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 Story Of The Year 2015 September - December

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Which one of our wonderful writers wins your vote to go through for the finals of Story Of The Year?
1. September - HannaHeyes - Was that terrible day necessary? It'd better be, because you're going to have to do it all over again!
Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Vote_lcap17%Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Vote_rcap
 17% [ 3 ]
2. October - Javabee - The boys' help isn't wanted, but why? How are those ladies managing on their own?
Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Vote_lcap28%Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Vote_rcap
 28% [ 5 ]
3. November - Nancy Whiskey - A cheeky young maestro soon finds his nerves twanging when the boys bring him down a peg or two.
Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Vote_lcap39%Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Vote_rcap
 39% [ 7 ]
4. December - Letters to Santa reveal more than just high-jinks. The show us the men they are likely to become.
Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Vote_lcap16%Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Vote_rcap
 16% [ 3 ]
Total Votes : 18
 

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Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Empty
PostSubject: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptySat Aug 01, 2015 6:35 am

It's time to start voting on the story of the year again.  And you have until the end of the month to review and vote on which of our winners goes through to the final to win 'Story Of the Year.'  Remember you are voting on the story and not the writer, and I have posted each of the stories below in a different colour so you can easily refresh your memories.  Our nominations for the first section are:

September - Was Today really Necessary?  scratch 


HannaHeyes 




October - Bump In The Night   bounce


Javabee

November - Talk Of The Devil  Devil




Nancy Whiskey




December - And So This is Christmas - And What Have You Done?   Christmas Tree gifts




HannaHeyes


Last edited by Admin on Sat Aug 01, 2015 6:55 am; edited 1 time in total
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Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Empty
PostSubject: September - Was Today Really Necessary? - HannaHeyes   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptySat Aug 01, 2015 6:39 am

September - Was Today Really Necessary - HannaHeyes


This story was inspired by a 1990s movie. The plot could be considered a little...strange...


~^~^~^~^~


The cool early Autumn rain had dissipated leaving a translucent fog hanging over the valley. Nocturnal insects had started to perform their droning song as the evening twilight faded slowly into obscurity. The only other sound to be heard was the squish of horses' hooves on the muddy trail. Two damp and weary riders stared ahead, looking for any sign of civilization.


"I thought there was supposed to be a town around here somewhere."


Hannibal Heyes looked over at his partner Kid Curry to see him scowling under the floppy brown hat. "There is...somewhere..."


"Well there better be. I ain't plannin' to spend another night sleepin' on this soggy ground."


"Don't worry Kid. You won't have to. I'll find you a rock to sleep on."


"I'm fixin' to find a rock to brain you with."


Heyes tried to hold back a smile as he turned to face forward again. They rode on quietly. As they turned a bend, he pointed up ahead. "Look there. I think I see the outlines of some buildings."


Another five minutes found them riding past a sign declaring the start of a town. Heyes pulled his mount to a stop as he quizzically looked at it. "Destiny Loop?" What kinda name is that for a town?"


"As long as there's a sheriff that don't know us, a place to get a hot meal, and a hotel with an empty bed, they could name it Outhouse for all I care."


Heyes clicked his horse back into motion and followed Kid toward what appeared to be the main street. Momentarily, they passed the sheriff's office. "Don't seem to be anyone we know in the law business here."


Kid was quietly checking out the surroundings. "Maybe we ought to keep going Heyes. This place has a weird feeling about it."


"What? Just two minutes ago you were ready to kill if you had to spend another night outside."


"Yeah, well, I'm havin' second thoughts."


"Don't be ridiculous. This is just another town on the trail, like all the rest. You'll feel better after some food and sleep."


"Maybe..."


They stopped and checked into the hotel, then after taking their horses to the livery, hurried to the cafe to get some dinner before it closed.


Later, back in their room, Heyes had settled himself down to read a little. "Well, Kid. Feeling a little better now?"


Curry threw the quilt back on his bed and climbed in. "Yeah, I guess so. That pot roast and this semi-comfy bed is helpin'." It wasn't two minutes after he laid down before he was snoring softly.


A little while later, Heyes put his book down on the nightstand and finally fell asleep.


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


"COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOO...COCK-A-DOO..."


BANG


"SQUAAAWWKK..."


"What the..." Heyes jerked up in bed and grabbed his gun. After seeing nobody in the room with him, he got up and looked out the window. In the street below, the sheriff or deputy was pushing a staggering drunk who had apparently just shot a rooster toward the jail. A hand was run through the dark hair as Heyes put his gun back in his holster. He was getting ready to wash his face when the Kid unlocked the door and walked in.


"Mornin' Heyes."


Heyes grunted in reply. "Where have you been this early?"


"Went out to get some breakfast and a paper. Didn't want to wake ya, so I just brought you something back."


"I hope it includes coffee."


"Got it right here." Kid set the steaming cup on a table. "Were you awake in time to see the excitement?"


"The excitement is what woke me up. What happened out there?"


"Some guy spent all night with a whiskey bottle and didn't appreciate that rooster's wake-up call."


Heyes snorted a quiet laugh and turned back to the wash basin.


"Since we're runnin' low on money, I was glancin' at this paper while I ate and saw a couple ads for jobs. One's out at a small ranch patchin' up a barn. The other's deliverin' some documents out to a mine."


Heyes paused to peer at his cousin through the wash basin mirror. "Let me guess. You chose the delivery job."


Kid shot Heyes his most charming, innocent smile. "Well, I figured this time, I'd do the decidin' instead of that coin of yours."


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


Heyes stood in the livery stable tacking up his horse. Out of the corner of his eye, he could tell the stable boy mucking out the next stall kept staring at him. Heyes turned his head and touched his hat in greeting. The boy nodded his head back and turned his attention back to his work. The only other time he looked up was to watch Heyes lead his mare out into the street. A smile creased his young face.


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


Kid had already picked up the mining documents and was on his way out of town. The morning air was pleasant as the sun drifted in and out of cloud cover. He smiled smugly as he thought of the fact that he had gotten the cushy job this time. Heyes usually ended up with it either through manipulation or that dratted coin of his. He could just see Heyes cursing to himself up on the roof of a barn trying to patch it. Heyes wasn't the best when it came to carpentry. He'd say it was a safe bet his partner would return to the hotel with more than one cut or bruise on his hands. Kid let his horse plod lazily down the trail. No need to be in too much of a hurry.


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


Heyes was headed in the opposite direction after he had finally decided not to stop at the general store for any food or supplies. Besides, as Kid had pointed out, they were low on funds and the job ad hadn't said anything about needing your own tools.


The ranch lay just about twenty minutes ride from the town. He kept a close watch behind him as he rode. He didn't know why the stable boy had been staring at him, but he figured if he'd been recognized, he'd be running from a posse by now.


As he rode, he thought about how unfair it was that he had ended up with the job that required the most work. At least the Kid had a much longer ride than he did.


The ranch came into view. As he got closer, he groaned when he saw the repairs that needed to be done were on the barn's roof. Next time, Kid was definitely getting the hard job. He rode up to the ranch house where a middle-aged lady appeared on the porch wiping her hands on a dish towel.


"Can I help you with something?" she asked as she looked Heyes over. Heyes dismounted.


"Howdy ma'am. My name's Joshua Smith. I'm here about the job you had in the paper, patching up the barn?"


"Oh yes, yes. It's not a very big job, just finishing up patching the hole in the barn's roof. Shouldn't take no more than a day or two. My husband had started the work, but he got a telegraph saying his ma was real sick and he left to see her. He put the ad in the paper before he left so hopefully we could get the repairs done before any more rain. We have such a small ranch we never hired any ranch hands. Will you listen to me just goin' on and on. Come on in Mr. Smith and have a cup of coffee while I tell you about the job. By the way, I'm Mrs. Baker."


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


Kid was allowing himself to enjoy the ride even though his senses were still on guard. A good thing they were too. Up ahead, on the side of the road in a grove of trees, his eyes caught the slightest glint of sunlight hitting metal. He slowed his black gelding to a stop and pulled his Colt out of his holster.


"Hey up there," he called out in a commanding voice. "You might as well unload your gun and throw both the bullets and gun out on the road and come out of those trees. If I don't see both tossed out, I'm gonna have to start shootin' and don't think I can't hit you at this distance."


A normal man probably couldn't have made the shot, but the Kid knew his abilities well. And to prove his point to the would-be bandit, he shot the tree limb above where the man's head would be. It wasn't a few seconds later that he saw a handful of bullets and a gun slung into the road followed by a decidedly disgruntled highwayman with his hands raised. Kid kept his .45 trained on the man as he rode up to him.


"You know, hiding in full shadow is alot more effective than in partial sunlight," Curry said as he dismounted.


The man scowled at him. "Just who are you mister?"


"Somebody that's teachin' you a lesson. Now lay down there with your hands behind your back."


The man did as he was told as Kid dug some rawhide thongs from his saddlebag. "And just what lesson is that?" the man growled.


"Be careful who you try to rob."


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


Heyes had been told all the supplies he needed to fix the roof was in the barn. He went in and spotted a crate full of various tools next to a couple of barrels. As he reached down to grab a hammer, he heard a hiss from behind one of the barrels. He froze, his eyes searching desperately for the snake he knew was there. He couldn't find it. It was well hidden in the shadows and he had no idea how close it might be to him. He quickly debated the best course of action to take. Should he try to back up slowly so he wouldn't startle the creature or pull back fast in case it struck out at him? He decided and mentally prepared himself to jerk back as fast as he could possibly move.


He took a deep breath and jumped back as far as he could get from the crate and barrels. As soon as he had started to move, he heard an ungodly screech and a cat ran out from behind the barrel not happy at having its nap interrupted by this interloper.


Heyes released the breath he was still holding and frowned at the retreating animal. He frowned yet again when he saw what he had managed to jump on top off. "I'm beginning to hate nature," he grumpily muttered. He tried to wipe the brown mess off his boots and then gathered the tools and nails needed and went around the side of the barn where a ladder stood leaning against the wall.


To get the stuff he needed to work with up on the roof, he got a bucket, put his things in it, and tied a rope to the handle. He then climbed the ladder and stood on the edge of the roof to pull the bucket up. Once in the air, the stuff shifted in the bucket causing it to lean to one side as he pulled it up. Heyes didn't pay it any attention and halfway up, the bucket caught on a protruding nail in the ladder. Before he could stop pulling the rope so it could right itself, all the weight being on one side caused the bucket to tilt enough to drop its contents back to the ground.


'I should of just stayed in bed today,' Heyes thought as he descended the ladder to gather up the tools and nails laying about. This time, he made sure to distribute the weight evenly in the bucket and once back on the roof, stood away from the ladder to pull it up. From his vantage point, he noticed the two cows and horse in the pasture had stopped eating to watch him.


"Enjoying the show?" he called out sarcastically. As if in reply, the horse snorted and lowered its head to continue grazing.


Finally, after a few minutes, Heyes had settled himself next to the hole in the roof and started to work.


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


Kid had deposited the unruly bandit next to the road tied to a tree. He lead the man's horse off just around the bend and left it to graze to its heart's content. He figured it would take the man at least an hour to get himself out of the trussed up state he'd left him in. Even then, he'd have to locate his horse, so Kid wasn't worrying too much about him.


The rest of the ride to the mine was pretty uneventful thankfully. As he rode up, two men started walking towards him. One of the men was apparently the mine foreman and he didn't look happy at all.


"Who are you and what are you doing here?" he demanded.


"My name is Jones and I was hired to bring these documents up here," Kid explained as he dismounted.


"I told that banker not to be sending anymore men up here to try to serve me that nonsense. Now, you just git right back up on your horse and go tell Reynolds my brother owns this land fair and square and he ain't got no legal reason to foreclose on it."


Kid stared at the irate man. "Look mister, I have no idea what you're talkin' about. I'm just supposed to give you this envelope and then go get paid and that's what I aim to do. Whatever business you got with this Reynolds guy don't involve me none. I'm just tryin' to do a job."


"Well, as soon as you rode onto this property you got involved."


The man's companion stepped forward to put in his two cents. "Looks like old Reynolds went and hired himself a gunslinger to do his dirty work. A man don't wear his gun like that less'n he means to use it."


Kid turned an icy blue stare at the foreman's minion. "I ain't a gunslinger and even if I was, I wouldn't hire out my gun. Now, you gonna take this envelope?"


"No, we're not. You better just take it and git. We ain't gonna tell you no more." The man backed up as he spoke and squared up to Curry.


"And I ain't gonna tell YOU no more that I ain't leavin' until this document's delivered." Kid could tell by the man's cockiness that he wasn't going to back down. He sighed inwardly. This was supposed to have been the easy job. He readied himself for the inevitable.


His opponent sneered at him. A tense few seconds passed and the man went for his gun only to find it shot off his hip before he could grab it. Kid reholstered his revolver and turned back to the foreman who had his mouth gaped open. "Now, I suggest you take this and let me be on my way." The man only nodded in reply.


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


"SON OF A ...," Heyes did his best to supress a yell as he hit his hand for what seemed like the hundredth time. He looked down at the newest bruise forming and added carpentry to his list of jobs too hard on the back, or in this case, hands.


After the pain had subsided a bit, he reached for another shingle. There was none to be found. He rolled his eyes as he got up to go down the ladder yet again to get some more.


There were a couple of rungs left to step down onto when his foot slipped and he fell flat on his butt. He lay there a moment gritting his teeth. When he got up, pain temporarily shot up his back. He shook it off though as he was pretty sure one couldn't break one's rear.


He gathered together some shingles and went back to the roof.


~^~^~^~^~^~^~


The sun was low on the horizon when Heyes decided to quit for the day. He stretched as he stood up. At least he was almost finished. He COULD'VE been finished had he not had his mishaps and trudged up and down that ladder a thousand times. Plus, he could've worked a little harder. Tomorrow, Kid could come help him so it wouldn't take long to complete.


He reached the ground and went up to the house to let Mrs. Baker know how much he had gotten done and that he was leaving. She insisted on paying him half of what she would owe him when the job was completed. He gladly took it and told her he would be back in the morning.


He made it back to the saloon about five minutes before Kid showed up. He was leaning on the bar looking kinda rough when Curry walked over to him and ordered a drink.


"You look like you had a good day," Kid quipped sipping his beer.


Heyes just glared at him. He decided to change the subject. "Did you enjoy your leisurely ride to deliver that document?"


It was Kid's turn to glare. "I've had better days."


"Well, I'll bet you didn't have as much aggravation as I had."


"Oh yeah. That's one bet you'd lose Joshua." He gulped down the rest of the beer. "I'm going after some dinner. You comin'?"


Heyes nodded and finished off his own drink.


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


After they had finished eating and filling each other in on the day's events, they retired to their hotel room.


"With both of us working on that roof tomorrow, we should be done by noon and can relax the rest of the day," Heyes said removing his boots.


"Think that lady will pay extra since both of us will be workin'?"


"I'm sure I could convince her to." Heyes reclined against the bed's headboard and opened his book.


"Well, I sure hope you're more successful at that than you were hittin' nails," Kid smirked looking at Heyes' hands.


Heyes snorted at him and started to read. Kid lay down and was asleep within minutes.


Heyes read for about ten minutes then suddenly felt extremely sleepy himself. He turned to place his book on the nightstand. Before he could lay it down, it slipped out of his hand. He tried to grab it, but only succeeded in tearing the paperback cover. Rolling his eyes, he picked it up off the floor and put it on the table.


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOO...COCK-A-DOO..."


BANG


"SQUAAAWWKK..."


"What the..." Heyes jerked up in bed and grabbed his gun. After seeing nobody in the room with him, he got up and looked out the window. In the street below, the sheriff or deputy was pushing a staggering drunk who had apparently just shot a rooster toward the jail. A hand was run through the dark hair as Heyes put his gun back in his holster. He froze where he stood and a confused look appeared on his face. "Now wait a minute..." He was still standing there when the Kid unlocked the door and walked in.


"Mornin' Heyes."


Heyes grunted in reply but didn't move.


"What's wrong with you?"


Heyes shook his head. "Uh...nothing. Where've you been?"


"Went out to get some breakfast and a paper. Didn't want to wake ya, so I just brought you something back."


"I hope it includes coffee." Heyes stopped and furrowed his brow.


"Got it right here." Kid set the steaming cup on a table. "Were you awake in time to see the excitement?"


"That's what woke me up," Heyes answered absently scratching his head.


"What's wrong with you? You fall out of bed and hit your head or somethin'?"


"No...uh...you ever felt like you've done the exact same thing before?"


"Don't guess so. Unless you're talking about runnin' from posses or somethin' like that. We've certainly done that before."


"No. I mean the EXACT same thing. Same things happening, saying the exact same
thing..."


"You've lost me Heyes. Do you feel hot? You got a fever?"


"I ain't sick Kid! This same scenario has happened before, yesterday morning."


"Heyes, yesterday mornin' we was pickin' ourselves up off a cold, damp ground gettin' ready to drink that sludge you call coffee."


"No we weren't. We were here in this town. A gunshot woke me up."


"You must have had a dream Heyes. We just got here last night."


"It WASN'T a dream Kid! We were here. I spent all day working. Just look at the bruises on my hands."


Kid looked at Heyes' hands as he held them up. After a second, he looked his cousin in the eyes. "There ain't no bruises there."


"What?!" Heyes examined his hands for himself. Just as Kid had said, the bruises weren't there. He dropped back down on the side of the bed. Then he noticed his book. He was sure that he had ripped the cover last night. But there it was, perfectly intact. After a moment, he went to his saddlebag and retrieved the little bit of whiskey he had and dumped it all in his coffee.


Hoping his partner's temporary insanity was over, he told him what he'd found in the paper. "Since we're runnin' low on money, I was glancin' at this paper while I ate and saw a couple ads for jobs. One's out at a small ranch patchin' up a barn. The other's deliverin' some documents out to a mine."


Heyes just looked at Kid. Maybe he was right and it had all been a dream. He'd heard of people having such realistic dreams that they'd think they'd actually happened. That had to be what was going on. There was no other explanation for it.


Kid continued. "And I figured this time, I'd do the decidin' instead of that coin of yours. I'm takin' the delivery job." 


To be continued...
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Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Empty
PostSubject: October - Bump In The Night - Javabee   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptySat Aug 01, 2015 6:43 am

October - Bump In The Night - Javabee

Angels Among Us


“Who’s out there?” The woman behind the door answered the knock, with a voice that sounded old and frail.




“We’re lookin’ for work, ma’am. Tom, the storekeeper in town, said you and your daughter might be needin’ some help round here.” Heyes surveyed the neat as a pin barnyard, with its mended fences and whitewashed buildings, and figured maybe Tom had been wrong. The place was small, but obviously well kept. 




The door creaked open, just enough for the barrel of a shotgun to poke through. “I‘ll thank ya kindly to be on your way. Tom had no call tellin’ you to come out here like this.”




“He didn’t mean no harm, ma’am. He just figured maybe we could help out, is all. He said you’d been out here alone for awhile.“  The Kid noticed an enormous pile of freshly chopped logs needing cut and split, but other than that couldn’t see much to do. A chopping block, complete with axes and men’s gloves, sat nearby at the ready.




“We’re doin’ fine out here, young fella. We don’t need no strangers comin’ round, and old Tom should a known better.”




“We don’t want trouble, ma’am. If you don’t have work for us, we’ll be on our way.” The Kid hugged himself, trying to keep warm in the brisk autumn wind.




“It‘s colder than a witches tit,” Heyes muttered under his breath.  Looking up at the dark storm clouds building in the sky, he pulled his coat up close around his neck. A whirlwind of fall leaves danced around their feet and blew helter skelter towards the barn. “It’s downright cold, ma’am, and it’s a ways back to town. Could we come in and get warmed up a mite before we head on back? If it’s not too much trouble, that is.”




The door tentatively widened with a loud, grating creak. A young woman, no more than 17 or 18, stepped forward with the shot gun aimed straight at the two men.  




“What do you want me to do, Mother?” She flipped her long black hair out of her face and glanced back at the feeble, elderly woman sitting in the rocking chair.




“Step back, child, and let me see ‘em.” Mother stopped rocking and inspected the two drifters. To say they appeared rough around the edges was an understatement. From their unshaven faces and dusty clothes, to their tied down guns, everything about them told her to send them on their way. But Mother had learned a long time ago not to judge a book by its cover. She carefully studied their faces, trying to measure their intent. Old and tired, she could still see they both had a clear countenance and guileless eyes.




“Well, the good Lord says we ought to be charitable and I reckon now is a good a time as any. Come on in, youngins. But leave your guns on the bench outside.”




“Yes, ma’am.“ The two young men heard the coo of an infant, as they deposited their gun belts on the bench. The young woman handed the shot gun to Mother as she gave her attention to the babe.




Mother promptly turned the gun back on her visitors. “Close the door, have a seat at the table and warm yourselves. Sissy, put two more places on for supper. I reckon they might as well fill their bellies while they’re here.”




“Yes, Mother." With the babe in a sling on one hip, Sissy began setting the table and fussing over the food. 




“Now, Mother, I think you already know you don’t need to keep that shooter pointed on us.” Heyes offered a reassuring smile to the perceptive old lady, while removing his gloves and coat. 




The Kid congenially tipped his hat, before hanging it on the rack next to several other men‘s hats. “That’s right, ma’am, we’ll be just as meek as a mouse. You‘ll see.”




“Don’t waste your charms on me, boys. I’m hospitable, but I ain’t no fool. Do you have names?”




“Oh, yes, ma’am. I’m Joshua Smith and this is my cousin, Thaddeus Jones. We’re mighty glad to meet your acquaintance, ma’am. And you too, Sissy. “ Heyes nodded at the young mother who looked at him warily as she continued to stir the pot.




“The babe is my granddaughter. We call her Sammy, after her Pa.” Mother’s face softened as her eyes fondly caressed the child.




“Fine lookin’ baby.”  Heyes smiled warmly at the infant. “Speakin’ of her Pa, is he the one that hauled in all that wood out front?“ 




Sissy shot a quick glance at Mother as she finished serving up the stew. “Sit. I’ll get the biscuits and then Mother can say the prayer.”




Heyes and Kid obediently found their places at the table. Sissy gently laid baby Sammy in her crib and joined them. Mother sat immovable in her rocker, the gun still squarely pointed at her two guests.




Without closing her eyes Mother prayed, “Father God, for the miracle of each days provision we are truly grateful. Amen.”




The Kid took a bite of the fresh venison stew. “Good,” he paused, tasting the savory concoction. “Mighty good.” He smiled at Sissy and took another appreciative bite.




Heyes inspected the room as he ate. Everything was clean, cared for, and in its place. The pantry appeared well stocked and a fresh leg of venison hung by the stove, apparently being readied for roasting. Fresh vegetables, an unusual sight that late in the season, were sitting on the table along the back wall. A tabby kitten lay curled in a ball, sleeping by the fire.




“Looks like Sammy’s Pa is a good shot,“ Heyes addressed the young woman, “or are you the one that brought down that deer?” 




“Me?“ Sissy appeared surprised. “Oh no, I can’t…..” 




Mother silenced Sissy with a frown and a nod. “You said you were cousins, Joshua? Where’s your family from?”




“Kansas, ma’am. Our folks were farmers.”




Mother caught the almost imperceptible glance the two cousins gave each other, and could tell the subject pained them. The family bond between the two young men was palpable. Much like she and Sissy, they spoke to each other with their eyes. 




She gave them a knowing look. “There’s been hard times around these parts too, boys. I reckon you can either stay or leave when trouble comes. It appears you boys left. We stayed.” 




The Kid looked at Mother, puzzled. ”Ma’am?”




Mother leaned in closer, studying the deep, sensitive brown eyes and the clear, sincere blue. She had always known that the eyes were the windows to the soul, and these boys eyes were no exception. 




Her voice became low and soft. “A fella can get lost along life‘s path, despite his mettle. But you youngins are finally back on course, now ain‘t that right?”




Their mouths full of stew, and not knowing what to say, the two ex-outlaws just nodded in agreement. 




Mother sat back, and after pondering them for a moment, pointedly laid down her gun. “Why don’t you get a pot a coffee goin’, Sissy. These youngins are gonna want it with their pie.“ 




The gesture didn’t go unnoticed; the air instantly cleared, and everyone relaxed. 




The Kid took another biscuit. “We understand you don’t need any hired hands, ma’am. But we sure would like to pay you back for such a fine meal.”




“That’s right,” said Heyes. “It’s almost dark and that storm’s closin’ in fast. If you don’t mind lettin’ us bed down in your barn for the night, we’d be glad to split that big pile a wood in the mornin’.”




“I don’t reckon you’ll need to do that, son. But you’re both welcome to sleep in the barn if ya like.” 




“Aw, come on now, Mother. You’re feedin’ us and sharin’ your fire. Won’t you let us do somethin’ in return?” Heyes was as persuasive as he was insistent.




The two women smiled as though sharing a secret. Mother finally agreed. “We’ll be thankful to have your help with whatever needs done in the morning, boys.”




‘Thank you, ma’am. That’s good enough for us.”




After dinner they moved in closer to the fire and Mother told stories of the old days, while they enjoyed Sissy’s coffee and pie. Sissy discreetly suckled little Sammy as Mother rocked and spun her tales with the kitten on her lap. They learned of Father, who had toiled to settle their homestead, with nothing but a prayer and Mother by his side. The day Brother came riding home, Mother was convinced his guardian angel had brought him back safe from the war. When Sissy was given to them late in life, Mother knew she was a gift from heaven, no other explanation would do. And when Big Sam wed their Sissy, the family was complete, but for their unborn babe. It was a story of hard work and sacrifice, but also of hope and joy. It was the story of family, and the two young men listened to every word. They had a hunger to share in that kind of life, and were sorry to see the evening finally come to an end.




“Thank you for a wonderful meal and a fine evenin‘, ladies, but I think it‘s time we turned in.” Heyes reluctantly stood and put on his coat.




As the Kid reached for his hat, he noticed a row of men’s boots lined up neatly against the wall. “Sounds like you’ve got a mighty fine family, Mother. I guess the men are off huntin’ again. When do you expect them home?”




Mother continued to rock her chair. “Soon enough, child, soon enough. Now go get some shut eye.”




“Thank you, Ma’am. See you in the mornin‘.” Heyes tipped his hat, and the two stepped out into the cold, dark night. The creaky door closed noisily behind them.




Sissy turned and looked at her elderly mother questioningly. “I know you’ve got the gift, Mother, but do you really think you should a let them in? They could a been up to no good.” 




“Not these two. Least ways, not any more.”




“But, Mother….” 




“Shhh, child. You know as well as I do what the good book says about entertainin’ strangers.  Angels come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes their wings are tarnished, but they’re angels just the same.”




“Yes, Mother.”




=========================




The storm came in with rolling thunder as the lightening lit up the sky.  Hunkered down in the hay, wrapped in the blankets Mother had given them, the partners were thankful to have a roof over their heads.




“I guess old Tom was wrong about the ladies bein’ alone.” Kid restlessly shifted, trying to find a comfortable spot.




“Uh huh.”




“Sure was nice to have a home cooked meal.”




“Yeah.”




“Do you think we’ll ever have a family again, Heyes?”




“Hmmm? Someday.”




“I sure wish someday would come.”




“Me too. Now stop yappin’ and go to sleep.”




Their rest was fitful, as they struggled to relax in the midst of the growing storm. The night was riddled with the sounds of thunder claps and driving rain, a crying baby and noisy axes hacking at wood. It morphed into dreams of hissing steam engines, cattle drives, and gunshots. The pounding hooves of relentless posses haunted their repose. They tossed and turned, until the storm subsided, and finally settled into a deep, restful sleep.




Daylight streamed through the slats of the barn walls, and a rooster crowed, rousing the Kid from his slumber.




“You still asleep, Heyes?”




Heyes groaned. “Yeah. Definitely.”




“You better wake up, we slept too long.”




“Go away.”




“Come on, Heyes. Get up, I think I smell flapjacks."




=========================




When they stepped outside the barn, Mother was standing in the doorway to the house, leaning on a wooden cane.




“Mornin', youngins. We set aside some breakfast, and there’s a fresh pot a coffee on the stove.”




“Sounds wonderful, Mother.” Heyes stretched his back and yawned. “ Looks like the rest of your family got in last night, and already put in a days work. You should a told them to leave the wood for us.”




The huge pile of logs had been neatly split, bound into bundles, and stacked. Three freshly shot rabbits were hanging by the door, already skinned and ready to cook. A pile of gourds and a bushel of apples were sitting next to the well, just waiting to be made into pies and applesauce. The livestock had been fed and watered, and Sissy had collected the morning eggs and milked the cow.




As the Kid took a step inside the warm, cozy house, he noticed the creak in the door had been fixed. He looked around, expecting to see the men. “Are they out back, ma’am? We sure would like to meet ‘em.”




Standing at the table, Sissy was putting the finishing touches on a lovely bouquet of fall leaves and wildflowers. With little Sammy on her hip, she smiled at the Kid and stepped outside with the bouquet.  Mother followed, hobbling slowly, as Sissy headed around the corner behind the house.




Curious, the partners trailed behind, and turning the corner, saw Sissy walking up the path towards the top of the hill. Kid abruptly stopped in his tracks. Under his breath he whispered, ‘What’s goin’ on here, Heyes? I thought they said the men were off huntin‘.”




Staring, Heyes dropped his voice. “Well, they never exactly said that, now did they.”




A large tree stood at the end of the path, with three markers positioned at its base. The two young men watched as Sissy divided the flowers between the graves and lovingly arranged them with care. They quietly stood for a moment, trying to absorb the meaning of the scene.




Finally, Heyes stepped up to the feeble old woman, and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. What took them?”




“The fever, son. Goin‘ on 6 months ago now.”




Puzzled and concerned, the Kid studied the elderly woman’s face for an answer. “Mother, are you alone out here after all?”




“Alone?“ Pausing, she watched as Sissy continued to fuss over the graves. ”None of us are ever really alone, son.”  Looking back at the Kid, she gazed reassuringly into his somber blue eyes. “No, child, we’re not alone.”




==================================================================================




"Sweet souls around us watch us still, press nearer to our side; into our thoughts, into our prayers, with gentle helpings glide."
Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Other World




"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." 
Hebrews 13:2




"When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts."
Mary Baker Eddy, Poems by Mary Baker Eddy
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PostSubject: November - Talk Of The Devil - Nancy Whiskey   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptySat Aug 01, 2015 6:46 am

November - Talk Of The Devil - Nancy Whiskey


"Am I annoying you yet?"



"Nope, not yet. But feel free to keep trying." The resigned note in Curry's voice as it emerged from under the hat told Heyes all he needed to know.


Curry looked relaxed, long legs stretched out, feet resting on the seat opposite, but the hands at the end of the folded arms were tensed. Knuckles showing.


Heyes was not handling the situation well either.  His nerves were shredded almost to the point of no return. The job had seemed so simple but now he was pacing back and forth in a locked room. "Sure," he thought, "it's a swanky room, but any minute now..."


"How about now?" The gloating glee, from the brat with his plump pink cheeks was nauseatingly evident. His unadulterated joy in torturing the men unbounded.


Heyes wheeled around to stare out the window.  As if that would stop the terrible nerve shredding noise.


~ ~ ~


Earlier that day


"It's easy money. Babysit the son and heir of some swank for twenty-four hours 'till his guardians show up and take him and his belonging to his doting Ma and Pa" grinned Abner.


"Just baby-sit? Ain't that a job for a woman?" Curry looked indignantly at Abner.


"Hey boys," protested gentle Abner, "this ain't no routine baby-sittin'. This here is the son of a very prominent politician, a real high-brow, rarefied sophisticate. This boy is precious cargo, but, I'll level with you." Abner leaned towards the cousins, his familiar gummy grin drawing the boys in. "It's the fiddle that is the real prize."


"Huh?"


"That fiddle he plays with is old, and I mean rare, real old. To be honest boys, if it weren't for the fiddle, I think his Pa would leave the boy right here." A rare grimace flitted across his face. "I know I would."


Heyes and Curry trusted and liked Abner. An ageing hard working gentle giant, his successful haulage firm was now run equally well by his hard working, reliable sons. The cousins tucked away the warning about the boy's behaviour and the three men shook hands on the job. After all, how hard could it be?


~ ~ ~


A shrill quivering note hung in the air, so palpable you could almost see it.  Heyes remained immoveable, staring at the heavy sky through the window, and the Kid suddenly found himself grinding his teeth. He had not prayed for a long time, but he was considering taking refuge in it now.


"My governess tells me I have exceptional talent. She told me I have a unique gift. I am a prodigy!" asserted the youth, his voice breaking as he eyed the gunman, defying him to contradict his genius.


"You're somethin' alright, I ain't heard nothin' like it before."


"If you are going to talk to me, I insist that you converse properly.  Lazy diction is the sign of a poor education and a slack mind!"


The silhouette at the window quivered, masking a snigger.


Pushing his hat back the Kid changed track to wrong foot the brat. "That is some fiddle you have there, sure you ought to be playin' with it?"


"It's not a fiddle, it's a violin," snorted the adolescent. "And it's not just any violin, this is a valuable antique. My Father bought it specially." The haughty young voice continued to pipe "He collects objet d'art. That means he has class, good taste and money."


The young swell fixed his piggy grey eyes on the ex-outlaw. "What do you two have?"


"A warning," blue eyes flashed.


"A warning about what? You can't threaten me. My Father will have your hide."


"Oh, no, it ain't a warning about us. It's a warning about mistreating a fine and delicate instrument like that violin there." He gestured to where the boy had thoughtlessly discarded it on the bed.


A suspicious look crossed the youngsters face. Quiet for a change, eyebrows raised, inviting the Kid to explain.


"You know who else plays the fiddle?" The boy let the word pass and shook his head.


"Old Nick."


"Who?"


The fair head shook in exasperation. "Old Harry.... Beelzebub.... Satan.... The Devil." and with each name breathed Heyes took a step forward and lowered himself into the chair beside the bed. They were eye to eye, and neither were blinking.


"I don't believe in The Devil," asserted the youth.


Heyes knew that declaration from the boy was purely to convince himself rather than anyone else.


"Well, you should.  We've seen what He can do." The Kids' voice dropped even further.


The lower lip of the boy jutted defiantly, but the close grey eyes and the furrowed brow betrayed his interest.


Knowing he now had the boy hooked the Kid leaned further in.  "We've actually met a man fool enough to think he could out-do Old Nick and it wasn't pretty, was it Joshua?"


Heyes looked earnestly at his friend in confirmation. "I know I'll never forget it." Intense brown eyes fixed upon the youth. "This fella played the fiddle too, just like you." His head inclined towards the discarded instrument. "And he thought he was so good, so talented that no one could best him in a competition.  And worse for him, it may just be that he was right."


The boy was feeling increasingly uneasy.


"Thaddeus and I met him making this very boast. Challenging everyone and anyone to a play-off, and take it from me, that guy sure could play. When he lifted that bow and started to play, well it was like the air was on fire. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Now he really was a genius."


The boy was so entranced he did not even notice the insult.


"We heard him lay down that challenge. What's more we were there when someone took him up on it."


Dusk had fallen and the room was growing dark.


"This stranger appeared with his own violin and vowed that if the crowd thought the young man played better then he would give the young man him his own personal violin. Now, the young man examined his challenger's instrument and it sure was beautiful. He could see it was old, ancient almost, and he had never seen anything like it. It was truly beautiful and seemed to glow.  And the young man wanted it."


Brown eyes held grey and Heyes' low, slow voice continued.


"The stranger played first and all I can remember was that terrible, eerie sound. It was monsterous but somehow beautiful. The strange thing is although I can picture it, I just can't remember the tune. It's somehow out of reach. Stranger still, I can't even remember what this stranger looked like. I can see a shape, but no detail, and worst of all no face. It's like my memory can't quite pin him down. Just out of reach.  Like seeing something out of the corner of your eye.  It's almost like I don't want to remember."


The boy gulped.


"Well this stranger seemed to unnerve the audience and when he'd finished playing the crowd was silent. Me and Thaddeus here were just as bad. It was like we were stunned or something.  Like all the air had been sucked out the room."


Blue eyes glinted through the gloom, "Downright unnatural if you ask me."


"Now when the young man took the stage everything was silent and then he let out such a note that I never thought to hear. He played his very soul out. Everybody was clapping, hooting, hollering.  Thaddeus and me were on our feet too. We just couldn't help ourselves. He had magic in his music, no doubt."


Large brown eyes glittered in the half light.


"The youngster had won it hands down! Everyone went wild. Then the stranger came up and stood beside him, gave a small bow and held out his violin and said 'You've won sir. As promised I hereby relinquish my violin to you. But I will warn you, you must treat it with respect. It can be temperamental. It has a...'"


At this Heyes visibly shuddered and the boy swallowed, forgetting to breath.


"'... particular appetite for sin. Play it well and play it humbly or rest assured you will be the worse for it.'"


The room by now was almost in total darkness.


"'And when you really need me I will find you.' The young man laughed in the strangers face and took the instrument. He placed it under his chin and just as his fingers touched the strings one of them broke, flicked back and all we saw was blood!"


Heyes relished the gasp from the boy.


"The string had broken and sliced the winner's eye. There was just an empty socket.  There was blood everywhere, his face, his hands, his clothes, but strangely not one drop on the violin. It's as if the blood had some how soaked into it."


"What happened?" asked a trembling voice.


"The next time we came across him was years later. We had been riding through the night and were approaching a cross-roads. All of a sudden rain came out of nowhere, pouring down, torrential, then thunder, lightening. It was deafening and the rain was so heavy, I've never seen anything like it. We made for cover but that was when we spotted the violinist. He was standing at the very centre of the crossroads soaked to the skin and screaming like a banshee, begging for the Devil to make good his promise and to come back; pleading for Old Nick to lift his curse." 


Rain hit the window and the boy was not the only one who jumped, but Heyes was relentless.


"The poor guy was almost unrecognisable. Not only had he lost his eye, but his face was scarred almost beyond knowing. He was skeleton thin, like a walking corpse.  His back was bent and his feet were twisted and bleeding badly.  Then the lightening flashed again, and that's when I saw that damned violin for what it truly was."


"Saw what?"


"That was not some simple fiddle he was holding. I know, because I saw it, and I will never forget it till the day I die."


"What?"


"That cursed instrument was The Devil's own tool. Made from the tormented! The body of it was a human pelvis and the chin rest was carved from the skull of a child. The neck was an arm-bone, the strings were made from human guts and the pegs, well, they were made from finger-bones." 


Even Curry was leaning in caught in the tale. 


"The man was plumb crazy, raving,demanding Satan make good his promise and show himself and free him from this torture.... then when the lightening flashed again it turned back into an ordinary violin. Well after some coaxing we managed to get the poor soul to the nearest town and a doctor."


The boy exhaled. "What happened?"


"Last we heard the poor guy was in some asylum, still screaming 'sorry' at the wind and begging for 'The Devil to 'take it back' . Far as we know he's still there."


"What happened to the violin?"


"Who knows?" replied Heyes. "Maybe Old Nick did take back his trinket or maybe he left it here just waiting to snare another fool-hardy blow-hard. I just know I wouldn't be tempted to risk that bet."


The boy jumped as the oppressive silence was broken by Curry as he abruptly stood and lit the oil lamp. Heyes was satisfied to see the boy, ashen faced staring suspiciously at the violin lying innocently at the foot of the bed.


"Well, we are all up early tomorrow, so I guess we better get some sleep." Heyes, threw his hat to one side and stretched out on the sofa.


The subdued boy was a very different creature to the insufferable brat of earlier. The cousins pretended not to notice as the youngster tentatively placed the violin reverentially in its case, closed it carefully and settled it gently upon the wardrobe.


Both Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry slept soundly that night.


The same however could not be said for the boy...
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PostSubject: December - HannaHeyes - And So This Is Christmas - And What Have You Done?   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptySat Aug 01, 2015 6:49 am

December - HannaHeyes - And So This Is Christmas - And What Have You Done?




Just some childish fluff for Christmas...
----------------------------


December 1859


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 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 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.


Sincerely,
Your extremely well-behaved friend,
Hannibal Heyes


~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~


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.


Your frind,


Jed Curry
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Story Of The Year 2015  September - December Empty
PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyFri Aug 21, 2015 10:49 am

Hi, everyone.  Just a reminder that you have until the end of the month to vote for Story Of The Year.  You'll find them all on this thread for your delectation.  Don't forget to vote for your favourite!   Writing  
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 5:38 am

Well, the votes are in and counted and we have a winner.  For her tale of the devilish virtuoso and childhood irritant we have:


Nancy Whiskey!


violin


Congratulations, Nancy.  Your story goes forward to the next heat, and thanks to all our other winners in a competition where EVERYONE is a winner. 


applause   
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 5:39 am

Congratulations, Nancy Whiskey.  Great story.

Congrats1 

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 7:37 am

Congratulations, Nancy Whiskey

Congrats 4

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 8:05 am

Excellent Story, Grats Nancy Whiskey!!!
applause applause applause

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 8:35 am

Congrats 2
Congratulations, Nancy Whiskey.  It is a great story
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 8:41 am

Congratulations on your win, Nancy Whiskey Congrats 4
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 9:13 am

Congrats 3
Congratulations, Nancy.  Great story
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 9:29 am

Congratulations, Nancy.  A great story.

Congrats 3
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyTue Sep 01, 2015 3:32 pm

Congrats 2 Nancy!
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 September - December   Story Of The Year 2015  September - December EmptyWed Sep 02, 2015 12:33 pm

Congrats 2


Oooooh, Congratulations, Nancy Whiskey!


A great story, masterfully told and a pleasure to read.
Congrats 4

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