Fiction: Maps

Thankful and William travel uncharted territory at Fort Grant.

“You’ve got visitors, Captain Markham.” Lieutenant Fahy waved William and Thankful in.

Markham, an athletically built man with small eyes and wrinkled skin from too much desert, greeted William with a firm handshake and fatherly knock on the side of the head.

“Bill, how are you holding up in that God-forsaken town? We haven’t seen hide nor hair of you in weeks.”

He turned a surprised eye towards Thankful who curtsied.

“Captain Markham, my cousin Bill has been very busy at his drawings and such. I’m terribly pleased to meet you. My name is Thankful.”

She held out her hand again.

“What a pretty little thing you are, miss,” the captain said, holding her hand between his for a moment. “You say you’re Bill’s cousin? That’s very nice to come see the boy.”

“Well, sir, I’ve come to see his drawings, really. They’re quite superb and I’ve always felt he would go far with them if only they fell into the right hands. But he’s so foolishly modest.”

“Bourke told us that Bill had talent, but we’ve never been honored with a viewing,” Lieutenant Fahy said, giving William a disgusted glance. “I for one don’t believe that anything good can come from town.”

“Well, Mr. Fahy, I can prove you wrong and I don’t mind showing it,” Thankful laughed.

William stood in awed silence.

Fahy and Markham gave Thankful their indulgent attention glancing at each other in pleasure as she fished from her bag the pieces of William’s map.

William hadn’t noticed her taking them and the place names were wrong! He wanted to run, but where would he go? Thankful had no right!

Thankful pushed the captain’s things to the side of his desk, turned the lamp higher and spread the gloriously colored drawing like a carpet for the men to see. The men leaned into the intricate and accurate depiction of the territory they had traversed for years.

“Thankful, why did you save that?” William asked. His palms sweat.

Markham and Fahy looked up at William with new eyes.

“It’s magnificent work, isn’t it?” Thankful winked at William.

The men nodded in agreement.

“But. . .” William began, “the place names . . . I never get them right.”

The officers looked again. “Oh, those small settlements come and go. That doesn’t take away from the overall presentation of our little part of the world. It’s damned impressive, Bill,” Markham stated. “Bourke told me your uncle Captain McCullough was a good map maker.”

“Was he?” William asked, missing the uncle he hardly remembered. “He went to West Point.”

“William has so many fine drawings of the military, too—you should see them,” Thankful boasted. “Well, unfortunately they’re torn up.”

“May we keep this, Bill?” the captain asked.

“You want it? Sure, you can have it,” William said, relieved and looking like the boy Thankful so admired at home.

“Cousin Bill, remember that you promised it to Mr. Bourke.”

“Oh, well . . . we’ll just save it for him,” Markham said with a grin. “You beat all, Bill. Now why don’t you come back to us more often?”

Thankful pouted, swaying a little while twirling a curl. “My cousin wants me gone by tomorrow, so may I stay in camp? I’d feel safer with military men than the common sort in town.” She blushed at William. “I didn’t mean Willy–Bill of course. My cousin is a gentleman.”

Fahy raised his brow, but the captain gave him a stern look.

“We can keep you till morning, Miss Crenshaw,” Captain Markham said. “My wife will set a bed for you in our home.”

“That would be just bully, Captain Markham! You’re all so much as I’ve imagined. I knew the army would be full of nobility–not like everyone says back east.”

The men stood a little taller under Thankful’s gaze. William’s stomach turned again. He scratched his head with a sigh.

“So, good luck, cousin,” William said with an awkward grin. He touched his cap, playing at good spirits.

Thankful pecked him on the cheek. “William Weldon, be good,” she whispered.
The dash of alcohol in Thankful’s lemonade this afternoon lingered on her breath. She was beautiful.

“Bye, then, Thankful,” William said. “Good evening, Captain Markham and Mr. Fahy.”
In the cool night he stood for a moment on the porch, which smelled so much like the cigars his father always smoked in the army—the ones from the commissary. Men slept under their porches and a coyote yelped. Tomorrow would be the same as always.

William considered saying a prayer for his father’s tremors, but didn’t. His leg ached in the special boots he wore to hide the limp he’d gotten when he fell from the horse years ago. Captain Markham had purchased them for him. William unhitched his horse, said good-night to the guard and raced under a starry sky back to town.

PREVIOUS EPISODE HERE

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, William Weldon and Thankful Crenshaw’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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