Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chapter 71: I Am Weary, Let Me Rest

Lily had been worried about Saint all evening. He simply was not himself and had barely touched his food. She could tell he had forced himself to come along for supper, even though what he had really wanted to do was go into the bunkhouse and sleep.

So on the way back, it had been no surprise to her when he had abruptly ridden up to the back of the buckboard, deftly hitched Jersey to the rear post, and swung himself into the wagon bed without even halting the wagon. He had been fighting sleep in the saddle and had clearly had enough. He had leaned against the front wall of the wagon box, pulled his hat down over his face, and gone to sleep.

Fiona had been uncharacteristically quiet most of the evening, but when she returned from the jail, she had been utterly silent. Lily could tell she had been crying and didn’t need to ask why. They sat together on the wagon seat as Mr. Lynch held the reins beside them, riding in silence.

The rest of the gents had taken horses, and were scattered up and down the road back to the station in a loose caravan. Lily could hear their voices, catching bits soft conversation as they went, barely audible above the creaking of the wagon and the crunching of trampled vegetation under the iron-shod wheels.

Every now and again, the wagon would lurch over a gully or a rock, and Saint’s head would knock against the rough wood of the wagon box. Every time it happened, it made Lily cringe. She’d reached back and pulled him gently to the side a few times, but there he was again, fitfully banging his head as the wagon rocked. Why did we not take a coach? Both he and Jesse could have slept the whole way. She shook her head, annoyed. Men. Especially this one. So terrified someone might actually think they are human.

Fiona glanced back at Saint and gave Lily an unhappy look. Lily returned it and carefully swung her legs over the seatback, slipping back into the wagon box. She settled next to him, pulling his hat off and leaning him toward her. He stirred, startled, as she eased his head into her lap, awkward and groggy, and mumbling an unintelligible protest.

“Shhh. Lie down.” She whispered. sweeping his hair from his brow. Let someone take care of you for once.

He didn’t open his eyes, but he visibly relaxed, sighing softly as he succumbed to his exhaustion.

She pulled his coat closed against the chill, not knowing what to do with her hands for a clumsy moment before she settled one lightly on his shoulder. The light from the waxing crescent moon was faint, and she could barely see him. I feel like it’s my fault you’re in such rough shape. I’ m sorry.

She thought about how close to dying the both of them had come. In fact, she’d barely thought of anything else since it had happened. How she’d woken up in the burning kitchen, and how he had nearly collapsed in the smoke when he’d gotten her out. She closed her eyes, steadying herself, finding comfort in the rise and fall of his breathing beneath her hand. I’ve been wrong about you, Mr. Saint. I reckon everyone has.

She felt with startling clarity why Fiona was half crazy with desperation. Friend or lover or whatever he was, Storm was her rock. Her safe place. She understood all too well now. She looked down at Saint’s dim, moon-shadowed face and wondered how on earth she had managed before that day he had barged into the kitchen like a surly, marauding coyote.

How many hundreds of years ago had that been?

He shifted in his sleep, frowning, and she instinctively stroked his hair, soothing him, surprised at her boldness. We’ve just pulled each other out of a fire. She chastised herself. We got him through a bad breathing spell. He kissed me. On the lips. He can drop the tough act for a while and let someone else stay awake and keep watch. Just this once. If I’m improper here, we still are not even close to being even in that regard.

The softness of his hair against the back of her hand startled her, made her chest ache with wistful longing. His forehead was pale beneath the tousled strands and she had the sudden urge to kiss him there. She stopped herself. If it were Jesse...or anyone else, for that matter...I would have done it already and not even hesitated.

Be honest with yourself, girl. He's not anyone else. And that's why you can't. Because with him, it would matter.

She thought of the rouge she’d rubbed from his lip and found on his collar while she was laundering his shirt, and how irrational jealousy had nearly overwhelmed her. She desperately hoped that it was from some woman he was on the verge of marrying. It would be so much easier for her to stop thinking of him....well...that way....if it turned out that he had a sweetheart.

I hope you make him happy, Miss. Whoever you are. Mr. Saint’s a good man.




© 2010 Regina Shelley

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Write Chapter 11 Contest!

It has come to my attention that I am not very good at numbering my chapters. In fact, I suck at it.

So much so that I am sure most of you know by now that there is no Chapter 11.

A friend suggested I write the scene where Luis booby traps the crapper over at the Yarl's place, but I think we've come up with something a little less predictable: have one of you talented and creative readers write it. And it does not have to be the story of Luis and the outhouse.

I am currently in the process of putting together a Cafe Press storefront. As of now, the prize will be a choice of items from the merchandise collection. I am at the moment limited in what I can put up there for sale, but I am NOT so limited in what I can create on the fly and just order myself. (they only let you make one of each item, otherwise there would be a mug with each character on it, for instance.) So if you would like an item with a picture you don't see available, contact me and I can probably make you up a custom piece.

Guidlines

1. It does not have to be the scene with the outhouse unless you want it to be. It can be anything taking place before or during chapter twelve.

2. It does not have to be any of the established characters here, but it can be.

3. It must take place at any location between Salt Lake House and Three Crossings (Green River Station being between those).

4. It can be Alternate Universe, if you like, or not. Be as creative as you like.

5. Please keep it "PG 13" enough that I can post it on this site without an adult content warning. I have no problem with adult content stories, or even adult fanfic about my characters, but I do not wish to have to go to a mature content label for this site. So keep that in mind if you want to see it posted here.

6. It should only be one chapter long (it is, after all, the lost Chapter 11.). However, there is no rule on how long or short that chapter has to be.

The winner will be reader's choice. I will put up a poll, post the stories here, and we can all vote.

I have decided to let it run until September 14. I may be talked into extending it, but no promises. This is to accomodate the various vacations we all seem to take over the late summer season.

Have fun and good luck!

Send submissions to paintedwheel(at)hotmail.com

Monday, June 21, 2010

Coffee Grinder

 This old coffee grinder has been sitting around my mom's house for literally my entire life. I ain't gonna say how long that is, but suffice it to say, long enough. I have no idea how old it is, but after a small amount of research, I think it is safe to say it was probably made sometime during the 1800's, and may even predate that.








It worked pretty much like the ones nowdays do, only instead of pushing a button and activating a motor driven steel blade, you just turned a crank. Ironically, I do not remember ever actually seeing this one in action. Probably should have demonstrated it, but the top is coming loose and I don't want to damage it further.

You just put the beans into the that little bowl on top, turn the crank, and the ground coffee sifts down into the drawer below. The drawer comes completely out, allowing Wash to dump the grounds directly into the coffee pot instead of into the percolator basket, where they belong.

I actually did clean it up a bit, that white haze is not dust. I think the wax finish is so old it now looks white and chalky. Probably need to hit it with a little lemon oil.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chapter 70: While Rome Burns

"I brought you something to eat." Fiona handed the bowl of stew through the bars. "We went to Abigail's for supper. I know Uncle Erastus told you what happened to the kitchen."

"Thanks." Storm inhaled and smiled faintly. "Smells wonderful. Miss Abigail makes a good beef stew." He turned and set the bowl carefully on the bunk behind him. "He told me there was a lot of smoke damage and some of the stuff inside was lost."

Fiona nodded, repressing her terror and outrage and panic. Here they were on what well may turn out to be one of the last times they ever saw each other, and they were reduced to small talk about stew and damaged kitchens. She forced her face into the best semblance of calm and pleasantness she could muster. "Yes. They got the fire out before the roof caught...there was a lot of smoke. Saint got it the worst." She wanted to tell him about Lily's attacker, how someone had made threats on both she and Jesse, but with Yarl in the room, knew she couldn't.

"How do you feel?" She asked lamely, for want of anything better to say.

"I feel better." He said, a serious frown crossing his face. He leaned close in to the bars, keeping his voice low. "Fiona, listen, you have to do some things for me..."

Oh, not this. I can't do this, Storm. His black eyes cut into her like obsidian points, and she almost thought he could see straight into her soul. She recoiled, afraid. Unwilling to show him her desperation. "Storm." She whispered. "Don't..."

"If they...if things go badly...please don't be there..."

"What are you asking me, Storm?" She snapped, more loudly than she meant to. Her heart felt like it was going to explode, pounding loudly inside her ribcage. "Stop. I don't want to talk about...."

"We have to talk about it, Fiona." he said calmly.

She squeezed her eyes shut so she didn't have to look at him. Didn't have to see the face that had always given her so much comfort look so helpless and lost and shadowed with iron crossbars.

His brown hands were white knuckled as they gripped the bars of the cell. She wanted to close her fingers over them and not let go. And then that...that pig... Yarl will blurt out in front of the whole town that the so-called savage had the audacity to touch a white woman and they'll find him guilty just to be rid of him.

"If will be easier for me if I know you aren't there. Promise me."

Her eyes were burning. She stared at the bars and nodded, honestly not knowing whether she was lying to him or not. Her legs were shaking.

She cleared her throat. "And how are you today, Mr. Yarl?" She said, not turning around.

There was an uncertain pause. "Ma'am." Yarl said uncertainly behind her.

She forced a false but convincing steadiness into her voice. "Hope you've thought about what you and I talked about."

Yarl actually sounded shaky, unnerved. "Yes'm."

The son of a bitch is afraid of me. The thought filled her with a perverse, sadistic pleasure. He has reason to be.

Storm's face had gone flat and frightening, and he made a subtle gesture to her, one that she knew meant murder and mayhem, mouthing "If I get out of here...”

"No." She spat.

"If by some miracle I don't..."

"No!" She reached through and grabbed his shirtfront, jerking him hard against the bars. He yelped in surprise and pain as she got so close she could feel his breath against her face. "If by some miracle you walk away from this..." she hissed, her voice a dangerous, desperate whisper. "It ends. It ends, Mr. Peltier." I've sold my right to call myself a decent person. I'm willing to lie with my hand on a Bible. You aren't going to waste that.

His face was inches from hers, and she could feel the heat radiating off his body as he pressed against her through the bars. He opened his mouth and she cut him off, reading the thought on his face before he voiced it. He assaulted you, he was thinking. I'm going to kill him.

"You let me handle that. I'd say you have plenty of your own problems to deal with." She cut him off again. "No, Storm."

His forehead fell forward onto a crossbar and he gave a frustrated sigh.

She let her eyes rove over the details of his face, drinking him in, memorizing him. The slight almond shape of his eyes, the sensuous pout of his lips. The heady, comforting scent of him. She wanted to see him smile or laugh once more, wanted him to have a reason to. The idea that he may never again was more than she could bear.

She released the front of his shirt while she was still able to will her hands to do so. He stayed pressed against the bars, silently staring back at her.

“I have to go.” She whispered abruptly, turning from him and stalking towards the door, closing it hard behind her.

She was panicking, her breath coming in harsh gusts. She fell back against the shut door behind her and slid down to sit on the floor of the porch, her face in her hands.




© 2010 Regina Shelley

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chapter 69:Supper at Abigail's

The last thing Saint had wanted to do tonight was go into town. He was tired, and he hurt. His chest ached dully with every breath. He glanced across the table at Jesse, who was slouched against the Little Miss, staring at the tabletop in front of him with glazed eyes.

Saint felt genuinely sorry for him. He had ridden in not long before they had all planned to leave, and had argued desperately that he just wanted to lie down and get some rest. He'd actually begged. But both Miss Lily and The Old Man had insisted that he come along. After that business in the kitchen, Saint had to grudgingly agree with them. There was no way they were leaving Jesse, exhausted and heavily asleep, alone in the bunkhouse. Not after what had happened to Lily. And there was also no way they were going without any supper. So here they all were.

Saint liked eating at Abigail's. He regretted that he really wasn't able to really enjoy it tonight.

A sturdy, handsome woman with upswept blonde hair swirled out of the kitchen, smiling and clearly glad to see them all. Saint smiled back, nodding at her as she stopped beside Lynch's chair. He knew Abigail Klaus to be a strong, intelligent woman who didn't care what anyone else thought. She particularly didn't care what the gossipy hen party that comprised the respectable women in town thought, and that had made Saint regard her with immediate respect.

"I see you brought your whole crew out to see us, Erastus." She greeted them, her German roots evident in her crisp accent. Her blue eyes darted approvingly around the table at all of them. "We heard what happened. So glad no one was badly hurt."

"We were lucky, Miss Abigail." Lynch said, his voice still raspy from smoke. "Figured your kitchen still worked."

"Ja. Always." She reached over and gave Hungerford's arm a playful pinch. "Stew for our rakish adventurer, yes?"

"You know that's my favorite, Abby." Hungerford favored her with a smile.

"I do."

"How about stew all around and just keep it coming." Lynch said, gesturing around the table. "Boys? Good."

"Ja...and an extra bowl for you to take to Lights the Storm when you go." She turned and swept back into the kitchen. "And fresh black bread for you, Luis..." she called over her shoulder, winking at the blushing young girl sitting across the dining room.

Heh. Look at Luis. A faint smile tugged at the corner of Saint's mouth and he leaned his elbows on the table, stretching the weary ache out of his ribcage.

"Alright, boys." Lynch leaned forward in likewise fashion. "Listen up, there's a lot going on. About the kitchen accident...I think we all know that wasn't an accident." He kept his voice low, forcing them all to lean in conspiratorially. "Miss McMillian says her attacker threatened Jesse as well."

The look on Jesse's face had soured from blank exhaustion to simmering anger. He had been filled in on all the events that had occurred while he was gone, but bringing the details back into his immediate attention did little to improve his mood.

"So..." Tommy piped up. "Probably not any of the Yarls or their cronies, then. Which I guess is a good thing. Or a bad thing. Or...well..." he paused, cocking his head. "Huh. Now we have two problems."

"I can't help but think it has to do with this deed our Uncle left." Lily said, looking guilty and fretful. "First, that horrible lawyer, now this."

"'Fraid you're probably right, Miss Lil."said Hungerford. He turned to Jesse. "Look here, mate, you didn't have any trouble on the way back, did you?"

Jesse's eyes popped open and he glanced at Lily, a trapped look on his face. The table erupted into disbelieving and aggravated protestations and mild insults.

"Jesse Joe Hansen!" Lily whirled on her cringing brother, a look of panic growing on her face. "Why didn't you...?"

"T'undering Jaysus, lad." Wash was rubbing his brow and grimacing. "It didna occur to ye to maybe tell us about this?"

"It was nothing! I'm here, ain't I? I was gonna tell Mr. Lynch before I laid down to sleep, but then got caught up in all the mess and just...well...didn't."

Lynch exhaled a deep, long-suffering breath, and folded his gnarled hands on the table in front of him. "What happened?"

"Not much. Couple spooky lookin' men on the road. Got a bad feelin' about it and outran 'em."

"They chase ya?" Saint glanced at Lily, his brow furrowed.

"Well..." Jesse nodded slowly. "Yeah. Figured bushwhackers or some such. Didn't think much was odd about it."

Merda. That might have been nothing, but it also might have been a failed dry-gulching. "Jesse, that coulda been someone making an attempt on ya."

Jesse sighed heavily, nodding.

The kitchen door opened again and Abigail came out pushing a cart with a huge stewpot and a stack of bowls. "Alright, gents...and ladies." She gave Lily an appraising look, raising an eyebrow and smiling. "Soup's on." She started ladling out bowls and passing them around, starting with the girls. "Luis, schnucki, send the bread around for me, please."

Wha...what the hell...? Saint saw Abigail give Hungerford A Look. I know that look. That look says 'I can see why you like her.' He narrowed his eyes. Ma che stronzo...

Luis jumped up and grabbed the dark loaves off the cart, passing them around the table. "I don' wanna share them, Miss Klaus." He said, only half joking. "Nobody makes bread like this."

"Thank you, Abigail." Lynch turned his attention briefly to his host before turning back to his crew. "And I talked to our lawyer today. He's here. Trial will be in a day or two."

Jesse appeared to be making an effort to stay awake and pay attention. He sat up straighter and Saint caught his gaze.

He's thinking the same thing I'm thinking. We might have to get into a huge amount of bad trouble before this is over. Like 'face on a poster' kind of trouble.

He glanced over at Fiona, who had gone rigid and brittle, her hands in white knuckled knots as they worried the corner of her napkin. Her face was pinched and frightened as she looked helplessly at him. There ain't gonna be a hangin' here, England. Might be a shootin' and a brawl and maybe a posse gettin' put together, but you ain't got to worry about a hangin'...He gave her a grim, significant nod. "Gonna be alright, England" he said softly.




© 2010 Regina Shelley

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chapter 68:Party of Nine

Rosie Burgess wondered at her luck. She knew beyond a shadow of doubt that she would be the envy of the girls in school tomorrow, and could not help wonder what she had done that the universe would reward her in this fashion. And tomorrow, when her schoolmates would be hanging on her every word in the morning, she intended to have plenty to tell them.

Of all the nights her father could have decided to take supper in town with her, the idea that he might have done so on the exact same night that the Pony Express mail crew from the nearby station house was doing the same was nigh unbelievable.

Unbelievable as it may have been, there they were, jostling around the dining room of Abigail's, shoving tables together and throwing their coats and hats onto the backs of the chairs. She didn't know all their names, but she knew most of their faces. Most everyone did. She'd seen them around town, and a few of them had even nodded and doffed their hats to her as they passed, making her heart flutter and bringing a warm blush to her face. She would not be able to sleep tonight. She just knew it. Already she wanted it to be first thing tomorrow at school.

And there was Jesse Hansen, who was much older than she was, tall and golden and so handsome that she had to force herself not to stare. I wonder how long his ears burn from him being talked about when he's spotted in town by the girls. He had smiled and tipped his hat once on the street and she'd been unable to think of anything else the whole rest of the day. And half her schoolmates didn't even believe her when she had told them about it later.

And Tommy Page, younger and closer to her age, who had actually spoken to her in the mercantile once about a book. The redhaired Irish coach driver was there with his arm in a sling, as well as the dark, handsome driver she saw frequently in town. Barry, or some such thing was his name. They said he was Eye-talian. Both of them had been locked up in Sheriff Holt's jail a few times for brawling.

What if a fight breaks out? Her mouth dropped open slightly with the thought. It could happen, Lynch's boys are rounders and troublemakers, so everyone says.

It suddenly felt more than slightly dangerous in the room. Her heart had started to pound.

She glanced at her father, eating a second bowl of stew and fussing distracted over a ledger, and wondered if he knew she was going to burst at any moment. She stared at her own bowl, suddenly unable to eat, her eyes sneaking back over to the tables Lynch's crew had gathered around. Miss Lewis-Smythe, the stationkeeper's daughter or niece or whatever she was, looked as beautiful as she always did, despite the weary slump of her shoulders and the bruise on her face. In fact, they all looked pretty unhappy, and Jesse Hansen looked positively exhausted. Rosie wondered if it was the impending trial that had them all looking so grim. Everyone in town knew that one of Lynch's crew, the Indian fellow, was going to trial for attempted murder. And that one of the Yarls was also going to trial for assaulting Miss Lewis-Smythe. Is that mark on her face where he hit her?

She had no problem believing the Yarl boy was guilty. Everyone knew about how much those boys like to fight. They were bullies. There had been big news at school that they'd killed one of the riders, but that had turned out to have been a false rumor. And as for Mr. Lynch's halfbreed rider...well...Rosie really did not want to believe he was guilty of anything like attempted murder. So she opted not to.

She wondered who the lady with the spectacles was, and she didn't recognize the man with the frizzy brown hair. They say there's a foreigner minding the horses at the mail station. That's probably him. The Mexican boy she was pretty sure she had seen around, although he'd never spoken to her.

She saw Tommy quickly jab his elbow into the boy's side. The boy's eyes snapped up, startled, and his gaze connected with hers. Heat flooded her face, and she quickly cut her eyes back to her stew. She knew her ears were probably turning red as well. He'd caught her looking, there was no denying it. And there was no doubt that Tommy had seen her eyeing them even before that. She peripherally saw Tommy's lips move, saw the Hispanic boy cut his eyes quickly back to the table at whatever Tommy had said to him. His lips curled in a faint smile and he stole another clumsy glance.

They're talking about me. I can't stand it. Her heart was thudding out of her chest. How her father didn't hear it's wild beating was anyone's guess. How they can't hear it is anyone's guess.

Her father finally glanced up at the flurry of activity, hearing chairs scraping and voices, and scowled at the crew seating themselves at the other table. He gave her what she supposed he thought was a commiserating glance, shook his head in annoyance, and went back to his ledger.

"What?" She said, pushing her stew around in her bowl, feigning ignorance. She knew 'what'.

"I can do without the noise." He said, without looking up. "Abigail Klaus is lucky the only other place to get supper in town is the saloon. She lets anyone in here."




© 2010 Regina Shelley

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Do you get irritated when your iron drips water on your shirt?

These state-of-the-art babies most certainly do not drip water on your shirt. That's the good news.

No cord to get tangled up in, either. These suckers are cordless irons. More good news.

You just stick them in the fireplace, heat them up, and away you go. Oh, yeah, watch out for the soot smears.

That's the bad news. Especially when you consider what you have to go through to get the shirt clean in the first place.

If you look closely (the close ups didn't come out so hot) at the little numbers molded into the tops of these things (Yeah. Molded. These are made of solid iron. Forget low heat for your flimsies), the upright one says "five" and the one lying on it's face says "seven". That's how much they weigh in pounds.

So how would you like to stick a seven pound chunk of solid iron into the fireplace or on your stove, then have to take it out with a potholder and then use said potholder to hold onto it so you could iron your shirt with it? Lather, rinse, repeat. Ad nauseum.

Weaker sex my entire ass.

I'll tell you how much I would like it: there would be some boys in Green River that looked like they slept in their clothes.