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 April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite

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Calico

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Posts : 534
Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 52
Location : Birmingham

PostSubject: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sun Apr 03, 2016 12:06 am

Klaxon Klaxon !!!

A suggestion has been made to celebrate the 100th month of challenge stories...

yetanbd yetanbd  yetanbd  

All of you - and I do mean all of you - who have ever played on the challenge this is a chance to re-post your favourite challenge entry.

[And, to be crystal clear - this means pick from those stories YOU wrote and posted...
I know you are all sweet modest violets who'd selflessly pick one of your friends' stories given half a chance.
Or maybe not ...? catval
Mew.     ]

If you'd also like to tell us why it's your favourite, too - we'd love to hear.


There will be a special virtual

'I survived 100 challenges' medallion  issued to all who post...  SHINY and on a special yellow ribbon.

AND ...

We can poll for the pollsters favourite - though I suspect it'll be a very even spread.  
In fact, I'll get Heyes started on embroidered a commemoration bandanny now.

Everyone clear.
You pick your own (home produced) favourite from the past eight years and post below.

And...

Go.
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Calico

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Posts : 534
Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 52
Location : Birmingham

PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sun Apr 03, 2016 2:05 am

And... I will set the ball rolling by posting my favourite challenge from the past. Tugging the old orfling heart strings... BUT I don't like too much Valparaiso staff villainy, so not too much beating of waif-like liddle Kid or kids.


The Choice


By Calico

“…He sit in ze third School Pew at kurche…He haf blond curl…Usually – a blue shirt…” My hands try to indicate ‘checked’ for the shirt, though I cannot bring the English word to mind. “…Und – light braun hat…”

Recognition dawns in the Superintendent’s face. “Oh yes, Mister Bauer. You mean Jedediah Curry.” A slight frown creases his brow.

“You zink… I haf make wrong choize?” I say.

Mister Hardwick hesitates. The War filled his establishment to bursting point. Orphans, with nowhere else to go, now far outnumber ‘waywards’. As I sit, offering to relieve him of even one mouth to feed, to free up even one bed, he is naturally reluctant to say anything that might give me pause.

Unlike his predecessor, Hardwick is, I believe, an honest man. The townsfolk can tell. Since this man arrived two years ago, the money meant for food is spent on bread, milk, oatmeal, beans, salt pork. The money meant for clothes goes on bolts of unbleached calico, rough serge, thick socks, boot repairs. The dull diet may not satisfy bottomless boyish appetites and the drab clothes may not keep out the keenest Kansas winds…but…there are no more hollow cheeks, nor shivering waifs to be seen. Not so many scared eyes either. And, far fewer bruised faces – just the occasional fat lip and black eye. What anyone might expect from young boys jostling together.

He clearly tries to stick to the truth.

“No, no – in many ways Jedediah is an excellent choice. He comes from a farming family – and – he’s a fine, strong, healthy boy – you are right in seeing there is plenty of work in him.”

I let this pass. It is not the boy’s strong young limbs and potential for hard graft that made me single him out. It is not ME who singled him out at all. It is my dear wife, Anna. His eyes remind her of…

I do not SAY any of this. I do not want this grimly stern man to think I am – my cheeks glow warm – a sentimental old fool. Even if I am.

The Superintendent is still speaking. “I HAVE seen Jedediah work hard…” under his breath he adds, “…when he chooses.” I believe his conscience makes him go on. “He does have a – a tendency to dumb insolence and – and playing truant from work details. And – a temper. There are other boys who might suit you…”

He sees I did not like the sound of ‘a temper’. He interrupts himself to explain. Now, I think he is struggling to be fair to Jedediah.

“I only mean he gets into fights. NOT a bully! Never! Nothing like that. I don’t say he STARTS fights. Just – he’s too stiff necked to walk away.” A pause.

“I haf a few fights at his age…und shirked chores when I haf chance,” I say.

The grim face almost smiles. Hardwick strides to the door, issues a terse command. “Tell Jedediah Curry to report here immediately. Closing the door, he meets my eyes. “I believe there’s a lot of good in the boy,” he says.

We wait. Hardwick makes polite enquiries about last year’s harvest.

I am not so good at the small talk. Even after all these years, I struggle not to sound – stilted. Since being alone, Anna and I lapsed into the bad habit of never using English at home.

A knock.

“Enter,” says Hardwick.

The blond youth comes in, scowling hard. I daresay being sent for to the Superintendent’s office rarely means anything other than ‘bad news’. The bright eyes look surprised to see a stranger there.

“This is Mister Bauer, Jedediah.” Hardwick frowns, sternly, “Take that scowl off your face and say ‘How do you do?'”

For a second, an even fiercer, defiant look is shot at the Superintendent.

Shyness makes me tongue-tied, but, I hold out my hand. “How do you do, Jedediah?” I manage.

A quick glance at me. I almost SEE the boy remember the manners taught by his parents. He DOES wipe off most of the scowl.

“How do you do, Sir?” he responds.

“Mister Bauer owns a farm about six miles East of here…” starts Mister Hardwick. The glower returns, as the boy listens. “…indentured for five years… Mister Bauer agrees you attend school until at least your sixteenth birthday…I am sure you will work very hard to show how grateful…”

“No!” he interrupts. “I AIN’T goin’!”

“Be quiet, Jedediah!” barks the Superintendent.

I admit being surprised. Working for board and keep on a farm is no picnic. But, surely it beats working for board and keep here?

“The vork vill be hard, Jedediah,” I say awkwardly. I am STILL trying not to sound too – too soft – in front of Mister Hardwick. Maybe trying too hard – I sound nearly as stern as him! “…But, you vill not find me an unfair man…”

“I WON’T leave Han! You can’t MAKE me!”

“You’ll do as you’re told, young man!” The tone, so used to command obedience, has its effect. The boy shuts up, although the blue eyes continue to blaze.

I clear my throat.

“Is sad to leaf friends you make here…” I say, tentatively, “…but – you vill soon make new friends at school…You vill see…”

“I WON’T!”

“Silence,” snaps Hardwick. “The matter is not open for discussion. You leave tomorrow. Be packed by ten. That will be all. Dismissed.”

As the boy walks out, a resentful glower is shot over one shoulder. I take it this is what Mister Hardwick calls ‘dumb insolence’.

“It – shows a gut heart, no?” I venture, trying to reduce the trouble I suspect Jedediah Curry is now in. “To haf made a gut friend – und not to vant lose him?” From the window, I see the blond youth explode from the building and sprint over to a dark-haired boy, who has found a quiet corner to bury his nose in a tattered book. “Zat is…” I point. “…er…Hans?”

Hardwick joins me. We watch the animated conversation going on below. A dark and fair head look up. A glance is exchanged. The boys take to their heels and melt into the grounds.

“Hannibal,” the Superintendent corrects me. “They grew up together – neighbouring farms – practically raised as brothers. They lost their families at the same time.”

Oh! I was wrong, then, to assume they met here! No wonder Jedediah resented my halting clichés about soon making new friends!

“You still plan to collect him tomorrow?” checks Hardwick, seeing my gathering frown.

I nod – though distractedly. As I climb into my wagon – I am thinking hard.

—oooOOOooo—

“Did you speak to him? Was I right? Did he seem a nice boy? What’s his name?” Anna has some of her old sparkle back, as she eagerly questions me.

“Jedediah,” I say, answering the easiest question first.

“Jedediah,” she repeats. “I like that! Go on…” she prompts.

“I think – he will be a handful,” I offer. “BUT – I believe his heart’s in the right place.”

Anna beams. I do not return her smile. She scans my face.

“What is it?” she asks. “What’s wrong?”

“He – doesn’t want to come,” I say.

The face I have loved for over twenty-five years – and which, in my eyes, is as pretty as the day I carried her over the threshold – falls.

“Why? Johann…” she frowns at me, “…you didn’t go on and on about how hard he’ll have to work? Like you did when Mister Zimmerman asked why you were taking an…”

“He WILL have to work hard,” I protest.

“I know! And – boys enjoy their free time more, knowing they have earned their keep! BUT, you made it sound like a Roman galley-ship – not a farm!”

“I don’t want people to think I’m…” I hesitate.

“As soft as butter? A pushover?” she supplies. A crooked smile glows up at me. “Don’t worry – your secret is safe with me.”

“It wasn’t that, anyhow,” I demur.

I tell her how Jedediah’s only thought was ‘I won’t leave Han’. How they grew up together. Gently taking her hand – I explain they lost their families to the War.

Her gaze goes to the mantelpiece.

“So…” her voice is low, “…they’re all each other has left.” Our eyes meet. “Johann,” hesitating, “…are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

I give a rueful shrug.

“You ARE,” she accuses. Her eyes are warm. “I know you are! After all, you’re a pushover!”

“There isn’t really enough work for two…” I demur. Anna gives me ‘a look’. “But…” I carry on, “…I’m not getting any younger – so I will, eventually, need more help. If anyone accused me of being foolish for taking on two orphans – I COULD explain I was thinking ahead! AND…” I glance around at the evidence of Anna’s busyness this afternoon. “…you’ve baked enough pie, cake and cookies for a dozen boys, so another mouth to eat it will avoid wasting good food!”

“AND…” Anna switches languages. “It vill be much gut for our English.”

“Ja. I mean, Yes,” I say. “Ve are too much not making ourselves speak …Amer’can.”

Anna nods earnestly.

“Only English – before tomorrow…” she agrees. Her fingers tighten around mine, “Oh, Johann. How gut to haf boys laugh in ze house again. To haf someone to …to…” her voice shakes, “…muzzer.”

I switch back to our own language.

“Anna,” I caution, my voice very gentle. Part of me does not want to say this. But – it needs saying. “…you know, they cannot take Jacob’s place.”

We look up at the mantelpiece together. The polished silver frame catches the late afternoon sun, slanting through the window. The bright metal sends pinpoints of light, dancing, onto the walls. Freshly picked forget-me-nots bloom in the vase beside it. The fair-haired soldier in the photograph looks far too young for the uniform he so proudly wears. He WAS too young. Too young to go to war. Too young to…

“I know,” says Anna. “No one can take his place.”

“And…” The lump in my throat makes the tone gruffer than I mean it to be. “…WE can never take the place of the folks THEY lost. You…” My thumb strokes the back of her hand, over and over as I say this. . “…you can never replace their mothers.”

“I know.” Her eyes are very bright, as they meet mine. “BUT…I can make their favourite suppers, let down their trousers and sleeves when they shoot up like bean-poles, bathe scrapes and bruises, nag them to change their wet shoes, tut and cluck when they whine about putting on a stiff collar for church socials…” She manages a cheerful smile. “Sure, we can never be parents again – but maybe, if we’re VERY lucky – one day, we might be kind old Uncle Johann and dear old Aunt Anna.” A deep breathe. “Even if they NEVER become fond of us – at least we will have kept two other mother’s sons fed, warm and safe until this country gets back to normal!”

I lean forward, kiss her.

“No one – but NO ONE,” I say, “…could NOT grow to love you.”

I decide to stop squashing the hopeful excitement bubbling inside both of us. I pull Anna to her feet and lead her upstairs. Together, we look at the room already prepared to be occupied – again.

“I could easily add a bunk to that bed.” I check my pocket watch. “Should be enough time. I can TRY and be done before morning anyhow.”

“I’ve a spare mattress, pillows and quilt set aside,” contributes Anna. “The quilt won’t match but that’s not the kind of thing boys care about.”

“Not much space for more furniture,” I say. “They’ll just have to manage with two drawers each. Or, maybe, I can make something to fit UNDER the bed?”

“I sewed a couple of shirts ready for – for Jedediah,” Anna looks at me anxiously, “…Is Hans…”

“Hannibal. Like – with the elephants,” I correct, smilingly.

“…Is he nearly the same size?”

I screw up my face as I try to remember. “Perhaps an inch or so taller. I think he may be a little older. And …he’s skinnier.”

“Oh, well,” she shrugs, philosophically. “I was only guessing the size anyhow. If they need altering – it won’t take long.”

Back downstairs; before I fetch in wood and tools, I look at my bookcase. I remember the dark-haired lad had found himself a quiet spot with his tattered pages.

“It’s a shame all these are German,” I say. “Hannibal may be a reader.”

A thought strikes Anna. She disappears upstairs. Sounds of cupboards opening. Light steps running back down. She places something on the table.

“Would he like these, do you think?”

Oh! My hand trembles, as I reach out.

“His prize books,” I say. Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels. In English. I open the front covers, stare at the presentation plates pasted there. His name – in fancy copperplate. I was so, so proud when…

No! NO! NOT past tense.

I AM so, so proud that our son – the only child we were blessed with – came top of his class two years running.

“Are you sure?” I look up at Anna. “They – they might get spoilt.”

“Certain sure,” she says, firmly. “Books are meant to be read. NOT to sit in a foolish old woman’s drawer all wrapped up!” A qualm strikes her. “Unless…unless YOU mind, Johann?”

My finger lingers on a crease. Jacob – despite my frequent tutting – dog-eared corners to mark his place. You can see where he stopped night by night. His hands touched – here. And here. And here. And…

“No,” my tone is resolute. “I don’t mind. I think you’re right. It’s time someone else enjoyed these.”

—oooOOOooo—

THE NEXT DAY

Anna cannot bear to just stay home and wait. Sitting beside me in the wagon, I am reproved – half teasingly, half anxiously – for not going back to reassure Jedediah at once, that his friend could come too!

“I had to clear it first!” I protest. “I know my place!”

She knows that is not the real reason. I was far too bashful to turn around yesterday and ask to see the Superintendent again. I needed to practise what to say first, with her.

“Besides,” I offer, “…think how happy the boys’ll be when they DO hear they don’t have to part.”

She nods, then checks inside the covered basket she clutches. It holds two cosy mufflers – because the wind is sharp today. One made days ago, the second knitted through the night, while I sawed and hammered. And fruit. And cookies.

“Do you worry,” I teased, “…they’ll starve on the drive back?”

We arrive, exchange a nervous glance.

“Johann!” Anna hisses, as I help her down. “Stop looking so serious! Did you frown at young Jedediah like that yesterday? Poor boy! He must worry he’s going to live with a grumpy old bear of a man! Smile!”

“I AM smiling! It just doesn’t show under the beard!”

“Smile harder then! In case they’re watching!”

—oooOOOooo—

We sit before the Superintendent’s desk. Alone, now. The teacher sent to fetch the boys, called Mister Hardwick out. We half heard a rapid, annoyed conversation. Then…the two men hurrying away. Then …nothing. No, not quite nothing. Distant striding footsteps. Snapped orders. Doors slamming.

The tick of the clock in this austere office becomes oppressive. I twist to look at it. We have sat here for nearly forty minutes. I glance over at Anna. The basket is still on her knee. She clutches the handle so tight her knuckles must shine white under the cotton gloves. Her eyes stare at a neat darn on the forefinger. I reach over; cover both her small hands with one of mine. She does not look up – but she gulps. The eyes close for a long moment. Then, her head drops.

This is all MY fault! If only…If only I had chosen to…

Why am I so STUPID?

Because I was too bashful – too afraid of looking sentimental – too intimidated by officialdom in the form of black-suited Mister Hardwick with his long words and longer sentences – too STUPID – to simply turn back yesterday, knock on the Superintendent’s door, tell him we could make room to stop two friends being parted; because of that…

A faded cotton glove quickly brushes – something – from my wife’s thin cheek. Another gulp.

I shift my chair closer, so I can put my arm round her drooping shoulders.

I do not say anything. There is no need. Anna knows – as do I – there will be no tentative ‘getting to know you’ conversation on the ride home.

No one to wear the carefully folded mufflers in the basket she grips so hard.

No one to eat the cookies.

We both know – the boys aren’t coming

—oooOOOooo—

MEANWHILE – ABOUT A DOZEN MILES WEST OF VALPARAISO

Two cold, damp, hungry and very footsore boys plodded through Kansas scrubland. Suddenly, the dark-haired youth stopped, pointed.

“There it is, Jed.” He summoned up a smile. “The railway track. I TOLD you this was the way! All we hafta do now – is follow it. Sooner or later we come to a station… hop a train … get well away from here. Find a town. Find work. We’re BOUND to find somethin’! Find somewhere to stay. Everything’ll be just fine. You’ll see! I reckon we’ll…”

“Han?” interrupted a voice; much less sure of itself than usual after a long, long night on the run, expecting every moment to hear the sound of pursuit, “You do think we did the right thing – don’t ya?”

‘Would-be-confident’ deep brown eyes met anxiously searching blue ones. Jed, shivering slightly, collar turned up against the wind, was trying not to show he was scared. He looked – very young. Feeling the full responsibility of being the elder by more than a year, Hannibal squared his shoulders.

“Course we did!” he reassured, squashing any doubts of his own. “…We promised to stick together, huh? No matter what!”

A second pair of shoulders squared. A boyish jaw set firmly. They HAD promised to stick together! And, here they were – together. A curly blond head nodded.

They had made the right choice.

—oooOOOooo—

THE END
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Maz

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Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 55
Location : London, England

PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Mon Apr 04, 2016 12:48 pm

Wow, are we really at the 100th challenge?
That is amazing..we are all great and deserve a hug for sticking around so long. And I love that we are still here.
Here is my favourite challenge. Not a funny one but I do love this and remember it vividly.


Defensive Position
By Maz McCoy


“I reckon they’ll wait ‘til mornin’,” Kid Curry stated as he looked out into the darkness searching for any sign of movement in the trees.
“It’s what I’d do,” Heyes concurred.
“How many d’you think are out there?”
“There were eight when they headed up the valley. I doubt any of them felt the need to go home.”
Kid nodded but didn’t turn his attention away from the view beyond the cave they now sheltered in. His gaze travelled over the dark outlines of boulders, shrubs and trees. Somewhere out there a group of determined men waited for them. The cave was warm and dry and with storm clouds on the horizon they were in a better place to spend the night than the posse. However, the cave had no other entrance. No secret escape route. No crevice known only to the outlaw fraternity guaranteed to hoodwink a band of pursuing lawmen. They were dry but they were trapped. He looked down at the Colt gripped firmly in his right hand. With well-practiced skill he flipped out the chamber and counted the bullets inside.
“Any of ‘em fall out since you checked two minutes ago?” Heyes asked wryly.
Kid smiled. “Nope.” He turned to face his friend. Heyes sat with his back against the rock wall, legs stretched out in front of him. “How is it?”
Heyes lifted the blood stained bandana from his left thigh. He studied the wound. “Still bleeding.”
“It hurt?”
“Is that an attempt to make me smile or just a really dumb question?”
Kid’s eyebrows rose. “Damned if I know.” He turned his attention back to the shadows outside. “They know we’re here right?”
“Yep.”
“And we know they know.”
“Yep.”
“And they know we know?”
“Is this going somewhere, ‘cos it’s bad enough that I’m in pain without you straining your brain.”
“You’re hilarious, Heyes. I’m just wonderin’ why we don’t light a fire? Have some hot coffee? Heck, maybe even dig that bullet out and treat the wound.” He glanced at his friend.
“The answer’s simple.”
When Heyes did not elaborate Kid knew he was expected to ask. He sighed. “You gonna tell me or is this one of your guessin’ games?”
“I’ll share, I’m feeling generous.”
“Lucky me.”
“We are not lighting a fire because you need to watch our backs and if I take my hand off this wound I’ll probably bleed to death. As much as I know you love my coffee I’m hoping you prefer my being here to its taste.”
“If they’re waitin’ ‘til mornin’ there’s no reason for me to sit here.”
“But they might not wait.”
“So tie that bandana real tight and get to work on a fire. I don’t know why you undid the one I tied there in the first place.”
“I wanted to look at it.”
“What, you didn’t believe you’d been shot?”
“I wanted to see if it was clean.”
“Just light a fire, Heyes.”
“I guess I will. It’s sure turned cold.”
As his friend leaned over his leg to tie the cloth around it, Kid studied his face. Even in the moonlight Heyes looked pale and as Kid watched Heyes shivered. That wasn’t good. He’d already lost a lot of blood. Kid holstered his gun and scrambled over to his partner, taking the bandana from him.
“I can manage,” Heyes protested.
“I know.” Kid pulled the knot tight.
“OW!”
Kid smiled innocently at Heyes’ glare and took off his jacket. “Sit back,” he ordered.
“Kid…”
“Sit back, Heyes.” His partner complied and Kid covered him with the jacket.
“I don’t need…” but Heyes shivered making him a liar before he’d even finished his sentence.
Kid turned away and gathered together the dry sticks left by a previous occupant of the cave, then reached into his vest pocket for his matches. A warm red glow slowly engulfed them. Heyes watched in silence as his friend collected the coffee pot from his saddlebags and poured water into it from his canteen. When the water was almost boiling Kid poured some into a metal cup, set it to one side, and then added coffee to the pot. The comforting smell of brewing coffee soon surrounded them.
Kid placed the cup of hot water beside Heyes, removed his bandana and dipped it into the steaming liquid. With great care he untied the bandana around his partner’s leg and tended the wound. Heyes suffered the ministrations as only a man could-he complained a lot.
“OW! Dammit! Do you have to press so hard?”
“Nope, just doin’ it for fun.” Kid cleaned the wound with the hot water.
“Sheeshhhh! That hurts. Oh, that hurts too! Okay, you can stop now.”
“Gotta get it clean, Heyes.”
“I can do it.”
“No, you can’t. You can’t see as well as I can.”
“I…Oh. Ah.” He hissed and closed his eyes tight. “Shouldn’t you be watching our backs?”
“No point if you’re dead.”
“You know your bedside manner could use some work. OW!”
When Kid was satisfied he’d done all he could for his friend, he tied a clean bandana around Heyes’ thigh.
“Here.” Kid handed him a steaming cup of coffee. Heyes took it gratefully, wrapping both hands around it to warm his fingers. He looked exhausted and didn’t say a word as he settled back against the wall, Kid’s jacket now around his shoulders. Kid took his own cup, sat opposite his friend and returned to watching the darkness.
Heyes shivered. “Thanks, Kid.” He didn’t mean for the coffee.
“You’re welcome.”
Heyes stared at the flames for a while almost mesmerised by them. “I didn’t think we’d still be doing this.”
“Drinkin’ coffee?”
“Running from the law.” Kid didn’t reply. “I thought we’d have our amnesty.” Kid shot him a look. “I really did. I know you we’re always sceptical but I really thought the governor would come through for us. Lom did too.”
“Heyes…”
“I know, I know. I got over being disappointed a long time ago.” Kid wasn’t sure he believed that. His eyes moved from his friend to the darkness outside and back. “It would have been nice, you know? No more running, no more hiding, the chance to settle down with a woman.”
Kid looked up. “The daughter of the mayor?”
Heyes smiled. “I had high hopes for ya.”
“I appreciated that.”
“I thought I might run the newspaper office in a small town.”
“And I was gonna run the saloon.”
“The Silver Spur?”
“The Twirling Gun.”
“Did we really agree to call it that?”
“Yep.”
“Hmm. I think I’da talked you out of that when the time came.”
“I like that name.”
“I can’t think why.”
“Well it’s a darn sight better than The Outlaw’s Rest.”
“That wasn’t one of mine.”
“No, it was Lom’s.” Kid smiled, remembering the evening they’d sat around a fire very similar to the one burning now and tried to come up with a name for the fictitious saloon. Heyes’ cry of pain brought him back from his reverie. “You okay?”
“Yeah, just can’t shake the pain off like I used to.”
“That’s ‘cos you’re an old man now.”
“Fifty five is not old. I’m middle aged.”
“Only if you plan to live to a hundred and ten.”
Even in the firelight Kid could see the grey in his partner’s hair. Brown eyes met blue ones and they exchanged a smile.
Heyes smile soon faded. “I thought we’d have more of a life than running, Kid.”
“We haven’t done too bad. We ain’t dead yet. I never did like that part on our wanted posters.”
“It’s not for lack of folk trying. I mean who are they?” Heyes pointed into the darkness. “I thought we’d be has-beens by now. Don’t they have younger outlaws to chase?”
“I guess not.” Kid’s head snapped up, his attention now fully on whatever or whoever was outside. He put down his coffee and drew his Colt.
“What is it?”
“Your gun loaded?”
“Of course,” Heyes informed him as he drew the Schofield from the holster.
“I guess they ain’t waitin’ for mornin’ after all.”
Heyes dragged himself over to the entrance. Kid didn’t move to help, just kept his vigil scanning the treeline. The men outside made no attempt to hide their approach. They heard a rifle being cocked. Then another.
Heyes took a deep breath, his grip tightened on his gun. “Kid.”
“I know, Heyes.” The blond man looked at his friend and smiled. “Me too.”

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

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Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 98
Location : The Comfy Chair

PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Mon Apr 04, 2016 4:23 pm

June 3, 1880

Dearest Mother:

It was so good to hear that you and Daddy are enjoying your grand tour of the continent. I can hardly imagine Venice, a city where all the streets are canals! I am sure that spending the summer in Brighton will be delightful for you both. Here in Porterville, summer is starting dry and dusty.

I am so glad that Daddy is proud of me, and the way I’ve run the bank during his long absence! Only you, dear Mother, can know how badly I want to impress Daddy. Especially after the attempted robbery! Oh Mother, if it weren’t for Sheriff Trevor’s friends, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones, things could have gone from bad to worse very quickly. If I live to be 100, I will always remember the sight of all the paper money floating down from the sky like big snowflakes.

Unfortunately, you will probably not get a chance to meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. Lom said that they had urgent business elsewhere, and they were gone the next morning. They were both very charming, especially Mr. Jones. Maybe they will visit Porterville again, but Lom says it’s not very likely. Oh well.

Please let Daddy know that I do consult with Sheriff Trevors regularly, as he suggested. Lom is certainly very diligent about his responsibilities, and very trustworthy. Who would have expected that from a former outlaw? Reverend Tripp thinks it is because he is trying to make up for his disgraceful past. He thinks the Sheriff should always set an example, especially in regards to young ladies. Maybe the Reverend is right on both counts. Lom is especially proper and formal with me. Faith Evans thinks that maybe it is because he admires me, but is too shy to say so. That hardly seems possible to me. A man who was brave enough to commit armed robbery in the past could not be afraid of someone such as me.

Well, enough with the maybes for now. I will write again next week about all the latest developments. I am sure you hope that an exploding tunnel is not one of them!

Your loving daughter, Caroline Porter

----
June 12, 1880

Dearest Mother:

Some good news! I took Daddy’s advice, and asked Sheriff Trevors to make the rounds and let people know that “found” money could be returned, no questions asked. He recovered $183!! That means the total loss to the bank is now only $47.53! Isn’t it amazing? He truly is a remarkable man. Porterville is so lucky to have him.

I was a little bold, Mother, but I want you to know, I acted only as a responsible and grateful bank manager should. I told him I would like to take him to dinner, to discuss business, of course. Would you believe it, Mother, I think he actually blushed! At first he said he could not allow a young lady to purchase dinner for an old man like himself. How silly! He may have a few gray hairs, but he is certainly not old!

I explained to him that I was asking in my role as bank manager. He said “Oh.” And then “Oh. I see.” And he just looked down at the floor and shuffled his feet. Honestly, Mother, it was so sweet. He looked like a small boy whose candy had been stolen. I realized, suddenly, that he must be very lonely. I think maybe Reverend Tripp is right. Lom has dedicated himself to making good for all the ill he did when he was much younger, so much so that he takes very little time for pleasure. I’ve never even heard of his courting anyone, although he is certainly a handsome man and an eligible catch.

Well, Mother, for a moment there, I didn’t know what to say. I know you are thinking “that never happens!” But it is true. My heart just went out to him. Finally, I said, as humbly as I could, I might be making the request as a bank manager, but that I hoped we could spend the evening together as friends and neighbors. At this, he cleared his throat, and said that would be perfectly appropriate, and that I should expect him at 7:00pm.

I wish you were here, Mother, to help me choose the appropriate dress for tonight. When Mr. Jones took me to dinner that one time, I’m afraid I overdressed. I was probably trying too hard to impress him. Unlike Mr. Jones, Lom and I already know each other, and I can enjoy my time with him as I would with any friend.

I will write more in a day or so, Mother, because I need time to get ready for our dinner tonight. I will tell you all about it!

Your loving daughter, Caroline Porter

--------------

June 27, 1880

Dearest Mother,

I apologize sincerely for being so lax about writing. The last several days have been a bit of a whirlwind, what with the reconstruction of the bank proceeding so quickly. The building will be bigger and safer than ever, and we will absolutely make sure that even the most determined miner cannot tunnel underneath ever again!

I have found myself spending quite a bit of time with Lom. His ideas on security for the bank are excellent, and we have had many long conversations touching on that, but also many other subjects.

Do you remember, Mother, how I told you that I convinced Lom to have dinner with me by stressing our connection as friends and neighbors. Maybe that is where it all started. Our conversation seemed awkward, at first. Maybe Lom still thought of me as a young girl, the indulged daughter of a wealthy family. Maybe I thought of Lom as conservative older man, so wrapped up in his duties that he had no time for things like courting.

Lom did insist he would pay for dinner, but I said, as a friend, that he must allow me to purchase the wine. He agreed to do that, and that good wine probably loosened our tongues a bit. Not that mine really needed to be loosened! But the Madeira helped him to relax, and I suppose it helped me, too. We stayed the whole evening at the restaurant, talking naturally and easily for hours, until closing time.

He walked me home that night, since it was late, and very properly took me to the front door, and came inside only long enough to make sure everything was as it should be. As he was leaving, he stopped with his hand on the door handle and became shy again. He asked, would my parents think it acceptable if I accompanied him to dinner again? Oh Mother, my ladylike demeanor came in handy then, because my heart started pounding so hard in my chest. I only said, I’m sure they would, since they specifically told me to rely on you, and for my own part, well . . . I had been hoping he would ask.

You’ve told me, Mother, on more than one occasion, that a young lady must constantly be on her guard, and that I am probably a bit too naïve and trusting. I have made extra efforts to be always on my best behavior, as I think you know, and to make you and Daddy proud of me. You have always told me that a lady’s reputation is priceless, and I have never forgotten that. I assure you, no one can say that I am anything but a proper lady in public.

When I’m with Lom, though, I feel as though I can always be just me. He has known me since I was a young girl, after all. He accepts me for who I truly am, not who society or my job demand I be.

How did I ever think Lom was brusque or unfeeling? Even with all his accomplishments, he has a sensitive soul, and he hides it with formality. The more time I spend with him, the more I see the tenderness that has somehow survived a hard and unhappy life. After all the bad things he’s seen and experienced, he still has a kind and caring heart.

And, I admit that I am young enough, even at age 23, to admire his physical features. Some people have said his blue eyes can be cold, and I suppose they are, if you are a criminal. To me, they are the windows to his beautiful soul. And he is such a tall man! I feel completely safe and protected when I am with him.

I must close now. Lom is meeting me in half an hour. Can you believe I need so little time to get ready? I think it is because he and I are so comfortable with each other. There is no need for pretense. I am very happy.

Your loving daughter, Caroline Porter




August 3, 1880

Dearest Mother,

I received a packet of delayed letters from you yesterday and stayed up much too late, reading them all. I do miss you and your sensible advice, and am grateful that you always have my best interest in mind.

I am so, so sorry to hear that Daddy broke his leg during his first fox hunt, but glad to learn that he is expected to fully recover. Of course, that will delay your return, but let me assure you, you and he have nothing to worry about here. Everything is going exceedingly well with the bank. The reputation of Porterville, its sheriff, and our bank, have grown even brighter since the attempted robbery this spring. New businesses and homes are springing up faster than weeds, and that only contributes to the growth of the bank’s business.

I must express surprise, however, at your rather unexpected insistence that I distance myself from Lom. It was you and Daddy who strongly advised me to take advantage of his expertise and wisdom and to lean on him. When I do exactly that, you become alarmed. This is very confusing.

You and Daddy left me in charge of the bank because, and I quote you directly, “we trust your good judgment.” As you trusted me then, you must trust me now, especially since your return is delayed several weeks. I may be young, as you remind me, but I am not unintelligent. I know that the young men who courted me in the past were encouraged by you and Daddy, and that you were disappointed I discouraged them. I think it is a mark of my intelligence that I did discourage them. They were so, so young, almost unformed! And many of them cared more for Daddy’s money than for me. Don’t deny it, for you know it is true.

Why are you concerned about Lom’s only having a sheriff’s salary? How is that relevant to anything? He is a good, kind man, who cares about me. And I care about him, so very much.

Please don’t fret, Mother. All is well in Porterville. I have your good advice to guide me, of course, but I must rely on my own sense and my own heart, because that is what ultimately will ensure my future happiness.

Your loving daughter, Caroline Porter
----

September 15, 1880

Dearest Mother,

Another bundle of letters has arrived from you, but I confess, I have not opened them yet. I hope you are sitting down, because I have tremendous news. Lom has proposed marriage to me, and I have accepted his offer. I nearly burst open with joy. He actually went down on one knee, took my hand in his, and spoke from his heart. He apologized that all he could offer me was the kind of living that a sheriff could provide, and he knew that was less than I was used to. Of course, I had not yet told him about the trust fund that you and Daddy settled on me when I was 21, so he did not know that money would not be a concern.

Even so, he promised to always love me and cherish me, and to do all he could to make me happy. I cried, and I think he had tears in his eyes, too. And we kissed, for the first time, but surely not the last.

But that is not the biggest news. I told him only one thing would make me happier than I was at that moment, and that was being with him, as his wife, as soon as possible. He thought that I would prefer to wait until your return, but I told him I did not want to wait to begin our life together. So, ten days later, we stood in Reverend Tripp’s church and, in front of our friends and neighbors, became man and wife.

Lom’s friends, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones, returned to Porterville for the wedding. Mr. Jones walked me down the aisle, and Mr. Smith served as Lom’s best man. It was so wonderful to have them here, to support Lom. They teased Lom, of course, as men do, but you could tell they were so happy for him.

I hope you will be as happy for me, as Lom’s friends were for him. As for me, Mother, I never thought I could know such happiness. It all happened so quickly, over the course of this summer, and I know you expressed concern about me getting involved so fast. Maybe you were right to be concerned. I did get involved, very quickly. And I regret nothing.

We spent our first night as man and wife in the guest suite at home. I told Lom I knew it’s what you would have wanted. We plan to take a honeymoon trip after you and Daddy return in October, probably just a week to Glenwood Hot Springs. And then we will be settled into our married life. Maybe, if we are very lucky, I will be in the family way by the time of your return.

Who would have believed all this would happen? I certainly did not, and from the tone of your letters, neither did you or Daddy. Yet it did.

I will read your letters in a day or two. Lom will be home shortly, and I want to spend every precious moment I can with my wonderful husband.

Your loving daughter, Caroline Porter Trevors



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sistergrace

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Mon Apr 04, 2016 5:12 pm

As I prepare to hit the "send" button today, I find myself pausing to remember all the amazing challenges, by all the wonderful writers who have participated on this forum over the years.

Thank you, from the heart, to each and every writer who has opened up to share a little piece of herself/himself with all of us.thankyou  

I chose the following challenge as my favorite because the eleven year old gal in the story is, on more than one level, a reflection of myself in January of 1971.


Horses
by Grace R. Williams
November 2010

It wasn’t like I’d never seen a horse before.  Growin’ up here in Appaloosa, kind’a guaranteed a gal had seen more’n her fair share of ’em by the time she reached the ripe ol’ age of eleven.  An’ dang, I knew I wanted me one!

That’s how I come to be workin’ at Mr. Wilkins’ livery.  Now, I know muckin’ out stalls an’ pitchin’ hay don’t sound like fittin’ work fer a girl, an’ trust me, it took some convincin’ on my part to get Mr. Wilkins to take a chance, hirin’ me, but see, I knew I didn’t never have no shot at ownin’ my own horse, an’ I was startin’ to get desperate.  So, takin’ care’a other folks’ horses seemed like the next best thing.

I ‘member that evenin’ in January clear, like I’m seein’ the mem’ry played out all over ag’in in front’a me at one o’ them stage shows they got over to Tombstone.

Stars were dottin’ the sky that night an’ the moon was shinin’ bright.  A cold spell had set in, makin’ it so’s it was hard to breathe, like yer nostrils were stickin’ together, iff’n ya know what I mean.

I shut the livery door behind me, stompin’ my boots an’ clappin’ my home-knit mittens together in an effort to keep the blood movin’ in my toes an’ fingers.  That’s when I saw him.  Middle stall on the left.  He was perfection!

I moved real slow, so as not to fright him, as I took off my mittens an’ shoved ’em in my pocket.  He was deep, dark chocolate, brushed to a silky shine.  Like someone had been carin’ fer him, real good, an’ I couldn’t help but run my bare hands over him, talkin’ real gentle all the while.

“He sure is somethin’, huh?”

I jumped.  It wasn’t Mr. Wilkins’ voice talkin’, I knew that fer sure, an’ I spun around fast.  Knowin’ from experience that some folks can get awful mad ’bout a muck-slinger like me messin’ with their mount, I had an apology ready to spit out quicker than a mouthful’a Doc Golden’s cough soothin’ elixir.

Only this stranger, he didn’t look mad.  Fact was, as I stood there, jaw hangin’ open like some kind’a bass I pulled outta Miller’s Creek last summer, I noticed this stranger’s eyes sort’a sparklin’ at me.  They were blue an’ kind an’ clear as a mountain mornin’.  He tipped his hat with one finger, like he was greetin’ a real lady or somethin’.  Then he smiled.  The kind’a smile that made his whole face light up an’ set his cheeks to crinklin’.

I swallowed hard an’ come up with the most intelligent thing I could think of to say, spur o’ the moment an’ all.  “Uh-huh.”

He flipped me two bits.

My hand darted out, catchin’ it mid-air.

“Think ya can put an extra blanket on him?  Extra handful of oats?”

I nodded, dumbly.  Then I watched him walk away.  Nice eyes, nice smile.  Nice gait too.  Real nice.  A saucy grin tugged at one corner of my mouth.  I let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holdin’ an’ tucked the coin in my pocket ‘fore pullin’ my mittens on ag’in.

It wasn’t like I’d never seen a cowboy before.  Growin’ up here in Appaloosa, kind’a guaranteed a gal had seen more’n her fair share of ’em by the time she reached the ripe ol’ age of eleven.  But dang, this one was perfection!  An’ I knew I wanted me one!

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HannaHeyes

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Tue Apr 05, 2016 6:56 pm

I haven't posted anything in a while, but I wanted to post on this thread. (I've been in quite the creative slump. Been working on one story since last January.) Anyway, I chose this story because it was the first one I ever completed using nothing but dialog between four characters. And it seemed that people enjoyed it.

The Hidin' Place

"Whoa, what is this?"

"What the…?"

"Oh, sorry Wheat, but I can't see where I'm agoin'."

"Well shoot Kyle. I can't see where I'm goin' neither but I ain't runnin' into ya every few seconds!"

"Will you two shut up!"

"S'cuse me Heyes! T'weren't my idea to hide in here."

"Wheat..."

"Well sorry Kid. I just think we coulda found a better place to lay low 'til that posse gave up!"

"Wheat. May I remind you that this was the only option we had other than run our horses to death or give ourselves up. Besides, Kid's horse had started to go lame. Now I don't know about you, but I wasn't going to leave him behind and I'm not ready to spend the next twenty years behind bars. Besides, this cave HAS to have another entrance. Feel the breeze blowing through here? Only caves with more than one entrance have that strong a wind blowing through them."

"And just how is it you know that Heyes?"

"Because, WHEAT, how many caves in and around Devil's Hole have we stocked with supplies? And how many of those caves have we searched for a rear exit in case of trouble? If, during those times we were packing in supplies, you had taken notice of something OTHER than your desire to be leader; and yes, I know all about that; you would've discovered that all the caves we found other entrances in had a strong breeze in them. Those that had no other opening did NOT have a strong breeze. THIS cave here, you can feel a pretty good breeze. Therefore, there should be another opening somewhere."

"Yeah, well, you coulda at least picked a cave to hide in we had stocked."

"Wheat, why the heck didn't you go on to the Hole with Lobo and the rest? Why'd you have to follow me and Heyes when we all split up?"

"'Cause somebody got to watch out fer you two."

"Is that so? WHO was it again that caused that rock fall back there where we came in?"

"THAT WAS KYLE'S FAULT! He's the one done lit that stick of dynamite!"

"I thought it was a candle!"

"ALRIGHT! EVERYBODY SHUT UP! This arguin' ain't helping us find a way outta here!"

"Any ideas Heyes?"

"I'm working on it Kid. Kyle, you got any of those matches left?"

"Yeah, I think so…here. Heyes, you don't think there's no bears sleepin' in here…do ya?"

"No. I think he'd already been here havin' supper if there was. But, on the off chance there's one hiding around one of these corners, we'll just feed Wheat to him."

"That AIN'T funny Heyes!"

"Well, Wheat, bears need their fiber too…

Let me strike this match here…

Kid, did you grab your saddlebags before you ran in here?"

"Yeah."

"You still packing around that shirt you ripped up trying to get that rabbit you shot out of that briar patch a couple days ago?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Give it here. I'm gonna wrap it around this piece of wood I found on the ground and make a torch."

"Here ya go."

…"There. Now maybe we can see where we're going. Might as well get started. Let's head down this passage and see what we can find."

"Well, I think we should stay here and try to dig our way out."

"Well, Wheat, you stay right here and pretend to be a gopher. I'm going to look for another way out."

"Wheat, don't you think we'd be better off goin' with Kid and Heyes?"

"Kyle, have you ever known me to have a bad idea?"

"Well, remember that one time…"

"SHUT UP and git over here to help me dig!"

"By the way Wheat. Suppose you spend hours on end and actually dig a big enough tunnel through there to get back out that way. How are you gonna know that posse won't be waiting for you on the other side? You know they probably heard Kyle's candle explode…

C'mon Kid."

"Well I think that makes a good bunch of sense Wheat. What if they are waitin' fer us out there? If Heyes and Kid go off through yonder, won't be nobody to save us."

…"Ya know Kyle. After I think about it, I'd say we'd be better off goin' with them two. Looks like a whole bunch of work to dig through there anyway. Let's go…

HEY YOU TWO. WAIT UP!"

oooooasjooooo

"How long we been walkin' Heyes?"

"I'd guess about twenty minutes or so."

"Do you have any idea where you're goin'?"

"Yes Wheat I do. I'm going this way…"

"Some cave explorer you are."

"Wheat! I've about had it with you! One more word and I swear I'll put a bullet in your backside!"

"Now Kid…"

"Well, now that sounded like one more word to me!..."

"KID! Put your gun back up. If you shoot him, that just means we'd have to carry him…

Look up there. Looks like the passage splits up ahead."

"Which way should we go Heyes?"

"Hmm…looks like this left passage starts to go downhill a little bit. This one straight ahead looks to stay about the same level. Wait a minute… Everybody be quiet."

"What is it? A bear?"

"Kyle! Shh…

"I knew we shoulda stayed and tried to dig out."

"QUIET…"

"What do you hear Heyes?"

"C'mere Kid. Take a step down this left passage, tell me what that sounds like to you."

…"Sounds like water, like a creek or something."

"Right! It sure does!"

"You care to explain what's so excitin' about that?"

"Well, I been readin' about some fellas back east exploring some cave in Kentucky or Tennessee or somewhere. Anyway, that newspaper article said that one time, they got lost, and they found their way out by following the water flowing through the cave. So I figure our best bet would be to go down this left passage, find the water, and follow it. I mean, it has to go somewhere, right?"

"Yeah, it goes somewhere. But what guarantee you got that it goes back outside?"

"I don't Kid. But its better than stayin' stuck in here with Wheat and no food."

"Yeah, it sure is. Lead on."

oooooasjooooo

"NOW, how long we been walkin'?"

"Wheat, you ask me that one more time and I AM gonna let Kid shoot you!"

"Wooeee! Lookee there! The ceiling and walls are all white-looking and sparkly! You think them's diamonds?"

"No Kyle. They're not diamonds. They're just some kind of cave rock."

"Well they sure do sparkle like diamonds! And look at that one there! Looks like a rock flower growing on the wall. What kind of stuff is this Heyes?"

"Well now, I'm not sure what its called. Seems though like I remember hearing somewhere that indians go in caves and get some kind of mineral off the wall to use in their medicines and things. Maybe this is the stuff they get."

"That's the craziest thing I've ever heard! Whoever heard of somebody eating rocks off'n the walls of caves."

"I don't know Wheat. Why don't you try a bite and see what it tastes like? It might be good."

"Don't have to. Kyle done went and licked it."

"Kyle! What's the matter with you? Its untelling what that stuff could do to you!"

"Well, you said indians eat it. I just thought I'd see if'n it was any good."

"Was you raised by wild animals? Quit licking the wall."

"I just took a little bite…"

"Look there! We've reached the water! Looks like its flowing out the direction we're heading. Let's just keep going this way."

oooooasjooooo

"OWWW!"

"Now what's ailing you Wheat?"

"I done went and smacked my head on something. Look at all them things hanging down from the roof. Mother Nature ought to have to move them things. A body could knock his brains out."

"A body would need brains first…"

"Heh, heh,…AHEM…just watch where you're going Wheat."

"Oooh, I don't feel too good."

"Now what's wrong with you Kyle?"

"Don't know. My stomach started hurting all sudden-like."

"Did you eat something bad earlier today maybe?"

"It's probably from licking the wall like a dog back there a little while ago."

"You know Kid, you may be on to something there."

"My gut keeps crampin'…OOOH…"

"Kyle, if you gonna throw up, run back that way."

"Nope, don't need to throw up. Feels like I'm gonna have ta….."

…..

"Now where's he runnin' off to?"

"Go check on him Wheat."

"Me? Why do I have to go?"

"Because the Leader says so and his partner will shoot you if you don't."

…"Hey Kyle! Where'd you go?"



"Wooeee Kyle! What crawled up in you and died?"

"Is he alright Wheat?"

"Yeah, he's alright, but I sure ain't."

"What?"

"Don't walk down that way! It'll make you want to go drown yerself in that there creek."

"Oooooh…"

"Well, welcome back Kyle! Where, uh, did your shirt sleeves go?"

"I buried 'em."

"I….okay. That's all I need to know. Let's just keep going."

"Hey Kid. Come up here and look at this."

"What are you looking at Heyes?"

"This. Looks like some kind of nest. See all these little twigs and leaves and such."

"Yeah. Looks like a packrat's nest."

"Which means there must be an opening nearby. I never known packrats to go very far back in a cave. They wouldn't be able to see."

"Can we rest fer a spell? My feet are killin' me."

"No. C'mon Wheat. I think we're close to the surface."

"Well, its about dang time!"

"Is it just me Kid, or is this passage getting smaller?"

"Nope, it ain't just you. The further we go, the more I have to stoop over."

"Sure is hard on the back."

"Heyes! Look up ahead. I see some light!"

"Where?...Oh yeah! I see it too! Let's go."

"Look how little it is Heyes. Couldn't you have found a bigger way out?"

"Quit complaining Wheat. It's a way out. Now come on. We'll just have to climb up on that little rock and squeeze through it. Kyle, you go last."

"How come I gotta go last?"

"For obvious reasons. Go ahead Kid."

"Nmmmmhhhh…whew! Nmmmmmhhh…That's a little tight."

"Did you make it?"

"Yeah Heyes. I'm out. But to get through it a little easier, you might have to blow all the air out of your lungs."

"Alright Wheat. You're next."

"If I get stuck and die, I'm comin' back to haunt you."

"That's fine. I'll just ignore you like I do now. Now git goin'."

"Mmmaaaahhhhh…this is the last time I go exploring with you two."

"Wheat, shut up and go on."

"Aaaammmmmhhh…Finally! Daylight!"

"Okay Kyle. I'm gonna go and you come right behind me, alright?"

"Alright Heyes. Just don't leave me if'n I git stuck."

"We won't, and you won't get stuck. Let's go…

Nnnmmmhhh…Well, that was a little tight.

C'mon Kyle."

"I'm comin'…Mmmmmgghhhh…Uh oh!"

"Uh oh what?"

"My gunbelt's hung on something!"

"Well, can you reach back and get it loose?"

"I'm trying. I can't git my arm back there to find where its hung at."

"Well, can you back up and try coming through again?"

"Let me see…..nope. Whatever its hung on, its hung on it good."

"Alright. Hold on. C'mere Kid.

Alright Kyle. I'm gonna grab one arm and Kid's gonna grab the other and we're gonna pull you out of there."

"Won't that hurt?"

"Would you rather stay there?"

"No. I guess not….

Okay. I'm ready."

"Ready Kid?"

"Yeah, as ready as I'll ever be."

"Alright. PULL!"

"NNNNMMMMMGGGHHHHHFMMMMM!"

"WHEW! One more time Kid. PULL!"

"MMNNNNNGGGAAAHHHHHHH!"

"WHOA! Whew…Okay Kyle. You can get off us now."

"Oh yeah. Sorry."

"Better reach back in there and grab your gun."

"Yeah, guess so…..



Aha! There she is! She was wedged behind a rock."

"Where are we Heyes?"

"Don't rightly know Kid."

"Well, that's just great! So we've climbed out of the hole in the ground to be lost up here."

"Wheat….

Let's see. The sun's starting to go down and it sets in the west. Devil's Hole was to the north of the town where we just robbed the bank. And you can always watch the sun setting behind the leader's cabin so…if the cabin sits here, and we went that direction when we left then…."

"I'm just going to sit down while he's pacing. Untelling how long he'll be at it."

"I got it! We need to go in that direction!"

"Are you sure Heyes?"

"Of course I'm sure Kid! Its just a simple bit of navigating. Nothing to it! See, I figure we were only about twenty, forty minutes at the most away from the entrance to Devil's Hole when we had to stop. And as far as I could tell, we went pretty much in the same direction the whole time we were underground, give or take a few feet difference. So if we start walking in that direction, we should make it to the Hole in a couple hours."

"Well, I sure hope you're right. Let's get going. I don't want to be out here all night."

oooooasjooooo

"HOW much further we have to go? My feet are killing me, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, and I'm ready to be in a bed!"

"Oh, I'd say about five minutes Wheat."

"Now how can you be so sure Heyes?"

"Because look up ahead. You can just make out the outline of the bunkhouse if you look hard enough."

"Yahoo! I knew Heyes would git us back!"

"Thanks Kyle. Good to know someone had some faith in me."

"Where have you fellers been? We was gittin' ready to come lookin' fer you, afraid the posse had got you or somethin'"

"Howdy Preacher! Good to see you to!"

"What happened Heyes? You all are filthy. Where's your horses?"

"Well, we'll have to go round our horses up in the morning. As for where we've been…well, it's a long story. And I'll tell it to you as soon as I get cleaned up."

"After we eat of course."

"Yes Kid. After we eat."

oooooasjooooo

"Whew, what a day."

"I know Kid. It was a tough one. At least we're back now. Got cleaned up, had dinner, and now to relax a little on the porch."

"Many more robberies end up turning out this way, and I've got a good mind to retire from this line of work."

"Aw Kid. What else we gonna do?"

"I don't know. I'm sure we could find somethin'. I know one thing we AIN'T doing."

"And what's that?"

"We AIN'T gonna be givin' cave tours."

oooooasjooooo

A/N...Gypsum is a mineral found growing in limestone caves. In its pristine state, it is normally white and will sparkle when hit by light. Archeologists have found evidence of Native Americans in some caves collecting gypsum from the cave walls.

Another mineral that can be found on a cave wall is magnesium oxide, which when ingested, can cause diarrhea.

Poor Kyle
.

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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:18 pm

Wow, a hundred challenges?  Kudos to all of you who help to keep this website going and to the writers and readers who keep it fun!

BOUNTY


Hannibal Heyes was having a well-deserved rest after a couple of busy months of outlawing.  Two banks, three trains, and a mine payroll office later, he was now seated on the front porch of the Harwood Inn in peaceful Littleton, Colorado, with his right leg propped up on the railing.  Night was closing in, and the crickets had begun their evening concert.  He sighed happily and puffed on his imported cigar. He’d ordered up a half dozen earlier in the evening after a fine meal shared with his partner, Kid Curry.  The Kid had just gone back inside for a couple of refills of sipping whiskey.


As he watched, a wagon turned off Rapp Avenue into the circular drive and wound its way towards the front of the hotel.  Heyes could just make out in the waning light a large, hulking tarp-covered object sticking up about four feet above the wagon bed.  The burly driver reined up the team, set the brake, and hopped down from the buckboard seat walking tiredly up the steps onto the porch.


“Evening,” said Heyes, congenially, “Looks like the end of a long day for you.”


“Yes sir, it is.  I’m done in, and the ponies can’t go any further.”


The man was well-dressed despite his menial job and Heyes decided he must be well-paid, too, if he could afford the steep rates at the Harwood.  Curiosity aroused, Heyes smiled.  “Here, have a smoke and relax for a minute.  The hotel’s only half full so you won’t have any trouble getting a room.”  He gestured to the empty chair beside him, the Kid’s chair.


“Thanks, Mr….”  The man took the offered cigar and accepted a light.


“Haggleston.  Henry Haggleston, but you can call me Hank.”  Heyes shook out the match, gave him a broad smile, and extended his right hand.


“Nate Owens.  I appreciate your generosity, Hank.”  Nate sat down heavily on the cushioned wicker chair.


The outlaw let his gaze drift to the wagon.  “What are you hauling that’s got your team so tired?”


“It’s one of those new-fangled Brooker safes.  This one’s supposed to be impossible to crack.  Weighs a ton, though I guess I’m being paid good money to deliver it,” sighed Nate.


“A safe, huh?” Heyes was fully alert now.  “Where’s it going?”


The Kid stepped back out onto the porch with two whiskeys in hand.


“Morris, meet Nate Owens; Nate, Morris Flingerhoff.”  Heyes took the drinks and handed one to his new friend Nate by leaning across the small table between them.  He winced slightly at the movement.  His old friend scowled at him and rolled his eyes before going inside to replace his pilfered drink.


“So you were saying, Nate?“


“It’s for Ben Paulson.  Who else in Denver is rich enough to have a safe that big in their house?”


“Ben Paulson, the railroad mogul?” Heyes was all ears now.  He loathed Ben Paulson.  The man had been personally responsible for the 'dead or alive' language on their wanted posters and had gone so far as to offer a generous bounty to anyone delivering Heyes’ head to him.  Heyes happened to feel very attached to his head and resented anyone who would try to part him from it.


“The very same.  Seems he’s got himself a new, young wife and the only way he can think to keep her is to shower her with jewelry.”  Nate took a sip of his whiskey and sighed appreciatively.  “I tell you, Hank, you are a godsend tonight.”  At that moment, the Kid stepped back onto the porch with his new glass of spirits.  


“Nate, good to meet you.”  Curry  stood leaning against a post.  He didn’t know what Heyes was up to, but he’d follow his partner’s lead.


“You too, Morris,” smiled Nate.  He looked back at Heyes.  “If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to you?  It looks like that leg’s paining you some.”


Heyes chuckled.  The man was no slouch.   His leg was the reason why he and the Kid had chosen Littleton to rest up in.  The last robbery hadn’t gone as planned.  Wheat had decided to change things up mid-way through the heist resulting in a bullet through Heyes’s right calf.  The outlaw leader had been so furious he’d drawn on his lieutenant and only Curry’s quick reflexes had prevented bloodshed.  It had been his idea to get Heyes as far away as possible from Wheat Carlson.  The gang was whooping it up in Denver.  “I had a little accident.  Danged if I didn’t fall off my horse and shoot myself.”


Nate roared with laughter.  “You’re pulling my leg!”


“I swear it’s the honest truth or my name isn’t Henry Haggleston.  Ain’t it the truth, Morris?”


“Oh yeah.  Good ol' Hank here can’t ride worth a darn; bounced right out of the saddle.  Next thing I know, his gun goes off.  Forgot to set his hammer on an empty chamber,” laughed the Kid.  “Hank might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he didn’t deserve that.  Did it right in front of the ladies' church social.  You should’ve heard the laughter…”


“That’s enough,” ground out Heyes with a steely edge.


“Why, he landed in the middle of a mud puddle.  Came up blusterin' and swearin' and cryin' like a baby.  You should’ve seen the looks on the ladies’….”


“All right.  He gets the picture!  I’m clumsy.  Now let it go,” snapped Heyes.


“Didn’t mean nothin' by it,” said the Kid innocently.  “Must be the drugs talkin'.  He don’t tolerate 'em too well; makes him kind of ill-tempered.  Ow!”  He rounded on Heyes with his fists clenched.  “What d'you do that for?”


“Oops, clumsy me again.  I was just moving my cane over to where I could reach it.” He smiled sweetly, but his eyes told a different story and the cane was held at the ready.  The Kid got the message.  


“Well, boys, it’s been real nice chatting with you, but I hear a feather bed calling my name.”  Nate rose and nodded at the two men before going inside.  The Kid waited a few seconds and then sat down opposite his partner.


“See that wagon the stableboy’s leading off?” Heyes gestured towards the barn.  “Guess what’s in the back of it.”


“What?”


“The latest and greatest Brooker safe; must be that new model 303 I’ve been reading up on,” crowed Heyes.  “I’m going to go check it out later; you wanna come?”


“You’re supposed to be restin' up.  The doc told you to take it easy.”


“Ain’t nothing wrong with my ears or my fingers, Kid.  Far as I remember--although I admit I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer--I don’t use my legs to open them.”


“What do you want to open it for?  You know there ain’t nothing in there.”


“I need to practice, don’t I?” Heyes struggled to his feet carefully.  


“Sure you do.”  The Kid stood, too, and cupped his partner’s elbow to steady him.


“I got it.” Heyes brushed off his hand, “Don’t mother me!  Kid, that safe’s going to Ben Paulson’s house.  Nate told me Paulson’s got some jewels he wants to secure.” He gripped his cane tightly. His leg was throbbing, but he hardly felt the pain he was so excited by the prospect of opening the new safe.  “Think about it, if I bust into it tonight; I’ll have the combination.  Once Paulson fills it up, I can waltz into his house and get it opened in no time.”


The Kid had that mulish look on his face that Heyes absolutely hated, but after a moment, the look was replaced with an evil, slow smile.  “Paulson?  Ain’t he the fellow that wants your head?”


Heyes laughed wickedly, “Yes, he is.”


“All right.  I reckon I can give up one night on that soft, feather bed in order to help a friend.”  The Kid slung his arm around Heyes’s shoulder in a show of comradeship, but kept a firm grip and piloted his partner safely inside the inn.


OOOOOOOOOO


The Kid held the shielded lantern high over Heyes’s back, casting a soft glow on the safe’s dial.  He could see the sweat beading on his partner’s forehead and he was wondering if the wound was causing him to fever.  It was well after midnight, and they’d been out in the pitch dark stable for nearly an hour and forty minutes.  It was too long.  Heyes should be in bed resting, not kneeling on the hard, wooden bed of the wagon.  Curry was ready to pull the plug on this operation.  “Heyes, it’s time.  It’s not gonna open.”


“No, just a few more minutes.  I’ve got the first three numbers, there’s just two to go.”  Heyes sat up and wiped the sweat out of his eyes.  


The Kid held the lantern closer and looked into his dark brown eyes; they were clear.  It wasn’t a fever; it was the sweat of desperation.


“What are you trying to do, blind me?”  Heyes fussily swatted the lantern away.  


"Well, maybe you’d hear those tumblers a bit better if you were blind."


“Ha Ha, very funny.”  Heyes lifted the empty whiskey glass he was holding in his left hand and placed it on the safe leaning his ear against the bottom.  His right hand began to deftly manipulate the dial.


“Okay, ten more minutes and then I’m haulin' you out of here.”


“Fine.  Now shut up, will you?” Heyes had his eyes closed.  The sweat sprang to his forehead again and dripped tear-like tracks down the grooves of his dimples.  Seconds stretched into long minutes until both men heard the slight, audible click of the final tumbler dropping into place.  A tired, but triumphant outlaw smiled up at his hovering partner.  “Aha, see?  Not a safe built I can’t get into.”


“I know, Heyes, you’re a criminal genius," said the Kid, sarcastically.  "What were the last two numbers?” He pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil, waiting for the response.


“Sixteen, and forty-eight.  The combination’s thirty-two, five, twenty-three,  sixteen, and forty-eight.  Is that what you’ve got written down?” Heyes grabbed for the crumpled paper his cousin held, but his stiffened leg threw him off-balance.


Curry held the paper up and out of his reach. “Say, do you remember that fifty dollars you owe me?”


OOOOOOOOOO


The next morning, Nate found Heyes and the Kid waiting for him.  The stableboy had brought the wagon around front and parked it in preparation for Nate’s departure.  As the wagon driver walked down the steps, Heyes wandered around the wagon, “Sure is a beaut.  Why, anyone can see she’s built like a fortress.  I’ll bet even Hannibal Heyes himself couldn’t open this fine lady.”  He patted the safe reverently while Curry frowned at him.


“Come to see me off, boys?”  Nate began to check the traces and harnesses.


“Actually, we’re here to ask you for a job.”  The Kid was watching his partner drooling over the safe.


“A job?  Doing what?” Nate was surprised and it showed.  He straightened up and turned his full attention to the two men.


“Well, you see, it’s like this.  We’ve spent all our money and now we need to find some work.  You know how it is,” grinned Heyes.  


“I do know how it is, but I also know it’s not my problem,” responded Nate, not altogether friendly any more.


Realizing that the wagon driver was digging in his heels, Heyes changed tactics.  “Now, Nate, this is sort of a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ proposition.  You were awful tired last night and I’m betting you’re going to be tired again tonight when you arrive in Denver.  Wouldn’t you like to have a little help unloading this monster?  Morris here is real strong,” He was talking fast, the words coming in a torrent.  Nate was spellbound by the speed of Heyes’s tongue.  “Now, I can’t do much lifting myself ‘cause of my unfortunate injury, but I can be real useful driving the team and I’m good with numbers.  I’ll make sure that cheap rascal, Paulson, doesn’t try to stiff you.”


At the mention of Paulson, Nate’s neutral expression changed.  Everyone in these parts knew how parsimonious the railroad man was.  He would cheat a five year old out of his last penny.  “And what’s all this help going to cost me?”


“Not a cent.  We just need a ride to Denver; we can find jobs there.  You see, we ain’t rich men, we’re just honest, hard-working cowboys.  When I got hurt, Morris here had to sell the horses to pay for my care.  Now that I’m better, I mean to pay him back.  Honest man that I am,” Heyes finished breathlessly.


“Morris, does he always talk this much?”


“Only when he’s not inhalin'.”


“All right, boys, it’s a deal.  Heck, I ought to be paying you two for the entertainment.”


OOOOOOOOOO


“Twenty-four, twenty-five; I deducted the other twenty dollars for the vase that idiot broke,” Mr. Paulson glared at Heyes.  


“But he broke it when you shoved him into it!” snarled the Kid.  It had taken all of his self-restraint to not go after Paulson when he had laid his hands on his obviously injured partner.  Heyes had been too slow in getting out of the way of the arriving safe he and Nate had been carrying and the railroad man had ruthlessly shoved him aside, cane and all.


“Boys, let it go.  Mr. Paulson knows we can’t fight him,” said a resigned Nate.


Heyes smiled and patted Curry's arm after seeing his hand straying towards his gun. “That’s true, Morris.  Mr. Paulson’s an awful rich and powerful man.  Why I bet he has a whole stable of lawyers working for him.”  


Paulson dismissively turned his back on the three workmen.


“Of course, Mr. Paulson also has a great, big old safe he doesn’t have a combination to,” added Heyes, smiling at Nate.  


The wagon driver was confused for a second then his hand flew to his shirt pocket.  “Yes sir, Mr. Paulson, I can’t give you the combination until I’ve been paid in full.  Company rules.”  


Paulson turned back and menacingly glared at Heyes.  There was something about this man that rubbed him the wrong way.  Heyes calmly stared back until Paulson dug into his pocket.  “Fine, here’s your twenty dollars.  Now give me the combination and get off my land.  If I see you here again, I’ll have my men fill you with buckshot.”


Heyes laughed, unconcerned by the threat.  “Yes sir, Mr. Paulson.  You have a real nice day, you hear?”


OOOOOOOOOO


A week later, Heyes and the Kid crept quietly out of the Paulsons' mansion. Their pockets were overflowing with jewels of the finest craftsmanship and each of them carried a canvas sack containing cash and negotiable bonds.  There had been an incredible array of valuables stored in the safe and they'd gotten in and out in record time having cased the place while making the delivery a week earlier.  Clearing the property boundary, the two partners hurried back to their concealed horses and rode off towards the other side of town.  They already had a fence lined up to move the stolen goods.  He would pull the gems, melt down the settings, and convert the bonds to cash.  By tomorrow morning, there’d be nothing left to trace.


“Heyes, what d'you write in that note you left?”  The Kid had watched as his partner had scribbled something on a piece of paper and placed it in the barren safe; then shut the door and spun the dial.


“It wasn’t a note, Kid, it was a copy of my wanted poster.”


Flabbergasted, Curry's mouth fell open.  Recovering, he asked, “So what'd it say?”


“Bounty always receives part of its value from the manner it is bestowed—Samuel Johnson.   My bounty in exchange for yours—Hannibal Heyes.”   Heyes spurred his horse into a gallop.  The Kid caught up quickly and together they rode into the shadows, their laughter trailing behind them.  



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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Wed Apr 06, 2016 10:00 pm

100 months already? A big thanks thankyou to Calico for doing the hard work on these threads, and to everyone who has written a challenge for all the lovely tales. I don't write much anymore, and confess I never  wrote many challenges. But, I wrote a few, including this one.




The Waiting Room

Kid Curry slumped over his whiskey in yet another shabby saloon, in yet another small town, in the middle of nowhere much.

A saloon gal wandered over to try her luck at getting a little business on a dreary midweek afternoon. One look at the hostility born of utter misery in those blue eyes, scowling out from under a rain-splattered brown brim changed her mind. This was a man who didn't want to talk. Not yet anyhow. Maybe not for a long time.

Kid tapped his glass to order a refill of the whiskey so far removed from being the 'good stuff' he reckoned they oughta pay him to drink it. He didn't care. He just wanted to get drunk and do it quick. He wanted to forget. Forget about what had happened. Forget about Heyes. Forget about their years together. Forget he'd ever had a partner. Forget he was alone. Alone forever. Heyes was the past. Gone. Done with.

A  week earlier:



“Remind me why we took these jobs.”

“Fifty-three cents. Twenty-eight cents. Made the total between us eighty-one cents. Any other questions, Thaddeus?”

Curry replied with a grunt. He swung his pickaxe and it hit the progressing tunnel with a thud. It was work, and hard work at that. He could not remember ever working so hard in all his life for so little reward. This was not the same as mining for gold with a few other fellas, no matter how Heyes had tried to present it. This was real work. And, it was suffocating.

Sweat dripped down his face, and he wiped it with his soiled bandana before continuing.

Digging for gold was one thing, working as an employee of a Silver Mine for a few dollars a week was another matter entirely. On top of that, the town was a company town, so everything was overpriced. They barely saved anything out of what they earned.

The walls of the tunnel groaned and work suddenly ceased. The men remained frozen in their respective positions and listened for any sounds that would indicate a cave-in. After a period of silence, one of the old-timers spoke up.

“It’s OK. She’s just speakin’ to us a little today.”

“You sure about that?” asked Curry. “It sounded different to me.”

“Sonny, you ain’t been at this long enough. That was just a squeak. Nothin’ to worry ‘bout.”

The Kid looked at Heyes for reassurance. Heyes grinned at him. “You heard Jim, sonny. You’re a greenhorn at this.”

The Kid gave his partner a glare in response.



The bartender slowly wiped the glass he was holding. He held it up and inspected it for dirt and smudges. He continued wiping it.

He looked at Curry and then at the saloon girl. She watched the Kid, obviously unsure of herself. The bartender jerked his chin in a movement that indicated ‘come here.’ She scurried to him.

“Look, I know you’re new here, but you’ve got to jump in sometime.”

“I know Pete, but he frightens me. He looks so angry.”

“He is angry, isn’t he?”




“You may be angry, Kid but don’t take it out on me. You agreed to this.”

“Yep but it was another one of your ideas Heyes, wasn’t it? Working ten hours a day and we can’t even afford a bath yet. And even if we could, I’m too tired to take one.”

“If you’re that tired why don’t you go to sleep?

“Because I’m too mad to go to sleep.”

“Look, it’s only temporary, Kid. We’ll get a stake and move on.”

“A stake? You said you’d double our money in poker, Heyes. When’s that gonna happen.”

“I’m tired too, you know.” Heyes plopped down on the bed. “I don’t see why you’re this angry anyway. I know its hard work, but it won’t be forever. It’s only been three days.”

The Kid paced angrily around the small room.

“What?” asked Heyes quietly.

Curry did not respond.

“What—is—eating—you?” Heyes enunciated each word slowly and clearly.

The Kid faced the wall and spoke to it. “I don’t like working down there.”

“Kid, you’re not saying you’re afraid to work down there, are you?”

“No. Well, not exactly. Look Heyes there’s something about being underground like that. It’s not natural.” He sat on the bed next to Heyes.

“Well I suppose it wasn’t natural robbing banks either. Look Kid, if that’s all it is, let’s just finish out the week.  Saturday night I’ll double, no I’ll triple our earnings and we’ll leave this town.” He grinned at the Kid. “You know I can do it Kid. You watched the other miners play when we got into town. There’s no way I can lose.”

“Yeah, I know you can do it,” the Kid grudgingly admitted. Curry’s face began to relax. Finally, he smiled at his partner. “OK Heyes. I’ll stick it out until Saturday.”

Heyes slapped him on the shoulder. “There ya go, Kid.”

“But no longer than Saturday.”

“No longer than Saturday.”



The Kid waved his gloved hand at the bartender for a refill. The bartender put down the glass he was polishing and got it. Curry sipped it. The bartender resumed wiping the glass.

Heyes had talked him into it again. His partner. His friend. He closed his eyes. He hated working down there. He had known better.

He hit the bar with his fist. He should have held his ground. He’d heard the creaking noise. It didn’t sound right no matter what the old timers said.

The girl came up next to him. She looked at the bartender timidly who nodded back at her to give her encouragement.

“Can I join you?”

“You want to join me?”

She swallowed. “Yes, I do. And I’d like you to come with me to the back room.”

He stared at her.

“I’m sorry. I spoke too soon.” She glanced over at the bartender. “I’m new at this and I’m not really too sure what to say. I may get into trouble if you don’t come with me. I think I may that is.”

The Kid waved at the bartender for a drink for the girl. The bartender raised his eyebrows, and put down the glass he was polishing once more to pour her a whiskey.
“Here’s your drink.”

“Thanks, Pete.” She drank it gingerly and coughed. “I’m not used to drinking hard liquor.”

The Kid put his half-empty glass down.

“Are you done? Are you ready?”

“Why, is there some hurry? I’m only half-done with my drink and you barely started yours.”

“I suppose there’s no hurry, but…” She looked at Pete for assistance.

“We should have rode on to another town!”

“What? Oh you mean…”

“I mean my friend and me. We didn’t have to stay there. We didn’t have much money but we could have gone on to the next town. Skipped a meal or two maybe.” He raised his glass and drank from it.

“But you didn’t?” questioned the bartender.

“No, we didn’t.” He slammed the shot glass down on the bar’s copper surface. The girl jumped.




Saturday they were in the mine. It happened again. The walls groaned. The men stopped to listen.

“OK, sonny,” said the old timer, “before you go and say anything, I want you to know I agree with you this time. Fellas, I think our greenhorn may be right. You,” he pointed in the direction of Heyes and the Kid, “Go on up and tell the foreman we need to shore up these walls. We’re gonna need more wood than we’ve got here. Have him send it down.”

The Kid sighed and put down his pickaxe.

“Not you, sonny. Your friend. I need you down here to help with the shoring. You’re a better worker than he is.”

Heyes grinned and winked at the Kid. “I’ll be right back,” he said.

“You’d better be,” Curry answered.

He watched Heyes walk towards the mine entrance.

He and the other miners began the work of shoring up the walls. They worked for a while, and then it happened again. The walls groaned, only this time it was louder. Then everything crashed, and he heard another loud sound burst in his head like a bone snapping.

That was it.

Then there was the saloon.

The bartender got a new towel and began to wipe the glass all over again. “You can’t stay here, you know.”

The Kid glared at the man, his blue eyes reflecting his anger and misery.

“Why not?”

“Everyone has to meet The Boss eventually. You really want to stay here forever and drink bad whiskey?”

“I’m angry. I want to see Heyes again. I want to tell him… When will he get here?”

The bartender shook his head.

“He will get here, won’t he?”

“There are no guarantees in life, or in death for that matter.”

The Kid looked up from his shot glass. “You’re Peter?”

“That all depends how you see things, doesn’t it?” The bartender waived his hand at the saloon, its occupants and its furniture. “This is your waiting room.” He rubbed the glass with his cloth. “However, you will have to move on.”

The girl touched his hand timorously. “Please. Come with me.” Her eyes pleaded with him. She turned and walked to the back door. She opened it and looked back at him.

Curry drank the remainder of the whiskey and put down his glass. He got up and followed the saloon girl to meet his Boss.

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Thu Apr 07, 2016 7:58 am

Here is my favorite.  It was the first time I ever wrote in first person.



Dead Man's Bluff




Well, Father, I jest can’t bring myself to answer yer question to yer face. Ya know I can read some, but I shore don’t write too good, so I found me somebody who would write my words jest like I say ‘em. They promised. And I read ‘em over, best I could, and I reckon they done a fair job of it.

Ya asked me how I can be shore there’s forgiveness and mercy in a world gone dark as coal tar and twice as bitter. That’s simple, Father. I know it ‘cuz I seen it. Hell, I lived it.


One thing I’s learned is that God Almighty ain’t too particular ‘bout who he uses to spread that there mercy. But I best get to tellin’ the story ya asked for.


Ya knows that I growed up hard. When I came nosin’ 'round yer church, lookin’ for work and a quiet place to live, ya seen it then. Ya told me, I needed sanctuary. I got that word right’ cuz I learned it once ya said it. Sanctuary is what I wanted. Ya gave me that, Father, and I need to thank ya agin, ‘cuz it’s a gift more precious than any other I ever got. Ceptin’ that there forgiveness and mercy ya wuz askin’ 'bout.



I can’t remember my Pa. Ma died when I was twelve. I wuz sent to my uncle’s place. Folks said I wuz real lucky seein’ as how my uncle wuz a preacher and willin’ to take me in and all, but them folks shore didn’t know what went on in that man’s house.



They say “charity begins at home.” Seems my uncle thought that hellfire and damnation started there too. I still got a few scars to remind me of that hard man. My cousin, Jude, felt the worst of it, though. His Pa wuz bound and determined to beat, cut, and burn the devil outta us two young ‘uns. Jude carried three burn marks on his face ‘til his dyin' day. Made Jude real memorable, those three scars did.



Jude used to protect me seein’ as I was smaller and meeker. Maybe that’s why I put up with somma the terrible things we done and seen, on account of Jude helpin’ me when we wuz kids. Leastways, that’s what I told myself when the shame would take me.


Things started goin’ bad when we wuz ridin’ with Captain Quantrill. Jude was chock full a hate and churnin’ anger. When we rode through Lawrence—ya know, up yonder in Kansas—I reckoned the killin’ would be enough even for Jude. But I wuz wrong.



Somehow, after we run off and left his Pa, Jude started blamin’ the slave folk, and thems that helped ‘em, for all his troubles. I ain’t shore why, but Jude just turned darker and darker towards them folk. When Captain Quantrill wouldn’t let Jude, or no other man either, kill women or children in Lawrence, Jude decided the Captain was jest too yella.



My cousin got some like-minded boys together, and we all skedaddled. He said he knew a spot not too far away, where some folks wuz helpin’ slaves run off, and robbin’ God-fearin’ men of their rightful property. He wuz fixin’ to put a stop to it. I told him I wuz thinkin’ a goin’ somwheres else. Jude, well, he jest laughed. He said I wuz too yella to leave him and would do as I wuz told. I reckon there wuz some truth to that, cuz I stayed with ‘em.



When we reached the place we wuz headin’, I seen that it wuz jest two small farms. Folks with women and children were scratchin’ out a livin’ in the Kansas sun. I wuz shore that Jude wuz mistook, and we wuz gonna be leavin’. Boy howdy, wuz I wrong.



I don’t remember much a that day. I guess my mind can’t take it in. I know there wuz screamin’. And men laughin’. Ya know the wicked kinda laughin’ when a man takes his pleasure in some other folks’ pain. I remember blood, and a knife cuttin’ white skin, and a pitchfork pumpin’ in and outta dead meat. Tears and gunshots. Prayin’and cursin’. Hopes and fears a dyin’. Whole parts a that time are done gone from me. I don’t know to this day if I helped with the killin’ or jest wandered around aimless-like.



When I came to myself, I wuz standin’ behind the corner of a barn. A bird of a woman with red curls wuz sprawled agin the wall with her dress ripped and bloody. I think the others thought she wuz a goner, but I heard her whisperin’ to a boy shiverin’ behind a woodpile. All I could see of him was blond curls and big blue eyes. His face was blotchy from cryin', but he wuz keepin’ real still.


When I started listenin’, I wuz shore I wuz hearin’ an angel sent from the Lord Hisself. Ya gotta understand that Jude’s Pa wuz a preacher who believed in scarin’ a body into heaven. He learned me my Bible verses, but they wuz all yammerin’ on 'bout God’s judgement and hellfire. After a bit, I cottoned on that this lady wuz quotin’ scripture, but scripture I ain’t never heard before.


I ain’t too book-learned, but I remember stuff I hear real good, and I can tell ya exact what she said. “And he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God hisself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor cryin', neither shall there be anymore pain.”* I found out later that, that there passage was from the Revealin' a John.


Then she started tellin’ her young ‘un that hate and revenge jest hurts them as done the hatin’. She had a funny way a talkin’. I’m thinkin’ that she wuz from Ireland, like ya, Father. She told her boy that all the killin’ and hatin’ over religion that she’d growed up with, had learned her that the only way to stop the killin’ wuz to let the hate go. Revenge jest keeps the killin’ goin’. She said that forgivin’ wuz best, but barrin’ that, walk away. Then she made her boy promise to walk away iffen he ever seen one of us agin. “No revenge, Jed,” she said. “It’ll eat ya up. Leave the reckonin’ to God. Promise me.” Then that young ‘un mumbled his Ma a promise.


After that, she started quotin’ the Good Book agin. She said, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”**


God’s love? Now that wuz a new idear for me. I ain’t never heard of God lovin’ before. And comin’ from this dyin’ woman—her body all torn and broke, she who wuz a lyin' there comfortin’ her scared son—it was mighty powerful. But to my shame, it weren’t powerful enough for me to step up and help her—or leave Jude. By this time, I wuz near as scared a my cousin as I been of his Pa. So I stayed hid. And when Jude and the others rode out, I rode with ‘em.



For fifteen more years I rode with my cousin. He jest got angrier and crazier. I did try to leave Jude sometimes. He used to hit me some, kinda like his Pa had when I was a young ‘un. Ever’ now and then, I’d tell Jude he wuz crazy mean and I wuz gonna leave. He told me that if I tried, he jest shoot me as I walked, so I‘d hafta kill ‘em first, iffen I wanted to go. I’d always back down, and Jude, well, he would laugh that mean and wicked laugh a his. I had a six-shooter Jude got for me, and he made shore it was cleaned and loaded. But he jest told me that I didn’t have the guts to shoot em. And I would stay. Guess maybe he wuz right.


Jude went for bounty huntin’. Said he was doin’ the Lord’s work bringin’ in thieves and murderers. He kept track of the things we’d done and explained that we wuz helpin’ to clear the West of sinners. He remembered them two farms in Kansas. He told me that we had missed two of the critters livin’ on them farms. Said they growed up to be Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. Heyes and Curry were still famous outlaws back then. He told me that he knew we’d done God’s work when we wuz in Kansas, 'cuz the two critters we missed turned out to be big-time outlaws. He decided to track ‘em down and finish the job.


We caught up with the Devil’s Hole Gang at some no account town called Moonshine. They didn’t have no sheriff. The gang wuz celebratin’ after robbin’ some bank. I remember wonderin’ how the son of that saintly woman had turned out to be a thief and a gunnie. By this time I wuz pretty shore that he couldn’t be any worse than Jude and me, no matter what he’d done.


So, anyway, in Moonshine we found Heyes and Curry. I didn’t know what Jude thought he wuz gonna do agin the whole Devil’s Hole Gang. My cousin fancied hisself a skilled gunmen, but I can’t believe he really thought he could take on Kid Curry and win. Sometimes I think he wuz tryin' to end it all in his own way.


Before I knew what wuz goin’ on, Jude wuz facin’ Curry in the street. The dark-haired fella, that Hannibal Heyes, he wuz standin’ a few feet behind his partner. The Kid was talkin’ real soft and quiet, like ya talk to a spooked hoss. I saw the moment, exact, when he recognized Jude. His eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open. For jest a second, a tremblin’ and cryin’ little boy peered out of the clear blue eyes. Then, quick as a lick, like the closin’ of a shutter, the little boy wuz gone, and there stood the icy gunnie.


Jude wuz goin’ on 'bout finishin’ the job, and clearin’ the land of vermin. That Hannibal Heyes wuz talkin' to Curry real fast and urgent-like. I don’t know if he cottoned on to who his partner wuz facin’. We hadn’t seen Heyes that day in Kansas, but that don’t mean he didn’t see us. Curry jest kept starin’ at Jude.


Real sudden-like, Jude went for his gun. Quick as lightenin', Curry had a shiny Colt in his hand. His gun barked once, and Jude’s shootin’-iron skittered across the dirt. Jude waited for the finishin’ shot, but Curry put his gun away. One of his men ran over and picked up Jude’s six-shooter.


Somethin’ broke in Jude. He started bellerin' and cursin’ like a rabid critter. He told Curry he was yella for not avengin’ his family. He started goin’ on 'bout what we’d done to his Ma and his sisters.


Iffen Heyes didn’t know who Jude and I wuz afore, he shore figured it out then. That there outlaw with the dark hair started toward us, pullin’ his gun outta the holster. Curry grabbed his arm and swung em 'round. They talked real urgent-like for a while. That fella, Heyes, he yanked his arm outta his friend’s grip. I heard Curry shout, “Let it go, Heyes. He ain’t worth it.”


That’s when I saw Jude reach into his boot and pull out his Derringer. Then and there, I reached the end of my rope. I didn’t think. I jest saw red. Next thing I knew, my six-shooter was in my hand, and Jude was bleedin’ in the street from a whole in the side of his head.


Them outlaws stopped arguin’ and stared at me. Curry walked over, and his partner followed. I looked at the gun in my hand and didn’t know what to do. Jude had called my bluff. He weren’t aware he wuz doin’ it, but he finally pushed hard enough for me to leave ‘em.


“He wuz my cousin,” I said when Curry and Heyes stood in front of me.


“You were there,” Curry said real hard-like.


“Shore wuz. Heard yer Ma, too. Yer a lucky man, Mr. Curry.”


“What does that mean?” asked Mr. Heyes.


“I heard his Ma the day she died. Any man has a Ma like that, even for a short time, is blessed by God Almighty.”


That’s when Hannibal Heyes slugged me in the face. Gave me a split lip, and I lost two teeth. His partner settled him down. Told him to let me be.


Curry stared at me lyin' there on the ground.


“Why?” he asked.


“The killin’ needed to stop. Ya kept yer promise to yer Ma, but the killin’ needed to stop. So I stopped it.”


I expected him to do somethin’ to me then, don’t know what, but somethin’. Instead he helped me to my feet and told me to leave town. Said that he and his men would see things cleared up 'bout Jude bein’ dead.


It wuz then that I understood that forgiveness and mercy weren’t some fancy tale. They’s real. Forgiveness ain’t findin' a soft warm feelin’ 'bout some fella that done ya wrong. Forgiveness and mercy, they’s a decision to let the bad stuff go. And for some reason, I ain’t never gonna understand, forgiveness heals.




* Revelation 21:3-4
** Romans 8:38-39
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Alias Alice



Posts : 176
Join date : 2013-04-02
Location : Yorkshire, UK

PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sat Apr 09, 2016 2:20 am

Challenge: COUNTING CHICKENS


“Got you!”

The farmer levelled the shotgun at the two boys, aged about sixteen and fourteen, lying sleeping in the hayloft of his great barn.  Two pairs of eyes opened and regarded him, at first sleepily, and then with growing alarm.

“They hang horse-thieves around here,” said the farmer grimly.  “If I had my way, they'd hang all thieves.  Including chicken-thieves.”

“We haven't stolen any chickens,” said the dark-eyed, older boy.

“Don't bother to lie!  I've counted my hens.  They're one short.  You've stolen it and eaten it.”

“No, we haven't!  And what if we had?  We've had nothing to eat for forty-eight hours.  We're both starving.  We've got a dollar and 16 cents between us.  I was going to leave that behind to pay for it when we went.”

The farmer, George McFarlane, smiled grimly.  “I knew you'd taken it!  And don't pretend you were going to pay!  I'm not stupid.”

The younger boy, sleepy-eyed, stood up.   George grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Oh no, you don't!  You're going nowhere til I say so.  If I say so.”

He pointed the shotgun directly at him alone.  The blond-haired boy blanched.  Instantly the dark boy was on his feet.  Before the farmer could stop him, he pushed the gun-barrel away from his friend, and stood between him and George.

“Leave him alone!  You touch him and I'll kill you!  He never pinched your damn chicken anyway!  It was me.”  He glared at the farmer.

In spite of himself, George was impressed.  He liked someone with courage.  And the boy's concern for his brother or friend was quite touching, in a way.  Involuntarily, he lowered the gun and released the younger one.  At this point, almost ironically, a sort of long-drawn out, clucking, crooning squawk was heard, and a black hen stepped into view, pecking spasmodically at the floor of the hay-loft in search of stray grains or seeds.

“What's that?”  said George.

“It's a chicken,” said the dark boy expressionlessly.

“What's it doing here?”

“Same as me, I should think,” said Heyes, (for that's who it was).“Looking for something to eat.”

“I thought you ate it last night.”

“No.  We didn't get here until about one in the morning.  We were going to eat it, but we were both   too tired to pluck it and make a fire and cook it.  Catching it was bad enough.  We were dead on our feet.  We just went to sleep.”

He looked at George.  Jed suddenly swayed.  Heyes put out an arm to steady him.

“Hey!  You OK?”

“Yeah.  Just giddy for a moment.”

“What's wrong with him?” said George.

“He hasn't eaten for two days,” snapped the older boy.  “Haven't you been listening?”

George thought for a moment.  He'd taken a reluctant liking for these two stowaways in his barn.  And he was not an inhuman man.  It didn't seem right to him that young boys should be alone and hungry.

“Come with me,” he said.  “My wife may be able to find you something to eat before you go.”

* * *

The boys cleaned themselves up under the pump in the farm-yard while George went into the kitchen to explain to his wife.  Before they were quite finished, she had come into the yard with George, and with a little girl of about six years of age trotting behind them.  George introduced his wife to them as Elspeth.  Although she was draped discreetly in a voluminous shawl, it was clear that Elspeth was expecting a baby, and soon.  

George's plan had been to ask his wife to pack them a few things to eat to take with them, but, once she met the boys, Elspeth was having none of that.

“Come into the kitchen,” she said warmly.  “I'll cook you something.  You'll need something hot inside you.  I hear you were going to eat our Martha!  You'd have found her a tough old bird.  Not much picking on her!”

Heyes and Curry looked at each other and smiled.  They had not expected such a kind welcome.

The boys did full justice to the enormous breakfast Elspeth provided for them. As they ate, Janey, the little girl, watched them, round-eyed.  The farm was in an isolated spot, and Janey was unused to visitors. She was very curious about them.  

She felt slightly less shy of Jed, because he seemed a little less of a grown-up than the other boy.

“Were you really going to eat Martha?” she asked him eventually.

Jed smiled at her.  “Well, maybe,” he said.  “Haven't you ever eaten roast chicken?”

Janey nodded, looking at him without speaking.  “This is Millie,” she said suddenly, bringing a small red felt toy-cat out of the pocket of her pinafore.

“What a lovely cat!” said Jed, feeling slightly at a loss as to what he should say.  He was just as unused to talking to children as Janey was to talking to strangers, but Janey seemed happy with his reply.


Meanwhile, George was asking Heyes about the boys' plans.  Heyes didn't have much to tell him.

“I'm going to have a baby brother,”  Janey told Jed, confidentially.

“Well, that would be very nice,” he said, “but how do you know it won't be a baby sister?”

“Pa thinks it will be a baby brother.”

“Oh, does he?” said Elspeth looking over at her husband.  “What makes Pa think that?”

“I don't know,” he said.  “It's just that there are so many men in this family.  Don't forget I've got five brothers.  I think we're quite likely to have a boy.”

“Don't count your chickens before they're hatched!” said his wife, sharply.  “You've made it fairly clear a few times that you'd prefer a boy.”

“I wouldn't 'prefer' a boy!  It's just that he'd be a big help on the farm later, that's all.  Any farmer would say the same.  It doesn't mean I wouldn't like another girl!”

Elspeth sniffed, and stood up to clear the table.  She looked slightly mollified, but not pleased.

“We'll be glad to get whatever we're given!”

* * *

Later that morning, the boys, fed and rested, were getting ready to leave.  Janey had followed them around all morning, taking a great interest in whatever they did.  She particularly attached herself to Jed, to whom she seemed to have taken a real fancy.  It was nearly time for them to go when George came over to them.

“Can I have a word?” he asked diffidently.

The boys exchanged glances.  They weren't used to a quiet, mild tone from George.  He seemed very anxious about something.

“Go ahead.”

“I have a favour to ask,” he said.  “Several favours.  It's the baby.  Elspeth thinks it may be starting to come.  It's not supposed to come for another three weeks or so, and my sister wasn't going to come to stay until next week.  It would be a great help if someone could go and get her from the town today, and the doctor.   So that I can stop here with Elspeth.”

He looked at them, nervously. “And we'd be very grateful if one of you could keep an eye on Janey all day while I'm upstairs with her mother.”

“I'll go and get the doctor and your sister now,” said Heyes.  “And you can look after Janey, Jed.  She likes you.”

Jed had a sinking feeling.  “OK.” he said immediately.

“ Thank you!” said George, agitatedly, “It's very good of you to help us out.”  

He went immediately to tell Elspeth what the boys had agreed to do.   The boys could see that he needed to be doing something.

Janey slipped her hand into Jed's.  “Jed,” she said.  “Where do babies come from?”

Heyes grinned at him.

“Erm,” said Jed turning scarlet. “Well . . . well . . .   It's a bit difficult to explain.  Er . . . Let's start with how little chickens come out of eggs . . .”

Heyes gave a snort of laughter.

“Janey!” called her father from the farmhouse door.  “Come here a minute.  I think your mother will want to speak to you.”  Janey skipped off.

“What a pity she had to go!” said Heyes.  “I was looking forward to hearing what you were going to say next!”

“Why?  Don't you know where babies come from?  Want me to explain it to you too?”

“I think I've got it sussed,” said Heyes, moving towards the stables.  “She certainly put you on the spot, though!  'Little chickens and eggs!'  Which were you going to say came first, by the way?”  

“Oh, shut up!” said the scarlet-cheeked Jed, turning away.  He had a feeling that the day with Janey was going to be a very long day.  It was.

* * *

“Once upon a time there was a hen called Chicken Licken,” he began, as Heyes mounted up and rode away on his errand to the town.  George was upstairs with Elspeth.  Janey was sitting beside Jed on the settle, but after a little while she climbed up onto his lap.

* * *


Ten days later, the boys really were leaving.  The baby, a boy, had been born that first evening, but George had asked them to stay for a few days to help with the farm-work.  There had been a lot of discussion of a name for the newcomer.

Joshua's quite a nice name,” mused Heyes.  “Or  maybe Thaddeus,” said his cousin.

In the event, the baby was named George McFarlane, like his father.  Janey was so thrilled with her new baby brother that she did not really seem to mind that the boys had to go.

“We can't thank you enough for your help,”  said George  as he saw them off. “Thank God you decided to steal my chicken that night!  What would we have done without you?  Now, have you got everything you need?  What has Elspeth packed for your supper tonight?”

The boys sneaked a glance at each other.  “I think I'll let you guess.” said Heyes
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nm131

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Posts : 79
Join date : 2012-05-04
Location : New Jersey, USA

PostSubject: nm131 Extra 100 Challenge   Sat Apr 09, 2016 5:19 pm

I don't have a huge catalog of challenge stories but even so it was somewhat of a struggle to decide which one to post. This is not what I consider my best story, it is not a yellow bandanna winner or the most creative story I have written in response to a challenge topic. Nevertheless, it is the story for which I have the most affection. It was the fist piece of creative writing I had done since high school (I had been out of high school for a very long time) and my first ASJ story. This challenge gave birth to my first ASJ full length story. It also led to what I call my "Terms Verse" in that I have written several related challenge stories both forward and backward in time. If anyone is interested, the ending to the Terms Verse, written to the Invitation challenge is posted in the overspill area.

Written for the Starter Paragraph Challenge

TERMS Part One - Decision

Kid Curry slumped over his whisky in yet another shabby saloon, in yet another small town, in the middle of nowhere much.

A saloon gal wandered over to try her luck at getting a little business on a dreary midweek afternoon. One look at the hostility born of utter misery in those blue eyes, scowling out from under a rain-splattered brown brim changed her mind. This was a man who didn't want to talk. Not yet anyhow. Maybe not for a long time.

Kid tapped his glass to order a refill of the whiskey so far removed from being the 'good stuff' he reckoned they oughta pay him to drink it. He didn't care. He just wanted to get drunk and do it quick. He wanted to forget. Forget about what had happened. Forget about Heyes. Forget about their years together. Forget he'd ever had a partner. Forget he was alone. Alone forever. Heyes was the past. Gone. Done with.

A WEEK EARLIER...

Two riders, slumped in their saddles, rode slowly down the street in the darkening gloom heading for the sheriff’s office. The blond’s eyes searched the familiar streets of Porterville for the unfamiliar and finding nothing returned to his brown-haired partner who rode slightly ahead of him. They reached their destination, noted the light from the window and reined in the horses. Without a word, the blond dismounted and came around to stand next to his companion’s bay in a silent offer of assistance that went unheeded.

“Howdy Lom.”

The sheriff jerked straight in his office chair and looked quickly around. “Heyes, didn’t hear you come in. Glad you made it. I wasn’t sure you’d come.”

He lowered his voice a bit. “I heard about the trouble over in Impasse Mountain. Where’s the Kid?” Lom asked as he rose from his chair extending his right hand towards his ex-outlaw friend while throwing a surreptitious glance sideways.

Heyes walked slowly favoring his left side and shook Lom’s hand. Lom noted the grip did not have Heyes’s characteristic firmness as he sat back in his chair. Heyes moved over to the stove, shook the coffee pot, found the mugs and filled two; a slight grin formed as he caught Lom’s glance at the side door. “He’ll be here in a minute Lom, he’s taking care of the horses.”

The front door opened and Kid quietly entered the sheriff’s office. He gave a shake of his head as his tired blue eyes found Heyes who was holding a steaming mug up questioningly.

Heyes and Lom sat sipping coffee and caught up with each other’s news. Kid, who hadn’t said a readily identifiable word as of yet, stayed standing while he nodded and uh huhed at the appropriate intervals. His weary eyes traveled from the empty cells to the bulletin board where the wanted posters hung, minus two notable outlaws. Lom and Heyes exchanged a knowing look as they each noticed the focus of Kid’s attention.

“I guess we should get down to business,” Lom stated and then continued, “The governor's not pleased, however, you boys are still in consideration for the amnesty. Impasse didn’t help but the investigation justified your actions, Kid, so you can quit looking. There are no new warrants, murder or otherwise, out on you. The publicity wasn’t good but a shootout involving Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes is just too newsworthy for the papers to ignore. ”

Kid heaved a relieved sigh as Heyes shot him a sympathetic sad smile.

“Lom,” Heyes started, “Kid didn’t have a choice; there were six of them. Two-Gun George has been after him for years. He and his gang didn’t want the reward, wouldn’t listen to reason, didn’t even give us time to leave, Two-Gun just wanted the title. Well, it’s not Kid’s fault Two-Gun and Bill Stevers are not the fastest guns in the west, they’re just the deadest two guns in the west. The other four guys are only wounded. The governor should give us a medal for getting them off the streets. That was a bloody gang Lom, you know that.”

“Heyes, I know, I know,” Lom interrupted. “The governor even knows but he can’t come out and give amnesty to you two when Kid just shot and killed two men, no matter if they deserved it or not. I’m just glad it’s not you boys that are stretched out on the boardwalk.”

Lom’s tanned face frowned in concern. “Did you have much trouble loosing the posse out of Impasse? The paper’s stated you might have been shot, Heyes. And, looking at you now, it seems as if they were right.”

“Just a little flesh wound to my side. I’ll be fine” Heyes replied.

Kid whirled around from the bulletin board and practically shouted, “You’re not fine Heyes. You’re shot! You were shot watching my back. It was not just a little flesh wound.”

Heyes rose, albeit somewhat stiffly from the chair and attempted to calm his partner. “I’ll be fine, just need a little time to heal up. I’ve had a lot worse wounds and so have you.”

Recognizing the futility and not having the will or the energy to engage Kid once again in the same argument they had times too numerous to count, Heyes changed the direction of the conversation.

“Now what about those jobs you telegraphed us about Lom? Are they still open?”

Lom studied the ex-outlaws before him as he answered “Yes, but you’ll have to split up since there isn’t enough time to do both together. Now the first one's fairly easy but will take a little over two weeks to escort a valuable shipment on the train to Texas and back again, that’ll be you I guess Heyes. Kid, a rancher friend needs short-term help with some horses he’s moving, should only take a week or so. You’ll both have to leave by tomorrow afternoon.”

Heyes settled back in his chair and Kid finally sat down as the three men worked out the details.

~~~~~*~~~~~

Heyes’ brown eyes slowly slid open, heavy with sleep. It was still dark. His eyes adjusted to the room only illuminated with the light of the full moon; he discovered the reason for awakening. Kid, fully dressed, was silently closing the door as he slipped from the hotel room. Heyes sat up quickly, ignoring the twinge in his side and looked around the room. He relaxed somewhat when he spotted Curry’s saddlebags and rifle, still in the corner where he had dropped them earlier.

“Kid, where are you going at this hour? You better not be planning anything stupid and you will tell me what’s going on in that thick head of yours. Just wait. We can work it out when these jobs are over.”

With those thoughts running through his mind Heyes sank back down to doze until the Kid came back.

~~~~~*~~~~~
PRESENT

Kid dragged his eyes up from the battered table and the glass in his hand. Swirling the whiskey, no, not even regular whiskey, he wasn’t even sure if it qualified as rotgut he thought, “Wasn’t drunk enough yet, nope, not numb, can’t stop thinking. Wasn’t supposed to think, that’s Heyes job. Dammit, no Heyes ever again just no thinking at all, ever again.” Staring hard beyond the batwing doors, watching the drizzle fall, he wondered how long he would have to wait. He lifted the glass, downed the contents in one swallow, grimaced and turned towards the bar. A steady hand tapped the glass once more but as blue eyes connected with the inviting hazel eyes of the saloon girl, Kid turned the glass over and rose from his seat. He consciously softened his gaze, dampening down the anger and misery that was threatening to overwhelm him. He had made his decision; he had the time.

This wasn’t the first time he drowned his misery in alcohol or sought solace in the arms of a woman he didn’t love and who didn’t love him. It would be the last time though. Probably the last physical expression of at least pretend affection he would experience. Another thing he would have to forget forever, never think of again – the secret desire of being a husband with a wife, children, sharing his life along with Heyes as one big family. The blue of his eyes deepened and took on a look of longing and sadness. Had the saloon girl been looking, her heart would have gone out to a man in emotional need. As it was, satisfying the physical need would suffice. Kid placed his money on the side table as the girl placed her hands on his shoulders, caressing her way around his chest appreciatively as she started to unbutton the blue shirt.

Settled back down in the drab saloon with yet another undrinkable whiskey in his hand Curry steeled himself. The tall dark-haired man he had been waiting for pushed his way through the wet saloon doors.

“Thanks for coming Lom. Is it all arranged? Did he agree to my terms, Lom?” Kid asked in greeting.

Lom shook his head at the bartender’s silent question took a seat and faced Curry. With a heavy heart, Lom took two envelopes from his inside jacket pocket, laid them carefully on the table for Curry’s inspection in lieu of a reply. Curry picked up the envelope labeled Hannibal Heyes, withdrew the document within and carefully read it completely through.

He opened the second envelope and counted the money: $10,000 dollars, it was all there. Curry raised his anguished blue eyes to Lom’s concerned brown ones and asked “And the rest?”

Lom nodded affirmatively. “I’m ready to go then; let’s get it over with.”

The two men stood and walked resolutely out into the gray mist.

~~~~~*~~~~~

The two riders rode through a dense wood when the Kid suddenly reigned to a stop, dismounted and sprinted further into the trees.

Lom halted, waited a few minutes then set off on foot after his friend.

“I’m not running Lom,” Kid managed to say before he braced himself against a large oak and retched.

Lom stood silently by, worry creasing his brow.

Kid straightened, wiped his mouth with his left sleeve and continued. “I’ve always known I would die young, you know, dead in a dusty street or smoky saloon finally meeting up with the guy that is faster than me or going down in a hail of bullets ever since I joined the gang. Never thought I would see prison. Even when I was in jail, I always trusted Heyes to come up with a plan. He always did. Heyes and me, we talked about what we would do if it ever looked like we were actually going to prison.

Never agreed though. Heyes sees possibilities in every situation and for him there may have been, early release, cushy job in the warden’s office, but not for me. For me it’s going to be hard time. I always thought I wouldn’t get that far, I would run, let them shoot me trying to escape. For me, it would be better that way.”

Lom reached out and laid a hand on Kid’s shoulder lending support, letting him talk. “But I know that’s not going to happen. The governor is going to get to say the gunslinger is paying for his crimes, satisfy the banks and railroads. I’m going to walk through the door at the Wyoming Territorial Prison and serve my time. Die there.

I’m scared Lom, don’t know how I am going to do it but I will. Heyes deserves those amnesty papers in your pocket. Joshua Smith needs that $10,000 dollar bounty money for a stake. Heyes will show the world what he can do given half a chance. He can be the man our folks could be proud of. People aren’t afraid of him, they’ll give him a second chance, respect him. I want him to have that chance. He won't with me around, he might not live to see amnesty if the governor ever gets around to giving it to us.”

Outlaw and lawman turned in unison and walked together back to the horses with Lom urgently stating, “Kid, it’s not too late to change your mind. I can return the envelopes to Cheyenne, no one the wiser. The amnesty may take a little longer but Heyes is not going to want the amnesty without you and he’s liable to flatten me when he finds out I knew about, never mind helped, with this. Besides…”

Kid vehemently interrupted, “No! I need to do this for him. It has to be done now when Heyes is too far away to do anything about it. We’re following the Kid Curry plan.”

Standing alongside his gelding Kid untied the thong from his right thigh, unbuckled his gun belt and carefully rolled the leather around the holster and 45. Weighed it in his hand, fingers caressing the butt, and with a heavy sigh opened the saddlebag and placed the rolled up belt within.

Kid slid his hat from his blond curls and wrapped the strings around his saddle horn. Still facing his horse, stroking the dark chestnut’s neck gently and with a voice low and subdued he continued, “If Heyes doesn’t want the gun you can have it Lom. It’s a good gun. Either one of you could probably get good money for it, maybe even from a collector. Me being an infamous gunslinger and all.”

He turned and offered a small half-hearted smile.

“Kid…,” Lom started but Kid didn’t let him continue, didn’t want to be dissuaded from his chosen course. He couldn’t, no wouldn’t, think about the past. Wouldn’t think about the future neither.

“There’s a letter for Heyes in the saddlebag, things that need saying. I don’t expect him to understand right away but after he has time to think, he will see what I’ve done is for the best, is the right thing to do. Be there for him Lom, help him see the truth as it is and not what we want it to be. I will never be completely free from the past. I don’t have a future with or without amnesty. I will always be Kid Curry, fastest gun in the west until I’m no more and I’m not taking him down with me.”

Curry abruptly stopped, cocked his head and listened. They heard the sounds of hoof beats in the distance. Curry’s hand dropped quickly to his right thigh and found air. Lom stepped around the Kid and peered out from between the trees. Four men, one leading a saddled horse, tin stars catching the first rays of a setting sun piercing the late afternoon gray sky, rode to the agreed upon meeting place.

The marshals were here.
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Cal

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PostSubject: ONE HUNDRED special   Sun Apr 10, 2016 3:06 am

I know - I've only posted three challenges - but I want to be read in this company! You can't blame me - this thread is fab.  So here's one small scene that I enjoyed writing very much and got some nice feedback for. It's taken from "What a mans gotta do" which you can find on the Stories site.

Fair Days Work - challenge



“Because we need the money!” shouts Kid. Sheesh, he hadn’t expected to be arguing for the near suicidal job of body guarding the mines payroll, but here he was.  

“That’s not a job Kid, that’s a death sentence.”  Heyes is feeling exhausted.  “Every gang for miles around knows this is the last bank before the mines.  They will have seen the strong box being taken to the bank in broad daylight yesterday, so it don’t take a genius to know it’s got to be taken North to pay the miners sometime this week.  All they got to do is watch and wait.”

Kids eyes narrow, ‘yeah, they’d have to be in town to pipe the job’ he thought.

“It’s $500 a day, and we’re flat broke…” Kid lets this hit home. “You haven’t stopped thinking about the Mardens rolling you and I don’t think you’re getting our money back without a stake.  I reckon $500 a day is real good pay for a fair day’s work.  Works not that easy to come by for us ex-outlaws remember, and Flat-nose was a pretty good with that gun of his when I was up at the Roost that time.  Maybe with the two of us…”

Curry hasn’t even convinced himself yet.  

“You’re gonna get your head blowed off!” Heyes looks frantic. “So I won’t even see the money less you ask for it in advance…” Heyes stops under a Curry glare.

“It’s half in advance, and I’m leaving at daybreak.”  

Kid wants Heyes to stop worrying but knows that’s a lame hope.  Maybe he can give him something else to think about.  “If you want to help me stay alive on that run to the mine then there’s something you can do for me…”

ooooooooooo

Not high noon…but wouldn’t that have been fantastic.

“Jones” calls Heyes, standing in the middle of the street, “You know what I’ve come for!”

Kid stops, standing stock still on the boardwalk, “I’ve told you before Smith, I don’t settle my battles on the street where everyone can gawp.  You got something to say to me, let’s take this inside.”

“Oh, you’d like that Jones. Think you can get the drop on me huh…No, here’s just fine by me.  We’re gonna settle this here and now, just the two of us.”  

Quite a crowd had formed.

“Mister you don’t want to go up against…” Flat-nose had joined the crowd “…Him.  Really Mister you should back down now…”

“Shut up! This is between me and Jones” spat Heyes, never taking his eyes off the blond gunslinger who was purposefully striding to the middle of the street to face Heyes, pulling on a snug fitting soft leather glove.

“His name ain’t Jones…” Flat-nose sounded frantic “That’s Ki…”

“Keep out of this friend.” Drawled Curry laconically, cutting off the name. “Sometimes a man’s too stupid to listen.”

He stared, he waited, he barely moved.  

A big crowd had gathered now.  The partners could hear the whispering.  

Calling out Kid Curry, the notorious gunslinger was a new experience for Hannibal Heyes, he was actually sweating.  They stood and stared at each other for several minutes.

Tension built.  

Heyes knew he had to make this look good and stupidly, he was consciously trying not to do the twisty thing with his shoulders as he went for his Schofield.

Kid’s Colt was in his hand and Heyes’ gun and belt were on the floor before Heyes had released the breath he shouldn’t have been holding.  He schooled his face to anger, while inside he was congratulating his younger cousin for not shooting him in the leg.  

Gasps went round the crowd followed by another wave of whispering.  

Flat-nose ran to Heyes and grabbed his arm dragging him off the street.  “You don’t know how lucky you are fella, why if he’d a wanted…Well you should be a bit more careful who you employ in future if you’re not fixing on paying them…”

Kid twirled the Colt back into the holster with an extra flourish, stood for just a few seconds while his adversary cleared the street and then walked slowly to the saloon for a whiskey.

oooooooooo

“Don’t ever ask me to do that again,” Heyes looks shaken, “And you owe me the cost of a good repair.  I like that holster, it’s comfortable!”  Kid is hiding a smirk, badly. “I didn’t damage your gun did I.”

Truth be told, Kid was feeling a bit churned up himself, not only was he taking on the dangerous payroll job, but he hadn’t relished using his only kin for shooting practice either.
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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sun Apr 10, 2016 3:08 pm

Dedicated to Ms Penski! Rolling Eyes

Suddenly realised I was supposed to comment on my choice.  I think this is one of my more rounded challenges - no pun intended! I like the imagery of the egg and a reflective Kid.
Heck - I just like Kid!  Rolling Eyes

Perhaps one day I'll write a sequel but for now I'll let you all decide what happened.

Thank you fellow writers for the hours of entertaining reading you have provided over the years.
I hope I get more writing time again someday but for now I'll enjoy popping in to see what you've all been writing.  sm   study


Egg

Running the tip of his thumb over its warm, smooth surface, he marvelled in its compact simplicity. In his hand he held a life – one not fully formed but the start of one, none the less.  Rolling it over, it came to rest comfortably in the curve of his palm and he held it there for a moment.  Such a simple object - but one which brought with it a heap of memories.

Those happy carefree days of his childhood, when collecting the eggs from the chicken coop was one of his daily chores.  The time he and his best friend had caught a beating for throwing the eggs at each other in friendly combat.  The sound of the shell cracking as she tapped it on the edge of the bowl, pulling it apart to let its golden contents slip out into the flour below with a soft thud, to be mixed into the smoothest batter mix, which became the lightest of pancakes.  

But that was before.  What he wouldn’t give now for life to be that uncomplicated.  

Later, when they were older, on occasion they had to sneak into a coop and take a couple of eggs.  He supposed that was the start of it.  They had thieved out of necessity, to feed themselves and from those small beginnings their larceny had grown.

He allowed himself a small smile as he remembered the times he had seen his partner confound a man, by balancing one on its end, to win a erstwhile bet which, on more occasions than not, had earned them a stake in a poker game, affording them, due to the talents of said partner with cards, to live more comfortably for a while.  The beauty of the trick was in its simplicity but it needed a deft hand to perfect it and his partner was extremely skillful.  

He chided himself for allowing his mind to drift to those memories, taking his thoughts away from their present predicament, as a soft groan drew his attention to the huddled form lying in the hay next to him.  In the gloom of the morning light, which had managed to seep into the interior of the barn, he could just make out his face twist and contort in pain as he tried to move.  It would be a while before he would be able to do the egg trick once more.  

He was bleeding again too.  The expanding dark, red stain on his shirt a tell tale sign.
 
It passed his mind as to whether he’d even see the next day through but he pushed such pessimism to the back of his mind.  There wasn’t much more he could do that he hadn’t already done, apart from get him some proper medical attention but circumstance would not permit such an act.  As the sky brightened he knew it meant that they would have to leave before the owners of the barn, in which they had sought shelter, discovered them.  In his experience there was only one reason why two men, one with a gunshot wound, would be sleeping in a barn.  He could not risk the questions their discovery would bring.

Looking once more at the smooth, oval object in his hands, he curled his fingers around its perfect form, holding it firmly.  He knew what he had to do but wished with all his heart he didn’t have to make the decision.  The desperation of their present situation suddenly enraged him and before he knew what he was doing his grip tightened about the egg, shattering its shell, allowing the slimy contents to ooze between his fingers, sliding and dripping to the floor, puddling the last hopes of a new life at his feet.  

Dropping the remnants, he grimaced as he wiped his hand on his sheepskin jacket, knowing another stain wouldn’t make much difference to the condition of the garment.  His life was tainted enough already.
With a resigned sigh, he put his hat firmly on his head and got to his feet.  Slipping his gun from his holster he checked the chamber to make sure it was full, even though he knew it was, before returning it.
He squatted down and placed a reluctant hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

“Heyes?” His voice was husky with fatigue and emotion. “You gotta wake up now.  Time we were movin’ on.  We can’t stay here and risk bein’ seen.  I know you’re hurtin’ but there ain’t a whole lot I can do for ya now but as soon as I think that posse is off our trail, I’ll get ya to a doctor.”

The dark haired man stirred and rolled onto his back, opened his eyes and saw the worried blue ones of his friend looking at him with concern.  Too weak to talk, he nodded his understanding.  With a grim determination, born of hard times and a lust for life, they left the refuge of the barn and hit the trail once more.  

*****

Mrs. Duggan regarded the broken egg in her barn and frowned.  “Now how in the world did that happen?” she muttered to herself.  “Elijah,” she called out, “reckon we got ourselves a thief helpin’ his-self to our eggs.  Go get your gun and make sure that dang coyote ain’t still hangin’ about.”

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ty pender

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:02 pm

Under the Weather

[
size=18]Klaxon!!! Klaxon!!![/size]

 sorrykitty

(Snort, honk)
oooooo ahg!


As I am currently huddled and shivering under a duvet on the couch, surrounded by damp tissues and going for the 'most moaning directed at a long-suffering husband spoiuse in an 48 hour period' award, I


cannot be my unusually chipper and cheerful self setting ,emeetin this challenge.


 sorrykitty


(Snort, honk)

oooooo ahg!



Kid to Joya – what’s up with the nxt episode joya – havn’t heard a thing…

Joya to Kid  (she takes a deep drag off ceegr)



Dark angst this one Kid, Heyes gets his chance He wantede to have at least one episode where he could show off his angsty acting, you know get serious,  However - it will have the customary non-singular interpretation

kid - oh brother

joya - yaya, no boom boom bang bang bang et.al. absolutism, crisp plot lines...all NUANCE

so ….he’s out working on his expressions and lines Huggisn waiting for real bad weather day…should be soon….

Kid – nothn fer me then –

Joya – you got sumpin – hands him script- kids exit stage back

Day of shooting – Cold, no heat inroom, no light – no money….  Heyes has a cold and is near darkened window  splattered with sleet ansnow…

Heyes -Shooting in the dark, no one can see any faces clearly.  Heyts – this isn’t right, the viewers won’t asee my face – I’ve been working on myexpressions and I thingk they’re important.   !!!!

Roy - No, it’ll be OK – the viewers are goingto see what they want to see, - the dark lighting increases the angst effect- you’ll seee in the edit – it’ll work

They start shooting…


sorrykitty
(Snort, honk) oooooo ahg!

He is waint of rKidto return, who has promised to get money playing cards – what willhappen ifthe doesn’t return …wring hands blearh w/faint I'd with teers from grief/cold miserable  doey brown yes exude TEARS of grief/unease/disease rolling down side of dimpled cheek over sculpeted jaw line down tender neck of youth gone wrong where hanging rope may yet slice into skin ending all hop of

(Snort, honk) oooooo ahg!

Kidcomes back all cheery _ waving champagn bttle, subs and most ofall Kleenex tissues I won! Iwon! , stop being so angst, hotel keeper comin up with two baths and hot water- let’s break out those tow goodcigars andcelebrate life!!!

They strip – they dip - they drip - the hot water feels great

sorrykitty
(Snort, honk) oooooo ahg!

– troubles melt away feels  warms suds slide off his musckled arms and chest  blah blah blah

Lightingstrikes – monentary flash of light

Wait! That’s not Heyes!  What’s going on here?

Huggins – cut cut  Kid – are you out of yoiur mind?

Kid - THAT SNOT HAZE!!! We have to havethereal Heyes – the audience will be confused

No they won’t – the lighting is all dark – they’llnever see enoughto know the difference,  besides if they see just a little something out of whak it won’t matter because they are goingtosee what they want to see anyway

OK Kid – keep yuour cool and follow thescript, hoopee fully we’llgetout from under the weaether andthere won’t be any more lightning strikes.

The tub scence begtan to roll again.  The boys started sudsing up with esprit de corps and joie de vivre, or was that la joie d'un mensonge?

Aother ligghtningstrike-

Roy- Cut!Cut! damn weather!  If we get out from under the weather we can finis this d… angsty thang..

Kid gets out of tub – Joya looks askanc “I’m outta here – I’ll be back next episode..

Roy – Hu?? Huggins turned to Joya and joked – this Heyes  has a better chest- don’t you think?

Joya - deep drag off the stub of Marsh Wheeling. “Frankly,” she responDS, “these tub scenes make me puke.”

Huggins - Ok,Ok let’s end it here – one last shot of Heyes in tub….roll


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PostSubject: A Fair Day's Work   Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:14 am

I haven't been posting that long so I didn't have a lot of stories to choose from. So did I choose my first ever? Or my first winner? In the end my husband settled it. He reads my challenges before I post them (dubious honour!) and he suggested this one. So without further ado ....


A Fair Day’s Work

 

Heyes stood behind the counter in The Hardware Store reading the newspaper. It was late in the day; there were no customers and all the chores done.

On the other side of the store, Seth was pouring over paperwork. He was muttering angrily to himself, furiously scratching out, peering at items in the catalogue and writing things down. The muttering was getting louder, more exasperated and expletive ridden as time went on.

“What y’doing Seth?” There was no answer except another growl of exasperation. Heyes grinned at his elderly boss. “Seth?” he said louder.

Seth looked over, grunting. “This damm new ordering system! Used to jus’ list what I needed. Now they want me to fill in all these little numbers.”

Heyes nodded, understanding. “Stock numbers.”

“Yeah if’n you say so. Whatever they’re called they’re darn small.”

“Can I help?”

“Nope.” Seth tore off the carbon copies from the pad and shuffled them into a pile. “Reckon I’s done.” He turned and spiked them onto a nail outside the back door. Then he took the top copies and stuffed them into an envelope, which he addressed. “You’d best get this down to the post office young Joshua. My ole legs won’t catch the post but I reckon yours will.”

He gave Heyes a toothless grin.

Heyes nodded resigned. He had been expecting that as soon as he knew what Seth was doing. “Might as well call it a day when you’ve done that. See you in the morning.”


 


 

A week later, Heyes was taking delivery of the order. Heyes watched in astonishment as the goods arrived. Bolts of cloth, tins of beans, and a large bag of animal feed for sheep were among the highlights.

“Er hold up boys. I don’t think …,” he started. “I don’t think that’s for us.”

The supervisor leant on the counter and looked at his clipboard. “If it’s on this here docket you ordered it and we’re delivering it.” He tapped his finger on the board. “You order, you get it. Right?” He scowled at Heyes hard, thrusting his chin out.

“Right,” Heyes agreed, doubtfully. The supervisor was twice his size and looked at him menacingly, as was the three-man crew. Heyes swallowed nervously. “Right,” he said more firmly, smiling weakly.

Where was Seth? Trust that ole man to disappear when there was work doing. These men delivered the goods. They didn’t do splitting of boxes and putting away. They just delivered. More precisely, dumped. In the middle of the store and in the small warehouse out back. Piled up any which way. It was up to the customer to check it, sort it and put it away. In this case – him!

Heyes licked his lips nervously as more strange items arrived. This was definitely not the usual order. Somethings he recognized. Some even needed restocking. Skillets, coffee pots, enamel plates – yes. But that many? What was Seth planning on doing? Outfitting the army?

Heyes spied a small pile of what looked like folded cloths. He picked up the top one and unfolded it. Holding it up he realized what they were. Four pairs of ladies unmentionables - large! Heyes quickly bundled them away under the counter and blushed slightly. He cleared his throat, leaning on the counter nonchalantly, hoping nobody had seen.

It was no good starting to unpack things until the delivery was finished. However, he should be checking that everything on the order was arriving and he moved to unspike the copy. He looked at it with pursed lips and went out back to find the catalogue. It took him a while, buried as it was under a stack of bills. Seth’s bookkeeping left a lot to be desired and Heyes was itching to get his hands on it. The obvious mess offended his sense of order. Unfortunately, Seth was reluctant to let him tackle the paperwork. Heyes could understand that. A man’s business accounts were personal.

When Heyes returned to the store, he stood open-mouthed. He had only been gone a few minutes. Now everywhere he looked, there was a wooden clotheshorse. Neatly stacked against the walls, the counter, and boxes delivered earlier. He scratched his head.

“Er excuse me …”

The supervisor appeared on the other side of the counter. “We’re nearly finished. Just bringing the last in.”

As he spoke, two of the crew struggled in with yet more clotheshorses.

“Are you sure we ordered …” Heyes swallowed under the intense stare. “So many?”

The supervisor sighed deeply and looked at his clipboard. He studied it for a moment. “Yep. Right here. Two hundred clotheshorses.” He spun the board round and tapped the item.

“Two … ? Two hundred?” Heyes was wide-eyed.

“That’s what it says. That’s what you got.” The supervisor put the clipboard on the counter and made a great show of cracking his knuckles.

“No! No! There’s summat wrong here!” Heyes cried, grabbing up the clipboard and looking.

The supervisor shrugged, leaning casually on the counter.

“That’s all Jake,” one of the men called.

“Right o,” Jake acknowledged with a mock salute and turned to Heyes. “All done then. Sign there.”

“Sign?” Heyes knew he sounded dim.

“Yeah. Then we can get outta your hair and you can …” He grinned now. It wasn’t a pretty sight. “Round up all these horses.” He tapped the board more urgently. “Just there.”

Heyes felt sick. If he didn’t sign, Jake looked handy with his fists. If he did sign what was he committing Seth to?

“I ain’t authorized,” Heyes spluttered.

“I don’t care whether you’re authorized or not. I just need a signature. You can sign it George Washington or Hannibal Heyes for all I care. I just need a signature!” He thrust the board and stubby pencil forcefully at Heyes.

Heyes looked at him sharply at the mention of his name. He rolled his eyes. Now there was a thought.

Heyes took a deep breath, slowly letting it out. He scribbled something unreadable and handed the board back.

Jake left leaving Heyes to look round the store in despair. Had they really delivered two hundred clotheshorses? He doubted that there were two hundred clotheshorses in the entire town. Where to start? What was he going to do with two hundred clotheshorses? Give ‘em away free with a shovel or hammer or summat?

He was still deciding where to start when Seth came in.

“Delivery all done, Joshua? Hee Hee. Got talking to Cole Garcia. That man can talk the … What the … blue blazes!” Seth was speechless, as he looked round. “Joshua?”

“I’ll make some coffee Seth. Think we’re gonna need it.”

Heyes scooted out back as Seth sat down heavily on a crate by the door.


 


 

Heyes painstakingly matched the order to the catalogue stock numbers. Some numbers Seth had right, most he hadn’t. The stock numbers were nine characters long, a mixture of letters and numbers. Seth had transposed some numbers, misread 5s for Ss and vice versa, left out a number or a letter or added some. Of the fifty lines on the order, Heyes calculated that about thirty were wrong. The two hundred clotheshorses should have been two hundred metal brackets for fencing.

“Jeez,” Heyes said, using the Kid’s favorite expression.

“What are these?” Seth asked, holding up a pair of ladies unmentionables – large. “I didn’t order these!” he cried.

“Er yeah Seth ‘fraid you did,” Heyes winced. They should have been four drain covers.

“I sure didn’t!” Seth was indignant.

Heyes nodded. “You sure did. Let me show you.”

Seth came to look over his shoulder as Heyes explained.

“I’m ruined!” Seth exclaimed, pulling out an unsavory looking handkerchief to mop his brow. He sat down heavily. “Broke! Laughing stock!” He shook his head in dismay.

Heyes felt some sympathy for the old man. “Oh now Seth don’t take on. We’ll get this sorted. We can keep a lot of it ‘cos you did order it. We do need it.”

Seth shook his head sadly. “I’m washed up, Joshua. Beaten! Ruined!”

Heyes rolled his eyes at the dramatic tone.

“Seth we can straighten this.”

“How?” Seth demanded. He looked like he needed a drink. So did Heyes. Badly.

“Well first off we’ve gotta see exactly what we’ve got. Then we’ll tell the wholesale company …”

“You sign for this?”

Heyes puffed and looked guilty. “Well … not exactly,” he said, slowly.

“What d’you mean? Either you did or you didn’t?” Seth looked suspicious.

“Well I … scratched a signature!” Heyes forced out and shuffled the order copies into a neat pile. “But I doubt if they could prove it was me.”

Seth looked doubtful. “If you signed, Joshua, they won’t take it back. Signing accepts it. I tried that once before so I knows.”

That had been what Heyes was afraid of. He grunted and then he gave Seth his best smile.

“Seth think of this as an opportunity to diversify.” He looked at Seth in wide-eyed eagerness.

“Diversify!” Seth stomped away. “With these?” He held up the ladies unmentionables – large.

“Yeah. Well …” Heyes puffed. “Those er …” He puffed again. “Let’s jus’ put ‘em down to experience so to speak. And put ‘em away! The shades are up.”

Seth bundled them away.

“Let’s just see what we’ve got. Alright?” Heyes made a calming down motion with his hand. “Take it from there.”

Seth wasn’t entirely convinced but he knew one thing. Joshua may know little about hardware but in the short time, he had worked for Seth he had proved he could think on his feet.

Heyes was thinking something similar. Right now, what he really needed, besides a drink, was a Hannibal Heyes plan. For that, he needed time to think. First, though he needed to know exactly how big the problem was.

“Seth. Let’s tidy up and see what we’ve got. Anything that’s not strictly our business we put in the middle of the warehouse. Anything that is, we put where it belongs. How’s that?”

Seth nodded, picking up a small box from the top of an unstable pile. Heyes took a deep breath and nodded, smacking his lips. By the look of it, he was in for a lot of heavy lifting.


 


 

It was a good while later before the store was tidy. All the spare space out back now contained clotheshorses but even so, a considerable number still leaned against the store walls. Heyes had made a list of things that the hardware store didn’t usually carry.

“Okay Seth, it’s not too bad. These are things that I reckon other store owners in town will take off our hands.”

“Hee Hee. Who’d you think we can get to take these off our hands, Joshua? Hee Hee.”

Heyes frowned over to where Seth was holding up the ladies unmentionables – large. Heyes spluttered. “Quit waving ‘em around. We don’t want folks thinking we’re running a disreputable establishment here!” With an irritated shudder, he looked at his list, muttering under his breath about the childishness of old men.

“Can ask the wida Hennessey if she’ll take ‘em off our hands,” Seth mused. “Hee hee.”

Heyes looked up slowly. “If’n you want your face slapped,” he told Seth firmly.

“Hee Hee.” Then Seth sobered and deciding Heyes was right, put them away. He came to stand by his assistant as he explained where all the extraneous stock might go.

“Hinds, I reckon would take the beans. Ain’t never seen a general store that don’t need beans to sell. Maybe even take the bolts of cloth as well. Frazer’s, the feed merchant may take the animal feed.”

“This is cow country boy. What we’ve got there is for sheep.” Seth almost spat the last word in contempt.

“I know. I know.” Suddenly Heyes grinned as a thought struck him. “Sheep ain’t so different from goats, Seth. Least not anatomically.”

“Ana what?”

“’Tomically. It means they only look different on the outside. Underneath they’re the same. A few folks round here keep goats. They need feeding right?”

Seth looked doubtful. “If you say so,” he mumbled.

“’Sides its only one sack.”

“It cost me twenny dollars!”

“Let’s just see what Frazer says alright? We’re trying to salvage something here. Anything is worth a shot.”

Heyes continued to run down the list, pointing out a likely home for all the extra items. When he had finished Seth smiled and slapped him on the shoulder.

“Sounds good boy. You’d best set about it.”

“What?” Heyes was incredulous.

Seth nodded. “I’ll be here minding the store.”

“Oh now just a minute …” Heyes protested but knowing it would be useless.

“You smile that smile of your’n Joshua. The one that has Mary Fletcher all of a quiver. ‘Sides I’ve heard you boy. You’ve got a right ole silver tongue there.” Seth patted him on the shoulder again. “Reckon you could charm the birds outta the sky if’n you put your back into it.”

Heyes sucked in a deep breath through his teeth and snatched up the list. He plonked his hat on his head and gave Seth a disgusted look as he went out.

“Hee hee,” Seth chuckled, as the door shut none too gently.


 


 

It took Heyes several hours to get round the town. Considering the range of things on offer, he thought he had done rather well in getting rid of as much as he had.

He had managed to strike bargains in the general store and the feed merchants. Hind, the general store owner had sent him to see Mrs. Pickering, who ran the haberdashers, about the bolts of cloth. She had proved more difficult.

She had hummed and haa’d over the bolts of cloth. They weren’t her usual merchandise, nor was the quality up to her standards. She sighed deeply and let Heyes know directly that she was doing him a favor by agreeing to take it.

The conman in Heyes didn’t miss the steely glint in her eyes. She smelt a bargain.

“Five the lot.” He had wanted six.

“Done.” They shook hands. The price was better than nothing.

Heyes had dispose of a lot of the extraneous stock at a loss. There had been nothing for it. From now on Seth might let him handle the paperwork. It would do them both a favor.

Wong at the Chinese laundry had agreed to take fifty but wouldn’t take any more no matter how hard Heyes had tried.

Heyes had walked back to the hardware store puzzling over what to do with a hundred and fifty clotheshorses. As he passed the school, the children were running out at the end of their day. With a grin, he turned towards it and sought out the schoolteacher.

Ten minutes later he was back out, the dimpled smile had worked its magic and he had lost another thirty of his wild horses. He had persuaded the schoolteacher of their use for teaching, after he had outlined several ideas for mathematics and geometry. Failing that the schoolyard had just acquired equipment for jumping games. Only a hundred and twenty to go. 

More thoughts came to him as he trudged back. The store might have a special promotion. Painting them in bright colors would appeal to the fairer sex. Keeping twenty for that would be enough. One hundred to go. And thinking of the fairer sex … With a grin he crossed the street to The Hat Shop and Mary.

He left The Hat Shop five minutes later quickly. His suggestion for improving her display hadn’t impressed her. She had thrown him out. His best smile had failed, despite his offer to take her to dinner.

He was just stepping up onto the sidewalk when another idea came to him. Fifteen minutes later, he was walking back down the steps of the Town Hall, a smile of satisfaction on his face. Another fifty off his hands. The Chief Clerk’s office had agreed to use them for temporary fencing at the upcoming August Fair. Fifty to go.

On the way back to The Hardware Store, he passed a small garden where planting was in progress. It commemorated the town’s thirty-year anniversary. He stopped and stood watching the planting of saplings and small shrubs. Rubbing his chin, he walked in and up to the man who looked like he was in charge.

Heyes was back on the sidewalk five minutes later. Another twenty off his hands.

Now there was just thirty to go.

He was pondering on the remaining thirty when he glanced at the railroad depot platform. He stopped, looking at it, head on one side. There was no barrier on the town side. With such a big drop to the ground, surely, that was an accident waiting to happen? Mentally he measured the length of the platform.

“Hmmm.” Thirty clotheshorse widths perhaps? Would at least cover the exposed parts of the platform away from the buildings.

Heyes quickened his step and sought out the manager’s office.


 


Near to closing time, Heyes was informing Seth how he had got on.

“Wong would only take fifty?” Seth sounded disappointed.

“Yeah. Talked him up from thirty though,” Heyes sounded pleased. “He’s sending a boy to collect.”

“How much?”

“Seven dollars.” Heyes cleared his throat.

“Seven dollars! They cost me ten!”

Seth stomped off muttering about sending a boy to do a man’s job. Heyes smiled after him.

“Seth. I got rid of the rest of ‘em.”

Seth turned on the spot. “You did?” He was astonished.

“Well most of ‘em. All but twenty and I’ve got plans for those.”

Seth did a little jig. “Joshua, it was a right good day the day you came to work for me. You did a fair day’s work today Joshua. I’m mighty pleased.”

“Pleased enough to give me a raise?” Heyes grinned pleasantly.

“Don’t push your luck!” Seth growled. However, he opened the till and held out a ten-dollar bill. “Reckon you deserved that though.”
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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sat Apr 16, 2016 2:55 pm

Which challenge to post was a hard decision!  NOT that I'm a great writer, but I sure have written a lot of challenges - only missed one month since I started in Feb 2009!  I really like how this challenge explained... Well, you'll see.

A Twist in the Tale

Kid Curry fought through the deep fog. His partner was calling him—needing him. But… Was that Heyes? Kid opened his eyes and instantly was sorry he had. They hurt from the light and his head pounded.

“Ugghhh…” Curry moaned as he covered his eyes with his arm.

“That’s right, Kid. Wake up,” Heyes encouraged. “Is the light hurting you?” He got up from the bed, went to the window and shut the drape. “That should be better. I bet you have a whale of a headache.”

“Heyes, do you need to talk so much?” The Kid kept his arm over his head.

Heyes smiled. “Guess I missed you.”

“What happened to me? I feel like someone’s takin’ a hammer to my head.”

“You don’t remember? A snake spooked your horse and you took a nasty tumble. One of his hooves kicked you in the head.”

The Kid lay there. Heyes didn’t quite sound like himself.

“Are you falling back to sleep?”

“No, just thinkin’. How long have I been out?”

“About three days. Doc said if you didn’t wake soon you’d have lasting symptoms.”

He talked a lot like Heyes, but didn’t quite sound like his partner. Curry ventured a look. The room was blurry and dim. A dark form sat next to him on the bed. Slowly his eyes adjusted and came more into focus.

“Bilson!” The Kid, in one fluent motion, sat up and grabbed for his gun he knew would be here.

“Bilson?! Whoa, Kid—you’re aiming that gun at me!” Heyes jumped from the bed and backed up.

“You’re not my partner! You’re supposed to be dead!” Curry’s head throbbed and his vision was still fuzzy. He held the gun with both hands to steady it.

“You think I’m Danny Bilson?! Kid, you’re scaring me. I’m going to get the doc, okay?”

Curry nodded and immediately regretted it. As soon as Bilson left the room, the Kid tried putting on his pants and boots. He was buckling his gun belt on when the door opened.

“The doc is on his… Where do you think you’re going?” Heyes went to steady a swaying Curry, but stopped when the gun was drawn on him again. “Kid, give me your gun.”

“Get away from me, Bilson!” The Kid leaned back into a corner, becoming dizzier and sliding down the wall. “Don’t come any closer.” He held his head with his free hand. “Ugghhh…” The gun dropped as he brought his other hand up and gasped in pain.

Heyes kicked the gun away and eased a semi-conscious Kid back on the bed. “The doc will be here soon.”

Curry felt like his head was exploding. He curled in a ball, holding his head, and moaned.

The doctor came through the open door and saw the patient. “Oh my! I can see you’re in pain. Let me get you something to help.” He rummaged through his bag. “What happened?”

Heyes ran a hand through his hair. “He woke up and complained about the light. He thought I was someone else—someone who is dead—and he became upset."

The doctor put a few drops on a cloth. “Son, I want you to breath this. It’ll help with the pain.” He placed the cloth on Curry’s face and a few moments later the Kid went to sleep.

“What did you give him?” Heyes asked concerned. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Just relax, son. I gave him a little ether so he’d sleep. He has a severe concussion and woke up confused. And he was up too fast. I suggest you keep that gun away from him and let him wake up slowly. You may have to explain things to him. I’ll leave some medicine I want you to give him as soon as he wakes for the pain.”



* ~ *


A couple hours later, Curry groaned.

Heyes mixed up the powder in a glass. “Take it easy, Kid. I need you to drink this. It’ll help with the pain.”

The Kid grimaced as he drank the water and lay back down. “Where’s Heyes? What did you do to him?” his speech slurred and his eyes closed because of blurry vision.

“I am Heyes. The doc said you’ll be confused because of the concussion.”

“Not Heyes. Bilson.”

“Danny Bilson is dead. Remember? You killed him.”

“Look like Bilson… Sound like Bilson,” Curry said as he drifted to sleep.



* ~ *


Next time the Kid woke, he was more alert. His vision was a little fuzzy as he glanced around the room and saw a man reading a book by the window.

Heyes, hearing movement, put the book down. “Hey, you’re awake. How do you feel?”

“Got a headache.”

“I bet you do. And do you know who I am?”

“You keep sayin’ you’re Heyes, but you look like Bilson.”

“Your eyes still not in focus, huh?”

“No, everything is fuzzy yet.” Curry sighed. “Are you sure you’re Heyes?”

“Go ahead and ask me something only I would know.”

The Kid thought for a moment. “Late one night, after we got to the Home…”

“We cut ourselves with a knife and mixed our blood—became brothers,” Heyes continued the thought. “We still have faint scars from it. Here’s mine.”

Curry tried to focus on the hand and saw the scar. “You still look like Bilson.”

Heyes smiled. “Doc said you’d be a little confused after that knock on the head. Heck, I told him that was normal. You just rest up. Town seems okay so we can stay for awhile.”

“What about money?”

“I’ll pay a little poker to keep us going for awhile.”

“Don’t win too much or get in trouble. I’m not there to watch your ba…” Curry drifted back to sleep.



* ~ *


Heyes was shaving and noticed in the mirror that his partner was stirring. “Good morning. How you feeling today?”

“Better, but you still look and sound like Danny Bilson.”

Heyes shook his head. “Doc said you might have permanent problems. Feel like getting up for awhile?”

“Yeah.”



* ~ *


A few months later, they were arguing on the trail.

“You know, Heyes, you’re more annoyin’ than I remember you bein’.”

“I’m annoying! You’re the one who keeps looking at me and acting like I’m a stranger.”

“Well, you don’t seem like the same person before the accident and you still remind me of Danny Bilson.”

“There you go with the Danny Bilson again! I’m getting tired of you saying that, Kid.”

“Well, you do!”

They reached a fork in the road and Heyes followed the path to the left. “Maybe we should just break up then—go our separate ways.”

“Maybe we should.” Curry reined his horse to the right.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Heyes asked.

“Thought we were goin’ our separate ways.”

“Not now—when I say.”



* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


Heyes sat on the bed holding the Kid’s hand. “You’ve been laying there for over three days. Don’t you think you’ve gotten enough sleep? Come on, Kid, wake up. I’m getting worried about you.”

A knock on the door brought Heyes to his feet, one hand hovering over the butt of his gun while the other slowly answered the door. “Doc,” Heyes said, relief in his voice, as he opened the door.

The doctor walked in and over to the bed. “How’s the patient today? Any changes?” He opened each one of Curry’s eyelids to check the pupils.

“He squeezed my hand,” Heyes said, hopeful.

The Doctor felt for a fever. “That's promising, but he’s still in a coma.”

“He was really restless last night, more than before. And his eyes are open, but he don’t seem to be focusing on anything.”

“Hopefully he’s coming out of it then. I’ve seen before where men in a coma seem to be awake but aren’t and movie around like they are agitated. Like I said before, head wounds are tricky.” The doctor pulled out his stethoscope and listened to Curry’s chest. “Heart’s beating stronger and his lungs are still clear. That’s good.”

Heyes watched with interest. “Can I?”

“Listen? Sure.” The doctor handed him the stethoscope.

Heyes put the one end in his ears and the other end on the Kid’s chest and smiled as he listened to the heartbeat. “That’s amazing,” he said as he handed the instrument back to the doctor.

“Well, there’s not much else I can do. Have someone get me if there’s a change. Keep trying to get water into him, a few drops at a time.”

Heyes nodded as he kept a watchful eye on his partner.

“And Mr. Smith…”

Heyes looked up.

“Get sleep. I’m having the hotel send up some sandwiches. Make sure you eat them.”

“Okay,” Heyes agreed, wearily.

Curry began thrashing in the bed and mumbling, “Bilson.”

Heyes sat down and stroked the Kid’s hand. “It’s okay, Kid. I’m watching your back. Bilson is dead.”

“No… Heyes…” Curry moved like he was running and shooting at the same time.

Heyes sighed. “I wish you’d wake up, Kid.”



* ~ *


Curry looked around the room. Things were a blur, but he saw his partner resting on a chair with a half-eaten sandwich on his lap. He moved his head and groaned.

Brown eyes opened and the blue eyes focus on them. “Kid?”

“Heyes… really you.” Curry drifted into a sleep.



* ~ *


Kid Curry fought through the deep fog. His partner was calling him—needing him. Kid opened his eyes and immediately regretted it. They hurt from the light and his head pounded.

“Ugghhh…” Curry moaned as he covered his eyes with his arm.

“That’s right, Kid. Wake up,” Heyes encouraged. “Is the light hurting you?” He got up from the bed, went to the window and shut the drape. “That should be better. I bet you have a whale of a headache.”

“Heyes, have to talk so much?” The Kid kept his arm over his head.

Heyes smiled. “Guess I missed you.”

“What happened? Feel like there’s a hammer to my head.”

“You don’t remember? A snake spooked your horse and you took a nasty tumble. One of his hooves kicked you in the head.”

Curry furrowed his brow and removed his arm, looking into brown eyes. “It’s really you,” he said relieved.

“Of course it’s me. Who’d you think I was?”

“Bilson.”

“Bilson?”

“Yeah, I woke up and you were Bilson,” Curry said, his eyes getting heavy. “Bilson, but it was you.”

“Doc said you’d be confused. Get some sleep and I’ll stay right here.”



* ~ *


Curry opened his eyes and smiled with relief when he saw Heyes. “You’re still Heyes.”

“Of course I am.” Heyes poured a glass of water. “Think you can drink some of this?”

The Kid drank as Heyes helped steady the cup.

“Doc will be here soon. Do you remember what name you should use?”

Curry closed his eyes and thought a moment. “Thaddeus Jones.”

“That’s right. And I’m…”

“Joshua Smith.”

Heyes smiled.

The door opened cautiously after a knock. “Mr. Smith?” The doctor poked his head in the room.

“Come in, Dr. Morse,” Heyes invited.

“How’s the patient… You seem alert.” The doctor walked to the bed and visually checked over the Kid. “Can you tell me what your name is?”

“Thaddeus Jones.”

“Good. How are you feeling, Mr. Jones?”

“Like there’s a stampede in my head.”

“How’s your vision? How many fingers am I holding up?”

The Kid concentrated. “Four, but they’re fuzzy.”

“That will get better with time. Think you can eat something?”

Curry barely shook his head. “Feel queasy.”

“That’s to be expected.” The doctor faced Heyes. “Any confusion?”

Heyes smiled. “No more than usual, Doc.”

“Good… good.” The doctor poured a glass of water, mixed powder into it and helped hold the cup while the Kid drank. “This will help with the pain. I want you to stay in bed and sleep for now. Have the kitchen make him some broth. In a few days you can get up, but I want you to take it easy for a week or two. If you need me, you know where I am.” The doctor got up and put a few items back in his bag.

Heyes escorted the doctor to the door. “Thanks for coming.” He turned and saw his partner asleep.



* ~ *


A few days later, Heyes and the Kid were sitting in rocking chairs on the hotel porch. Curry looked over at Heyes and smiled.

“What?” Heyes said. “You keep looking over at me and smiling.”

“Just relieved to see you’re you and not Bilson.”

“You said you woke up and I looked and sounded like Bilson.”

“Uh huh. Was the darnedest thing.”

“Sounds like a nightmare.”

The men sat in silence watching the town folks go about their business.”

“Joshua, did Wheat and Kyle ever rob a poker game we were in?”

“What? Wheat and Kyle rob a poker game? Nope, that never happened. Why do you ask?”

“Just that I remember it happenin’.”

“I think you’re confusing your dreams with what really happened.”

“What about you gettin’ shot in the head?”

“I did get shot in the head once and we stayed at the Carlson’s ranch.”

“Did I run up a hill, guns blazin’, and scare off a posse?”

Heyes chuckled. “Nope, but you did figure out the killer.”

“What about the bounty hunter…”

“Joe Sims?”

“Did he have a Sharps buffalo rifle?”

“Nope. Don’t you remember? That rancher shot him dead.”

“Oh, yeah… What about Tombstone?”

“What about Tombstone?”

“Did you play cards with Doc Holliday?”

Heyes sat up. “I played cards with Doc Holliday? Did I win?”

“Yeah, but Wyatt Earp made you lose all the money back.”

“Huh, I beat Holliday at cards.”

“So that happened?” the Kid asked.

“Nope, but I wish it had.”

“What about the Jordans—did that happen?”

“Yep, the Jordan’s girls helped us escape from a posse and then we had to help Mrs. Jordan prove her innocence.”

“That’s right. What about Mia Bronson?”

“Who?”

“The lady who owned the saloon and…” Seeing Heyes’ confusion, Curry stopped. “I guess that didn’t happen.”

“Nope.”



* ~ *


Several weeks later on the trail…

“What about BeeGee?”

Heyes turned in his saddle. “Who?”

“Was I ever married to Clem?”

“You married? To Clem?”

“How about you fallin’ in love with a schoolmarm?”

“Me and a schoolmarm?" Heyes shook his head in disbelief.

“Did we get amnesty for rescuin’ a girl, only to have a new governor come into office and not get it?”

Heyes sighed as he faced the front, again. “Kid, I can’t wait until you have this all sorted out."



Now off to write an April challenge...

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sun Apr 17, 2016 6:13 pm

As with others, I also found it difficult to choose a favorite out of so many challenge stories done over the years. This is one of a handful of favorites, and it won the toss.

Postlude

The rocks gracefully skimmed off the water several times before sinking – first thrice, then a quad. Subsequent ones followed, dancing their merry way across gentle currents before taking up residence in the river bottom. The thrower side-armed his pitch perfectly, practiced as he was in the art since childhood, although present life did not often allow for even such simple amusements.

His other talent lay in the six-shooter hugging his right thigh, tightly tied down by a knotted rawhide string. The appearance of the gun belt worn low on the hip alone stirred fear in some, if not most, who happened by, in contrast to the generally amiable disposition of the wearer.

Wholly lost in thought as he tossed the next stone, he did not hear soft footsteps approach from his rear, cautiously so as not to startle. The observer kept watch for what seemed an eternity.

“Kid?”

The hurler threw once more, watching two flat pebbles skip across the flows in tandem five, six times. “What?”

Heyes moved alongside, placing a hand on one shoulder and giving an affectionate squeeze in solidarity. “You didn’t hear me come up?”

“Guess not. River’s kinda loud.”

“That's not like you. Just wanted to let you know supper’s ready.”

The pitcher bent down to grab a handful of stones before skimming one more across. “Not hungry.”

“Got biscuits and beans. Maybe not a royal feast, but good and filling.”

The tossing ceased. “Sorry, Heyes, just didn’t feel like huntin’. You deserve better than beans.”

The observer brushed back strands of dark hair that had fallen in his face. “Beans are fine. If I wanted meat, I could’ve gone huntin' myself.” He chuckled. “But, you really should eat, else you might wake us both up in the middle of the night with your stomach growling.”

A quick smile faded. “Not likely. You eat.”

“Ah, Kid, not sure I have an appetite, either.” Heyes paused. “Enough excitement for one day, huh?”

“A day? More like a lifetime.”

The rueful response left the silver tongue speechless. Heyes draped an arm across his partner’s shoulders. The two stood in silence, mesmerized by the river’s rhythmical rush.

“C’mon, it’s gonna be dark soon.”

Kid nodded. The pair ambled to the campfire and sat down.

Heyes tossed a biscuit. Curry took a nibble and swallowed without chewing before accepting a plate of beans with a barely audible thanks. He absentmindedly moved the food around.

“Wasn’t your fault, Kid.”

The blond man locked eyes with Heyes. “Wasn’t it?”

“How so?”

“I went huntin’ him.”

We went looking for him.”

“Okay, so we went lookin’ for him. No matter. Still don’t make it right, even if he did deserve it in the end.”

Heyes watched the glow of the campfire play off his partner’s countenance. “Maybe not. But he wasn’t gonna let you leave town alive, and you know that as well as I do.”

In one fluid, lightning-quick motion, Curry stood, side-arming his plate in the direction of the horses. His bay whinnied, as if in warning. His voice rose, “I know that, Heyes. It was him or me. And I’m still here to talk about it. And whether the man needed killin’ or not, he’s dead. And I killed him.”

Heyes kept his seat, his voice steadier than a ship at anchor. “Yes, you did. Wasn’t that what you wanted?”

Curry stared into the twilight, dropped his face to his hand. He looked up. “Yes … No … I don’t know … I just don’t know.”

Heyes watched his partner pace in a tight space, like a caged animal, the still graceful movements not betraying his disquiet.

“So, you – we – went after him – hunted him -- found him, and waited him out for a week. He wasn’t forthcoming, and was obviously itching for a fight. He invited you out, more or less, and you felt you had no choice but to accept, knowing it was gonna be you or him. Does that about sum it up?”

Curry hesitated before speaking. “I suppose. But it seems too simple.”

“Well, then, Kid, that’s what it is. Simple. It doesn’t have to be complicated. But it was self-defense, and no one’s denying that.” Heyes sighed. “You have to make peace with that, sooner or later.”

The blond man pursed his lips. “I know … and I will. Guess it’s just a little raw right now.”

Heyes stood up. “Open wounds do heal … And what was that Grandma Curry used to tell us, about the wrathful man stirring up strife?”

“A wrathful man stirs up strife, but the one slow to anger appeases it.”

“Yeah, that’s it. It kind of fits.”

Curry raised an eyebrow. “Does it? I was pretty angry through this whole thing.”

Heyes mulled for a moment. “Yes, you were. I was, too. Maybe he got the best of us, all of us, but it’s time to put it to rest.”

The roar of the river diverted both men's attention. Strong and steady, its strength lay in its constancy, its murmur to mollify. Perhaps it would lull them to sleep tonight.

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:18 pm

Okay, so it's been awhile but I figured I had to jump in and post a challenge of mine.  To be honest, I never thought about a favorite challenge, heck, I'd be hard pressed to tell you any challenges I actually wrote.  Why this one, well it's one I do remember so I guess it must be a favorite scratch   Any way, this is based (loosely...very loosely) off the Abbott and Costello routine - Who's on First.  If you have never heard or seen it, go to you tube.  Heck, even if you have, its still worth a watch - and its the right time of the year.





LEAP OF FAITH



“Okay, Wheat, we got it all set,” Kyle stated.

“What all set?”

“First bandit.”

“First bandit?” Wheat queried.

“Yep. Since Heyes and Kid won’t be back for ‘while, we’s figured out first bandit.”

“Huh?”

“Ya know, first bandit, second bandit, third bandit…who does what.”

Wheat stared blankly at Kyle.

“‘Kay, so Heyes is always first bandit when he’s here, unless it’s Kid then he’s first. But Heyes and Kid ain’t here so we need a new first. That’s you, but you’s usually second, well third, cause Kid’s second if he ain’t first and Heyes, well he’s always first unless Kid is, but Kid can be second but Heyes ain’t never been second he’s always first.”

Wheat blinked.

“So Heyes ain’t here so Kid’s first bandit, that makes you second. Kid’s not here neither so you get moved up to first bandit. Now we gots to figure out second bandit and third cause they’s important. Now ‘fore Heyes left, he said, who is first is important. Most important to what, that’s second cause ya got t’ know what t’ bring, and then where is third, cause ya got t’ know where ya goin’, and I don’t know the other things he said.”

“Heyes told ya this?”

“Yep, said with me it’ll be a leap of faith if I remembered it all.”

“He did,” Wheat almost chuckled.

“Yep, but I did so I got it all figured out.

“You do?”

“Ah-huh. Who is first, What is second, Where is third and I don’t know is fourth.”

“Say that again?”

“Who is first. What is second. Where is third and I don’t know is fourth.”

“I got that but what are you sayin’?”

“What is second.”

“Who?”

“Is first?”

“I don’t get it?”

“No, I don’t know is the rest of the gang.”

“But Who is first?”

“Yep,” Kyle smiled broadly.

“Who?” Wheat repeated.

“Yes,” he nodded seriously.

“Heyes told ya this?” Confusion spread across Wheat’s face.

“Yep. Who is first, cause it’s the most important.”

“What are you talkin’ about.”

“What ain’t talkin’ he’s second. Who does the talkin’.”

“Who does the talkin’?”

“Now ya got it.”

“Got What?”

“Second,” Kyle triumphantly stated.

“I don’t know…”

“They’s fourth.”

“Who’s fourth?”

“No, Who’s first.” Kyle shook his head, not understanding why Wheat kept messing up the order.

“Who’s first.”

“Yep.”

“Who’s second?”

“Nope, What’s second.”

“Where did you get this?”

“Heyes told me and Where is third.”

“Where is third?”

“Exactly.” Kyle proudly chuckled.

“Kyle, I don’t know…”

“Them’s is fourth.”

“Heyes said this would be a leap?”

“‘O faith.” Kyle hooked his thumbs in his belt.

“You aint’ kiddin’.” Wheat shook his head. “Okay, so let’s go over this again.”

“‘Kay.”

“Who’s first.”

“Yep.”

“What is second?”

“Ah-huh.”

“I don’t know…”

“Nope, they’s fourth. Where is third.”

“I don’t know…”

“Fourth.”

Wheat rubbed his hand over his face and took a breath. “Let’s go over this one more time.”

“‘Kay.”

“Who’s first.”

Kyle nodded.

“What is second?”

“Yep.”

“What is second?” Wheat asked louder.

“Ya got that?”

“Got what?”

“Second?”

“I don’t know.”

“Fourth.”

“Where…”

“Third.”

“I give up.”

“They’s no bandits that give up,” Kyle stated. “Heyes said nothin’ ‘bout givin’ up.”

Wheat blew out a breath, “Okay so this is what Heyes said.”

“Second.”

“Huh?”

“No, huh. What is second.”

“What is second, Where…”

“Third.”

“Third,” Wheat repeated.

“Yep.”

“Who is first, What is second, Where is third and I don’t know what you are talkin’ ‘bout.”

“Ya got it! ‘Cept I don’t know is fourth but I don’t know if they know what ya talkin’ ‘bout neither cause sometimes ya can be confusin’ Wheat.”

Wheat’s shoulders slumped. “Confusin’? Me? Confusin’?” His voice began to rise.

“Sure, Wheat,” Kyle smiled. “Ain’t yur fault ya ain’t as clear as Heyes sometimes.”

“I got a headache,” Wheat mumbled as he turned and walked away.
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cjp242



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PostSubject: cjp242   Sat Apr 23, 2016 12:28 am

I have to confess this is a bit of a cheat, on two counts – firstly, I've never posted any of my stories anywhere before, so it doesn't precisely meet the challenge. However, I intended to submit it under 'Storm Clouds' a few months ago, only I missed the deadline due to my own incompetence when trying to register. Secondly, it's very heavily indebted indeed to one of William Croft Barnes stories in 'Tales from the X bar horse ranch' which you can find on Project Gutenberg (free, out of copyright)
https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/41529  Barnes himself has a page on wikipedia, if you're interested https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_C._Barnes
Many thanks to everyone whose stories I've enjoyed reading. I hesitate to post my own poor effort. It's an abridged version of a slightly longer story, so a bit clunky in places, but anyway here goes… cjp242


Storm Clouds

'…Ain't it hard ta stumble
When ya've got no place ta fall
In this whole wide world
Yea I got no place at all …'


Sleep eludes me. I toss restlessly in my bedroll, listening to the night-watch crooning to the cattle, to keep 'em calm. The voice, somnolent and mournful, swells and recedes on the heavy evening air as the singer's perpetual circum-ambulation of the herd brings him close by the camp, then off again round the far side… this song may be lulling the beeves, but it aint having a calming effect on me. Hell no! I stare into the pitch black, cursing the singer, my partner, Jedediah 'Kid' Curry, for a damn fool.

The Kid, the fastest gun in the West, aka Thaddeus Jones, and I, the great Hannibal Heyes, Genius Leader of the Devil's Hole gang, or plain old Joshua Smith to the cowpokes, counted ourselves lucky when we landed these miserable jobs at the Circle Y. The hours are long, and the money aint great, but the work's honest, easy, and safe.  All we have to do is take delivery of longhorns off the range and hold 'em in this lush valley to keep weight while they're waiting to be shipped. There are nine of us on the job in all, taking turns to watch the beeves round the clock. During the day we let 'em spread across the valley floor to graze, then come sunset, we drive the full, contented beasts slowly towards camp and stop the leaders short, allowing the remaining steers to amble up to form a compact body, which'll settle down quietly on the bed-ground to doze and chew the cud.
Today, Kid and I have been baby-sitting the beeves since noon, so it aint our job to continue on till the small hours, driving back any beast that wakes and wanders off.
But when the first night-guard, Tom and Jake, ride up, Jake coughing and wheezing like a pair of old bellows, I see the danger the moment the Kid turns his pony in their direction. I try to head him off, but I'm too late.
'…I cain't let yu do that! yu've jus' finished yur shift, yu cain't mind the beeves all night an' all. I cain…' Jake's words are lost in a fit of coughing.
'Why I had a touch of the grippe myself last winta – felt like a herd of buff'lo bin tramplin' all over ma chest. Ya too sick ta ride night herd an' ya'll scare the beeves wi' yer coffin.'
Typical Kid! Plumb crazy, I know, but he has this weird fixation – see a body in trouble and he has to lend a hand – can't help himself. I've nagged him, reasoned with him, yelled at him, but it don't do no good. He's incurable.
Anyhow, Tom, who's ridden with Jake up from Texas and whose brow is criss-crossed with worry, as protective of his partner as I am of mine, jumps in before I can utter a word, 'Why, I thank yu Thaddeus. That's mighty kind of yu. Jake here is too darn stubborn fer his own dang good an' he aint in no fit state… specially on a night like t'night.' Jake argues tooth and nail. These Texas boys were almost raised in the saddle and are tough, reckless riders, insensible to hardship, so ill or no, he's determined to be at his partner's side when trouble comes – for all four of us can see plain as day what's looming on the horizon. I back Jake up, silver-tonguing the Kid for all I'm worth, to persuade him back to camp and safety, but Jake aint the only one who's stubborn, and eventually it's Tom who wins the argument by pointing out to his partner he'll be safer riding with a man who aint sick, so stoney-faced, I have to ride away…

'…In this whole wide world
Yea I got no place at all …'


I listen to the steady 'chug, chug' of Jed's pony's feet and the same song, swelling and receding as they keep circling the restless beeves.
…and that's the problem, tonight is different. Come dusk, louring purple 'thunderheads' had piled up on the horizon, lit by jagged forks of lightning; the air's heavy and tense, and the beeves are twitchy, jumpy as hell, ready to run. The first loud clap of thunder will send the whole herd flying. I've seen it before, been deafened by the rattle and crash of horns and hooves, felt the shake of the earth under my feet. Nothing stands in their way. Trees and bushes are uprooted and carried off like wisps of chaff …an' I've seen the smear on the ground that was once a living man and horse. One stumble, just one, and you've no chance; it's something every cowboy dreads. And if the herd stampedes in the coming storm, the Kid'll be hurtling through the pitch black, unable to see a blame thing. So tonight of all nights he takes it into his thick skull to volunteer for night-guard, all because Jake, who should be on watch, has took a little sick.

'…I'm a stranger here
I'm a stranger everywhere…'


I'm dog tired, but a restless discontent keeps me awake. We're being paid just one dollar a day, Kid's already been in the saddle hours an' now he's keeping this lonely vigil through the night. He must be tired, apt to make mistakes.

'…I ain't got no father…'

Kid's far from being the worst singer. It's comforting to hear his voice, ringing loud and clear as he passes by the camp, a soft murmur as he rounds the far side of the large herd.

'I aint got not brother,
No brother nor no sister…'


A lot of the men sing hymns they remember from their childhood, but this mournful song of loss is Kid's favourite. I start to drift off, it's been a long day and I'm exhausted… I'll be glad… when this…  the faint singing stops. I start awake, my ears straining – maybe Kid's chasing down a stray  … or is swapping a word with Tom as their paths cross… the seconds tick by …he should've started again by now. I struggle up onto my elbows. What's happening? Why hasn't he ….  his voice drifts once more on the strengthening wind and I slump back.

'Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens …'


The bastard! Instantly I'm transported back to the little wooden church outside Lawrence, nine-year-old Jed, ashen-faced, staring at the long row of coffins holding his entire family – his ma and pa, little Ruthie, and his older brothers and sisters Ethan, Lucy, Amos and Zachariah, all dead …

'When other helpers fail an' comforts flee,

help of the helpless, O abide wi'…'


The sound ebbs and swells again. I haven't heard my partner sing a hymn in nigh on twenty years, since we were both children; I hadn't realised he could still recall any. I curse some more.

'… I fear no foe, wi' thee at hand ta bless;
ills have …' 


I drag my blanket round my head, but blotting out the sound brings no relief. I need to hear his voice, to know he's OK.

'…Where's death's…'

Then, for an instant, the camp is lit like day and a tremendous clap of thunder booms directly overhead, as if the sky's falling in. A thousand longhorns are barrelling down the valley in frantic, crazed panic. STAMPEDE!

I feel the ground beneath me shakin'; a low moan rises from the herd, as if a bunch of lost souls are crawling outta hell; a visceral terror curdles my blood.

With the other hands, I race for the wagon and safety as the steers hurtle towards the camp. But about 100 feet away, they swing off and in a flash of light, I catch sight of first Kid and then Tom riding well to the front between us and the herd, averting disaster. Sitting tall in the saddle, Kid waves a hand in salute and I hear Tom's daredevil cry,  'Here's trouble, cowboys!' Then a moment later they're lost in the dust and the night.

With the rest of the hands, I fling on my saddle and tear out after herd. Then I realise we're headed for the 'cracks', an area where the hard abode soil has split in all directions. Some are 10 feet wide and 50 deep, others half a mile long and only 6 inches or a foot wide. Hidden in the grass a horse can't see them until he's fairly into them – they're extremely dangerous and we all dread them. I hear the report of  revolvers in front of me, and I know the Kid and Tom have seen the danger too, and are trying to turn the steers by shooting in their faces.

As Jake and I draw level with what we take to be the leaders, we start firing as well and presently, we have the herd milling. Within 20 minutes they're quieted down and can be left with the regular second guard. By now we're soaked to the skin, paddling in liquid mud… and I can't find the Kid. But when I hold my hand in front of my face I can't see it, so I head back to camp. I can only find that because cook has built up the fire. He's not there. Tom's missing too. So Jake and I pace, hunched against the rain, smokin', worryin'. Maybe he's lying injured, calling for my help, or maybe he's simply sittin' the night out with a bunch of steers, too many and too distant to work back alone, or maybe he'll never… But there aint nothing I can do. Eventually, the rain stops; in the east the morning star begins to fade and the sky takes on that peculiar grey that precedes the dawn. I mount up and head straight for the cracks. The earth is churned up as if by some fell monster, and I soon see that the night before we'd not got abreast of the leaders, but cut between them and the rest of the herd… my heart's beating hard as I see where the trail's heading.

I come upon a deep slash through the earth and peer over the edge. My heart lurches. I can make out the red tail of a cowpony, crushed beneath a heap of dead and dying steers. Kid's rode a sorrel; what had Tom been riding? Silently, fervently I beseech a god I no longer believe in, please let it be Tom, please!

I fire two shots to signal for help. The others come quickly and we rope up the beeves, then as the body of an old cow begins to shift, I catch sight of a piece checked shirt round a lump that's scarce recognisable, and I choke back a scream of joy. It isn't the Kid! Guiltily I cast a look at Jake. He aint realised yet, then as I watch, his face crumples and I turn quickly away.
'Mr Barnes, I'm riding on to look for the Ki… Thaddeus.' The foreman hasn't noticed my slip and waves me away. He don't need everyone for this grim task and he knows Thaddeus and I ride together. I press on, more frantic now, terrified I'll find another scene like the last.  
The remnants of the storm are many miles past, beyond sight, beyond hearing. The air is perfectly still and as I ride on the groans of the dying beeves recede, and the only sounds are the regular crack of a rifle as the beasts are put out of their misery and the splashing and stumbling of my pony, which I'm pushing too fast over the rough, churned earth.

The torrential rain has left a dense, grey, low-level fog, blanketing a world leached of colour. In the half-light I make out a dark mass in the distance. It's a large cluster of beeves. I search the edges, and there, on the far side, a little way to the rear is a cowpony, head down, dozing, and on her back a sleeping cowboy. The sound of my horse splashing through the puddles rouses the little mare, who raises her head to stare, waking her rider, who looks up in turn, and at that moment, the sun breasts the mountain top and touches his curls with dark gold as he takes off his hat to wipe his brow, and colour floods down into the valley, and the solid grey mist breaks into thousands upon thousands of iridescent diamonds as the light sparkles off each water droplet. It's like the whole world is celebrating with me! I yell 'Kid' and wave my hat, a smile splitting my face so it aches; Jed pushes up the brim of his stetson with one finger, quietly watching my approach.

'Hey, Kid!'
'Hey yourself, Heyes!'
Grinning, I punch him on the arm to feel his solid, warm flesh. 'You turned 'em!'
'Yep.' Kid stretches lazily, and yawns, and smiles, 'Had you a bit worried there partner?'
'Na… not really!' We both grin.
'Kinda got used to you being around, I guess.'
'Weell, let's drive these beeves back; I'm ready fer ma bed.' He looks tuckered out, but he's unhurt.
We turn our ponies an' I'm still grinning fit to bust, then Kid looks back over his shoulder, 'Tom?' The smile is wiped from my face and I don't need to say nothing.
'So he didn't make it.'  Kid sighs, '…I wondered when it fell quiet behind me. I'd heard twelve shots an' I pity the poor devil tryin' ta turn them beeves wi' empty guns.'

I steal a glance at my partner, thankful for the expertise he's acquired during a life on the dodge. How many times have I seen him drop the reins and reload at a dead run with a posse hard on our heels, an experience Tom would never have had…

We rouse the sleepy steers, no threat now, and drive them slowly back to the main herd. The air is fresh and filled with the scent of crushed grass and herbs; an' the sun, kissin' the mountain tops so pretty, rests warm on our backs. It feels good to be alive.

When we get back to camp, Kid sleeps while I tend to the mare, giving her a special feed of oats and an apple I've stolen from the chuck wagon – she deserves the best.

The other men bring in Tom's body. It would take two days in the heat to reach the nearest town and the small, dusty graveyard by the church. He has no relatives here in Arizona we know of; his friends are among the cowpunchers, so we decide to bury him beside us in this valley. We choose a spot near our camp where there's a hugh black rock, stood up on end, as if dropped from the sky by the hand of some Almighty being. On one smooth face, prehistoric people have carved queer markings, representing snakes and lizards and great sunrays, so we call it the 'Aztec Rock'. It will make a fine headstone…much good that'll do him. I wake the Kid for the burying.

Tom is laid reverently in his grave, and when the last sods are piled upon his body, Will, our foreman, remarks, 'Boys it seems pow'ful hard to plant poor Tom and not say a word of Gospel over him. Cain't some of ye say a little prayer or repeat a few lines of Scripter?'

After a spell the youngest of us, a horse-wrangler, a boy from Indiana nicknamed the 'Hoosier Kid', speaks up, 'I kin say the Lord's Prayer, ef that'll be any good.' And in the warm sunshine, surrounded by a thousand head of long-horned steers, the silence broken only by the 'caw, caw' of a solitary desert raven circling idly overhead, we take off our hats and he begins, 'Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…'

And first Jake, then the Hoosier Kid tear up. Soon there's weeping all around me, and as I look at Jake, I feel a stab of guilt, remembering how elated I felt, seeing poor Tom dead – because it wasn't the Kid –  an' now I can't hold back neither. By now, everyone's blubbing. No, not everyone. Jed stands there, silent and respectful, smeared with mud he hasn't yet had the chance to wash off, and completely dry-eyed.

At last, the men turn away quietly to get back to work and we leave Jake staring at the stone.

Kid and I are strolling back together, a short way apart – the others keep clear, a little wary of my partner from the first, though he's a friendly crittur, an' they've never seen his fast draw.
'That were a real nice ceremony,' he remarks philosophically.
'Sure, if you enjoy a burying!' I snap back, irritated with the Kid, cross with myself too for my weakness at the graveside.

Jake is coughing worse than ever now, so he's been given light duties. He's so shook up by Tom's death, it's almost like he's given up. I can't bear lookin' at him. I want to leave.

'There's danger everywhere, Heyes. I'm fine, I aint got no bullet in me, neither of us 've even bin shot at. Few strangers pass this way. Let's stay till the job's done.'

There's truth in what he says and I shrug my acquiescence.

So the following night I'm circling the beeves, in the opposite direction to the Kid. And twice a circuit we linger a while, to swap a joke, or just sit sleepily in silent companionship, then it's on round the herd, who rest peacefully, basking in the warm air under a full prairie moon like large, friendly old dogs.
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Kid4ever

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Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 58
Location : BURBANK, CA USA

PostSubject: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sat Apr 23, 2016 9:46 pm

study  applause  100 Story Challenges - WOW!! That's a totally awesome reason indeed to celebrate and share our favorites with each other. congrats
Each of my Story Challenges have something special in them; a tad of this, a pinch of that, a tasty morsel that makes you want more... Something to make the reader think, or laugh, to tear up, or smile.
Sometimes a writer is lucky enough to hear or read a bit that causes a story bunny to hop right into their lap.
My submission falls into the latter category and has a very special place in my heart.
If you pay close attention, you might even catch a nod to another great western show, "The Wild,Wild West."
Enjoy reading I'm looking forward to perusing through each of YOUR stories, too  study

(I'm sharing the version used for the challenge, but there is an alternate ending - which pushed the story way past the limit. There is a link at the end of this post if you'd like to read it.) Although I prefer the alternate ending, it should be fun to see which one you like best).



*~*~*~*~*~*

"AGAINST THE ODDS"


Two pairs of eyes followed every move the stranger made as he expertly wove his way between the poker tables and shouldered his way through the batwing doors. Totally oblivious of the fact, the man carried himself with a proud feline-like grace.

“Lordy, but that man sure is easy on a woman's eyes!” the hazel-eyed saloon girl breathed with a drawn-out sigh of appreciation.

“Sure ‘nough is,” her red-haired companion readily concurred.

“Did you see those dimples? They oughta be outlawed!”

“I couldn’t agree more - an' look at the way he walks – why it's almost as if he’s a'struttin'!” The sigh that followed her words was equally appreciative. It was a real pity - no, a downright shame – that the man had to leave, but what a glorious sight his backside made as he walked away!

Smiles were very much in evidence on the faces of both working girls long after the dark-haired man had disappeared from their sight. It was an even lengthier time before their hearts quit fluttering enough to settle back down to a normal rhythm.

Twin sighs were heard once again as the females reluctantly roused themselves enough to get back to work while their minds were occupied with wondering all kinds of delicious thoughts, the least of which was what the odds might be against fate being generous enough to bring the tall, dark and handsome stranger back their way anytime soon?

*~*~*~*~*~*

As the saloon doors swung back and forth behind him, Heyes surveyed the small town with mild interest. Moments later he was forced to step aside in order to avoid being jostled by two young ranch hands that had followed behind in his wake. As the pair made their way past him, he couldn't help but overhear a portion of their conversation.

"So tell me, whaddya think the odds are against me talkin' Jenny into goin' to the dance with me?"

"Well, Jack, I think you'd better hope they're a heck of a lot better'n the ones ya had at the poker table today, otherwise you're gonna be dancin' all by yourself!" his friend teased as he bent over double with laughter.

An angry scowl marred young Jack's features briefly. All of a sudden he grinned. "Hey, Johnny, you know what? You’ve got a real good point there. Don't they say that if'n a man's unlucky in cards then he's bound to be lucky in love? Boy howdy, if that's true, then Jenny oughta be downright ready to say she'll marry me!"

Johnny put a hand on his friend's shoulder. “Well, I'll be right there beside ya, backin' ya up when ya ask her, Jack. C'mon, let's go find good ol' Jenny an' see what she says."

Grinning, Heyes watched the two inebriated young men hold onto each other for support as they navigated their way cautiously down the few steps that led to the street. “Sure hope Jenny has a good sense of humor,” he chuckled.

Taking a few steps forward brought Heyes to the edge of the boardwalk. As he gave a lazy stretch, his sinewy muscles rippled along his shoulder blades. Lowering his arms, he placed his hands akimbo to his hips and contemplated what to do next. Kid wasn't due in until later this afternoon; in fact, the telegram he'd received from his partner had been uncharacteristically short.

Joshua Smith (stop) On stage (stop) Arrive late Tuesday (stop) Good News! (stop) Thaddeus

“Good news, huh?” he snorted, “That'd be a welcome change!” He watched the townspeople for a bit longer before lowering himself into one of the vacant chairs. He'd chosen one that provided shade as well as some exposure to the sun, and welcomed the warmth it provided. He leaned backwards to prop both feet up on the railing and let the back legs of the chair support his weight, then put a finger up to adjust his hat so as to shield his eyes from the bright glare of the mid-day sun.

With a sigh of content, Heyes shifted in his seat and settled himself in a more comfortable position to await the arrival of his partner. In the solitude the words the young man had spoken earlier came back to tease him.

Against the odds...

How could three small, and seemingly insignificant, words hold such a wealth of meaning, nonetheless? For almost as far back as he could remember the two of them, cousins by birth, friends and partners by choice, had struggled against the odds. From the first moment a band of renegades had left them the sole survivors of two massacred families, and through their years spent together as orphans in a home for waywards, the odds had relentlessly tagged right along with them. They were an uninvited, invisible, and definitely unwelcome third party that had become their constant companion.

Running away from the home, trying to make a life together out on the trail, they inevitably found themselves splitting up when times got tough. Each young man went his separate way, determined to make it on his own, stubbornly refusing to be the stumbling block that caused the other to fall.

A few years passed. Alone and with the odds still against them, both men arrived at the same conclusion even though they were miles apart. Each realized they were half of a whole and it was only when they stood together that they could they be a winning combination strong enough to withstand the odds that warred against them.

Heyes drew in a deep breath and then released it slowly. These days it seemed the odds were against the two of them even more, contriving to prove to the pair of outlaws how futile it was to try and beat them. Just when they thought things might turn in their favor, fate would intervene and something would go wrong.

When was the last time things had gone right?

The dark-haired outlaw frowned. He'd lost track a long time ago. The countless lawmen - sheriffs, deputies, bounty hunters and posses - the running and the hiding, believing that they'd finally caught a break, an opportunity to breathe. Then, they'd go around the next bend in the road only to find themselves once more the hunted. And what about the dozens of times one of them had been shot or injured? How many times had he or the Kid sat by each other, to wait and wonder if this might be the end?

Yes, they'd definitely been against the odds more than their fair share it seemed.

Yet, if he were honest, Heyes knew he'd also have to concede the fact that him and the Kid were still alive, able to claim they'd beaten the odds a few times... hadn't they? He relaxed even further, prepared to give the matter more serious consideration. His eyelids drifted slowly downward until they shuttered his brown eyes.

It made sense to think that the odds were bound to be in their favor soon...

The sound of thundering hooves and yelling brought his musings to a grinding halt as Heyes sat up. His boots hit the floor and he pushed his hat back just in time to watch a young man on a horse streak past in a blur. Animal and rider came to a sliding stop in front of the sheriff's office, throwing up a thick cloud of dust and sending rocks flying in all directions. Judging by the lather on the horse's heaving sides, it was easy to deduce the animal had been ridden hard.

Curious, and wondering what all the excitement was about, Heyes stood up in order to have a better view. There was no need to venture any closer; he had no difficulty in hearing the young man’s voice. Loud with his agitation and excitement, it carried across the width of the street. Heyes wasn't left to wonder long; he watched the rider slide down off his horse and lean against the animal, clinging to it for support.

Hearing all the racket the sheriff came rushing out of his office. He took one look at the boy's pallor and gripped him by the shoulders.

“Tommy - what's wrong? What're you carryin' on about?”

“Doc,” the boy gasped, “get Doc!” After taking several gulps of much needed air, Tommy was able to go on. “There's been an accident, Sheriff - a real bad one, too!”

“Where? What kind of accident?”

“Stagecoach - the one comin' in from Mooresville. Looks like maybe it took the curve too
fast... out by the old Bailey place. There's blood... an' bodies everywhere!” His eyes dilated by what he had seen, Tommy whispered, “I ain't never seen so much blood, Sheriff Jackson!”

Although the boy continued to speak, his voice faded away as Heyes felt his stomach give a lurch when the boy's words registered. Stagecoach accident? The Kid's telegram had said he'd be on the late stage... the one that would have been coming in from Mooresville... Swallowing the sudden knot of dread that had lodged itself in his chest, Heyes forced himself back to the present with an effort.

“...an' they was all pretty well busted up,” Tommy was saying, “even the driver. I don't know if anyone's alive, Sheriff.  Looks like the stage was all full-up, too. I counted eight bodies; six men an' two women... I think.”

The lawman took a deep breath and blew it out through pursed lips. After a quick glance around at the crowd of people that had gathered together, he shook his head.  “Well, folks, guess we'd better go an' collect 'em.” He turned back to the boy. “Did you recognize any of the bod- uh, I mean passengers, Tommy?”

The boy stared down at the ground, and then gave a reluctant nod. “Yes, sir, Miss Sally's Aunt Maude,” he whispered, “she was still inside; I - I couldn't get very close. I can't s-say for sure 'bout her Uncle Arte. He might've been there, but I didn't see him. There were more, but I couldn't really see much...” Tommy ducked his head, “jus' their legs stickin' out from under the stagecoach. The driver, Mr. West, well, he got thrown pretty far, out into some rocks. I think maybe, well, maybe he might’ve busted his neck or somethin', he was all bent up, kinda funny-like.”

An expression of deep sorrow crossed Sheriff Jackson's face. Aunt Maude was loved by everyone in the town; she was a real fine lady and would be sorely missed. He turned to the women standing nearby.

“Would some of you ladies mind goin' on over to Miss Sally's an' keep her company 'til we get back? She's gonna need someone to be with her when she gets the bad news; it's not gonna be easy on her.” He smiled his thanks as they nodded and walked away. The lawman headed into his office, only to reappear a few moments later with his arms full of rifles. He began to pass them out.

“Men, there's no tellin' what we're gonna find out there, or what scavengers we'll have to fend off. I think we'll all feel safer with these along, just in case we have to deal with 'em.” Scanning the crowd, the sheriff called out, “Sam, Joe, Luke, Ralph - you'd better go fetch your wagons. Get 'em hitched up as fast as you can and meet us out there. The rest of you men, saddle up and meet me back here in ten minutes; I don't want to put this off any longer than we have to.”

“You did good, Tommy,” Sheriff Jackson laid a hand on the boy's shoulder, “Go ahead and get on home; you've seen enough for one day.”

Tommy cast the lawman a grateful look and turned away. Head bent, leading his horse by the reins, he trudged past the saloon.

Heyes stepped forward. “S'cuse me, son. Out there... the accident - you didn't happen to see a man, 'bout my height, little heavier, blond hair -”

“Mister,” Tommy stopped dead in his tracks and lifted his head to look straight into the dark-haired stranger's face. “If you'd seen what I did out there this afternoon, ya sure wouldn't be askin' nothin' 'bout hair color.” The expression on the man's face hastened the young man to quickly add, “Sorry, mister, I wasn't tryin' to be ugly 'bout it or nothin', but I can't tell ya much 'bout the passengers - even the ones I know. It all made me kinda sick, seein' 'em like that.” Tommy hesitated as he searched for the right words. “There’s one thing I can tell ya for sure, not a one of ‘em was makin' any sounds; it was as quiet as a graveyard.” Then, as the realization of what he'd said hit home, Tommy began to stammer out another apology. “I'm real sorry, mister; I never meant it like that, I -”

“Nevermind, I just wanted -” Heyes stopped, took a deep breath and bowed his head. Just what was it he did want?

Tommy eyed the stranger in silence and then took a few tentative steps forward. “Hey, mister… did you have someone on that stage?”

Heyes nodded.

“Kin?”

After a slight hesitation, Heyes nodded again. Did it really matter now if anyone knew they were related? He reached up to brush back hair that had fallen down into his face. “My cousin,” he acknowledged in a low voice.

A sympathetic look of understanding crossed Tommy's face. “It's not much comfort at a time like this but, well, it didn't look like any of 'em lived long enough to suffer much.”

Wincing at the boy's unfortunate choice of words, Heyes managed a strangled, “Thank you, I -” Unable to find a suitable reply, Heyes’ words hung in the air; his silver tongue seemed to have deserted him. “I think the sheriff's right, son; you should be home with your family at a time like this.”

This time it was Tommy who nodded. After shooting another compassionate glance towards the stranger, he continued wearily on his way.

Against the odds…

Once more the words came back to taunt him; mocking him for his earlier optimism. Was this really the way their lives of chance would end? Cheated of the opportunity to fight it out together and unable to at least say a final good-bye? A deep sense of futility at the injustice of the situation pervaded his body as Heyes sank back down into his chair.

“Aw, Kid...” he whispered, “It wasn't a fair fight, was it? It snuck up behind you, like some yellow-bellied coward and sucker-punched you when you weren't looking...”

*~*~*~*~*~*

An interminable hour crawled by. Heyes rose to his feet abruptly and headed towards the livery stable. “I'm not going to just sit around and wait; I'll go out there myself and -”

The sound of wagon wheels prevented him from putting his plan into action before he had taken more than a few steps. The first wagon load of victims had reached its destination and was brought to a standstill in front of the undertaker's.

Like moths drawn to a flame, powerless to stay away, the townspeople began to congregate again.

Human nature was a funny thing, Heyes mused as he approached the wagon and joined them. Sometimes just hearing something wasn't enough; you had to see the proof for yourself, even when you knew the truth might hurt.

When he was close enough to see the bodies covered by the blankets, he wondered if he'd find the Kid's among them. Before he could gather up enough courage to lift the blankets and look underneath, a second wagon came into view.

“Hey, everybody, look!”

Everyone turned; there was a collective gasp from the crowd at the sight that met their eyes. Sitting on the bench seat, making large gestures with her hands and talking about a mile a minute was an elderly woman.

“Aunt Maude?” a female voice from somewhere behind Heyes whispered in disbelief. “Somebody quick - go fetch Sally an' tell her that Aunt Maude is alive – she’s still with us!” There was no mistaking the joy in the woman's voice.

As Heyes looked up at the feisty little woman, he couldn't help the ray of hope that flickered inside him. If an old woman like Aunt Maude could survive, then maybe... ?

Someone standing beside him must have had the same thoughts. “But I thought no one survived?”

“Were there any others?” another anxious voice inquired.

The driver of the wagon jumped down and held up a hand. “Now don't go gettin' your hopes up none,” he cautioned. “The doc's done checked out all the others - very thoroughly - and he'll be here soon enough to tell ya himself that all the rest of these poor souls has breathed their last breath. Aunt Maude was very, very lucky... seems she just got knocked out.

“The doc says she'll be fit as a fiddle once her Arte gets here.” At their expressions of astonishment he added, “Yes, ya heard me right. Arte wasn't on the stage; he had some business to tend to and decided to come back later. Aunt Maude had her heart set on bein' here for her Sally's birthday, so she came on alone.”

After the buzz of excitement and joy had subsided, Aunt Maude was escorted away by a very tearful niece and a whole bunch of well-wishers. A somber mood settled once more upon those left behind.

Forcing himself to look as the victims of the first of the two wagons were uncovered, Heyes had to clamp down hard on his emotions when neither of them turned out to be his partner. He traversed the distance to the second wagon on feet that felt like lead and prepared for the worst. Standing beside the wagon, he peered with great reluctance into it and waited for the blankets to be lifted. As the next two bodies were revealed, Heyes felt his stomach muscles clench tighter and tighter.

He had to fight down the feeling of nausea which had caused bile to rise in his throat as he viewed the carnage of broken and bloodied bodies on the floor of the wagon. When the third, and final, blanket was raised Heyes didn't know whether to feel relieved or frustrated.

Kid wasn't here either!

“Doc's comin' in with the last bunch. They were the ones trapped underneath the stagecoach when it turned over. There's three men left; poor sorry devils,” the driver shook his head. “What a way to go.”

Heyes swallowed to get moisture into a very dry throat. It made sense; Kid would have volunteered to sit up top, letting the women sit inside. As crowded as it was, he’d probably thought he’d be better off sitting with the driver. Heyes leaned forward to rest his head against the wagon.

Three more men to go... and in worse shape than what he'd already witnessed? Trapped
beneath the massive weight of the stagecoach, nothing to protect him - crushed - maybe beyond recognition? The Kid didn't deserve to die like that! An accident. An ordinary traveler, minding his own business, unaware of what fate had planned for him?

No, it just wasn't right! It wasn't fair, either; the odds should have been in Curry's favor, not against him! The chances of a fatal stagecoach accident should have been far outweighed by all the times they'd faced death while riding the outlaw trail. His thoughts were interrupted by the driver's voice.

“Not sure when the last wagon will get here, folks. It'll take them a while to get the men out from under that stagecoach; it's not gonna be an easy job. You might as well go on 'bout your business 'til then.”

As the crowd began to disperse, Heyes was left standing in the middle of the street, a solitary figure. He turned away to walk blindly towards the saloon. It was only when he reached the top of the last step and stood on the edge of the boardwalk that he realized he couldn't go inside. Not yet; not without knowing. Not until he had seen the occupants of the last wagon; he had to be sure.

He had to see with his own eyes that the Kid was really and truly gone before he would believe it. Then, and only then, would he allow himself the luxury of drinking enough whiskey to numb the pain he was experiencing. He felt as if he had aged twenty years in the past few hours. Still lost in thought, Heyes sat down in the same chair he had vacated only a short while ago and closed his eyes.

What if Kid really was gone?

It was a strange - almost surreal - feeling to realize that he'd never hear that familiar voice ever again. He took a deep breath. While Heyes tried to reconcile to the unexpected blow that fate had been cruel enough to deliver him, a shadow fell across him and blocked out the warmth of the afternoon sun which was just beginning to set. It stole away the warmth the outlaw had hoped would help chase away the chill that had begun to permeate his body.

“Hey, whaddya s'pose the odds are against a fella buyin' his partner a bath an' a steak dinner?”

Heyes remained motionless. “Great, now I’m hearing things,” he muttered.

“Huh? Why wouldn’t you hear me – I’m standin’ right next to you?”

Heyes opened one eye and looked up in disbelief. With both eyes, as well as his mouth open wide, he leapt out of his chair and grabbed the startled man by both shoulders. “KID?!” he shouted.

“Do you think you could yell that jus' a little bit louder?” Curry hissed, darting a quick look around. “I don't think the sheriff an' his deputy quite heard you, Joshua!

“Oh, Kid, I don't care who hears - you're not dead!” An exuberant Heyes wrapped his arms around his irritated – and thoroughly confused - partner in a bear hug of welcome.

Curry winced and tried in vain to extricate himself. “If you don't turn me loose soon, I'm gonna be dead - I can't breathe!” he managed to gasp.

“Don't joke around at a time like this!”

“At a time like what? Why - what happened?” Curry finally had the opportunity to pull back far enough to look into Heyes' face and could see the traces of concern that still lingered there. “What's goin' on?”

“There was an accident.” Serious brown eyes looked searchingly into bemused blue ones. “The stagecoach... it turned over.” Heyes paused to take a steadying breath. “They said there were no survivors,” he finished quietly.

A look of understanding passed between the two friends. They had played out this scenario far too many times before not to know what the other one had gone through. Unwilling participants forced to endure the waiting, coupled with the uncertainty of not knowing what the outcome would ultimately be and hoping against hope that they'd be given another opportunity to live another day.

*~*~*~*~*~*

“I'm sorry, Heyes,” Curry ducked his head, “I didn't know.”

“What have you got to apologize for? Being alive? What happened, Kid? You and that woman are the only two who survived.”

Despite his weariness, Curry's head snapped up. “One of the women made it, too?”

Heyes nodded. “Seems it takes more than a stagecoach accident to finish off good ol' Aunt Maude.”

Curry managed to summon up a tired grin. “After having spent considerable time with good ol' Aunt Maude while we were waitin' for the stage, I'd have to agree. She sure knows how to fry up a chicken an' bake the best oatmeal cookies, too!” he boasted.

An answering grin on his face, Heyes couldn't help but think to himself, Like Aunt Maude, the
Kid's appetite could survive almost anything!
Belatedly he realized that he hadn't released his hold on Curry's shoulders. He took a step backwards and let his arms fall to his sides. “So how'd you end up here and all in one piece?”

“Aw, Heyes, it's a long story... I never made it onto that stagecoach. It was a last minute change in plans an' there wasn't time enough to send another telegraph to let you know. At the time I was pretty frustrated, knowin' you expected me to be on it an' how you’d worry when I didn’t show up as planned. The stationmaster overbooked the stage an' since I was the last passenger to buy a ticket...” Curry shrugged. “Well anyway, once I saw how crowded everyone was, guess I didn't mind so much.

“Two of the men were sittin' up top with the driver an' six more passengers were stuffed inside, packed like sardines. The driver told me there was a train leavin' in a couple of hours so I decided I'd take it instead. The way I had it figured, I should’ve arrived here at almost the same time, only we had some trouble with a rock-slide on the tracks an' I ended up bein' late anyway. But you know what? After hearin' what happened to the stagecoach, I'm kinda glad things happened the way they did.” Curry looked at his partner. “Looks like maybe for once, the odds were in my favor, huh?”

Heyes smiled and slung an arm across his partner's shoulders. “C'mon, let's head on over and see if we can rustle up that steak dinner and a few beers. I don't know about you, but I could sure use one!”

Yes, Heyes agreed, the odds were definitely in our favor, at least for the time being. But even as the dark-haired outlaw drew in a deep breath of gratitude, glad to have his partner back safely at his side, he was also forced to acknowledge an indisputable fact:

It was only a matter of time before, once again, they'd be taking their chances… “Against the Odds.”


LINK FOR ALTERNATE ENDING:  http://asjbuckshot.forumotion.com/t369-against-the-odds-alternate-ending#930

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writing "My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel -- it is, before all, to make you see..." ~~ Joseph Conrad ~~ study
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PostSubject: Topic: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Mon Apr 25, 2016 3:42 pm

Hello everyone. It's been a while since I was active on the forum. The last time I posted a challenge must have been in 2012. Thank you to a fellow board member for telling me about this 100 month special. thumbsup I have decided to post the first ever challenge I wrote back in September 2008. At the time it was written and posted using a different alias.
Looking forward to reading all the other challenges and commenting on them.



THE LIE

Dressed in their best and only suits, looking every bit like respectable city gentlemen, the two reformed outlaws, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry waited. Heyes leaned casually against the wall, watching his partner pace up and down. He was beginning to find Kid’s restlessness annoying.

“Will you quit that, Kid?”

“What?”

“Pacing! You‘re gonna wear a hole in that expensive carpet of the Governor’s. That sure isn’t the best way to introduce yourself to him!”

“In case you ain’t noticed, Heyes, I’m not wearing my gun. You know how I get when I haven’t got it on me.”

Ignoring Heyes’ request, Kid turned and walked back down the corridor.

“I know Kid, but Lom made it clear the Governor stipulated no guns.” Heyes reminded him.

“You sure about this, Heyes?” He came to a halt and stood regarding his friend anxiously. “I mean, he even told Lom not to come along with us.”

Heyes gave an exasperated sigh. He empathized with his friend’s concern but they had been over this several times already. They trusted Lom and, as all their hope for the future hinged on this meeting, they had to abide by the Governor‘s request.

“He told Lom he was ready to sign the papers. Lom’s back at the hotel now making sure the champagne is chilled.”

Kid resumed his pacing, every now and then picking up an ornament from a table then returning it to its original place.

The clock at the end of the passageway chimed the hour. Kid stopped in front of the Governor’s office, a frown furrowing his brow. The door remained firmly closed.

Heyes noticed the agitated look and laughed softly.

“And glaring like that won’t make it open any quicker.”

As if in contradiction to his statement, the door opened and the Governor’s secretary appeared.

“The Governor will see you both now.”

Heyes pushed himself away from the wall and clapped Kid on the shoulder.

“Let’s go then, Kid.” he smiled, broadly. “Looks like the waiting is finally over.”

Each taking a deep breath, the two men moved forward, removing their hats as they went.

“Mr. Hannibal Heyes and Mr. Jedediah Curry,” the secretary announced.
He stepped aside to allow the partners to enter the room, then backed out. At the sound of the door clicking firmly shut Kid tensed and glanced over his shoulder.

“Calm down, Kid,” Heyes murmured, an amused twinkle in his brown eyes. Kid shot an apologetic grin back, then turned his attention to the man in front of them.

The Governor was seated as his desk. He didn't look up as the two men entered; just continued to peruse a document in front of him. Heyes and Curry waited for him.

Finally, he put the document down and leaned back, resting his elbows on the polished arms of the chair. Steepling his fingers before pursed lips, he surveyed the men thoughtfully. An air of expectancy filled the room.

“So Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry, I get to meet you both at last. Trevors has kept me informed of your attempts to stay out of trouble. He is very impressed with the commitment you have both shown, as am I.” The tone of his voice didn’t seem to match the statement.

“We really appreciate all that Lom has done for us," Heyes replied, trying not to sound concerned by the man’s terseness. “We’ve been determined not to go back on our word. We want to become honest, law-abiding citizens.”

Having decided it was best to let Heyes speak for them both, Kid laughed inwardly at his partner’s attempt to get a positive reaction

The Governor didn’t respond. Heyes glanced at Kid. He suddenly had a bad feeling about the whole situation. Sensing his partner’s unease, Kid returned the look.

The Governor rubbed his jaw, his eyes on Heyes, as if sizing him up, then he reached a conclusion.

“However, after long consideration I have decided not to sign the papers granting you both amnesty.”

The silence in the room was deafening. Kid looked to Heyes, desperately seeking some sign he’d heard incorrectly. The expression on his friend’s face however told him there was nothing wrong with his hearing. This was some cruel joke the Governor was playing.

Both men stood uncomprehending, for a moment, numb from shock.

Heyes was the one who eventually broke the silence. Running his fingers through his dark hair in frustration, he forced himself to remain calm. Taking a deep breath, he said, “Lom swore to us that you had agreed to it.”

Even as he spoke he had found himself wondering if maybe they’d both misjudged Lom; put too much trust in the ex-outlaw turned Sheriff. That thought was soon dispelled as the Governor continued.

“Trevors wasn’t informed of the final decision as I couldn’t have him warning you both. It was the only way to get you here. The amnesty was never guaranteed.”

“Why?" Kid forced the single word out from between gritted teeth, bewilderment and anger welling up inside him.

“I’ve made an agreement with the bosses of Midwest and Northern Pacific Railroads. In exchange for having you brought in, they will provide backing for my next election campaign.

“You can’t do this," Kid raged at the man seated before him. “We’ve done everything possible to stick to the terms of the agreement. Lom told you that. You said so yourself.”

"It isn’t in my best interests to grant you amnesty. I have to put the good of the territory before the needs of two outlaws."

Kid turned to his partner, fear in his eyes. The thought of up to twenty years locked away behind the cold walls of Wyoming Territorial Prison was too much. Both men knew neither would be able to survive that.

"I've also decided that to make the publicity surrounding your reparation more useful for all my benefactors, you, Mister Heyes will be joining a work gang laboring on the Midwest Railroad. An arrangement has been made for Mister Curry, to be transferred to Dakota Territory where he will labor on the Northern Pacific. This interview is now concluded,” the Governor announced, with an air of finality."

Heyes reeled from the shock as the words sank in. Up until now he’d convinced himself that loss of freedom was the worst that could happen to them. Now he had just been proved wrong. By separating them as well, the Railroad Bosses had shown that they were intent on getting their pound of flesh for all the trouble the two men had caused. His chest heaved as he tried to force down the overwhelming despair at their situation. He looked around desperately for a way to escape.

“No!” Kid could not believe this was happening. His hat dropped from his grasp, as fists balled in frustration, he threw himself towards the figure seated at the desk, intent on using the only weapon available to him, his bare hands.

Heyes lunged forward, pulling Kid back, as the door was flung open and the room filled with armed men.

They didn’t stand a chance against so many. Quickly surrounded on all sides, their arms were forced behind them and secured.

Heyes flinched at the sound of the metal cuffs snapping shut.

“Get them out of here!” the Governor ordered.

Kid had seen the hope die in Heyes’ eyes. He continued to struggle against the restraints, trying to work the cuffs free from his hands, even as both men were hustled out.

As they passed a window, they caught a glimpse of the prison wagon waiting for them down below in the street. Kid faltered. A tightness clutched his chest. He felt the hard jab of a gun barrel against his spine.

Fear swamped Heyes. He felt blood pounding in his ears, his head spin. The past few years had been spent looking over their shoulders, dodging posses and bullets in the belief one day they would receive amnesty.

And now…now it had all been for nothing. There was nothing left to fight for anymore.

“This can’t be happening Heyes. It ain‘t right,” Kid choked, his voice faint and broken. He couldn’t understand how they had strived for something for so long and suddenly found it unobtainable. He shivered as an icy sweat ran between his shoulder blades.

Heyes had never heard such hopelessness and defeat from the younger man, as Kid’s forlorn voice broke into his thoughts.

“I know, Kid,” Heyes replied, his voice heavy with regret and disbelief. “We stayed out of trouble like we said we would. I guess it was never going to be enough.” He swallowed, painfully, as he caught the expression on his friend’s face, the blue eyes pleading with him.

A look of silent agreement and understanding passed between them as they were ushered down the back stairs.

They had made a deal years before to see it through together. Rather than endure the loss of freedom, it was better for it all to end now in a failed escape attempt. The final choice would be theirs to make and they would still have their pride.

Once the last of the men had left the room and the door clicked shut behind them, the Governor went back to his desk and sat down.

“The end justifies the means boys. That’s politics,” he muttered to himself, as he picked up a pile of papers and began to shuffle them into a neat bundle.

The sound of frantic shouting from out in the street, followed swiftly by gunfire startled him. He rose and crossed swiftly to the window, clasping his hands behind his back, as he took in the scene below. He could see people gathering, milling around the two figures lying on the ground.

Slowly, he returned to his desk and, sitting down heavily in his chair, poured himself a whiskey from the nearby crystal decanter.

Swirling the amber liquid around the glass a couple of times, he tossed it down his throat in one swift movement only to find it left a bitter taste in his mouth.

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Thu Apr 28, 2016 9:43 pm

(Allegra's computer is broken and she's having a difficult time posting on an iPad so I volunteered to post for her.  She couldn't decide so I did the deciding for her.  When she told me she was going to cross ASJ with Harry Potter, I was very skeptical it would work, but she proved me wrong.)

May 2010 – Cross Over
by Allegra


I hope you can forgive me but I have coupled ASJ with Harry Potter. I apologise in advance. My only excuse is that I have never contemplated doing anything like this before. This takes place towards the end of the fifth book...

The classroom was noisier than usual. In fact the only person looking eager and ready was Hermione, but then she always looked that way at the beginning of a lesson. Sitting next to her Ron said moodily, “A whole morning of history of magic. What a waste of time. I mean, we’ve finished our OWLs and we still have to sit through Professor Binns droning on at us about goblin rebellions or something. It isn’t fair.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at him. “It’s a seminar, Ron – and if you bothered to read the notice board, you would know that it’s actually going to be about the Wild West.” Ron snorted, “Even better,” he said. “Goblin rebellions in the Wild West. Now I know why I got up today.”

“Yes, you’d fill your mornings much more meaningfully wouldn’t you,” Hermione shot back. “Let’s see – we have two weeks before the end of term. You could spend every day seeing how much breakfast you could eat before showing off with your fast wand draw until it was time for lunch. I wonder why no-one else thought of that!”

Harry smiled as he listened to his friends bickering with each other. It made life seem almost normal again. As a matter of fact he agreed with Ron in that he too could not think of a more dull way to spend a morning than a history of magic seminar, but he was very grateful for the continuation of a school programme to structure his days. It provided a distraction after the events of the term and meant, for some of the time at least, he didn’t have to think.

They were not, however, greeted by Professor Binns floating into the classroom. Instead the door opened and Professor Dumbledore walked in. He was holding a large crystal bottle, and hovering in front of him, guided by the tip of his wand, was a large stone basin which Harry immediately recognised as the Pensieve. He set both the Pensieve and the bottle down on the table and beamed around at the class which had immediately gone silent.

“Good morning,” he said jovially peering over at them through his half-moon spectacles. “The summer term is drawing to a close and you have all, I hope satisfactorily, completed your OWLs. None the less we find we still have a few days at our disposal before the holidays beckon us to complete idleness. I would like to use this time, if I may, to share with you a bit of magical nostalgia and, in the process, allow you to meet a few of the most colourful and flamboyant characters from our past.”

He picked up the crystal bottle and held it up to the class. They stared at it in fascination as Dumbledore went on, “This morning I am delighted to be able to introduce you to two of my favourite and most charismatic wizards. Their names are Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah Curry.”

Hermione gave a start of recognition and Harry glanced at her.

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “I see Miss Granger is already ahead of us,” he said.

“I’ve heard of them!” Hermione said excitedly. “In the Muggle world they were two of the most good-looking and successful outlaws ever!” The girls in the class suddenly seemed to sit up a bit straighter. Ron gave a snort of disgust as Hermione went on. “However, what makes them famous in the wizarding world is that they were actually Muggle wizards.” At that, many of the boys in the class also now looked up.

“Very good,” Said Dumbledore. “Both men were very special indeed in that, throughout their lives, they had no knowledge of the powers which they possessed. In spite of this, these two rascals, as Miss Granger so aptly says, managed to become the most successful outlaws in the history of the West.” He chuckled. “Had they been aware of their real capabilities goodness only knows what havoc they could have wreaked!”

Harry found himself intrigued by the idea of wizards living out their lives in a Muggle world unaware of their own magical powers and it seemed he was not alone. The atmosphere of the classroom had changed and there was now a definite air of anticipation as Dumbledore poured the contents of the crystal bottle into the Pensieve. He then touched the gleaming mass swirling within the Pensieve with the tip of his wand and it immediately rose up and formed the smoky image of a man. If this was one of Hermione’s good looking outlaws, Harry smiled to himself, then she had been very misinformed. He looked grubby and rather gormless truth be told, although he seemed amiable enough. There were several audible sighs of disappointment from the girls and Dumbledore looked amused.

“We will be looking at the memories of one Kyle Murtry,” announced Dumbledore, pointing to the figure. “He rode with the Devil’s Hole Gang which Heyes and Curry so successfully lead in the latter half of the nineteenth century.” The class had begun to murmur among themselves. “But I think it would be best if we look first and ask questions later,” Dumbledore went on. The girls who had sat up again on hearing that this was not one of these good-looking outlaws nodded eagerly along with the rest of the class, although it was clear they were not sure how they were supposed to look, or indeed, at what.

“Well then, we shall begin,” said Dumbledore. “Normally only one or two people enter a Pensieve but that is not a problem. Would you all gather around please and form a circle.” The class jumped up and crowded around the stone basin. “Now please take the hand of the person either side of you.” With only the slightest hesitation the class obeyed. Dumbledore stood in the middle directly next to the Pensieve, his wand just above the surface. He paused and looked around once more. “Just one more thing,” he said. “You are entering someone’s memories. Nothing you do or say can change the events that take place. However I would ask you only to watch and be as quiet as you can in order to see and hear everything that is going on. I would ask you please to save your questions for afterwards.” After receiving enthusiastic nods from most of the class Dumbledore took hold of the nearest two joined hands and, at the same time, touched the surface of the Pensieve with the tip of his wand. Immediately Harry felt the familiar sensation of falling and he landed together with the rest of his class on soft dry sandy earth. He looked around him in surprise as he found himself witnessing a scene which could have come straight out of an American seventies Western series. They were on the main street of a two-bit outpost town watching a stand-off unfold in front of a small crowd of spectators. .
Dumbledore pointed to the two men facing each other. “The young man on the left is Jedediah Curry, more commonly known as ‘the Kid’. The all-time fastest gun in the West. I am quite sure you will be able to see why.”

“Ooh, Hermione! You’re right! He’s gorgeous!” squeaked Lavender Brown. The two girls next to her giggled and began to whisper behind their hands.

Dumbledore smiled faintly. “Watch carefully,” he instructed. The class looked on fascinated as the Kid’s opponent went for his gun. Before he had even seemed to move, however, the Kid’s pistol was in his hand and he had shot his opponent’s holster off his gun belt. They gasped together with the crowd and, as the scene dissolved and changed in front of them, they heard several times murmurs of, ‘impossible!’ and, ‘Ain’t nobody that fast!’.

Now, they were standing in what looked like a bank. The Kid was there again, his gun already in his hand as he stood in front of a huge safe watching the room where a couple of others were also holding guns on several frightened people. Once more the class gasped as they realised what they were witnessing was actually a robbery. Now they could see another man crouched behind the Kid with his ear flat against the safe. “Is that the other one, Professor?” asked Lavender looking excited. Dumbledore nodded. The girls were really giggling now and Harry moved away slightly irritated with them. He wanted to see and hear what was going on. They had ignored Dumbledore’s request for complete quiet and were involved in a whispered anatomical analysis of the two outlaws which made his ears burn with embarrassment.

Dumbledore nodded. “Hannibal Heyes, champion safe-cracker, ingenious schemer and leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang. Together with his partner, Kid Curry, they gave the banks and railroads of their time a real run for their money… quite literally!”

Heyes’ fingers appeared to be carefully manipulating the dial on the front of the safe as he kept his ear pressed to the door. Suddenly his face lit up and he sat back pulling the lever which opened the safe door open and looked up into the Kid’s equally smiling face. Someone else then came forward with a bag and the class watched as Heyes and the Kid filled it with money from the safe. Then Harry became aware for the first time of Kyle Murtry, whose memories these were, as he nudged the man standing next to him and said, “Hey Wheat, I thought you said ol’ Heyes ‘ud never hear the tumblers on a Brooker 200!”

Dumbledore spoke again. “Actually, the magical powers which meant that no one could be faster on the draw than Kid Curry, meant also that Hannibal Heyes would have been able to hear the tumblers on any safe made at that time. If Heyes ever failed to open a safe it was because, deep down, he believed it impossible. For a Muggle, of course, it would have been.”

The scene dissolved and changed again and the class now found themselves watching the group they took to be the Devil’s Hole Gang as they packed their belongings onto their horses. Kyle was struggling with all the gear he had. He looked over to where Heyes and Kid were easily tying their saddlebags onto their horses. Once more he addressed Wheat.

“How come Kid ‘n Heyes never seem to have anything in their saddlebags when we ride?” he griped. “They look empty. I cain hardly carry everythin’ I got ‘n they always have a lot more than us when we unpack.”

Wheat answered him, his face a snide smirk, as he indicated Heyes and Kid’s saddlebags. “Ain’t ‘cha ever heard ‘em call them things their ‘magic saddlebags’?” He went back to tying his own gear and Kyle looked annoyed. “I was only askin’,” he muttered as Kid’s voice called out, “All right, let’s get goin’. We gotta catch us a train!”

Once more the scene dissolved and changed. The class now found themselves standing in a large shack furnished sparsely with several bunk beds, a rickety table and a few chairs. The door was flung open and several members of the Devil’s Hole Gang came in.

“I can’t see Heyes and Kid,” squeaked Lavender immediately. She was obviously not following anything that was going on and had eyes only for the two handsome leaders of the group. Harry noted with amusement that, although Hermione rolled her eyes at Lavender’s behaviour, she too was looking around. He nudged Ron who looked over at her and, for some reason, scowled.

Several bottles of whiskey were got out and put on the table and there was an air of relief about the men.

“I really thought we’d had it,” said someone.

“Yeah, that posse was just too dang close some of the time!” added someone else.

“I shouted to Heyes,” said another, “an’ he an’ Kid looked ’round an’ then jus’ shouted at the horses to go faster. Must’ve worked too cos’n suddenly we was gettin’ away agin.”

“Seemed to me that kept on happenin’,” said a fourth outlaw. “I dunno. There was somethin almost strange about it actually. I really thought sometimes they’d caught up to us but next time I looked they’d suddenly gotten further away again.”

Before anyone else could react to this remark, however, Heyes and Kid themselves walked in holding a similar bag to the one the class had seen being filled in the bank previously. All talk immediately ended and the gang cheered as the Kid emptied the bag onto the table. “You did real good today,” grinned Heyes. “Now, what do ya say we get this shared out and have us a celebration.” This remark met with more cheering and gleefully Heyes sat down and began counting out the bank notes. A glass of whiskey was put in front of him and he paused in his counting to raise the glass to his gang. “To the best posse evaders in the West!” he said.

“Huh?” said Kyle.

“He means we got away again, Kyle,” said Kid gently. “Drink up and don’t worry yourself about it.” The whooping and cheering continued as the scene faded away.

Harry felt himself lift up and, to his disappointment, he found himself once more in the classroom alongside his fellow students. He wasn’t the only one. Some of the girls looked most put out when they realised they had returned.

“So,” said Dumbledore when everyone had sat down again. “Any questions?”

Several hands immediately shot into the air.

“Were Heyes and Kid real wizards, then?” asked Seamus.

“Oh, yes,” replied Dumbledore. “What you just saw were examples of their untrained magic powers of which they were quite unaware.”

“How could they not know?” sneered Draco Malfoy. “The magic is obvious.”

“To all of us in the magical world it certainly seems so,” agreed Dumbledore mildly, “However, I would ask you to observe all those young wizards and witches who grew up in a completely Muggle world and who, despite sometimes showing quite decisive magical capabilities, never once suspected the truth of what they were.”

Malfoy turned away from Dumbledore muttering something that sounded decidedly like ‘Mudbloods’ and Harry looked over at him with loathing. His father was locked up in Azkaban for being a Deatheater, yet still he lorded it over the class. How he would love to wipe the sneer off that face. He was distracted by another question, however, one which he had wanted to ask Dumbledore himself.

“Why weren’t they ever told, Professor?” asked Hermione.

“Well,” smiled Dumbledore, “the two of them presented the wizarding world with quite a dilemma. They slipped through the net just before the time that they should have been introduced into the magical world to which they belonged. It was a time of savage war and destruction. The farms where they grew up were destroyed and, it was thought, all family members slaughtered. Of course, normally this should and would have been checked more carefully. Young wizards and witches display an uncanny ability to escape impossible devastation after all. However, the magical community had problems of their own during the civil war and the two boys slipped out of sight and mind. They ended up in a Muggle orphanage oblivious to what should have been. I believe, too, that they were probably extremely unhappy there. Certainly no magic was detected from the home so the magical community never knew they were there. They only drew the attention to themselves after they had run away from the home and had started to turn to robbery to get by. By the time the powers that be realised who the two troublemakers were and what had gone wrong, it was too late to do something like take them to school. In addition to this, the two of them were set in ways which the wizarding world does not tolerate. No one seemed to know what to do, or wish to take responsibility for them so, until a decision was made, the wizarding world continued merely to observe them from a distance. Then, right or wrong, because everyone soon realised that these two young men, although pursuing an unsavoury career and giving the banks and railroads quite a headache, were not actually doing magic in order to harm others, they decided for the good of all to leave them ignorant of what they were and allow them to live as Muggles in the Muggle world.”

The class had gone quiet, each student wondering to him- or herself what would have happened if they had never been told about the wizarding world which they took for granted and could not now imagine being without.

Harry put up his hand. “Professor - What happened to them?”

Dumbledore’s blue eyes rested on him and he smiled. “One day, quite suddenly, they decided to give up their lives of crime and arranged for a lawman friend to talk to the governor of Wyoming about the possibility of securing an amnesty. Surprisingly, this was granted on the condition that they went straight for a year to prove that they meant it. This year turned into several until both finally lost patience and went to see the Governor themselves. Well, the legend has it that Hannibal Heyes had a silver tongue and could talk the stars down from the sky. Whatever the whys and wherefores of that particular meeting, both Heyes and Curry left the Governor’s office that day as free men.” He paused. “What happened to them after that is uncertain.” Once more he stopped and his eyes twinkled at the class who was sitting with what could only be described as rapt attention. “I’m afraid that is all we have time for and so on that note I think it best that we leave the Wild West and go down to the great hall for lunch.” The class filed out considerably quieter than it had been at the earlier that day, everyone going over again what they had seen and talked about. Once they had all gone Dumbledore walked over to the Pensieve, took out his wand and touched the surface. He lifted the gleaming mass of memory out and deposited it back into the bottle. Then he looked around, his piercing blue eyes missing nothing as he surveyed the empty classroom. “Ah, those were the days,” he said to himself as he twirled his wand nimbly around his fingers and slotted it in the pocket on the right hand side of his robes. “Those were the days.” Turning to the door, he shook his head and smiled.

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"Do you ever get the feeling that nothing right is ever going to happen to us again?" - Kid Curry
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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sat Apr 30, 2016 8:30 pm


Well, it sure was fun to stroll down memory lane and revisit the story challenges I've written!  I don't know as I can rightly say this here story is my favorite, but it's an early one so maybe not everyone has already read it.  Enjoy! And thanks to all you wonderful writers for giving me many hours of reading pleasure and humongous thanks to Calico for keeping the Monthly Story Challenge going for so long and also to BJ for providing such a welcoming playground!



From March 2009:
Bad Things Happen When We Separate


The young man rode across the boundary of Devil’s Hole and was immediately surrounded by three outlaws, all pointing their guns at him.  He reined his horse to a halt and slowly raised his hands.

“I’m lookin’ for Hannibal Heyes,” he said.

“Who’s that?” an older man, dark-haired and mustached, asked.

“Heard he was with the Devil’s Hole Gang,” the young man said, avoiding a direct answer but looking directly at the man who’d spoken.

The older man was wary of the blond stranger.  “What’s it to ya?”

“I’m lookin’ for him,” the youth repeated.

“He ain’t here,” a small man with a wad of tobacco in his mouth told him.  

The older man gave him a look of annoyance.  “Kyle, lemme handle this.”  He spoke to the youth.  “He ain’t here.”

“I see,” replied the young man.  “Is he at Devil’s Hole, sir?” he asked politely.

The third man, who hadn’t yet spoken a word, stared at the stranger.  The tobacco-chewing man spit a stream of brown liquid into the bushes at his feet and didn’t say anything further.  The dark-haired man, who fancied himself the leader of the group, scratched his head.  He thought about it for a while.  Finally, he said, “Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t.”

The stranger almost smiled.  “Would it be possible for me to find out, sir?”

The leader made a decision.  “Gimme your gun, carefully, and we’ll take ya in, but yer gonna be blindfolded.”

--<>--<>--<>--

There were enough twists and turns that the young man was unable to figure out what direction they were going in.  After what seemed like a long ride, but that was just because it was confusing, his escorts halted their horses.  He was told he could remove his blindfold so he did.

Looking around, he saw a large cabin on one side, with a barn, clearly functioning as a stable, nearby, and opposite the cabin, a smaller building with a porch at its front entrance.  A couple of wooden chairs stood to the right of the door, which opened and revealed a tall, Mexican-looking man, who walked over to the three men now standing next to their horses and looking decidedly nervous.

The oldest man in the group spoke.  “This here boy says he’s lookin’ for Heyes.”

“I ain’t a boy!” the youth angrily interjected.

The Mexican looked him up and down.  “Be quiet.”  

He turned back to the other man.  “Wheat, over here,” he indicated with his head, and walked off a ways so they wouldn’t be overheard by the stranger.  “You know the rules.  Why’d you bring him here?”

“Jim, he insisted.  Wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Thought it best to bring him in an’ let Heyes deal with the kid.”  Wheat waited for Big Jim’s decision, feeling reasonably confident the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang would agree with what he’d done.

“All right, Wheat, but you’re responsible for him until Heyes gets back.”

“Gets back?  How long’s he gonna be away?”  Wheat hadn’t expected that outcome.

Big Jim smiled at the other man’s discomfiture.  “I sent Heyes on a mission this morning after you and Kyle and Hank went on sentry duty.  Heyes’ll be back in a couple days.  In the meantime, the boy can sleep in the barn and make himself useful doing chores.  You can handle that, can’t you, Wheat?”

“Oh, sure, sure,” Wheat replied, unsure if he should be pleased at what had just transpired.  He walked back to the kid.  Kyle and Hank had already taken their horses to the barn but the newcomer had remained sitting on his horse in the same spot where they’d halted upon riding in to the hideout, not wanting to take a chance on what might happen if he tried to dismount.

“Boy,” Wheat called over to him, and didn’t miss how the kid clenched his hands in response.  “Heyes ain’t here.  But you kin stay in the barn ‘til he gets back.  Long as ya do some chores ta help out.  That suit ya?”  He almost hoped the boy would wheel his horse around and ride out, but such was not to be.

“Fine.  Thanks,” the young man nodded his appreciation.  “Can I take care of my horse now?”

“Yeah.  That there’s the barn,” he said, pointing unnecessarily at what the youth had already figured out was where the horses were stabled.  “And that’s where ya kin sleep, too.  Don’t got no room in the cabin.  But come on over there when yer done with yer horse, and I’ll tell ya what ta do next.”  Wheat walked off without waiting to see if the kid had any questions.

--<>--<>--<>--

After two days of doing every possible job Wheat could think of giving him, the young man was about ready to give up and ride out without seeing Heyes.  But it had taken him so long to find out where Heyes was, and then it had been such a long trip to reach Devil’s Hole, that he didn’t want to give up after such a short time.  He decided to wait two more days.  If he hadn’t returned by then, he’d leave.

His patience paid off.  The following afternoon, he was washing the dishes from lunch when he saw Heyes ride in.  Unobtrusively, he observed the man he’d been anxiously waiting to meet.  Heyes looked older than he remembered but, then again, he probably looked older himself.  Heyes was wearing a black hat with a lighter-colored hatband and black boots, new by the looks of them.  His hair was a bit longer, his clothes a bit dirtier, but otherwise he looked the same.  Especially when he smiled, as he was doing now, having spotted the young man by the pump.

“Jed!” Heyes yelled, and ran towards him.  Heyes stopped suddenly, just as he was about to give the young man a big hug, conscious that several Gang members were watching them.  “Jed, what are you doing here?”

“Howdy, Heyes.  Good to see you, too.”  Jed tried to smile at him but it didn’t quite come off and Heyes noticed.

“Been a long time, Jed.  Where you been these past few years?”  Heyes realized there had to be a reason Jed had suddenly shown up at Devil’s Hole.  When they’d parted, he hadn’t been sure if he’d ever see him again.  But now that his friend was here, Heyes was glad.

“Oh, workin’ here and there,” Jed equivocated.  “Can we go somewhere more, uh, private?” he asked.  The other men were still avidly watching the reunion, curious about the relationship between the two as it was clear that Heyes did indeed know the visitor.

Heyes grinned.  “Sure.  Let me talk to Big Jim first, then I’ll find you.  I want to hear all about what you’ve been doing!”

Heyes went into the leader’s cabin and left Jed staring after him.  Nope, Heyes hadn’t changed much at all.  Still took control without even trying.  Jed wondered if he should have left when he had the chance.  Now it was too late.

--<>--<>--<>--

“Heyes, can I stay at Devil’s Hole?”  Jed watched an ant crawl across the log they were sitting on behind the barn, where some of the men practiced their shooting.  But now most were inside the cabin relaxing before dinner and no one could overhear their conversation.

“Why, Jed?  What’s going on?”  They’d been making small talk, and Heyes was trying to figure out why the other man had sought him out at Devil’s Hole.  So far, he hadn’t gotten a satisfactory answer.

“Nothin’.  Just need a place to stay for a while, is all.”

Heyes narrowed his eyes and thought about what that could mean.  “You do know what we do, don’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“That don’t bother you none?”

“No.”  Not anymore, he thought.

The lack of information being provided by his friend was beginning to annoy Heyes.  “What’s wrong with where you were?  And where was that, by the way?” he asked, letting his irritation show.

Jed shrugged and didn’t respond.

“If something’s going on, I need to know.  I can’t just go and ask Big Jim if you can join up with us.  He’s going to want to know why.”  Heyes faced the other man and forced the issue.  “Jed, you’re my cousin and I’ve known you your whole life.  I know when you’re lying and I know you are now.   If you don’t you tell me why you want to join the Devil’s Hole Gang, you’re going ride out of here today ‘cos I ain’t going to lie to Big Jim.”

Jed was silent for a long time.  But Heyes had always been a patient man so he waited.  Finally his cousin spoke.  “Don’t call me Jed no more.”

That was not at all what Heyes had been expecting to hear.  “Huh?” was the only response he could think of.

More forcefully, the younger man said, “Don’t call me Jed.  I’m not that man no more.”

“Who are you then?”  Heyes laughed, knowing he was on shaky ground but still having no idea where the conversation was going.

“Kid Curry.”

Heyes snorted.  “What kind of name is that?”

“You used to call me Kid.  Don’t you remember?”  Jed, renamed Kid, asked, hurt that the other man had forgotten.

“I remember,” Heyes said, looking at the Kid.  “But you were.  A kid, I mean.  You’re not, now.”

“Heyes, you ever wish…?” Kid petered out.

“Wish what?  Kid?”  Heyes tested the name.  It felt strange, but good, a memory that resurfaced after lying dormant a long time, like the sun reappearing after a particularly long and heavy rainstorm.

“Nothin’.”  Kid shut down again.

“Kid,” Heyes said it again, and it was easier this time.  “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Ain’t nothin’ worth talking about.”  Kid wouldn’t look at his cousin and Heyes knew that, in fact, there was something seriously wrong.  Kid wouldn’t have come otherwise.  Heyes decided not to push it anymore.

“All right, Kid.  I’ll talk to Big Jim.  But he ain’t going to be happy and he’s going to want to talk to you, too.”

Kid merely nodded.

--<>--<>--<>--

“Devil’s Hole ain’t a charity, Heyes.”  Big Jim was leaning back in a chair on the porch, smoking a cigar.  

Heyes was sitting on the railing, trying to convince him to let Kid stay a while.  “I know,” he replied.

“Everyone here earns their keep.”  Big Jim was not inclined to let the young man remain with them, although he’d been satisfied with the way he’d handled being ordered around by Wheat, not complaining and quietly and efficiently doing all the chores foisted on him.  “What can he contribute?”

“Well,” Heyes said thoughtfully.  “He’s good with a gun.”

Big Jim looked up sharply.  “You know I don’t hold with killing.”

Heyes hastened to reassure him.  “No, I know that.  And Kid don’t neither.  He ain’t a killer.  He just practices a lot so he’s fast and he’s accurate.  For when it’s necessary.”

“Haven’t seen him practice at all since he been here,” Big Jim said, thinking back on the past few days.

“Really?  That’s not like him.  Maybe he don’t have any bullets,” Heyes offered as a possible reason.

“No, plenty of bullets in his gun belt.”

“Maybe he didn’t feel right, coming in here and making everyone look bad.”  Heyes smiled.  “He don’t like to show off.”

“Maybe.  And maybe there’s another reason,” Big Jim said.  “You find out and then I’ll decide if he can stay.”

Heyes knew that was the most he could have expected but he didn’t think Kid would appreciate it.

--<>--<>--<>--

Kid was in the barn, sitting on the pile of straw that was his bed, staring at his gun.  Heyes sat down next to him, comfortable just to sit in silence for a while.

“What’d Big Jim say?” Kid finally asked.

“He said everyone here contributes something.  He wanted to know what you could offer.”  Heyes watched Kid as he continued.  “I told him you were good with a gun and Big Jim said he don’t approve of killing.”

Kid looked intently at Heyes.  “And?”

“And I said you’ve never killed anyone.”  Heyes paused, and an unwelcome thought entered his mind.  “Have you?”

Heyes saw his cousin’s blue eyes become moist.  “Aw, Kid.”  He wrapped his arms around the younger man, giving him the hug he’d avoided when they’d first seen each other a few days ago.  “Tell me what happened.”

“I’m sorry, Heyes.  It was an accident.  I didn’t mean to!”  With difficulty, Kid got the story out.  Heyes kept one arm around him the whole time and gradually Kid’s breathing became more regular.  “It was in some little town, I was playin’ poker. Not winnin’ a lot but this one man took exception to me winnin’ anything.  Said I was just a boy and boys got no business beatin’ men.  Heyes, I’m eighteen!”

Heyes smiled a little at that.  His cousin had always looked younger than his actual age.  Seemed like he still resented being reminded of it, too.

After a moment, Kid continued.  “I tried to avoid it.  But he kept pesterin’ me, wouldn’t let up no matter what I said.  I know I got a temper but I kept thinkin’—Heyes would talk it out, I can talk it out too.  Just let it go like Heyes would.”

“I’m proud of you, Jed.”  The name slipped out and Kid flinched.

“I ain’t Jed no more.  He died along with that man.”  Heyes’ arm dropped as he stared at his cousin, unable to think of anything to say to that.

Kid wiped his eyes.  “I never shot at a man before, Heyes.  It…it ain’t the same as shootin’ a bottle off a log.  I was aimin’ for his shoulder but…my hand was shakin’…”   Kid swallowed hard and finished the story.  “But I missed and…and I hit him in the chest and then…he died.”

“Kid, I’m sorry.”  And Heyes was, because he knew his cousin was forever changed by what he’d done.  The boy he’d grown up with was gone, replaced by someone else, someone who looked the same but deep inside was irrevocably different.  

Heyes focused on something more practical for the moment.  “What did the sheriff say?”

“I don’t know.  I didn’t wait around to find out.  I didn’t know what to do so I came here.”  Kid shrugged helplessly.  “I’ll pack my things and go now.”

He stood up and moved to his horse, wrapping his few possessions in his bedroll and tying it behind his saddle.  

Heyes watched him for a moment.  “What are you doing?”

“Leavin’.  You said Big Jim don’t hold with killin’.  What’s he gonna do when he finds out I’m a gunman?”

“You ain’t a gunman, Kid.  You had no choice.  Like you said, it was an accident.”

“There’s always a choice, Heyes.  I could’ve walked away.”  Kid didn’t meet his cousin’s eyes as he said that, knowing that if he had tried to walk away, he’d most likely be the one who was dead instead.

“You listen to me, Kid Curry, if that’s what you want to be called.”  Heyes was standing now, too, and he moved closer to the other man.  “That’s fine by me.  What ain’t fine is you saying you’re a killer.  ‘Cos you’re not!  You hear me?  Sometimes a man’s got to make a decision real quick, and he don’t have time to debate it.  A man finds himself in a gunfight through no fault of his own, then he’s got no choice but to defend himself as best he can.  And that’s what you did.  You defended yourself.  Do you understand what I’m saying?  It ain’t your fault that man died.”

Kid blinked his eyes.  He stood there, wishing with all his heart that he could take back what he’d done.  “Please, Heyes, I want to stay here.  I don’t ever want to split up again.”

Heyes nodded, masking the sadness he felt.  “I’ll talk to Big Jim.  I’ll make him understand.”

“Don’t tell him, Heyes.  I don’t want anyone to know.”

Heyes silently agreed it’d be better if no one knew the real reason Kid had come to Devil’s Hole.  “Don’t worry, Kid, you’re here now.  We’ll work it out, together.”

_________________
This is one of my schemes... ~ Hannibal Heyes

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PostSubject: Re: April 2016 EXTRA 100th month special... post YOUR favourite   Sat Apr 30, 2016 8:34 pm

Shenango, our former wire dodger, was having an issue posting her challenge and asked me to help. I'm thrilled she submitted this little gem.


The Wrong Choice
By Shenango


The neighbors from the two farms shared more than just familial ties. They shared crops, food, and holidays. They shared responsibilities for each other's children and the joys of everyday life that seemed too few and far between.

The war had been taking away those small pieces of joy in ever increasing moments. The fighting had been bitter on both sides but up to now had been distant to the town and its residents. That had all changed almost overnight. Raiders were rumored to be within miles of the town and most of it's citizens were on the alert. A town meeting was held to discuss what could be done to protect the town, and it was decided to make things as normal as possible for as long as possible, to keep panic from taking hold. All the parents were diligent in watching over the safety of all the town's children.

The two boys walked out of the school building with everyone else. School was over for the week; now was the time for the weekend to start. Two whole days off of fishing and climbing trees and making mischief, but only after the chores were done. They'd help each other finish; they'd learned to work together and the benefits of teamwork to get things accomplished.

They made it about halfway back to the farms before the call of the fishing hole got the better of them and, with little convincing needed, the detour was made. They knew that once they arrived home with fish for supper, their parents wouldn't be too upset at them for not coming straight home. They were good boys, typical and not bad, but what their Grandpa called "spirited".

A few hours had passed and the two strings of fish had more than enough to feed both families, so, with hunger nudging them on, they decided to head for home.

Right before the bend in the road that led to their homes, they were met by Doc Murphy and Sheriff Lawson. Not that this was unusual, the Sheriff often went with the doc if there was an accident. The boys knew there were farms other than their own on the road they were taking, so there was no reason for alarm.

Until the two men stopped the boys. Doc Murphy had put a hand on the Sheriff's arm, whispering quietly, "Let me talk to them." Climbing down from his buggy, he greeted them. "Hannibal, Jed, you boys just now getting home from school?"

"Yes, Doc," Hannibal answered. "Fishing was awful good today," and he held up his string and looked to Jed. Jed did likewise.

The Doc paused, then put a hand on each shoulder. "That's good, boys, real good."

"Yes, sir," Jed said. "We thought we'd give them to our Mom's for supper," he smiled.

Sheriff Lawson got down from his horse and knelt in front of them. Taking a breath to brace himself, he looked at the Doc before speaking. "Boy's I'm afraid there's been trouble; we're going to have to take you into town with us."

The two lowered their arms and the strings of fish and passed a scared look from one to the other. "But, we didn't do nothing wrong, Mr. Lawson. We just went fishing."

"No, son, you didn't do anything wrong. In fact, what you did was just right."

Confused, they stood there until Hannibal opened his mouth. Jed was watching him, he knew Han would be able to figure all this out if anyone could. Han was the smartest friend he had.

"We should probably get on home then," Hannibal tried to pass. He was stopped, as was Jed.

"We're really glad you two went fishing," the Sheriff said.

They looked at him, puzzled and a little scared.

Doc Lawson, more used to breaking bad news to relatives, took a turn trying to tell them. "Boys, you can't go home tonight."

"Why not," Jed asked, "Is somebody sick? Don't they need us to help them get better?"

The news was harder than either man had anticipated, but it had to be said. "Boys, there was trouble. I know you're both old enough to know about the war," the Doc started to explain. "While you were fishing, the raiders came and attacked several of the farms out this way. They got the Pierce's and then came in and got your place, Jed, and then yours, Hannibal."

Shock set in, and in a pained voice, the two adults heard, "Han?" Looking, they noticed silent tears of fear starting to stream down the face of the dark haired boy.

"Boys, for tonight, we're going to take you to town. You're going to stay with the Doc and his family."

"Sheriff," Hannibal said, the question and the fear obvious in his voice. "What happened to our families?"

"Boys," he started, then, with respect to the two small, brave souls in front of him, "The raiders hit your farms. We're real glad to see you, because we didn't find you there." At this they started to try and break away to go home, both boys found themselves being held by an adult. After a brief struggle, both stopped, looking at each other, completely lost.

Suddenly, with a maturity that surprised both of the men, Hannibal realized what they were saying. "Jed," he put his hand out and touched his cousin's arm. "Jed, we have to go with the Doc and the Sheriff."

Jed still was unaware of what was happening. "But, Han, we gotta go home. Our Pa's will need us to help clean up stuff. We'll have extra chores to do now."

"Jed," Hannibal took a deep breath and tried to hold the tears just a little bit longer. "There's nothing left to go home to." He looked at the two men for confirmation. Doc nodded and the Sheriff, unable to meet the eyes which aged ten years in just five minutes, looked back from the direction they'd just come.

Jed's tears were coming faster now, but he'd not made much noise, until finally, "Han, we shoulda gone straight home. You know we were supposed to. We did the wrong thing and..."

"No, Jed," he answered. "We didn't make the wrong choice. We made the right one." Looking up, he was encouraged by the strength of the doctor. "If we'd've gone home, we'd be dead like our families." Then turning to them, he had to ask. "They're all gone? Even Grandpa Curry?" The beloved older man had always spent as much time as possible with the boys, both to keep them out of trouble while their parents worked on the farm and spend time with them; teaching them his own special brand of mischief.

The look in the Doc's eyes said it all for him.

"C'mon Jed. We're all we got now."

Feeling very much younger than he had in a long time, Jed took Hannibal's hand and walked to the Doc's buggy. Handing over the fish, he climbed into the back seat. Hannibal handed him up all the fish, then climbed in behind him. Looking at the two men's sad faces, he spoke softly, "We better go. It's getting dark and our Ma's don't like us out when it's dark."

_________________
h
"Do you ever get the feeling that nothing right is ever going to happen to us again?" - Kid Curry
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Alias Smith and Jones Writers  :: The Writing Spot :: The Story Challenge-
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