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 June 2014 - Too Quiet

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Calico

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Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 52
Location : Birmingham

PostSubject: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Sun Jun 01, 2014 12:48 am

Ah me, the months roll by so quickly.

And still the ex-outlaw appreciation flows like - like - like a flowy thing.

I know that - with the exception of wire dodgers, who I hope are now getting some well deserved Zeds - you are all eagerly awaiting your next challenge.

Tongues hanging out.
Paws raised in a cut imploring manner.
Whiskers - any that have missed the depilation - aquiver.

Inspired by WichitaRed's recent post your challenge for June is:


"Too Quiet"


(Shush)

On tippy toes - off you go to start tapping.  writing 
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Maz

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PostSubject: Re: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:50 am

Too Quiet
By Maz McCoy

Standing beside the window, Kid Curry looked down at the street below and sighed.
Sitting on the bed, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle, Hannibal Heyes looked up from his book but said nothing. He returned his attention to the page.
Kid gave another sigh.
Heyes licked his index finger and used it to turn the page.
Kid sighed again.
“What’s wrong?” his friend asked.
“Nothin’.”
Heyes folded the corner of his page, a practice that sends shivers of horror through the heart of a true bibliophile, and closed the book. He placed it on the bedcover. “If nothing’s wrong why d’you keep sighing?”
Turning his back on the window Kid drew his gun from its holster and gave it a casual twirl. “It’s too quiet.”
“Well, you know why. Maz has a lot to do at this time of year and…”
“It’s not that. It’s not Maz. It’s the other ladies.”
“They’re probably busy too.”
“Oh, they’re busy all right.” Kid strode towards the bed. “They’re plannin’ somethin’.”
Heyes’ brow furrowed. “They are?”
“Yep. I’ve been reading that message board thing and trust me they’re up to somethin’.”
Heyes swung his socked feet over the side of the bed and sat up determined to be tolerant. “So what are they up to?”
“I think they’re plannin’ a robbery.”
“WHAT?”
“I know, hard to believe, huh?”
“Kid, that’s crazy. They’re not…”
“They’re headin’ to San Francisco.”
An eyebrow rose. “They are?”
“Could be meetin’ up with Silky.”
“I doubt it.”
“It’s that Russian gal that’s…”
“Woah.” Heyes held up a hand. “What Russian gal?”
“Penski. That’s a Russian name right?”
Heyes considered this. He’d never thought about it before but Kid could be right. “I guess she must be.”
“Well, she’s called them all to San Francisco.”
“She’s getting the gang together.” A statement, not a question.
“I think she is. She’s bringin’ in somethin’ called an RV.”
“Sounds like code.”
“Yeah, but for what?”
Heyes shook his head in doubt. “It could be something innocent. It doesn’t mean they’re planning a robbery.”
“She’s gonna teach ‘em how to shoot.”
“WHAT?” Heyes was on his feet. He grabbed his hat from the bed post and planted it firmly on his head as he searched around for his gun belt. “We hafta stop them!” He threw the belt around his slim hips. Some might call them skinny but others look at those hips and…but I digress.
A horrifying thought struck Kid. “You don’t think Maz is in on this do you?”
Heyes placed a reassuring hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Has she emptied her suitcase?”
“No.”
“Has she been studying the temperature in San Francisco and muttering about what the heck do you wear over there?”
“No.”
“Has she bought a box of tea bags ‘cos they don’t know how to make it right?”
“No.”
“Then she’s not going.”
Kid relaxed. “That’s good.”
Heyes finished buckling on his gun belt. “Okay. We hafta stop these ladies before they do anything stupid. It’s our fault, Kid. We haven’t been paying them enough attention and this is a cry for help.”
“Where do we go first?”
“That cat woman lives in England. She has a thing for my dimples. I reckon I should go have a word with her.” He smiled. “Once I use my silver tongue on her she’ll be purring in my hand. I’ll find out their plans.”
“What about Maz? She’ll notice we’ve gone.”
“Don’t worry. She said she was going to look at her courgettes. We can sneak out now.”
They headed for the door, when Kid stopped his friend. “Courgettes? What the heck are courgettes?”
Heyes shrugged. “French underwear?”
A wicked smile formed on Kid’s face. “They are?”


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

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PostSubject: Re: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:43 pm

Too Quiet

Cally Coe frowned sternly at her variegated geraniums. The garden scissors quivered. Yes? No? Yes! The dead heading was complete. Any more would fall into the category of live heading. And as any gardener worth her salt knows – that ain’t good.

The frown relaxed leaving her velvety brow as smooth and unwrinkled as…

[Who snirted?]

Cally draped her slender, yet delightfully curvy…

[I heard that! Any more heckling will be punished with immediate cessation of chocolate ration.]

She draped herself over her lounger, tipped her sunhat over her face and sighed happily.
Birds twittered. Squirrels chirruped. Leaves rustled.
Bliss.
Was it perhaps too quiet?

Er- nope.
Despite the fact that an excess of tranquillity would have been handy, given the title of the current month’s challenge – the hum of the world cup from every telly in the street, and the agonised groans emanating from the incumbent of her very own sofa beyond the folding doors, meant it was not TOO quiet.
But it was bliss.

Suddenly she started upright. Was that the sound of hooves? And - a whicker?
With one soil encrusted finger Cally pushed up her brim.

Two familiar horses were tethered to the recycling bin. Not surprisingly two even more familiar ex-outlaws were regarding her with affectionate – and in one case, dimpled – smiles.

Well, I say ‘not surprisingly’. It was a surprise. It was just less of a surprise given the double equine clue currently tugging a stray tendril off her jasmine.

“Hello, boys!”

“Hello, Cally,” grinned Heyes, letting his eyes rove appreciatively over the areas she was currently exposing to the evening sunshine. “You’re lookin’ good.”

[Well, Heyes IS a genius.]

“What are you doing here? Not that I’m complaining…” she purred.

“Maz sent us,” said Curry. “She asked me to give you a quickie…”

Feminine eyebrows twitched. It was unlike Maz to be so generous with the blond’s attentions. And Cally usually stayed on the dark side. Still, variety is the spice of life…

“I guess I could be persua…”

“Here it is.”

Cally’s voice tailed off as she eyed what Kid Curry has pulled from his saddle-bags.

Sorry looking vegetables wilted, despondent, amongst a sunken egg filling and a casing that had not survived the ride unscathed.

“It’s pronounced – quiche.” She tried to keep the disappointment out of her voice. She failed.

“It’s courgette.”

“I can see that.” Pause. Two inches of pastry wall gave up the ghost and flopped, damply, to the paving slabs beneath. “How – generous – of Maz.”

“No need to sound so ungrateful,” huffed Heyes. “She did send us both on a visit.”

“I guess so,” admitted Cally. She pondered on Maz’s usual attitude to letting Kid Curry out of her firm grip, let alone out of her sight. “Why?”

“Just to check on how you are. See if you had any news? Any plans? Maybe…” Endearing smile. Heyes bent close to whisper in her ear. “…Travel plans.”

“Travel plans?” Cally mused. “Hmmm – let me think.”

“Don’t stall,” Heyes let his warm breath stir the fine down on her cheek… “You can tell me.” His lips moved down. His fingers twined amidst…

“Heyes, please take your fingers off my bush!”

“Aw, but it feels so silky.”

“You’ll break the stems.”

Reluctantly, Heyes removed his hands off the luxuriant fennel whose leaves brushed the garden lounger.

“We need to know what you and the rest of the Appreciation Society are planning in ‘Frisco,” said Heyes.

“Why?”

“Call it friendly int’rest,” grunted Kid.

“I suppose you think we spend all our time talking about you…”

“Well…” Heyes hesitated. For once, honesty got the better of him. “Yes.”

“Hey!” protested Kid. “Most of ‘em talk about me!”

“Most?” Heyes’ eyebrow lifted quizzically.

“At least half like me best!”

The other eyebrow rose. A gentle – disbelieving – smile.

“They do!”

“Keep telling yourself that, Kid.”

Curry scowled. “This ain’t what we came for. We came to find out about the guns.”

“Guns?” Cally peered down her neckline. Apart from being a touch closer to ground level than twenty years back, what was wrong with her…?

“Not your… Real guns,” said Heyes.

“These are real.”

“Pistols!” snapped his partner.

“Kid!” protested Cally. “That’s not a nice word for a lady’s…”

“Are you and the rest of the gals learning how to shoot?” cut in Heyes.

“Oh that. Yup. After all,” she shrugged, “how hard can it be?”

“How hard…?” Kid Curry audibly inhaled patience.

“Why do you even want to learn?” Heyes’ brows drew together. “What are you all plotting?”

“Nothing!”

“You’re not thinkin’ of holdin’ us hostage like Crazy Lorraine, are ya?” asked Kid.

“Perish the thought.” Two suspicious ex-outlaws gazed at the picture of innocence on the sun-lounger. They were not convinced. “You can trust us. You know what the ladies of the Appreciation Society are like.” Cally oozed integrity like a – like a crumpet oozes butter. “Would we ever hurt you?”

A glance was exchanged. And a shudder.

“That settles it,” sighed Curry.

“Yup,” agreed Heyes. “We’ll hafta go to ‘Frisco too, keep an eye on them.”

Cally Coe retilted her sun hat to hide the smug smirk of self-satisfaction.

Result!

xxx xxx xxx
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Fri Jun 20, 2014 8:43 am

I still haven't caught up on last month's stories and I apologize for that.  I'm looking forward to reading, but, today, I found myself wanting to write so here's a short scene.

Heyes didn’t know what had awakened him.  It wasn’t unusual.  Many nights he would rise to consciousness, fully awake, and his brain furiously working.  With a sigh, he threw back the cotton blanket and sat up, swinging his feet around and dangling them over the side of the bed.  He scratched at his long johns and ran his hands through his hair, trying to peer through the shadows surrounding him.  Everything was in its place as it should be.  There was no reason for him to rouse; not as exhausted as he’d been when he’d fallen into the soft feather bed that dominated the sparsely-furnished room.

He knew from long experience that it was no use trying to fall back asleep.  Standing up, he shuffled his way to the front door of the leader’s cabin and stepped outside.  The Full Buck moon glistened brightly overhead and there was enough silvery light to define the tall cottonwoods that loomed over his home.  

Home?  No, it wasn’t home, but it was all they had. He didn't like the direction of those thoughts and he felt a flush of anxiety. 

He could hear the soft snoring emanating from his partner’s room and seeping through the rippled pane of glass in the window next to the porch.  Quietly, he pulled on the muddy boots he’d discarded the previous night before entering the cabin.  He crept down the stairs, wincing at every creaking step, and walked across the dusty yard towards the trail to the outhouse.

**********

The Kid didn’t know what had awakened him, but he knew something was amiss.  He rolled over onto his back and listened to the chirrups of the crickets and the atonal concert of the bullfrogs that lived in the Hole’s reedy wetlands.  The ceiling above his head was lost in the darkness and he turned his attention to the window next to his bed.  The familiar gray form of his partner passed by and he knew Heyes was on the prowl again.  He sighed.

**********  

Exiting the privy, Heyes wandered down to the creek and sat listening to the gurgling and splashing of the water for a long time hoping that it would anesthetize his mind and dull his senses.  It didn’t.  He paid a late-night visit to the barn, walking down the aisle way, and disturbing the sleeping occupants.  One or two beasts rose to their feet and their glossy heads appeared over the half-doors.  A few nickers were issued, plainly hopeful that they were about to receive a midnight snack.  Disappointed, their sleepy eyes followed his progress as he strolled down the corridor and disappeared through the wide, double doors that had been left open to the sultry night.

His meanderings took him past the bunkhouse where he could hear Kyle talking in his sleep again and he paused by the opened window to see if he could make out what his small friend was mumbling.  It sounded like he was alternating between wooing a hesitant woman and sweet-talking a fizzled bundle of dynamite into performing.  Heyes chuckled silently.  Good old Kyle always ran true to form.  

Feeling awkward at eavesdropping on his unsuspecting gang, he continued on towards the meadow.   A small herd of mule deer were grazing near the far side of it, keeping close to the sheltering willows that surrounded the expanse.  Heyes stretched out on the dewy grass, disturbing the night noises, and stared at the sky overhead.  The stars glowed faintly, competing with the brilliant moon, and he could clearly see clouds passing by.  His ears picked up the delicate munching of the deer and the sounds of their progress.  They knew he was there and they were keeping an eye on him, but he didn’t pose a threat yet so they tolerated his presence.  

He began counting backwards from a thousand; anything to stop his mind from kicking in and thoughts from forming.  He knew that he had to keep himself distracted; knew he couldn’t handle the darkness that was threatening to rise from within him.  He had just counted down to three hundred and seventy-six when he heard telltale footsteps drawing near.  He listened as they paused at the edge of the meadow and then continued on towards him.  A moment later, the Kid dropped down next to him and flopped back beside him.

“Couldn’t sleep, huh?”

“Nope,” said Heyes.

“How come?”

“Don’t know, just couldn’t.”

“I woke up when you went to the john.”

“Sorry, I thought I was being quiet.”

“You were bein’ quiet.  That’s the problem.  You were too quiet.  You’ve been too quiet for a while now.  What’s botherin’ you, Heyes?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on, I know the signs.  Something’s eatin’ at you and I'm pretty sure I know what it is.”  The Kid looked over at Heyes, trying to see him clearly in the gloom of the night.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”  Heyes’ voice betrayed his agitation.

“All right, then, I’ll tell you what’s wrong,” said Curry, sitting up and ripping out a long blade of grass, running it through his fingers.  “It’s been twelve years, Heyes.  I ain’t forgotten.  Twelve years next week, and you still can’t talk to me about it.”

Heyes jumped to his feet, his hands forming tightly-curled fists.  “Shut up, Kid.”

“No, I ain’t shuttin’ up.  That’s what you do.  You shut up and you keep all the poison inside you where it can fester and grow ugly.”

“I told you before; I’m not talking to you about this.”  Heyes started to walk away towards the deer and they spooked, melting into the willows.

“Suit yourself, but you’re making a mistake.”  

Heyes stopped and turned around abruptly, angry now.  “I’m not afraid of making mistakes, Kid; I’ve made a lot of them.”

Curry laughed, “You sure have and I’m bettin’ you’ll keep right on makin’ ‘em.”

“Like you haven’t?”

Getting to his feet, the Kid walked to his partner and placed a hand on one of Heyes’ tense shoulders.  He didn’t say anything for a second or two; he just peered into the sad, brown eyes looking at him with a touch of fear.  Heyes only feared one thing, and he knew what that was.  “I reckon I have, but the one mistake I haven’t made is believin’ that I could make the pain go away by not rememberin’.”  Heyes looked away, but he continued on, “I think about them all the time and, yes, sometimes it hurts and I hate it, but I know that I can’t choose what I remember and I damn well ain’t willin’ to forget them just because I’m afraid of hurtin’.”  He gripped Heyes’ shoulder harshly and gently shook his partner.
 
“Remember them, Heyes, remember it all, and you’ll soon find that you can let go of the bad memories.  The good ones will take their place.”  His hand dropped off Heyes’ shoulder and he shook his head.  “Think about it.”  Turning, he walked away towards the cabin lights.

Heyes watched him go, watched the slice of bright light illuminate the cabin door as it opened and closed; watched the same light go out a moment later and then he felt the darkness surround him.

It was quiet again, far too quiet.


Note:  Some Native American cultures refer to July's full moon as the Full Buck moon as this is the time of year that the male deers' antlers grow in.

_________________
*****************

"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature." —Dave Barry
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LittleBluestem



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PostSubject: Too Quiet   Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:13 pm

Sheriff Owen Blake was feeling mighty proud of himself. It wasn’t every day he arrested not one, but TWO notorious outlaws. Just think of how famous I’ll be when word gets out that I’m the guy who finally brought In Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes to answer to the law for their sorry lives of crime, he mused to himself.

Blake chortled out loud as he reviewed the events of the day. It had begun in the early afternoon, when the two strangers had ridden into town, dusty and weary from the trail. Yep, Blake told himself. I knew they was trouble the moment I saw ‘em. He had watched with suspicion as the men scoped out the town cautiously, then stopped at the livery next door to the jail to leave their horses and finally trudge across the street and over to the hotel.

At that point, to be honest, Blake had forgotten all about the strangers. He had intended to go check them out, but he’d been distracted by other matters. But a few hours later, Garrett Washburn, the town’s banker, had shown up at the sheriff’s office in an agitated state, claiming that there were two men over to the saloon that he recognized from a train robbery he had witnessed a few years back.

“It’s Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry or I’ll eat my hat!” Washburn insisted.

Sheriff Blake instantly recalled how systematically the strangers had cased the town before going to the hotel. He immediately turned to read his Wanted posters displayed prominently on the wall behind his desk. Yep. The right age. The right heights and builds. One dark, one light.

Now it was a question of rounding up his deputies and surrounding the saloon. Less than half an hour later, everyone was in position. At Blake’s signal, they barged into the smoky room, guns drawn and shouting for everyone to hit the deck.

Surprisingly, the desperadoes did not resist arrest. They had looked at each other for a moment, seeming to communicate without words, then slowly raised their hands in surrender. Blake himself had pulled their guns from their holsters as his three young deputies kept their pistols aimed at the two men. He felt a palpable thrill knowing he was holding the actual guns of the ruthless leaders of the Devil’s Hole Gang, the most successful outlaws in the history of the west. He took gleeful pleasure in leveling Curry’s own Colt at him as the four lawmen marched the prisoners out the saloon door, down the main street, and into the jail. He kept expecting them to make a sudden dash for it or play some elaborate trick on him, but he was ready. He waited for the legendary silver tongue of Hannibal Heyes try to confusterate him, but Heyes didn’t say much of anything and Curry even less.

But as soon as he had the outlaws locked up in the cell, they started into singing. First one would sing, then the other. It was a godawful noise, especially when Heyes was taking his turn. The sheriff knew they were just trying to get a rise out of him, so he had tuned it out.

It was getting late, and Sheriff Blake usually went home around this time and let one of his deputies take over. Not tonight, though. Can’t trust anybody but my own self, he determined. He had sent the deputies home, brewed up a pot of strong coffee, and settled in for the overnight vigil.

Yep, Blake said to himself. I’m gonna be real famous. He settled back into his chair, propping his long legs on the desk, ankles crossed. At least they’d finally stopped singing, he thought to himself with satisfaction. It was nice and quiet back there now. Blake suddenly sat up straight, pulled his feet off the desk and planted them on the floor.

It was real quiet back there.

Too quiet.

He yelled out tentatively, “Heyes?....Curry?....You alright back there?”

There was no answer.

Blake stood up slowly, drawing the gun from his holster. He approached the cell block cautiously, step by step, inching his way down the narrow passageway.

As he neared the last cell, he couldn’t believe his eyes – empty! The cell was empty, the barred door standing open. Blake rubbed his eyes. This was impossible! The window was too small for a man to squeeze through. The only way out was past his desk and he’d been sitting right there the whole time! They couldn’t have gotten past him, no matter how clever they were! But they were most definitely NOT in the cell.

Just then something large and heavy landed on his back.

Blake cursed as he hit the floor. What the hell…? The impact knocked the wind out of him and he gasped for air as a second heavy weight seemed to fall out of thin air and thud beside him. A booted foot stepped onto his right forearm, pinning it to the floor. He felt rather than saw the hand that reached down and relieved him of his sidearm, prying his fingers from the grip.

“Damn, ya took long enough, Blake!” Heyes’s baritone voice rumbled. “I couldn’t a held on one more minute.”

Then the Kid’s voice, exclaiming in annoyance, “Hey! This is my gun!”

When the sheriff opened his mouth to speak, a bandanna was shoved into it and swiftly tied behind his head. He felt his hands being bound behind his back and then he was unceremoniously lifted by two sets of hands and tossed gently onto the cot in the cell. He turned his head just in time to see the heavy barred door swing shut, and on the other side of the door, the grinning faces of his erstwhile captives, now his captors: Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.

Heyes fit the iron padlock in place and closed it with a metallic snap, still smiling broadly.'

“Come on, Heyes, let’s go find your gun and our rigs and get the hell outta here.”

But before he departed, Hannibal Heyes couldn’t resist rubbing it in Blake’s face. He winked at the sheriff and raised his head, letting his gaze rest on the ceiling above for a beat. Then he tipped his hat and turned to follow his partner down the hall to the front of the office.

Blake’s eyes mirrored the outlaw’s upward glance, noticing for the first time the construction of the jail. The bars of this cell and the one across the hall rose vertically from the floor to the high ceiling. About a foot below the ceiling ran a horizontal bar. If a body was strong enough – or desperate enough – Blake reckoned he could shinny up the bars and perch there – stretched across the two cells, grasping the horizontal bar on one side with his hands and resting his feet on the horizontal bar on the other side.

But how’d they get out of the damn jail cell?

That question was answered soon enough by a low-voiced conversation just outside the cell window.

“Hurry up, Heyes, you’re better at pickin’ locks than I am,” whispered Curry. "Although I'm a better singer, if I do say so myself."

“Well get outta the way then, Kid. You’re blocking what little light there is. Sure was a stroke of luck that sheriff didn’t search me too well.”

“How’ bout I sneak into the hotel and get our bags and meetcha back here in 5 minutes.”

Without any singing to mask the noise, the scraping sounds of the lockpick could be heard clearly as Heyes worked on the lock to the livery stable next door.

In a short while, Blake could hear the jingling of bridles and the pounding of horses’ hooves as his famous prisoners rode out of his town and out of his grasp. The hoofbeats gradually faded away into the distance. He thought he heard a faint whoop.

And then all was quiet.

Real quiet.

Too quiet.
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RosieAnnie

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PostSubject: Re: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Thu Jun 26, 2014 7:55 am

This is a sort of prequel to the "In Winter" story. if you've got lots of time to spare, here's a link to that story.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9732168/1/In-Winter
-----

“What a long day this has been!” Therese Jones pulled back the heavy bed covers and climbed in next to her husband. He held up the quilts high so she could more easily slide under them. She was about to thank him when she noticed his smirking smile.

“What are you smiling like that for? I’ve been chasing three children around all day and taking care of this home. I’ve got a right to be tired.”

“I know you do, honey, I know,” Thaddeus soothed. “I was just thinking about you calling this a long day, when it’s the shortest day of the year. That’s all.”

“Oh,” she replied, mollified. She allowed him to pull her close. Lying next to Thaddeus anytime was always comforting, but it was even better on these frigid winter nights. His body was so wonderfully warm. She teased him that he gave off more heat than the big pot-bellied stove that heated their home.

“I like these winter nights,” he said. “The house is so quiet once the kids are in bed.”

“Finally in their beds, fighting me all the way. I thought I’d have to tie Joshua down.”

“Did he still have his nose buried in that science book?”

“Oh yes. I thought he’d never stop talking about the sun and the solstice, and how this is the longest night of the year, and they call this moon the Cold Moon and – well, you know Joshua. Anyway, I gave him another 10 minutes to read and made him promise he’d turn off the light.”

Thaddeus smiled again.

“Why are you smiling now?”

“Joshua. You know how tricky he is.”

She rolled over to face him. “You think he tricked me?”

“Maybe. He promised to turn off the light?” She nodded.

“He didn’t promise to stop reading. He just promised to turn off the light. He’ll probably climb out of the loft and read by the moonlight.”

“Darn it. You’re probably right. Sometimes I forget how sneaky he can be. How is it you know our son better than I do?”

Thaddeus pulled his wife closer and kissed her forehead. “I don’t know him better than you do. I knew his namesake. He was tricky, too. Always one step ahead of everybody else.”

“Now you tell me.”

“Sorry.” After a moment of silence, Therese looked closely at her husband’s face.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

“Not worth even that much,” he said. “I was just thinking about Joshua’s namesake, that’s all.”

“Try to let it go, Thaddeus. The past is past. Really, it is.” She stroked his face gently. “I know times were hard for you, but that’s over now. Let it go. Alright?”

“Alright.” He was relieved that she didn’t want him to discuss his past. She was honest and straightforward. He feared that, if she learned the truth about his past, she might leave him and take the children.

“Good.” Therese pulled the covers up around her neck and sighed deeply. She had the gift of falling asleep almost as quickly as he did. He resolutely pushed his fears out of his mind and closed his eyes. Her quiet breaths lulled him to sleep.

Ooooo
Ooooo
Ooooo


Thaddeus opened his eyes suddenly. What had woken him? He lay perfectly still. Next to him, Therese slept peacefully. He strained his ears, listening intently.

Everything was quiet. How late was it, anyway? He twisted his neck to look at the clock on top of the dresser. He could just make out the hands in the darkness. It was past midnight.

The air in the bedroom felt cool. Under the covers, with Therese’s body next to his, was blessed warmth and comfort. He debated with himself whether or not to get up and investigate. There couldn’t be burglars; he’d known enough crooks to know that they wouldn’t be out in this kind of weather. What, then?

He tried to resist the itch to investigate, thinking of the cold floors, the soft bed, the sweet scent of his wife. But his intuition had saved his life too many times. He had to scratch that itch. He got out of bed slowly, taking care not to disturb Therese. He pulled the warm robe over his nightshirt and fumbled under the bed for his deerskin moccasins.

He padded quietly into the main room, leaving the bedroom door ajar. He stood absolutely still in the middle of the room, listening, squinting to see in the darkness.

He began to realize what was wrong. It was too quiet. Where was the dog? Almost as if he’d heard Thaddeus’ thoughts, the sleeping dog roused himself from where he lay near the stove, shaking his head and snorting. The dog’s nails clicked on the wooden floor as he walked over to Thaddeus, who bent down and stroked the broad neck.

“Hey boy,” he whispered to the dog. “You didn’t hear anything strange, did you?” Buddy’s tail thumped the floor.

Thaddeus scratched Buddy’s head. “Fat lot of help you are. Long as we’re both up, we might as well check on the kids.” Thaddeus looked up at the loft. There was no light. Joshua and Sam must’ve finally gone to sleep. There wasn’t a peep from either one of them, not even the sound of soft snores. That was unusual

Thaddeus climbed the ladder to the loft slowly, hoping to keep the rails from squeaking. He went just high enough to peek at the boys’ beds. At first, he wasn’t sure he was seeing right. He climbed all the way up and stepped onto the floor, crouching so he didn’t hit his head on the low ceiling. Both beds were empty, the bedding tossed carelessly aside. What were those two monkeys up to now? He climbed down the ladder rapidly, careless about the noise he made.

He jumped past the bottom two rungs, landing on the main floor with a thump. His bedroom door flew open, and Therese came out, holding a lamp in one hand and pulling her robe closed with the other.

“What are you doing!” she hissed. “You’ll wake everyone up.”

“The boys aren’t in their beds,” he told her. In the light from her lamp, he saw her jaw drop in shock.

“Where could they be?”

“I don’t know,” he said, passing his wife.

“Where are you going now?” she asked.

“To check on Christine.” Therese followed close on his heels. He flung the door to Christine’s room open, careless of disturbing her. But her bed was empty, too.

“Oh Lord,” Therese whispered. “Where are they?”

“I don’t know, but I aim to find out. Get some more lamps lit, will you?” Therese moved to obey. Thaddeus went back to their bedroom and emerged seconds later, pulling on his pants.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to get my clothes and boots on and go find them.”

“Do you think they’re outside?”

“Got to be.” he replied, sitting down to pull on his heavy boots.

Therese watched her husband put on his heavy outerwear. She was torn between fear for her children’s safety and the desire to throttle each one of them for going on some wild safari on the longest night of the frigid Montana winter.

Thaddeus unlocked the gun cabinet that stood near the front door and took out a rifle. Pointing it towards the floor, he checked it and loaded it. Therese took a few deep breaths, willing herself to stay calm. Thaddeus was immensely capable. The children couldn’t have gone far. It would be alright. It had to be alright.

“Buddy,” Thaddeus said, “Want to go for a walk?” Buddy recognized the wonderful “walk” word and barked with excitement.

“If there’s a bear out there, Buddy’ll let me know,” Thaddeus explained.

“Oh God,” Therese groaned. “What could they be doing?”

“Make some tea, would you? We’re all going to need warming up when we get back.” He unbolted the front door and pulled it open. Therese jumped back when a gust of snowy air hit her.

“Come on Buddy, let’s go.” Thaddeus leaned over to kiss his wife on the forehead. “Try not to worry.” He went outside, with Buddy hard on his heels. Therese pushed the door closed, then leaned on it. All she could do now was wait.

Thaddeus’ eyes needed a moment to adjust when he stepped outside. To his surprise, it was almost brighter outside than inside. The entire Milky Way spread overhead, but it was barely visible behind a bright full moon that had risen just about the jagged peaks of the Rockies. The snow cover glistened in the heavenly light. Nothing moved. For a moment, the beauty of it all almost overwhelmed him.

Beside him, he heard Buddy’s feet crunching through the frozen top layer of the snow. The sound brought him back to reality. He probably should have left the dog inside. This snow wasn’t good for his feet. He glanced down at Buddy and saw the dog sniffing at deep footsteps in the snow. Relief flooded through him. The kids had left a clear trail.

“Come on, boy, let’s find them. They can’t be far.” Thaddeus’ heavy steps crunched through the ice-crusted snow, and Buddy followed. The trail led to the barn, but not inside. Instead, it continued around the side of the building, towards the wood pile. In the deep quiet of the winter night, sounds carried. As he and Buddy came around, he heard childish whispers that seemed to be amplified by the ice crystals drifting through the air.

“Gimme more of that blanket!”

“I’m hungry!”

“Quit whining!”

“Don’t tell me what to do! You’re not Pa!”

“Don’t be such a baby!”

“I’m not a baby! You’re a baby!”

“I am not!”

In the moonlight, Thaddeus saw his children huddled together under buffalo hides, between the stacked wood and the shed. His fear evaporated into anger.

“Already at the shed, are you? Saves me the job of taking you there for your paddling.” Thaddeus saw surprise, guilt, fear, and a little defiance wash over their small faces.

“Pa!” Joshua called. “What’re you doin’ here?”

“What am I doing here!” Thaddeus echoed. “What’re you doing here? You wild Indians are supposed to be in bed.”

“We’re looking at the Cold Moon, Daddy.” Christine told him. “It’s real pretty.” She was huddled between Sam and Joshua. She looked as comfortable as if she were in her mama’s lap.

“The Cold Moon, is it?” He looked at Joshua, who averted his eyes. “You can see the Cold Moon from the window, baby girl, where it’s nice and warm.”

“She ain’t cold, Pa,” Sam objected. “We got the buffalo hides.”

“Ain’t you supposed to have permission to take out the buffalo hides?” Now three pairs of eyes looked away from his. “You think them hides are gonna protect you from bears and wolves?”

“Not the hides, Pa,” Sam argued. “but we made sure to keep talkin’. You know you told us that they’re more scared of us, and if we make noise, they’ll stay away. Ain’t no reason to be scared.”

“You’re wrong about having no reason to be scared. I found you three out in the yard when you’re all supposed to be in bed. You don’t have permission to be out here.”

“It was all Joshua’s idea, Pa.” Sam said.

“I don’t care whose idea it was. You’re all here now. Get up. It’s past time to go in.” The children didn’t move immediately. “Get up NOW!” All three hopped to their feet, pushing aside the heavy robes.

“Sam, you take Christine and Buddy in. Me and Joshua are gonna follow you.”

“Yes, Pa.” Sam took Christine’s small hand in his. “Come on Buddy,” he urged. The dog obediently fell into step. Thaddeus stood with his hand on Joshua’s shoulder, watching the others go towards the house.

“Now you and me can have a talk, son,” Thaddeus told his eldest. “This is your one and only chance to tell me what in tarnation you were thinking. Especially why you put your little sister in danger.” Joshua bit his lip. Thaddeus tightened his grip. “I’m your father. I expect an answer. Now.”

Joshua knew that firm note in his father’s voice all too well. There was no hiding from that.

“I wanted her to see how pretty it was, Pa, that’s all. I was reading about tonight’s the solstice, and that they call the December moon the Cold Moon, and I thought, that makes real good sense, ‘cause it’s winter, so it ought to be cold. So after I turned off the light like Mama said to, I thought I’d go downstairs and look
at the moon, ‘cause it’s a special moon.” He paused. Thaddeus looked at his curious son with more understanding.

“Go on, son.” His tone was gentler, and Joshua took a deep breath.

“Anyway, Pa, I couldn’t hardly see the moon, because it was still low, and then it was behind the barn, so I figured I’d take me a look. So Sam, he heard me, and he come down the ladder, and I told him, I had to see the moon, ‘cause it’s a special moon. He said, he wanted to see it too, so we put on our coats. And then I remembered, the book says something like this don’t hardly happen, maybe only as often as Halley’s Comet, and that ain’t often at all. So I figured we should show Christine, too. That way, when we all get old and get married like you and Ma, we could sit around and tell our kids, one time we seen the Cold Moon. And then we went out and saw it, and it was everything the book said it was, Pa. It was so big and yellow, and it hung out there over the mountains like God himself was holding it on a string. And I knew if you found out we was there, you’d get mad, but it’d be worth it. I ain’t never gonna forget I seen the Cold Moon, Pa. I mean, take a look at it, Pa. Ain’t it somethin’?”

Thaddeus tilted his head back to look at the sky. The snow-covered mountain peaks reflected the moonlight back up. It almost looked like a second sun.

“Yes, son, it’s somethin’ special. And it was nice that you wanted to share it with Sam and Christine. But you should’ve asked permission to go out. You know how worried your mother and I were when we saw you were all gone?”

“I’m sorry, Pa. Guess I didn’t have time to think about it. I was some excited.”

Unexpectedly, Thaddeus pulled his son into a tight hug. There was something special about this boy, too, this child who wanted to share the moon with his brother and sister, so they’d have a beautiful memory. All too soon, he’d be a man, on his own, maybe living far away from his parents, and times like this, when all of them shared the same home, would be a memory, too.

Releasing his surprised son, Thaddeus stepped back.

“You’ll have plenty of time to think while you’re doing all the extra chores I’m giving you. Now let’s go in. Your mother’s making some tea for us.”

“Yes, Pa.” Joshua had to take long steps to keep up with his tall father’s strides. Ahead of them, lights filled the windows of their home. At the door, man and boy stamped their feet on the threshold. Therese, still in her robe, swung the door open.

“Look what the cat dragged in!” she said. She pulled Joshua close to her and kissed his cheeks.

“You’re lucky I love you so much, you rascal,” she said. “Now take off your coat and have some tea. And you can have some cookies, too.”

Thaddeus closed the door and stood, still in his heavy outerwear, and watched his wife and children gather around the table. He thought, Joshua was right about making good memories. The sight of his wife and children, chatting happily together on this long night, was something he intended to remember and hold in his heart for the rest of his life. Therese had been right, too. He had to forget his early life and concentrate on what he had now, this wonderful family he’d never expected to have. Despite all the stupid and criminal things he'd done as a young man, somehow his life had turned out to be real good.

"Hey!" he shouted. "Save some of those cookies for your old man!"

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PostSubject: Re: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:15 pm

I didn't think I'd be writing anything at all, but this month's prompt did inspire one small piece from me.  Since this writing is more an installment in the "Memoirs of Grace R. Williams" rather than traditional ASJ fanfic, and since it is very personal in nature, I do not wish to have it included with this month's voting.  Thank you for reading.


A Quiet Strength

This short piece is dedicated to my Mom. Thank you for the example you set for me, both in living, and in dying.

Grace hesitated, her hand trembling as it moved closer to the door’s lock, making it difficult to insert the key. High overhead, the cry of a hawk distracted her, causing the key to drop from her hands and fall to the floorboards of the porch. Retrieving the key, Grace turned her back to the door, leaning heavily upon it, and she paused to survey the Lewis ranch.

The barn, whose stalls had once been filled with horses, now stood empty, save for a brave, lone field mouse who skittered beneath the door. Inside, Grace knew, a rickety ladder still lead to the loft where she had so many times sought refuge as a child. She fought a foolish urge to flee there now, and hide herself deep in the hay.

Gathering her strength, Grace turned again to the door, unlocking it with determination. She pressed the door open, closing her eyes as she did.

Behind closed eyelids, Grace envisioned the scene as it once had been–Her father, sitting in his chair near the fire, listening intently as her mother read from the Good Book. Gracie, together with her brothers and sisters, gathered on the floor at her feet. Grace breathed deeply, inhaling the sweetness of memories held dear, and the soft fragrance of her mother.

Smiling, Grace opened her eyes, but in an instant, the happy vision evaporated. The room, once overflowing with the warmth and presence of family, sat in stark emptiness. The reverent murmurs of her mother’s reading were silent. Grace glanced toward the ticking of the clock, but a barren mantel assured her the sound was only a trick of her grieving mind.

Overcome with sadness, Grace shut her eyes tightly and breathed in deeply, striving to reclaim the happy vision, if only for a moment.

But the moment was gone. The scent of her mother no longer lingered. No laughter, no loved ones. Nothing. Only quiet. Grace opened tear-filled eyes. Too quiet.

“You ready?” Although she had been too consumed to notice his approach, Grace did not startle when her husband spoke.

“I’m an orphan now, Matthew,” she said, her voice a quivering whisper.

His strong hand rested on her shoulder and the huskiness of Matthew’s voice spoke louder than his words. “But you’re not alone, Gracie! Never alone!”

Isaiah 30:15 NIV – in quietness and trust is your strength

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PostSubject: Re: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Mon Jun 30, 2014 9:29 pm

Dissonance
Kid Curry rode into the yard of the Devil's Hole compound. Jumping down, he hitched his gelding to the post in front of the leader's cabin and looked around. All was quiet, perhaps too much so for late morning, but it was hot.

Pulling the hat from his head, he blew out a breath as a forearm wiped the sweaty brow. The warm breeze should have taken care of it, but active riding increased perspiration even in much cooler weather. He grabbed a pair of canteens from his saddle and took the porch steps by two. Opening the door, he found his partner hunched over the table, his torso bare and glistening with perspiration.

"You been doin' chores?"

"Huh?"

Curry set his gear on a sideboard whilst unbuttoning his shirt. "A little cooler in here, Heyes. You shouldn't be sweatin' so much."

"I'm not."

Heyes' eyes never left the papers spread out in front of him.

"Where is everybody? Save for you and me and Thompson on guard, nobody's around."

"I know." He sighed.

Kid pulled the outer shirt over his head, throwing it through the open door of his bedroom. He picked the coffee pot off the stove and shook it. "No coffee?"

"Nope."

Curry scanned the room. Spying a pitcher, he grabbed a glass and poured himself a drink. "Ah, lemonade." He emptied it in one long gulp. Swallowing, his eyes widened, cheeks hollowed, lips puckered. "That's sour!" He shook his head quickly, squeaked out, "Needs sugar -- lots of it!"

"We're out."

Curry recovered. "Lemons but no sugar? Did the boys go for supplies?"

"Nope."

Kid placed his glass on the table and walked behind Heyes. He peered down at the sheets that held his partner's attention. "How's the plannin' goin'?"

"Okay, I guess. Maybe not so good." Heyes shrugged and wiped his brow.

"What?"

"Too hot to concentrate for too long."

"It's summer. Pretty bad in the flatland, so could be worse here." Curry clapped a hand on Heyes' shoulder. Grabbing another mug, he set lemonade on the table. "That'll cool ya off some, with a cold water chaser anyway." He turned on his heel. "I'll get some fresh from the river."

Heyes gestured at several mugs on the table. "Got plenty right here."

"I'm gettin' it for me."

***

Curry walked the slope to the river, more a small stream rushing downhill. Kneeling, he floated a bucket along the top, filling it quickly. Setting it aside, he reached a cupped hand into the water and drank, smiled in satisfaction and repeated the action. Sighing contentedly, he stretched his head back, beholding a perfect blue sky with white puffy clouds. The sun felt good on his face for a moment, although shade from a nearby tree beckoned. Sitting beneath it, he pulled off his boots and socks and rolled his jeans and long johns to his knees. Sinking his feet into the water, he sat thus for a few minutes before reclining to his elbows. Yawning, he stretched out fully on his back and closed his eyes.

***

By the time Curry stirred, the sun had advanced further west. He reckoned it to be about three o'clock. Stretching mightily, he noticed the rush of the water against the rocks and the slight rustle of branches in the breeze. Otherwise, all was still. Too still.

Gathering his belongings in one hand and bucket in the other, he ambled barefoot back to the cabin. His gelding neighed at him. "Sorry, boy. Guess I'm used to the boys takin' care of ya. I'll be right out."

Entering the cabin, he found Heyes as before. "Still at it? Take a break."

Heyes finally looked up. He stretched. "Still got a lot to do."

Curry caught his partner's eye. "Thought you'd've been done by now."

Heyes yawned.

"You get any sleep while I was away?"

"Some."

Curry noted the empty mugs on the table. He picked up the coffeepot and shook lightly -- empty, as before. "Heyes, how long you been sittin'?"

"All day, I suppose. And the day before that, and the week before that."

"And you're not done yet?"

"Nope."

Kid leaned on the table. "You ain't even asked me how my trip went. Aren't ya interested?"

"I guess."

Curry leaned against a wall. "Well, I drummed the bank and the railhead. Easy targets, both of 'em, like ya thought, but they're not expectin' a payroll 'til summer's over. Been warmer than normal up here, but down there it's swelterin' -- the hottest summer anybody can remember. The mines shut down until it cools off, and everybody's just layin' around, not doin' a whole lot." He smiled. "Imagine that, Heyes, those old mine-ownin' fools not worryin' 'bout their money for once, just leavin' town to find somewhere to cool off. Guess even they have their breakin' point."

Heyes listened intently. A hand wiped his face. He smiled. "Good."

"Good?"

"Yep, good."

"What about all the plannin'?"

Heyes stood. "Didn't really get that much done. Too many distractions."

"Distractions?"

"Um hmm."

"But it's quiet just like ya need it when you're workin' out a job."

"Yep."

"The boys done a really good job of that."

"They did."

"And ...? You never did say where they were."

"They've been staying away. Fishing and swimming, last I heard. Staying cool, camping out, leaving me all alone so there was quiet ... But it's been TOO quiet! And too warm." He grabbed his hat and holster. "No job in this heat." He walked toward the door.

Curry stayed planted.

Heyes looked at him. "You coming?"

Kid's brow furrowed. "Where?"

"Fishing. You been riding too much in the heat, Kid. All work and no play and all that. You need to get your head under the water and cool off."

"Ya don't have to ask twice." Curry grinned and followed his partner out the door.

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PostSubject: Re: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Mon Jun 30, 2014 9:43 pm

Phew... It's been a busy month, but I managed to keep my record intact.

Too Quiet


Two men meandered down a well-worn trail, their hats down low protecting their suns from the sun.  Around them was the beauty of the Rockies, but they didn’t seem to notice.  Both were quiet, deep in their own thoughts.

Heyes sighed heavily.

Kid Curry glanced to his right at his partner.  “What’s wrong, Heyes?”

“Nothing.”  Heyes sighed again.

“Nothing?” the Kid questioned.

Heyes despondently shook his head.  “What makes you think something is wrong?”

“Well, for one, you ain’t talkin’.  Haven’t talked nearly all mornin’.”

“Got nothing to say.”

“Hannibal Heyes has nothin’ to say?”

“Nope.”

“Well then you’re thinkin’ hard about somethin’.”

Heyes answered with another sigh.

“And two, your heavy sighin’.  What is it?” Curry asked.

Heyes took a deep breath and slowly released it.  “When was the last time we were chased by a posse?”

The Kid pondered for a minute.  “It’s been awhile.”

“When was the last time we had to leave a town fast?”

“Guess it’s been some time.”  Curry leaned to the right to avoid a branch growing over the trail.  “What’s the matter with that?”

“Do you know we’ve been trying for amnesty for about five years?”

“Yeah.  And…”

“It’s too quiet, Kid!”

“What?”

“Too quiet!

The Kid shook his head.  “You’re bothered because it’s too quiet?”

“Remember when we had to go into that sheriff’s office in Coarsegold?”

“Don’t forget when we have to go into a sheriff’s office.”

“Did you notice the wanted board?”

“No.  Why?”

“Our posters were covered!”

“Heyes, I don’t see.”

“Nobody seems to be after us no more.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“We’ve been forgotten!”

“We haven’t been forgotten…”

“They’re forgetting all about us, Kid.”  Heyes nodded his head.  “Heck, the newest dime novels aren’t even about us.”

“Heyes, I don’t see the problem.  I think it’s a good thing.”

“A good thing?”

“Yeah.  Soon we won’t be worth those $10,000 rewards to the bankers and the railroads.  Why, I’m wonderin’ if the reward has dropped already.”

“I guess.”

“Heyes, I think your ego is just hurt.  I see all this quiet as a good thing.  Hopefully soon we can settle down and have a normal life.”

“I guess you’re right.”

The Kid smiled.  “Trust me, this quiet is a good thing.”

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PostSubject: Re: June 2014 - Too Quiet   Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:40 pm

Heyes sighed heavily.

The Kid glanced sideways at his partner. "Now what's eatin' at you?"

"Penski sure threw a good party, huh?"

"Yep. That's what's eatin' at you?"

"No. It's just that everyone went home now and it's quiet."

Curry shook his head. "Maybe she's glad about it bein' quiet. After all, I heard they've been gettin' ready for over a month for his 50th party and the get-together. Sheesh, I heard someone say there was near ninety folks at the party on Friday, just before them writin' gals came."

"They sure were busy traveling all over and learning stuff about us. I was worried about them shooting but they had a good teacher."

"Yeah, that guy was all about safety," the Kid agreed. "Did you see how Calico shot that target between the eyes? And JoAnn and Penski shot two cans. All of 'em did good... real good."

"And they gold panned."

"That's hard work. Did anyone find any?"

Heyes shook his head. "Nope, not even fools gold."

"A few went ridin' and there was wine tastin', too."

"Yep," Heyes agreed. "And learning about gold mining, San Francisco, that Donner party, Tahoe, and..."

"Stop already, Heyes! I'm tired just thinkin' of all we did with them. I reckon Penski needs some quiet time."

"Quiet is alright, but it's too quiet."

"Well, tomorrow she has to go back to work and we know it won't be quiet then."

"You got a good point there, Kid. It's good she has a one quiet day."



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