William sat at the back of The Buckskin and read over the letter he’d received from Thankful at Fort Grant.
I am to be married to Lieutenant Fahy as soon as my parents come out. I would have wanted you to be here for my wedding, but I know you would hate being around the Crenshaws. I miss the old times terribly much. I hate being grown up, and I am sorry that we are not friends anymore.
I would love to invite you to the grand socials we will have and talk about Delacroix and Raphael and maybe about the music we both liked so very much. I wish I had your mother who let you paint and draw and loved you.
Do take care of yourself. It is so lonely thinking that you are only miles away and we no longer talk. I forgive you about the money. You will always be William to me, not Bill and I will always love you like a brother and friend.
Why did Thankful make a point of telling him of her engagement? They had hardly spoken in the months since William left her at the post. William slipped the letter into his pocket and threw back a shot. The saloon door creaked open and, though the glare of the sun obscured the man, William’s heart quaked.
“I’m looking for my son, William W-Weldon . . .” John Weldon said, clearing his throat.
William hated the weakness in his father’s voice.
“Bill Weldon? Well, you’ve come to the right place,” the barman laughed and pointed back to where William sat, adjusting his sweat-stained collar.
The men in the place turned to watch John Weldon, with his walking stick, head toward the other cripple in the room.
John Weldon rushed up, flush from the desert heat. He didn’t touch his son. No embrace; no handshake. “Oh, no, Willy . . . what’s become of you?” he asked, his voice hardened. “I wanted you to escape it.” He couldn’t meet his son’s hateful stare. “William, Mother has missed you. I’ve come to take you home.”
“What? I’m not going anywhere.” William crossed his arms, moving himself as far back against the wall in his seat as he could get. He looked around embarrassed.
John glanced around too and, whispering this time, said, “You’re wanted at home, son. Now don’t fight me on it.”
“Are you trying to be a strong father suddenly?” William asked, slurring his words.
John Weldon grabbed William by his suspenders–jerking him from his high chair and dragging him to the door before throwing him into the light. William stumbled to the sidewalk. Passersby took about the same notice they would a fly on a window sill.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Willy—give me your hand.”
William pulled himself to his feet and teetered till he caught hold of the building’s porch rail. “Papa, give yourself a rest.”
“We’re going to sober you up, son, and take the train back.”
“No! I’m not going back. You’ve come to humiliate me. Haven’t you done that enough?” William’s stomach roiled. He had no idea how long he’d been drinking—since yesterday? William wanted to crawl into bed and be left alone. He stumbled around the corner and up to his room with his father trailing. The sound of his father’s Grand Army of the Republic walking stick against the wooden path and then on the slippery sand grated on him.
William opened his door and took to bed. His head spun as his father, looking older than he had a few months ago, explored the tiny room, knocking things around with his stick as if afraid of coming up close. His arm trembled. William knew every muscle of those long arms. How many times had he seen his father clean a gun or pull a horse’s girth tighter in the old days? Strange things William remembered. “Papa, I’m sorry,” he began, but his old anger resurfaced. Why was he apologizing?
“W-William, I thought you’d be different from me. Why are you doing this to your mother?” Weldon asked.
“Papa, we’re nothing alike.”
“You’re a drunk, William. How will I tell Mother?”
“Do what you always do, Papa. Keep it a secret. Lie. I don’t care what you do.”
John Weldon scratched behind his ear. “William, Thankful told her father you spent all her money.”
“And you believe it, of course.”
“I don’t know . . . I used to do things . . . when the morphine . . .” John said.
“I don’t want to hear about that! I don’t take things! I have my own money!”
“Have you been getting the money I send?” his father asked.
“Yes, and I’ve bought a lovely ranch with it,” William replied.
“I know it isn’t much,” John Weldon said, “but with Grandmother nearly burning the house and with Lucy always needing new spectacles and . . .”
“Well, if you never work then . . .” William interrupted.
The old soldier stared at his bleached out son. “Willy, do you mean me or you?”
William tried sitting up but groaned and fell back on to his bed. “You take away every chance I have and think a lousy box of paints and five dollars now and again makes up for it all.”
“Is that all I’ve done for you over the years?” Weldon asked. “How is it you stand and walk today? It was me who helped you. You gave up with Mother and Doctor Crenshaw when they tried to help you.”
“You sat on a chair bleary-eyed as Mother did everything!” William said. “You made me sick.”
“No. I sat in the chair teaching you your lessons when Mother ran low on patience. I stayed home to help you. You begged me to,” Weldon replied. “I know I’ve made big mistakes.”
“Mistakes? You were afraid to leave the house. You go out of your way to set me up for failure, and I stupidly go along,” William said. He swallowed hard, pulled himself up and opened the shuttered window to vomit. Someone below, who got the worst of it shouted up abuse. He turned back to his father wiping his mouth on his sleeve.
John Weldon’s once impressive posture now bent into a defeated curvature of the spine.
“Papa, why did you tell Thankful where I was? That was the worst thing you could have done.”
“I-I never thought she’d come to see you. I hoped you’d be flattered that a girl was asking after you. I saw the way you admired her back home . . . I hoped . . . remember that time when I got you the paints, and she helped me when I fell?”
“How could I forget?” William replied—though he’d forgotten a lot. “You set up these ridiculous hopes for me! Thankful wanted to use me as an escape from her parents,” he said climbing back into bed. “If you’d have left things alone maybe I would have had a chance with Thankful . . . someday.”
“Someday?” Weldon laughed dismissively. “It looked like she wanted to be a part of your life now. D-did she give you that watch, son?” Weldon pointed to the exquisite little article opened on his side table.
“What? Do you think I stole it from her?”
“No.” Weldon said with a hint of doubt.
“I didn’t spend her money either. I know I wouldn’t,” William said, shielding his eyes from a shaft of light through the dirty window. “Oh, Papa, I don’t know what went wrong. I’m just so stupid. The money—Thankful came, and I was ashamed. I didn’t fit in the army and . . . I always lose my money. I told Thankful that, but she still trusted me. I don’t remember taking it.”
“B-but your drawings–they’re real good,” Weldon said.
“Who cares?” William cried. “I’m all by myself. How could a girl like Thankful, who’s smart, ever feel more than pity for me?”
His father looked at the dark walls and dirty windows in the charmless room so unlike William’s attic room back in Englewood with its sketches and small collections full of boyhood dreams and innocence. “You’re right, William, she couldn’t have feelings for you the way things stand now.” He picked up the broken little timepiece. “A man accepts his weaknesses and then rises above them.”
PREVIOUS EPISODE WEARY OF RUNNING
Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’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.”