Monday, February 6, 2012

Chapter 142 by Jenna Reid: Perchance

I am back in town finally, after having been gone since the twenty seventh of January. In all the confusion, and not realizing I'd be up there so long, I left my laptop behind and updating from the house I was staying in was a no go. Two keyboards up there, and the best of them omitted every other keystroke while typing. I literally updated the Ask Wash column by dictating into my phone using the Google Docs ap and then using the keyboard to correct all the errors.

Fun times. 

But anyways, the support you all have sent our way has been really awesome, and I thank you. It's been a sad, stressful time and  the kind words and thoughts you all have sent have really helped lighten the load. 

So I got back, got on here this morning, and found this beautiful story from Jenna Reid waiting for me. To help me out with the site this week. Well, my mouth just dropped open and I had to settle myself a bit before writing her back.

Because frankly, I wasn't sure I'd be able to clear my head enough to give you anything worthwhile this week. I was gonna do my level best, but I knew from the get go it was going to suck.

Well, this is far beyond worthwhile. I'm not even considering it a guest post. I'm considering it canon. So thanks to Jenna, we have an actual chapter this week. Jenna, thanks again for letting me lean on you a bit. You rock. 

Ask Wash! and the regular chapter postings will resume on schedule next week. 


Wash had settled himself in a chair tucked tight against the wall beside the window, all but invisible in the gloom. Moonshine flooded the station yard, casting weird, sharp shadows, turning the familiar landscape into something altogether foreign. The single square it painted in the room flowed off the edge of the table and onto the bunkhouse floor, angling away from the man sunk into darkness made all the blacker by contrast. From his position he could see the porch and the door, and he rested his carbine lightly across his knees as he kept watch.

With his friend on guard, Storm had been able to close his eyes and fall into an uneasy, fitful sleep.

“…got to call for the Doc, Holt, he’s burning up –” 

“I ain’t gettin’ the Doc outta his bed for some damn half-breed horse thief, an’ –“

“Horse thief?!  Goddamnit Holt, you know what he is!  Where’ll we be if he dies on us?”
“In a world with one less filthy red mongrel in it!”

Footsteps, hard-soled boots pounding across creaking boards, and then a door slamming…no…a gunshot…

…Storm cowered, bruised and trembling, on the hard-packed earth behind his Mother’s skirt, in the doorway of a small cabin.  In the yard his Father glared down the barrel of a musket at two strangers; men who radiated threat.  The right man’s hand twitched above his hip as the left one snarled and spat in the dust. 

         “You’ll get yours someday, Peltier, you and your mangy Crow whore and your snivelling halfbreed brat.  One day you won’t be here to stop us…” 

Storm didn’t understand; he didn’t understand, and his Mother stood on the threshold, impassive and unafraid, her skirts concealing the heavy pistol in her hand…

…his Mother’s hands caressed his face as she soothed his childish nightmares away with an old, old song.  Her low voice and the crackling of the fire swirled together with the smell of his Father’s pipe smoke into a sensation of warmth and safety…

…and in his bunk in Green River Storm settled deeper into sleep, his dreams flowing down a smoother course.

A fleeting impression of sparkling eyes and flame-red hair resolved into an endless field of stars overhead and a bonfire in front of him.  Surrounded by his Mother’s kin he lounged against a log, drifting pleasantly as the wind and an ancient man together spoke of days gone by…

“…but though the warrior thundered down upon her, his spear raised as though to strike, Red Shield did not flinch.  The man drew up his horse, his spear nearly to her breast, and still she had not so much as blinked.  The man laughed, impressed by her courage, as he kneed his horse past her pony to capture several of the Sioux horses before she or any of her companions could stop him.  As he and his war party sped away, whooping in victory, the man turned and waved to Red Shield.  Her fury at the Crow man softened into grudging admiration for his daring. 

When Red Shield and the rest returned to their village, many among her people spoke of her bravery and her beauty, and many of the young hunters desired her for a wife.  Despite her father’s urging she would have none of her suitors, and her father became impatient with her stubbornness.  He demanded that she tell him why she would not accept any of the fine Sioux warriors who had asked for her, and so she told him that the only man she desired was the laughing Crow. Her father shook his head and scolded her:  ‘You cannot have him, for he is only a nameless Crow thief!’  But there was one among the village who had been a captive of the Crow for many years, and she spoke: ‘He is not nameless; he is Running Wolf, and among the Crow he is accounted a great and clever warrior.’ 

Red Shield’s mind was firm; she would have this Running Wolf for her husband. Her father thought to prevent it, but saw that he could not, so he thought it better to aid her.  He gave her horses, and many gifts to take to the Crow, and sent with her the woman who had once been a captive.  Red Shield and the woman travelled for many days to the place where the Crow camped.  They secured their horses in a copse and Red Shield took great care to dress and paint herself as finely as she could.  Leaving the horses and the woman behind, she stole into the Crow camp and settled herself outside of Running Wolf’s tent.  When he came outside and saw her there, he recognized the woman who faced him down nightly in his dreams.  Even more greatly impressed by her bravery and daring in walking alone into an enemy camp, and impressed by her beauty as well, Running Wolf took Red Shield for his wife, and among the Sioux and the Crow there was peace…” 
…his reverie was broken by a small voice, and a small hand tugging at his.
“Papa, Papa, will you tell me a story, Papa? One about Coyote, please, Papa?”

He looked away from the bridle he was repairing to the small coppery child standing at his knee in the kitchen of a house he knew well.  The child’s glossy black curls tumbled wildly around a heart-shaped face, from out of which green, green eyes gazed up at him imploringly...

…Storm woke with a start and a gasp, disoriented by the blackness of the bunkhouse after the bright dream.

 “Lad?” Wash’s voice came quietly through the darkness, “what’s the trouble?” 

“Nothing.  Dreams.  Just dreams, Wash.”

Silence settled over them again but Storm lay wakeful, troubled by the fading fragments of dream, until the rising dawn spilled a rosy light through the window and his bunkmates began to stir.       


Amy Simeister said...

Very nice. I love the way Storm's dreams merge and all the power behind them all. The language of dreams is so very important to most Native people. And a dream where the past merges with an Elder who is teaching, than merges with a possible future... poor storm has little chance of escaping what the fates have in store for him. :)

Anonymous said...

I love this. I like Storm and I don't think we see inside his head enough! So I really loved this chapter, and how it went from one image to another.

And the story about the lovers was perfect!