Thursday, January 31, 2008

Weekend at the Old Homestead

I'll be heading to the Old Homestead tomorrow afternoon, taking the weekend off. (Nominally off, I still have homework to do. I'll spend a good chunk of my weekend on the laptop revising the paper I posted, since today Traci ruled out internal monologue.)

I've got someone taking care of Monkey, and I've got someone covering my feed crew. I just have to make it through feed crew tomorrow morning and class, without killing anyone, and then I can breathe easy for a couple of days.

In other news, we played tag in class today, and Monkey was getting off on herding the other horses into corners when I was it. He wasn't really sure why we weren't pushing the other horses around when I wasn't it, but he really enjoyed working the others on the fence when I was.

He did give me some really nice turns, nicer than he usually does in the arena, and once he figured out what we were doing he pushed right up on the horses I pointed him at to trap them on the fence. I did wind up being it a few times because he broke out of the trot... once was my fault, I was trying to push for a longer trot and he was all "well if you want to go faster, lets just jump ahead." The other times were pretty much he didn't like the other horse crawling up his butt.

In other news, Etta is being ridden. She's really stiff to the right and E is getting a little frustrated, but she hasn't offered to buck once, even when the other horses are going nuts. I'm proud of her for that fact alone, and we'll see if she figures out not to pull to the outside over time. She should make a nice settled horse, and if nothing else she can be my project next semester.

More other news, one of the girls is going home, due to an injury from her own damned stupidity, so there's a spare horse. Since Sparky has the world's most stubborn pony right now, Marilyn has given him the choice of which horse he wants. He's going to consider it and let me know. He wanted me to make the decision for him, but it's his choice. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Death is Coming...

Started my first feed crew of the semester tonight. To start with we've got fewer people than we did last semester, all of the sophomores being off doing their internships, which means more work for the rest of us.

Then I walked into the block barn (my assigned area for today) only to find that someone (someone meaning two of the HTM program kids) had left us a present. Two manure carts brimming with shit and shavings, left in the aisle, plus a pile of crap that no one had bothered to pick up, as per the rules of the barn. The rules are, if it comes out of your horse, you clean it up. Seriously, how freaking hard is it to roll the damn cart out to the pit and dump it, then roll it back. It's not like you have to carry the horseshit forkful by forkful out the doors and to the pile. They were even the two-wheel carts and not the wheel barrows!

On top of that, it appears that no one on the last feed crew was capable of remembering the proper use of a broom in the south end of the block barn for at least the last three days. I swept up a half a cart full of shavings that were coating the aisle.

Let me put it this way... we got all of the hay fed in about fifteen minutes. After that, I grabbed a broom and started sweeping on the south end. I was the last one done, and everyone else completed the watering, inside and out, sweeping the other end of the barn, the other barn, and the hitch rails outside before I got one end of the block barn swept.

I'm ready to stab people. I don't even want to shoot them because while the sensation of the little explosion is a satisfying one at this moment I want the visceral pleasure of feeling the knife slide in, and the sucking feeling as it is twisted before I pull it out.*

Meanwhile, I've got myself a mixed drink, I have no idea what I'm going to do for dinner but I need to eat something, and I'm exhausted with a sore back from shoving thirty pounds of filth around with a crappy broom. (Do you have any idea how much loose sawdust it takes to make thirty pounds?!?)

I'm going to bed early tonight, and laying on my back for a half an hour with the electric blanket turned up.

*Disclaimer for paranoid, uptight people with no sense of proportion: No, I'm not going to really stab someone. Hay bales, maybe. But I'm not going to stab a real person. I'm just pissed off and it's an extremely satisfactory mental image. No cops need to be called. Really.

Good things....

Do come to those who wait, as AD says. In honor of the bribery that he attempted on me (the failure of which wasn't his fault, really) I give you, Jane, Chapter Two:

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Jane walked into the restaurant a little late. She’d called her father before she left for the meeting, to get a refresher course on dealing with werewolves. Especially alpha werewolves.

“Babygirl, I don’t know if you’re crazy or stupid. How did you get wound up with Joseph?” Her father’s voice had been exasperated, and had held that daddy tone as well. Like she’d accepted a date from the man instead of a simple meeting on neutral territory to talk. About an unknown subject. When the pack leader had sounded like he was ready to draw blood. Okay, it wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done.

“Daddy, he called me and said he needed my help with something. The rest of the supes know what I’m capable of, you made sure of that when you had me help you track down that rabid dog four years ago. The one that had quit attacking cattle and started in on people, remember? So I assume it’s something that I can help him with.” Jane sighed. Her father walked a very thin line between letting her live her own life and being protective enough to satisfy his own fatherly urges.

“I know, Babygirl, I’m sorry. I just don’t like the idea of you meeting with a werewolf without me there. Can you call him back and postpone until I can make it?”

“Sure!” Jane said sarcastically, “But you’d better bring the fifty cal and some silver if I do. He was pretty growly when he called. You know better than that, Daddy. He’s already stressed to the max to be growling on the phone with me.” Joseph was one of the rare alphas who prided himself on being able to retain his humanity in either shape, and he made sure his wolves were entirely human in public. It was one of the reasons Jane hadn’t refused the meeting outright. In Joseph’s pack, they weren’t discovered because they didn’t make mistakes, unlike others she’d heard about, where clever cover-ups kept their existence secret.

“I know, I know.” Her father sighed. “Well, you know the basics, which should get you through a public meeting. Joseph will accept quite a bit from you that he wouldn’t from me, because you haven’t been around them that much.”

“Plus he respects you a lot so that will give me some extra protection, I know.” Jane’s father was Elliot Marx, retired cop and well-trained empath. He wrote murder mysteries now, with a supernatural twist of course. The supe community allowed him to put the “weird” stuff in because he wrote in as much misinformation as true. The books were huge hits, in both the mundane and the supe worlds.

“Well, the only advice I can give you beyond what you already know is to take a shower first. You’ve just come from the barn and you smell like horse, which is a prey animal. If he’s stressed out, it might be enough to push him further than I’m comfortable with. Even if he’s entirely in control, it would be polite to wash off the manure smell before dining with someone with a sensitive nose.”

“I don’t have time, Daddy, but I’ll wash as much of it as I can off with a washcloth.” Jane cursed the swamp in Speck’s stall that had made her run later than she’d planned.

“Well, that’s better than nothing. Be careful, Babygirl. And try not to push his buttons today.”

“I am not stupid enough to push buttons on a stressed out werewolf, Daddy. Not anymore, anyway.” Jane flushed red. Several years ago her father had been required to take her to a conclave, a meeting of the various types of extraordinary people in the area. He forgot that the wolves would be there, and hadn’t given her etiquette lessons before hand. As a result she’d unwittingly insulted several wolves and had to be rescued by the pack leader’s second.

“Good luck, Babygirl.”

“Thanks, Daddy.”

So, Jane was a little late, having scrubbed down at the sink in her apartment and run water through her hair. She looked around the restaurant, searching for Joseph. This wasn’t a place she regularly frequented, although she’d eaten here before. It was truly neutral territory, which was the reason she’d chosen it. It certainly hadn’t been for the d├ęcor, which was a cross between southwestern and a fifties diner. Not the best combination she’d ever seen.

The food was mediocre, but there was no helping that. All the best restaurants in the area were frequented by pack members. Werewolves had high metabolisms, and were fairly picky about their food. At least in their two legged forms.

Jane finally spotted Joseph, in a booth near the back. He’d taken the side facing the entrance, and her back prickled as she thought about sitting with her back to the door. One of the benefits, if you could call it that, of having an ex-cop for a father was that she’d been steeped in what he called “situational awareness” since she was knee high to a grasshopper. Her twenty first birthday present had been the fee for her concealed weapons permit.

Jane considered for a moment asking Joseph to switch sides, or simply sitting beside him. Unfortunately, asking him to move probably wouldn’t get her anywhere, and sitting beside him- while it might facilitate a private conversation- would put off entirely the wrong impression.

Sighing, Jane crossed the room and sat across from the alpha werewolf.

Joseph’s nostrils flared, and Jane knew he was scenting her nerves, and probably the horses she’d been around in class. He didn’t smile.

“Sorry I’m late, Specks made a swamp out of his stall and I had to strip it. It took me a little longer than I expected.” Politeness was always a good idea, and apologizing for being late didn’t put her back in the dominance category. Their server appeared and took Jane’s drink order, and Joseph waited for her to leave before answering.

“And you stopped by your apartment.” Joseph raised an eyebrow. Jane closed her eyes for a moment and let his voice wash over her. The man did have a nice voice. He could give Vin Deisel a run for his money on that front. Of course, he could give him a run for his money on everything else, too. The pack leader was an extremely handsome man, standing six feet and two hundred and twenty five pounds of pure muscle. His honey brown hair was a little longer than he normally wore it, hanging over his collar in the back and developing a bit of a wave. His eyes were a startling emerald green in his tanned face. Jane had never figured out exactly what kind of ethnic background Joseph had, but whatever it was it blessed him with a perfect tan no matter what time of year it was.

After a moment, Jane brought herself back to business. “Well, I figured it would be impolite to show up reeking of ammonia and manure.” She tucked her hair behind an ear and picked up her menu.

“Believe me, I appreciate it, but I was referring to the smell of gun oil.” Joseph had dropped the eyebrow and now stared at her intently.

Crap, he thinks I brought the gun because of him. Jane raised her eyes and returned his stare.

“You know my father. Do you really think I’d leave the house unarmed in days like these?” Joseph sucked in a shocked and insulted breath, but before he could explode Jane blew out an exasperated sound and snagged a newspaper off the next table. She shoved it under his nose. “The rapes, Joseph. College students. All across the state. One here.” She spoke curtly, punctuating her words by shaking the paper under his nose, frustrated beyond all sense of manners.

Jane watched as understanding registered in Joseph’s eyes, and he reined himself in. She sighed, thinking about the serial rapist that had been hopping his way around the state, hitting college campuses. The rapes weren’t all on campus, but every one of the victims was a college student. The poor girl who’d been attacked from the Lamar Community campus had had to spend a week in the hospital.

“Really, Joseph, it’s not all about you all the time.” Jane couldn’t resist poking the big man a little bit. She smiled at him to make the needling into a joke, hoping that it would relax him a bit. No dice, he just stared at her.

“I apologize for jumping to conclusions. I’m a little,” he paused, “preoccupied, lately, and I haven’t been able to follow the news closely.”

Jane gulped. If he hadn’t been able to follow the news, he must have been busy indeed.

“No harm done. I don’t really expect to run into that guy, but I’m not taking any chances.” Jane leaned back in the booth and looked at the menu again.

“I’m surprised you’re worried at all, with your protections.” Joseph wasn’t referring to her Firestar, the small nine millimeter pistol she carried concealed in the small of her back. Elliot Marx was a highly respected man in the area, and many of the local supes owed him favors from his law enforcement career. Plus, Jane’s dual talents, talking to animals and strong empathy both, made her something of a curiosity to the supes, so she’d met many of them at a young age. Apparently she’d been cute, since she’d gained “aunts” and “uncles” by the score. Her parents said that it was because she hadn’t learned sarcasm until puberty.

“I’m sure anyone familiar with the community here would hesitate, but I don’t think this guy is our kind.”

“Oh?” Joseph was good at getting information out of people, but in this case he didn’t need to use any tactics. Jane wanted the pack leader to be aware of the situation. Sometimes bad men in the world just disappeared, and no one in the mundane world knew why. Or how. Jane was sort of glad of that second part.

“There’s no sign that he’s got anything more than a serious mental problem. I checked out the site of the one here and I didn’t get any flavor of supe in the echoes.” Jane shuddered at the memory. Even days later, the remnants of the emotions at that place had been enough to make her vomit behind a Dumpster. She had deliberately allowed the “echoes” to fade for nearly a week before she went there, and she hadn’t expected them to be so strong. She’d foolishly dropped her shields completely, thinking she’d have to read deeply. She wouldn’t make that mistake again. Even the memory was enough to test her control, but she clamped down and kept her emotions in check.

“Ah. The pack will be aware.” Joseph finally looked down at the menu, dismissing the matter from his mind. Jane bristled a bit at his dismissal.

Joseph.” Her voice was hard, insistent.

“Yes?” He glanced up and raised a questioning eyebrow.

“The girl, the one here. I went to see her.” Joseph still looked at her blandly.

“I couldn’t get past the lobby. She’s so emotionally damaged that she’s projecting hard enough to bring me to my knees through full shields.” Finally a reaction, Joseph’s eyebrows shot up and his emerald gaze was suddenly piercing again.

“And he’s not…” Joseph waved a hand between them. Jane almost laughed at the pack leader, the highest ranking werewolf in the area, lumping her in a group with himself.

“I don’t think so. But if the other girls are like the one here, he’s a hell of a manipulator. This goes beyond just physical violation; he broke that poor girl’s mind. She’ll never be the same.” A little tingle of apprehension ran up Jane’s spine. She couldn’t imagine going through something like that. Elliot had taught his only daughter a lot about protecting herself, but Jane knew that things didn’t always work the way you planned them.

Joseph’s eyes narrowed. His nostrils flared, and he looked like he wanted to call a hunt right then and there. That wasn’t what Jane had intended, she’d just wanted the pack to be watching for him to show up in their territory again. But, an alpha’s need to protect is strong, and Joseph had a certain sense of responsibility for all of the people, supes or not, in his territory. He routinely donated to local charities, and sometimes showed up at the homes of impoverished families with a deer that he had “just happened” to find on his land, killed by coyotes of course, and discovered before the meat could spoil.

“I will check the place myself and see if I can get a scent.” His voice was low, not quite a growl but close, and the anger radiating off of the alpha was enough to make Jane suck in a breath and check her shields. Joseph’s anger washed across her skin, pinpricks of rage biting at her.

“Um. Ok.” Jane cleared her throat. “I’d appreciate that.”

Joseph finally seemed to notice her discomfort, and visibly pulled himself together. “My apologies, again. Apparently I’m not up to my usual standard of control.”

“I noticed,” Jane commented breathlessly. “I’ll be all right in a second.” A couple deep breaths later and the angry ants marching down her arms had stopped. She nodded to Joseph, who had waited politely until she was calmed to continue. Jane suspected he’d used that time to calm himself, as well.

“I seem to be spending a lot of time apologizing to you today,” he said in a wry tone. “Let’s order, and then I’ll tell you why I asked you to meet me.” Joseph laid his menu down and caught the eye of a server. It was easy for him, with his innate dominance every person in a room kept a weather eye on him, even the normals. It wasn’t fear, but an instinctual response to being in the same space as a personality that dominant. Men like Joseph could sit at the head of a boardroom table, or at a corner table in a bar and still get that same attention.

Once their orders were placed they talked of commonplace things until their food was delivered. Jane sipped at her coffee and answered politely when Joseph inquired after her studies, and asked him in return how his business was going. Joseph owned a hunting ranch. His employees raised pheasants in pens, and then released them into an area of Joseph’s property for the city people who just had to bag a bird to hunt. Joseph, of course, had nothing to do with the day to day operations. Jane had heard that the last time he’d decided to inspect the pens, a quarter of the birds had literally been scared to death.

Finally, their food arrived, and Joseph cleared his throat. “I don’t know how much you actually know about wolves,” He looked at Jane inquiringly. He kept his voice low to keep it from carrying over the hum of conversations at other tables, and Jane did the same.

“Enough now not to go around insulting pack members at conclaves.” Jane grinned. Joseph had been the second that had rescued her all those years ago. He hadn’t been that much older than she was, but he’d had an alpha personality even then. When the old pack leader had died two years ago- in a wreck, of all things- there hadn’t even been a fight to settle who the new leader was. Joseph had simply stepped into the position and taken over. The rest of the pack accepted him because he’d proven himself as the old leader’s second, and because none of the grumblers were alpha enough to gainsay him.

Joseph smiled faintly in return, snorting a little. “Well I would hope so. More to the point, sometimes a person will lose control of their wolf, and do something that they wouldn’t if they were in control.”

Jane nodded. “That’s usually when someone gets turned accidentally, isn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s usually when we wind up with a new pack member.” Joseph sighed, “We had an incident last week.”

Jane thought for a moment, trying to remember anything that might qualify as a werewolf “incident.”

“Um, the lady in the canyons? That was one of yours? I didn’t think you guys normally ranged that far south. I figured it really was a cougar, like they said in the paper.” Jane knew she was babbling, but it bought her time to piece the story together and see if it fit. There had been a woman found near death in the canyons in the southern part of the county, after an exhaustive search when her trail horse had been found wandering and hysterical near the trailer.

"It was one of mine. She claims she lost control, but she’s one of the most controlled wolves I have.” Joseph rubbed his eyes with one hand, sighing. For the first time, Jane noticed the circles under his eyes, and wondered what in the world could run down the nearly inexhaustible pack leader.

“But,” Jane said, “If it was one of yours then…” She trailed off, thinking with horror of becoming a werewolf. She’d never be able to ride again. Horses went into a panic around the wolves, whether they were in their human shapes or not. Even the bravest, most steadfast of the hoof-kin had a deep rooted instinctual terror of weres. Jane started, realizing that all animals had that automatic fear. They’d never talk to her again. She shuddered. Talking to animals had been an integral part of her life for as long as she could remember. She had even had a horse babysitter. She couldn’t imagine life without being able to talk to her friends.

“The woman died this morning.” Joseph’s words held something of relief in them along with the regret. Well, Jane could understand that, sort of. If the woman had lived, he would have had a major cover up to do, along with a new wolf to keep in check until she gained enough control to follow the rules.

“Well, what do you need my help for then?” Jane’s brows drew together in a frown of confusion.

“I don’t think it was an accident.” Joseph dropped that bomb and paused while the waitress refilled their drinks. It gave Jane time to think. There was only one thing that the man could need that couldn’t be done better by others.

“You want me to talk to the horse.” Jane’s voice was flat, and she met Joseph’s eyes with her own angry gaze. A challenge, but she didn’t care at this point. “You want me to make that poor animal relive an experience that was so terrifying that I read in the newspaper they had to bring out a tranq gun before he would let anyone near him. Even then, the article said that he bit one of the rescue workers, and kicked two more.”

Joseph returned her stare and began to leak a little of the other-worldly power that made him alpha. If she’d been one of his pack, it would have been enough to make her back down and start spouting yes sirs. As it was, it whispered over her skin like a hot wind, raising goosebumps, and pressed on her mind, trying to bend her to his will.

“Oh cut the crap Joseph. I’m not one of your wolves. You asked me for help. If you want it you’ll have to give me a damn good reason to terrify an innocent animal, not cow me under sheer power.” Jane held his eyes, anger flaring in her own. A growl crawled out of his throat, low enough that it wouldn’t be heard at the next table. “I’m serious, Joseph Jones. I will not torture that creature without a very good reason, so either give it to me, or I’m out of here.” She waited only a moment, and began to slide out of the booth when he didn’t answer.

“Wait.” Joseph’s tone still held the wolf’s growl, but there was less of it. Jane hesitated. “The pack is calling for me to discipline Serina.”

Suddenly Jane understood, a little. Pack discipline was strict. It had to be, or the secrecy that protected them from bounty hunters with silver bullets would be a mere dream. The entirety of pack life was politics, knowing who to suck up to and who you could push around. Joseph was a controversial leader because he didn’t allow the more dominant members of his pack to simply beat on the submissive members. He ruled with an iron fist, but he was fair and took care of his own. He even let the pack have a voice in some of the decisions.

If pack discipline was involved then Jane might be better off not knowing. That kind of thing tended to be bloody. You couldn’t imprison a werewolf, not for long. And when they got out, they would be extremely pissed off at whoever had put them in a cage in the first place. No, in the pack you either got the crap knocked out of you, or if the transgression was serious enough, you were simply killed. But she was still hesitant. She told Joseph so.

“Prey animals have strong memories of danger or pain. That’s why a horse that’s been hurt by something will refuse to go anywhere near whatever it was again, even if it’s a lifetime later. If I bring this up to that horse he’s going to be utterly terrified, and I doubt I’ll be able to get anything useful out of him. It might even break his mind entirely.”

“I understand, and I'm sorry but the pack is calling her death. If you can’t help me somehow, I’ll have to kill Serina. I don’t want to do that, not without some kind of proof.” Joseph’s matter of fact tone was spoiled by the worry in it. She could tell that he didn’t want to have to kill the woman.

Jane remembered Serina from conclaves. She hadn’t liked the woman, who felt that as a wolf she was superior to any other creature. She wasn’t shy about letting a person know it, either. But that was no reason to let her be summarily executed if she wasn’t guilty.

“Crap. Ok, I’ll try. I’m not promising anything, but I’ll try. Do you know where the horse is?” Jane cringed inwardly at letting herself be drawn into this whole mess, but wrote the address Joseph recited on a napkin anyway.

“By the way, my dad wanted me to ask you how you’re doing on cattle.” When Elliot had been a rookie cop he’d been set to looking for the pack of coyotes responsible for a string of disappearing livestock. When he’d found out that it was the wolves, looking to the ranchers’ herds for prey to avoid wiping out the wildlife and drawing attention to themselves that way, he’d negotiated a treaty with the old pack leader. Elliot acted as an agent of the pack leader in buying livestock for the pack, and the pack left everyone else’s herds alone. After reporting to his superiors that he’d shot the “culprit” coyotes, the matter had been officially dropped, and Elliot had supplied the pack with prey ever since.

“Thank your father for me, and tell him we’re fine for now, but we might need more steers in a month or so. And please tell him that my employees report that the bull he sent over is doing his job with great enthusiasm. In a couple of years we won’t need him to buy cattle, our breeding herd will be large enough to supply our needs.” Joseph’s voice held a touch of pride, the idea of breeding their own cattle rather than constantly buying them had been his, and he’d worked hard to see it come to fruition.

Joseph thanked her and left, taking the bill with him. Jane stayed at the table, sipping her coffee and staring off into space.

“Honey, if you don’t want him, I’ll take him!” Jane looked up at the young woman who had served them. The girl exuded the kind of bubbly personality that made a person think waitress rather than the politically correct server.

“Pardon?”

“Your hunky friend there. I don’t think I’d get very far with him, but I’d sure give it a shot!” She stuck her hands in her apron pockets and sighed in the direction of the cash register.

“You’re welcome to try, uh,” Jane glanced at the nametag displayed on the left breast of the hideous green uniform shirt, “Susan. We’re just acquaintances.” Jane thought to herself that watching Joseph evade the advances of this entirely mundane woman would be highly entertaining.

“Oh, honey, you could have him any time you snapped your fingers. He’s chasing your tail like a coyote after a rabbit.” Susan the waitress put exasperated hands on her hips. “If you can’t see that then I feel sorry for you, girl.”

Jane choked on her coffee, both at the woman’s assertion and the way she’d expressed it. “I don’t think so.”

“He couldn’t take those gorgeous eyes off of you, honey. If I was you, I’d jump on that in a hurry! At the very least I bet he’d be a lot of fun for one night.” With that sage advice, Susan winked and walked away, leaving Jane with her jaw on the table.

Suddenly, Jane started chuckling. She finally realized what their conversation must have looked like. With lots of eye contact, leaning towards each other to speak quietly, a couple of shared jokes, they must have looked like they were flirting. She couldn’t exactly explain to the waitress that they’d been quietly engaged in a subtle dance of dominance, while discussing a murder committed by a creature that was supposed to exist only in the fantasy aisle at the bookstore.

Finally Jane gathered her keys and slid out of the booth, still chuckling to herself as she walked out of the restaurant. As she got into her car she burst out laughing again.

“Joseph chasing my tail. Now that’s a good one!” Jane shook her head and backed out of her parking spot. She didn’t stop chuckling until she remembered that she still had to speak to a traumatized horse about the most terrifying experience of its life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In Lieu of Actual Content

My Creative Writing assignment for next week is a one page monologue. I'm supposed to get into my character's voice, and stay there.

I decided, being me, to do an internal monologue, because, well, I actually have those all the time. And it's hard for me to write an actual monologue because I keep thinking about whoever the character is talking to, and the things that the other person would say. My monologues always get interrupted.

So, and I'm not really sure why I chose this particular subject, I banged out the first draft of an internal monologue of a woman waiting for an ex boyfriend that she never really got over. Don't ask me, it's what popped into my head when we got the assignment, so I ran with it. Give input, both good and bad, folks, because I know it needs some more work, but what I think it needs and what you think it needs may be two very different things... and you might be more right than I am. So, I give you... um... Girl with Issues.

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He’s coming. I know he’s coming. He’d better be coming, here I am sitting at this bar, waiting for him, I was always waiting for him. He’s the one who called me, he’s passing through, he wants to get a drink and catch up.

Five years since we were together, I thought he was the love of my life, and then he says he needs to find himself, runs off to Texas. What the hell is in Texas? I didn’t hear from him for a year, wondered if he was dead. There’s a long list of things I want to say, to ask. Why did he leave, who was he with, did he think about me at all or was he just as much of a selfish prick as it seemed all those nights lying alone in bed cold and crying.

He broke my heart and he comes waltzing back into my life not a care in the world doing great he says, everything’s changed. He misses me he says, me and our late night discussions on everything in the world and nothing at all.

He sounded like it never mattered to him, like there’s nothing left unsaid.

He’s coming. He’s just a little late, he said he might be. He’d better hurry up or I won’t wait for him. He told me not to wait for him, then. He said he couldn’t let me wait for him, that I should move on.

Well, I have, and I’ll show him, I’m over him. I have a good life and I’m happy.

Twenty minutes after he said he would be here, maybe he’s not coming, maybe I should leave. Maybe my watch is broken. But here I am in a bar in a dress, this dress looks damn good on me, show him what he missed out on, while we have drinks and talk about old times, and maybe a dance or two. Not too much dancing, these heels will kill me if I dance too much, but they make my legs look like they go on for miles.

Maybe he’s caught in traffic, I’ll wait a little longer. I’ve been sitting here sipping a drink and watching the door, I’ve got a good view of the door when he walks in I should see him first. Smile at the bartender, so I can check my reflection in the mirror over the bar, do I have lipstick on my teeth?

There he is it’s him he looks just like he used to, nothing’s changed except for the suit and tie. He’s still got his hair and he still works out and he’s still got that smile that made me melt, good thing I’m immune. Here he comes, chin up, give him a bright smile, and let him know that I don’t miss him. Let him know that I don’t miss him at all.

Oh, god, I’ve missed him so much.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ahhh

Well, riding class was a bit of a disappointment today. Sparky round penned Red (who may be getting a new name, as "Red" has been a placeholder name anyway. I didn't think it was nice to tell everyone his name is "That Little Mudder Frucker") and got him pretty well worked in before he rode, and he did pretty good. He even got a lope without having a rodeo, which everyone cheered. Monkey didn't do bad either, for having been ridden once since the last semester. He's stiff to the left again, but he'll work in as he gets back into the swing of things.

I'm changing bits on him, to a short shank snaffle. He's working well enough on the ring snaffle that I think I can transition him, and it's a bit that I've wanted to try on him for certain communications issues, as well. I'll keep the ring snaffle handy, of course, because I need to get him bending again, and that is accomplished with the ring snaffle better than a leverage bit. The next time I'm home I may steal the extra headstall and just have one with the ring snaffle on it and one with the short shank.

Feed crew next week, which is going to suck, but it'll get it out of the way. I think I'm going to see if I can trade my next one for one later on in the semester, so I don't have to do both in the cold. We'll see if I can accomplish it.

I'm also taking care of Red this weekend, along with Monkey, because Sparky is going home to celebrate his birthday with his family on Saturday. I told him I'm not gonna ride for him, though.

And now I need to go pop a couple of Advil for the stiffness, make myself a cup of hot chocolate for the chill, and curl up with a good descriptive paragraph and an excerpt from Brokeback Mountain (the book, not the movie) for Creative Writing.

Ya'll will have to wait for a really good blog post until I get settled back into the swing of things. Or until AD gets the next installment of Star of Life reconstructed, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Return of Red

Well, Sparky is back, and so is Red. Marilyn, as she did last year, had someone ride all the horses that weren't owned by their riders. I offered to ride Red because, well, he's mine, and I kind of know his tricks.

I made Sparky do the work of saddling him, though.

Rode Sparky's saddle, which isn't half bad as far as grip goes, but I don't like his stirrups.

Anyway, the little sucker tried to go haywire on me when I was putting weight on the stirrup and testing him (see? I do know his tricks) and my boot got a little bound up in the stirrup, nothing major, but I thought the boot was going to have to come off, so all I could do was relax the leg, which put me off balance, which dumped me on my butt, with one hand hanging on to the rein for dear life. I wasn't about to let that little sucker go.

After that he let me in the saddle, and we did a little bit of prancing and dancing, but we did ok. That is, until I tried to kick him up into a lope... then he gave me about three strides and broke in two. Which pissed me off so I'm sitting on top of this stubby little pony lookin horse getting my skeleton shook up and cussing at him through gritted teeth. He didn't get me off, but he tried again the next time I tried for a lope. Didn't work that time either. I walked and trotted him around a bit more and when he was listening to cues fairly well (for him) at those gaits I went ahead and handed him off to Sparky.

Didn't get to watch Sparky rodeo, though, he didn't try for a lope.

Maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile I'll probably have my own issues tomorrow, because I didn't get Monkey rode today.

Oh, and Marilyn didn't get to see this rodeo either, she was up at the round pens. She just can't get a break when it comes to getting to see me when my horses really go for broke.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Frozen

It is freaking cold here today. Plus there's drama. Of course there's drama.

E forgot to confirm with JJ that he had a horse coming. So, there was stress this morning. Turns out, E will be riding three colts this semester, unless one gets sent home as psycho.

Plus, Sparky is coming back! I only found this out this morning, and he needs a horse. Well, I had promised him last semester that if he came back he could have Red to ride. So, Red is coming up and Legs is getting moved to Walsh to hang out with some other horses until I can get arrangements made otherwise. I'm glad that we'll have Sparky again, but it did put me in a little bit of a pickle. It's all worked out now, as long as we can find a truck to pull the little sucker up here. Mom's truck is still being switched over to run on propane, and the truck she's been driving went to crap on her this morning. Hopefully that one will be out of the shop today.

Meanwhile, I've spent most of the morning at the barn, Marilyn let all of her classes out early so that the HTM kids could pick their horses, and I've been getting things set up on getting horses shuffled around. I've got enough layers on to keep most of me warm, but my toes were solid ice when I got back from the barn. I solved that dilemma though.

Pantyhose, footie socks, thermal socks, normal socks, longhandles, jeans, sports bra, thermal shirt, t shirt, Carhartt hoodie, Carhartt coat, two hoods and a Carhartt stocking cap, a scarf, and insulated gloves.

I might be able to get through class at the barn without something freezing off. Thank whatever weather deities that want to take credit the weather is supposed to start warming up starting tomorrow. I can barely get my feet in my boots now, I'm not sure how I'd add another layer on my feet.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Creative Writing

Wow. Here I've been thinking that Creative Writing was going to be a fun, fairly easy class. It is going to be fun, it's going to be a blast as a matter of fact. But it's not going to be nearly as easy as I expected it to be. It's obvious already that I'm not going to be able to brush off old blog posts and use for assignments, which I wasn't entirely planning to do anyway.

But, I am going to be able to take assignments from that class and share them with all of you, in lieu of actual content when things get exciting. Hopefully, you'll be able to see my writing improve along the way.

I have to say though, ya'll have spoiled me. Some of the kids in that class I can already tell are going to be a lot better writers than I am. I enjoy writing, and I have a certain amount of drive to do it, but some of those people, wow.

But, to the point at hand, as per Traci's (the instructor) orders, I have purchased a dedicated notebook for that class. It makes sense, not to have to dig through seven other subjects to find your notes and work for the class. I've also purchased a smaller notebook to use as a journal, since journaling is mandatory. She won't be reading the journals, but she will be flipping through them to ensure that we're actually putting pen to paper and leaving behind ink.

Before the next class, I'm supposed to have a sample of my writing to take in for her. I'm not sure if I should write something new (and I have a couple of ideas) or use something older. Frankly, just from perusing my book a bit and the discussion in class today, I don't think anything I have on hand is something I would want to turn in, short of the Sidesaddle Rodeo. So, it's pretty much that or write something entirely new, and she doesn't want anything too long.

I'll decide before Monday what I'm going to do, and get it done. Meanwhile, I'm wondering how in the heck I'm going to write a play, because that's one of the requirements for the class. Not exactly my strong suit, but we'll see. The class is mainly going to be workshop style, where we share our work with the rest of the class and then discuss it in class.

We're also supposed to be listening to overheard dialogue, and sharing the entertaining parts with the class. Of course, I don't really go anywhere to overhear dialogue, so I may be SOL on that one. Either that or I'm going to have to start haunting the truck stop with a newspaper and a cup of coffee during the hours I'm out of class, but that might be misconstrued by the truckers. A lot lizard, I'm not.

All in all, I think it's going to be a great class, a lot of work, and a lot of fun. The combined incidents of the instructor extolling on the versatility of the word "Fuck" and the exercise during which we each provided a word, and then had to tie them all into a coherent sentence, proved that.

The latter, well, one of the students decided that we all needed to loosen up, and added the word "Penis" to the mix. After class he told Traci that we'd all failed, because the only possible response to "penis" was "vagina."

Ya'll know me. I just couldn't keep my big mouth shut.

"That's not the only response."

"Oh? Then what?" (he was a little belligerent and seemed to be up on his high horse at this point... and I just had to knock him off.)

"Erectile Dysfunction."

"Wha? That is not a response to penis."

"Sure it is. Hundreds of Viagra commercials agree with me."

Someone else brought up the possibility of a gay person not thinking that vagina was the response to penis, as well. The dude had to chime in again...

"Then you just say penis louder."

Yet again, I couldn't keep my mouth shut.

"No, then you add yay on the end.... 'Penis! Yay!' "

One day I'll learn not to poke at these people, but probably not until everyone else stops laughing at it when I do.....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First Day of Classes

Well, I've survived my first day of classes, in spite of being in the Big Blue Slidemobile.

Chevy Stepsides just were not made to go well on slick roads. I've made it back and forth to classes, though, by driving very slowly, and not giving the tires a chance to break loose. (Thank you, Mamaw, for putting new tires on it, so that I actually have a chance to do that...)

Oh, yeah, I didn't tell you guys did I? My beloved Chevy Malibu is in the shop, getting a strange groaning noise in the power steering pump checked out. Which is a bit tricky because this is one of those problems that only happens when it's cold, only turning left, and only until a certain point. And not even always then. But a while back I had a hose come loose from my power steering pump, dumping all of my fluid on the ground. Which happened two years ago, as well. No big deal, slap a new hose clamp on there, fill 'er up and she runs like a top.

Except that this groaning noise started. With it being only to the left I have to wonder if the power steering fluid got into the rack and pinion or something, gathered dirt, and gums things up in the cold, making the power steering pump work harder on a left turn, and causing the groan, until things get broke loose again. I don't know, but I gather from what Mamaw has told me that the mechanic had a ball doing doughnuts trying to recreate the issue.

Meanwhile, in my classes, JJ and Marylin are team teaching Equine Evaluation, which means that the rules are going to be a lot more strict than if just Marilyn were teaching it. And, either JJ is going to keep Marilyn a little more organized, or we're going to have twice the chaos as we did in Production. I haven't had a classroom class with JJ yet, so I can't tell.

Reproduction is another of Marilyn's classes, and she opened it today by saying "I'm giving you this syllabus but we won't be following it." Gotta love it. Of course she explained the changes, and they made sense, we're covering the brood mare first, rather than the stallion, as it says on the syllabus, because the stallion is easier.

Ag Financing. This class is going to kick my skinny white butt. The instructor seems like a nice enough guy, but he's got one of those bland voices that tends to go in one ear and out the other. Now, I'm pretty talented at turning on the mental recorder in my mind, taking a few notes, and using the notes to remind me of what was said during the lecture. But there are limits.

This man talked for thirty minutes solid, and the only thing I remember is: "I won't be teaching from the book, for the most part. The book is more for a reference, and we won't even be covering all of it." I only remember that, because it was ten minutes in, and I'd already decided that I was going to have to resign myself to not remembering the lectures and just using the book. I was paying close attention, too! That phrase scared the crap out of me, so I went and bought a Digital Voice Recorder.

This little thing seems pretty spiffy... I would have liked one with a USB hookup so that I could download files directly onto my computer, but they didn't have one with the mic sensitivity that I'm going to need. (Rackafrackin speak softly and carry a big stick my ass, speak up man!) But, because I'm just Techno-savvy enough to get myself into trouble, I ran a couple of tests. The mic should pick up what I need, and once I get home, I can plug my external speakers into the recorder, plug my headset into the computer, pull up Audacity (a fantastically user-friendly audio editing program that I use to make my own ringtones for the cell phone) and record from the device onto the computer.

The downside (and possibly the upside, considering the problem that caused me to get the recorder in the first place) is that I have to listen to the recording as I'm performing this jury-rigged transfer. But, the sound quality comes across well, and I can compile the recordings and back them up either onto my external hard drive or to CD, when I have enough of them.

I'll probably test the classroom compatibility of the recorder tomorrow in Creative Writing, so that I'll know before Monday if I can set it on the table beside me, or if I need to set it up by the instructor.

I'm just glad this kind of technology is available, or I'd probably wind up begging someone for help or tanking the class. And I can't afford to tank the class.

Monday, January 14, 2008

E and the Revolver.

Took E to the Old Homestead yesterday, since he needed to pull his pony's shoes, and I wanted to pick some stuff up anyway. We made the drive down there, and Mamaw and Farmmom had lunch ready for us, fried chicken and all the trimmings. E stuffed himself, and then we sat around a while visiting, until Farmmom reminded us that if we were going to go out to the ponies we should get a move on.

Running by the house to get Rebel's halter, Farmdad grabbed a couple of rifles and a .22 revolver to send with us to play with. The day was warm enough that the prairie dogs were up and moving around. Fun stuff.

So, we get Rebel all taken care of, and took the long way around to get into the pasture because of the mud. First of all Ed got a shock when he realized that there were hoofprints where we were.

"Have you got horses in here too?"

"Um, yeah, the same ones that were up in the corrals."

"You mean they've got all this space?"

"Yeah... I told you there was room for them to run and play."

"Well yeah but.... I can't even see the corrals!"

Once we were shooting, it was even more entertaining. The breeze was a little cold so we just rolled the windows down on the pickup and kept the heater running.

"This is so redneck!"

"Yeah, and?"

"I love it!"

Then, he decided he wanted to switch rifles, and try the one with the scope. In his attempt to render the bolt-action rifle safe, he pulled back the bolt and tried to unload it... of course, he touched the trigger once the bolt was open, and the bolt slid right out, so pretty much rendered it as safe as possible.

"What the heck? Um... Farmgirl... I think I broke it."

"It's not broken, it's just ready to clean now."

When it started getting good and cold, and the prairie dogs were bedding down for the night out of the breeze, I asked him if he wanted to try a few rounds on the revolver.

Keep in mind, when I showed him what dad had sent he got all excited, calling it a "Yosemite Sam gun."

"Yeah!"

"You have shot a handgun before, right? It's different than a rifle."

"A couple of times, yeah."

"Ok well just ask if you have any problems with the revolver."

"Ok, um, I have a problem."

"What?"

"How do I load it?"

It all went down hill from there.

First thing off he steps out and stands beside the truck, aiming at a pop can that I told him to set up as a target. He squeezed off one round and I looked over to check his aim..... and felt a sharp pain in the part of me that Farmdad beat proper shooting into.

E was standing facing his target dead on, both arms straight out and elbows locked, leaning back with his head cocked to the side like the Victrola Dog. He looked like he thought the dang gun was going to come back and bite him.

"E! Stop! I thought you told me you'd shot a handgun before!"

He stopped, surprised, said "I have, but never at a target," and popped off another round.

I bailed out of the pickup, went around to his side and said "Stop. Give me that. Jeez a strong breeze would knock you over in that stance... this is how you do it." I showed him weaver stance, while explaining how each limb is positioned.

"But why?"

"See how balanced I am? Nothing is going to rock me in this stance, I can hold it for as long as my arms hold out, and I can bring my gun back on target from recoil faster."

"Oh. I see."

So, he tried it, and his aim got a little better. (Who'da thunk it?)

"Ok, now, sight down your arm and through the sights."

"What do you mean through the sites? I'm lining them up!"

"Don't focus on your front sight. Focus on your target, and put the blur of the front sight on it. Then, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and squeeze the trigger." *Bang!* "See how much better that was?"

"Yeah, it makes sense now."

"Try a few more."

*Bang!* "OW! Holy crap what did I do?!?"

"Well, I wasn't looking at your hands at the time, but judging by the black smears on your thumb I'd say you put your thumb by the front of the cylinder and got yourself a powder burn."

So we covered, again, the proper placement of his hands. I think he'll probably remember that part next time.

He's excited to go back and shoot some more prairie dogs... and he's a little bit put out at handguns. He never did manage to hit the pop can, but he was getting close enough to make it dance.

Next time, I'll take a couple of the semi auto's in the larger calibers. Of course, he told me I sounded like a rap song when I told him that next time I'd bring a "nine" and a "forty five" for him to play with. I would have hit him but I settled for telling him that if he stood like he was holding a snake at the end of his arms when we shot the larger calibers he was going to get knocked on his butt.

We'll get him there. Boy wants to be a cowboy and can't shoot a dang revolver.... it's a crime.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

20,000! Woot!

Hit 20,000 visits tonight, Huzzah! So, person from Hookerton, North Carolina, leave me a comment or send me an email claiming your prize! You get to pick a topic for me to write a blog post on!

Seriously, number 10,000 didn't claim their prize, so if you don't, then I'm gonna think that no one really cares what I'm writing about and start posting craziness.

Really. Show some love, dude.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Refined Evening


Since this is the last Friday night free of classes and homework for a few months, I decided that I'd have a nice glass of wine. Which is a definite change of pace from the last few times I've had alcohol. The above is a picture of the wine rack and glasses that I got for Christmas, along with the bottle of Turning Leaf and the corkscrew that Farmmom got me. In the rack is the strawberry wine that my friend Tev and her husband made and gave me as a gift two years ago.

What? I don't drink wine that often, and I haven't found an occasion special enough for it yet. I'm kind of glad, though, cause it looks pretty spiffy in that rack.

Well, I'm off to enjoy my wine and watch House. A happy and safe weekend to you all!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Waiting...

Well, since AD is having some technical difficulties, he gets an extension on getting the Star of Life chapter up.

But, since I'm mean and evil, Jane won't continue until after he does get it up.

Chapter Two is ready to go, so as soon as AD gets his intarwebz back and posts his part of the deal, ya'll will get it.

In the mean time, head on over to LawDog's and check out his post on women's self defense techniques.

Or, you can slide on down to MattG's and read his review of No Country For Old Men.

Or check out any of the folks on my blogroll, right over there ----->

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sneak Preview

I have permission from the author to post a couple of preview sections of Lost In Dodge. Total pimpage! *Grumble stingy man won't give me a cut for advertising, grumble lucky I like him*

So, as the first excerpt, here's the tale of how notorious outlaw Terry Simms rolls into the the blacksmiths shop, and the aftermath of the confrontation between our beloved giant Daryl and the Simms Gang:

Daryl was just putting on his leather apron to get back to work when he noticed four men ride up to his shop. He hung the apron on the nail where it belonged and turned to the men, forcing a smile to his lips.

The smile faded immediately as his eyes met with the man seated in the saddle of the big roan in the middle.

Daryl stepped slowly towards the man.

“Can I talk to you?” Daryl said as calmly as he could, nodding towards his house that served as his office, “in there.”

“Sure,” the man said calmly. The man stepped from his saddle and followed Daryl into the office, noticing as he did so that the blacksmith looked bigger and bigger the closer he got. It was only when Daryl stepped through the eight foot door that the man paused with realization as to how big the blacksmith really was. He paused only a moment, then followed.

There was a large table in the office and Daryl sat on one side and nodded for the man to take the chair across from his. Daryl sat in his chair, leaning forward slightly, his huge hands bunched into fists.

“I’d like to tell you a story,” Daryl began after the two men were seated.

“Okay,” the man said with an amused smile on his face. He was on the range most of the time and always enjoyed a good story.

“When I was just six years old, my ma left me in Dodge City,” Daryl began using all his efforts to keep his voice calm, “She took my little sister, got on a train goin’ east, an off she went.”

The smile on the man’s face began to fade, he already didn’t like the way this story was going. The look in the blacksmith’s eyes didn’t match the calmness in his voice. The man gently let his hands slip from the table and into his lap.

“That train got robbed halfway ‘tween Dodge and Wichita,” Daryl continued just loud enough that the man could hear him, “it was the Simms gang.”

The man, keeping his shoulders still to avoid the attention of the huge blacksmith, slid his hand onto the butt of his Colt. This blacksmith was bigger than anyone he’d ever seen, but it was nothing a couple of lead slugs in the breadbasket wouldn’t cure.

“After I learned about what happened, I went to the sheriff’s office and memorized ever’ wanted poster he had,” Daryl said, his breathing slowing and his eyes focused into the eyes of the man before him, “And I made myself a promise that if’n I ever met the man what done it, I’d give him back what he got coming.”

The man across from Daryl kept surprisingly calm. He’d been through a lot of situations in the past that were similar to this, though never quite at this close range. He sized that blacksmith up and was wondering if two slugs in the belly would be enough to stop him. He resided himself to the fact that two might not stop the giant blacksmith, but would at least slow him down enough to get the gun above the table and finish the job.

“I know who yuh are,” Daryl said coldly and the two men sat staring into each other’s eyes.

The man’s eyes were caught by something shiny on the top of the huge blacksmith’s hands and he let his eyes dart back and forth from the giant’s eyes to his hands. As his vision bounced back and forth he saw a silver dollar slowly materialize from the giant’s hand and clatter onto the table.

A look of confusion came over the man’s face, which doubled when he again looked at the giant and saw him bust an ear to ear grin.

“What the hell?” Terry asked in confusion.

“It’s the silver dollar yuh give my sister,” Daryl said laughing and pushing the silver dollar across the table with a finger.

“Huh?” Terry asked, being more confused than he could ever remember.

“Maybe you don’t ‘member,” Daryl continued, chuckling as he went, “she was the one what shoved a silver dollar in her mouth, but couldn’t close her mouth fer the size of it.”

“That was your sister?” Terry blurted his own smile reappearing.

“Yessir,” Daryl answered with enthusiasm.

“And you ain’t sore none?” Terry asked in disbelief.

“Heck no, Mr. Simms,” Daryl said smiling merrily as Terry sat in stunned disbelief, “you done made my little sister near as well knowed as you are. I don’t reckon there ain’t nobody west of the Mississippi what ain’t heard that story. Why there ain’t a year goes by at the fair,” Daryl continued, taking on a proud look, “what someone don’t come up and ask me would I tell ‘em the story ‘bout how my sister come to be the only person in the whole wide world what met Terry Simms and come away double her money.”

“I’ll be damned,” Terry said laughing, “I will be damned, you know I almost shot you.”

“I seen that,” Daryl said through his Laughter, “I was kinda figgerin’ what I’d flip that silver dollar in the air to yuh, but sein’ the look in yer eye, I figgered I best not.”

“Damn good thing you didn’t,” Terry said, then his eyes took on a thoughtful look, “What about yer ma?” he asked carefully, “wasn’t she there too?”

“I reckon you musta missed that part of the story,” Daryl said a cold look coming to his eyes, “she’s the one what run off and left me a sittin’ there in Dodge, she just scooped up my little sister and off she went, didn’t never even look back once.”

“Yer shittin’ me?” Terry asked wondering how a woman could do something like that. Even with all the things Terry had done, his ma had always been good to him.

“Nossir,” Daryl said sadly, “When I found out you done robbed her, well I reckon she got what she had comin’.” Daryl’s expression immediately brighten, “Hey,” he said as he quickly spun up from the table and took down a bottle of whiskey and two shot glasses, “I been savin’ this fer a special occasion.”

As Daryl poured the shot glasses full, Terry silently thanked his lucky stars that the giant hadn’t been after trouble. The quickness of motion Daryl used in getting the whiskey, made Terry wonder if he’d have gotten enough lead into the giant to slow him down before he made it across the table.

“To you robbin’ my ma,” Daryl said laughing, as they tinked their shot glasses together, “and making my sister knowed.”

“I don’t reckon I’ve ever been thanked for robbin’ someone before,” Terry said after he tossed down his shot and stood slowly. He went to the office door and motioned for the other men to come inside.

“Hey,” Terry said with a mischievous look in his eye and giving a wink, “go with me on this one.” As the other men entered, Terry took on a serious look and Daryl followed suit.

There were plenty of chairs around, and the other three men sat hesitantly.

“Boys,” Terry began quietly, “you ‘member when?”

Terry paused looking at Daryl, “How long ago was that?”

“Right near twelve years,” Daryl said nodding thoughtfully, “I disremember exactly when.”

“Long about twelve years ago,” Terry continued gesturing with a hand to his brother Frank, “we robbed a train headin’ from Dodge to Wichita.”

Frank nodded slowly, a look of confusion on his face. They’d robbed several trains from Dodge to Wichita.

“This’n was special,” Terry said nodding to Frank, “remember the one with the little girl that had the silver dollar in her mouth?”

“I remember,” Frank said, as the other two men nodded also. The other two men hadn’t been with Terry then, but everyone knew the story.

“This here’s her brother,” Terry said nodding to Daryl and purposely adding a coldness to his voice.

Daryl had caught on to what Terry was doing and stared coldly at the others.

It got the response Terry was hoping for as the other three collectively held their breaths and stared at the giant blacksmith.

Daryl, not having the age and experience that Terry did, lost it first. Daryl burst out laughing at the expressions on the other outlaw’s faces and Terry followed soon after.

“What kind of shit is this!?” Frank barked, smacking Terry on the arm.

“It’s true,” Terry said through his Laughter and pointing to the still laughing Daryl, “it’s him.”

“Huh,” Frank said with confusion.

For the next hour, the five men sat at Daryl’s table talking, laughing and drinking whiskey. By the end, all four of the outlaws agreed that Daryl’s ma definitely deserved to get robbed.

The conversation ended when Jeb came in to ask a question and Daryl remembered that he was the blacksmith and the men had obviously come to him for a reason. Daryl answered Jeb’s question, explained that the men were folks he knew from Dodge City, and sent Jeb home for supper.

“Actually,” Terry replied to Daryl’s question, “we were just wanting to board up for the night and get somethin’ to eat.”

“Consider it done,” Daryl said confidently to Terry, “and don’t think yer payin’ me neither. Them horses are gonna git the best takin’ care of they ever had. As fer food, Theresa May’s got the best food this side of the Mississippi,” Daryl ended by nodding in the direction of the restaurant.

“I’d be much obliged if’n you didn’t tell abouts who we are,” Terry said motioning with a hand to his group.

“I’d make a deal with yuh if’n you’d let me,” Daryl said thoughtfully, “If’n you’d say you wasn’t gonna rob nobody hear-abouts, I’d sure be happy with that.”

“Fair enough,” Terry said brightly. They’d just done a job a week ago and all four men had their pockets full, “Now where’s this top notch grub you was braggin’ on?”

Daryl walked the outlaws to Theresa May’s and introduced them as folks he knew from Dodge City that were just passing through. The outlaws had the best meal they could remember and afterwards, Daryl left them at the restaurant and returned to finish his work.

“Did you see him?” Theresa May asked Mary Anne, who was already making goo-goo eyes at Daryl’s friend Frank.

“I know,” Mary Anne said with a sigh of relief, “he sure looked better.”

“Maybe he just needed some old friends to stop by,” Theresa May said in her motherly fashion, “Y’know, someone from home.”

“He’ll be okay now,” Mary Anne added, smiling at the worrying Theresa May, now maybe they both would.

Daryl’s hammer began pinging down the street. Theresa May and Mary Anne smiled at each other as the ringing somehow sounded happier again.

Daryl worked until the sun started to set. He felt stronger than he had in the past few months and the steel seemed to once again sing to him as he worked.

He also noticed that his mind occasionally drifted to the upcoming fair and he found himself once again looking forward to it.

As he hung his apron on the nail where it belonged he looked down the street at Theresa May’s.

The lights in the dining area were still burning brightly and he could hear their Laughter and uplifted voices. Theresa May had seemed a little sadder since Merle died. Her smile had somehow lost its shine. Daryl heard her voice joined with the Laughter of the others and smiled as he started for bed, now maybe she would be okay.

***

Daryl awoke as he did every morning but this morning he had a different feeling than in the recent past. He felt good. He sat on the edge of his bed and breathed in the fresh air as he dressed and for the first time in several months, he realized with a huge grin, he was hungry.

Daryl hurried to the restaurant to find Terry, Frank and the other two, already enjoying their breakfasts.

“You were damn sure right about this grub,” Terry said through a mouthful of flapjacks, “this is good.”

“Yes sir,” Daryl said with a smile to Theresa May as she set a huge pile of flapjacks in front of him that made Frank’s eyes bulge, “ain’t no better eatin’ in the world than right here.”

“Well thank you,” Theresa May said to all the nods of agreement as the men were stuffing their faces. She was standing between Daryl and Terry when she started refilling the coffee cups of the men.

Instead of going around the table she leaned forward to fill the cups of the men seated across the table, her other hand on Terry’s shoulder for balance.

Just as she completed filling Frank’s cup and was leaning back, Terry reached over and pinched her on the behind.

“How dare you,” Theresa May said as she turned and gave Terry a half-hearted slap on the shoulder.

Terry looked up at Theresa May with a shit-eatin’ grin.

Theresa May’s lips started to pull back into a smile of her own, until she remembered that Daryl was seated at the table also. Theresa May looked quickly at Daryl, who had a stunned look of wonder on his face. She blushed ten shades of red and hurried from the table.

“You didn’t?” Daryl asked Terry, his face blooming with excitement.

“She asked me would I,” Terry said humbly, continuing with his breakfast.

“Does she know who you are?” Daryl asked almost reverently, “I mean who you really are?”

“Close enough,” Terry said, sipping coffee that had never tasted this good, “she knows I’m a friend of yours from Dodge City.”

“Oh my god,” Daryl said, his excitement level rising steadily, “you gotta let me tell her. I mean, I know I said I wouldn’t say nothin’,” Daryl continued nearly ready to burst from excitement, “but yuh gotta let me.”

Terry and Frank exchanged thoughtful looks which Daryl interpreted correctly.

“She won’t say nothin’,” Daryl said gently, “she ain’t like that.”

Their conversation came to a screeching halt as Mary Anne arrived at the table with a huge glass of milk for Daryl.

“What the hell did you say to her?” Mary Anne asked forcefully to Daryl, “that girl’s red as a beet.”

“I didn’t say nothin’,” Daryl answered truthfully, shrugging his shoulders and doing his best impersonation of innocence.

Mary Anne paused, considered taking his milk back to the kitchen, but grudgingly decided to leave it.

“Women can’t keep a secret to save their life,” Frank said with a nod to Terry after Mary Anne had left the table.

Terry pondered for a moment, “I tell you what,” he said with a sly look in his eye, “you give us a full day’s ride, then you go ahead.”

“What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall when that happens,” one of the other men said with a chuckle as Daryl began attempting to eat his breakfast while laughing at the upcoming event.

After breakfast, Daryl walked the men back to the stable where all four horses stood saddled and ready.

“A full day’s ride, right?” Terry said cautiously to Daryl.

“Yessir,” Daryl said, still grinning ear to ear, “I won’t give a peep till then.”

Daryl shook hands with each of the outlaws. They headed out and he merrily returned to work, feeling as if a giant weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

The rest of the day went along on a some-what normal basis. One of the exceptions being, that at every meal time, when Daryl and Theresa May’s eyes met, he would begin chuckling and she would blush and leave the room.

Zeb and Jeb were tickled pink that their boss was back to his old self. Daryl was telling jokes again and even though they’d heard them all before, they were still funny. He smiled constantly and would occasionally chuckle for no reason, which made their work seem lighter.

***

After breakfast the next day Theresa May couldn’t stand it any longer.

Mary Anne had just left to run errands, with Daryl sitting at his usual table stealing occasional glances at Theresa May and chuckling.

“Okay,” Theresa May said standing in front of Daryl, her metal water pitcher in one hand. She’d sucked up her courage and promised herself she wouldn’t blush, “Get it off your chest.”

Daryl stood slowly and took Theresa May gently by the shoulders, “I reckon you’d oughta sit down first,” he said chuckling as he guided her backwards towards a chair.

“I can stand!” Theresa May said defiantly crossing her arms, sloshing the water around in the pitcher. The anger she felt at having her own…a giant boy telling her to sit down, helped keep her emotions in order.

“Okay,” Daryl began while attempting to keep his voice straight, his eyes filled with excited anticipation, “Now my friend Terry, I told you I knowed him from Dodge City, right? And that’s all true,” Daryl continued, as he gently but firmly held Theresa May’s shoulders, “I reckon maybe I never got around to tellin’ yuh how it was I knowed him.”

Theresa May’s look turned to growing concern mixed with confusion. She hadn’t expected the conversation to go anywhere but straight to the point the men had been laughing about at the table at yesterday’s breakfast.

“Yuh see,” Daryl continued, the expression on Theresa May’s face assisting him in controlling his voice, “when I was little, Terry was nice enough to give my little sister a silver dollar.”

“What?” Theresa May asked slowly. Then it hit her like a brick. Daryl had told her that story his first year at the fair and she’d heard him retell it at least a hundred times to others.

“Oh my god,” Theresa May breathed at the realization of who Terry really was. It was a good thing that Daryl had steered her backwards to a chair before he started because she leaned backwards and plopped into it, dropping the water pitcher on the floor.

Daryl exploded with roaring Laughter, so hard and loud that he lost his balance and fell to the floor clutching his stomach.

As Theresa May stared into nowhere, a lost expression on her face and occasionally muttering “oh my god”, Daryl rolled around on the floor bellowing with Laughter.

Each time Daryl’s Laughter began to slow, he would look at Theresa May, slumped back in the chair like she’d been dropped off a mountain, and his Laughter renewed itself.

Finally, out of self defense, Daryl brought himself to his hands and knees and still roaring with Laughter, he started crawling to the door. He’d finally neared the door and began reaching for the handle, when Mary Anne, having heard the roaring Laughter, came bursting in.

At least, that’s what she meant to do!

The door banged into Daryl’s head, which Mary Anne having not anticipated, caused her to bump into the door, which of course caused the door to bang into Daryl’s head again. All of which brought Daryl into a renewed roaring of Laughter as he rolled out of the way, clutching his stomach.

“What the…” Mary Anne said smiling as she saw Daryl rolling back and forth on the floor bellowing with Laughter. Her expression immediately filled with shocked concern as she saw Theresa May slumped back in the chair, staring off into nowhere, a stunned look on her face.

“Theresa May,” Mary Anne called fearfully, as she hurried over, “honey what’s wrong?” With no response from Theresa May, Mary Anne dipped a hand into the water pitcher and gently patted it on her face. “Honey wake up, what’s wrong?” Mary Anne continued with growing concern, giving Daryl a vicious look as he crawled, still howling with Laughter, out the door.

“Terry,” Theresa May breathed out quietly, her eyes unfocused.

“Right, Terry,” Mary Anne responded as she dipped her hand into the pitcher again and patted more water on Theresa May’s face.

“Frank,” Theresa May breathed, still staring off into space.

“Uh-huh, Frank,” Mary Anne replied, her concern lessening only slightly at the fact that Theresa May was again endowed with the power of speech.

“Simms,” Theresa May breathed out slightly louder.

“Huh?” Mary Anne asked as she stood, a look of confusion on her face. She went through her memory, which was really very good, for the names of all the men that had been here yesterday.

“Honey there weren’t no Simms,” she said as she leaned forward again and resumed patting Theresa May’s face with more water.

“Silver Dollar,” Theresa May breathed slowly.

“They all paid,” Mary Anne said reassuringly, “Its okay.”

“Terry,” Theresa May breathed again.

“Terrrrryyyy,” Mary Anne coaxed gently, now trying to find the hidden meaning or at least some pattern to go by.

“And Frank,” Theresa May said, some strength coming to her voice.

“And Frrrraaannnk,” Mary Anne said gently, knowing that this secret code had to be leading somewhere.

“Simms,” Theresa May sighed out as if all her energy had been used in transferring the information.

“Huh,” Mary Anne said as she stood again trying to put the information into order. It was a well known fact, by all the women at least, that Mary Anne was the smartest woman they had ever known. To the men, she was said to be too damn smart for her own good.

Mary Anne swirled the pieces of information in her brain for only an instant when the “Silver Dollar” fit into the puzzle.

“Oh! My! God!” Mary Anne blurted as she bent forward and looked into Theresa May’s face. Mary Anne took a deep breath and as she returned standing she howled with Laughter, falling sideways onto the table.

And Theresa May was cured!

“It’s not funny!” Theresa May shrieked as Mary Anne held her stomach and rolled back and forth on the table laughing uncontrollably.

“Oh! Yes! It! Is!” Mary Anne forced out through her Laughter.

As Mary Anne howled with Laughter, slapping her feet on the table, Theresa May stomped to the door.

“Daryl Eugene Wilson!” she screamed at the giant boy only halfway across the street, “you get your big butt back in here! Right! Now!”

Daryl, who had just gotten back to his feet and was delighting Zeb and Jeb, who were standing at the shop, laughing along with whatever the joke was, took one look at the furious Theresa May and fell down again, laughing.

Theresa May paced for what seemed to her like forever, before the still laughing Daryl staggered in.

“Just……I..I can’t…..oooooh…..you,” Theresa May began thoughtfully, barking at Daryl, “and you…..ooooh!” she finished furiously to Mary Anne before crossing her arms and sitting again in the chair she had occupied.

“I’m sorry,” Daryl said, trying to sound apologetic as he walked across the room and knelt in front of Theresa May.

“You could have told me!” Theresa May scolded.

“There weren’t no way I could’a knowed you was gonna do that,” Daryl said still chuckling.

Theresa May drew in a deep breath as she remembered what she thought the original conversation was going to be about, “He told you,” she said her cheeks immediately reddening.

“Not really… I sorta guessed” Daryl said apologetically as Mary Anne, hoping for a better view of Theresa May’s expression, rolled over, misjudged the edge of the table and splattered on the floor.

“You deserve that!” Theresa May barked as Daryl and Mary Anne continued laughing, as much at each other as Theresa May.

Since Laughter is definitely contagious, it didn’t take long before Theresa May began chuckling, “Oh my god,” she said laughing gently, “Terry Simms,” she finished with more than a little pride in her voice.

All Daryl could tell the boys was that he’d played a joke on Theresa May, but that was enough for them. They laughed the rest of the day just remembering Daryl crawling across the street.

It was less than a month later when the town of Lamar learned of the death of Terry Simms and how he had been killed. A few days after that, Daryl learned that how he died wouldn’t have mattered, Terry’s death would have happened anyway.

There was a posse of lawmen heading towards the town where Terry had been staying. They had learned of his location and had planned to take him back, “deader” than alive.

As Daryl entered the restaurant that day, Theresa May was hanging a small wooden cross on the wall with the initials T.S. on the sides. There was no sadness, no mourning in her eyes, just the look of happy memories that could never be taken away from her.