prove my experiment. Pepper, does indeed, makes somebody sneeze almost every time. Except for Pa, it just made him mad.
Now, I did try to be nice and bring some flowers to the teacher one day. And can you believe it?! There was some poison oak mixed in with them flowers. I can't say that I don't know what poison oak looks like, or, that I do know what it looks like, because one of those statements would be lying and lying, as we all know is wrong, so I ain't going to do that. That's all I have to say on the subject.
I will admit that I used some glue I found to glue one of my cousin's mouths shut. But he just WOULD NOT hush and listen to me. He just went on and on until I couldn't take it anymore. I knew the best place to go fishing. That spot he wanted to go to was growed up with all kinds of weeds at the edge of the pond and had lily pads in the water. You can't fish good in a bunch of weeds, especially with lily pads around. My cousin knows that now. And I know how long it takes to get glue off of somebody's mouth 'cause Pa made me watch before he whooped me good. So, see. I already paid the penalty for that incident. Therefore, it should not be used against me while making your nice/naughty list.
That about covers everything I think. If you find yourself running low on toys and the other good stuff, be sure to come to Kansas first. We must've been last last year. So, it would just be fair for us to go first this year and get most of the good stuff.
And don't worry. I ain't mad at you over the fruit incident. I'll still leave you a cookie and some milk under the tree. I would leave more than one cookie, but, I ate most of them. Don't tell Ma. Somehow, she got the idea that they fell out of the cookie jar onto the floor, got dirty, and had to be thrown away.
I'll make a deal with you. You bring me lots of good stuff, (remember, that DOES NOT include clothes), and when I get older and get my own horse and stuff, I'll ride to your house and bring you something nice every year.
So, goodbye for now. Have a safe trip and like I said last year, you might want to take a map in case you get lost. It has to be confusing going all over the world in one night.
Your innocent on all counts, well-behaved friend,
Dear Mister Santa Claus,
Howdy. This is Jed. How are you? I am fine. As you know, I turned 7 this year. I think it's about time I got my own shootin' iron. A man just can't hunt good with a slingshot. You shoot a deer with a rock, he's just gonna laugh at you. I'd like to have one of them shiny Colts I seen some people wearin'. And some new toys and some candy would be good too.
My cousin, Han, told me I should tell you about a couple of things that happened so you'll know I care about bein' truthful and put me on the good list. But, he also told me that 'cause of a mandment #5 or somethin' wrote down somewhere, I don't have to tell on myself. So, I'll just say that I can't say how Ma's undergarments got into my sister's show and tell box. And he said to tell you that the teacher made me write a sorry note to a boy 'cause my ink bottle just plumb up and spillt over his head after he said somethin' unnice to a girl. So, here's what I wrote:
Teacher made me write you this letter to say sorry. All I'm sayin' sorry for is NOT bein' sorry. I tried ta feel sorry, but I just don't.
And that's about all I have ta say. Oh, and Han wants me to let you know he helped me write this here letter so's it sounds good and so's you'll know how nice he is to his cousin. I didn't want ta write that, but Han has a way of makin' a body want to do somethin' even when he don't.
And now, THAT'S all I got ta say.
The Letters 3
Dear "Mister Claus", (if that is indeed your REAL name)
Are you real? I'm not saying I don't believe in you, but could you sign the paper I leave with the cookies to make me believe you more? Or better yet, leave a picture of yourself. I know you must have one somewhere you can spare to insure a young boy's belief in you stays alive.
I mean, if you think about it, you DO defy logic beyond all reason. I turned ten this year and I started trying to figure out how you get to everybody's house in ONE night and have time to eat at each place. And then there's the stops you have to make at the outhouse. There's just no possible way I can see that you can do it.
Plus, there's the fruit incident I mentioned last year. I've noticed, on more than one occasion, that little things from the kitchen seem to end up in my stocking. Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe, just MAYBE, you're just a made up story Ma and Pa tell me so I'll be good and THEY'RE the ones getting my presents. Otherwise, WHY would I keep getting more clothes than anything else? It can't be my behavior because I'm the perfect example of what a good boy is. I've always told you the reasons behind some of my questionable actions.
Now, on the off chance that I'm actually wrong for once and you DO exist, let's get down to business. There's been some...things...happen that look bad, but when I give the explanation for them, you'll see that my actions were warranted.
Alright, I did, on a couple of occasions, purposely scare the teacher...BUT...she had scared all of us FIRST by talking about the war that started this year. The little kids don't need to hear about that. So, yes, I walked in one morning, looked at our teacher, and with a serious look, said, "Good morning. I see my assassins have failed," and then sat down like normal while I stared at her. Well, you can count that one off because she told Ma, Ma told Pa, and Pa told me next time I pretend to threaten someone, he'd take me to talk to the sheriff to find out what happens when people do that. So that shouldn't count against me.
Now the second time, I was provoked by somebody so this incident is HIS fault, NOT mine. Henry bet me three pieces of candy that I couldn't get fireworks to go off in the teacher's desk drawer at exactly the time class started. I had to prove to him that I could. Matter of fact, you should be proud of how I did it. It WAS pretty ingenious. In case you've forgotten, let me tell you how I did it.
I borrowed one of Ma's pie pans, some matches, one of Pa's pocket knives, a bit of string from Ma's sewing stuff, a couple of my cousin Jed's brothers' fireworks, and got to the schoolhouse a little early that day. The window is easily opened with a small knife...or so I'd been told...
Once inside, I cut a little piece of string, set it on fire, and timed it to see how fast it burned. Then I measured how much string I needed and tied one end to the fireworks. And, would you believe my luck?! The desk drawer had been left unlocked! So I put the pie pan in there, laid the fireworks with the string curled up in it, and five minutes before it was time for the teacher to open the schoolhouse, lit the other end of the long string, closed the drawer, and climbed back out the window and went around to the front like I'd been there the whole time.
One second after class started, BOOM! I thought the teacher was going to jump right out of her clothes! I looked at Henry and grinned and at lunchtime, I collected my rightfully earned three pieces of candy. So, that doesn't count because I was proving a point. Henry had to know I could do it.
And I'm sorry I told Jed one day when he was feeling down that, "When life hands you lemons, ...you throw them at the people causing your problems." How was I supposed to know he'd take that literally and go on a lemon shooting spree at his brothers with a bunch of lemons Aunt Emma was saving to make lemonade with? He's a pretty good shot with that slingshot of his too, so he probably made a hit with every lemon.
Now, I miiight have convinced Lucy that rabbits can live in trees because their long ears enable them to fly. And she miiiight have went home and stuck her pet rabbit up in the top of the tree because she wanted to see it fly but it fell down and knocked her Ma out. Notice I said this 'might' have happened, which means that it might not have too. Besides, I shouldn't be responsible for somebody doing something just because I told them an innocent story.
So, since it's obvious that I'm not on the naughty list because these things all were done with childhood innocence and have already been rectified, to stay in accordance with Christmas tradition, I formally request that these items be left under the tree: lots of money, lots of candy (that doesn't come from Ma's kitchen, and remember, I'll know), a new hat (make it a black one), and some age appropriate toys. I DO NOT need any more clothes. The ones I got are fine. So what if they're a little stained. If I get new ones, they'll just end up with stains too so there's really no reason for it.
Well, Ma is yelling at me to go to bed. Guess she seen my candle lit. Next time, I'll have to put something in front of it to hide the light. By the way, Ma could use a new corset. I was using hers yesterday to see if it would fit Jed's dog. Don't worry though, I put it back. She just might want a new one if she knew what her's had been dragged through.
Your sincerely, well-meaning friend, (or is it 'son'? I'm still thinking on that.)
Dear Mister Santa Claus,
Hi. This is Jed Curry. Remember, the one that wanted a shootin' iron last year? Well, I didn't get it. Did you forget or what? The other stuff was pretty good, but nothin' a man could shoot with. There's critters that need dealin' with around here.
Han reminded me AGAIN this year that I should explain to you anythin' that might be counted agin me, so, there's only one thing I can think of. There's this boy named James that sits in front of me in school and he's always tryin' to give me a hard time. Well, he went to sit down one day, and his chair moved right out from under him. He hit the floor and everybody laughed. Now, my boot was restin' on the chair at the time, but that's all I'm sayin'.
Except for this: I best be gettin' a shootin' iron this year or there WILL be consequences. (I learnt that big word from Han. Well, actually, I learnt it when I heard Han's Pa on to him over somethin' he said he was innocent of.)
Now, there was only two cookies left and I needed 'em and my sister's gingerbread made us all throw up, so I just left a potato under the tree. You can bake it when you get home.
Your friend, (as of now),
Come to the dark side...we have cookies
Posts : 64
Join date : 2018-09-14
|Subject: Re: Light Wed Dec 19, 2018 10:52 am|| |
A Light in the Dark
There once had been a time, when he thought he would never ever eat an apple again. Of all of fruits they used to grow on their farm, apples where the most reliable ones. They always grew, even if almost everything else was dried and parched or drowned.
They always had fresh apples from late summer ‘till end of fall. They were part of the menu as puree, in pie, in stews and in every other variation one could think of. Throughout winter they had stored apples, that became smaller and more wrinkled, the longer the season lasted. In spring they were usually finished, but there still where slices of dried apples and jarred apples ... apples guided them through the whole year.
It wasn’t an aversion, he had developed. It was just that he thought he had eaten enough apples to last a lifetime! And now he would be grateful if he had had at least one, no matter how bad it might look or taste...
Winter had come early this year and took the Devil’s Hole gang by surprise. They had been about to part and leave for the next few months, but instead they were snowed-in in Devil’s Hole and by this time they were running out of supplies. After four weeks their meals only consisted of beans with ... more beans.
A few weeks later, the morale of the gang hit rock bottom. Everyone was tense and angry. The Kid wasn't the first one who started to complain, but he was the worst. Wheat declared it never would have happened if he had been the leader of the gang and Lobo accused Kyle of having a secret store of beef jerky. Soon everybody was accusing everyone else of hiding food and fisticuffs became a regular part of the days. The slightest mistake escalated into verbal outbreaks and brawls, which became louder over time.
They were taking it in turn going hunting and sometimes one of the boys was lucky enough to shoot a rabbit, but that was becoming a rare occurrence. Heyes was the one trying his luck today.
The leader of the gang had been busy for the last few of days with some kind of secret project that he didn’t share with anyone. Even he wasn’t talkative anymore. He accused the gang of the methodical attempt to drive him crazy. However, when the Kid woke up this morning - asking nobody in particular if getting up for breakfast was worth the effort - he was already gone.
He was gone all that day and when Heyes didn’t return when night fell, Kid Curry grew worried. Heavy snowfall and strong gusts made it impossible to follow his tracks.
Two days later Kid Curry was desperate and about to explode: meager meals, caged in, not knowing what happened to his partner and no chance of any action. Everybody fled from him and he was fine with that! His thoughts weren't on the present. They were out there in the white, frozen hell that had devoured his partner.
On the third day he became silent, deadly silent.
Heyes was lost for three days now.
Now it was Christmas eve and he still hadn’t returned.
How Kid Curry wished he had had a damned apple! He wished he hadn’t complained about food. He hadn’t been mad at Heyes, hadn’t blamed him for the fact that they hadn’t left earlier...
He sat on the front porch of the leader’s cabin. It was cold out there, but he did not feel it. Nothing compared with the cold inside him. Night was already falling again. He looked up to the stars and wished for nothing more, than his friend at his side.
With every heartbeat it was getting darker. Only the candle he had left on the window sill sent a small, warm ray of light out into the night: a silent salute for all that was gone ... and a silent guide for those who might return.
The world was still as if it was holding its breath. He could almost hear the snow falling – a crispy, crackling, tingling sound.
He frowned. It appeared to him that the sound was becoming louder.
It was definitely becoming louder!
And now it was accompanied by heavy panting!
In a blink the Kid was up and charging out into the darkness, while trying to peer through it.
And there he was – staggering out of the darkness, his breath condensing as a white cloud of steam in the cold of the night. It had settled down in sparkling frozen ice crystals on his brows and around the brim of his hat. He was exhausted, his face pale, but his dark eyes were outshining the stars.
He hadn’t enough breath left to speak, but it wasn’t necessary anyway. The bright beaming smile on his face said enough.
When he reached the yard his legs failed him, but he didn’t hit the ground. The Kid was at his side and supported him.
Now he noticed that Heyes was dragging something behind him, some kind of makeshift sleigh, over loaded with sacks and packages!
“Kyle! Preach! Come out! I need your help!”
He tried to take Heyes in his arms, but something was interfering with that maneuver. A strange sort of frame was tied onto Heyes’s feet.
The door of the bunkhouse clanged open as the curious boys streamed out of it.
“What’s all this fuss about? Heyes!? Is that Heyes?” they talked across each other.
“Kyle, help me to get his boots off. Then take care of the load,” the Kid ordered. “Hank, get me the old tub and bring hot water, a lot of it! Preacher, help me get him into the cabin and check on him!”
“You know, I’m the leader here,” Heyes murmured.
“Yeah, and I am your partner! Now it’s my turn!” Kid Curry growled.
“No, fuss. Just a little tired,” Heyes slurred.
“Tired!? Halfway frozen, I’d say! If you weren’t broken up already, I’d beat some common sense into your stupid head!”
A broad smile crossed Heyes’s pale face. “Sorry, I messed up your plans...” Then he passed out.
Meanwhile Kyle had begun to unload the sleigh. Curiously he peeked into the load it carried. “You havta see that!” he yelled and laughed. “See all the goodies!”
The sleigh was fully loaded with cans and jars and salted meat and sacks of flour – and beans. The supplies wouldn’t last forever, but would provide enough for several weeks.
It also contained a small amount of pastries, sweets and fine whisky, along with raisins, nuts and oranges and to top it all a huge turkey - everything that was necessary for a nice little Christmas party.
About an hour later Heyes was neatly tucked away in his bed. He was clean and warmed up again and filled with one of Preacher’s unmentionable herbal teas. More of it was simmering on the stove and awaiting him.
The Kid sat on the edge of the bed and studied his partner.
“Why didn’t you tell me?!” he asked him softly.
“You would have tried to talk me out of it,” Heyes told him. “And then you would have insisted on coming with me. But I could only make one pair of snowshoes! I know how stubborn you are. You would have followed me anyway. You probably would have gotten yourself killed out there in that weather! At the very least you would have caught a cold and then I would have had to take care of you! I wasn't looking forward to that...”
“No, you were looking forward to all that yourself! Out there all alone!”
“Oh, no, Kid. I had a plan. And it worked out fine! I just hadn’t thought it would take that much time. I was a little late...”
“Yeah, it worked so well, I could’ve waited for you until the day the cows come home...”
“Did you miss me?”
“I missed you like a pain in the neck!” the Kid grumbled.
Heyes didn’t reply but smiled softly.
“Give me my coat, Kid, will you?” he asked instead.
“What for? You’re not going anywhere!”
“Will you do what I ask just once?!”
Kid Curry rose, snapped the soaked coat and threw it on the bed.
Heyes started searching the pockets, pursed his lips and finally smiled briefly when he found what he was searching for. He fished a wax paper bag out of the front pocket and passed it to the Kid.
The blond accepted it curiously. Quickly he opened it and found candied walnuts and apple chips. He gave his friend a warm glance, trying unsuccessfully to look stern.
Heyes hid a look of satisfaction and raised his cup of tea. He sniffed it and grimaced. “You wouldn’t happen to have some brandy handy?” he asked hopefully.
The Kid grabbed a bottle and poured a good amount of its content into Heyes’s cup. “I hope you choke on it...”
Heyes beamed at him and raised his cup in a toast.
“I love you, too, Kid. Merry Christmas!
Posts : 70
Join date : 2018-07-09
|Subject: Re: Light Tue Dec 25, 2018 10:27 pm|| |
Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays! This is the next installment of 'Dam Shame.' The prompt inspired me so although I hadn't thought I was going to participate this time around, I had to!
***The woods were quiet all around them and Hannibal Heyes held on to his partner’s waist, glad for the extra source of warmth. The trees had a coating of ice on their branches that made them shine in the starlight but Heyes couldn’t afford to stop and appreciate the beauty.They were in trouble and not just from the Kaden family of bounty hunters. He could barely feel the hand and arm he had round his partner and he didn’t dare let go for fear of not being able to get hold of him again. He should’ve tied them both in the saddle, he just hadn’t had time. At least he’d ruined the bounty hunter’s tack so it gave them extra time.“Kid?” Heyes murmured when he saw his partner’s head drop forward. He was trying to keep him awake and they were far enough away from the camp that they could talk quietly.Kid sat more upright again. “Yeah?”“I’m f-freezing. And tryin’ to stay awake. Keep me company?” Heyes felt instead of heard his partner sigh and he smiled.“Heyes, you’re ridin’ right behind me,” Kid said. “Think we’re companionable enough.”“Humor me.”“Don’t I always?” Kid asked. His voice was fainter, though, and Heyes’ smile faded, his dark brows knitting. His partner sounded weak and the intervals of consciousness were getting further apart. He felt Kid’s body start to sag again.“C-come on partner,” Heyes said scowling at Kid’s weakness and his own chattering teeth. “Stay with me.”It was at that moment it started to snow. Terrific.“Snow?” Kid asked, trying to turn to look at Heyes since he was worried about his partner, too. He hissed and went stiff with the pain.“Stop moving—you trying to start b-bleeding again?” Heyes hissed anxiously.“Yeah, Heyes, thought it’d be fun,” Kid muttered. “I just wanted to see if you’re any bluer. Hope we get there soon. You don’t need more cold.”Kid was right, but Heyes made his voice cheery. “M-maybe they’ll g-give up.”“Doubt it,” Kid said, his voice getting thicker.“Riding through the woods on one horse in the snow…” Heyes murmured. “Reminds me of when we were kids.”Heyes stopped talking; now he knew the cold was getting to his brain. He almost never brought up their past and especially not this time of year.“Which time?” Kid asked quietly.Heyes sighed. He’d started the conversation and he wanted them both to stay awake and thus alive, so he decided to finish it. “Ridin’ back from Suzie Fisher’s Christmas party.”Kid was still shivering from the blood loss but his voice, though weak, was amused. “The one we weren’t s’pposed to go to? We were about 8 and 10?”“Yeah. We weren’t allowed to go after we got caught closing off the Durst’s chimney.”“I remember,” Kid said. “Great big Michael Durst never ran so fast out of a buildin.’ Then we pelted him with eggs.”Heyes laughed. “That bully deserved it. We just didn’t know his Ma was home, too.”“Your aim was a tad off center then, too,” Kid said. “Unless you meant to hit her in the face?”“No,” Heyes said. “Though I was glad I had after the earful she gave our mothers. And we got forbidden to go to the party.”“We snuck out of my house anyway,” Kid murmured. “Then we got lost in the woods riding b-back.” “We got lost? I told you t’ take the main path but you had t’ go your way.”“My way was a shortcut so we’d b-be able to sneak Jacko b-back in the barn and be b-back in bed before we were caught.”“Would’ve been faster if y’knew were you were goin’,” Kid said sensibly. He tightened his grip on the saddlehorn, feeling lightheaded and dizzy despite the talk.“I d-did!”Kid snorted. “S’that why we got lost?”“No.” Heyes paused. “The, uh, snow got in the way. Visibility issues.”“Uh huh,” Kid said. “Still won’t admit y’were lost. We lost now?”“No,” Heyes said, looking around the forest which was covered in a dusting of snow like the way his mother would cover the top of a pie crust with sugar.Kid made a noise of disbelief.“Fine, I was lost then. B-but we ain’t now, I don’t think.”“Great Heyes,” Kid murmured. “Guess we need t’ follow the lantern again.”Heyes was quiet a moment. Had a fever set in?“Remember? My ma?”Heyes thought back. Oh. "She hung up a lantern outside. She d-didn’t think for one minute we’d stay in b-bed.”“Knew us pretty well,” Kid agreed. “She hung it as high as she could on the porch so we wouldn’t get lost on the way home.”“And she had the b-bonfire burning out b-back,” Heyes added, remembering the welcoming glow. “Saw it miles away.”“Mhmm,” Kid murmured his body once again relaxing. “Wish we had one now…”Heyes frowned as Kid went slack against him and he had to tighten his hold. “Kid?”Kid didn’t answer. He was unconscious again.“Hold on,” Heyes said, urging the horses to move a little faster.Ten minutes later his partner was still slumped partly over the horse’s neck and Heyes was starting to feel warm instead of cold. The snow had continued to fall and Heyes’ wet hair had literally frozen. Not good, he thought.They were close to the shack but Heyes’ sense of direction was as muddled as his thinking. Heyes groaned and put his head down on his partner’s shoulder, partly out of hopelessness and partly to make sure he was still alive. Yes, Kid was still breathing. “Kid we’re in t-trouble,” Heyes said into his partner’s sheepskin. “D-don’t know which is the right way.”Taking a deep breath, Heyes lifted his head. He thought he saw a light flicker in the distance, but when he blinked, it was gone. The trees looked right, though, so he headed that way. After he reached the next slight gap in the trees he again thought he saw a glow. Heyes rode in that direction and the wall of trees opened up on a small clearing where the tiny trapper’s cabin sat next to a small barn. Heyes let out a long exhalation of relief and rode forward.The wood of the cabin, which really was more like a shack, was grayed with age and the porch was sagging but the roof was sound and the barn was just large enough for both horses. Heyes saw that there was still an old lantern hanging on the porch of the cabin, but it wasn’t lit, of course, and hadn’t been for some time. People suffering from the elements often saw things, but the light he’d seen had seemed so real.Heyes rode up as close to the front porch as possible. He tried to balance Curry, slumped over the horse’s neck and then he slid off. Heyes went to pull Kid down but his hands were too numb so he instead slowed his fall with his arms. He managed to keep Kid’s shoulder from hitting the ground but the jerk probably didn’t do it any good and Kid grunted.“Sorry,” Heyes said, shaking him as best he could. “C’mon, Kid, please, y’gotta help me.”Kid Curry didn’t fully wake up, but he did respond enough to get partially upright and the two of them headed to the door.Partly walking and partly dragging his partner inside, Heyes focused on his own feet which took more effort than it should have. He walked Kid to the cot inside and got him on it. He threw the blanket inside over him and staggered, nearly falling. His equilibrium was off but with some effort he pushed himself upright and staggered out to get the horses in the barn. It took several tries to get hold of the reins and lead them inside. There was still hay from last time.“I’ll b-be back,” he told the horses. He couldn’t get his fingers to work their tack at the moment but at least they were inside with some shelter. Heyes headed back to his cousin, stumbling, nearly ready to drop. He stopped on the porch by the rusted lantern. It was covered with a layer of snow and obviously hadn’t been lit since the last time they’d been there. And then, shaking his head to clear it, Hannibal Heyes opened the front door. He needed to get inside and risk a fire so he could thaw out. He hesitated at the door of the cabin.“Thanks,” he whispered to his aunt, just in case.
Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Re: Light Sat Dec 29, 2018 8:03 am|| |
Some readers have asked for more stories about Heyes' daughter, Susan and his grandson, Alfie. What follows is the continuation of my contribution to the August 2017 Challenge, Lock. So shoe-horning Light in ....
LightHeyes was enjoying his bath. The water was warm, foamy, and even better; he wasn’t alone. A wet and sudsy Tulsee was pressed against him and being thoroughly kissed. Then came a knock on the front door. Heyes raised his head and groaned.
“Who’s that?” Tulsee whispered.
“I don’t know. I’m not expecting anyone,” he whispered back, irritably. “Maybe if we ignore ‘em they’ll go away.”
They waited, hardly daring to make a sound.
“I think they’ve gone,” Tulsee said after a while.
“I think you’re right.” He moved to pick up the bar of soap again and then they heard the back door open. Heyes grunted. He cursed his forgetfulness for not locking it.
“Pappy? Are you home?”
Heyes groaned. It was Susan.
“Yeah,” he called.
“Where are you?” They heard her come further into the main room.
“I’m in the bath! What d’you want?”
“I want to ask you something.” They heard footsteps approaching the bathroom door. The door handle rattled.
“Don’t you come in here!” Heyes yelled in a panic, struggling to get up and out of the bath. He snatched up a towel and started to roughly dry himself. “I’m getting out. Hold on.”
Watched by a smirking Tulsee, Heyes pulled on his robe over his still wet body.
“Stay here and be quiet,” he hissed at her. “She has the ears of a bat!” He grabbed a towel for his hair. Giving it a furious rub, he went out.
“What is it, Sue?”
Susan looked him up and down.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m having a bath!”
“It’s the middle of the afternoon. Funny to time to have a bath.”
“There’s no right or wrong time to have a bath, Susan,” he spluttered. He towelled his hair. “I went fishing with Billy earlier. I smelt … fishy. Now why are you here?” He stood hands on hips, then realised that made the neck of his robe gap. He clutched it to his throat and gave the tie a tug for good measure, just to be sure he wasn’t about to expose himself to his daughter.
“Yes he said. He didn’t catch anything. That’s why I’ve come back into town to pick up something for supper. You did though. So Billy’s in a foul mood. Is it just because he didn’t catch anything or have you been upsetting him again?” She prodded her father’s shoulder in emphasis and then stood hands on hips, demanding an answer.
“No! He’s very … proddy these days. I was nice to him. I was calm. I BIT my tongue.”
“Not hard enough.”
Heyes rolled his eyes. “What is it you want Susan? I’m standing in a puddle here.”
Both pairs of eyes travelled to the floor where water was pooling around Heyes’ feet. Susan took a deep breath.
“Will you fetch Alfie from school tomorrow please?”
Heyes stared at her open-mouthed. “You couldn’t TELEPHONE me and ask that?”
“Why not?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“Because when I telephone, you don’t always answer.”
“That’s because I know it’s YOU,” he scowled, looking murderously at the instrument on his desk.
“How do you know?” Susan frowned.
“Because … because … .” he spluttered. Here he was onetime leader of a hardened outlaw gang, successful businessman, now mayor of the town but Susan could still make him feel like a naughty schoolboy being told off by teacher. “It rings different!” he managed, finally.
“And if you do answer it … and I ask you to do things for me, you say no,” Susan went on.
“There’s a reason for that,” he growled. “It’s usually to do with Alfie. He’s your son, Susan. If you didn’t want the responsibility of him, you should never’a carried him off the way you did!”
Susan rolled her eyes ceiling ward. This was an old argument. Susan had found Alfie in Italy and brought him home as her son. When Susan had married, against all the odds Heyes had commented at the time, Leo Brandon had formally adopted Alfie.
“There are other forms of communication. You coulda slipped a note under my door or sent a … a pigeon or something.” He waved a hand in the air.
“Don’t be so ridiculous!” She saw the glare he gave her. “Where would I find a pigeon?”Before he could try answering the rhetorical question, she rushed on. “And I don’t want you to say no this time,” she continued with a smile.
He growled and tightened the tie of his robe.
“What’s so important about this time?”
“I’ve a very important client coming to the Art Gallery and I have to be there for him.”
“And where’s Leo?”
“Away on a sourcing trip. There’s an auction he wanted to go to in Chicago.” Heyes looked doubtful. “Please Pappy? You know how you like spending time with Alfie.” Susan resorted to wheedling.
“Alright. Alright.” He held his hands up in surrender. “I’ll fetch Alfie from school tomorrow.”
Heyes glared at her. Before he could add anything further, they heard the bathroom door open. Both turned to see Tulsee come out.
“Hi, Susan,” she said cheerfully. She walked passed them, a towel clutched tight to her body.“Don’t mind me,” she added, with a giggle.
Both father and daughter’s eyes followed her, albeit for different reasons. Heyes licked his lips appreciating the bare shoulders and all of the legs that went right up to … . He knew there were bigger towels out there but Tulsee was wearing the smallest she could find to cover up - just. Susan raised an eyebrow demanding an explanation from her father, as Tulsee disappeared into the front bedroom. His bedroom.
He had the good grace to look shamefaced. Susan had her hands on her hips.
“Pappy, I really wish you’d go back to thinking with your head instead of … a different part of your anatomy!” Susan spat.
“Hey! Don’t talk to me like that.” Heyes snapped back. “I’m your father!” he added, clutching at the neck of his robe, protectively.
Susan licked her lips and they eyed one another. Then slowly a smile appeared and Heyes looked away, embarrassed.
“I’m getting on in years, Susan. I need assistance in the bath these days,” he said, in justification.
Susan looked knowingly at him. “You know people are talking about you don’t you?”
“Been talked about me all my life. Nothing new there.”
“You’re being scandalous.”
“Ha! Is that the pot calling the kettle black, I hear? You weren’t exactly pure as the driven snow before you married, Susan!” he shot back.
Susan drew herself up. “That was different. That was just … youthful high spirits and I had no responsibilities. You’re the Mayor of this town.”
“Not for much longer!”
“At your age you should act with more decorum.”
“Decorum!” Heyes spluttered. He took a deep breath and shook a finger at her. “Don’t lecture me on how to behave, young lady. You’re not coming from a position of strength.”
Susan smiled slowly. She enjoyed seeing how far she could push her father but she was always careful not to push it too far. She had seen the consequences when her father was riled and she had no wish to bring that down upon her.
Seeing her smile, Heyes shuddered knowing she was winding him up. He gave the tie of his robe a tug and clutched the neck to his throat again.
“Was there anything else?”
“No. Oh! Yes.” She hesitated. “Will SHE be here tomorrow?” She tossed her head in the direction of the bedroom.
“Yes. She’s leaving in the morning. Why?”
“Can Alfie stay overnight? I may have to wine and dine my client in Cheyenne.” Susan beamed the full double dimple.
Heyes took a deep breath and rolled his tongue round his teeth. Then he sighed and nodded.“Alright! Alfie can stay overnight.”
“Is that all now?” He shepherded Susan towards the back door.
“No. Why did you give my son a key to your house and not tell me?”
Heyes pursed his lips and gave her a guilty look. “Well ‘cos … .”
“You had no right to do that.” Susan prodded his shoulder.
Heyes drew himself up and folded his arms. “This is MY house. It was MY key and I can give one to whoever I like.” He knew he sounded petulant and hated himself for it. He shook his head in disgust of himself.
“Pappy, Alfie is six. He’s too young to have a key.” Heyes rolled his eyes. “And another thing.” Susan prodded his shoulder again. Heyes growled. “If you want to hand out a key give one to that girl.”
“I intend to. Now … .” Heyes held open the back door and gestured that Susan should leave.
“I had to break in here. It was embarrassing.”
“Susan, will you hurry up! I’m getting cold.”
“I shan’t forget this,” Susan said, shaking a finger at him. “Very well. I’ll let you get back to your … care provider,” she harrumphed.
“Goodbye Susan,” Heyes said firmly
Susan gave him a final look and then leaned up to kiss his cheek.
“’Bye Pappy. Thank you.”
Heyes shut the door after her. He turned the key in the lock, took it out and slapped it down on the counter. He started to walk away, turned suddenly and for good measure, he slid the bolts across top and bottom. He wasn’t putting anything passed her to come back. He heard her laugh and he fought down a smile. He followed her progress up the side of the house through the windows in the main room. When he was sure she was gone, he pursed his lips, hands on hips and looked at the door to the front bedroom. Hmmm, someone was waiting for him. He’d better not keep her waiting then.ASJASJASJASJASJ“Here we are, Alfie,” Heyes said as he led the small boy into his little house and let go of his hand.
“Thank you for letting me stay, Grumpy,” chirruped Alfie.
“Don’t mention it. Now, I haven’t had a chance to make up your bed yet. Can you amuse yourself for ten minutes while I do that?”
“Sure, Grumpy. I’m a big boy now.”
Heyes nodded and taking Alfie’s small bag, he went into the middle bedroom.
Alfie perched on the edge of a sofa and looked around. He liked Grumpy’s house. It was tidy but not overly tidy, unlike his house had to be ‘cos that’s how Mama like it. After a few moments, he got up and looked at the photographs on the shelf over the fire. The fire wasn’t lit so he was in no danger of being told off for getting too close. Besides Grumpy had a fire shield in place. Alfie rested his arms on the shelf and rested his chin on his hands. He had never had the opportunity to look at the photographs properly before.
There was Mama and Papa on their wedding day, over a year before. He remembered that day. There was lots of nice things to eat. There was Grumpy all-smart in a suit, with Grammy. Mama said Grammy had gone to heaven two days later. Everyone was shocked. Strange that Grammy hadn’t told anyone she was going.
Alfie slid along the shelf. There was Uncle Harry and Uncle Billy, Mama’s brothers. He liked them, especially Uncle Harry. Uncle Billy could be moody.
Next photograph along was a man, nearly as old as Grumpy, Mama said. He was Grumpy’s cousin, whatever a cousin was. Mama said Alfie now had cousins but he hadn’t met them. Grumpy called his cousin, Kid. Everyone else called him Jed, although Mama sometimes calls him Uncle Kid. He was standing arm in arm with a very sophisticated lady. Mama called her The Duchess, although not to her face. Alfie didn’t remember her name. He was a little afraid of her so he’d kept his distance. They had a lot of boys but the youngest was only a few years older than he was. Danny was his name. They were getting on real good until Danny had suddenly bent Alfie’s arm back. It hurt and Alfie yelled. Danny laughed and bent his arm back further. So Alfie kicked him and Danny cried. Grammy and The Duchess had broken them apart. Grammy had marched Alfie away, giving him a stiff talking to for kicking. Once they were out of sight, Grammy had asked him what really happened. Mama said you don’t lie to Grammy ‘cos she’ll know. Still crying, Alfie had told her. Grammy had smiled and found him a big bowl of ice cream and everything was all right again.
The next photograph was Grammy on her own when she was younger. She looked very pretty. Alfie smiled. He missed Grammy and not just because of the ice cream.
Alfie slid along to the last photograph. This one was considerably older than the others in the collection were. Even he could see that. It showed a very small boy, standing next to two serious looking adults, a man and a woman, outside a cabin. They were wearing old-fashioned clothes.
“Right that’s done. What do you want to do now, Alfie?” Heyes asked, coming back into the room. “Oh you’re looking at those old photographs.”
“Who’s this, Grumpy?”
“That’s me. When I was a little boy. With my Ma and Pa.”
“They look very serious. Were you in trouble?”
Heyes laughed. “No, that’s just how photographs were taken in those days. See here in these ones of your Mama’s wedding. We’re all smiling.”
“There’s Grammy. She gave me ice cream.”
“Yes,” Heyes agreed, softly.
“I miss Grammy. Do you?”
Heyes sat down and pulled Alfie onto his knee. “Yes Alfie I do. I miss her very much.” He gave the small boy a squeeze.
“Mama says you have a new lady friend,” Alfie said, when Heyes let him go.
Heyes widened his eyes. “I have lots of friends. Male and female.”
“Mama says this lady friend is a nuisance.”
Heyes licked his lips. “Does she now?” He tried to keep the irritation out of his voice. “Her name is Tulsee, Alfie.”
“I know. I’ve met her. She wears pants. I didn’t think ladies were allowed to wear pants.”
Heyes considered. “Well it’s not that they’re not ALLOWED to wear pants. It’s just that pants aren’t usual clothes for ladies that’s all.”
“Then why does she wear them?”
“Well because of the job she does, it wouldn’t be practical to wear skirts.”
“Mama says you wouldn’t let her wear pants when she was a girl.”
“She could wear them now but she doesn’t. Do you think its because Papa won’t let her either?”
Heyes smiled. “No. I think if your Mama wanted to wear pants, whether Papa wanted her to or not, she would. I just think she doesn’t want to anymore that’s all.”
Alfie considered and nodded.
“Tell you what Alfie, I don’t have any ice cream but I do have chocolate cake. Would you like some?”
Alfie beamed. “Yes but Mama says I can’t have anything to eat before supper in case I don’t eat it.”
“Mama’s not here.”
“Mama says she has an All Seeing Eye.”
“Ah.” Heyes grinned and settled Alfie more comfortably on his knee. “But this is my house. Mama’s All Seeing Eye doesn’t work here.”
“Nope. See these walls are protected by something called … er … Grumpy Guard. Whatever happens here your Mama can’t see.”
Alfie’s eyes were out on stalks. “Really?”
“Really,” Heyes assured him, deadpan. Thank the Lord, he thought. “So if I don’t tell her and you don’t tell her, then Mama will never know you had a slice of chocolate cake before supper will she?”
Alfie beamed.ASJASJASJASJHeyes found he couldn’t sleep that night. He tossed and turned until finally he got up, going into the main room. He lit the oil lamp rather than throwing on the electric light. The switch made a loud click and he didn’t want to wake Alfie. Mmmm, perhaps a whiskey would help him sleep. He poured himself a large one and then deciding it was too big, poured some of it back into the bottle. Settling in the armchair, drink in one hand and Mary’s photograph in the other, he sighed. Sipping his whiskey, he stared at the photograph.
“I love you Mary,” he whispered. “You were the light of my life and my life has been very dark since you’ve been gone.”
He idly traced his finger round Mary’s face. “I miss you so much.”
Feeling tears welling up, he set the photograph aside and rubbed his forehead. Something else was troubling him. He looked at Mary and considered.
“Just recently though,” he stuttered and licked his lips. Did he want to put this into words? “Things have become a little lighter.” He swallowed hard. “And I don’t know how I feel about it. Should I be happy about it? I wish you could tell me.”
The door to the middle bedroom opened, breaking him out of his revelry. Alfie was there in his pyjamas.
“Alfie? What are you doing out of bed?”
“I heard you get up. Are you alright Grumpy?” Alfie looked concerned.
Heyes smiled. “Yes I’m fine. Come here.” He pulled Alfie onto his lap. “I’m sorry I woke you.”
“You’re looking at Grammy’s picture.”
“Yes. I was thinking about her.”
“Mama says she’s in heaven.”
Heyes snuggled Alfie against him. “Yes. At least, I hope so.”
“Do you think she’s happy?”
“Yes of course.” He kissed Alfie on the head, partially to reassure the boy and partially to hide his own feelings. They stayed like that for several minutes.
“Is Tulsee going to be my new Grammy?”
“Um … . What makes you say that?” Heyes frowned. He hadn’t thought that far ahead and certainly not in that direction. Then, perhaps his children had and that’s why they were so concerned.
“Mama says she’s always here.”
“Well she’s not here now.”
“No but she was.”
Heyes licked his lips. “Tulsee’s my friend Alfie. I like her. She’s fun to be with.” And I miss her when she’s not here, he admitted to himself. That thought took him by surprise. Where had that come from? He took a deep breath. “As for being your new Grammy, I’m not planning on getting you one. Anyway, Tulsee is far too young. She’s younger than Mama. And a smidge younger than Uncle Harry.”Yet the realisation that he missed Tulsee when she wasn’t around unsettled him. And more. When she wasn’t here, he worried about her. Hers was a dangerous job and all manner of things could happen to her. He was always relieved to see her.
Seeking to distract himself from his thoughts, he got up, setting Alfie on his feet. “We’d better get you back to bed young man. If you fall asleep in school tomorrow that’ll be one more thing for Mama to take me to task about.”
Heyes put Mary’s photograph back and his eyes lingered on it for a moment.
He looked down at the boy.
“Can I sleep with you now?”
Heyes smiled. “Sure.”
Guests invariably ended up in his bed for some reason, Heyes thought ruefully as he took the boy’s hand. There SHE was again. In his thoughts ONCE again. He shook his head as if to clear it. Why wouldn’t she leave him alone? This troublesome woman of his. HIS? He sighed.
Later when he was in bed and Alfie snuggled next to him, Heyes realised his life WAS lighter now because of Tulsee. He smiled. That was a nice thought. He drifted off to sleep, content.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
Posts : 538
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 64
Location : Colorado
|Subject: Re: Light Mon Dec 31, 2018 6:59 pm|| |
A Day Early, A Dollar Short - Chapter 4
“There, that oughta hold you,” said the Kid, tightening the rope tying his captive’s arms before uncoiling the remaining rope and cinching it around the saddle horn on his sorrel.
“How come you didn’t use my cuffs?”
“Can’t pick a rope.” The Kid busied himself with rolling up gear inside his bedroll.
The tied up man scowled, “You plannin’ on draggin’ me?”
“If I have to. It’s your call whether or not you stay on your feet.”
“Ain’t likely. I got blisters on my blisters.”
The Kid eyed the stack-heeled boots and cursed softly under his breath. The man had forced Heyes to go barefoot. He ought to return the favor, but his prisoner had to walk, Heyes had been mounted. Telling himself he was being pragmatic and not soft, he pulled Heyes’ boots from where he’d stowed them and a pair of heavy socks from his saddlebag. Ungraciously, he yanked off the offending boots, one at a time, pulled on the socks, and replaced the boots with the flat-heeled ones. Straightening, he glared at the gaunt man who stared back at him speculatively. “See that you keep up and don’t slow me down, clear?”
A terse nod was the only reply, but a tiny grin tugged at the corner of the man’s mouth. It was plain to the Kid he’d sensed weakness.
The Kid pulled his gun and pressed it his captive’s forehead. Dark eyes stared at him almost hopefully. “What’d you do to my partner?”
A crocodile smile split the man’s face. “If I tell you that, you’re gonna kill me.”
“Maybe I’m gonna kill you anyway. Why was Heyes’ bleeding?”
“Wasn’t his blood, I butchered a doe.”
Pulling out the governor’s packet, he held the stained envelope up. “Then how’d it get on the papers he was carryin’?”
“Weren’t a clean shot. Doe jumped around a mite before I wrestled ‘er down. Some of ‘er must’ve splattered.”
The Kid couldn’t tell for sure if the man was lying although he strongly suspected he was. “What’s your name?”
“Mac? That your given name?”
“No. It’s Cyrus Elwood, but I go by Mac. Why?”
“I wanna know what to put on your headstone.” Grimly, the Kid waited for a reaction and was surprised and somewhat disappointed not to get one.
A rustling nearby tickled Heyes’ consciousness and he slowly woke up scaring away a ground squirrel in the process. The sun’s harsh light cut through the aspen leaves casting fluttering shadows across his face exacerbating a headache and causing him to squint. A cooling breeze made him shiver but the light felt hot on his skin and his mouth was parched. The pounding in his head was annoying but nothing could compete with the pain radiating in his foot. Where was he? Last he could remember he and the boys had been fixing to rob the Bank of Laramie. No, that wasn’t right. They’d already pulled that job. He lifted his foot until he could see the makeshift bandage around it. He’d been wounded, but when? He didn’t remember. His mind was almost fuzzier than his mouth. He was sick, hurt, and as far as he could tell, lost in the middle of nowhere. Where was the Kid? Surely he wouldn’t have left him behind. What had happened? Did a posse get the Kid? Fearing for his partner’s safety, he rolled over and got to his knees with a groan. His head swam with the movement. He reached out to the shrub next to him and grabbed a handful of branches to help him up.
A whiskey bottle lay on the ground nearby. He hobbled over to it slowly and plucked it from the dirt. Using his teeth to pull the cork, he upended it drinking greedily and draining it dry. With a grunt, he tossed the empty bottle aside ignoring the sound of shattering glass. He wandered over to the stream noting a small puddle of dirty water was all that was left. Hoof prints had torn the banks into a muddy mess and he wondered where the horse was that had made them. He must’ve ridden in but what happened to the animal? He circled around following the confusing tracks until he was distracted by a noise. He stopped, listening intently until he recognized the rhythmic thumping sound. Someone was chopping wood. Fevered and forgetting about the horse, he weaved unsteadily towards the sound scraping his way through the heavy forest and thick shrubs tearing at his sleeves as he used them to lever the weight off his injured foot. Leaves caught by the wind whispered his passing.
A muffled curse reached the Kid’s ears as he followed Heyes’ trail. He felt a pull on the lead tied to his saddle. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Mac struggling to his feet. The man was covered with powdery dirt and dried leaves were tangled in his hair after numerous falls. His dark eyes stared at the Kid but he didn’t utter a sound before limping on. A moment later, he put his foot wrong and fell again.
Reining his horse up, Curry dismounted and walked back to where Mac lay on his back summoning his strength. “Get up!”
Mac looked up at him impassively. “Why? I’ll just fall again. My feet are all torn up. I’d be better off if’n you pulled these boots and let me go barefoot.”
“Suit yourself.” The Kid seized Mac’s leg and pulled off its boot. The sock underneath was spotted with blood from burst blisters. He pulled it off and examined the open sores. He grabbed the other leg only to find it wasn’t any better. “Damn it.” There was no way the man was going to stay upright.
“Go ahead, Curry. Finish me off. You know you want to,” whispered Mac.
“Shut up and let me think!” Maybe he should leave the man here. Let him take his chances with the critters just like Heyes was doing. But without a horse and no way to walk that’d be as good as killing the man and the Kid couldn’t do it. He’d always do what was necessary to take care of him and his partner, but he learned a long time ago how to make sure killing wasn’t necessary. He reached down and yanked Mac to his feet then shoved him towards the horse. Grabbing Mac by the seat of his pants and the back of his neck he nearly slung the thin man into the saddle.
Surprised, Mac looked down at Curry, confused. “What’re you doin’?”
“What’s it look like? You ride. I’ll walk for a while.” Taking both reins, the Kid led the horse along the trail ignoring its bemused passenger.
Mac’s eyes were glued to the blond outlaw’s back. What was Curry playing at? Surely, he hadn’t believed that cock and bull story about the doe. Why hadn’t he been shot on the spot when they first met up? Kid Curry was a killer, everyone knew that, and he’d had the drop on him. Heyes had been exactly what he’d expected: cocky, smart, and devious plus he hadn’t hesitated to send him and Dickey off that cliff. Mac was still kicking himself for that one and he wasn’t about to let Curry pull one over on him. He might not care much one way or the other about dying, but he hated losing.
A puff of dust rose from the ground lifted by a dervish and swept quickly away. “Hey, Curry, you smell that? Smoke’s comin’.”
“I smell it. Wind’s pickin’ up and blowin’ our way. Fire’s too far away to be a problem.”
“Guess I got somethin’ to be thankful for,” Mac chuckled.
“I wouldn’t go feelin’ lucky, if I was you.”
The thumping sound had grown louder and more erratic. Heyes had gotten panicky and turned around once or twice when it ceased altogether but it soon picked up again. He was drawn to the noise like a moth to a flame. It rose and ebbed along with the sighing of the leaves. Through the trees, he could see a clearing. A small meadow with a tiny cabin tucked into a brown blanket of dried grasses. A single, ripped curtain fluttered in an open window. A corral stood to one side.
It was an old cow camp. Ranches drove their stock into the high country for the lush summer grasses and out again before the winter snows returned. Camps like this one provided shelter for the hands caught between changing seasons. The thumps were coming from the other side of the house. A hand must be stocking the camp for the coming cold. Heyes stumped along using a branch he’d picked up to help take some weight off his foot. As he reached the building, the sound stopped along with the beating of his heart. He plunged forward around the side of the house bursting into the front yard only to find it quite deserted. He twisted all around searching frantically for the chopper of wood. Where was he? Where was the wood? “Help,” yelled Heyes. “I need help!”
As though in answer, a thump behind Heyes caused him to spin towards the front of the cabin. He watched as the wind caused the front door to swing shut in the frame and another hollow thump rang through the air. Stunned by his error and completely exhausted by the effort of reaching the source of the noise, Heyes stood rooted to the spot staring at the building. How had he mistaken that for chopping?
His fevered mind didn’t take long to convince him he’d find help inside. Yes, that was it. The chopper was stacking the wood inside. All he had to do was go inside. But he couldn’t move. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up and a cold sweat trickled down his back. He was scared. He had no idea why, but he was terrified to walk through that door, the door that was continuing to mock him.
Curry, too, had reached a clearing and stood in it, also afraid. But his terror was for what he hadn’t found. He hadn’t found Heyes. Hoofprints and footprints were clearly visible in the soft sand next to the nearly dry streambed. Leading Mac, he began to walk slowly in an ever widening circle finding the evidence of Heyes’ meal and the shattered whiskey bottle. He picked up the neck and peered through it before dropping it.
“Heyes must’ve thrown himself one heck of a party from the looks of that bottle,” said Mac with a grin.
“Shut up.” The Kid turned towards the footprints leading into the forest. Why would Heyes go on foot? Had his horse run off? It wasn’t like his partner to be careless with his ride.
“You hear that?”
“I told you to shut up.”
“It’s his horse. See, there it goes again.”
The Kid heard a faint whinny. A moment later, his sorrel bellowed an answer. The two horses called to each other as the crashing through underbrush grew louder. Heyes’ bay burst out of the forest at a gallop and skidded to a stop next to the sorrel, arched its neck, and danced away.
“Hey, easy now,” snapped Mac struggling to stay with his equally excited mount.
The bay skittered away as the Kid approached, its bridle dangling by an ear, the makeshift reins bunched behind the animal’s ears. The saddle was scratched and Heyes’ saddlebags were hanging from one side of it. The animal snorted at him and swung to face him. “That’s a boy, good boy, take it easy.” Slowly, he reached out and gently took hold of the rope rein. The horse lowered its head, and Curry slipped the bridle back into position and lifted the saddlebag into place behind the cantle, tying it down. He ran his hands over the animal, finding no injuries. “So where’s your rider?” The big brown eyes looked mutely at him until he patted the bay’s neck and slipped him a peppermint from his pocket.
Mac watched and listened as Curry reassured the nervous animal. The outlaw was not at all what he’d expected.
Screwing up his courage, Heyes crept towards the darkened doorway. He gulped as he stepped onto the front steps and a board creaked. “Hello? Anybody home?” he weakly called out. Failing to get an answer, he stood to one side of the door frame--just in case there was a load of buckshot waiting for him--and reached out, pushing to door inwards. Nothing happened. He stepped into the doorway and froze as he faced a large brown bear standing on her hind feet, her claws outstretched. Heyes screamed, the bear roared. The ex-outlaw leader fell backwards just as the beast charged. Still screaming, Heyes closed his eyes waiting for his flesh to tear, but the old sow shoved past him through the doorway and escaped across the yard. He lifted his head just in time to see the tail end of her disappear into the woods.
Gasping for breath, he fell back to the floor panting heavily until it turned to almost a sob. Collecting his wits, Heyes pulled himself up and surveyed his new lodgings. The bear had trashed everything left in the house. An old table was on its side and its chairs had been reduced to a pile of rubble. The bedframe was upended, bedding shredded, the mattress clawed open in several places. Broken crockery was scattered about. Old tins of food lay crushed on the floor, angry claw marks gouged into the wooden planks beneath them. A fine powdering of flour from a torn sack covered everything. Still, the roof looked solid and the four walls gave the sick man a feeling of safety.
Heyes shut and barred the door, righted the bedframe, dragged the mattress on it and, with the last of his strength, gathered up the shredded bedding tossing it onto the bed. Finished, he fell down into the nest. He chuckled ruefully thinking about the bear and how they’d taken years off each other’s lives. Thank goodness, he’d scared her as bad as she’d scared him. There was no room in this cabin for the two of them.
“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson
|Subject: Re: Light || |