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 July 2012 - Torch (es)

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Calico

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PostSubject: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Sun Jul 01, 2012 3:33 am

Hello Everyone!!!

All chaffing at the bit to get going on your July stories?
Fingertips quivering above your laptops?
Whiskers quivering with anticipation?

Good, that's what I like to hear.

Possibly a tricky one for you this month - (though I have no doubt if I threw up Aardvark, you'd all still stun us with your creativity!!)...

In honour of the fact that I was up at 6.00am this very morning to watch the Olympic Flame go past July's challenge is...

Torch (es)

Course you can think of something - after all, we've all been carrying a torch for at least one of the boys for years!!
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Maz

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Sun Jul 01, 2012 4:40 pm

Great title!!!
6 am..wow. Did you see it?

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Obstacles are put in our way to see if we really want something or only thought we did: Edison
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Sun Jul 01, 2012 7:18 pm

The hardest part about going for the amnesty was being cut off from everything and everyone we’d ever known, except maybe Lom, and we hadn’t been close to him in a long, long time. I don’t think Kid and I really gave that much thought ahead of time. It seems like that Columbine job just went so wrong and we spent almost four days shaking that posse. We were so tired by the time we lost them, I’m not really sure we were thinking straight.

I remember that night real well. We’d holed up in a cirque in the Medicine Bow Mountains. There was a lake in it and lots of good grass for the horses. The only way down was the narrow trail bordering a waterfall that we’d ridden up and we could easily defend that, if necessary. The posse had given up on us early in the day so we weren’t expecting trouble. It was ideal for hiding out. We’d been trying for the Hole but the posse had figured that, so we doubled-back on them. Anyways, we couldn’t have gone any further.

Kid built a small fire that didn’t put out much smoke or light but we could cook our first real meal in days. I whittled a couple of willow branches and tied some fishing line on them. I always carry hooks and line. It’s an easy way to eat out on the trail. Trout rolled in cornmeal and pan-fried over an open fire is a treat not to be missed. I never tired of it, though Kid did. He’s more of a meat and potatoes kind of man.

We had a fine evening fishing by that lake and caught several chubby cutthroats. I found some wild onions and wild mushrooms growing in the meadow. It was a great meal and tasted all the better for being hard earned. We sat up late by the fire, not saying much. We were both too tired for conversation, but were savoring some peaceful moments in what had become a fairly out-of-control pair of lives. Kid stared at the fire for a good long time before he spoke up and then he said, “Heyes, I’ve been thinking about that amnesty thing.”

Now I know the Kid inside and out and when he brings something up a second time, it means it's important. I had dismissed the idea of amnesty with a sad joke four days earlier. If he was bringing it up now, I knew I had to sit up and listen closely; so I did.

“I’m getting tired of outlawing, Heyes. Somehow, it doesn’t seem fun anymore. What do you think?” asked the Kid.

What did I think? I thought: why was he bringing this up? Who was he kidding? There was no way we’d be granted an amnesty; it was a pipe dream if ever I heard one. But what I said was, “C’mon, Kid. How is being chased for four days not fun?” I’ve always been a bit of an ass.

Kid snorted at my answer and continued, “I don’t know, Heyes. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about what life would’ve been like if our folks, hadn’t, you know, died like that.”

“Kid, I don’t know. That’s not something anyone can know.” I said not wanting to go in that direction. I avoided thinking about my folks at all costs. I never could think about them without remembering the last time I saw them and no one should have to think about something like that.

“Don’t you ever wonder what it’d be like to have a real life?” said Kid.

I hated when he started thinking; it brought up all sorts of uncomfortable questions. “Life is real enough for me, Kid.” I said hoping to joke my way out of this conversation.

“You don’t ever think about having a girl; a family again?” said Kid.

Of course I did, but I said, “No.”

“What about Sally, do you ever think about her?” said Kid.

Geez, he had a way of going right to my heart sometimes. I’d carried a torch for Sally for a good long while. I’d met her when I was seventeen. Her Pa owned the shop in Wichita where Kid and I had gotten jobs cleaning up and making deliveries. I still remembered the first time I saw her. She’d walked into the store looking for her Pa and finding me and the Kid. She was beautiful. I’d never seen a girl prettier before or since. Her hair was a dark brown like mine, but shiny and fell clear down her back. She had big, soft brown eyes that hinted at a sense of humor and sharp intelligence. I stood gawking, speechless for once, until Kid poked me hard in the ribs and laughed. “He ain’t usually so simple, ma’am, I do believe you’ve struck him dumb,” said Jed with a snort. I stammered and stuttered and said something stupid that proved him right. She smiled at me and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Sally and I spent the next few weeks getting to know each other. I was real careful to court her like a gentleman, because that’s what a girl like that deserved. She was as sweet as she was pretty and I thought she was wonderful. It wasn’t long before I started dreaming about a future with her. We talked some about what it would be like to build a life together. She seemed to want that as much as I did and we started making plans. Her pa caught wind of it, though, and wasn’t happy to have his daughter stepping out with a penniless ne’er-do-well. She had a few arguments with her pa that didn’t end well and, the next thing I knew, Jed and I were on the streets again looking for work. Sally’s pa shipped her off to a boarding school a couple of days later and I never saw her again. Jed and I left Wichita the next week.

I was pretty poor company for a long time, but Jed was real patient with me. Jed has a real big heart and he has room for everybody in there. He knew that I wasn’t built the same. My heart became an ugly, small place the day our folks died and it was hard for me to open up. I had with Sally and now I was paying the price. I’m afraid I made some pretty poor choices in those next few months and it put us on the path of outlawing. I was angry and I chose to use that anger in some destructive ways. Jed tried to set me straight, but I wasn’t hearing it. It was a long time ago, but I still thought of Sally from time to time. Her pa had been right to get her away from me. I wasn’t good material for marriage.

“Heyes, forget I asked. I’m sorry I brought her up,” said Kid noticing my distracted expression.

“No. It’s all right, Kid. I do think about Sally sometimes,” I said, not really wanting to say more.

“Good, Heyes, that’s good. She was a fine girl,” said Kid.

She was and it was hard to know that I’d lost her. I’m not capable of falling in love like Kid is. He loves every woman he’s with at the time and they all know it. Women are drawn to him. I can’t open myself up like he does. He’s the bravest man I know. I’m not brave that way. I never back down from a risk and he tells me I’m fearless, but the truth is I’m terrified of giving my heart away to anyone ever again. I don’t have much heart left and I can’t handle having it broken again. Sure, I like to spend time with the girls in the saloons just as much as the next guy, but that’s lust, not love. I’m real careful not to let my feelings get involved. No good would come of it in the life we lead and I can’t ever forget that.

“Don’t you miss having a girl, Heyes?” asked Kid.

No, not when it hurts so bad to lose them; but I could see that he did. He wanted that real bad; a family, a wife, and who was I to deny it? It would be hard leaving the gang and the Hole behind, it was my home and all that I had except for my partner; but it was the only way to give the Kid what he needed. So, I said, “I do, Kid. Maybe we ought to give this amnesty thing a shot. Let me see that flyer again.”


Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:06 pm

It's been a really looong time, so here's a quick, little snippet, sort of a torch to light my dampened creative fire, so to speak.

Torches

“Heyes, you remember fireflies?”

“Fireflies?” Heyes grunted distractedly as he grabbed hold of a protruding tree root and pulled himself a few feet further up the steep slope, stones skittering down, disappearing into the deepening gloom of the sweltering summer night.

“Lightening bugs, fireflies, you know… there used to be hundreds of them hovering over the meadows and fields. They’d start blinking just as it started to get dark. Remember, we’d, all of us kids, would catch them in our hands and put them in mason jars. I can remember making lanterns out of tin cans our dads would punch little tiny holes in and settin’ them on the porch railings. Then before goin’ in for the night, lettin’ them all go at once. It looked like twinklin’ stars shooting up to the sky,” Kid quietly reminisced as he scrambled wearily after his partner, booted feet struggling for purchase.

Heyes quickly glanced over his shoulder, squinting in the dark, to stare for moment into Kid’s shadowed blue eyes before turning once more to the arduous trek up and over the ridge.

“I think we’ll be okay once we get over this ridge, the forest is pretty thick on the other side and there are a couple of streams we can wade down or up. With hardly any moonlight, no one will be able to see the muddied water.” Heyes bent over and rested his hands on his trembling thighs as he paused to catch his breath. He straightened up abruptly, shifted his saddlebags on his left shoulder and with more than a hint of annoyance, answered what he considered inappropriate conversation from his partner.

“Yeah, I remember fireflies. I wish I had a mason jar full of them now. A little light would come in handy.”

Heyes heard the draw of metal from leather right beside him. He slid his eyes sideways and took in the sight of Kid rapidly but methodically checking his gun. “Why’d you ask?”

Curry looked up into a face known as well as his own, eyes met and held for a long moment, not needing light to convey a futile wish to go back in time and innocence. He silently pointed down into the valley as both men stood still as tree trunks and stared.

Kid whispered, “Torches, not fireflies.”


[i]This partly came from a conversation my husband and I had while sitting outside last night. We were lamenting the dwindling number of lightening bugs (fireflies) in recent years and remembering the fun of "collecting" them we both had as children as well as our own children did.


Last edited by nm131 on Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:44 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:33 pm

Passing the Torch

Heyes fired the requisite three shots into the air as he and the Kid passed into Devil’s Hole. The Kid waved an acknowledgement at the hidden guards. Neither was speaking at that point, each lost in his own thoughts.

They rode on. Shortly before the compound came into sight, the Kid pulled up for a moment. Heyes stopped beside him and looked at him.

“Do you think Wheat and the gang are back, Heyes?”

“Don’t know.”

“What do we say if they are?”

“Don’t know that either, Kid.”

The Kid nodded and urged his horse forward, restraining the urge to unbutton the flap holding his gun in its holster.

They rode up to their cabin and tied their horses to the rail before looking around and entering the cabin.

Inside, the Kid sank into the rocking chair, while Heyes paced back and forth.

“Are you sure Kid?”

“Yeah, I’m sure Heyes; we gotta try. Like I said, don’t know if I can make it; I’m too pure out stubborn, but you’ll make it and get that amnesty.”

“It was your idea, Kid. We do it together or we don’t do it. So you gotta be sure.”

“I TOLD YOU, I’M SURE!”

“Don’t seem it to me.”

“Oh for the love of... Heyes, let’s just get packed up. We can take a spare horse for each of us.”

“Well if you’re really sure, I guess we can…”

“Heyes!”

Heyes smiled as he turned to his room and listened to the Kid stomp into his. He paused for a moment on the threshold and looked, really looked, at the only home he had known for years. Taking a deep breath, he pulled out his carpet bag and opened his saddle bags before sorting what to take and what to leave. He wouldn’t be able to take everything, he knew. Besides he was starting a new life, why would he want useless reminders of this old life, he chastised himself.

The Kid entered his room quietly. He pulled out his bags and opened the dresser, carefully packing his clothes and a few momentos. He made up a fresh bed roll, then looked around and folded the remaining blankets at the foot of the bed. He looked at his wall and laughed at the wanted posters documenting their meteoric rise in the annals of criminal lore, with the increasingly astronomical bounties on them. He sighed as he looked at the one that had added the “Dead or Alive” language, just two years earlier. He wondered if that was what had changed his mind. Well he wouldn’t take them, no reason to carry around signs proclaiming who he was. After all he wasn’t Kid Curry anymore, he was Thaddeus Jones. With one last look around, he gathered his things and headed to the main room.

Heyes was already there, his bags piled at his feet as he stood with a pen in hand, contemplating a piece of paper.

“What now, Heyes? You can’t leave them plans for another robbery.”

“I know, but we should leave some note. Otherwise those idiots might get some idea of following us, then we’d be sunk.”

“Wheat’s not goin' to want to follow us. This gives him a clear path to gang leader – he’s goin' ta be thrilled.”

“Yeah, that’s why the others might come after us.”

The Kid snorted. “Wheat ain’t that bad. He’s stood up for us against outsiders every time.”

“I know.” Heyes sighed, picked up the pen, and began writing. Finally, he put the pen down. “How does this sound?”

“Wheat – the gang’s all yours. Look after it well. Once we get our amnesty, if you all want, we’ll put in a good word for you. Best of luck. Say goodbye to the men for us.”

The Kid thought a moment. “That’s real good. Should keep them from bein' too mad, and makes clear we didn’t leave to join another gang.” He smiled at Heyes. “We should sign it.”

Heyes smiled back, picked up the pen, and signed “Heyes” with a flourish, then handed the pen to the Kid, who signed “Kid Curry” concisely.

Heyes bent to pick up his gear, then stopped and turned back. “Oh, one more thing. I don’t want them going back to Porterville again and angering Lom. We’ll need him on our side from now on.” He picked up the pen and added a postscript: “P.S. Don’t try Porterville again – Lom is a friend.” He put down the pen and began to turn back to his bags, but stopped and picked up the pen again. “P.P.S. Try not to do anything too stupid.” Satisfied, he put the pen down for the last time, picked up his bags, and nodded to the Kid to head out the door.

Once outside, the two tied their bags to the saddles and walked to the barn to tack up two fresh horses to ride. Again, they tacked in silence. There was nothing more to say, and both were pensive. Before mounting, the Kid stopped and turned to Heyes. “This is the right thing, isn’t it? I mean we didn’t get the amnesty right away like we thought we would. Do you think it’s still worth tryin’?”

Heyes opened his mouth to make a quick comment then stopped. He looked seriously at the Kid, “Yeah, Kid, I think this is the right thing to do. I’m tired of this and you know we’ve talked about how the telegraph and those new-fangled tellyphones that we saw in Denver that time are going to make it harder and harder to avoid getting caught. There’s getting to be more smart sheriffs like Lom, too.”

He turned back to his horse and spoke quietly into the saddle, “and I don’t want you to be killed and you know no one’ll dare try to take you alive.”

He coughed and mounted, looking down at the Kid. “So, you planning to mount or walk all the way to Texas?”

The Kid snorted and swung into his saddle. He gave no indication that he had heard Heyes’ quiet comment, but smiled and nodded. “Lead the way, partner. Texas, huh, just as long as we don’t go near Fort Griffin – too many walkoffs there.”

They rode out, gathered the reins of the pack horses, and headed down the trail. The Kid gave the requisite three shots as they passed the guard post, then spurred his horse, but under his breath he muttered, “they’d kill you too, Heyes; you’ve cost them too much money over the years.”

By unspoken agreement the two hurried away from the Hole so they’d be clear of the area before Wheat and the others returned. They did not look back.


Author’s Note: Frederick O. Vaille was the founder of the Denver Dispatch Company, which began telephone service in Denver in 1879 with 161 customers. It was the 17th telephone exchange to open in the United States and was one of the largest.


Last edited by riders57 on Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Wed Jul 04, 2012 6:28 am

The bunnies are multipying like, well, rabbits for me this month! After my last story, Kid kept whispering in my ear.


I felt the hand grasping my shoulder and I blindly struck out.

“Oww! What’d you do that for?” yelled Heyes, holding his hand over his right eye.

Disoriented, I stared up at him and then around our small camp before I realized I’d been dreaming. I said, “Geez, Heyes, I’m sorry. I guess I was having a nightmare.”

He looked at me through one eye and nodded. The other he kept rubbing at. “Was it the same one?” he asked.

I couldn’t answer for a minute and then I just shrugged. “Aww, Kid,” said Heyes patting my arm, “let me get you a shot of whiskey, it might help you fall back to sleep.”

“No. I don’t want to fall back to sleep. That’s the last thing I want to do,” I snapped at him.

He looked at me with the saddest expression and I knew I’d lit the flames of his own nightmare. I sat up and said, “Go get the whiskey, Heyes. I’ll stoke the fire and we can sit up until we get sleepy.” He smiled sadly at me and went to his saddlebags. We always carried whiskey and not just for medicinal purposes. Though, I guess in a way, this was a medicinal purpose, too. Heyes and I were both wounded and had been for most of our lives; they just weren’t the kind of wounds you could see.

I got out of my bedroll in my long johns and went to stir up the embers and add kindling to the fire. It didn’t take long to get it going. Heyes had returned and dragged our saddles over so we could lean up against them. He’d settled down on his and was already sipping the whiskey like it could cure what ailed him. The shiner I’d given him was red and ugly. It wasn’t the first time I’d swung at him out of a nightmare. You’d think he would’ve learned to duck by now. He did make sure, though, that I never went to sleep with my gun.

I hated these nightmares. I hated having the memories kept fresh for me and I hated that they kept Heyes’s fresh, too. I’d been having them a few times a year ever since the day our folks died. It always started the same way. I’d smell the smoke first and then I’d be running through McCleary’s cornfield towards our farm. The stalks were gigantic and loomed over me. As I ran, the stalks would close in tighter and tighter and beat at my face and body as I passed. Finally, I would burst into the farmyard and that’s were things would change. Each dream I would burst upon a different scene. It was always different as though my mind couldn’t handle more than one thing at a time; I’d seen so much that day.

I sat down next to Heyes and took the dented, tin mug he handed me and snorted, “A shot, Heyes?” The cup was damned near overflowing with whiskey, but I started sipping. He smiled and asked if I wanted to talk about it. I said no. How could I talk about it to him? He was there; he saw the same things at his place that I did. I knew he was already remembering his own nightmare.

What a pair we are.

This time it had been the flames. I’d seen the flames leap into the sky just before I came out of the corn. The house and barn were burning and there was screaming, but worse, there was the smell. No, I can’t think about that. Not ever. I’d seen the soldiers running about with their torches, lighting the crops, the haystack, anything they could find to burn. It was like hell on earth. I saw my Pa lying dead by the front porch and not far from him my Ma and baby sister, dead, too. I didn’t know where my brothers or other sister were, but then I remembered the smell. I started to wail and scream and, then, I had felt the hand.

I looked at Heyes. He was staring intently into the fire. “You okay?” I asked. He turned to me and I could see that eye was swelling up something fierce. He smiled, though, and said “Yeah, I’m okay.” I got up and went and got a bandanna and soaked it in some water from my canteen. It was a chilly night so the water was good and cold. It would help the swelling. I folded it up and handed it to him. He grinned up at me and said thanks. I sat down again and stared at the fire for a while before saying, “Do you think I’ll ever stop having these damn nightmares, Heyes?” I don’t know why I asked. It’s not like he could say, but I looked to Heyes to tell me what I needed to hear. He did a good job of it, too.

“Hard to say, Kid,” he said. “Dreams are funny things. You can’t really control them. I read recently about this guy, Sigmund something, who is studying people’s minds. He says that we have an unconscious mind that controls us.”

Huh? That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I said, “If it’s unconscious, how does it control us?”

Heyes laughed and said, “Not that kind of unconscious, Kid. He means a mind that we are unaware of. Maybe that’s where the nightmares come from.”

“Great, Heyes, now I have two minds going crazy,” I said. I stared at those damn flames some more. Usually, sitting by a fire was a comforting feeling, but not tonight. Tonight, I just kept thinking about the torches and the soldiers.

“I wonder if we’ll ever be normal,” I said. I guess I sounded pretty sad because Heyes glanced sharply at me and I could tell he was getting worried about me. I could see him thinking hard to come up with the right answer.

“Kid, we haven’t had any chances to be normal,” said Heyes. Boy, he still wasn’t saying the right things, but I knew he’d get around to it so I just listened as he went on. “Once we get that amnesty, we’ll be able to move on with our lives. Settle down, have families. We’ll build new memories that will dull the old ones. That’s the problem, Kid. Look at our lives--we’ve been on the run one way or another ever since that day. It’s like our lives stopped at that moment and have never quite started up again. Most people have suffered, but their lives go on and they have new, pleasant memories to take the pain out of the old, ugly ones. What memories do we have? Kyle blowing up that boxcar outside of Pueblo? Wheat losing the sack of cash while the posse was chasing us?” He laughed.

Heyes can find humor anywhere and he’s always willing to share. I reached out and patted his leg and gave him a genuine smile.

“You’re right, Heyes. We just need to get the amnesty,” I said. I’m not sure that will fix anything but I want to try. We’d just decided to try for it a few days ago and had ridden up to Porterville to see our old gang member, Lom Trevors, who was now on the right side of the law. Heyes had figured that Lom might be willing to help and he was. Still was, even after the Devil’s Hole gang had blown up his bank with a little help from Heyes and me.

Heyes took another sip of whiskey and stared at the flames some more. He’s a good man and I am lucky to have him for a partner. He is one of the kindest-hearted men I’ve ever known; but he still hurts so badly from what he dealt with that day that it has colored his whole life. I’d asked him a few days ago about Sally and I’d seen the pain he felt in his eyes like he’d just lost her. He feels things so keenly. Heyes likes to say that he’s small-hearted, but that’s just bulls**t. He’s just been hurt so bad, he can’t handle any more pain. Heyes thinks he’s hiding it well, but he can't hide it from me.

Heyes is real sensitive. Animals know it. They are drawn to Heyes like moths to a flame. My Pa used to always say that an animal was the best judge of character there ever was. I guess that’s true.

“Kid, you know it’s not going to be easy. It’ll be like it was when we were kids. We’ll be on our own again, drifting again, looking for work again; probably hungry again, too. Are you sure you want this?” asked Heyes.

Yes, I was sure. Hell, the rewards on us were getting bigger, but that wasn’t what worried me. Each job was getting bigger and riskier, too. Heyes just kept pressing his luck always coming up with more daring, more complicated plans for the next job. I knew it was only a matter of time before he went too far and it all went bad. I needed to get him out of this life. He was smart, and he could use those brains to do just about anything if he got the chance to and I aimed to see that he got that chance.

Sure, I’d like to have a family someday, but most of all, I wanted to keep the family I have safe right now.

“Yes, Heyes, I’m sure. Don’t worry, we’ll get it. You don’t take failure well, you know,” I said grinning at him.

He grinned back at me with that huge, infectious smile that just made you feel like life was good.

I said, “Let’s go to sleep, Heyes. It’ll be a new day in no time.”
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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Sat Jul 07, 2012 12:43 pm

It was dark. Extremely dark. Kid moaned as the ether finally wore off. He was sure he had opened his eyes, but he couldn't see anything, not even the outline of his hand. "Heyes!" he called out. "Heyes, I don't know what they did, but I can't see!" Kid felt around the ground he was now sitting on. It was cold and sandy. Why was it cold? It had been hot outside. And wasn't it daylight when they were on the stagecoach? How long had they been out? "Heyes! Where are you?" He kept feeling around and finally to his left, felt a body. He started shaking it. "Heyes?"

Finally coming to, Heyes groggily answered, "Yeah Kid?" Heyes opened his eyes. He too, saw only infinite blackness. "Kid, I don't want to alarm you, but I can't see!"

"I can't either Heyes! What did they do to us?"

"I don't know. Where are we?"

"I have no idea. I remember being on the stage, then waking up here."

Heyes sat up and felt around the ground the same as Kid had done. "Its cold here. We're inside something. Our voices are echoing." Heyes' hand suddenly hit something by his left leg. Feeling it, he figured out it was a box of matches. He kept feeling around and finally found some cane reed torches someone had left near them. "I found something Kid."

"What is it?"

To answer Kid, Heyes lit the torch, lighting up the natural tomb they were in. "Oh my…Kid, we ain't blind. We're in a cave. A BIG cave."

"I can see that…now." Kid said laying back. "He can't be serious. The governor wants us to find our way out of a CAVE! Has he went crazy?"

"No Kid. I think he just wants rid of us. He put us in a situation he was sure we'd never find our way out of. And if we're in Kentucky, then…" Heyes trailed off, deep in thought.

"What Heyes?"

"Kid, I think we're in the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky."

"The Mammoth Cave? Never heard of it."

"I remember reading about it in some old newspapers I found once in some hotel. Its supposed to be extremely huge and miles long. There was a slave before the Civil War, what was his name…Bishop I believe it was. Steven Bishop. He spent I don't know how many hours in the Mammoth Cave finding all kinds of passages, said it was like a big maze."

"Wonderful," Kid said dejectedly. "Maybe the governor was right. Maybe this is one time we won't escape."

"At least its not prison," Heyes offered, trying to sound optimistic. But Kid could hear through the false bravado. Heyes was worried. "And they left us some torches, jerky, and a canteen. Guess they had to give us a sporting chance."

"Yeah, I guess so. Well, what are we gonna do?"

"We're gonna find our way outta here, that's what."

"Do you really think we have a chance Heyes?"

Heyes looked away at the question. Finally, he looked back. "There's always a chance. We hafta try."

Heyes stood up and took in their surroundings. They were in a big room, that had three passages leading off from it. Two led up and one descended. There was a lot of moisture in the air. Water dripped from the limestone ceiling in the passage leading down to a lower level.

"Well, which way should we go?" Kid asked standing.

"Hmm…let me think." Heyes got up and started pacing. "If I remember right, I read that that slave guide said that the passages on the entrance level were dry. Water forms caves, so it would be at the lowest level. So, I think the best course of action would be to follow the passages that go up." That said, Heyes slapped Kid on the shoulder. "Well, let's get going. Grab those extra torches."

They decided to take the passage on the left leading up to another level. After they left the room, the passage turned to be about ten feet wide and about twenty feet high. Five minutes passed and they found themselves in another room looking up into a dome over ninety feet high. A small waterfall fell from the void above next to one of the walls.

"Will you look at that Kid," Heyes said in awe.

"Are we gonna try to climb that?" Kid asked doubtful. But Heyes didn't hear him. He was too busy walking around the circumference of the huge dome.

"Isn't this amazing Kid! Who knew something this beautiful would be underground?"

"Heyes…"

"And look up there. That part looks like somebody built columns, but its just the rock!"

"Heyes, you're enjoying yourself too much. Do I have to remind you we are LOST in this giant cave?"

"That doesn't mean we can't enjoy the scenery. We may never see something like this again."

"We may never see ANYTHING again if we don't find a way out of here! Now, you're not thinking about trying to climb that are you?"

"I don't think we can climb it Kid. That has to be what, eighty, a hundred feet high? Even if we wanted to try it, we couldn't hold the torches while we did. I say we go back the way we came and try that other passage leading up."

"Alright then, let's go. We're wasting torch-light."

They backtracked into the room they had previously been in and took the other ascending passage. This passage led to a very wide, tubular shaped passage with a sandy floor. A breeze blew through the cave, ruffling their hair under their hats.

"I bet this passage floods when the river is up," Heyes said looking at the floor.

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, look at the ground. Its covered in sand. That other passage wasn't."

They followed the tube and eventually came to a smaller passage leading off to the left.

"I guess we go this way." Heyes turned left. The passage was smaller than the one they had just traversed. It continued to get smaller until the two had to turn sideways and duck to get through the narrow crevice. It couldn't have been no more than two feet wide and the gray ceiling was only five feet overhead.

"If this don't get bigger soon, I'm turning back," Kid said as he hit his head on the ceiling. "OW!"

"Careful Kid. Low ceiling. You know, this passage would be misery to a fat man." Heyes secretly smiled. Kid ignored his sarcasm.

Much to Kid's delight, the passage did indeed get bigger to where they could once again stand up. Heyes kept walking as he turned his head and talked. "We can't give up. Even if the passages are small. We may even have to end up crawling through some."

"HEYES!" Kid yelled as he ran forward and grabbed him, pulling him back.

"WHAT! I'm right here!"

"Yeah, and look where you almost ended up." Kid pointed to what was just inches from the toe of Heyes' boot, a yawning chasm over one hundred feet deep. Heyes felt a shudder go through his body. He bent down, picked up a rock, and dropped it in the pit. Ten seconds later, it hit bottom.

"Thanks Kid. I owe you one."

"You owe me many. Now, how do we cross this?"

"Well, let's see." Heyes held the torch out in front of him. "How about using that?" He pointed to where an old oak ladder was laid across the pit.

"Think it'll hold us? Who knows how long that's been there."

"We'll go across one at a time, just in case. Here, hold the torch." Heyes handed their light source over and got down on his hands and knees. He reached out onto the makeshift ladder and put a little pressure on it. It didn't move, so he put a little more pressure on it. Still no movement. Slowly and carefully, Heyes put one knee on the ladder and put almost all his weight on it. It held. One last knee, and he was completely out over the pit. He crawled extremely slowly across the ladder. Sweat beaded on his forehead. Halfway across, he felt the ladder give just slightly. Heyes stopped, hoping the ends would catch a good hold again. After what seemed an eternity, the ladder quit its up and down movement. Heyes resumed his crawl across the rickety bridge. Finally, he reached the other side and collapsed in a nervous heap. When he had composed himself, he sat up. "Alright Kid, toss the torches across and come on. Just go SLOW."

"That's easy for you to say now. You're already across." Kid tossed Heyes the torches and got down to business. He mimicked Heyes' movements on the ladder exactly. After an excrutiating minute, he too was safely across the deep pit. "Whew. I hope we don't have to do that again." But, to their dismay, as soon as they turned around, they saw yet another pit. This one wasn't as deep, but it was still a long way down. Fortunately, there was a narrow path around this chasm.

With the pits behind them, they walked the small passage. They came to where the passage turned abruptly up and got tiny. After surveying it for a moment, Heyes started to climb up the incline. In just a few feet, it opened up into a small room. Kid followed and found Heyes sitting on the ground, a wooden bowl in his hands.

"Look at this Kid. Looks like something an Indian would make." He turned the bowl over in his hands and felt the smoothness of it. "Just look at this craftsmanship. Its smooth as frozen molasses." Kid took it to examine and then carefully set it back where Heyes had found it.

The way out of the room was yet another tiny climb. Gravels fell as they went up. At the top of this one, they got a surprise. The cave opened up into an enormous passage going off to the right and left. It was at least sixty feet high and thirty feet wide. Small holes pockmarked the walls here and there. There were also some old signatures on the wall. "Look there!" Heyes said pointing. There's that slave's signature I was telling you about, Steven Bishop! Looks like it was written with smoke." Heyes admired the signature along with the passage. It put Heyes in mind of the Utah canyonlands, except it was underground.

"Would you look at that," Kid said emerging from the climb. "I always thought of caves as being small. You could build a town in here."

To their left, a huge rock sat on one side of the passage. "Look at that Kid. Looks like a giant coffin."

"Yeah, and look at the ceiling. Kinda looks like clouds in the night sky."

The passage was beautiful, as underground trails go. It was indeed like a huge, underground canyon. The ceiling was gunmetal gray with splotches of black and lighter grays, which made it look like clouds. In one place, the white gypsum was shining like specks through the black on the ceiling. The way they glowed in the torchlight made it look like they were outside under a night sky, looking up at the stars. They turned to their right and set out, deeper into the cave.

The passage wound right and left like a mountain trail. They had been in the cave approximately three hours and their first torch had come to its end. "Hand me another one Kid. This one's about to burn out. How many does that leave us?"

"Uh…four."

Just a few moments later, Kid's eyes caught a glimpse of something in the infinite darkness. "What is THAT?"

"Looks like a building. But it can't be, not in a cave. Can it?"

"Don't know. Them Indians left bowls down here, maybe they built themselves a winter home."

"That's not funny Kid." Heyes walked closer and examined the old stone structure. There was another one right beside it. Both buildings were made of large, gray stones from the cave that had been shaped to fit together like bricks Inside the huts were an old table and a bench. The walls behind them were colored solid black by soot from what must have been many fires. Both huts looked as if they had been abandoned quite a while. Heyes took a closer look. "Wait a minute. I know what these are."

"You do!"

"Yeah, I read about it in an old medical paper somewhere."

"Where on earth did you get a medical paper?"

"I don't rightly remember. May have been at a train station or somewhere. Anyway, I read about some guy earlier this century that thought cave air would be good for tuberculosis patients so he built them a place to stay down in the Mammoth Cave."

"Did it work?"

"No, I believe they all died."

"Well, I ain't touching those buildings. They may be infected."

"Kid, that was so long ago, I'd say the germs are long dead. BUT, we must be near the entrance! That doctor wouldn't build these too far back in a cave would he?"

They continued their trek past the huts. Thirty minutes later, they came to an ENORMOUS room, so big their light wouldn't reach all the way across it.

"Whoa," Heyes said looking around. "You could probably fit all of Denver in here." They walked across some breakdown in the middle of the room. Kid stumbled a few times on the loose rocks. "Careful."

"Yeah."

When they finally reached the other end of the giant room, the passage split.

"Well, which way Heyes?"

"I don't know. Let's flip a coin."

"You're going to leave our fate to a toss of a coin!"

"Well which way you want to go?"

"Let's keep going right. That way if we have to turn around for any reason, we'll know which way we came."

"That makes sense. Let's go."

They continued to the right. The passage stayed large and canyonlike. Twenty minutes later, they came to another pit. Heyes was admiring the small waterfall coming through the ceiling and disappearing to depths unknown, when the rock he was standing on gave way and he slid down the side of the pit.

"HEYES!" Kid yelled as he leapt forward to catch him. But he was a second to late. Kid was afraid to look over the edge. He kept waiting to hear a 'thud' when Heyes hit bottom. But he didn't hear a thud, he heard Heyes' voice.

"KID!"

"HEYES!"

"KID!" Heyes had caught hold of a protruding rock halfway down the seventy degree angled slide. He had dropped the torch and was hanging in blackness. Not knowing if he was about to fall and how far was leaving him on the verge of panic. "KID, HELP!"

"HOLD ON HEYES." Kid lit another torch and desperately looked around for something, anything for Heyes to grab hold of. Nothing came to mind. Finally, he noticed the torch. All of the torches were made up of four or five cane reeds from the riverbank, held together with a length of leather twine wrapped up and down. He quickly set to work untying his other torches and, tying all the ends together, took off his belt. He tied the other end of the now leather twine rope to his belt buckle. "ALRIGHT HEYES. I'M GOING TO TOSS DOWN A ROPE."

"WHERE'D YOU GET A ROPE?"

"NEVER MIND THAT NOW. JUST GRAB IT WHEN I THROW IT."

Kid wrapped the loose end of the twine rope around his wrist, propped himself up against a rock sticking up out of the floor, and threw his belt down to Heyes. "YOU SEE IT?"

"YEAH. I GOT IT."

Kid felt Heyes weight on his rope invention. It tightened around his wrist, cutting off the circulation. He painstakingly started pulling on the rope, praying it would hold, as Heyes did his best to help by trying to climb. Five minutes later, Heyes made it to the lip of the pit and Kid hauled him the rest of the way up. They both lay on their backs, breathing hard. "Thanks Kid," Heyes said trying to catch his breath. "I owe you another one."

"This cave is trying its best to kill one of us."

They lay there another few minutes. Heyes eventually got up and looked around. The excitement over his 'almost demise', had gotten the two turned around. "Kid, do you remember which way we came in?"



***The rest of this story can be found on Fanfiction.net. Its entitled 'Conditions'.***

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Mon Jul 09, 2012 2:45 pm

"I don't know, Heyes. All the sheriff said was he had to lock me up, pendin' positive identification." Kid Curry's whisper was low, spoken between the bars of the jail cell, and only loud enough for his partner to hear.

"Identification? You see anyone we know since you been in this town?"

"No one."

"Well someone sure must think they know you!"

"Yeah, well, thinkin' they know me might just be good enough, so get me out of here!" Curry's hands rattled the door of the cell.

"Can't chance it, Kid. The sheriff thinks I'm your lawyer, Joshua Smith. And as your lawyer, I gotta inform you, breaking you out won't only make you look guilty, it'll look bad to the governor too."

"I don't care how bad it..." Curry began, only to be silenced by the unlocking of the thick wooden door that separated his cell from the sheriff's office.

An elderly man pushed wayward strands of silvery-grey hair from equally grey eyes, dimmed by age. He squinted. "It's him, June-bug, I'm sure of it! Knew it when I saw him comin' outta the livery!"

The sheriff held the weighty door, while the elderly man held out his hand. "C'mon in here," the scratchy voice of the elderly man insisted. "Well? Tell him, June-bug! Tell the sheriff this here fella is Jed Curry, also known as Kid Curry, wanted outlaw."

Heyes cast a worried glance in the Kid's direction, but Curry's attention seemed focused on the figure at the door.

The toe of her black boot stepped tentatively into the cell area. Her navy skirt swished against the dirty floorboards.

Kid Curry's eyes moved upward, past the plain, white blouse. Strawberry-blonde ringlets escaped from the knot at the back of her neck. The woman's head lifted. Curry gazed intently at two green eyes, deep, soft. Sad.

The scratchy voice spoke again. "It's him, Sheriff, and my granddaughter can vouch for that! And she could sure use that ten-thousand dollar reward, I tell ya."

***

Before I even entered the sheriff's office, I knew what I would find, or shall I say, I knew who I would find. Premonition, intuition, call it whatever you'd like, I could feel his presence. Jed Curry was in that jail cell.

I stepped through the door, knowing his eyes were on me. Our mutual recognition was immediate and came as no surprise.

The emotions that surged the moment our eyes met, however, that was the surprise.

Eight years had passed since the day I'd last seen him, but I remembered every moment, every word. Grandpa was right. I still carried a torch. It was like it had all happened, only yesterday...

The summer sun beat down on the barn, giving the hay extra fragrant sweetness, but from our bed in the loft, we barely noticed. All it took was one look, and Jed's warm blue eyes melted my heart. His hands, gentled me like a skittish foal, and his lips whispered promises, soft and convincing. I was his for the taking, and he knew it.

I was in love.

In retrospect, I know, Jed Curry wasn't.

If he loved me, he would have asked Grandpa for my hand. If he loved me, he never would have left. These were the justifications I repeated to myself, as I stepped through that door, ready to betray the man I had once thought I loved, handing him over to the sheriff, claiming the reward that was rightfully mine.

"It's him, Sheriff, and my granddaughter can vouch for that! And she could sure use that ten-thousand dollar reward, I tell ya." Grandpa's voice shook me from memories, bittersweet.

I met the blue eyes. Familiar, yet somehow, foreign.

***

Emma Southerland. She looked even better than she had in my dreams. I swallowed back the greeting I longed to give her. The acknowledgement of my recognition would have surely sealed my fate. I struggled for the icy gunman's glare, or the look of indifference that would deny our history, or my memory of it. With luck, Emma had forgotten me. So much time had passed. So much had happened. She was probably married, with a family.

"It's him, Sheriff, and my granddaughter can vouch for that! And she could sure use that ten-thousand dollar reward, I tell ya," the elderly man declared.

And suddenly I remembered. Emma's grandfather. The man with the shotgun who had taken aim, ranting threats and curses, as I struggled with my pants and scurried from his barn like the rat I had most certainly proven myself to be.

That was the only time I had seen him, but now he looked somehow, smaller, less threatening. Shoulders stooped from years of hard work. Eyes, no longer clear and bright, but even now, smoldering with rage over a granddaughter, defiled.

I had never seen Emma again, until now.

I met her eyes.

She was no longer the innocent girl I had known. She was wiser, more mature. But Emma remembered me, of that I was certain.

I closed my eyes, awaiting the words that would send me to prison for the next twenty years.

***

Ten-thousand dollars. Grandpa was right, I sure could use the money. Raising a seven-year-old son was no small task. Especially one whose father was "dead" in every way that counted. I was the only parent he had. The only one keeping him fed, clothed, loved, and cared for. The only parent who even knew he existed.

I turned to the sheriff. "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm afraid my grandfather is mistaken." I tried to still my pounding heart. I had never lied to my grandfather, not since that day in the barn, and I had certainly never lied to a sheriff before.

"Grandpa, he does look similar to that boy I once knew, but," I turned and met again those warm blue eyes. "...But, I don't know this man."

Surprise, then relief flooded Jed Curry's countenance in a sudden rush.

Our eyes met again and I saw his silent question. Why hadn't I identified him? Wasn't ten-thousand dollars reason enough?

I turned and walked away.

***

It was dark and late, but I waited, horse saddled, saddlebags packed, outside Emma Southerland's house, ready to leave and never look back, just as soon as I...

Just then, Emma stepped onto the porch. In the distance thunder rumbled. She sat on the step.

Cautiously, I approached. "Emma?" I asked quietly, not wanting to startle her.

She didn't look up, but I knew she had heard.

"Why'd you do it?"

Thunder rumbled again, more loudly this time. Finally, Emma spoke. "There was a storm that night too."

"What?"

"The night you left. It stormed, and I worried if you were safe." She gave a disgusted laugh, which sounded suspiciously like a sob, and I knew she regretted having given me so much as moment's thought. It was only then she raised her eyes to mine.

I tried to read her thoughts, but too much time had passed.

"Leave," she began in a hoarse whisper. "I don't want anything from you. Not even ten-thousand dollars."

Lightning flashed, with a loud crack of simultaneous thunder. The door of the house flew open and a young boy hurled himself into Emma's arms. Soft blond hair curled around Emma's fingertips. "Mama!" he cried. Then, realizing the presence of a stranger, the boy grew suddenly quiet. "I didn't know we had comp'ny," he whispered, eyeing the man suspiciously, with wide, blue eyes. "Who is it, Mama?"

Emma didn't speak. She just held her son and then she stood, eyes riveted on mine, and suddenly I understood.

"I don't know this man," she told her son, carrying him into the house. "Never did."

The door shut tight, behind them.

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:42 am

This week's word challenge started a bunny hopping, that hopped into the month's challange:

He woke to the hissing and sputtering of the candles guttering in their stands.  Gently he pulled his arm from under the sleeping form that lay curled so trustingly against his side.  Careful not to wake her, he slid from the bed, heard her murmur and adjust herself to the change, then listened to her breathing settle back into peaceful sleep.  As he dressed in the darkness, he pondered how their love was reduced to this -- the life of a candle.  He tied his gunbelt down and drew on his boots.  Someday, he thought, someday it won’t be like this – the brief snatched moments, always in darkness, only together until the candles guttered.  He longed to stroke her hair, to touch her one last time, but that would wake her, and he couldn’t bear to say goodbye again, to see her bereft face in the lingering light of the guttering candles.  Instead, he blew out the remains of the candles, swung himself out the window, and silently left as he had come.

He saddled his horse and rode slowly out of the yard, the moon lighting the road as his horse made its own way through the shadows.  He rode, seemingly without regard to his surroundings, lost in thought.  At a turn in the road, his hand jumped to his gun as he pulled up, pointing the gun into the deep shadows he was about to pass.

“It’s me, Kid.  Don’t shoot,” Heyes called softly as he rode out from the trees and joined Kid Curry on the road.

“I almost killed you, Heyes.  What were you thinkin’?”

“I was thinking you might want some company.”  Heyes replied, pulling alongside his partner.

The Kid glanced at him, a hint of anger in his gaze, then the anger died and the pain returned; he looked down, urging his horse forward.  “Yours ain’t the company I want.”

Heyes nodded but continued to ride alongside, wisely saying nothing.

After an hour’s ride, the Kid shifted and looked at Heyes.  “We sure made a mess of our lives, didn’t we?”

Heyes narrowed his eyes and looked at the Kid.  “I don’t know; we’ve done pretty well for ourselves, all things considered.  We didn’t have much chance you know, but we’re alive.”

The Kid nodded slightly and kept riding.

Heyes opened his mouth, then glanced at the Kid’s somber expression, and closed it again.  They rode silently on, accompanied only by the sound of a nearby stream murmuring over the rocks and some church bells in the distance.

“Odd time for church bells, Kid.”  Heyes commented.

The Kid only grunted and kept riding.

The moon -- now low in the sky -- slid behind a cloud, leaving them in darkness.  As they paused to get their bearings, the Kid noticed something.  He nudged Heyes and pointed to their right.

In the distance, but coming closer, they saw a line of flickering lights and heard the faint sound of voices lifted in song, though too distant to make out the words.  In agreement, they quietly dismounted, tied the horses in the trees off the road, and slid silently through the darkness to get a closer look.

The moon came briefly from behind its cloud, illuminating the tableau spread below them, before sinking below the horizon.  They stood on the top of slight rise, looking down to where the stream they had heard widened into a pool before meandering off into the darkness.  As they looked, the line of lights came closer and they could make out a parade of ghostly shapes winding through the trees, men and women dressed all in white, carrying torches, approaching the pond.  They realized that the language of the songs was one they had never heard before, but the music was soft and joyous, rising to the heavens in praise.

As they watched, the group reached the pond just as the sun began its ascent.  They waded into the water, and, one after another, they baptized themselves.  When they were done, and singing all the while, the men and women lifted their torches – now pale in the encroaching daylight, and headed back the way they had come.

Heyes and the Kid watched in awe until all had faded into the distance.  Still they stayed looking down at the pond absorbed in the images they had seen as the sky lightened and turned rosy with the sunrise.  When the church bells pealed again in the distance, they shook themselves from their reverie.

The Kid looked at Heyes.  “I ended it tonight,” he said quietly.

“I thought you would.”  Heyes looked at the Kid whose eyes were blazing with the pain of the parting.

The Kid looked back down at the pond and drew a deep, shuddering breath before letting it out slowly.  As he did, his shoulders relaxed and the pain retreated from his gaze.  He turned to Heyes and smiled.  “Glad you came along, Heyes.”

“Always, Kid.  Always.”


Last edited by riders57 on Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:49 pm

My thanks to Calico for the idea..twice over.



Torch
By Maz McCoy


Hannibal Heyes leaned back against the bed’s headboard, his legs stretched out in front of him, socked feet crossed at the ankles. He smiled as he read the medical dictionary he had found on the bookshelf. Nephrititis – who knew it really existed! Sheer genius on his part of course to have chosen the name of a real disease.
The door flew open and Kid burst into the room. Without a word to his partner he picked up his saddlebags from the chair.
Heyes watched as Kid fought with the bags’ buckle. “Something wrong, Kid?”
“Damn, right there’s something wrong!” The buckle finally gave up its fight and Kid yanked open the bag.
“Anything you want to share?”
Ice blue eyes fixed on Heyes. “Trust me, Heyes, this isn’t something you’ll want to share.”
The dark-haired man frowned and waited for Kid to explain. Instead his friend searched around for his clothes and found them neatly folded and stacked on top of the dresser. He picked up a shirt and was hit by the scent of clean linen and – sheesh was that fresh flowers? He’d miss that – clean laundry wasn’t something you got on the trail.
“You leaving?” Heyes asked conversationally as he closed his book.
“Yep.” Socks were stuffed into the saddlebags. Kid picked up another shirt. Flowers and fresh cotton. He stuffed it into the bag.
“You gonna tell me what’s got you packing in such a hurry?” Heyes put down the book on the bedside table and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Sitting up he rested his hands on either side of his legs. “Well?”
“Fear!” Clean folded pants were stuffed into the bags.
“What are you afraid of?”
“What’s gonna happen to me.”
Heyes’ brow furrowed. “What are you talking about?”
“Pain, Heyes. Pain and suffering on a grand scale.”
“Okay, now I really am confused.” Heyes stood up and walked over to his partner. More socks were stuffed into the bags. Who knew Kid owned so many pairs? Heyes placed a hand on Kid’s arm momentarily halting the packing. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Kid’s shoulders drooped and he let out a long sigh. “I like it here. I thought we were safe here. No more running from a posse, no looking over our shoulders every five minutes.”
“We are safe here.”
Blue eyes met brown ones. “No, Heyes, we’re not.” Kid started to buckle one of the saddlebags. “It’s gonna get bad, real bad.”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“I’m gonna get hurt. Maybe you will too but it’s definitely gonna be worse for me. It’s always worse for me.” He could see Heyes still didn’t have a clue what he was on about. “She’s gonna hurt me.”
Heyes laughed with relief. “Heck, that ain’t news, she always hurts ya. Then you have to be nursed and get to be all brave and manly.”
“It’s gonna be worse.”
“You always say that.”
“This time it’s true.”
Heyes frowned. “She gonna set Elizabeth Darkly on ya?”
“No!” Kid looked shocked at the suggestion, then reconsidered his answer. “Least ways I don’t think so.”
“So how’s it gonna get worse and why? Why would she hurt you even more?”
“’Cos of the monthly thing.”
Heyes coughed with embarrassment. “Kid, I don’t think we should talk about that sort of thing.”
“But we hafta.”
“Kid, that’s women’s stuff. I mean, sure they can get all moody and snappy but that’s no reason to really hurt you and you can always talk ‘em round with some of that chocolate. It’s worked before.”
Kid’s mouth dropped open. “Not THAT monthly thing! Sheesh, Heyes! Sheesh!”
“Well, then what the heck are you talking about?”
“That writing thing.”
“What writing thing?”
“The one Calico sets.”
Heyes smiled, he liked Calico, and she gave him clever dialogue and mysteries to solve. “What about her writing thing?”
“Do you know what she wants Maz to write about this month? Do ya? Huh?” Kid ploughed on before Heyes had a chance to answer. “Torture! Can you believe it? Torture! I am gonna die. I mean sheesh, if she sets a title called Orphans and Kittens Maz’d probably nearly drown me trying to save them!”
Heyes laughed. “Kid.”
“It’s not funny, Heyes!” The blond man scowled.
“Yes, it is.”
“She might pick on you too, ya know?”
“No Kid, she won’t.”
“Don’t bet on it!”
“Kid, it’s not gonna happen. Trust me, I know.”
“Oh yeah? Why’re you so sure?” He now stood less than two inches from Heyes, cheeks flaming red with anger.
“’Cos the title of this month’s challenge is Torch. That’s T-O-R-C-H. Torch. Not torture.”
Kid stared at his friend as this news sank in. “Torch?”
“Uh, huh.”
“Like a flame?”
“Yep.”
Kid sank down onto the bed and let out a sigh of relief. “I thought she was gonna torture me.”
“Don’t worry, Kid, you’re safe...” Heyes cast a glance at the now occupied keyboard. “For now. Although those orphans and kittens could be in danger real soon.”
“Oh geez!”

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:29 am

“Mother of Exiles…”

1885. A TYPICAL WESTERN CAFÉ – EARLY EVENING

“Mister… Mister…”

A small and distinctly grubby hand tugs at the sleeve of a blue – and also distinctly grubby – shirt.

“Huh? Wha…?” Kid Curry’s unshaven chin slips off the hand cradling it. He blinks.

For a moment he faces a veritable sea of inquisitive stares. He blinks again, focusing. The sea ebbs to a mere half dozen pairs of eyes, each set within a youthful face.

“Huh?” Kid sucks back a strand of drool. “Wha…?”

The group’s evident leader – chosen, doubtless, for her maturity, having every appearance of one fast approaching her eighth birthday – takes a deep breath.

“We’re collectin’…” she twists a much-darned pinafore.

“C’lecktin’…” echoes the possessor of the grubby hand which had roused the drowsy ex-outlaw.

“C’ec’tin’…” further clarifies a diminutive red-head, simultaneously edging an inquisitive finger toward a tiny nostril.

“Mizz Gibbons told the class it’s a national an’ – an’ pat’rotic… [DON’T, Clyde!]” The questing digit is discouraged with all the simple physical authority that can only come from a bossy elder sister.

“Pat’rockic…” A box, crudely embellished with what might be stars and stripes, is thrust under Kid’s nose. The holder favours Kid with a winning smile. At least, it would be winning if she wasn’t currently between front teeth.

“…Campaign. Y’see there’s this statue…”

“Stachew…” The box is shaken. A feeble clinking ensues.

“C’lecktin’…” Grubby-Hand is clearly an orator who knows the value of sticking to the main point and not letting the primrose paths of eloquence lead him astray.

“Leastways there ain’t yet, but there’s gonna be this statue…”

“BIG stachew…” A fresh speaker. He rises on tiptoe; nibbled fingertips reach for the sky – well, the ceiling. Of course the enormity of what he tries to communicate with these dramatic embellishments might have been better conveyed if he’d stood higher than three foot six.

“An’ there’s this campaign to raise…”

“Camplain…”

“C’lecktin’…”

Clink, clink. The box rattles closer and closer to Kid’s nose. From beneath tangled bangs hazel eyes blink appealingly. Literally – appealingly.

“I means a national campaign – [Stoppid Clyde! Ya brains’ll fall out!] - we’re s’posed to say…”

“C’lecktin’…”

“Shaddup interruptin’, Jack, you’se puttin’ me off…”

“Ain’t.”

“Are too!” Radiant smile at Kid Curry, whose expression still has ‘Huh?’ stamped all over it. “Anyhow, Mister, if’n you’d like…”

“Ain’t ‘Truptin’…”

Clink. Rattle.

“Are too.” To Kid: “If’n you’d like…”

“Ain’t. ”

“Are too.”

“Ain’t”

“Are too! No-returns-offerwise-you’re-a-stinky-pig-touch-floor-no-changes!!!” To Kid: “Any contri…
Contra… Anyfin’ – no matter how small…”

Sotto-voce: “Ain’t.”

“[Shaddup!] Anyfin’ is most gratefully…”

Still sotto-voce: “Ain’t ‘truptin’. C’lecktin’…”

“Anyfin’ you can spare…”

A shadow falls over the group. The speaker and her diminutive companions twist their heads and look up past a dusty grey jacket, past an even dustier bandana, into a quizzical brown gaze shaded by a much-battered black brim.

“Howdy, ma’am.” Heyes sets two plates on the table, freeing his hands for a gallant hat touch. The already much-crumpled pinafore is further wrung, as sudden shyness strikes the youthful collector dumb. She examines the toes of her boots then peeps, bashfully, through her lashes at the dimpled face smiling down at her.

Heyes crouches, bringing his face level with hers. A gloved hand is held out. “Joshua Smith, ma’am, and this fella you woke up is my partner, Thaddeus Jones. Both entirely at your service.” Pause. “And you are…?”

“Esther Turner,” she whispers to the floorboards. A very, very deep breath. “We’re collectin’ – Mizz Gibbons says we can – an’ it’s a national an’ – an’ patriotic collection for a – a plinth for the…”

“C’lecktin’…”

Rattle. Clink.

“Collecting! That’s real fine, ma’am. We’d like fine to hear all about it. Wouldn’t we, Thaddeus?”

“Er…” Kid’s butt shifts in his seat as his eyes scan the hopeful faces staring at him. “Sure.”

“It’s patriotic an’…”

“But, the thing is – we’re about to eat supper. I’m sure Mizz Gibbons told you, you should never interrupt folk at supper. You time your collecting activity for before or after supper. That’s the civil thing to do. I know a lady like you – a real professional – will want to do the thing right, huh?”

“I guess.”

“So, why don’t you come back…?” Heyes consults his pocket watch and mulls. “Say, at seven – maybe seven thirty. Then you can tell us all about this fine, patriotic cause. How’s that?”

“Seven! We’ve gotta be home ‘fore then!” protests Esther.

“Chores…” explains Bangs-With-A-Box.

“Bedtime…” chimes Mimes-The-Size.

Anxious nods from Clyde-The-Nostril.

“C’lecktin’…” perseveres Grubby-Hand-Jack. He joins in the anxious nodding to drive home the point to this obtuse stranger. “C’lecktin’ FORE bedtime!”

“Seven’s too late?” mourns Heyes. “That’s too, bad.” He straightens. Kindly but firmly, a gentle hand on her shoulder, he steers Esther and her group to the door, opening it for her. “Maybe some other time? Thank you for visiting with us, ma’am. Thank you, all.” Bangs are ruffled. The dimpled smile shines on every child. But, the ushering out is decisive. “Thank you – have a good evening.”

“Thank you...” murmurs a bewildered Esther.

“Why’s you sayin’ Fank you?” Grubby-Hand-Jack’s all too audible whisper puts a (grubby) finger on the salient point. “He’s not given us nuffin’.”

As for Bangs-with-a-Box, not only does her lower lip wobble, the look she gives Heyes would wring pity from Herod.

Unfortunately for her, the erstwhile leader of the Devils’ Hole Gang is made of sterner stuff than the tetchy Judean King when it comes to the treatment of infants. His smiling affability unruffled, he gently nudges the last lingering boot over the threshold and closes the café door behind them. He raises his hand in friendly farewell as the disappointed troupe trudge slowly away. Over her shoulder Esther shoots Heyes a glance which mingles confusion and resentment in equal measure. Grubby-Hand-Jack’s glance mingles the same emotions in unequal measure – resentment definitely winning out.

Unmoved, Heyes rejoins Kid Curry at the table, and prepares to send a forkful of beans south. He meets his partner’s accusing version of the ‘look’. “What?”

Intensification of the ‘look’ from Kid.

“You think we shoulda put a nickel or two in the box?” Heyes sets down his fork. “Kid we spent the day digging drainage ditches. It was hard on the back, huh? So much so, you did a Rip Van Curry act while I fetched us these two plates of beans and one portion of meatloaf to share. How much did we earn for all that hard work?”

“Dollar fifty each.”

“A dollar fifty each. We rode in with ninety-six cents. We got a livery bill. We got a room bill. We’re gonna be digging ditches for a dollar fifty every day until Saturday when maybe, just maybe, the farmhands’ll come into town and play poker. I reckon you’re gonna want breakfast before picking up a shovel in the morning. After all, we both know you’re a three squares a day kind of fella.” Heyes nods over to where a chalkboard displays the café prices. “See that? Bacon, eggs, biscuits, coffee - twenty cents. Do the math. Then look me in the eye and tell me you still wish I’d dropped a nickel or two in that box.”

Kid does do the math. A shrug, accompanied by a rueful expression, signifies that Heyes has a point.

Then, a movement outside diverts his attention to the window. A small nose presses wistfully against the glass. Clyde has eluded supervision and returned. Almost immediately he is pulled away by his older sister, whose eyes meet Kid Curry’s, reproachfully. Once again, troublesome baby brother in tow, she trudges away.

Heyes watches this and raises a sceptical eyebrow at his partner’s guilty expression.

“Don’t let it eat at ya, Kid.” He sends another forkful of beans south. “She’s probably working a scam.”

“A scam??!! Heyes, she can’t be more’n eight!”

“So? How old were we when we set up that collection for the needy?”

“We? WE! That was YOU! Besides, you swore blind it wasn’t a scam.”

“It wasn’t. I was needy. I needed that penknife.”

“Heyes, you’re missing the point here.”

“Which is?”

“These kids ain’t you.”

---oooOOOooo---

LATER – A CHEAP HOTEL ROOM

Kid Curry, long-john clad, one hand tucked behind his head, the other holding aloft a folded newspaper, stretches full length on one lumpen bed. His brow wrinkles with concentration as he reads.
Heyes, similarly disrobed, perches on the second bed, polishing his gun. He glances over at his partner. He glances at the gun and oil-cloth in his own deft fingers. A smile lifts one cheek.

“Hey, Kid, have you noticed something odd here?”

“Uh.” The blue eyes stay fixed on the newsprint.

“We seem to be in the wrong places.”

“Uh.”

“And doing the wrong things.”

“Uh.” Faint frown.

“It’s annoying when you’re trying to read and someone keeps talking, huh?”

“Uh.”

“Are you listening to me?”

“Uh? Nuh-uh. I’m readin’.”

“Yeah. I can see your lips move.”

“Uh.” Pause. “Hey!” More reading. “It wasn’t a scam.”

“What wasn’t?”

“Those kids. It’s all here. Y’know the French…?”

“Not all of ‘em. No.”

“Y’know they’re givin’ us this statue…” Kid reads, “Liberty, Enlightenin’ the World. It’s gonna go in New York harbor. It was crated up in Paris, shipped over…”

“I read about that,” Heyes interrupts. “Mind you, you hafta watch the French. Look at the Louisiana purchase…”

“Huh?”

“Well, it included this place…” Heyes scowls, darkly, at his admittedly dour surroundings. “If you ask me, we were robbed.”

Incredulous stare from the Kid.

“C’mon, Kid. The most exciting thing that happens all week in this whole dang state is watching corn grow.”

Kid rolls his eyes. “Yeah, Heyes. Davenport's kinda dull - blame the French.” He lifts the newspaper. “Can I go on?”

“Only if you get to the point.”

“Point is, this statue needs a plinth – to stand on…”

“I know what a dang plinth is for.”

“…An’ it’s gonna cost $100,000. This newspaper fella, Joseph Pulitzer, has a fundraisin’ drive goin’ to raise the money. That’s what the kids were collectin’ for.”

“Hmm,” Heyes is underwhelmed.

“He’s pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given…”

“Yeah, well. Some folks’ll do anything to get their names in the paper.”

“No, listen: Most contributions have been under a dollar. ‘A young girl, all alone in the world has donated sixty cents, the result of self denial. One donor gave five cents as a poor office boy's mite toward the Pedestal Fund. A group of children sent a dollar as ‘the money we saved to go to the circus with.’ Another…”

“You’re not gonna make me listen to $100,000 in one dollar chunks, are you?”

Pause. Kid reads on in silence. Half-reluctant curious glance at the newspaper from Heyes. After a moment he holds out his hand in mute request. It is handed over. Kid turns onto his side, chin propped on one hand and watches his partner read.

A moment of silence. Then…

“I saw it, y’know,” says Kid. “Well I saw the arm holding the torch – back in ’76.”

Questioning look.

“At the Centennial exhibition. The arm was on display and you paid fifty cents and you could climb up onto the balcony round the torch and see the whole fairground…” He tails off in face of the blank expression on his partner’s face. “Heyes, I musta told you this before... I know I did.” Still blank. “Philadelphia – ’76.”

“You told me it was dusty…”

“I told ya I’d been to the Centennial exhibition an’…”

“Yeah, but you never said there’d been any ‘arm in it.” Delighted expectant grin from Heyes. Nothing. Metaphorical tumbleweed tumbles. “Did you hear me, Kid. I didn’t realise there’d been any ‘arm in it!!”

“I heard ya, Heyes. Just thought it’d be more polite to pretend I hadn’t.”

Snubbed, Heyes goes back to the paper, turning it to scan the lower section of the article.

“Hey, some woman wrote a poem to help the fund-raising effort – well, guess it saved her a dollar…”

He looks up, reacts to his partner’s scowl. “No offence, Kid. I didn’t realise you were still carrying a torch for – well, for this gal carrying a torch you met in Philly.” Pause. “Poem’s printed here.”
Questioning lift of an eyebrow.

“Go on,” Kid says.

The New Colossus.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles…”


Heyes reads on. Kid listens, his face sombre.

“…Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Silence.

Heyes opens his mouth. “I guess…”

“Quit it, Heyes!” snaps Kid, genuine anger sharpening his tone. “Quit makin’ smart remarks!”

“I never…”

“Well, don’t!”

Pause. Kid glances at his mildly offended partner. The scowl fades from his face. Remorseful wriggle.

“Okay, you can make anythin’ sound lame, but this statue... It means a lot to folk. Ordinary folk. It isn’t lame. It just isn’t. Same for that poem. It – well, it made me think of all those folk wantin’ a new life. A fresh start. And her, Liberty, bein’ there – her torch kinda a beacon – sayin’ don’t give up, keep on hopin’… It isn’t lame. It’s…” A flush shows on Kid’s cheek as he finishes, “It’s inspirin’!”

Pause.

Very quietly, no trace of cynicism, “I guess it is, Kid.”

Heyes lays aside the newspaper and stretches out on his own bed, he reaches to turn down the oil lamp.

“G’night, Kid.”

“G’night, Heyes.”

Enough moonlight penetrates the flimsy curtains to show neither man has closed his eyes. Both stare, soberly, through the darkness at the cracked ceiling.

---oooOOOooo---

NEXT MORNING – THE STREET

Hannibal Heyes stands outside the café. In the middle distance children scamper and scurry towards a white-painted schoolhouse. Upon the steps the schoolmarm clangs the morning bell. Heyes watches the scene with mild interest. Then, with more than mild interest. A familiar figure – blue shirt, brown hat – approaches from that direction. Behind him, a beaming Esther, Bangs-With-A-Box, and Not-Grubby-‘Cos-His-Ma-Scrubbed-‘Em-Jack wave, cheerily.

Their words are almost carried away by the breeze, but Heyes’ lynx-ears can just make out:
“Thank you…”
“Fank you…”
“C’leckted!! Fank you…”

Heyes greets his overly nonchalant partner with a bland smile. “Ready for breakfast?”

“Er…Thought I’d skip it today.”

“Kid, you didn’t…?”

Innocently, “Didn’t what? I - I just ain’t real hungry this mornin’.”

His stomach growls, ominously. Blue eyes meet brown. Kid silently dares Heyes to comment.

Heyes grins, then opens his gloved hand. He looks at the two dimes on the leather palm. A sigh.
“D’you know what, Kid, I reckon I’m not hungry neither.”

Heyes closes his fingers over the coins and strides towards the schoolhouse.

---oooOOOooo---

NOTES:
In 1885 Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the World, a New York newspaper, announced a drive to raise $100,000 (the equivalent of $2.3 million today) to allow construction of the pedestal for the Statue of ‘Liberty, Enlightening the World’ to proceed. He pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given. Among the donations a kindergarten class in Davenport, Iowa, mailed a gift of $1.35.


:statue: :statue: :statue: :statue: :statue:





Last edited by Calico on Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:10 pm

The field blazed in the evening twilight. Half of it had already been left in ashes. The fire had been started quietly earlier in the afternoon. It had quickly gotten out of control in the rain-starved prairie. At first, no one had known who had started it. But one little boy and his cousin did. They watched the flames lick the sky as the adults rushed to get the firestorm under control. All around the perimeter of the field, bucket brigades were underway, barrels of water were being brought by wagon. By nightfall, it was over, the fire had finally been doused, and the adults breathed a sigh of relief. Two little boys, on the other hand, sat terrified. A young Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah Curry sat by a circle of rocks on the outer edge of the now black corn field. Tears filled both their eyes.

Then, from out of the smoke emerged a figure. A big, intimidating figure. One that filled the boys with fear of what was coming. They were frozen in place. They knew if they ran, they'd never make it far before they were caught. Both stood up as the figure reached them. This was it.

"HANNIBAL HEYES! WHAT ON EARTH DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING!? YOU TORCHED OUR WHOLE CORN FIELD!"

"But Pa, we was just..."

"DON'T YOU 'BUT PA' ME YOUNG MAN! We're gonna wait right here on Mr. Curry so's we can decide what to do with you two."

A dejected Han looked sideways at his cousin. "Well Jed," he whispered, "I guess we'll have to find some other way to decipher Indian smoke signals..."

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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:59 am

Torches


Heyes was lying on his back in the summer grasses, the bright glorious sun shining down on him and warming him from the outside inwards. He couldn't believe how comfortable he was and how long it had been since he had felt this good. There was a soft breeze whishing through the long green blades of grass and he could hear them rustling and feel them brushing against his ears. Flying insects were buzzing around him and occasionally he would take a lazy swat at them, but on the most part he just accepted them as part of this peaceful package.
He was smiling; his eyes half closed against the bright shafts of sunlight, his nose breathing in the soft fragrance of wild flowers that were growing all around him—and yes! The soothing sound of a creek gurgling by mingling with the sound of the leaves in the trees gently dancing to their own tune of this glorious summer day.
Then Heyes felt a slight disturbance in the air above him and he opened his eyes against the sunlight and could see the silhouette of a man standing over him and blocking out the orb of yellow light.

“Hello Heyes.”

Heyes held up his right hand to his forehead, trying to shield his eyes from the sunlight in order to get a clearer view of this man. The voice sounded vaguely familiar but he just couldn't make out his features.

“Who is that?” Heyes asked him.

The man shifted a little bit so that the sun was not directly behind him and then Heyes grinned from dimple to dimple, pure happiness emanating from his very being.

“Doc!” Heyes greeted his friend. Then he looked confused. “But....I thought you were dead. What are you doing here?”

“I'm here to help you on your way, if needs be.” Came the ambiguous answer.

“Help me on my way?” Heyes questioned. “I'm not going anywhere.”

“Maybe—maybe not.”

Doc sat down beside Heyes in the grass, and Heyes propped himself up on his elbows. For the first time since he had arrived, Heyes took a quiet look around and realized that he didn't recognize the landscape, nor could he recall how he got here.

“What is this place?” He asked. “Where am I?”

“In between, for now.” Came back another non-informative answer. “I was sent here to help you if you need it. And to reassure you.”

Heyes' brow creased. “Reassure me about what?”

“That you have nothing to be afraid of.”

“What's there to be afraid of here?”

“Exactly.”

Heyes sighed in frustration; this conversation was going nowhere. Morin smiled.

“I suppose I should explain myself a little bit better than this.”

“Yeah Doc, that would help!” Heyes agreed with a dry edge to his tone.

“I was sent here to give you assurance and to help you on your journey.” The Doc repeated. “Death is nothing to fear Heyes—nothing bad is going to happen to you here.”

Heyes sat up completely now, suddenly feeling concerned.

“So....you are dead?”

“Yeah, cowpucky!” Morin complained, his mortal personality suddenly bursting through . “I tried to deny it at first, couldn't believe that bastard actually did it! But yeah, I am what you call deceased.”

Heyes looked around again and then back to his friend with a creased brow, feeling some trepidation. “So does that mean that I'm....dead?”

“No.” Came the flat response. “But you are dying. It won't be long now.”

“Oh...well....” Heyes looked around again with even more trepidation. “So...is this heaven, or....that other place?”

“Which do you want it to be?”

Heyes gave a dimpled smile and shrugged a little self-consciously.

“Well of course, I'd prefer heaven, but....”

“Then it's heaven.”

Heyes was confused again.

“Just like that?” He questioned. “That easy? But I thought....”

“I told you that you didn't have to fear death. There's no judgement here. We all go to live our lives out on Earth so that we can experience different things. We all make mistakes, it's expected. Actually we're supposed to make mistakes so that we can learn from them and grow and become better beings. You actually did very well Heyes. You made a lot of mistakes.”

“Oh. Yeah, ahh thanks.” Heyes wasn't really sure if that was a compliment or not.

“Course I'm hardly in a position to comment.” Morin admitted, actually looking a little ashamed of his mortal behaviour. “Goodness knows I made plenty of mistakes myself.” Then he sighed, and continued on in a long suffering tone as though repeating a lesson that had been repeated to him over and over again. “The biggest thing ya' havta learn to do is not take things that happen on Earth very seriously, ya' can't take it personally, ya' know? Everybody has their lessons to learn and their own journey to travel so ya' can't hold grudges. But God dammit, that Carson! That fxxxing pxxxk—have I said that before?”

“Yeah Doc, ya' have.”

“Oh well....well, I still mean it!” Doc was starting to get a little riled now. “God damn that bastard! I still can't believe that he came into the infirmary and suffocated me! Fxxk! I know my life wasn't much—but it was mine, damn it! He had no right to come in there and take it!” Then Morin took a deep sigh and forced himself to calm down. “But, I'm not suppose to hold a grudge. Carson's got his own mistakes to make—his own lessons to learn so....But GOD DAMMIT! That fxxxing pxxxk....!

“Ah, Doc. Should you really be talking like that here?”

“Talking like what?”

“Oh. Never mind.” Heyes sat quietly for a moment, trying to take all this information in. “So Carson killed ya'? I thought it was Boeman.”

“Oh fxxk no.” Doc disclaimed. “That's Boeman's useless. He couldn't even wipe his own butt without Carson giving him directions.”

“Oh.” Heyes sat quietly again, getting used to all these new concepts. “So I'm dying huh?”

“Oh yeah. You didn't really think that Mitchell was going to let you out did you?”

“Oh no.” Heyes answered flatly. “As soon as they dragged me into the dark cell I knew what Mitchell had in mind. I suppose I just thought that Kenny or Sister Julia or somebody would come and get me out. You know, the usual 'rescued in the nick of time', that sort of thing.”

“Hmmmm, not likely.”

“Yeah.”

“So...while we're sitting around waiting for your demise, is there anything you would like?”

“Anything I would like?” Heyes questioned. “What do ya' mean?”

“Ohh, they've got some real nice scotch whiskey here—top shelf! And what's better is that you can drink as much as you want and you'll only get as drunk as you like. Don't wake up with a hangover either. Course, we don't really sleep here so kinda hard to wake up with a hangover, but you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, okay.” Heyes responded with just a touch of scepticism. “I don't really want any scotch...sorry.” That to the indignant look that was thrown his way. Then he smiled. “I sure wouldn't say 'no' to a nice cold glass of beer though.”

“There ya' go.”

Heyes was handed a large mug of frothy beer, so cold that even the glass was covered in frost. Heyes took a tentative sip and his brows went up in surprise. Then he snuggled in and closing his eyes appreciatively he took a long, deep draft. When he finally came up for air the glass was half empty and he sighed contentedly as he wiped a sleeve across his mouth to clean off the foam moustache.
It was then that he realized that he was wearing his dark blue shirt again. He looked closer and sure enough he was also wearing his tan trousers and boots. The last time he had seen these specific articles of clothing they had been covered in blood and being taken away to be burned. He smiled. It felt so good to be back in his familiar wardrobe.
Then he jumped, nearly dropping his mug of beer. It was full again—right to the brim! When did that happen? He glanced over to his companion who was watching Heyes and grinning at the young man's discomposure.

“Pretty neat, huh?”

“Yeah, I'll say!” Heyes agreed. “All I can drink, huh?”

“Yup! Anything else you'd like?”

Heyes became reflective, considering his options.

“I sure have missed real food.” He admitted. “I'd love a nice steak—medium rare. With whole boiled onions and—oh! Those wild mushrooms Kid always seemed to be able to find. Those were great, fried up with the steak. Yeah....”

Next thing Heyes knew he was still outside, in that meadow, but he was sitting at a table with a red and white checkered cloth draped over it. There was a pitcher of cold beer and a bottle of whiskey sitting in the center of it and he and the Doc each had a large plate of steak set before them.
Heyes grinned, his mouth starting to water in anticipation. He picked up the knife and fork and was about to dig into the steak when a thought suddenly occurred to him and he looked up, concerned.

“Ahh, shouldn't we say 'grace' or something?”

“Do you want to?”

“Well, I donno. Aren't we supposed to?”

“It's up to you.”

Heyes considered it for a moment and then grinned like a little boy who had gotten away with stealing a pie from a window ledge.

“I never did before unless I was forced to, so....no I don't want to.”

Doc smiled and with a shrug gestured over to Heyes' steak.

“Then dig in!”

Heyes' dimples deepened and he attached his meal with an anticipation that was not disappointed.
Half an hour later, after apple pie and two cups of good strong coffee Heyes leaned back contentedly, feeling comfortably full but not stuffed.

“You can have another if you want.” The Doc offered.

“Oh no, I don't think I should eat another.” Heyes wisely decided. “I'm feeling just right now.”

“You can eat as much as you want to Heyes. You'll never feel fuller than you do right now.” Then he smiled with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “And you never have to worry about gaining weight either.”

Heyes laughed. “No, I'm fine.” He said. “I never was one to eat a lot anyways.”

“Suit yourself.” He commented as he reached for another piece of pie with ice-cream.

Heyes smiled lazily, his eyes half closed while he soaked in this wonderful place. This must be heaven, he thought to himself, because no other place could be this perfect. He felt as though he could just stay here forever. Yeah—death was good.

“How come you know so much about this place Doc?” Heyes asked, just out of mild curiosity. “I mean you only just got here yourself.”

Morin shook his head over a mouthful of pie. Then he swallowed before he could answer.

“No, no.” He finally got out. “Time has no meaning here. As far as you're concerned, I just died the other day, but from my perspective I've been here for one of your lifetimes. I'm still having a hard time forgiving that son of a.....Oh! No, never mind. I'll be moving on soon, Heyes.”

“Oh. Okay.”

But then he frowned as another thought came to him and he sat up again, suddenly filled with concern. Morin sent him a questioning look.

“What's the matter.”

“Kid.” Heyes announced, suddenly looking very worried. “Ohh, poor Kid—this is going to devastate him, Doc. He's tried so hard to get me released and now I'm just gonna up and die in the dark cell on him. Ohh no.” Heyes sat back again, but not with contentment this time, but with remorse. “Is there some way I can get a message to him? Let him know not to feel bad—that this is what I wanted. That he doesn't have to spend the rest of his life wondering, and feeling guilty.”

Morin shook his head regretfully, feeling Heyes' concern and understanding his distress.

“No, Heyes. It's pretty hard to get a message through like that.”

“There's gotta be some way I can let him know.” Heyes insisted. “I hate to think of him carrying this regret with him for the rest of his life.”

Morin shrugged. “If that's a burden he has chosen to take on in this life then that's up to him.” He explained. “We all have burdens that we take on in our lives Heyes. Over coming them is what makes us stronger.”

“Yeah, I can understand that Doc, but....”

“Nope.” Morin shook his head. “If this is something he has chosen to take on, then it'll be up to him how he deals with it.”

Heyes slumped with a dejected sigh. “It's just not right. He shouldn't have to live with that.”

“There is no right or wrong Heyes.” Morin pointed out. “Just learning and growing, or not. That's all.”

Heyes sat quietly then, not quite sure if he agreed with that or not. It all sounded very neat and tidy, but Heyes wondered if it was really that easy. Poor Kid; this was going to be so hard on him.
Then, quite unexpectedly he heard a horse whinnying out in the meadow. Heyes sat up straighter and looked around with keen interest. Then he gasped a breath and was on his feet in an instant as his lovely liver chestnut mare came trotting over to him.

“Karma!” He greeted her, grinning from ear to ear. “My God, it's Karma! Hello my beautiful girl!”

She nickered as she trotted to him, nodding her head in joyous greeting. His hands were instantly on her face, rubbing her forehead and scratching her ears. She tucked in to him, nibbling on the buttons on his shirt. He laughed—oh how he'd missed her!
She rubbed her forelock against his chest a couple of times and then draping her elegant neck over his shoulders, she tucked her head and pulled her favourite human into a horse hug. Heyes allowed himself to be pushed into her chest and he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and was swallowed up by her. He closed his eyes in ecstasy, and smiling gently he leaned his face against her warm soft hide and took in her wonderful horse scent.

“Karma, my beautiful girl.”

Then suddenly a thought struck him and a shiver of fear trickled down his spine. He pushed himself away from his mare and looked back at the Doc.

“But why is she here?” He asked, full of concern. “Is she dead? Did something happen to her?”

“No Heyes, she's not dead. The Karma you know and love is still at the Double J.”

“Well then, how could she be here if she's not dead?”

“This is your hallucination Heyes. You can have anyone here you want.”

“My folks?” It came out as a frightened whisper, as though saying it too loud might make it not be possible.

“Sure, eventually. But they've moved on Heyes, and remember we're still waiting for you. But once you're totally here and settled, then yeah you can see your folks.”

Then Heyes became more thoughtful and a question came to his mind that he was too afraid to ask, but the Doc seemed to know what it was anyways.

“Yes, them too.” He assured his young friend.

Heyes looked over at him and smiled sadly. “They were both so young; just infants. Why did they have to die?”

“Every life, no matter how long or short has a purpose.”

Heyes snorted cynically. “What possible purpose could such short lives have? They barely had a chance to live.”

Morin shrugged. “They were there to teach—not learn.”

Heyes looked confused and shook his head. “Teach what?”

“How to love. How to loose love.” Then added quietly; “How to forgive. Not only others, but ourselves as well.”

Their eyes met for a moment, then Heyes smiled sadly and nodded in acquiescence.

Morin smiled and tried to lighten the mood a little bit. “It won't be long now.” He surmised. “I'm actually surprised that you're still alive down there—you must he quite strong. In the meantime, why don't you take Karma for a ride?”

Heyes perked up.

“What?! Oh!” Heyes looked back to his mare to find her suddenly all tacked up and ready to go for a gallop.

He grinned foolishly and gathering up the reins he moved towards the saddle. Then he saw his old black hat sitting there, hooked over the saddle horn. His dimples deepened even more as he picked up the piece of felt with silver trimming as though it were a priceless artifact that needed to be handled with care.
He lifted the hat with great reverence and brought it towards his head. By force of habit he pushed his long bangs back off of his forehead and placed the hat down upon his crown. Then suddenly he realized that he had actually pushed back his bangs! His hair was back! When did that happen!? He hadn't noticed! Death was getting better and better! Why had he fought against it for so long? Still grinning, he put his foot in the stirrup and swung aboard his horse. Karma tossed her head in anticipation and started to prance a little dance. Heyes laughed out loud, and giving her neck a pat he turned her head towards the open meadow and touched his heel to her barrel! She bucked playfully and then they were off at a full gallop across the grasslands.
Ohh! This was wonderful, this was glorious! It was just as he had remembered it. The excitement of it, the thrill of just that little bit of danger! He could feel her muscles bunching and stretching, bunching and stretching, feel the power of her strides as she flew them across the land as though it were a green sky and she was an eagle.
They seemed to run on forever, as though Karma could never tire and they'd never have to stop. Never have to go back. Never go back. Never go back. Then suddenly there was a loud crack like thunder and the skies had suddenly turned to black and there were lights coming at him like torches in the night, burning his eyes and sending daggers of agony through his optic nerve and into his brain.
Karma was gone and Heyes was lying in the grass again, but it wasn't warm and pleasant this time. It was cold and the wind was roaring in his ears and his back was on fire and all he knew was pain!

“WHAT'S HAPPENING!?” He yelled in a panic.

“YOU'RE BEING PULLED BACK!”

“NO! NO! I don't want to go back! STOP THEM! PLEASE!”

“I can't stop them! They're pulling you back—you have to go! But don't worry; we'll be here when you're ready.”

“I'm ready now! I don't want to go back....I don't want to....”

And then he was spinning and the world where he had been so happy was crumbling and falling away or was he the one falling away? And the blackness surrounded him and those damn torches were burning daggers into his eyes and he was so cold and his back felt like someone was taking a knife and slicing gashes into it and the pain filled his mind and that's all he knew.
Then he was being dragged, his arms pulling his protesting body across a cold and hard surface and he shut his eyes tight against the torch light that was punching through the blackness and he groaned.

“No....don't want to...go back...”

“Don't worry Heyes.” He heard Kenny's voice coming from a great distance as though it were floating across a lake, a lake that was shrouded in blackness. “You'll never go back to the dark cell again if I have anything to do with it.”

“Jeez, look at his back!” Came Pearson's voice from the opposite side of the lake. “What a mess! Mitchell really did a number on him this time—I'm surprised he's still alive.”

“No....Karma...don't want to....”

“Karma?” Asked Kenny. “What's that?”

“I think that's the name of his horse.”

“His horse!?” Kenny exclaimed, then nodded knowingly. “That's right; she often got mentioned in the letters he received.”

“Yeah. And when those friends of his came to visit, they would often talk about her. Seems to be important to him.”

“No...Karma...steaks....”

“Karma steaks?” Pearson questioned. “What, is he eating his horse now?”

“He's not making any sense.” Kenny surmised. “He's delirious. We're almost to the infirmary—hang on Heyes! We'll get ya' looked after. We'll pull ya' through this....”

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Fri Jul 27, 2012 3:57 pm

Just some fluff to finish the month ;)

“What is that?”

“I don’t know! Touch it.”

“I ain’t touching it!”

“Well, then poke it with something.”

“What if it gits on me?”

“Alright then FINE! I’ll do it! Git out of the way.”………..”Hey! Where’d it go?”

“Don’t know. Wait...its on the back of your pants leg.”

“WHAT!? GIT IT OFF!”

“Will you two shut up! What’s wrong with you?”

“Me and Kyle saw this weird little lizard and…”

“I think it was a salymander.”

“Shut up Kyle. It was bright orange with black spots. And it ATTACKED me!”

“Just be glad it didn’t eat you Wheat.”

“Not funny Heyes. If it comes back, I’m gonna torch it with a match.”

“Well, if you two are done playing safari, will you keep it down? You’ll scare all the fish off.”

“There ain’t no fish in this overgrown mudhole Heyes.”

“Yes there is Wheat when you ain’t running around the edge hollering about torching orange creatures.”

“Well, they all must be on a hunger strike. I ain’t had a bite all day.”

All of a sudden, a shot rang out.

“WHAT THE…Kid! What are you shootin’ at!?”

“Snake.”

“We ain’t never gonna catch no fish at this rate. I’m going back over there. You two behave.”

“Fine. C’mon Kyle.”

***************************************************************

“Caught anything Heyes?”

“A couple of sticks, that tree behind me, and an old boot. How ‘bout you Kid?”

“I got four on this string over here.”

“Wait…I GOT ONE!”

“Alright! Bring it over here and put it on the string with the others.”

Heyes took the fish over to where Kid was sitting. He had a rock sitting on one end of the string to keep the fish from swimming away. Heyes grabbed the string, lifted up the rock and…

“Uh-oh. DANG.”

“Uh-oh what Heyes.”

Heyes’ hands were slippery from holding the fish he caught. Kid looked around to see his four fish on a string swimming off. This was followed by a look of death at Heyes.

“Sorry Kid.”

“SORRY!? IT TOOK ME ALL MORNING TO CATCH THOSE!”

“Will you two hush over there!? You gonna scare all two of the fish in there”

“SHUT UP WHEAT!” was yelled out in unison.

“Look Kid, I’m sorry.”

“Sheesh Heyes. Be careful next time. No…no, next time, get your own string.”

Brooding, Kid went back to his perch beside the water and threw his line back in.

***********************************************************

“Wonder what worms taste like?”

“Chicken.”

“How do you know Wheat?”

“’Cause Kyle, EVERYTHING tastes like chicken. Or if Heyes is cookin’, burnt chicken.”

“Well, I ain’t fishing with worms.”

“What are you fishin’ with then.”

“Bacon.”

“BACON!? Kyle, if Kid knew you’s wastin’ bacon, he flatten you.”

“Well, what Kid don’t know won’t hurt him!”

At that moment, Kid was walking by to another spot beside the water.

“What is it that Kid don’t know?”

At which moment, Kyle threw his pole and all in the water to hide the evidence.

Kid stopped to stare for a moment, then shaking his head, continued on his way.

“Ah Kyle, what’d you do that fer?”

“Well Wheat, I didn’t wanna git flattened.”

“Well, what do you expect to fish with now? You ain’t gettin’ my pole.”

He thought for a minute.

“I got somethin’ back at the bunkhouse. Be right back.”

After he’d gone, Wheat went back to his fishing. He went to throw his line in the water, but when he leaned the pole back over his head, the hook caught in his hat. When he cast his line, his hat flew out in the middle of the water.

“AH DANG IT!”

“What now Wheat!?”

Heyes then saw what was floating out among the lily pads. The air was filled with laughter.

“SHUT UP HEYES!”

Wheat waded his way out into the water to retrieve his hat. On his way back out, he slipped in the mud and went completely under. Laughter once again filled the air. Wheat stomped back to the bank.

Heyes had walked around to sit beside Kid. “Hey Kid, I got a question for you.”

“Alright. What is it?”

“Where do fish keep their money?”

“What!? What kinda question is that!? Fish don’t keep no money.”

“It’s a riddle Kid. So…where do fish keep their money.”

“I don’t know Heyes. In their gills.”

“No…in the riverbank!”

Kid gave Heyes ‘the look’. “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard Heyes.”

“Well, ain’t you proddy today.”

“No, I’m just trying to catch us some fish and SOMEBODY keeps bothering me.”

Heyes got up and moved down a few feet from Kid.

A few quiet minutes passed before Kyle returned. He didn’t say anything to anyone as he walked up to the water’s edge. He caught everyone’s attention as he struck a match and lit a stick of dynamite.

“KYLE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” Heyes yelled.

“HIT THE DIRT!” Kid hollered.

Kyle threw his lit stick of dynamite into the water. A few seconds later, water and fish close to the surface flew everywhere. More fish floated to the surface, shocked senseless by the explosion. Kyle calmly walked out into the water and started collecting his bounty.

“I got dinner!” Kyle exclaimed, grinning proudly.






A/N - Dynamite will actually explode underwater. I found it on Wikipedia. Also known as 'blast fishing', some overseas countries do practice it.

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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Sun Jul 29, 2012 9:18 am

Torches

It was that magic time of the day just after the first cool breeze had blown away the heat of the day, when the sun started making a run for the western sky and the long rays cast everything in a rosy shade.

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry sit on the porch of a small, neat house, chairs balanced on two feet, the human feet propped up on the porch rail, hats pulled down over their eyes.

“We've got a few hours until the poker games really get going,” says Curry. “What do you want to do between now and then?”

“Nuthin',” says Heyes.

“Nuthin'?”

“Yep, not a gal durn thing.”

Curry's chair tips forward as his finger pokes his hat just barely away from his eyes. “Well, did you want to do that here or in the saloon?”

Heyes' head turns, his finger pokes up his hat just a little and he clears his throat preparing for a lecture, albeit a short one. Then he sees the smile on Kid's face. “Here will be just fine, Kid,” he said lazily.

“Huh,” Curry says as he leans his chair back, “that's what I was hoping you'd say.”

“Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry?” a nervous voice asks.

Heyes lifts his hat to look at the nervous man addressing them.

“Yes, deputy Parker?” he says.

“The, um, sheriff, sirs, has asked for you to come down to the office for a minute.” he says it as if he had been forced to memorize it and repeat it before leaving said sheriff, then adds, “please?”

“What do you say, Kid?” Heyes asks. “Have we got time in our schedules to go meet with Sheriff Martins?”

“I don't know, Heyes. It might get in the way of our doin' nuthin'.” Then his eyes sparkle as he starts a grin.

Heyes breaks into a knowingly dimpled grin. “Yes, but I wouldn't want Sheriff Martins to think that the deputy here failed to follow orders.”

They stand and Heyes makes a grand sweeping gesture with his arm..

“Lead on McDuff,” he says loudly and theatrically.

The deputy looks confused.

“It's alright, Parker, he's been sayin' odd things ever since that theater group came through the other week doin' plays by that British fellow, Will Shaker-somethin'. It just means that we're comin' with you” Kid explains patting the confused deputy on the shoulder as they walk down the street.


In the sheriff's office after exchanging pleasantries, Martins gets down to the reason he summoned Heyes and Curry.

“I told you when you came to town that I judge people on what I see, not on what I hear they've done in the past.” Heyes and Curry nod and the sheriff continues. “The governor granted you amnesty and Lom vouched for you, said you wouldn't be any trouble if I let you stay in my town. Heck, you've even been good for business in town, the saloons and hotels are making good money off the men who want to play poker against you two.”

“We haven't been the cause of any trouble,” says Curry a slight threat coloring his voice.

“No, but there was an altercation this afternoon when the stage came in that made me think you are planning on committing a crime and I would like an explanation.” He stares each of the former outlaws square in the eye for several seconds.

“Sheriff, what makes you think we can explain two men spouting off and getting into a fight after a long, hot stagecoach ride?” Curry asks.

“Well, first thing, it wasn't two men and,” he puts a small pistol down on the desk, “I took that off the French one.” Turning to Curry, “Do you know a Michelle Monet?”

“Yeah, but last we heard she was in New Orleans,” he replies as Heyes nods his agreement.

“Well, since the two o'clock stage she's down at the west end of town at the Plume Hotel.”

“Oh, sheriff, you aren't saying,” started Heyes only to be interrupted by the sheriff.

“How about lady by the name of Margaret Chapman?”

Curry waives his hand in the air a little over five feet off the ground as it it pains him. “About this tall, with long dark brown hair, from Philadelphia?”

Martins nods, “She's at the east end of town at Mrs. Walker's boarding house.” He pauses to give both men a hard look before continuing. “They both said that they were here to marry Kid Curry, then one thing led to another and a big old cat fight was happening right there on Main street.” Another hard stare, but this time just at Curry. “Bigamy is a crime, Mr. Curry, and I won't have it in my town.”

“Kid, you plannin' on getting married not once, but twice and not tellin' me either time?” asked Heyes with mock hurt.

“Heyes, you gotta help. I don't want ta get married to Michelle or Margaret! We just got our amnesty, we ain't even got ourselves a stake to buy some land yet.”

“Kid,” Heyes places his hand over his heart and a far away look inhabits his face, “I wouldn't consider interfering in matters of the heart.”

“I never asked either one to marry me, Sheriff. Ya can help me, can't ya?” Curry pleads his case to the sheriff.

The sheriff suppresses a smile, but says “Sorry, I got the ladies separated and calmed down, but until you try to marry the second one there ain't a law against them both being in town and wanting to marry you.”

“You always were a sucker for a pretty smile, a sad story, and soulful eyes,” Heyes says to Curry.

“I wouldn't be so quick with your reproach, Heyes. After I got the ladies separated, another lady got off the stage and asked for you.” Heyes' head cocks ever so slightly to the side and his eyebrows knit. “Said her name was Grace Turner and asked me to let you know that she was taking a room at the Grand Hotel on the north side of town. Also said that she was your fiance.”

“You know, Kid, I've been thinking we should head south soon,” says Heyes.

“Thank-you, Sheriff, for your hospitality over the last few weeks” Curry hastily tips his hat to the lawman, “but we've decided it is time for us to move on. The house is paid for through the end of the month.”

“Sorry for the trouble my partner has caused you and your fine town,” Heyes adds, also putting a gloved finger to the brim of his black hat.

“Oh, don't judge him too harshly.” Martins puts up a hand to stop Heyes' next comment, “And, while Kid can go south, you may want to take the east or west road and meet up outside of town, Heyes, 'cause I had Deputy Parker put your other fiance, in a boarding house on the south side of town. “

“My other fiance?” Heyes coughs.

“She came in by train, from Boston. I think she was lying about her name, though, said it was Julia, Mrs. Julia Finney, then laughed.”

Curry pats Heyes on the back. “It hurts, don't it, knowin' you ain't going to be able to talk yourself out of this one?”

The sheriff clears his throat, “There's one more thing you should know, fellas.”

A few minutes later Heyes and Curry rush from the office. One heads for the livery stable as fast as he can run, the other to the house to pack their saddle bags.

The sheriff watches the street until he sees both men safely leave the livery stable and head in different directions. “Something tells me they're going to be running for a while yet, just the posse has changed,” he says as he turns back to his office.


The sun rises the next morning on two tired horses being unloaded by two tired men.

“Think we got enough distance between us and all those women?” asks Heyes.

“Nope. The governor may have granted us amnesty, but ain't no one going to stop a woman's heart from carrying a torch,” says Curry.

Heyes nods, “We'll head out as soon as the horses are rested.”

“Say, that private train Sheriff Martins said was due in last night, what was it called again?” asks Curry.

“He called it the Mary Sue Express. Said it was chartered by something called fan fiction authors.”

Curry shakes his head. “Why someone would write stories about a bit of foolery that ladies use to make a breeze is beyond me.”
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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:19 pm

Torches Challenge

“Hurry up! They’re still coming!” Heyes grabbed his cousin’s hand, forcing him to keep up.

Jed ran harder for a couple hundred yards and fell. “I can’t! I’m sorry, but I can’t go no further!” Why are they after us? You said they wouldn’t care!” the younger one panted, trying to catch his breath.

“I dunno why, but they are. Please, Jed, get up! Just a little further.” Heyes quickly glanced around. “There’s a mound of hay. We’ll hide in it and hope they ride past us.”

Jed nodded as he got up and sprinted with his partner a hundred feet away.

They burrowed a hole in the back of the mound, climbed in and covered themselves with the loose hay.

“Why are they…”

Heyes put his hand over his cousin’s mouth and slowly released it when Jed quieted down.

Six horses carrying men with torches came around a bend in the road, brightening the area.

“They’re around here somewhere! They couldn’t have gone far!” the leader yelled as they slowed their horses to a walk. “Search the area!”

The riders rode off the road and scattered, checking the area for any signs of the runaways.

Han and Jed held their breath. Han’s heart beat so rapidly he was sure they could hear it. They could hear the horses clomping through the fields. As a rider came close and the torch light became more brilliant, Jed closed his eyes.

“Sir!” called out the rider.

Several horses surrounded the hay mound.

“Come out, you damn runaways!” the leader ordered.

Heyes and Jed froze and stared at each other.

“We’ll torch the hay if you don’t come out at the count of three! One! Two! Thr…

Heyes moved away the hay covering them and they quickly scrambled out of the mound, standing together facing the men that hunted them down for several hours.

Damn! You ain’t black!” the leader exclaimed. “Where are the runaway slaves?”

“Sir?” Heyes timidly asked.

“Slaves! We were following fugitive slaves! Have you seen them?”

Jed shook his head, his eyes opened wide in fright.

Heyes gulped. “No sir.”

“Why were you running from us? Why were you hiding?” the man growled. “You’re up to something and it ain’t good.”

“Didn’t know who was chasing us and thought you were bad men meaning us harm,” Heyes lied as convincingly as he could.

“What are you doing out here this late? Where’s your homes?”

“Don’t have a home…” Jed began, but abruptly stopped when his older cousin elbowed him.

“No home?”

Another rider spoke up. “I bet they’re from that Home for Wayward Boys – Valparaiso.”

“Looks like we mighta caught us some different runaways,” another one added.

The leader glared at the boys from on top his stead. “Are you runaways from that home for boys?”

Heyes looked defiant and didn’t say a word.

“Answer me, boy! Are you a runaway from Valparaiso?”

“What if we are? What are you gonna do to us?”

“Sheesh… We’re wasting our time with these two. Led us on a wild goose chase! Now we have to go back and find them runaway slaves’ trail.” The leader turned and steered his horse back to the road. “Come on, men.”

The rest of the group followed and soon darkness enveloped the boys – just a thin crescent of a moon lit the sky.

Jed fell back into the hay mound and Heyes joined him.

“I don’t reckon I’ve ever been that scared before, Han! Well, not since… you know.” Jed laid back and sighed as he tried to relax.

“Me either.”

“What’s gonna happen if they catch them runaway slaves?”

Heyes scratched his head. “I ain’t sure. I guess they’ll take ‘em back to their owners and they’ll be punished mightily for escaping.”

“Well, I don’t ever wanna be hunted down like that again!”

Heyes smiled at his younger cousin. “No reason at all for anybody to ever hunt us down again. That’s for criminals and fugitives.” He stood up and brushed the hay away. “Ready to move down the road some more? I wanna get a few more miles away from that place.”

“Sure, Han.” Jed wiped the hay sticking to his pants off and the cousins walked down the road together.



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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:29 pm


This can happen to you to, if you don’t follow the rules:





Heyes sat on the cot in his prison cell, and examined his fingers one by one. Prison, he thought, was horrible. It was boring, worse than a jail cell, because; well, because you generally could look forward to escaping from a jail cell. There were a lot more guards in a prison, and they had those tower-thingies with sentry-type guards. The guards had rifles and were pretty good shots, too. By the way, in case you missed it, he was examining his fingers by the light of a TORCH on the wall near the ceiling. The TORCH up there; do you see it? Okay, let’s move on.

So, Heyes moved on to his other hand, which happened to be his right hand, as he had already examined his left. Anyway, it was Christmas Eve and it was cold. But Heyes wasn’t thinking about the cold, he was thinking about prison and how mean everyone in prison was. Especially before holidays. He had a cracked nail on the ring finger on this hand. Oh well, couldn’t be helped. He didn’t have an emery board. The guards were too mean, and wouldn’t let the prisoners have one, not even if their nails were all ragged on the edges and caught on the blanket. One blanket, huh, that’s pretty cheap, ain’t it? Well what do you expect from a prison that lit its rooms with TORCHES? They couldn’t even bother to bring in gas-lighting. Cheap, yeah, and mean. Lookyhear, it’s not my fault that it looks to you British readers that I repeated myself in that last sentence. I didn’t. I’m writing in American, not English. Okay? And, don’t forget about that TORCH.

So, he thought about his past, and his family, mostly because that’s what always happens right about here in a prison story. He fondly remembered his mama, Anastasia. She couldn’t cook, but she was real pretty. She read books to him, like, well, like Webster’s. They owned a Webster’s, and a great-big, imposing-looking thing it was. It had a deep wine-red cover. She made up stories from the words. She’d flip the pages, randomly point at a word, and give it a go. Of course, some of the stories were pretty short. She got caught out on vibrissa. He story for that was ‘vibrissa’ and, ‘the end.’ She said stiff nostril hairs weren’t much of an inspiration.

He loved those stories. It all ended the day he found out he could pawn the book and go gambling. Anyway, she died. But, while he was thinking of books, he absentmindedly picked up the one book he was allowed to read in prison. The Oxford English Dictionary. It was a complete version, and made a handy weight for exercising.

LuluBelle, her replacement, was kind of alright. At least she could cook.

He tried biting the hangnail on his pinky. Damn, that was difficult to do on such a small finger. He held it up closer to the TORCH for examination.

He moved forward mentally to the girl in Flagstaff that he still held a –a –a—wait for it-- a fondness for, somewheres about the occipital region of his brain. Now holding a memory in the occipital region of a person isn’t really such a good idea because that’s not actually what that part of the brain is designed to do. It’s a bit more primitive than the frontal lobe, and you may not react in a way you approve of when you put a thought there. In fact, it can sometimes be downright embarrassing.

Oh, hey, did I mention that there is a TORCH way up on the wall of the prison cell in this story. There is. Its way up there, sort of tucked away in the corner.

Anyway, about that girl. Oh, damn it, it was up again. Not the TORCH. Sheesh. Look down--down with Heyes. It was up. It wasn’t behaving itself-- again.

Mind over matter, Heyes told himself. Good, it was down. Wait, no darn it all to heck, it was up again. He sighed. He had a problem with that. It had become such a problem he’d seen a doctor once about it.The doctor had a fancy name for not being able to control it, and said there was nothing he could do.

Down-up-down. Now it was up so much it was painful. Downish again. Uppish.

Oh, better, down, well almost. Nope-up again. It was definitely being a bad boy. He was going to have to discipline it. He dropped the complete Oxford English Dictionary on it. Yep. That did it.

He fell back on his cot feeling mightily relieved. Well, his toe sure throbbed, and it was probably broken, but he’d worry about that tomorrow.


Please don’t forget the TORCH.

Author’s note (yes this drivel has an author): there is a long-winded medical word for Heyes’ condition, but I sure as heck can’t remember it. Toes, being at the far-end of the body, are out of my line of specialty. But, I can personally attest to the painfulness of misbehaving toes that decide to stand up all out of their own accord.


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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:45 am

Kid Curry does some carving and thinking
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The block of hickory he’d stumbled on during his afternoon walk had something to say to him. It was always like that, when he had the urge to do some carving. He’d learned that he couldn’t choose the wood; it had to choose him. That was how he did his best carving. Sometimes Heyes would bring him a block of wood that he thought Curry might like; Curry would say thank you, and put it aside. He’d never told Heyes exactly why some wood was wrong and some was right. He had to hold it, feel it, and wait for it to tell him when to pull out his pocket knife and start cutting away the pieces that didn’t belong. As active as Heyes’ imagination was, he couldn’t understand that each block of wood had a perfect plan for itself. He never talked about any of this, though. As close as he and Heyes were, he still kept some things to himself.

He held the hickory in both hands, feeling it out. Only when he felt the wood was ready did he methodically start scratching his knife back and forth over the hard surface. If his hands were busy, it was easier for him to think through problems. He smiled to himself, remembering how his mother always kept her children busy. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” she used to say. Funny how the things you hear as a child stay with you your whole life. He hadn’t thought of his mother much lately, but with his knife slowly chipping away the splinters, her voice came to him clearly.

“Mr. Jones. Mr. JONES!” That was not his mother’s voice! He looked up into a pair of imposing breasts.

“Mr. Jones! I’ve been talking to you! Lands’ sakes, young man, where is your mind?”

He stood up slowly, cursing himself for his lack of attention. It was never good to lose sight of what was happening around him. Luckily it was only Mrs. Wilberforce, the hotel manager’s wife, and not some bounty hunter.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, guess I was preoccupied.”

The woman stood with her hands on her wide hips. “I dare say you were! You didn’t hear a word I was saying!”

“Yes ma’am. Sorry ma’am. I’m listening now.” With his mother, abject apology worked better than argument. The same approach worked now with Mrs. Wilberforce.

“Well!” She seemed a little calmer. “I just came to tell you that dinner will be a little late this evening. I hope that’s not a problem.” Her stance dared him to complain.

“No problem for me, ma’am. My mother used to say, good things come to those who wait. I reckon that’s especially true with the fine meals you serve here.” He gave her his best shy blue-eyed look. She harrumphed.

“Your mother sounds like a wise woman. I hope you paid her good mind.”

“Probably as much as any other boy, ma’am. If I didn’t, she had ways of getting my attention. Usually through my backside.” He smiled, encouraging her to share his small joke. He thought he saw a muscle twitch in her jaw. That seemed to be about as much smiling as she ever did. Having met Mr. Wilberforce, he figured she hadn’t done a lot of smiling in her life.

“When do you want me to come in for dinner, ma’am?”

“Just after dark. You can come in just after Mr. Elliott comes around with his torch to set up the streetlights.”

“I’ll surely do that, ma’am. And thank you.” She suddenly noticed the small pile of wood shavings at his feet.

“Are you planning to clean that up anytime soon?”

“I’ll be happy to do that, ma’am, once I’m finished here. That probably won’t be for some time yet.”

“Well. I suppose that will have to do. Don’t be late for dinner.”

“I’m never late for a meal, ma’am.” Heyes always teased him about his appetite. She frowned once more and went back inside, her heels clicking. Settling back in his chair, he looked around to make sure he hadn’t missed anything important. There wasn’t a whole lot of activity in the late afternoon. Only a few people were passing by, and none of them seemed to be paying any special attention to him. He put his knife to the wood again and let himself relax and think.

His knife moved at a even rhythm. The scrapings released to the floor gave off a pleasant aroma. It smelled like the forest. He thought back to sleeping in the woods. Oh, he complained a lot about sleeping on the hard ground instead of a bed, but truth was, there were plenty of things he liked about it. The smell of these piney woods in Wyoming was the sweetest perfume he knew. When he and Heyes camped out there, on the pleasant nights, he’d stare up through the trees and watch the sky. Sometimes he’d see one of those shooting stars streak across the sky, and he’d wonder where it fell from and did it make a sound when it landed? How did stars fall anyhow? And why did it seem sometimes that lots of them did? In August, you’d see hundreds of them streaking through the sky. When he was a small boy, his mother would rouse him and his brothers and sisters out of bed, in the middle of a warm night, to watch all the bright lights burning across the night sky. “Look at that!” she’d say, her warm Irish voice like a caress. “Have you ever seen the like?” And he’d look skyward for a moment, just to please her, but then, he’d turn and watch the subtle play of the night lights dancing on her upturned face full of joy and wonder. His child’s heart had nearly burst open with love for her. He felt his eyes become moist.That wouldn’t do. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed. He took his handkerchief out from a pocket and wiped his eyes. If he did it right, it’d look like he was wiping away sweat, instead of the tears that had come. That day so long ago, he thought he’d cried out every tear he could ever have. Tears hadn’t come to him easy since then. It took a lot. It took thoughts of his mother. She had always been there for him, until the day she wasn’t. And he was alone.

Thinking of his mother brought tightness to his chest. He closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose and took a few deep breaths. Don’t go there, he told himself. You can’t ever go there. He reminded himself that, even then, Heyes had been there for him. There’d been some rough patches between him and Heyes since then. Even a couple years when they hadn’t seen each other. But when they got back together, it was as if they’d never been apart. He figured that was the mark of a true friend. No matter the physical distance, the friendship remained.

Now Heyes was distant again, at Devil’s Hole with some blonde female who had lots of money and a cockamamie story. He didn’t know which appealed to Heyes more, the cash, the blonde, or the damn fool story. Put them all together, and there was no way Heyes could say no. Heyes just had to figure out every puzzle, no matter how stupid or dangerous. Usually, Curry was there with him to watch his back. Not this time, though. Heyes wanted to ride out alone. He had lots of reasons why, and Curry could see through all of them. The truth was, Heyes knew it was a dangerous thing he was doing, and he wanted to protect Curry. Except Curry wasn’t a frightened child anymore. He could more than hold his own. Sometimes Heyes seemed to forget that.

Anyway. . . There was nothing he could do about that now. He’d promised to stay in town and keep an eye on things, so that’s what he’d do, no matter how much he hated it. Maybe. Unless he changed his mind. He’d think on that, too. He trusted himself to make the right decision. He knew his mind didn’t work as quick as Heyes’ did, but it still worked just fine. He liked to turn things over in his head a few times, work out all the possibilities, and then act. That was one of the reasons why he and Heyes worked so well together. They balanced each other out. Oh sure, sometimes the balancing didn’t happen until after a few words had been exchanged. Once in a while, they’d get in each other’s faces and shout at each other. Sometimes they even took a punch at each other and ended up rolling around on the ground. But always, always, they stuck together. Had done, since before that awful day, and would do, as long as they both drew breath. Even sitting by himself on this porch, in the twilight, he didn’t feel alone.

He noticed it was getting harder to see. He’d been so lost in his thoughts; he hadn’t noticed the passage of time. The sun had already slipped behind the general store. At the end of the street, he saw a man – Mr. Elliott, was it? – with his torch, starting to set up the street lights. His stomach rumbled. Mrs. Wilberforce had said to come in for dinner when the streets lights were lit. Might as well go on in and eat. He stood up slowly, brushing some shavings and sawdust from his lap onto the porch floor. After dinner, he’d come and sit out for a while more, do more carving and thinking. He’d sweep up his mess before he went to bed. He hoped that’d satisfy Mrs. Wilberforce. If it didn’t, well, it didn’t. She was the least of his worries. He hoped Heyes was settling down, safe and sound, at Devil’s Hole by now.

The street lights were casting gentle pools of light around them. He stepped over to the porch rail and looked at the sky. The stars were just starting to come out. Maybe he’d go for a walk after dinner and look for some shooting stars. You never knew when you’d see the like again.

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"The failure in doing something is stopping too soon."
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PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:27 pm

This is my third attempt at something to contribute this month. The first stalled, and the second wouldn’t fit in 3,000 words. It’s a follow-on to my challenge for December 2011, and both are book-ended by challenges from June 2011 and this past May.

Torches
Han rubbed his eyes. Must have dozed off.

Looked up. The half-moon, having won its race to the west, had set. Clusters of stars brilliantly bright against a now black sky sparkled like jewels he could only imagine, the stuff of buried treasure or raiment of kings of far-off lands; not something he would ever lay eyes on.

The same stars had set the course for explorers and pirates alike – those who ventured forth proving the world round, conquering new lands, discovering treasures untold, pillaging, plundering; taking to sea in swift brigantines, massive galleons; trolling oceans, coasts, rivers, inlets.

Adventure stories a boy could glory in, the stuff of whimsy, coursing swift currents on a raft, risking life, limb, perilously hurtling off the bank of Crogan’s creek for wealth unimagined, riches a plenty, chancing all he held dear for a stab at fortune’s fate – until Ma rang the dinner bell, far enough away but close enough to be heard.

Home.

And what of Jed? He would find him. He would.

Ah, that dream Jed started having – the bad one.

He would get lost, panicked, so far from home, not knowing which way to go, what direction to turn. Wandering aimlessly, frightened, until some with torches would show him the way. Jed never could tell him who they were, just beings shadowed behind the glowing sticks they carried, all pitch and resin, ready for hours of searching – leading a boy back home, or attempting to...

Han had told the younger boy he would hold the torch now, he would guide them. To where, he admitted to himself, he knew not.

Waiting out the night, Han wished he might have such a dream. Perhaps he might find a clue to Jed’s whereabouts, as a ship searching in the night, sextant guided, as Castor and Pollux bound for Aurora’s lair – dawn.

Grandpa Curry had said the stars held other secrets. But what secrets he never said – just winked. “Laddie, when ye’re a wee bit older, ye’ll understand.”

Why did adults talk in enigmatic riddles? Ma and Pa for certain had no problem talking plainly when there were chores to do. Boys of a certain age were old enough, almost, to do a man’s work, but too young to be taken into that confidence adults shared.

“Yeah,” he said aloud with a smile, “when I’m a wee bit older…”

He had grown a lot since that day. Physically, a bit. Knowingly – heaps. But, they were alone. The guidance, gone. Understanding, he would have to figure out – himself. And he would travel the same path with Jed, leading the best he could; albeit, destinations unknown, as now...

The first inkling of pre-dawn light inched over the horizon to the east. That was the way the train had gone – traveling furiously into the blackness, the head lamps of the locomotive directing it into the mysterious dark as it hurtled forward, always ahead, heralding its arrival down the line.

Surely, those torch-like stars might lead him into the dawn of a new day – and, to Jed.

For, wherever they both were, was Home.


Last edited by Remuda on Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:48 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Posts : 5
Join date : 2012-04-22

PostSubject: Re: July 2012 - Torch (es)   Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:07 pm


Finally was able to get back on the horse this month. Not much, but it's a start, right?
reading



Torch Vignette
By Shenango



Kid Curry sat next to the bed in the hotel and let the exhaustion roll over him. It was late morning on the fourth day in the room. “This is almost worse than being in jail,” he thought, “'cause at least in jail, we’d be getting meals regular.”

Just then, a knock rattled him out of his thoughts. Standing slowly, he walked to the door. He grabbed the doorknob with his left hand as he unhooked the loop on his colt with his right. “Who is it?”

“Doc Potter. Mr. Jones, I’m here to check on Mr. Smith again, so you want to let me in?”

The Kid shrugged his tired shoulders and opened the door. “Doc,” he greeted the man. “Glad to see you again.”

Potter looked him over, easily seeing the exhaustion present. “How’s Mr. Smith doing? Any change?”

“Well, he’s sleeping better. I really want to thank you for those powders you left last time. Whatever that miracle drug you gave him was, it worked real good.”

“It wasn’t much of a miracle drug. It’s made from the bark of one of the local types of trees; something the local Indians use. Has he been able to drink anything?”

“I gave him some water. I didn’t want to leave him alone to go order some broth,” Curry said.

Potter looked him over again. “He’s probably done being contagious, but I would prefer that you stay here with him. I’ll make arrangements for some broth for him and a meal for you, Mr. Jones.”

“I’d be real obliged, Doc,” Curry said. “It’s been a while since I had anything myself.”

He watched the doc examine Heyes again, checking him for more fever, looking at his eyes, feeling at his wrist for a pulse. When he looked back up at Curry, he spoke. “Your friend here is luckier than some of the folks here in town. Sure, he got sick, but he got a milder case of the fever than some of my other patients. He seems to be coming out of it now and I expect he’ll be waking up by tomorrow.”

Sighing, Curry sat heavily in the chair by the bed once more. “I want to thank you for all you’ve done for us, Doc. I need to get a couple days work to get some extra money to pay you. Right now, all I’ve got is for the hotel. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

The Doc looked at the tired man. “Mr. Jones, if you can help me out, I think we can call it square.”

Encouraged, the Kid looked at him. “What can I do for you?”

“We need to have someone handle the bonfire. We’ve had a number of people get this fever and the best way to get rid of it is to burn everything that’s been touched.”

Curry nodded; he’d seen this before. “You want me in charge of the torches?”

“Yes, Mr. Jones, you seem to be capable of handling that duty and dealing with keeping people away while getting the job done. Can you do it for me? For the town?”

“Yeah, Doc, I can do that. Where and when do you want the bonfire?”

There’s a gully out back of my office, not far away from the edge of town. The sheriff and I were going to have all the infected clothes and blankets brought there. I think we should be able to get this started by evening tomorrow. Say, right after supper?”

“Are you sure that Joshua here is going to be awake by then?”

As if called, Heyes started to stir in the bed. “Mmm… Hey, k--, he stopped and swallowed, allowing the Kid time to interrupt.

“Hey, Joshua, I’m here. It’s Thaddeus.”

Heyes blinked a couple times to clear his vision then looked at his partner and the man next to him. “You a doctor?” he asked in a raspy voice.

“Doc Potter, Mr. Smith. How are you feeling?”

Heyes looked around and cleared his throat again. “Water?” he croaked out.

Curry was there with a cup. “Just take it easy, Joshua.”

“How long,” he asked them.

“You’ve been sick for five days now, Mr. Smith,” the doctor answered him. “Are you feeling up to having some broth and maybe some toast?”

In answer, Heyes put an arm around his middle just as his stomach let out a loud rumble. Curry chuckled at the sound. “I think we know the answer to that one, Doc.”

“Mr. Smith, I’ll have some food sent up for the two of you. I want you to stay in bed at least until day after tomorrow.”

Heyes eyed him, trying to figure a way out of that. “I’ll see to it, Doc,” Curry said. “Joshua, you’re not moving out of that bed. I’ll get a book for you to keep you occupied.” Heyes was about to object, then yawned and nodded.

Doc Potter ran his hand though his graying hair then started packing up his bag again. “Mr. Jones, here’s some more of that pain powder. He’s to take some after eating and again after he’s slept more.” He turned to face the blond man. “And if you start to tire out, I want you to take a dose and get yourself some sleep so you don’t come down with this fever yourself.”

Curry nodded and took the pain powders. Heyes looked at his partner, noticing how really tired he looked. “I’ll make sure of that, Doc,” he smiled at them both. “Thaddeus and I will both be following doctor’s orders.”

Potter pulled his coat on and reached for his hat and his bag. “I’ll have Mildred bring up food shortly for you gents and I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow, Mr. Smith.” He reached for the door and put on his hat.

“Thanks, Doc,” Heyes said. “I’m sure Thaddeus and I will be just fine; that is once he gets fed.”

They both looked at Jones, who hadn’t moved from the upholstered chair by the bed, his head leaned back on the wings by his shoulders. His eyes were closed and he was breathing regular. “It’ll be fine, Doc, go ahead and go. I’ll wake him up when the food comes.”

“You sure you’ll be able to, Mr. Smith? He’s been up without sleep since you took ill.”

Heyes smiled at the man. “If there’s one thing I know about my partner, it’s that he’ll always wake up for food. After we eat, he’ll get some rest, too.” The doctor gave him an unbelieving look. “Oh, I’ll make sure of it, Doc. Thanks for coming and for everything and we’ll see you tomorrow.”

As soon as the door clicked shut, Curry stirred. “Heyes, you okay?”

“Yeah, Kid, I’m better. The food will be here shortly, so don’t fall too far asleep. After we eat, you can sleep then.”

Curry nodded and stretched his shoulders and legs.

“And Kid,” Heyes said, “Thanks for takin’ care of me.”

“You’re welcome, Heyes,” Curry yawned. “I know you’d do it for me. Now let me nap a bit till the food…”

He didn’t get to finish because of the knock on the door. A woman’s voice called out. “Mr. Jones? Doc Potter said to bring this tray up to you and Mr. Smith.”

Curry slowly ambled to the door and took the tray. “Thank you, ma’am. We’ll need to have breakfast sent up in the morning, too; can you take care of that for us?”

“Why surely, I can. Now, you look dead on your feet. Take this and eat something and I’ll see you both in the morning. Oh, and I added something for you. There’s a bottle of whiskey there for you, too.” Handing over the tray, Mildred quietly exited.

“Nice lady isn’t she,” Curry said.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to be carrying a torch for her now? Just because she brought food and a bottle,” Heyes teased.

“Heyes, the only torch I’m planning on carrying is the one the Doc gives me to burn the infected bedding tomorrow. Now eat up and get some sleep. I’m tired, too.”

In short order, the broth and toast was gone, as was the fried chicken dinner with all the trimmings. Not much longer, the room was filled with the sound of soft breathing from the sick bed and slightly louder snoring from the other.



~~~~~ The end ~~~~~

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