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 Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...

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PostSubject: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeTue Oct 01, 2013 12:16 am

Hello, hello, hello...

This month's challenge was prompted by a turn of conversation in chat.
(And, sheesh, I hardly ever make it to chat - so it was a lucky turn of events.)

Please place your thinking caps on and consider the prompt:

"Your mother was a crook" NTAHM

Yes, yes - I know it's a hard one, but you are all so dang clever, that's okay.

Let the devising, revising, surprising and compromising begin.

Ready, steady, go.
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeWed Oct 16, 2013 3:05 pm

I have no ideas for this title?scratch 

Obstacles are put in our way to see if we really want something or only thought we did: Edison
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeWed Oct 16, 2013 10:58 pm

Feel free to call the bunny farm, Mizz Maz
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeThu Oct 17, 2013 12:47 am

Have an idea but no time to write! Mad 
The funny farm is a good idea for Maz - oh wait you said bunny farm!!! Very Happy  padded

'If I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor.'
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeThu Oct 17, 2013 2:35 am

Frankie, perhaps you could get together with Maz sm
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeThu Oct 17, 2013 2:51 pm

I got my eye on you Frankie Suspect 

Obstacles are put in our way to see if we really want something or only thought we did: Edison
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeTue Oct 22, 2013 6:34 am

Another missing scene. This one's from "The Reformation of Harry Briscoe."


“I’m very grateful to you boys,” Sister Julia said. She pulled her black robes in a bit and squeezed in between Joshua and Thaddeus on the hard leather seat of the chuck wagon.

Thaddeus Jones shook the reins and made clucking sounds to get the two-horse team moving. The wagon jerked forward and back a little, then settled into a steady shaking as it moved along the streets of Kettledrum. The horses kicked a fine mist of sand back onto the three riders settled close together.

“It’s our pleasure, Sister,” Joshua Smith said. “We’re glad to have your company, even for this short ride.”

“You sure you don’t want to have some lunch before we leave town, Sister?” Jones asked, as he steered the wagon between pedestrians, horses, and other traffic wandering into his path. “We’d be real happy to take care of that. You got to be hungry after that long stage ride.”

“You’re very kind, Thaddeus, but no,” she said. “We stopped for lunch only a few hours ago, and the station master and his wife took very good care of all the passengers. Besides, I’m anxious to get back to the convent and settle in. I’ve been away a long time, and I’ve sorely  missed the place. It is very hard to be away from your home.”

The men quickly glanced at each other and then looked away. Neither spoke.

“I am so sorry, Joshua, Thaddeus. For a moment, I forgot what you told me about your past. Please forgive me for being so insensitive and thoughtless.”

Both men harrumphed a bit.

“No harm done, Sister,” Joshua said. “It was all a long time ago. ‘Sides, we like moving around. We’re both westerners born. Everything west of the Mississippi is home to us.”

“Joshua’s right, Sister – for once,” Thaddeus agreed, ignoring a sideways frown from his partner. “Neither one of us is ready to settle down anyway.”

“Well, you’re both still young men. Still, time has a way of passing quickly. You may turn around one day and realize that your choices aren’t making you happy.”

“You’re not talking about yourself, are you?”

“I’m not referring to myself, Joshua. I’m very happy with the life I’ve chosen. But what about you? Are you happy with your choices?”

“I’m happy that we chose to pick you up, Sister. Even though you sure have a way of cutting to the quick.”

“It’s the question of time, Joshua. Our lives are so short.”

“’Our little lives are rounded by a sleep,” he replied.

“Joshua! You are one pleasant surprise after another. Not many cowboys can quote The Tempest. You’re familiar with Shakespeare?”

He shrugged, a little embarrassed. “Some, Sister. I like to read. Always have.”

“That’s for sure,” Thaddeus said. “Hey . . . He’s always got a book with him. He can bury his nose in a book and not come up for hours.”

“Do you not read, Thaddeus?” she asked.

“I know how to read just fine, Sister, but I don’t like to read as much as Joshua does. I’m more of a man for action.”

“He’s more of a man for the dime novels, Sister. Just ask him, he knows everything there is to know about Deadwood Dick, and Billy the Kid, and every gunslinger that’s ever got himself written up in the penny dreadfuls.”

“It’s wonderful that you’re both so intellectually curious. Did you learn that at the home for waywards?”

Another moment of silence. Thaddeus coughed into his fist. Finally, Joshua spoke up.

“Afraid not, Sister. We both already knew how to read before we got there. The headmasters there figured if you could read a bit, you didn’t need any more schooling in that, so we had to work for our keep.”

“That’s pretty common in orphanages, Sister, especially during the war,” Thaddeus explained. “There were lots of orphans, and not much money to support them. If you could read and do some basic numbers, you got put to work pretty quick.”

“Is that why you finally ran away, Thaddeus?”

“Well, that and other reasons, ma’am. Though I’ll admit, hard work ain’t my favorite way of making a living.”

Joshua laughed at that.

“Now that is the honest truth. Our favorite kind of work is the kind that’s not too hard on the back.”

“And yet, when Sister Isabel and I met you, you were herding cattle. That’s not easy work.”

“No ma’am,” Joshua agreed. “It is not, that’s for sure. But this job wasn’t so bad, moving cows from one place to another. Since there weren’t no bulls to distract them, they moved pretty easy. It’s just a lot of sleeping on the ground, a lot of eating dust, but we’re willing to do that for a while, if the pay’s right.”

“And the pay was definitely right.”

“Well, whatever caused you to leave Valparaiso, it sounds as if you made some good choices. Many boys would have turned to crime to support themselves. If your parents could see you today, I am sure they would be proud of you both. Thaddeus, be careful!”

Jones’ attention had drifted away a bit from steering the wagon, but the Sister’s sharp voice woke him up in time to draw up the reins with a loud “Whoa!!!” The wagon shuddered to a sudden stop. Three barefoot boys, no more than 7 years old, were chasing a dog into the street with total disregard for traffic. The boys barely glanced up as they raced back towards the relative safety of the wooden sidewalk.

“Sheesh! Thanks, Sister, that was a close one.”

“Wouldn’t have been if you’d been paying attention, Thaddeus!”

Jones turned angrily towards his partner. “Hey, I stopped, didn’t I?”


“I stopped the wagon in time! That’s good enough!”

“Barely!” The men glared at each other.

“Gentlemen, calm down! All’s well that ends well, right, Joshua?” He smiled reluctantly at the Shakespeare reference.

“Well done, Thaddeus. You have quick reflexes.”

Jones shot a triumphant little smile at his partner.

“Thank you, Sister. It’s nice to be appreciated for a change.” He shook the reins, and the horses started moving slowly again. They were passing the last few lonely buildings on the outskirts of Kettledrum, heading into the high desert where the convent was located.

Joshua took a canteen out from under the seat and offered it to Sister Julia.

“Care for a drink, Sister?”

“Indeed, yes, thank you Joshua.” She pulled out the cork and took a drink of the warm water. She offered it to Thaddeus with a look, but he only shook his head, no. He didn’t want to be distracted again from driving the team, now that they were heading up into the hills.

Joshua accepted the canteen from her, took a long swallow, and replaced it under the seat. He looked at the dry landscape around them. It wouldn’t take more than an hour to get to the convent, and they’d be back in Kettledrum long before dark. Plenty of time to sell that wagon, settle into their hotel room for a short rest, and then, with any luck, a long, profitable evening playing poker. He smiled to himself, thinking about how pleasant it would be to relax for a couple of days, before they had to think about finding their next job. The Sister’s voice brought him back to the present moment.

“We were talking about choices, I believe.” The men looked at each other over their passenger. She was relentless.

“Were we, Sister?” Joshua asked.

“Yes.” She nodded firmly. The men looked at each other again. There seemed to be no way out.

“I suppose it’s on my mind because of Sister Isabel. From what you said, Thaddeus, she did not make some good choices.”

“No, ma’am, I don’t think so. Stealing $30,000 from a bank ain’t what I’d call a good choice.”

“’Course,” Joshua said, “she really didn’t go about it in the right way. I mean, that bank had no doubt who did the deed and. . . “ Thaddeus was coughing hard. Sister Julia pounded on his back.

“Are you alright, Thaddeus? Do you need some water?”

Jones cleared his throat. “No thank you, ma’am, I’m alright. Just got a tickle in my throat.” His quick glance at his partner said, shut up! Smith wiped his mouth with a gloved hand and turned his attention back to the scenery.

“I will always think of Sister Isabel – Molly – as a friend,” the nun said. “But then, many of the dearest people I know are thieves.”

Eyebrows rose.

“It’s true,” she said. “Why are you so surprised? Most nuns aren’t born in convents, you know. I lived a different life before answering God’s call.”

Smith frowned. “Sister, you are probably the last person I’d think of, when I think of crooks.”

She squeezed his gloved hand. “You’re very sweet, Joshua, but I am a woman of the world, even as I am a nun. You could even say I was born to the criminal life.”

Jones whistled soundlessly, shaking his head.

“You’re not telling us your mother was a crook, are you, Sister?” he said. “Because I find that hard to believe.”

“You’re right to do so, Thaddeus. Actually, both my parents were crooks, not just my mother.”

Both men wore stunned expressions.

“I’m a westerner like both of you. I was born in St. Louis. AFTER Louis and Clark had passed through, I’ll have you know. Unlike you, I started life as a wayward. My grandmother claimed that my parents were married. I doubt that they were. My mother left home when she was 15 – same age as you two boys. She made worse choices than you did at that age. She ran off with a much older man, who was my father. Apparently he was a thief and a con man, but I never knew him. He was gone before I was two.”

“That’s a tough start, Sister.” Joshua said.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, it was. My mother did whatever she could to support us. And she did support us, rather successfully, although there is really only one way for a woman to earn that kind of money.” The nun’s voice was matter-of-fact. Both men were listening intently.

“When I was six, she got sick with consumption. I remember her coughing blood into a handkerchief and trying to hide it from me. It scared me, you see. I was only a child.”

“What happened then?” Thaddeus’ voice was gentle.

“She wrote to my grandmother, asking her to come and help. Grandmother and my Aunt Elspeth came for me. They arranged for my mother to enter a sanitarium, and they took me back with them to Philadelphia.”

“Did you see your mother again?” Joshua asked.

“No, Joshua, I never did. Years later, I found out she died shortly after I left. I believe she hung on only long enough to ensure that I was safe.”

For several minutes, the only sounds were those of the jingling reins and the crunch-crunch of the horses’ hooves on the rocky road.

“You know,” Jones said, “you still haven’t told us how you got to know so many thieves.”

“I didn’t, did I? Through my work as a physician. My order sent me to minister at the women’s prison in Pennsylvania.”

Two male jaws hung low again. Smith recovered first.

“Your work as a physician?” The nun nodded calmly.

“Yes. I was always drawn to medicine. That’s why I joined this particular order. Our ministry is a health ministry. As a novitiate, I served in hospitals during the war. Nuns were the first women allowed to do so, you know.”

“Sister, you amaze me,” Smith said. “And you’re a real, honest-to-God doctor?”

She smiled broadly at him. Even though excessive pride was a sin, she thought that God would allow her just this little bit.

“Yes. I’m a graduate of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. After the war, my order sent some of us to medical school. I was fortunate enough to be chosen. For the last several years, I’ve been splitting my time between the women’s penitentiary and the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia. So, yes,” she said, getting back to the original subject, “I know quite a few thieves.”

“Molly was lucky to find you, Sister,” Thaddeus said.

“Yeah,” agreed Joshua. “She’s a thief. You’re used to thieves. It’s a match made in heaven.”

She frowned at him. Somehow, she could make him feel like a naughty child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“Leave judgment to God, Joshua. He’s much better equipped for it than you or I.”

“Yes Sister.” He hung his head. “Sorry Sister.”

“Why are you coming back to this convent now, Sister? Don’t they need your services back East?”

“They do, Joshua, but my services are needed even more in the west. I’ll be setting up a small clinic in Kettledrum, under the auspices of the Church. First, though, I’m taking some time for prayer and contemplation.”

“Well, we certainly wish the best for you, Sister,” Thaddeus said. “Sounds like you could use a good rest.”

“I could, Thaddeus, and I’m looking forward to it. I promise that I’ll find time to pray for both of you, if that’s alright. I do remember that you’re Kansans, not Catholics.”

“We’ll take all the help we can get, Sister,” Thaddeus told her. “I figure prayers all go to the same place. Don’t matter none which language they’re in.”

“And speaking of the convent,” Joshua said, “I reckon that it’s just ahead. I can see the steeple from here.”

The nun stood up and peered at the road ahead. Both men grabbed her arms and pulled her back into her seat.

“Careful there, Sister!” Smith warned. “You don’t want to do a header over these horses and be the first patient in your new clinic.”

“No,” she said, “I surely don’t. Sorry, boys. I got a little over-excited.”

Jones guided the horses towards a hitching post in front of a courtyard that was bordered on three sides by adobe buildings. Nuns in full habits were gardening, pushing wheelbarrows, and performing various tasks around the grounds. Oddly, no one came to greet them. He stopped the horses and locked the brakes.

“Here you are, Sister. Safe and sound.” Jones jumped from the hard seat with a grunt. He deftly helped the nun down, as Smith rose and picked up her carpetbag.

“I thank you boys for all your help. You’ll be in my prayers.”

“Thank you, Sister,” Smith said. She shook hands with both men as they said good-bye. Jones was climbing back up into the seat, his back towards the buildings, when Smith tapped his shoulder and pointed at the main building. They saw Molly Cusack step out, bare-headed, but still wearing the nun’s dark habit with the rosary at her waist. Sister Julia looked back at them calmly.

“You look surprised,” she said. “You shouldn’t be.” They watched her walk up the flagstone path to Molly, and saw the two women embrace. Smiling, the women turned to wave good-bye.

Jones took the reins again and urged the horses back on the road towards Kettledrum. As they drove away, the women, arm in arm, went inside.

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

"The failure in doing something is stopping too soon."
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeFri Oct 25, 2013 10:15 am

My hubby actually came up with this idea!

Your Mother Was a Crook

At their hotel, while Heyes snoozed, a bare-chested Curry shaved.  Finding his razor dull, Curry asked, “Heyes, can I use your razor?”

“Yeah, go ahead.  It’s in my bag,” Heyes mumbled.  While his partner is was looking for the razor, he asked, “Found it?”

“Not yet!” the Kid exclaimed, as he pulled a corset out of the satchel.

“Keep looking.”

“Not sure I want to, Heyes.”  Curry looks at the corset in his hand.

Heyes peaked open an eye and sat up straight in shock.  “Where did you get those?”

“Where did I get… Where do you get those?  I found them in your bag.”

Heyes jumped up out of the bed and looked at the contents of the bag.  “That’s not my bag.”

“Gee, it sure looks like your bag,” the Kid smirked.

“Well, I’m telling you, it’s not my bag,” Heyes said, as he rooted through the contents.  While Curry laughed, Heyes pulled out a book.  “A Bible.”

“Okay, I’m convinced; it’s not your bag.”  The Kid walked back to the mirror where he was shaving.

“Christine McNeice – Harlingen’s secretary.”

“She must have a bag just like yours.”  Curry continued to shave with his dull blade.

“Everyone has a bag just like mine,” Heyes commented, while opening the book and finding a compartment.

“Oh, that means she must have your bag.  And your razor.”

Heyes pulled out a red velvet bag from a compartment in the Bible, “Kid…”


“Come here.”

Curry turned and came over to his partner as Heyes emptied the bag of its jewels.

“We’re rich!” the Kid exclaimed.

“Yeah, these jewels must be worth a fortune… maybe two!”

“There’s one for each of us!”

“Yeah.”  Heyes went from giddy with excitement to serious.  “No, put it out of your mind.  They belong to somebody else.  We’ll have to return them.”

“Well like my dear old mom used to say, ‘Finders keepers, losers weepers’,” the Kid said as he put an arm around his partner.

“Your mother was a crook.” Heyes replied, his eyes hardly leaving the glittering of the precious stones.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

I didn’t dispute it – couldn’t if I wanted to – since Heyes knew the truth.  You see, my dear departed ma was a crook when she was younger.

Grandpa Curry used to love tellin’ us young’uns stories about coming to America and making his way to the West.  He also told us how our folks met, much to the embarrassment of my ma…

Brian O’Malley reined in the pair of horses pulling his wagon of wares outside of the town of Jefferson, Kansas.  “Molly, we’re here.  Get yourself ready, girl.”

A young woman of barely seventeen years poked her head out of the wagon, her long curly blonde hair tied back with a blue ribbon, the color of her eyes.  “Pa, do I have to?”

“If you want to eat you will!” the older man rebuked her.  “What would your mother, God rest her soul, say to you talkin’ back to your father?”

“I’m sorry, Pa.” Molly held up her dress. “My shoes are about worn and so is my dress.”

“While I have folks buyin’ from me, you can go into the store and get what you need. Hopefully the clerk will come out and listen, too, so no one will be in there.”  O’Malley winked at his daughter.  “And pick me up a fine cigar or two while you’re at it.  Now get!”

“Yes, Pa.”  Molly jumped down from the medicine man’s wagon, brightly painted with the latest and greatest cure of all ailments.  “I’ll see you in town.”

Molly barely remembered her mother, who died in childbirth while delivering her brother, Patrick.  A distraught Brian asked a couple in Philadelphia, who could have no children, to raise his infant son. Her father decided a change of life would benefit him so he took his eight-year old daughter out West.  Brian O’Malley hated staying in one place very long, preferring life on the road.  He bought a wagon, a barrel of fine whiskey, and boxes of bottles.  He changed from Brian O’Malley, single, Irish father, to Dr. Robert Adams, peddling his cure for all ailments.  Molly was the only one who knew that her father’s miracle medicine was water and whiskey, with a hint of mint.  It was her job to pretend to have an illness, take a sip from the bottle with Dr. Adams’ label, and have a sudden recovery.  She hated deceiving people, but it did get the townsfolk to purchase bottles from her father.

Molly picked a few wild daisies, putting one in her hair, as she walked barefoot through the field heading toward town. “Ma, can you hear me?”  She sighed. “I sure hope you can. Ma, I want to settle down and have a home, and not one with wheels on it. You know I love Pa, but… but I want my own life. I don’t wanna steal no more for what I need. Ma, you think there’s a fella out there that would want me? I can’t cook or sew much, but I’m more than willin’ to learn.”  She picked up a small rock and threw it. “I wish Pa had left me in Philadelphia with Patrick.”

Molly walked into town shortly before the painted wagon. She watched her father set up in the middle of town, putting boxes of bottles out for all to see. Dr. Robert Adams was quite the showman and quickly got the attention of all the townsfolk.  On cue, Molly doubled over, holding tight to her stomach. A sip of Adams’ Cure-All and she was well.

While everyone was watching her father and buying from him, Molly slipped into the empty general merchandise store. The clerk had locked the cash register, but left the store with the rest of the customers to see the excitement.  Molly hurriedly found a pair of shoes and put them on. Next she put of pretty blue floral dress over her worn one. She leaned over the counter and pocketed a few cigars. It was when she was standing on her tiptoes to reach into the jar of red licorice when she saw him – a young man leaning against the wall with his arms folded watching her.

He smiled warmly.  “Seems you’ve really made a miraculous recovery.

Molly blushed as she stuffed her hands with licorice into her pockets and backed away from the counter.

“Looks like you’ve gained some weight and your appetite is back to eat that candy. But do you really think you should be smokin’ cigars?”

She looked down. “Are you gonna tell the sheriff?”

The clerk entered the store. “Oh, I didn’t know I had a customer. Sorry for the wait. How can I help you, miss?”

Michael’s eyes didn’t leave the beautiful waif as he watched her nervously trying to get to the door.

“Is that one of my dresses?  And a pair of shoes?” the clerk questioned as he looked her up and down.  “Why you… We’re going to go see the sheriff!” He grabbed her arm.

Michael pushed off from the wall. “Wait, Mr. Johnson. It’s my fault.”

“Michael Curry, I didn’t see you over there. How is it your fault?”

“I suggested she put the dress on over her other one to see how it fit. Don’t you think the blue in the dress matches her eyes? And the shoes, well, she was just seein’ how they fit when you came in.”

“So she wasn’t stealing?”

Michael shook his head. “Nope!”

Mr. Johnson released Molly’s arm. “I’m sorry then, miss, to accuse you of wrong. It’s just that when gypsies and medicine men come to town, I seem to be missing things. Do you have money to purchase these items?”

Molly bit her lower lip and stared at the floor.

“I was just tryin’ to convince Miss…”

Molly looked up at the friendly concerned eyes of the handsome stranger named Michael.  “O’Malley,” she whispered.

“Convince Miss O’Malley here how beautiful that dress is on her and that she should do me the honor of lettin’ me buy it for her, along with the shoes, cigars, and licorice.”

Molly’s bright blue eyes opened wide. “But I couldn’t let you do such a thing. I’d be beholdin’ to you, sir.”

“How much would she owe you, Mr. Johnson?”

“Well,” the clerk stammered, as he quickly added the prices in his head. “I guess seven dollars would cover it.”

Michael reached into his pocket and pulled out some money. He counted out seven dollars and handed them to the clerk. “So is she squared away now with you?”

“She sure is, Mr. Curry.”

Michael offered his arm to beautiful girl. “Miss O’Malley, would you do me the pleasure of havin’ a piece of pie and coffee with me at the café?”

Molly wrapped her hand into the proffered arm. “I’d love to, Mr. Curry.”

As they walked to the café, Michael paused before stepping onto the boardwalk and turned to look at her.

“What?” Molly asked, concerned.

“Please don’t tell me that the cigars are for you.”

Molly giggled.  “No, they’re for my pa.”

“Phew…” Curry sighed with relief as he continued walking up to the café.  Once inside, he ordered pie and coffee as they sat down.

“Mr. Curry…”


“Michael, I appreciate what you did back there, but I can’t pay you back for these things.”

The waitress brought the plates of pie to the tables and poured the coffee.

Curry waited until she was back in the kitchen. “What’s your name?”

“Molly… Molly O’Malley.”

“And your father is…”

“Brian O’Malley.” Molly looked down at her hands resting in her lap. “Better known as Dr. Robert Adams,” she whispered.

“Ahhh. How old are you, Molly?”

“Just turned seventeen.”

Michael sipped his coffee. “Are you a hard worker?”

“That I am! Me and Pa travel a lot and…”

“Do you enjoy all that travelin’ around?”


“The pie is good. Have a bite,” Curry encouraged her.

Molly took a forkful and savored the flavor before sipping some coffee. “I’ve been travelin’ it seems all my life. What I want is to settle down and raise a family.”

“Do you have a beau that you’re plannin’ to marry?”

“Oh, no!  Me and pa don’t stay anywhere long enough for me to meet someone.”

Michael’s brow rose. “Really? I think I know of a way you can pay me back. You can come back to my place…”

Molly jumped up. “I’m… I’m not that kind of girl! I thank you, but…”

“Molly,” Michael interrupted. “Sit down. I live with my parents on a homestead that will someday be mine. My ma could use help with the household chores and if you really want to settle in one place, I’m sure she’d welcome you to stay. There are several men in the area who would love to court you.”

“I don’t really know how to cook or sew or do household things.”

“My ma taught my sister, Annie, so I’m sure she could teach you.” Curry finished his pie. “And Annie would love havin’ someone about her age around. She’s married to my friend, Jonathan Heyes, and they live on the farm next to ours.”

“Do you really think your ma would welcome me? That a man would court me?”

Michael placed his hand over hers and looked deep in her eyes. “If you’d be willin’, I’d love to court you, Molly O’Malley.”

“You would?” Molly stared into his blue eyes and then tilted her head down. "Even knowin' my pa and I con honest folks out of their hard earned money?"  She looked down at her new blue dress and fingered the licorice in her pocket.  She hung her head in shame.  "And that I'm a...crook?"

Michael tipped her chin up and smiled. “Even knowin’ you’re a crook.” He became more serious. “As long as you’re willin’ to give up that kind of life.”

“Oh, I am!”

“What about your pa? What will he say about you stayin’ here?”

“My pa knows I’m not happy and want to settle down. I think he’ll get used to it, as long as he knows I’m not a kept woman.”

“Well, if you’re sure about stayin’ here, how about we talk to our folks and have them meet. Your pa will know our intentions are good.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“Well like my dear old mom used to say, ‘Finders keepers, losers weepers’,” the Kid said as he put an arm around his partner.

“Your mother was a crook.” Heyes replied, his eyes hardly leaving the glittering of the precious stones.

“Oh, Heyes, I never thought I’d see the day you’d go against everything we believed in.”  Curry removed his arm and stared at his friend.

“No, I’m being practical.  Now you remember how much Harlingen used to have posses chase us for a few thousand dollars.”  Heyes looked longingly at the jewels.  “What do you suppose he’d do to a few fellas who stole a few million in jewels?”

“Heyes, something’s happened to you since we went straight.”

“That’s what happened… We went straight.”  Heyes slapped his partner on the back.  “We’re doing the right thing, Kid.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Chuckle… Heyes is always gettin’ on to me about rescuin’ damsels.  Guess I get it from my Pa.

Well, Ma did move into the Curry household and Pa courted her properly.  They were married in less than a year and had six children – I was the youngest boy.  Grandma Curry taught Ma how to be a housewife and a mother and Aunt Annie and Ma became fast friends.

My Ma gave up her life of a crook and became a good wife and mother.  She changed her ways and got a new life.  Gives me and Heyes hope that since we’ve gone straight, we can have a new life, too.

"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: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeSat Oct 26, 2013 5:56 pm

My hubby did not come up with this idea, so you can't blame him. I am not trying to win another bandana under another name(not that I would with this story anyway); I am 'wearing' my Halloween costume for the rest of this month. BeeJay

“Amen.” Prayer completed, five children and two adults began to eat, albeit none too delicately.

“This is pretty good, Ma. Meat's almost tender.” At sixteen Ezra was quite a wag, or at least fancied himself as one.

The other children snickered.

“Eat your supper and be grateful you got meat. If I hear one more smart remark out of you I'll see that your father takes you out to the shed, and tans your hide,” said Ma. Mrs. Curry wasn't old, no more than forty, and had once been pretty, very pretty, in fact. Continuous work turned her visage to leather, and the unending chores of farm life, along with childbearing, had prematurely aged her. The results of years of bearing and burdens had considerably shortened her temper as well.

“Pa ain't gonna tan my hide, are you Pa?”

“Iffn' he don't, I will, Ezra...

Ezra opened his mouth.

“...iffn' I hear any more sass outta you. You wanna take me up on that, boy?” She looked at her eldest with cool gray eyes, and a stare that could scare grown men.

Ezra knew when he was beat. He had learned early that retreat was often the better part of valor, and that his mother had a strong arm and a switch to go with it. He settled down, but glanced up, grumbling with a rebellious mien.

“Ma, Susie Clay has a new Sunday dress. Can I have a new dress?” Marah was fourteen, with long blonde curls, blue eyes, regular features and a hefty dose of vanity to go with them. Nobody blamed her, as she was the belle of the family, and for all her vanity had a likable nature. “It ain't fair that she has one, especially one with ribbon trim.”

“You'd sure look a site prettier in that dress than Susie Clay, sis. She's just such an ugly thaing.” Rebecca emphasized the 'thaing' drawing it out about a yard long to the amusement of her family. She was a couple of years younger than her big sister, and adored her.

“I agree that Susie Clay don't deserve a dress more'n you, Mar, but wishn' won't get you one. We don't have money for nice things,” Ma answered as she pulled her youngest son's finger out of his nostril and rapped it. “You do that again, Ezekial, and its off to bed with you, whether you finished your supper or not. No one's gonna say the Curry children don't know their manners.”

“Ow,” he said. He looked up at his mother with huge wide-open eyes and pouted.

Ma laughed at his face, and ruffled his hair. “Oh you ain't hurt. You faker, you.”

Pa focused on the food he was devouring. He didn't talk much, figuring his eldest boy, his wife and his girls made up for his silence.

His middle son, didn't talk much either, and was focused on his food as well. Having cleaned his bowl, he stood to help himself to seconds. He  leaned over Marah to reach the pot of stew.

Marah shrieked, jumped up and began to frantically brush at her dress. “Oh! Oh! What is it? What is it? It's crawling on me! Oh!” As she jumped about a frog leaped off  her.

“You!” she shouted accusingly. “Jed Curry, you you you...”

“Don't step on it, Mar!” Ezra was laughing. “You don't wanna crush the frog. Think what a mess that'll make.”

“You might ruin your shoes,” added Rebecca, also laughing.

Jed looked at his big sister with his mother's cool eyes, a shade more blue. He got down on the floor, and went to work crawling on all fours to rescue the frog from an untimely and horrible death.

“Ma, Pa, are you gonna do anything about it? He put that frog down the back of my dress.”

“Jed, did you put that frog down your sister's dress?” asked Pa.

Jed, retrieved the frog and put it in his pocket. He went back to his seat. He thought over the consequences of honesty, albeit briefly. “No, sir.”

“Pa, he's lyin'.”

“You lyin', boy?”

Jed didn't respond.

“Smart boy. You keep quiet and you won't get into trouble.”

“Pa,” Marah whined. “Ma.”

“It's only a frog, Mar. Stop your whinin'. It ain't becomin' on a pretty girl like you,” said Ma. “You wanna behave proper and lady-like. That way you'll impress folks and find a good man who'll take care of you.”

Marah sniffled a bit, but stopped whining at the word, pretty, and smiled. She sat down. Leaning to Jed
she whispered loudly, “You'll catch it later. You'll see.”

Pa changed the subject. “Speakin about them Clays, I saw John today. I got an earful from him today. He's stirrin' up trouble, alright, like we ain't got enough with a war. He gets folks all riled up spoutin' about his Democratic Southern sympathies.”

“That wife of his is no better. I heard she feeds the Rebs when she gits the chance.” Mrs. Curry sniffed. “Aidin' and abetin' the enemy. And the last time she paid us a visit, some of my trouser cloth for the boys went missing.” This was an oft-mentioned grievance, and the family knew it well. Mrs. Curry was convinced Mrs. Clay had purloined this cloth and put it in her sewing bag. She swore up and down that Alfred Clay's new trousers had been made from her precious cloth.

The fact that the Curry dogs had been scuffling and found with shreds of cloth hanging from their mouths made no difference to her. “Ain't no dog gonna eat ALL that cloth. It was stole by that woman, I know that,” she had told her husband and children at the time.

“Susie Clay is stuck-up,” Rebecca contributed.

“I met some Reb soldiers. They didn't seem no different than the Union fellas. One of em paid me a whole nickle to bring him water for their horses.” said Jed.

“A nickle's a nickle, boy, but don't you go and make a habit of helping out Rebs. You don't wanna be like them Clay's.”

Jed appeared puzzled by this, and sat in deep thought, at least for a couple of minutes. It was too much for him, so he changed the subject.

“I think you look better in blue than Susie, Marah.”

“I forgive you.”

“Thanks, sis.”

Dinner finished on this pleasant note. The family cleaned up, well Mrs. Curry and the girls did, and then all of them chatted late into the evening before retiring to bed.

The next day was Sunday. Ma Curry and Jed were late heading to church, as Ezekial had decided to see what would happen if the cat was put in the hen house. The cat, who was a 'no-account cat, no good at huntin' even the smallest mouse,' was pecked and pursued by the startled hens. An exasperated Mrs. Curry packed her youngest off with her husband and other children, while she kept her calmest son behind to help hold and treat the henpecked cat.

When the surgery was complete, she and Jed walked quickly and silently together to church. Mrs. Curry was grateful for her middle son's steadfast quiet nature.

Being late they crossed Clay land closer to the Clay home than usual. Ma, not being on friendly terms with her neighbors since the theft, generally tried to avoid them.

They passed by the window. Being summer, it was open as there was no glass, and it was closed up with boards only during late fall and winter. Ma stopped just past the house.

She turned around and went back to the window.

Jed trotted after her. “Ma, ma, we're already late.”

“Yep, so it won't make any difference iffn' we're even later.”

On a table that ran under the window were Mrs. Clay's pincushion, needles, pins, scissors, a half-finished pair of man's trousers, and about a yard of off-white lacy ribbon.

She drew in a breath and snatched the ribbon. “Makes up for my cloth,” she muttered.

“Ma, ain't that stealin'? Mister Packard, our teacher says...”

“It don't matter what Mister Packard says. It ain't stealin' if you take something from someone who's taken somethin' from you. Especially if that someone is a Southern sympathizer. You just remember what your Grandpa Curry said.”

“You mean 'don't get mad, get even'?”

“That's right son.”

She put the ribbon into her cloth purse, grabbed her son roughly by the arm and hurried on. She didn't see the boy with brown hair who had been at the corner of the house, but he had seen all. He pulled back around the corner, out of site, as she and Jed walked past. Jed looked back over his shoulder at the boy.

“Ma, Ma, can't we slow down?” The boy was panting.

Ma stopped and looked down at her son.

I'm sorry, Jed. I didn't mean to hurry you along so.” She stooped and hugged him. She rubbed his hair, and kissed the top of his head. “Your a good boy, son. I know you won't tell no one about this.”

As they resumed their walk a voice called out, “Aunt Mary, Jed, wait up.”

“Why Hannibal Heyes, how come you ain't at church already?”

The boy grinned. “I started off early enough on my own, Auntie. I was gonna meet Jim McCall. I sorta got side-tracked by findin' a snake, and catchin' him.” He proudly held out a small wiggly snake.

“Hannibal Heyes, you weren't gonna take that snake into church, were you?”

“Aunt Mary, he's my new pet.”

“Uh huh. Likely your new pet would end up in some poor lady's dress. You put him down, and come along now. You know takin' a snake into church is wrong.”

Hannibal sighed and put his new pet on the ground. They watched him slither off.

“Alright, you two. Let's get on to church.”

The three walked the rest of the way to church, chatting merrily on the way. At the entrance Mrs. Curry entered first. Hannibal followed, and turned to wink at his cousin.
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeSat Oct 26, 2013 10:18 pm

Dust puffed up with each jump. An audible click sounded every time the teeth snapped together, but the thud of hooves and the creak of saddle leather drowned out every other sound. He knew that his partner was hollering advice and encouragement—probably to the horse!—from the sidelines, because he knew his partner well, but he didn’t hear the words.

The insides of his knees stung as skin rubbed raw, making him regret purchasing new trousers last time they rode through a town, and a sharp pain spiked up his arm from the hand that held the reins every time his mount’s head jerked between his flailing front feet.

The horse hit the ground again, sending the impact rippling up his spine all the way to his teeth, and this time the bronc’s hind foot slipped in the sand and the horse skewed sideways. He felt himself land on the edge of the cantle and a sinking feeling in his gut warned him that the next jump would be his last.

Strange, the sensations that flitted through his head as the horse rose again. He felt the reins dragging through his fingers until he barely held the tips, and his right boot heel scraping up the horse’s sweaty flank to catch on the saddle skirts. He felt his ankle wrench as gravity pulled his body downward and the boot, still caught, slipped off his foot. And he felt the full impact of the collision between his left shoulder and the earth, and the way he flipped over as he continued to clutch the reins.

The horse kept bucking for three more jumps, dragging his fallen rider across the ground and filling the front of his shirt with sand and gravel, before abruptly realizing that he had succeeded in his object. The sound of his partner’s laughter drifted over to the rider as he pulled himself to his feet and shook the dirt out of his clothing.

“Your mother was a crook! Your mother was an ornery desert broomtail! And your father was a donkey jack, and your grandparents were cart horses who pulled a garbage wagon!” he ranted. The horse, sides heaving, rolled a big brown eye in his direction, but offered no other reply.

“Your boot’s over in that sagebrush,” his partner called helpfully, still chuckling.

He hobbled over and turned the slung-heeled leather boot upside down, allowing a small stream of sand to fall out before he pulled it on. “I’m glad you’re enjoying this so much. At least someone is!” he hollered back.

“Aw, go on, you know you’d laugh just as hard if it was me up there!”

A reluctant grin cracked his dirty face. “Yeah, but it’s a lot more amusin’ from your perspective!” The horse snorted and stamped a front foot. “Oh is that so? Well let me tell you, you son of a crooked-legged, jug-headed plow horse, that you are goin’ to stand like a rock while I mount. Y’hear?”

He pulled the reins over the horse’s head and eased his toe up to the stirrup. The short bay horse turned his head, and he rubbed the white star between its eyes. He felt an ache in his right hip from the pull on his leg as he pulled himself up to stand in the stirrup and patted the horse again, and when the horse didn’t move he swung his leg over and settled into the saddle.

“Now, you will walk nicely, or I will pull my gun and put a bullet between your ears. I don’t think there would be much in its path. Do I make myself clear?” The horse walked calmly.

Five minutes later his partner was mounted and riding beside him down the trail. “You just had to ride that critter, didn’t you?”

He looked over at his partner’s grinning face. “Where’s the fun in ridin’ a broke horse?”

This story is dedicated to Monte, who liked to buck on a cold morning.
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeSun Oct 27, 2013 2:22 pm

I've been gone from home most of this month and haven't had a lot of writing time.  This is an excerpt from my End Of An Era story.  It fit the prompt with a little tweaking so I hope you forgive me the shortcut.

The air in the saloon was so smoky and thick that the Kid felt his throat close up and his eyes water as he walked through the batwing doors.  He was meeting up with his partner to do a little celebrating after a successful job and they weren’t taking any chances.  He stood for a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darker room.  Heyes was standing near the bar, wearing his good suit, but Curry had walked in with his trail clothes on.  Once inside the dingy space, he walked past his partner.  They were much more recognizable standing together and so made a habit of not appearing to be together in public.  The clothes helped.  Heyes looked every inch the wealthy city boy and quickly attracted the eye of a slick-looking man seated at one of the poker tables.  Knowing the gambler was sizing him up, Heyes adopted a wide-eyed innocent look as he wandered over to the table, foamy beer in hand.  The man removed an expensive cigar from his mouth, pasted a welcoming smile on his face, and gestured for Heyes to sit down.  

From the other end of the bar, Curry watched his partner slip into a chair at the high-stakes table.  He lifted his beer off the bar and leaned back against the rail watching Heyes settling in.  This was good.  Poker always made Heyes happy and could keep him occupied for hours.  Eying the petite brunette barmaid in front of him, the Kid turned his thoughts to his own needs.  He’d keep an eye on the game a little longer and, if all went well, he’d be able to have a little time to see to his own happiness.


The Kid was coming down the stairs, tucking in his shirt, when he heard a roar of approval rise from the crowd gathered around the high-stakes poker table.  He could see the back of Heyes’s head from here and the angry expression of the gambler next to him.  He sighed.  Heyes was at it again.  Reaching down, he slipped the safety off his gun and took the rest of the stairs two at a time.  The saloon was crowded and he roughly pushed his way through the densely-packed bodies, elbowing ribs and stepping on feet as needed.  

“Flush, aces high, gentlemen.  Looks like I win again,” said Heyes with a disingenuous laugh.  He leaned forward to rake the chips from the center of the table.  A well-manicured hand shot out and gripped his forearm.  Heyes kept a friendly demeanor as he looked at the professional gambler on his left.  The man had invited him into the game expecting to fleece him and Heyes felt no remorse at cleaning him out.  He’d been betting heavily using the money he’d stolen earlier in the day; he wasn’t risking hard-earned cash like the other men at the table who had lost their stakes earlier to the slick-looking man.  

Heyes had bided his time, watching the man manipulating the cards to his advantage.  It had been subtle, but the man was cheating.  Heyes hated cheats.  Ever since the other men had dropped out of the game, leaving Heyes and the gambler playing, stakes had risen dramatically.  A crowd had gathered around, watching.  A small fortune sat on the table.

“Where did you learn how to play poker like that?” growled the gambler.

“From my dear old aunt; why do you ask?”  Heyes smiled guilelessly.

“Your aunt must’ve been a crook,” snapped the angry man.

Heyes grinned wickedly, sitting back and reaching out to pick up his beer glass with his right hand.  He idly twirled it on its bottom edge, while maintaining his smile.  “You know, I would take exception to that, except you’re right; she was a crook…and a helluva poker player.”  The crowd laughed heartily at Heyes’s response; all of them grinning except for the Kid now standing across from the smiling, dark-haired winner.   The laughter died away quickly as the gambler frowned and the other men at the table stood up, backing slowly away.  Heyes was still smiling at his opponent.  His apparent amusement was only further enraging the man.

Just beyond Heyes, the Kid saw another two men watching the exchange with more than casual interest.  The gambler had a couple of gunnies backing his play.  Curry waited to see which way Heyes was going to take this, never losing sight of the two men behind his partner.  

“You cheated!” snarled the gambler, rising to his feet and rocking the table slightly.   .

Heyes rose as well, slowly; his right hand still playing with the glass.  “No.  I don’t cheat.  I’m just a better player than you.”

“You better have something to back up that smart mouth of yours,” the man’s hand clenched into a fist.  He glanced past Heyes for a second to make sure his two men were in place.  Heyes saw the gambler’s eyes shift away and he snatched up his beer glass drawing the man’s attention back to his right hand.  The man, thinking that Heyes would attack using the glass, swung with his own right fist not expecting Heyes to throw a solid punch with his left hand; connecting with the gambler’s exposed jaw and snapping bone.  The man went down like a sack of potatoes as Heyes followed the swing of his arm and ducked low to the table.  He saw the Kid draw, heard the loud report of the gun, and felt the bullet whistle past his ear.  

“Drop it,” said Curry warningly to the second man.  The stunned gunman let his pistol fall from his fingers and slowly raised his hands.  At his feet, his partner writhed in pain clutching his gunhand.  “Who are you, mister?” he whispered.

The Kid ignored the man as Heyes stood up.  “You okay?”  He looked his partner over carefully, relieved not to see any bullet holes in him.

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Can’t you stay out of trouble for one minute?”

Heyes smiled, “Man insulted my aunt.  What was I to do?”

Curry raised his eyebrows and looked at the man with the raised hands, “That so?  Seems to me you got off lightly.  C’mon, cousin,” he said pointedly, “let’s go.”  The Kid started for the door, keeping his gun trained on the two men who had paled significantly.  

Heyes took off his bowler and quickly cleaned the table of money and chips.  He turned to the gunman and tucked two twenty-dollar bills in the man’s pocket.  “I’d suggest that you and your friends here use this money to get some train tickets out of town.  It wouldn’t be wise to run into my cousin again, if you get my meaning.”  He patted the man’s shirt pocket and left him standing by the poker table, his hands still in the air and his two friends at his feet.

Heyes came out of the batwing doors laughing delightedly until he saw the frown on the Kid’s face.  He sobered up immediately, “What?  What’d I do?”

“Couldn’t you have been a little more careful, Heyes?  Did you have to clean that fella out?”  The two partners walked up the sidewalk side by side, careful to keep an eye on the street behind them.

“He asked for it, Kid.  The man spent the whole evening pushing me.  Besides, he called your ma a crook.”

“So what, so do you.  Did you figure breaking his bank was going to back him off?”

“No, but I figured it’d cheer me up some.”  Heyes grinned at the Kid, holding up the hat filled with his winnings.

“Well, now I hate to admit it, but that cheers me up, too,” said Curry with a slow smile.


"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature." —Dave Barry
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PostSubject: Re: Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook...   Oct 2013 - Your mother was a crook... Icon_minitimeThu Oct 31, 2013 9:48 pm

Your Mother’s a Crook

“Han, wait up!”

The dark-haired lad slowed his pace a tad.



“Wait for me!”

“Hurry up!”

“Will ya hold up ‘til I catch up?!”

Hannibal Heyes stopped in his tracks. Turning, he watched as his younger cousin drew alongside.

“Why couldn’t ya wait?”

“I did. Come on. Time’s a-wasting.” The older boy started forward again.

Jed Curry stood his ground, trying to catch his breath. “Han. Wait.”

Another stop, and turn. “What now, Jed? We gotta get going or we’ll be late.”

Jed sighed. “I know. But do we have to run all the way? I can’t keep up with ya.”

“I’m not running, just walking fast.” Han smirked. “I guess I can slow down a bit. Maybe it won’t matter.”

“What’s your all-fire hurry anyway? Mrs. Traeger told ma the party started at two o’clock, and we left in plenty o’ time to get there, even if we hadda dress up.” He pulled at the bow at his neck. “I hate wearin’ this.”

Han’s expression softened. “I do, too. But a party’s a party, and this one called for Sunday best.”

“Still doesn’t say why you’re in such a hurry to get there. If we’re too early, we’ll have to sit around in the parlor with Mary Jane and Sally, mindin’ our manners and bein’ real polite.”

“Jed, what’s wrong with being polite? Better’n the tanning we get when we’re not.”

The blond youngster rubbed his behind. “I know. The one I got yesterday still smarts a little.”

Han laughed. “That’s why you don’t want to have to sit too long with the girls.”

Jed looked up. “No, it doesn’t hurt that bad. Just don’t see why we have to run there, is all.”

“I wasn’t running. You’re just not keeping up.” Han reached out to Jed. “Your tie’s crooked.”

Jed wriggled away. “You’re not my ma, Han. My tie’s fine.”

“All right. We’ll wait ‘til we get there to re-tie them.” Han gave Jed a cursory looking over. “Okay, you got your breath back. Let’s go.” He turned, his pace picking up quickly.

“Han, can’t we just walk normal?”

“No, I want to get there early.”

Jed ran a few more steps to catch up. “Early? You sweet on Mary Jane or Sally Traeger?”

Han stopped. “Jed, how can you even think that? You know I don’t like girls.” His expression turned sheepish. “Well, except maybe Molly Tildon, but she likes to go fishing and climb trees.”

“Then why did you want to go to the party so bad? Because Molly’ll be there?”


“Then why?”

Han rolled his eyes. “Because.”

“Because why?”



“Let’s go.” Han picked up his pace.

Jed did his best to keep up. “It is because Molly’ll be there, isn’t it? But she’ll probably be wearin’ a dress, too. Can’t do much tree climbin’ in a dress.”

Han looked straight ahead. “We’re not gonna be doing any tree climbing today. It’s a party.”

“We shoulda brought a present.”

“I have a present, from both of us.”

“Where is it?”

“In my pocket.”

“What is it?”

“A handkerchief.”

“Let me see.”

Han stopped, fishing a small, brown-wrapped package from his coat pocket. “See? It’s just small. Ma made it and thought Mary Jane would like it. She said it could be from both of us.”

“Oh.” Jed seemed disappointed. “It’s probably all lacy and stuff.”

Han stuffed the package back in his coat. “It is.”

“So you’re in a hurry to give it to her so no one sees us givin’ her such a frilly present?”


“Then why?”

“Stop it, Jed.”

“Stop what?”

“Asking questions.”

“Okay. But slow down. I’m gettin’ out of breath again.”

“Okay.” Han slowed his pace.”


“You’re welcome.”

They walked in silence for a minute. The pace slowly quickened.

“Han, you’re doin’ it again.”

“Stop whining, Jed. You sound like a baby.”

Jed stopped, crossing his arms in disgust. “I’m not a baby. You’re so worried about my tie and all. I’ll be all dirty from runnin’ after ya by the time we get there.”

“All right. I’ll slow down.”

“Ya promise?”

“Yeah. I promise.”

Jed reasoned, “Mary Jane and Molly’ll be there whether we get there before everybody else or after. It don’t matter.”

“Yes, it does.”

“Why? You’re never in a hurry to see a girl.”

Han stopped. “If I tell ya, will ya keep it a secret?”

Blue eyes grew wide. “Yeah.”

“Cross your heart and hope to die?”

Jed made an “x” across his chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”

Han held out his pinky. “Pinky swear and spit?”

The younger boy crossed pinkies with his cousin. “Pinky swear and spit.”

They spit, watching the trajectory of the saliva bombs.

Jed laughed. “I beat ya!”

Han smiled. “That’s the first time.”

“No, it’s not.”


Jed looked at his cousin, expectantly. “So what’s the secret?”

Han looked around them. The road along which they trekked was empty save for the two of them. Nonetheless, the dark-haired boy moved closer and leaned down the few inches to Jed’s level. He whispered, “You promise not to tell.”

Jed lowered his voice. “Uh huh.”

Han peered in all directions again. “Well, I overheard Mrs. Traeger telling your ma …”


Han lowered his voice further. “She told your ma … Well, she told your ma …”

“Told her what?”

“There’s no easy way to say it …” He blurted it out, “Mary Jane Traeger’s mother is a crook!”

“Shh, Han, you’ll wake up the dead!”

Frowning dimples full of caution, Han looked around them. Still, no one was in sight. “I thought if we got there early, I could kinda … ya know … talk to Mrs. Traeger and all … and see if she would say anything more about it. A crook!”

Jed’s face lit up. “Han, I think ya heard wrong.”

Han paid him no mind. “You know, it’s gotta be a neat story …”

Jed’s tone grew more insistent. “Han, ya heard wrong.”

“No, I didn’t. I was waiting for you just outside the door the other day and she came by and was talking to your ma.”

“I know. She brought some mendin’ for ma to do.”

“I know your ma does mending.”

“Uh huh. And ma said how Ruthie was gonna be in that play at school.”

Han rolled his eyes. “I know that, but it has nothing to do with ...”

“Han, will ya listen to me? Yes, it does.”

The older lad’s brow furrowed. “How?”

“Ruthie’s playin’ Little Bo-Peep, and ma was sayin’ how she needed to get a costume for Ruthie …”

“She just needs to wear one of her dresses. That still don’t …”

“Listen. Mrs. Traeger said she had a crook Ruthie could hold.”


“Mrs. Traeger said she has an old crook, and ma could clean it up for Ruthie to use in the play. I’m supposed to bring it home from the party.”

“You mean a crook … like what the shepherds use? Your sister using Mrs. Traeger’s crook?”

“Yup. For Little Bo-Peep with her sheep.”

Mouth agape, Han looked at Jed. No words came.

“Han, we should get goin’ or we’ll be late.”

The dark-haired boy pulled the package from his pocket, shoving it into Jed’s hands. “Here.” He started to walk back from whence they had come.

“Han? Where ya goin’?”



“You know I hate girls!”

Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
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