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Calico

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PostSubject: March 2013 - March...   Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:40 am

And, hello again!!

It seems only a minute since I was talking to you in the Polling Booth...

I am indebted to one of our regulars for this month's topic suggestion.

Nice and wide open to let your multitudinous creativity run free (as if you lot NEED an open topic for that... Rolling Eyes )

So, without further ado, your challenge is:


MARCH


That's it - off you go! Month, Verb, Command, Close relative of a rabbit, Famous Vertically Challenged & Female Family Proper Name...

Start the scribbling!! writing writing writing
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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:40 pm

Well this is sort of a sequal to my reunion stories in the January 2012 challenge -- posted on my Wetpaint page: Just What They Needed and Wise Men Don't Need Advice; Fools Won't Take It. Like with Just What They Needed length limits kind of constrained me, so there is a slightly longer version (3500 words) that I'll post on Wetpaint at the end of the month.

The Long March

Heyes and Lawson turned quickly as the Kid and Harrison slithered down the steep path to them.

“Here to relieve us?” Lawson questioned. He stood up and hurried up the path as Harrison settled in to the guard position overlooking the entrance to Devil’s Hole.

Heyes smiled at the Kid.

Harrison watched cynically. “Heyes, Big Jim said ‘specially for you not to ‘linger.’ He wants you right back at the cabin, so you better not get back after Lawson does.”

Heyes sighed.

“I’ll just walk him up to the horses then be right back, Harrison.”

“Big Jim ain’t going to like that, Kid.”

The Kid looked levelly at Harrison, “Don’t matter. I’m goin’ up to the horses with Heyes. I’ll be back before anythin’ can happen.”

~~~000~~~

“Feels like I saw more of you when I was in Texas, Heyes.”

“Yeah, Kid, I know,” Heyes sighed. “I think Jim’s worried.”

“Worried about what?”

“About who you’d back in a showdown for leadership.”

The Kid looked at Heyes and thought for a moment. “You thinkin’ of doin’ somethin’?”

“No.”

“But…”

“Big Jim’s always worried about it. I’m sure it is a problem in a lot of gangs, but this one’s really well run. I don’t see any of us regulars challenging Jim.” Heyes smiled at the Kid. “But let’s keep it to ourselves for now that we’re family.”

“Look, I know I’m new here, and I know that means I get ridden a lot, but not sure how much more I can take. This may have been a mistake.”

“Kid,” Heyes reached out to him. “Please, just a little longer.”

Harrison’s voice echoed up the path. “Kid, get your butt down here.”

Heyes sighed. “I gotta go Kid. Just a little longer, alright?”

The Kid stared off into the distance then looked at Heyes. “Yeah, for now, but…” He shook his head and carefully edged down the steep path.

Heyes watched him for a moment, frowning, then turned, mounted his horse, and hurried back to the cabin.

~~~000~~~

Heyes remained largely closeted with Big Jim and Wheat for the next two days, finalizing plans for the next robbery. Finally, plans complete, they settled in for a game of poker with the gang.

The Kid was making dinner as the others played. New man always has to do the cooking; luckily, the Kid had fended for himself enough that his food was edible at least.

“Wrap it up fellas, the food’s ready,” he called over his shoulder.

~~~000~~~

“Well, Kid, for a gunnie your food’s not half bad,” Big Jim smiled at him.

Kyle took a swig of his whiskey. “Heyes, you ain’t never told us how you two know each other.”

“Shoot, Kyle, you don’t ask a fella a question like that,” Wheat scoffed.

“No, Wheat,” Big Jim drank thoughtfully. “I’m sure we’d all like to hear some of their stories from their days together. Hannibal do explain.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other. “Well, like I said, Big Jim, we rode together when we were first out on our own…”

“Yes, Hannibal, you did say that. But how did you meet up to ride together in the first place?”

“We were in the same Home. Lit out of there together. Figured we’d do better the two of us together than alone.”

“You all done?” The Kid stood up and grabbed the plates and began to clear the table.

“Yes, we are done,” Big Jim confirmed, looking at his back. “For now.”

~~~000~~~

The Kid set the pinecones back up on the log and reloaded.

“You know I have your back.” He fired off another round.

Heyes watched as he reloaded then got up and placed new pinecones on the log for him.

“The question is, Heyes…” The Kid fired again. “Do you have mine?”

Heyes stared at him. “Of course. Why would you even ask?”

“We ain’t seen each other for a long time. You seem awfully happy here. You fit in. Not sure I do; Big Jim don’t seem to be takin’ to me too well. Maybe I’ll move on after this job. Just wonderin’ what you’ll do if I do.” He looked down at his gun, taking a long time to reload.

“Now, Kid, don’t go expecting trouble. Remember what Grampa Curry used to say about putting the cart before the horses… What do you want, Wheat?” Heyes asked angrily as Wheat cleared his throat and came into the clearing.

“Big Jim says it’s time for the Kid to go on guard duty.”

The Kid sighed, holstered his gun, and headed off after a long look at Heyes.

~~~000~~~

As Heyes strolled into the compound, he saw Wheat coming out of Big Jim’s cabin, smirking. Big Jim appeared in the doorway and looked around.

“HANNIBAL! Come here. We need to talk.”

Heyes rolled his eyes and shook his head, watching Wheat walk away. He entered the cabin and shut the door. As he turned, Big Jim’s right fist connected with his jaw, knocking him down and into the wall.

“I demand loyalty, Hannibal. I told you that when I took you in. Now, Wheat tells me you’ve been keeping secrets from me. Perhaps, I was wrong. Perhaps we do not need a gunnie. If you and your… your… the Kid think you can take over, well you’re wrong.” He reached down and offered a hand to help Heyes up.

Heyes pushed it away angrily and stood on his own, breathing heavily. He glared at Big Jim, his fists clenching. Finally he let out a deep breath. “Big Jim, you know Wheat. You know he always wants to cause trouble for me. You like it that way. I guess you think that keeps me in my place. Well, it also creates problems where there aren’t any. I don’t know what he’s been telling you…”

“He says he thinks you and the Kid are family. Is he wrong?”

Heyes exhaled. “No, he’s not wrong. We’re cousins; grew up together. After our families died, we were sent to a home and left it together like I said.”

“So the Kid’s loyalty is to you, not me. That is a problem, Hannibal.”

Heyes huffed in frustration. “Big Jim, the Kid’s loyalty, as you put it, is to the leader of the group he is in. He will watch my back, but he is not going to challenge you, or let me do it. Not that I have any desire to challenge you.”

Big Jim turned away. “I have made my decision, Hannibal. The Kid must leave after tomorrow’s job.”

Heyes stared at Big Jim’s back; then his shoulders sagged. “If you insist. But, Big Jim, when the Kid leaves, I’ll be going with him. I’m not leaving him again.”

Big Jim whirled around and looked at him, reading the determination in his eyes. “So be it, Hannibal. Your first loyalty appears to be to him instead of me and I won’t tolerate it in my gang. This will be the last job for either of you.”

~~~000~~~

The gang knew something had happened, but not what. The tension was high, higher than normal when doing a job, but the job went off like clockwork -- almost.

The gang left the bank with several saddle bags full. The Kid left last. “If all you kind folks will just remain on the ground where you are, until that gentleman there counts out loud to one thousand, everthin’ will be just fine folks.” He pointed at the disarmed and trussed guard, holstered his own weapon with a flourish, and stepped out of the bank, walking quickly but calmly to his horse.

Kyle heaved a sigh of relief as he saw the Kid step out of the bank. He threw the saddle bag full of coins over his horse in preparation to mounting, when the buckle on the bag broke and coins cascaded to the ground. He stood rooted, aghast as everyone in the street came to a halt staring at the coins clinking and rolling in the dust.

“Get going men!” Big Jim shouted and spurred his horse. The others followed. The Kid ran to Kyle, “Never mind, Kyle, just get goin’.” He pushed the smaller man onto his horse then slapped the horse to get him started.

He raced back to his own horse, leapt on, and spurred his way out of town in the gang’s wake.

~~~000~~~

Even as Kyle and the Kid caught up to the rest of the gang it was clear a posse was already pursuing them. The gang charged on but the posse’s horses slowly closed the gap.

Big Jim signaled for them stop to rest the horses for a moment. “We need to split up. Harrison, Lawson, you go with Heyes. The rest of you come with me and the money.” He glared at the Kid. “That means you.”

He looked around. “We’ll keep together until we get to those big rocks there. As soon as we get past them and out of sight of the posse, Heyes, you go left and we’ll go right.”

They spurred their horses, determined to get to the rock far enough ahead of the posse to have a chance of splitting up.

They had split but could still see each other when the first of the posse rounded the rock. The posse stopped as it saw the situation. One of the men dismounted and climbed to the top of the rock formation. He sighted down his rifle and shot. Big Jim’s horse went down. The other gang members ran on.

The Kid looked over his shoulder and saw the posse gaining on Big Jim. He heard a horse scream and cranked around to look at Heyes lying on the ground, trapped under his horse. The posse saw the two down and split, one group thundering towards Big Jim and the other towards Heyes.

The Kid hesitated looking back and forth. Finally, his mouth set in a grim line, he pulled his gun shooting towards the posse heading towards Big Jim. He quickly reloaded and galloped to Big Jim.

“You alright?”

“Broke my arm. Horse is dead.”

The Kid kicked his feet out of the stirrups and reached down. “Get on.”

Big Jim swung himself and the money up, and they raced after the others. The Kid looked sideways watching the posse catch up to Heyes. They rode on. The Kid flinched and stiffened as he heard a single gunshot. Big Jim stared at his back as they rode.

~~~000~~~

Heyes looked up and saw the backs of Lawson and Harrison. He struggled to free himself from his horse, who was thrashing on the ground, having tripped in a hole.

“You there, hands up! Drop the weapon!”

Heyes sighed and obeyed both commands. “Just wanted to put him out of his misery.”

The leader of the posse was a young man, only a few years older than Heyes. He looked at the horse. “Jim, he’s right, go ahead.”

Jim silently turned his gun on the horse and shot it once in the head. The horse lay still. Another man reached over and emptied Heyes’ saddle bags. “Dang, he don’t have any of it.”

Disgruntled, the leader turned to him. “I’m Wade Sawyer and you are our prisoner. What’s your name?”

“Hannibal Heyes.”

Sawyer smiled. “You know, men, this was the Devil’s Hole Gang. Mr. Heyes here is worth five hundred dollars. Mr. Heyes, your thieving days are over. I suggest you enjoy the march back to town, it’s the last time you’ll be outside for a long time.”

“March?”

“Well, we don’t have any extra horses and yours is dead. So I guess you’re walking.”

Sawyer turned to the other men. “Tie his hands real good, then I’ll tie him to my saddle horn. We won’t get back as fast as we left, but we’ll get there. You two – Bartlett and Handy – you go see if you can find where the rest went. Schmidt, you ride on back into town to let the sheriff know what’s happened. I guess four of us are enough to guard one prisoner, especially one on foot.”

The other men laughed then turned to their tasks.

~~~000~~~

“We’ve lost them.”

The men had stopped near where they had fresh mounts hidden. Big Jim hesitated and held out his hand. “Kid, I thank you. It took a lot for you to help me and leave Hannibal back there.”

The Kid checked his gun. “I’m goin’ back for him.”

“You heard the shot.”

“I did, and if all I can do is bury him, I’ll do that. I’ve buried family before.”

Big Jim looked at the set jaw and steely blue eyes, opened his mouth, then closed it, and nodded. “Come see me when you get back to the Hole, we have things to settle.”

Kyle hesitated then spoke up. “I’ll go with you, Kid. You helped me back in town and I reckon I owe you.”

“You don’t.”

Wheat came up with the fresh mounts. “What’s happening?”

“Kyle and the Kid are going back to see if they can get Heyes.”

The Kid carefully stowed shotguns in the saddle holsters and handed Kyle the lead to a spare horse. Wheat watched them mount the fresh horses. “Shoot, I’ll go with you.”

“You!” The Kid stared.

“Well don’t make a big song and dance about it…” Wheat huffed. “Are you coming or not?”

The Kid managed a small grin.

~~~000~~~

Heyes plodded along. The Kid had helped Big Jim, not him! He knew he’d told Big Jim that’s what the Kid would do, but he hadn’t really believed it. When the Kid had agreed to join up, he’d told him to back Big Jim first. For once he wished the Kid hadn’t listened to him.

They were passing through a stand of trees, providing some shade. “Stop here,” Sawyer called. He looked down at the man stumbling by his side, head down. He reached over and held out a canteen, “Want a drink?”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t be too grateful. There’s no ‘dead or alive’ to your reward, so we don’t have a choice, if we want the money.”

Heyes gulped.

~~~000~~~

The three raced back to where Heyes had fallen. Finding only the horse shot through its head, the Kid let out a huge sigh.

Smiling, he examined the trail finding boot prints among the horse tracks.

They mounted and followed the tracks quickly.

~~~000~~~

Heyes trudged on. These boots were not meant for walking, he thought ruefully. Even his blisters had blisters. He looked up at the strip of sky he could see between the rocks of the arroyo they were passing through, the pebbles on the ground further irritating his feet through the worn soles of his boots. Jail might not be so bad. At least he wouldn’t have to walk anymore. Or march as Sawyer put it. No, he sighed; jail would be awful.

As he glanced up at the sky, a lasso snaked out from a rocky outcropping. It caught Sawyer and lifted him off his horse, depositing him on the ground at Heyes’ feet. Shots rang out from both sides, sending flecks of rock cascading over the startled posse.

Jim frantically pulled his gun, only to have it shot out of his hand.

“Throw down your weapons. Muy pronto,” Wheat’s voice rang out.

Heyes’ eyebrows rose as a grin started to stretch his cracked lips.

The Kid slid down the slope into the arroyo, keeping the rope binding Sawyer taut. Wheat and Kyle remained above, the shotguns in their hands creating silhouettes to terrify the frightened posse.

“You okay?”

“Great now. Good to see you, Kid.” Heyes’ dimples shone.

The Kid grinned back. He reached down and removed Sawyer’s gun and handed it to Heyes, while he untied him. Once Heyes was free, the Kid loosened the lasso and freed Sawyer.

Sawyer glared. “I’ll get you another day, Heyes.” He paused and glared at the Kid. “And your friend here.”

“Maybe you will, but looks like you were wrong once today already. My thieving days aren’t over, after all. So maybe you’ll be wrong about that, too.”

“We have fresh mounts up there, Heyes. What should we do with these?”

“Let’s ride them up; then we’ll see. I’ve done enough walking for the day.”

“And what about us?” Sawyer stormed.

Heyes looked at the Kid with a question. “It’s your call, Kid.”

“How badly they treat you?”

“Could’ve been worse.”

“Then I think I’ll just tie them up lightly. You’ll be able to free yourselves in about half an hour,” the Kid said suiting action to words. He gathered their guns and tossed them away, after emptying the chambers.

Heyes mounted Sawyer’s horse. “Come on, Kid, boys, let’s get out of here before the town sends out another posse.”

“And what’ll we be doing in the meantime?” muttered Sawyer.

Heyes smiled at him. “Why once you get free you can do what you wanted me to do -- you all can just march yourselves back to town.”


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WichitaRed
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PostSubject: March 2013 Challenge   Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:02 am

So I found the challenge section. Yippee! I hope I am doing this correctly. I read the March challenge before going to bed and at 2:30 am got up to scribble down notes.
If this is confusing, let me know and I will do a rewrite. However when I heard this conversation, as with many you hear, no names were ever used. So, I wrote it like it came to me. I swear I woke up hearing the conversation...so I hope it makes y'all smile.


March Challenger 2013 by Wichita Red

“It’s your turn.”

“It’s not. Why do you always put this on me?”

“Fine, fine then let’s do a coin toss.”

“I don’t want to flip a coin. ‘Sides I never win at your coin tosses anyway.”

“Well, if you don’t want to do a coin toss. Then it is your turn.”

“That is not fair.”

“Fair, you want to talk about fair. Do you hear that racket? If you don’t do something about it. I’m going to get up, put my boots on and go outside and shoot him.”

“That is what you always say but we both know you are not going to shoot him.”

“Really? You want place a bet on that, when this is the third night running.”

“Alright, maybe not, but you don’t want to shoot him.”

“Do you not hear that?”

“Yeah but I’ve heard it before. Like you said, it’s the third night running just put your head under your pillow and go back to sleep.”

From outside, a loud drunken voice can be heard singing,
When Johnny comes marching home again,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay, when Johnny comes marching home.

“How in the seven names of hell, am I supposed to fall asleep, listening to that caterwauling? Besides you’re avoiding the point.”

“What point?”

“That it is your turn.”

“It is not my turn and I’m not going out there and I’m not flipping a coin about it either. Jeez, just go to sleep or at least let me go to sleep before I come in there flatten and you.”

When Johnny comes marching home again,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior’s heart,
And we’ll drink our fill to Johnny – when he comes marching home.
Hurrah! Hurrah! March, march, march, march, march, march,
When he comes marching home, march, march, march . . . .

“Yup that is it. The final straw. Now he is making up his own words. I’m done and I’m going out there.”

“You forgot your boots.”

“I don’t need them and I don’t need to hear from you, because I still say it’s your turn.”

“Well if you plan on wrestling him into the bunk house. You are going to want your boots.”

“Nope just going to shoot from the front porch.”

“Aw, come on everyone is entitled to blow off a bit of steam.”

“Yeah well no one else sings, ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ as they march around under a full moon drunk, to blow off steam.”

“So next month, we will make sure we’re not here during, the full moon.”

“What about now?”

“Now you go back to bed.”

“Nope I am already up.”

“You’re up because you’re arguing with me and by the way keeping me up. If you would just, go lie down and stop talking, you could go to sleep. I know I would.”

“That’s because you can sleep anywhere. It is fact, as well-known as you can eat anywhere at, anytime too. Well I can do neither, so I am going outside and shooting him.”

“He had his gun with him last time, so don’t you dare open that door.”

“What?”

“See I told you it was your turn because I dealt with the gun last time. But I know, I do not want you going out there, gun play is my job.”

“Then do your job.”

“No, he will wind down. Go back to your room and go back to bed.”

A loud, derisive snort rang out in the dark.

To welcome home our darling boy,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The lads and lassies say march, march, march,
march, march coming home march. .

“Fine, I won’t go out there. And, I won’t shoot him. But as the leader of this here Gang, I am banning whiskey, pop skull, moonshine, stump juice anything and everything that will cause inebriation to be brought up to the Hole.”

“Ah Tarnation. I ain’t letting you turn this into a dry county because of one gang member. I will stop him.”

“Thanks Kid”

“But just so you know it ain’t my turn.” Kid grumped stomping to the front door in his boots with his colt dangling from his hand. He paused to glare at his cousin before jerking the door open. And stepping through he mumbled, “And I
still might flatten you when I get back.”
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Maz

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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:26 pm

March
By Maz McCoy
“Louisa! Louisa!” the elderly man cried.
“Stop ya hollerin’ and I’ll be there in a minute!” A few moments later a large plump woman entered the room carrying a tray on which she balanced a steaming cup of coffee and a sandwich. “I brought your lunch.” She placed the tray on the table beside the old man, then took his hand guiding it first to the cup, then to the sandwich. “You got it?”
“Yes.”
“Don’t burn yourself.”
“I don’t plan to.” He looked up at her with vacant eyes. “How’re the boys doing?”
“Fine.”
“You keeping an eye on them?”
“Yes, although they really don’t need it.”
“They’re from the Home, they need watching.”
“Just because they’re orphans don’t make ‘em thieves.”
“The last two were.”
“Well these aren’t. Jed’s a real sweety and Han is a bright thing, always asking questions.”
“What sort of questions?”
“Where do we keep the money? Is it locked away?”
“WHAT?”
“I’m joking. He wanted to know why you can’t see and if there was anything he could do to help you.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“I told him to come talk to you.”
“Louisa! You know I don’t talk to the hired…”
“They’re boys. They’re clearing the garden so you can sit out there on a summer’s day. I reckon you can talk to ‘em.” She headed back to the door.
“Louisa! Louisa!” She didn’t reply. “Darn woman!”
There was a knock on the door. “Excuse me, sir, may we come in?”
“Who is it?”
“Hannibal Heyes and Jed Curry.” The boys stepped into the room. “We’re from the orphanage.”
“Fixing up your garden,” the small blond boy added.
They remained quiet, studying the old man sitting in a chair near the window. He reached out a hand locating his coffee.
Jed stepped forward. “Here, let me.”
“I can manage!”
“Didn’t say you couldn’t, just wanted to help.”
“You’re very forthright.”
“Huh?”
“He means you speak before you think,” Han said, stepping forward. “Mister March, we just wanted to say hello and offer to help if we can.”
“Which one are you?”
“Hannibal Heyes.”
“Come closer.” Heyes stepped next to March’s chair. The man reached out his hands and Heyes backed away. “Stand still!” Heyes stood and March reached up and touched Heyes’ face. “You have interesting features.”
“Does that mean he’s ugly?” Jed asked with a snirt.
“No, young man it does not.” He dropped his hands and beckoned to Jed. “You next.”
Jed swallowed and took Heyes’ place. March gently felt the boy’s face.
“What can you tell?” Jed prompted.
“Hmm, you’re very…”
“What?”
“Impatient.”
It was Heyes’ turn to laugh. March turned away.
“Can I ask something?”
“You just did, Hannibal.”
“Well, yeah but, can I ask another one?”
“Go ahead.”
“What made you blind?”
“Han!”
“It’s all right. I’ll answer that. I was very ill as a child. I recovered but my sight was gone.”
“I’m sorry.”
“It was a long time ago; I was younger than you are now. I’ve learned to live with it.”
“Is there anything we can do to help you?” Jed asked.
“Can either of you read?”
“We both can but I’m better at it,” Heyes informed him.
“Good. Can you see a bookcase?”
It was hard to miss it. “Yes, sir.”
“Choose a book then sit and read to me.”
Heyes beamed. “Yes, sir!”
“What about me?” Jed wondered.
“I believe there is a garden to be cleared.”
“But…”
“Off you go, Jed. I got work to do here.”
Jed glared at his friend, and then headed for the door. He waited outside for a moment and heard his friend begin to read.
“Call me, Ishmael!”

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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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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:03 pm

For the Kitty Challenge moderator.


“Nice warm lazy day.” The Kid puffed on a cigar. He put his feet up on the low wooden rail, and gently rocked the wooden chair back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…

Heyes carefully placed his cigar on the rail, and then pulled his pocket watch from his vest. “They’re late.” How odd it was. He looked at his watch while he spoke, yet he could simultaneously see the landscape of where he sat with the Kid. A lovely verdant lawn dropped down in the middle of nowhere, two chairs in the center with the rail to rest their boots upon.

He put the watch back and yawned. “I am so tired. That was a rough ride; I almost didn’t think we were gonna get away.”

“Me neither, partner. Look, here they come.”

Well, they were coming. Heyes sat upright and shook his head to clear it. He picked up his cup and saucer from the rail, took a sip, and put it back onto the pristine white table cloth.

The long rectangular table was set for tea; armless chairs lined each side, and two larger chairs with arms were at each end. There was a tea service, with a shiny silver teapot, a sugar bowl overflowing with sugar cubes, and a small pitcher of cream shaped like a cow. There were even a couple of those fancy three-tiered plate things like you saw in the fancy restaurants with little sandwiches on them and fancy treacle biscuits, and fancy treacle cookies. The biscuits were alternately flat and sugary, and puffy and buttery, depending on which side of the pond you came from. The cookies were German even though they were spelled with a c.

The Kid sat to his right at one end of the table, and Harry Briscoe to his left. Harry and the Kid stood to welcome the ladies, and Heyes belatedly realized he should stand as well.

“Howdy, young ladies. Join us. Have a seat.” Harry doffed his hat in greeting, and waved it in welcome towards the chairs.

“Good to see ya,” added the Kid.

Heyes managed a nod.

“Thank you for inviting us. This is such an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. I do think having tea with friends is perfectly splendid.” The tallest girl said this. She had a friendly pleasant face, although it was not particularly pretty, and she seemed somewhat angular in build. At least her elbows were, as she managed to topple over the sugar bowl when she sat.

A second girl who was very pretty, with a blue ribbon in her hair, and dressed in a most sensible manner for a young lady, complete with stout comfortable boots that would never pinch her feet when dancing, chided the first, “Jo, don’t be such a clumsy fellow.”

“Can’t help it, when I’m all arms.” She extended her arm from one end of the table to the other in demonstration.

A pretty blond girl looked with dismay at the plate in front of her. “It isn’t clean. Someone has eaten from this plate.” She sniffed it. “Lobster, how disgusting.”

“Oh Amy dear, I’ll clean it for you,” said the fourth, and we promise, last girl, who was busy cleaning up the spilt sugar. “That’s what I do. I clean dishes, and dust, and sew.”

“We all sew, Beth. But that doesn’t matter. You are still the dearest of us all.” The girl with the blue ribbon said this, except she had a red ribbon in her hair in addition to the blue. She put her arms around Beth and hugged her.

“Oh Meg, your ribbons are so lovely. I wished I had more ribbons. I also wish I more lace, fashionable clothes, an aristocratic nose and a clean plate.” Amy picked up a clothespin and put it on her nose as she spoke.

“Now ladies, you can all have clean plates. We’ll all just move down a seat.” The Kid said this.

They all moved and now Heyes had a dirty plate. But the conversation and the move were too much. He gave up. He turned his plate over and put his head down on it. He looked up at Kid. This was weird. He didn’t remember crossing a brook, but the Kid’s ears were getting larger, and his face looked sort of fuzzy. His nose wiggled too.

“I wish Marmee were here. She would enjoy this so. She works so hard, and deserves a day to rest. She also deserves Christmas presents,” Jo said this thoughtfully.

“I wish I had a kitty,” said Beth. She walked off in search of one. In a few moments she returned holding a pig. “It’s almost a kitty,” she explained. The pig cried like a baby, so she shook it up and down.

“Oh look, now it’s a kitty,” she exclaimed happily. She held out the kitty for the rest to see. It had to have been the ugliest cat ever, with a huge cheesy grin bisecting its face.

Heyes turned his head away from the ugly cat. Now he was looking at Harry. Harry’s hat was wider and taller than before. It had a piece of paper in it that read: Amnesty 6/10. His teeth were really prominent too. Heyes had never noticed that before.

“Let’s play a game,” suggested Jo.

That sounded interesting. Heyes struggled to raise his head. “Treacle poker?” he muttered.

Harry took out a deck, and shuffled the cards. “We’ll play poker twenty-one. Winner gets a trip to Hadleyburg.”

Beth ran over to the Kid and petted his head. “Bunnies are sweet too. There not as cute as the kitties or my dead bird, but their legs make wonderful good-luck charms.”

Harry dealt everyone two cards down and one up, except on Saturday when it would be three cards, for himself, four for the girls, and on Friday when he would deal the cards backwards.

Heyes looked at the hand he had been dealt. His face card was the Queen of Hearts. The card stood on edge, and grew, and grew and grew. Soon she towered above them. She pointed her arm down and her index finger and nearly touched Heyes’ nose.

“Put him in the teapot!” she shouted. Her face turned purple form anger.

“Good ideee,” said the grinning cat as it spat tobacco juice out the side of its mouth.


&&&&&&&&

Heyes awoke in a sweat, and sat up.

The Kid sat up, groggy from sleep. “What is the matter with you? Do you have to make so much noise? You’ve been mutterin, and moanin’. I’m tryin’ to get some sleep.”

“That’s the matter with me.” Heyes pointed to the end of the bed.

“Children’s books? That’s what’s the matter with you?”

“Next time if all that's in a room is this or a bible, I'll read the Bible. People who write books for children oughta be thrown in jail. Better yet the insane asylum. They’re all mad as…” He kicked the books off the bed in disgust.

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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:24 am

The March of Time

The old tintype photograph was badly faded, nearly as faded as the wizened hands that held it at arm’s length and the washed-out eyes that struggled to focus on the image of two men and a lovely girl sitting in front of them. They had all been so very young. In the prime of their lives. He remembered that day so vividly.

Some days he couldn’t remember his own name, but those days, the days of his misspent youth, he could recall with amazing accuracy. Leaning back into the stuffed armchair, he closed his tired eyes and let his thoughts drift. Clem had been so excited to have them visiting her in Denver. She had chattered nonstop as they strolled down Larimer Street, going on and on about the opera being performed at the Denver Theatre, the latest fashions cropping up at local clothiers, her many suitors. This last said with a coquettish glance for each of the men at her elbows.

The barrage of words had swept over him like a tidal wave of sound, only to slowly recede until just the low hum of her voice lapped at his ears. He could still see her, the gleam in her deep brown eyes; the soft reflection of the noonday sun on her lustrous hair, her trim figure highlighted by a beautiful new dress. She had been golden; they all had been golden in those days. He glanced again at the photograph. When had the march of time passed them by and left them standing in its shadows?

She had tugged at his arm, rousing him from his contemplation, and pulling both men to a stop. Pointing to a shop window, she had pleaded, cajoled, and downright begged for their cooperation. She wanted something to help her remember them, she had said, some talisman that would keep them close to her heart, and this was just the thing. It was a new photography studio; the advertisement in the window offering two dollar tintypes. He had looked over her head at his partner. No words were needed and a silent agreement was struck. What arrogant, besotted fools they’d been. He smiled inwardly. They hadn’t been able to resist her charms. Clem always got what she wanted, so they had sat for the portrait despite their budding notoriety. Not entirely unaware of the risks, they had requested only one print and had purchased the plate, too, which was tucked away in an inner jacket pocket. Later, after a wild evening on Blake Street, it had been discovered that the plate had been lost. With nothing to identify the subjects, they had shrugged it off and had forgotten about it.

He lifted the photograph and squinted at it again. Clem had been true to her word, for a while, and had kept what he had believed to be the only known photograph of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry securely locked in her safety deposit box; that is, until she needed to blackmail them into bilking Winfred Fletcher. She had lifted the plate from his pocket that night on Blake Street. Of course she had. Clem had the lightest touch of any pickpocket he had ever known. Coerced into helping, they had thrown themselves into the con, enjoying it immensely. Like Clem had promised, it had been like the old days; the three of them working together again. He chuckled. The old days; he’d had no idea at that time what that phrase meant. He reckoned he did now.

Clem had passed on almost twenty-five years ago during the Russian influenza epidemic; still as fresh and beautiful as ever, before the bloom of youth had been completely stolen from her by the march of time. He had wondered sometimes if she had planned it that way; she would’ve hated growing old.

She’d never married and had passed on all her worldly possessions to the two of them, Thaddeus Jones and Joshua Smith. His heart ached with the loss as though it was new again and he remembered the day they had gone through her things. Such a vibrant life all distilled down to a small, wooden box. They had been shocked and surprised to find this copy of the photograph tucked into a seldom used bible. Lucky for Clem she hadn’t been killed by lightening; tucking their picture into a holy book. His partner had slid the print from the bible and held it up for him to see. Laughingly, his cousin had started to tear it in half.

He looked down at the photograph in his hands and ran his thumb across the small tear at the top. He remembered his alarm and his swift reaction to the proposed destruction of Clem’s image. They had argued over the risks, but they were both in their late 40’s by then and were tired of running. The amnesty had been a pipe dream, used by an unscrupulous series of governors to take care of a tiresome problem. As plans went, the amnesty ploy had been brilliant, worthy of Hannibal Heyes himself. By the time they realized it was never going to happen, time had marched on again and they had changed; the world had changed. Telephones were commonplace and communication was established to the remotest of places. Their skills had become rusty and obsolete. Worse, they had become honest. Years of staying on the straight and narrow had dulled the sharp edges of their wits and robbed them of their larcenous natures. Time had proven to be the ultimate thief.

It wasn’t much longer before time passed them by altogether. The Devil’s Hole gang had faded into obscurity years before and Butch Cassidy’s meteoric rise as the West’s most successful outlaw nearly obliterated Heyes and Curry from the history books. Only tales of the old days, spoken around the campfire by old codgers, kept the legends alive. When his generation was extinguished, the legend would all but disappear.

He set the photograph by the lamp on the side table and studied it again. How arrogant they had all been, so assured of their fame and fortune. They had been called the most successful outlaws in the history of the west. They had never understood that history was often re-written and they had no place in it now. They had squandered all their promise on the wrong things. The irony was that their own greed and lust for fame had robbed them of their true chance for lasting posterity. A good wife, the joy of children; the small fame achieved as the beloved member of a family.

It was late now and he was so very tired. He reached over to pick up the photograph once again. How he missed them. His partner, gone many years now, too, and Clem; ashes to ashes, dust to dust; his ma used to say. He sat alone with his memories until his eyes drifted shut again and, slowly his hand released the cherished picture. His head nodded forward onto his chest and his breathing slowed while his ears rang with laughter and joy and chattered nonsense. He could see it all now as though it was yesterday.


Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:17 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:39 am

I think St. Patrick's day seeped into my psyche and gave this little bit of nonsense an Irish flavour.

Funeral March

Heyes dropped his shovel and sank down onto a gravestone. “I’ve had enough. This has to be the worst job we’ve done in years. It’s March and wet soil is heavy. Why couldn’t this wait until summer?”

“Get diggin’!” growled the Kid. “If you put as much energy into shiftin’ the soil as you did into moanin’, we’d be done by now. Besides, if they waited until summer we wouldn’t have a job.”

“I pull my weight,” Heyes protested.

“All you pull is the wool - over other folks eyes – just so you know; I ain’t buyin’ it. Now pick up that shovel so we can get done for the day.” The Kid cast harsh eyes over to the church. “Then we can get that preacher to pay us, and convincin’ him to do that will be a job in itself. He holds on to money so tight he’s got varicose veins on his knuckles.”

“It’s boring, Thaddeus. I’m not made for this kind of work.

“My mind wanders too. I just get on with it.”

Heyes stood and picked up his spade again. “Yeah, but yours is too weak to go very far,” he chuckled, dodging a shovelful of earth. “How did we come to this?”

The Kid hefted another load of soil. “We’re doin’ this because we were smart enough to give up stealin’, but not bright enough to save any of the money.”

Heyes’ eyes looked wistfully over at the town, the warm glow from the windows testifying to each one being a toasty refuge from the dank soil and the cold air. “Yeah, it’s like buying a comb after we lost all our hair.” He thrust the spade into the ground. “What time is it?”

“Look at your watch. The light’s goin’ so get to work if you want to get outta here before dark.” The Kid straightened up with a frown, arching his tired back. “Who are they?”

Both sets of eyes drifted over to the wagon which had drawn up beyond the picket fence of the graveyard. The rider tethered the vehicle to the fence and men helped down the ladies, clad in black mourning weeds, as the group made their way towards the hole.

“We made it!” a man in a shiny top hat declared, peering into the hole. “We were just about to give up. We got lost; thank heavens we got here before it got too late.”

“Too late?” asked Heyes.

“Sure. I think we just made it in time.” A burly man wearing an Irish kilt pulled out a set of bagpipes and started inflating them, his cheeks bulging out like balloons beneath his grey beard. He spoke with a pronounced brogue. “You’ll be finishing soon, won’t you?”

“Well, yeah. I guess we will,” the Kid replied, scratching his head. “But, I think you should know...”

He was cut off by the sound of wailing and weeping coming from a woman who led the little company over to the hole, while another started singing in Irish, the chorus being taken up by the everyone else.

The man with the bagpipes smiled at the partners’ confusion. “She a keener. We employ them to weep and wail, it’s her job.”

“Yeah, but surely this isn’t the right time or place.” Heyes cast a hand over to the church. “I think you should ask for some directions.”

The piper arranged his drones over his shoulder. “I know, we got lost and we’re hours late, but better late than never, huh?” He nodded over to the group. “We’ll take up ten minutes of your time; then we’ll be outta here. We’ve got a wake to attend in the next town. That’s where his family live.”

“Sure, but...” Heyes protests were cut off by the loud skirl of the pipes. The group shuffled over to the gaping hole as the soaring tones of ‘Limerick’s Lament’ filled the air, the men respectfully removing their hats and raising their eyes as though in prayer. The eldest man glowered over at the workmen, who leaned on their shovels a few feet away. The Kid quickly picked up on the look and snapped upright, dragging his hat from his head.

“Joshua!” The Kid nudged Heyes who reluctantly brought his feet together and stood up straight. “Your hat,” the Kid hissed.

A pair of exasperated brown eyes burned into the Kid. “Seriously!?”

“Yeah, it means a lot to these folks. Do it.”

Heyes shook his head ruefully and removed his hat, smiling politely at the pretty young woman standing at the end of the hole.

The strains of ‘Amazing Grace’ drifted over the group, and they began to sing with mellow, harmonic mellifluousness. The Kid smiled, his heart gripped by the stirring emotion of the scene. Grandpa Curry had told him about Irish funerals, the women sitting with the body, the burial - and the wake; bittersweet and uproarious as the family shared a last party with those they would never see in life again. Some wakes were legendary, with family coming from far and wide; and to make it worth their while, some of these get-togethers could last for several days. This, he supposed, was one such far-flung group.

Heyes and Curry slunk off towards the fence, leaving a respectful distance for the mourners to pray and toss handfuls of earth into the hole. The group stepped back, following the piper as he swung into a jaunty march. He strode three times around the churchyard before treading on the spot in time to the music. The mourners turned making their way back to the wagon, weeping and dabbing at their eyes with cotton squares. The man in the top hat grabbed a bundle from the vehicle before he returned, thrusting it into the Kid’s hands.

“Here, whiskey to drink to his memory,” he pushed a few dollars at Heyes, ”I won’t hear another word about it. We always tip the grave diggers, it’s tradition.” He tipped the brim of his hat. “Good day to you, fellas. We have to get to Bracherville before nightfall. We have ladies to consider, but we truly thought we‘d never get to pay our respects. Thanks for stopping work for us.”

“Bracherville,” the Kid pointed up the road. “About five miles that way.”

The man gave a disdainful look at the driver. “And he’s got us pointin’ in the opposite way!? Again!? He’s the best piper for three states, but he’s got the worst sense of direction I’ve ever seen. We’ve been travellin’ for six hours now, and this is the third town we’ve been to.”

Heyes and Curry watched the vehicle swing and sway its way down the road. “That was real movin’, all those folks coming from far and wide just to say their farewells.”

Heyes nodded. “Yeah, it’s a shame they got lost like that, but I guess they feel better now, at least I hope they do; after coming all that way.”

The Kid nodded, watching the wagon disappear around the bend in the road. “I guess they were more lost than they thought. I don’t suppose they needed to know we’re puttin’ in a new septic tank, did they?”
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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:41 pm

Here I sit...absolutely humiliated. I can't believe that happened. I can't even hardly look at Kid. He keeps smiling at me like he's about to bust out laughing any minute. I've nursed this same drink for about an hour thinking about it. I can't get it off my mind. It just keeps replaying itself...

ooooooooooasjooooooooooo

The Kid and I arrived late one March evening at Stoney Gulch. We were tired, dirty, and thirsty. We had to once again leave a hotel in the last town in the middle of the night. Having never been to Stoney Gulch, we checked to see who the sheriff was before we bothered to stable the horses. Thankfully, we'd never heard of him before. We both sighed with relief. Kid took the horses to the livery stable while I got us a room at the only hotel in town. It wasn't the best establishment we'd ever seen, but it wasn't the worst either. We settled in, each took a bath, and headed over to the saloon.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed her. She was sashaying around serving drinks. Her blue dress showed her every curve. She glanced at me as we made our way to the bar. I touched my hat and nodded at her. We ordered us up some drinks and surveyed the room. There were two poker games going on. As we watched, a couple of chairs opened up, so we started towards the table. I looked up and noticed her eyes following me. I told Kid to go on without me. He started to protest, but then saw why. "Go on", he smiled.

I made my way through the sea of tables and cowboys over to her. "Hello handsome", she purred when I reached her.

She was even more beautiful close up. Sparkling hazel eyes, long brown hair curled at the ends. "Hello", I said. "Would you like a drink?"

Her eyes looked me up and down. After the scrutinization, she fluttered her eyelids at me. "No thanks", she replied, "but I would like to meet you upstairs."

'Wow' I thought. 'She's just extremely blunt and straightforward. I thought about it for a split second and blurted out "Okay." 'Okay?...that's the best you can do', I muttered to myself.

I followed her upstairs. On the way, I looked down to see Kid looking back at me. He smiled and touched his hat to me in a silent salute. I rolled my eyes at him.

We went into a room that was definitely a lady's. The room was drowning in all things pink. Oh well. I didn't mind. I didn't go up there to admire the decorations. She seductively took a feather boa from around her neck and threw it around my waist. Then she pulled me close to her and gave me a kiss. I could talk forever about those voluptuous lips, but I digress. She then grabbed my jacket and almost literally threw me on the bed. She was definitely stronger than she looked. I pulled my jacket off and she climbed up behind me where I sat. She reached around with one hand and started fiddling with my shirt buttons.

What I didn't see, was her other hand reach down the front of her dress and retrieve the knife she had hidden there. Her hand that had been fumbling with my buttons grabbed my shirt while the other hand came around and positioned the knife on my throat. Her next words were, "Your money or your life."

I gave a little laugh and started to turn, but the knife dug deeper into my throat, not enough to bring blood, but enough to let me know she was serious. 'I can't believe this', I though. 'I'm getting held up by a saloon girl.'

She told me to empty my pockets, then to clean out my jacket while she held the knife on me. She was literally hanging on my back. I tried talking to her. "Now listen, what's the sheriff going to think about this? You can't just rob every man you bring up here. You don't want to do this. It'll hurt business for you." She just laughed at me.

"Oh honey", she started. "I don't have to worry about that. The sheriff's my brother. And besides, what man is gonna admit to being robbed by a woman."

For once, I had nothing to say. What was I going to do? I could easily have overpowered her, but I can't hit a lady. Besides, I only had two dollars on me. Kid had the rest of what we had. I didn't want my throat slit over two dollars.

She took the money. "This all you got?! Oh well, it'll have to do. Thanks sweetie." She kissed my cheek as she removed the knife from my throat. I glared at her as I put my jacket back on and left her sitting on the bed laughing. Slamming the door, I marched back downstairs with a scowl on my face. I went straight to the bar for a shot of whiskey, then walked outside.

Kid had watched me that whole time and politely left the poker game to follow me outside. I was pacing the boardwalk outraged. Kid asked me what was wrong. After a few more paces to cool down, I told him what had happened. He looked at me wide-eyed when I finished. Then a smile crept onto his lips. And then...he burst out laughing. "YOU got held up by a WOMAN?!" he exclaimed when he caught his breath. I gave him a death look. He just laughed harder.

"IT'S NOT FUNNY THADDEUS!" I growled at him. I was seething with anger. I couldn't let her get away with this. It wasn't about the two dollars I'd lost. It was about dignity and pride.

That night, Kid went on the hotel while I sat in the shadows beside the saloon. I wanted to find out where she lived. A little after midnight, she finally emerged from the saloon and started across town. I followed at a safe distance. She arrived at a little house on the edge of town. When she had went in, I crept up to the window and looked in. Apparently, she lived with her brother because the sheriff was in there. She's splitting money with him. Well, there goes THAT plan. I hightailed it out of there and went back to join Kid in our room.

ooooooooooooooasjoooooooooooooo

And so, here I sit, holding a shot of whiskey that Kid pulled from his saddlebags, humiliated and trying to think of a plan to teach that devil woman a lesson.

"Will you quit staring at me?!" I was irritated.

"Can't help it. What did she do again?"

"You know darn well what she did! I ain't telling that story over!"

"But you tell stories so well. C'mon. I need a bedtime story."

"Kid, if you don't shut up, I'm going to flatten you."

I hear him chuckle softly as he gets ready for bed. I get up and start to pace. It seems to help me think at times. I have been known to do it just to annoy the Kid. Tonight was one of those times.

"Aw Heyes, you ain't gonna pace all night are you. You'll drive me crazy."

I smiled. Downing the last of the whiskey, I pace some more. I look over to see Kid holding his thin pillow over his head.

Finally, I decide to lay down. I know I won't be able to sleep. About halfway through the night, I decide on a course of action. It's not a very elaborate plan, but it will suffice. Sometimes the simplest plan is the most effective. I get up and start searching my saddlebag. Ah! There it is! The deputy's badge I had kept from that time in Junction City. You never know when you might need a certain item. I wake Kid up. He ain't happy about it.

"WHAT do you want Heyes?! ALWAYS in the middle of the night..."

"Here's what we're going to do tomorrow..."

oooooooooooasjoooooooooo

The next evening, Kid goes into the saloon alone. I wait just outside to give him time to get 'Miss Evil's' attention. Five minutes later, I slip quietly inside. Kid has her over at a corner table, her back to the entrance. Unseen, I creep upstairs to a certain room and wait. Ten minutes pass, then I hear someone coming. I hide as the door opens. In walks Kid with her behind him. He twirls her around, positioning her back to me. She pulls Kid close to her, and starts to remove his jacket. That's when I step out and cock my gun. She turns around, clearly surprised. She smiles when she realizes who I am.

"Well howdy honey! Welcome back!"

"I don't think you'll be so happy when you find out why I'm here." I flash the badge quickly at her, then put it back in my jacket pocket. "I'm Marshal Newkirk and this", I point to Kid, "is Marshal Higginbottom." We've been watching you and your brother for some time now and last night just confirmed our suspicions of the corruption that goes on here. We know how you rob your 'clients' and share the money with your brother."

Her smile fades quickly. "Please! Don't arrest me! I'm sorry! And so is my brother! PLEASE don't send us to prison! I'll do anything!"

I smugly smile at her. "Well now, I don't know. You've robbed an awful lot of men. And we can't leave a corrupt man in such a noble office."

"PLEASE, please! We won't make it in prison. We'll never see each other again. Please, I'll do anything."

"I don't know. What do you think Higginbottom?"

"I know a lot of men would like to see her behind bars..."

"Yeah, they would at that." I pause and cause her to squirm. Tears are forming in her eyes."But, I just don't know if I could send such a pretty girl to prison." I pace a little as hope springs to her face. "Alright. I won't arrest you. BUT...you have got to give me a solemn oath to quit your thieving and your brother has to resign as sheriff."

She answers hurriedly. "Yes, yes, I will, and he will. I give you my word. I promise."

"Alright then. But just know, we'll be watching and if we see this happening again, we WILL arrest you and you'll never see the light of day again. You may not see us, but we WILL be watching."

"Okay, okay! Thank you, thank you!"

I walk to the door. Kid turns to follow me. I look back at her. She's sitting wide-eyed on the bed, clearly shaken up. We leave the room and march back down the stairs like we own the place. Leaving the saloon, we go and get our horses from the livery. I want to leave town before she talks to her brother the sheriff.
oooooooooooasjooooooooo

We're riding out of town as Kid turns in his saddle.

"You sure put the fear of God into her Heyes. Don't you think you mighta been too rough on her?"

"No I don't. We just saved her life."

"And how do you figure that?"

"Well, we started out as small time thieves and look at us now. This ain't no life for a lady."

"So you did it out of the goodness of your heart?" I can practically see the sarcasm drip from Kid's lips.

"No. I did it to heal my injured pride!" I laugh and we ride off.


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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:00 am

A piece of nonsense for you. Grateful thanks to my dear husband who provided the initial phrase idea.

29th February 1884

Two mounted figures, shoulders hunched against the cold, are outlined against a cheerless grey sky. The breath of both men and horses hovers in the chill air. In the distance a coyote howls – the dismal note echoing in the emptiness of the plains.

“I dunno why we had to ride out so dang early,” comments Heyes, tucking his hands under his armpits in search of warmth. “I mean before breakfast. Us. Well – you. Sheesh.”

Nothing.

“It’s getting colder, too.”

Still nothing.

“I don’t like the look of those clouds.”

Zip.

“Reckon it’ll snow later.”

“Did I ask for the runnin’ weather report, Heyes?!” snaps Kid Curry.

“I’m just saying – we’d be warmer if we made camp and lit a fire…”

“Fires can be seen.”

“Warmer still if we rode on to the next town.”

“You know what day it is, Heyes. We agreed. We hide out. We lay low.”

A sigh from Hannibal Heyes. “Yeah, but…” Shiver. “When we agreed that, we were by a stove.”

“You remember four years back, Heyes? How bad it was?”

Heyes gives a shudder – this being different in both intensity and causation to the previous shiver. “Uh huh, but…”

“You remember how they tracked us down…”

Heyes gives another shudder. “Hoards of them.”

“Some of ‘em moving in packs.”

“Others hunting in pairs.”

“Us trying to escape…”

“Being chased until we couldn’t run no longer.”

“The feel of the hot breath searin’ my skin!”

“The hungry eyes – waiting to devour me.”

“The clawin’ at my clothes…”

“The pawing at my – well, the pawing.”

A mutual shudder at the memory.

“Yup,” admits Heyes, “those ladies of the Appreciation Society can be a handful any day of the week, but in leap years…”

“Come 29th February, all of ‘em wantin’ to make proposals at once...! It’s – It’s…” Apparently what it is is beyond words. Kid flushes. “And some of them proposals were downright indecent!”

“It’s even worse for me,” sighs Heyes, “because more ladies want me.”

Blue eyes glower. “Since when?!”

“Can’t argue with the math, Kid.”

“I can argue with that math!”

“Don’t get proddy. I didn’t ask to be born irresistible to women…”

“Heyes, you ain’t…”

Heyes does not pause for the interruption. With an expression redolent of brave resignation he presses on, “It’s simply a cross I have to bear.”

Kid Curry now combines fuming and freezing in one disgruntled 170 pound package.

“Anyhow, Kid, I think I have a solution. Somewhere safe we could hide out for the day…”

“Only safe place’d be – I dunno – bottom of a mine shaft.” Kid Curry narrows his eyes and scans the horizon. “You heard that howlin’ earlier? That coulda been…”

“Nah. Her howling sounds more – voracious.”

An eye roll indicates the Kid’s unspoken acknowledgement of another big word day.

“Anyhow – somewhere safe we could hide out…” Heyes’ gloved fingers dig into an inner pocket. A newspaper clipping is produced and handed over.

“Parisatt – a town without women,” he reads.

Questioning look.

“It’s a new mining town – only ‘bout twenty miles from here – and the municipal laws are so tight, so far they’ve managed to keep out the soiled doves…”

“Spoil sports. So?”

“If it’s men only – that’s perfect for us. For today anyhow. No danger of running into any of the Society ladies. No danger of them telegraphing their friends and starting a stampede.”

Kid Curry’s brow wrinkles. “I dunno, Heyes…”

“Think of it, Kid. Cosy saloon. Snug hotel.”

A certain wistfulness in those blue eyes suggests Kid Curry is, indeed, thinking of it.

“Steak dinner – all piping hot.”

The Kid cracks. “Okay, we hide out at Parisatt until the 29th is over.”

Two sets of booted heels nudge two horses to a canter.

---oooOOOooo---

The ex-outlaws rein their tired mounts to a halt. As Heyes predicted earlier, it is now snowing. Patting the neck of his chestnut, Heyes squints at the clapboard building before them. “Parisatt Hotel,” he reads. "What d’you think?"

"It's got a roof – that’s all I care about right now, but..." Kid peers through the fading light at the first floor windows. Almost imperceptibly a net twitches.

The partners scan the street.
A short fella, with a huge beard, watches them intently from the General Store.
Another short fella, with another huge beard, watches them even more intently from the doorway of the livery.
Two fellas, neither on the tall side, both with beards that could house a badger, stare – fascinated – from the entrance to the bath house.
A cluster of enthralled eyes above a cluster of assorted facial hair gaze from above the swing doors of the saloon.
A diminutive fella, beard almost to his belt, is half-heartedly pushing a broom along the porch of the barber’s shop and whole-heartedly drinking in every detail of our boys.

“Heyes, does anythin’ around here strike you as odd?”

“Yup. It’s odd how that barber manages to make a living.”

The look.

“Okay, Kid, I take your point. But, even if this town is so dull two drifters riding in is big news, like you said, any place with a roof looks good right now.”

Acknowledging shrug from the Kid. “Let’s get the horses to the livery.”

---oooOOOooo---

Heyes tings the brass bell on the hotel reception desk.
With the rapidity of a Jack-In-The-Box up pops a desk clerk, luxuriant brown whiskers cascading over his crisp shirt front.

“You’re here!” he squeaks. Then, much gruffer tone, “I mean, may I help you?”

“A room please,” says Heyes. “One night, two beds, we like a view of the street.”

“Certainly, sir. Would you sign the register, please?”

Heyes complies. The clerk turns the book towards him. “Welcome to the Parisatt Hotel Mister Smith. Welcome to you Mister Jones. My name – should you wish to call on me for any, ANY, service whatsoever – is Arnie.” Arnie’s turn to ting the bell.
Two fellas dressed as porters – burgeoning beards obscuring at least half of their shiny buttons appear from the back room with the rapidity of light.

“Bernie will carry your bags, Mister Smith.”

A squeak of excitement from Bernie as he grabs Heyes’ saddlebags and gear.

“Chris will porter for you, Mister Jones.”

Exultant squawk of eagerness to oblige from Chris.
A look is exchanged between our boys indicative of their surprise at the level of service offered by a hotel in a tiny mining town.

“And now,” continues the desk clerk, “if you’d like to follow me.” He leads the way. As Bernie follows Heyes and Chris trails the Kid upstairs, the porters’ eyes appear strangely glued to the ascending – admittedly shapely – butts. Arnie flings open a door. “Behold, your suite.”

“We didn’t order a suite,” protests Heyes.

“I know you didn’t order a suite, but, on behalf of all the staff at the Parisatt, is our pleasure to offer you the most luxuriant accommodation we have – at no extra cost.”

The ex-outlaws step inside.

“Nice room,” remarks the Kid.

“It IS a nice room,” agrees Arnie. “And through here…” He flings open an inner door. “Is an even nicer room.”

Brown and blue eyes blink.

“And not only that, we have laid on a team of staff who'll be exclusively dedicated to looking after your every need while you stay with us.”

Indeed, snowy aproned hirelings are scurrying from the inner room and lining up. The colours vary through black, brunet, chestnut, ginger, blonds of both strawberry and dishwater varieties. What does not vary is the bushy abundance of the facial topiary and the general air of excited eagerness to please.

“Let me introduce your butler…”

A hand is held out. Heyes shakes it. Then Kid. From beneath the whiskers there is a high-pitched squeal of excitement. With difficulty Kid gets his hand back.

“Your chef.” Squeak.
“Your wine waiter.” Snort.
“Your boot boy.” Snirt.
“Your laundry man.” Heek.
“Your pillow plumper.” Honk.
“Your sheet smoother.” Titter.
“Your bath water tester.” Snicker.
“Your back scrubber.” Giggle.
“Your lost soap retriever.” Heek.

“Our – what?!” interrupts the Kid.

“You do both want baths?” checks Arnie, voice rising eagerly. He clears his throat. Gruff voice, "There's plenty of hot water."
The back scrubber pushes open the door to the inner room a little further revealing two huge bath tubs. Inviting steam carrying a faint odour of sandalwood rises from each. Fluffy white towels are warming before a glowing stove.

A mute conversation between the partners.

"How much for a bath?" Heyes asks.

“We can probably raise fifty dollars,” squeaks the back scrubber, digging into his pants pocket. “I got five.”

“I got ten,” flutes the butler, handing it to Arnie.

Shrill murmurs as the other staff rifle their pockets.

“Fifty dollars – apiece – for the baths,” tempts Arnie.

“You gotta have a bath,” trills the pillow plumper.

“All that dust you pick up on the trail,” concurs the sheet smoother.

“You really need to let us work up a lather…”

“Soap up all your nooks and crannies…”

“Get things really steamy…”

“It’ll be so warm and wet…”

The tone of the urging is distinctly – soprano.

Heyes holds up a hand for silence. “There wouldn’t be any – women – among you, would there?”

High voices in unison, “No! No! No!” Realisation in the eyes above a dozen beards. Deep voices in unison, “No. No. No.”

Heyes turns to the bath water tester, dimples meltingly, “So, what’s your name?”

“It’s Penny,” breaths a voice melting before those chocolate brown eyes.

“That’s a strange name for a man.”

The Penny drops. Gruff voice, “It’s short for – for Hank.”

“Uh huh?” To the room in general. “Let me put it to you this way…”

“You can put it to us anyway you like, Heyes!”

“You ARE all women – and you’re women with as much talent for disguise as a pack of coyotes …”

“I’m over here, Kid!”

“…Rolling in cotton wool then trying to mingle in a flock of sheep.”

A pause.

“Okay, you got us,” admits ‘Arnie’ slamming shut the outer door, locking it and depositing the key in ‘his’ – ahem – ample bosom. “This isn’t Parisatt. It’s a trap.”

“April Fool!” trills from a dozen exultant throats as the ex-outlaws are seized by two dozen hot and hungry hands.

“What the…?!” exclaims Kid Curry, with the breath he can spare from struggling – unsuccessfully – to stay inside his shirt. “How the Sam Hill can this be an April Fool?”

“Look at the calendar,” squeals ‘Bernie’, as she pins down a squirming Heyes while the Chef poaches his tan pants.

Brown and blue eyes turn to a day by day calendar displayed on the dresser. Indeed, it is turned to April 1st.

“But…” Kid gives up, concurrently, the struggle, his dignity and his long johns. “…We rode in 29th of February.”

“Kid,” sighs Heyes, as he is carried aloft by many eager arms, nekkid, towards the waiting tub. “I think these ladies have stolen a March on us!”

THE END
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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:43 pm

Just another example of sitting down to type and letting the story write itself. I had no idea where this was going!



“Sorry Kid.”

“Hmm? What about?”

“Well, here it is; March 6th; It's your birthday. I kinda figured we'd be hurrahing some town tonight, not sitting here eating beans and hardtack and drinking weak coffee.”

“Could be worse.”

Heyes snorted. “Could always be worse! I just hoped it'd be better. Especially by now.”

“Yeah, well....”

Silence filled the cave, or more accurately, voices quieted and other sounds filled the cave. The soft crackling of the small fire flickering away, emitting the occasional hissing as the heat seared away at some damp spot in the kindling. Soft shadows danced upon the dark stone walls, the fire giving off just enough light for the boys to see each other and the food they had prepared and were settling in to eat.
Rain was pouring down outside, the loud steady beat of it hitting the rocks and hard ground surrounding the opening to this fortuitous shelter, bringing its own form of peace to the men inside. Being able to listen to rain beating down outside could be comforting when one is safe and dry inside especially when memories of weathering out a rain storm in the open were not far off in the recent past.
Even the horses seemed content with their lot. With the cave and it's entrance being big enough to allow the animals access, they had been brought in, striped of their tack and rubbed down. Each had been given a portion of grain from the meagre supplies and then left to doze as they too appreciated the soft flickering light from the fire and the knowledge that they were under cover.
The fellas had seen the storm clouds heading their way and had made a dash for the rocks, hoping to find exactly what they did find. They quickly grabbed up dry brush and wood for kindling and as many larger branches and dead fall as they could find. They got themselves into the cave and settled, and Heyes blocked the entrance with more shrubbery to keep them hidden from searching eyes and to keep the wind and the rain out while Kid made the fire. Then they'd settled down to dinner.
It was after they had both eaten their fill and Heyes was leaning back on his saddle, nursing his second cup of coffee when he made his apology. It wasn't his fault, but he still felt bad about it; this wasn't at all how he had intended to celebrate the Kid's birthday. When Heyes' birthday had arrived the previous month, they'd had a fine supper of prime rib with horse radish and mashed potatoes. Dry red wine with the meal and a fine brandy with dessert.
Heyes didn't know where the Kid had gotten the money to pay for such a fine meal, but he had; saving it up probably for over a month to insure that they'd have a real nice evening. Heyes had hoped to be able to return the favour when the Kid's day arrived but things just didn't fall into place the way the dark haired, dimpled one had intended.
The day had started out promising enough. They had just finished an easy job of delivering a package from one wealthy rancher to another wealthy rancher and had ended up being paid quite handsomely from both. Neither had expected that to be part of the deal, but neither of them said anything against it either and had departed the vicinity quickly in case there was a change of heart on the matter.
Three days later, Kid's birthday, they had put a lot of miles between themselves and the overly generous ranchers and were ready for a little r and r. They were well and truly into another county and casually trotting into a nice peaceable little town with the intentions of having a nice meal at the nice restaurant and then move on for various forms of entertainment over at the saloon. Unfortunately, best laid plans etc., got laid to rest when they not only recognized the local deputy, but the local deputy whose name was not posted on the sheriff's office plaque, recognized them!
Both party's had instantly taken off in two different directions; our two ex-outlaws who fortunately had yet to surrender their horses to the local livery, headed at a full gallop out of town. The deputy made a dash back to the sheriff's office to announce his discovery and motivate his superior to mount up a posse!
As is often the case, by the time a posse was put together, organized and sent off in pursuit, their quarry was long gone and lost in the hills. Unfortunately that fact did not change the fact that Heyes' plans for his cousin's birthday were squashed. Instead of a nice fancy supper in the comfort of a higher than average restaurant the boys found themselves simply grateful to find cover from the rain and have enough of something edible in their saddlebags.

“I can't count how many times we get rain on my birthday.” Kid groused quietly. “For some reason your birthday is always cold but sunny, but mine? Always wet.”

“Yeah.” Heyes had to agree. “March is like that. The transformation from winter into spring tends to bring warmer temperatures and more rain rather than snow.”

Kid looked over at his cousin, seeing the light from the fire dancing in his brown eyes. “No need to get all technical, just making an observation is all.”

Heyes grinned. “And I'm simply confirming your observation.”

Kid sighed and poured himself another coffee. “Even when we were young'uns...” He reminisced. “...your birthday would come along and your pa would hitch up the sled and he'd take us both out for a ride. It was fun—cold, but fun. Then my birthday and it'd be raining. Pouring even! Turning what was left of the snow into cold slushy mud! Every year. Year after year.”

It was Heyes' turn to sigh. “You're awfully melancholy.” He grumbled, trying to cover up that he still felt guilty. “Just cause we couldn't have a nice supper in a nice restaurant....”

“Aww, that ain't it Heyes.” Kid admitted. “I guess it's just the idea of one more year. Tick tock, tick tock. Geesh, even at the Hole we had more fun celebratin' the holidays than we've had since we left outlawin'. And every time my birthday rolls around I'm thinkin'; well, maybe next year things will be better. Maybe next year we'll have our amnesty.”

“Yeah, I know Kid.” Heyes agreed. “I guess we're both getting too old for this life style but damned if I know what to do about it.” He smiled and reached around for his saddle bag. Dragging it around in front of him he opened it up and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and held it up as an offering. “How about a 'specialty coffee'? Warm the spirit and the mind!”

Kid grinned and offered up his cup. “Sure! Didn't know ya' had any of that left.”

Heyes nodded with pleasure. “Yeah. Saved it for just such an occasion.”

He poured a generous portion into each of their cups and set the bottle back down to await further attention. Then he opened up the other side of his saddle bags and pulled out a small box. He smiled a little self-consciously but it was also laced with the quiet pleasure of anticipation; of being able to present his cousin with a gift even if the circumstances weren't quite as he had imagined them.
Curry frowned slightly at the unexpected offering. He glanced up and met his cousin's shining eyes and putting down his coffee cup, reached across the small fire and accepted the box. He sat and simply looked at it for a moment, feeling a tad awkward and surprised; all he'd done was take Heyes out for supper! He hadn't bought him anything.

“Are ya' gonna open it?” Heyes asked him, feeling that excitement of the gift-giver, expecting to bring pleasure to a friend.

“Oh yeah.” Kid smiled and then opened the little box. His jaw dropped in awed surprise and he ran his fingers gently over the surface of the offering. “Wow....Heyes.....” He looked over at his cousin again. “How did you....?”

Heyes grinned, his excitement taking over his dimples. “I saw you admiring it at the silversmiths.” He explained. “I mean....it's not like I didn't know your birthday was coming. And I had done pretty well at the poker tables that weekend, if you recall.”

“Yeah, I know but....wow.” Jed grinned then himself, deciding not to question the generosity. “Thanks Heyes.”

Heyes leaned back against his saddle again, cradling his coffee cup and watching his cousin drinking in the reality of his gift. With the way the fire light played with the shadows on his face and lit up his blue eyes, Jed looked like that little boy again at Christmas time. How did he do that? Heyes mused. With each passing year it always seemed that Kid ended up looking younger while Heyes himself would see an older reflection staring back at him.
Was it the blue eyes? The blond curls? Or was it simply that Heyes just felt older? Oh well, it didn't really matter.

“You're welcome Kid.”

Jed smiled and picked up the finely crafted, turquoise inlaid silver belt buckle and again ran his fingers appreciatively across the exquisite workmanship.

Heyes leaned forward again, raising his cup in a toast. “Happy Birthday, Kid.”

Kid picked up his own cup and the cousins tapped tin and took a drink. And the fire made the shadows dance upon the damp walls of the cave while the rain beat a solid tattoo upon the the rocks and shrubbery surrounding the entrance to their cozy shelter.

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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:49 pm

March Comes in Like a Lion and Out Like a Lamb

Two men traveled, one following the other, against the biting, driving wind. A blizzard had swooped out of the mountains to the west, catching the travelers unaware. They rode with their hats pulled down low, their coat collars up, gloves on, shoulders hunched, and their bandanas covering most of their faces. The horses hung their heads low and carefully, slowly plodded one step at a time.

“Heyes,” shouted the Kid over the wind. “What month is it?”

“Early March,” his partner responded back in a loud voice.

“Sure wish spring would get here!”

“Me, too, Kid. Me, too!” Heyes grumbled under his breath.

“Horses can’t take much more,” Curry commented.

“Neither can we, but there hasn’t been any shelter.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A half an hour later, the horses stopped. Shivering, Curry glanced up and saw they were at a grove of evergreens. The snow drifted high on the north and west sides of the trees with the center being more protected from the wind and snow, a natural shelter.

He patted his gelding on the neck with numb fingers. “Good boy!” he mumbled, under a frozen bandana, as he slid out of the saddle. He put a hand on his friend’s leg. “Heyes?”

“Hmm…” came a muffled replied.

“Com’on, partner. The horses found us a little bit of protection from this storm.”

Heyes glanced up and shuddered. “So cold!”

“Yeah, me too.”

Heyes slowly dismounted and they led the animals into the trees. The branches above them were thick with snow creating a roof and the drifts a barrier to the biting wind.

The Kid rubbed his arms as he walked to the thick wall of snow. “This looks like a good place.” He kneeled and began digging a cave with his hands.

After a few minutes, he noticed his partner still standing there, shaking. “Heyes, cut some branches down so we have a place to sit.”

“C-c-old.” Heyes’ teeth clattered.

Curry walked over and briskly rubbed his partner’s arms. “You gotta move; it’ll help get you warm until we get a fire lit.”

Heyes nodded as he shook. Sluggishly, he pulled a knife from his boot and began cutting some of the lower branches.

The Kid went back to forming a cavern for more protection.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

An hour later, Heyes and Curry were huddled together in a snow shelter, lined with pine boughs. An old coffeepot sat on a rock at the edge of a small fire at the open-end of their cave, facing inside the grove of trees. Dead wood, they found on the ground, lay nearby to feed the struggling flames.

“The coffee’s about done. We’re gonna have to get out of these wet clothes.”

Heyes shivered in response, but did not move.

Curry pulled out a pair of socks, long johns, pants, and a shirt from his saddle bags before he began removing his jacket. “Heyes!”

“Yeah?”

“Have to get outta those wet clothes.” He shivered as he took off his shirt and pants.

“Can’t. I’m freezing.”

Curry sighed as he quickly put on his dry long johns, pants, shirt and jacket. He pulled up the clean socks and stomped his feet back into his boots. “A cup of coffee and then change?”

More shivering was the only response.

The Kid poured two cups of coffee and handed one to Heyes, who wrapped his frozen fingers around it.

Curry cautiously took a sip, and then another. “Drink some of it before it gets cold.”

Heyes sipped the hot coffee. “Oh…” Had another drink. “So warm.”

“You’ll get warmer faster if you change outta your wet clothes.”

“I know…” Shiver. “But it’s too cold. Can’t get my coat off.”

The Kid pulled out dry clothes for his partner and reached over to unbutton Heyes’ jacket. “You really need a warmer coat than this.” He undid the shirt’s buttons and helped Heyes get into a clean Henley, shirt, and his jacket, again.

“Thanks, Kid.” Heyes shuddered, but not as violently as before.

“I ain’t helpin’ with your pants.”

“I can do ‘em. Just give me a minute and more coffee first.”

Curry poured more coffee and the men cradled the cups in their hands for warmth.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A short time later, Curry put more snow in the coffee pot to melt while Heyes changed his pants and socks. After putting his boots back on, he held his fingers towards the fire. “That feels better. About froze there.”

“Yeah, you were pretty sluggish there for awhile.”

“I couldn’t think or get my body to respond. I was just too cold.”

“Thank goodness the horses found this grove of trees.”

“Yeah, don’t think we could have survived much longer. Still cold, but at least we’re out of the wind.” Heyes rubbed his warmer hands on his legs.

“March… Never can predict the weather. The snow was startin’ to melt when we left Durango.”

“Remember what Grandpa Curry said about March?” Heyes glanced at his partner and continued when he saw him shake his head, “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.”

Curry reached over and checked the pot and smiled. He poured more coffee in their mugs. “Sure hope he’s right this year.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Several weeks later, Heyes and the Kid were leisurely riding between Colorado Springs and Denver.

“What a beautiful day!” Heyes took a deep breath and sighed contently. “The air is warmer, the snow is melted, all the wildflowers…”

“Hard to believe we were freezin’ a few weeks ago, huh?”

“Sure is,” Heyes agreed. Looks like Grandpa Curry was right. March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Two men traveled, one following the other, against the biting, driving wind. A blizzard had swooped out of the mountains to the west, catching the travelers unaware. They rode with their hats pulled down low, their coat collars up, gloves on, shoulders hunched, and their bandanas covering most of their faces. The horses hung their heads low and carefully, slowly plodded one step at a time.

“Heyes,” shouted the Kid over the wind. “What day is it?”

“Last day of March,” his partner responded back in a loud voice.

“What happened to in like a lion and out like a lamb? Grandpa Curry lied!”

“Nah, Grandpa didn’t lie; just a bad folklore, Kid.” Heyes strained to see in front of them for any kind of shelter. “Hey, I see a cabin up ahead.”

“Just in a nick of time, I’m about frozen.” Curry shivered and he spurred his horse ahead. “I can’t wait for spring!”

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PostSubject: Re: March 2013 - March...   Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:00 pm

The March King


Hannibal Heyes sat at a table in his room at the boardinghouse, pen in hand and open journal in front of him. He put the nib to the page, and stopped. Frowning, he put the pen down on the desk, flexing his hand.

A familiar knock on the door interrupted him. The dark-haired ex-outlaw rose and grabbed his pistol from the holster dangling from the bedpost. He took up sentinel at the threshold. Sotto voce, “Yeah?”

A soft, “It’s me,” gained his partner entrance to the room.

Heyes uncocked the sidearm, re-holstered it, and settled back at the desk. “How’d it go?”

Jed “Kid” Curry proceeded to take off his sheepskin coat. “’Kay.”

“How much was it?”

“Two bits apiece, in advance, per night.”

Heyes sighed. “So far, so good. We don’t know the sheriff, and after spending two bits each for us and the horses, that’s a dollar. We’re only gonna be able to stay one night.”

Kid removed his holster. “Somehow it don’t seem too good a deal – the horses cost the same as we do.”

“Well, it IS a good deal, and you know it. Where else we gonna get a bed, bath, and three squares for two bits? The hotel’s too expensive.”

“I know, Heyes. So much for enjoyin’ ourselves a little bit. I mean, this is Denver. If only Clem was home.”

“She’s not, so no sense dwelling on it.”

Curry sat on the bed. “Okay, so we’ve cleaned off the trail dust, we’ll have a good night’s sleep in a soft bed, and three decent meals, and the horses’re taken care of. Not bad. But what do we do for entertainment with only seventy-three cents left between us? We won’t even be here long enough to be able to get our laundry done.” He got up, strode to the desk, and looking down at Heyes’ journal, beheld a blank page. “So you didn’t come up with any plan, either. Dang, Heyes!”

“Calm down, Kid. We’ll think of something. Even if we go for a walk, there’s plenty to see. Like you said, it IS Denver.”

“Sheesh, just throw it up in my face, won’t ya!”

Heyes chuckled. “Sure. Want me to do it again? That’ll keep ME entertained!”

Blue eyes glared.

“Look on the bright side. We were lucky enough to get here just before lunch, and it was pretty good, and there was plenty. Dinner’s bound to be the same, and breakfast tomorrow. You can have all you want – seconds and thirds, even, and it won’t cost us an extra penny.”

Kid looked out the window. Seeing only a dark alley, he tossed the curtain aside in disgust. “So what’re we gonna do with our fortune? Let’s not spend it all in one place.”

“Well, we need supplies…”

“I need a box of bullets. Two would be better.”

Heyes eyed both gun belts. Some of the bullet holders were empty. “How many rounds do we have between us?”

Kid took a minute to count to himself, then checked the chamber of each pistol. “Unless you’re holding out on me, we have thirty even – sixteen for you, fourteen for me.”

Heyes thought out loud. “And a small box costs another two bits.”

“Probably higher here because it’s the big city.”

Heyes wrote. “Okay, figure thirty-five cents. That’s thirty-eight cents left. We’ll get a box for you, and I’ll make do with what I have.”

“Okay.”

“Unless…”

“What?”

“Unless I play a couple of hands of penny ante poker. I should be able to at least double or triple what we have and entertain myself at the same time.” Heyes grinned. “That’s a right good plan, don’t ya think?”

Blue eyes rolled. “Maybe for you, Heyes. What about coffee, flour, beans…?”

“Yeah, I know – don’t forget the hardtack, oats…” Heyes sighed. “We just can’t afford everything right now, not without a job or poker winnings.”

“Not much chance of a job, either. Liveryman said with the recession, there’s too many men and not enough work.”

The dark-haired man’s brow furrowed. “Great. And we thought it might be different here, big town and all. So we’re back to square one.”

“Looks that way.” Kid paced, stopped. “What about seein’ if Lom knows of somethin’?”

“Fine idea, if we had the money to send a wire.”

“Dang! Heyes, that bank is lookin’ awfully good right now. If only…”

“I know what you mean. ‘If only,’ is right.”

A bell rang.

Kid perked up. “Dinner.”

Heyes stood and reached for the key. “Here’s a plan to start with. Let’s eat our fill, go buy that box of bullets, price out a few more supplies, and see what else we can figure out.”

***

The partners strolled Larimer Street. All of the bullet holders in Kid Curry’s gun belt were now filled.

“Fate’s shining on us, Kid. I’m feeling lucky.”

“Why? We only have two bits left.”

“Look on the bright side. We were able to get a box of bullets, coffee, beans, and flour for less than four bits. That’s a pretty good deal. You said so yourself.”

“Yeah, it is. But only because the bags were so small. That’s barely enough coffee or beans for a week on the trail!”

“Then you’ll just have to find enough game to keep our bellies full, and conserve bullets.”

“Heyes, don’t go tellin’ me how to shoot.”

“I’m not.” Brown eyes twinkled. "Now for my end of it. Let’s find a low stakes game.”

Blue eyes rolled. “You mean a poor man’s game? You ain’t gonna find it in this part of town.”

Men and women in Eastern finery seemed to outnumber those in working garb, while the saloons and gambling halls where they walked looked a tad too grand.

Heyes nodded south. “Let’s try over that way.”

***

The dark-haired partner spied an open chair at a table. “Is there a buy-in?”

The man shuffling cards looked up briefly. “Nope. Penny to open and nickel limit. Call on the second raise.”

Heyes grinned and took a seat. “Sounds good. Deal me in.”

***

Kid Curry watched as his partner quickly won his first five hands to build up a little stake, then eased off so as not to arouse suspicion. After a couple of hours, Heyes took a break, signalling Kid to join him at the bar.

“Two beers.”

“Joshua, we can’t afford that.”

“I say we can.” Heyes dropped a dime on the bar. “Besides, I’ll need a break every now and then.” He counted out some coins and handed them to Kid. “Here’s a dollar. Hold it so we can pay another night for us and the livery in advance. These guys are pretty good poker players. It’s gonna take a while to get any kind of stake. There’s gotta be a better way.”

“What about a higher stakes game?”

The dark-haired man took a swig. “Ah, that’s good. I asked. Even the next level up of low stakes games has a buy-in around these parts. I’ll have to play here. It’ll keep me occupied most of the time, but I should be able to get us a couple dollars a day, maybe.”

“Not gonna get rich that way.”

Heyes grabbed his mug. “No, but it’ll keep us at the boardinghouse day to day and enough for more supplies. I gotta get back.” He stopped in mid-step. “You know, these guys are good players and kinda friendly, and this place is pretty quiet. I’ll be okay if you want to see what else is around.”

Kid raised an eyebrow. “You sure?”

“Me and my back are sure. Check in every hour or so if you want.”

Blue eyes scanned the saloon. “Okay. I’ll be back in a while.”

“Okay.”

“Joshua.”

Heyes looked behind him. “Huh?”

“Good luck.”

***

The pickings being slim in the area where Heyes was playing, Kid walked back to Larimer Street. Music caught his ear. Approaching the sound, he saw a crowd gathered around a makeshift band stand in the middle of the square, illuminated by gas lamps in the fading daylight. From his vantage point, he could see men in military uniform playing high-spirited, marching music. Several people around him nodded their heads in time to the tunes, and Kid couldn’t help but tap a foot.

The band played two more songs after he arrived. The conductor, whom Kid could barely see, spoke, but the applause drowned him out. Before the blond ex-outlaw left, he perused a flyer someone had handed him.

***

“What are you thinking? You can’t do this. You know that!”

“Heyes, just like you know when to go ahead and win and back off in poker, so do I with shootin’. It’ll be easy. And there’s cash prizes for the three top finishers, so I don’t even have to try to win to get somethin’.”

Hannibal Heyes’ face was bright red. “It’ll just draw attention to you…to us!”

“Keep your voice down, Heyes; we’re inside. Now who might be drawin’ attention to us?” Kid raised an eyebrow.

Heyes shook his head. “If Thaddeus Jones wins…”

“Who’s Thaddeus Jones? I know another.”

***

The next morning after breakfast, Kid Curry stood in the middle of their room at the boardinghouse, twirling his Colt. Practicing his fast draw, he stopped in mid-step at the familiar knock on the door. He approached the threshold to let his partner in.

Hannibal Heyes entered the room as Kid once again drew. The dark-haired man rolled his eyes. “I don’t know how I let you talk me into this. We’re gonna live to regret it.”

Kid smiled. “Have some faith in me, will ya? It’s gonna be okay. It’s on the edge of town, I’ll be under a different name, and I’ll try not to win. And even if I did…”

“Kid…”

The blond man smiled. “Don’t worry, Heyes. You don’t have to come, you know.”

“I don’t? Somebody’s gotta watch your back, even if it takes me away from the easy money.”

“Ha! Sittin’ on your ass all day for a couple dollars is easy money?”

“It’s more or less guaranteed, and we’re flat broke otherwise.”

“Yeah, I know, Heyes. This is my way to save ya some of that sittin’. Let’s get the horses.”

***

The partners rode to the designated area. Scanning the crowd carefully, they saw no one with whom they might have struck up a recent acquaintance or who otherwise seemed interested in them. Satisfied, Kid approached the registration table.

“I’d like to enter the contest.”

A bearded man looked him over. “Name?”

“Thaddeus Hotchkiss.”

“Experience?”

“Huh?”

“What’s your shooting experience?”

Kid tried to hide a knowing smile. “Uh, I usually hit what I aim at.”

“Very good. Weapon?”

“Yup, right here.” The blond man indicated his Colt.

“Young man, where’s your shotgun?”

“Uh, shotgun?”

“Well, this is a trapshooting competition. I’ve never known anyone to compete with anything but a shotgun.”

“Oh, I…” Kid sighed.

“We have them for rent for the competition.”

“You do? Uh, how much?”

“A dollar.”

Kid gulped. “A, a dollar?”

“That’s right.”

“Umm, can you hold my place? I’ll be right back.”

***

The partners stood apart from the crowd.

“Come on, Heyes. It’s just a dollar.”

“That’s highway robbery! Since when is it ‘just a dollar’ when that’ll keep us in relative luxury another day?”

Sigh. “Forget it. We can’t afford it.”

“That’s right.”

The blond man turned to walk back to his horse.

“Wait, Kid.”

Curry held his ground.

Heyes caught up. “This isn’t such a sure thing anymore, is it?”

Kid regarded his partner. “No. Not with shotguns.”

“But you should do okay.”

“I should…”

“Ya know, I still can’t say I’m thrilled with this, but…” Heyes withdrew a bill from his pocket. “My backside can use a rest.”

***

Several hours later, the five competitors in the lead entered the final round, Thaddeus Hotchkiss amongst them. Quiet beforehand, the spectators cheered after each shot as most of the platter-sized clay pigeons disintegrated to pieces. Even Heyes got into the spirit.

Each man shot from five different stations, the targets flying from the central trap in all directions. At the conclusion of the last round, the judge announced a tie between Mr. Hotchkiss and a man in a military uniform. After a break, there would be a shoot-off for first place.

***

Hannibal Heyes smiled. “That was some pretty good shooting.”

“It’s not over yet.”

Heyes sobered. “Kid, you’re guaranteed the second place prize. Let that be good enough.”

“I can’t. That guy’s a musician!”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

Kid eyed his competitor from a distance. “Look at that fancy uniform. He’s a lucky shot.”

“I’ve been watching the whole thing, and it looks to me like he knows what he’s doing. He’s relaxed out there.”

“I’m not?”

Heyes raised an eyebrow. “To tell the truth, Kid, you looked a little…nervous at first. But just a little.”

The partners regarded each other.

“But, that don’t matter. I’d appreciate it if you just settled for second place. Miss enough targets to let him win.”

Blue eyes pleaded. “Heyes, you know what you’re askin’?”

“Yeah. I do.” The dark-haired man nodded. “And you know I do, and it’s not easy. But…”

***

The partners walked back to their horses.

“Ten dollars. Not bad for a few hours of enjoying yourself.”

Kid was silent.

Heyes draped an arm around the blond man’s shoulders.

“Kid, thanks. I appreciate what you did. We still have enough for another night or two, and with this ten, I can buy into a bigger game, make enough so we won’t have to worry about money or finding work for a while.”

Kid sighed. “I could’ve won that, Heyes.”

“You sure? With that musician turning out to be an experienced trap shooter? I’m not so sure you could’ve won it. He didn’t miss.”

“And I missed on purpose.”

Heyes smiled. “Then I guess we’ll never know.”

“And to think that guy plays marches for a livin’.”

“And yours is stayin' out of trouble.”



Note: John Philip Sousa, the American “March King,” conducted the Marine Band from 1880-92. The band went on its first nationwide tour in 1891, but for purposes of this story, I’ve pulled that date back a decade.

Sousa was an avid trap shooter and headed and helped found various trap shooting and related organizations. He was inducted into the Trap Shooting Hall of Fame in 1985.

The following are links to more information.


http://www.traphof.org/Inductees/Sousa-John-Phillip.html

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/html/sousa/sousa-timeline.html

http://www.claytargetsonline.com/trapshooting.php
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