Fiction: Bad Reputation

William almost escapes Thankful’s notice . . .

001-2The officers strode out from officers’ row and every woman, child and mongrel milled about on the parade ground. Guns were presented, cannons were fired and order was pronounced with a clarity and confidence heard nowhere else in William’s life. He marched off, trying to ignore the lines of men with gleaming buttons and bayonets, feeling the leper.

“Willy!” Thankful called, running from the Markhams’ porch on officers’ row.

The men turned to admire her, distracted from their manual of arms.

“William, wait! Where are you going? Mrs. Markham saved you some breakfast.”

The idea of food turned William green. “Thankful, no. I’ve made a right fool of myself coming here last night. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“Not much, I’d say. You were awful drunk.”

“Yes. I realize that.”

“Don’t be that way, William Weldon. You’ve made a big mess for yourself, and I don’t understand it a bit. Mr. Fahy tells me you were to go along with the Bourke fellow to study Indians, but you made excuses! The way you collected bits of the past in Englewood, I’d have thought you’d jump at the chance to really study.”

“I’m no good at study—I have brain problems, remember?”

“Oh, I’m bloody tired of hearing about that!” Thankful burst.

“Bloody? You’re two days with Fahy, and you start talking like a Brit? That’s tragic.”

“The lieutenant is IRISH, I remind you, and you’re the tragic one,” Thankful said. “What I wouldn’t do to have your chances. The only problem you have with your brain is that you so rarely exercise it!”

“That’s not fair!”

“Oh, land sakes, Willy, you’re such a child!” Thankful said, with her trademark pout. “You draw ugly things mostly. Why? Life isn’t so bad.”

“You only skim the surface of things, Thankful. I used to like that about you. But now I see that beneath your helpful cheer is a shallow, judgmental girl, who only cares for herself.” William clutched the watch in his pocket. “You didn’t come to visit me. You came to get your parents in a fit for not paying you enough attention and then you set me up for a complete humiliation just so you can gain the sympathies of the people here who were supposed to welcome me!”

“Supposed to? You earned your place in their hearts and minds long before I arrived! I feel sorry that you think I wouldn’t find you worth a visit. Back in Englewood I admired you, Willy. You always seemed to take such good care of your father and even little Lucy, who would try a saint’s patience.  But now you’re worse than even Buck and Fred—at least they don’t just sit around and complain.”

“What on Earth could they complain about?” William asked. “They’ve never had a single trial that your parents didn’t snatch them out of. Now they’re at college having a grand time, I bet!”

“And so what if they are?” Thankful replied. “You’re on a grand adventure and with more heart and talent than the two of them put together, but you ruin it for yourself! Did it ever occur to you how your parents scrimped to get you here?”

“It’s none of your concern, Thankful.”

She huffed, crossing her arms. “While you’re off wasting their money, your mother worries night and day for you and for your father—she thinks your father will up and die—so Mama says.”

“Is he that ill?”

“Well, no. I don’t think so, but your mother worries just the same.”

“I can’t worry about them anymore. I’ve spent years at it, and where’s it gotten me?” William asked.

“What an awful state of mind! Loving people is reward enough!” Thankful scolded.

“No, I want to do what feels good for me, for once.”

“And what do you think that is?” Thankful asked.

William scratched his head. “I don’t know for certain.”

“I hope it’s not just drinking and being with bad girls,” Thankful said. “You can get . . .”

“I won’t get sick. Anyway, I don’t want to do just that.” William looked at her. Thankful’s freckles seemed to have multiplied overnight. “I’d like to have a proper girl sometime, Thankful . . .”

“Then become a proper man,” she replied turning her nose up at him. “It’s a sin to Moses how you carry on.”

William rolled his eyes and scratched his head. He hoped there were no lice in Fahy’s blankets. “Thankful, will your folks send you money, do you think?”

“They might do, if I ask. My father is very generous with me. But the officers have done up a collection for me and even some of the privates and such threw in what they could. I could leave tomorrow if I liked.”

“Well, bully for you, then.”

“But I won’t go,” Thankful said.

“What?”

“I won’t take advantage of my new friends and spend their money. It’s not right. Mrs. Markham has kindly offered to keep me on for the season.”

“The season?”

“Yes, Willy. You never told me the posts are such social places. Who’d ever want to leave?” Thankful said, enjoying the fact that she’d succeeded where he failed.

William glared at her. “So you’ll stay on and be an extra mouth to feed?”

“As you know, BILL Weldon, Mrs. Markham recently popped out a new baby, and she’s all tuckered out since the last girl ran off with the married major.”

William laughed. “So you’ll be the hired help?”

“Yes, and I suppose that’s where the shoe pinches,” Thankful said. “I don’t know the first thing about cooking and cleaning.”

“You must know something about babies though,” William said. “Your mother has enough of them.”

“Yes. It will be a lark anyhow. I did mention to her that I am just above useless, but didn’t mind some training. Mr. Fahy says he’ll take me out shooting if I’d like.”

“But I thought you were terrified of guns?”

Thankful swished her fan open. “Modern weapons in the right hands are fine. My brothers used to tell me how reckless you were with guns in Englewood.”

“Englewood? The last time I shot in Englewood I was nine or ten years old! I’m a very good shot!”

“William, there is no need to make a scene over a silly old gun,” Thankful lectured. She waved to Fahy as he marched his men by, and he waved back.

William wanted to shoot them both. “I do hope you’ve sent word to your parents. The doctor deserves at least that.”

“I’ve sent a telegram,” Thankful said, “and I intend to write them today to explain my plans. Maybe you should worry about your own relations instead of ordering me.”

“Oh, hell, Thankful, I have to go.”

“Say good day to your town friends, Bill,” Thankful said and marched back inside the Markham’s.

PREVIOUS EPISODE FROM 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.”

Magic

loggers-1900
Loggers 1900 (courtesy Old Photo Archive)

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”Charles de Lint

LINK: WHY MAGIC MATTERS

How to Write Historical Fiction That Will Not Disappoint

desk 4Did you know claiming to be a historical fiction writer is controversial? I didn’t. It seems there is some debate about exactly what historical fiction actually is. What do you think?

Defining the Genre: What are the rules for historical fiction?

Seven Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

What is Historical Fiction?

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Fiction: Sunday Morning

Waking up at Fort Grant reminds William of his father’s morphine addiction and disgrace.

The familiar call of reveille got William’s attention as always. The fife and drum reminded him of his sister Eliza and the quiet lovemaking of his parents when they thought William was asleep so long ago. His gut burned and his side ached from laying on the hard earth as he eased himself up off the blankets on the floor with a big headache.

073Fahy groaned an oath beneath a ragged old pillow and shifted his weight on the army bed. William stood up using the wall for balance. Had he lost his shoes again? No, there they were, neatly tucked beneath a solid camp chair—not the sort his family ever owned. William sat and pulled on his wretched smelling boots, hoping that it had not been Fahy who’d pulled them off for him.

Contrived clutter made the place homey. Pictures of family and friends covered a shelf on the wall and a whatnot in the corner, which looked handmade but well-crafted. A likeness of Fahy posed with a man very much like him sat next to his bed. William turned to see if Fahy was still asleep before picking up the photograph. It would have been nice to have a brother, anyone to talk to. And how did they get to be so confident and happy?

William put the image back in its spot and sat again, staring at the Indian artifacts covering one wall. He wanted to touch them but didn’t, remembering how angry he had been at his sister for destroying his collection only a short while before she died. William longed to go home and sit with his mother. She’d always helped him, and William regretted not thanking her.

Fahy burst to his feet. “Damn it, Weldon, why didn’t you wake me? I’ll be late now for stable!”

“I didn’t think . . .”

Fahy waved William off as he jumped into his boots and pulled on his white stable jacket. He griped about early mornings, poured a glass of whiskey, sugar and bitters, threw it back and ran out the door. In a second Fahy returned. “You’ll be gone before I’m back, I assume? Or are you staying for services?”

“Services?”

“Think, Weldon. It’s Sunday. So will you stay?”

“No . . . I guess not . . . I . . .”

“Miss Crenshaw might prefer not to see you,” Fahy said, this time waiting for some movement from his guest with arms crossed.

“Just give me a second to collect my thoughts,” William said. “It’s too bright out there for me this minute.”

“It’ll be sunny all day, I’d wager. Listen, I’ve got to go, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t touch anything,” Fahy began, but a trace of sympathy passed over the soldier’s face. “I’m sorry, Bill, that was uncalled for, I know.” He glanced at his clock on the shelf. “Damn, I’m really late,” he grumbled and left.

William let his mind wander while sitting in the well-worn camp chair as the band played on parade. When he opened his eyes an hour later Fahy had come and gone again. His bed was made and his dress uniform was missing from its spot. Sunday inspection. William knew he should leave, but the room soothed him. He coughed, sighed and stretched. Grabbing his carbine William pushed into the bright world of the desert.

Because of the dance last night, there were more people than usual at the small post and everyone wore their best gear. William kept his head down and hoped for a quiet exit, but the sight of two companies of infantry and the one of cavalry converging on the parade ground stopped him. He still admired dress parade—it always made Sundays special—and then so humiliating when his father failed at them.

William considered making a sketch for his father to remind him of what proper soldiers looked like, but he didn’t have his sketchbook. In fact he hadn’t picked up a pencil at all in the last month.

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.”

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Why You’re Not You When You’re Not Writing

Some of us must write to feel human 🙂

A Writer's Path

writing tea

by Meg Dowell

For the first week of 2017, because of the new year, I did not write any articles. Clients either weren’t ready to assign them yet or they were having me work on other projects (because being a content creator means you get to write marketing emails too).

For many of you, this probably doesn’t sound like that big a deal. But you have to understand that the nature of my work resulted in me writing over 500 articles last year – that doesn’t include these blog posts. I write articles. It is what people pay me to do. And having already taken a week off of work between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, enduring another week without producing an article was like going without food: it was unbearable.

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Fiction: The Watch

William travels to Camp Grant to return Thankful’s watch (pawned to a worker at the stables by Haviland).

the watch“He’s intoxicated, the thief, and should be left to wander the desert,” Baker, the preacher’s son said when William arrived at Fort Grant that night.

“I’m not drunk—now let me see Thankful.”

The other sentry with Baker laughed. “She won’t be pleased to see you. No one will.”

“Shit-ass, just let me in,” William said with a slur.

The men relented, William being protected property of Captain Bourke’s.

William heard the tinkling of laughter and music at the end of the wind swept parade grounds. What day was it? Saturday? An officers’ dance was on. He limped towards the music, remembering his timid attempt at dance with his mother in the kitchen. His grandmother’s laughter had put a stop to it. “He’s no Simon, is all I have to say!”

No one could ever be like his Uncle Simon. William remembered him as always so at ease and generous—nothing like his father. He sighed, edging closer to the chapel dance hall and shivering in his light jacket. A visiting party of officers and their wives amplified the merriment and noise. A small window offered him a secret glimpse.

old-camp-grant-280Along the larger windows at the far end stood the regular company men and the laundresses envying the lace and cut of the gowns worn by the officers’ wives. Flags and bunting hung everywhere bursting with national colors. William studied the unfinished paintings of swords and chivalrous sayings on the rough walls. No one had attempted completing William’s work. The music from a few members of the regimental band made something ache inside of William.Why couldn’t he ever remember those times in the army with Mother and Papa—and Eliza? He missed things, but couldn’t figure what.

The notes of a waltz came up, and the honor of leading the dance went to a young officer and his new friend. The captain’s wife had been ingenious in getting up, with a few minor alterations, a dress suitable for Thankful, mix and match always the way at the frontier posts where clothes must last. Though more old-fashioned than Thankful usually wore, the lavender bodice and black full skirt set her streets ahead of the other ladies.

William heard a few of the bachelor officers arguing over promised dances, and he wanted to pummel them. Thankful’s laughter annoyed him, too, as she swung along with Fahy, her dark curls bobbing and shining in the candlelight.

Would the musicians ever stop? William cringed when things grew quiet and Thankful pinned her fan beside the corps badge on Fahy’s jacket. Why couldn’t she just stab him? But everything about the Crenshaws went smooth as silk.

William finished the rough whiskey in his bottle and made his way around to the front where a makeshift punch and refreshment table stood with favors and unusual edibles made with army rations and lit by polished lanterns. William grabbed a snack and waited for his chance to speak with Thankful. He upset a small platter with the carbine dangling off his shoulder. The noise caught Mrs. Markham’s attention. She handed her punch to a young pet officer and hustled over to the uninvited guest.

“Mr. Weldon, how are you here tonight? You know how much I care for you—and the captain, too. We’re both still upset you moved away, but this dance is for officers only, I’m afraid.”

William spotted some civilians, but what did it matter if she lied? “Mrs. Markham, I’m here to return something to Miss Crenshaw.”

“So you did take the money then?” Mrs. Markham asked. “I don’t know how it’s all gone so wrong for you. Well, Thankful was certain it was only some sort of mistake. And I suppose it was—to leave money in town the way she did, she’s very foolish, but so darn lovable—practically family already. You know how the army is, William.”

William squirmed.

Mrs. Markham gave him a hard look after spotting the old boots he wore. “Where are the boots the captain and his men got for you?”

“Lost.”

“You exasperate me, young man, truly, you do. But you realize even our lost sheep are welcomed back into the fold if only they’d come,” Mrs. Markham said with marked emphasis.

“Mrs. Markham, I like town,” William replied. “I only came to see Thankful.”

“My, she’s the belle of the barracks, isn’t she?” the captain’s wife said, admiring Thankful.

“She’s lovely,” William said as he caught sight of her, flying by on Fahy’s arm.

“Are you very distant cousins, Mr. Weldon?” Mrs. Markham asked with a confused look.

“No, just up the hill.”

The captain’s wife guided William out of the light. “Sweetie, your cousin is a fine young lady, who I’m sure doesn’t want her chance for a little society to be ruined and cut short by her pickled cousin. Now be fair. I know that it’s far too late for you to go back to your suite in town, but you can’t hang about here looking all dour. I’ll have you set up for bed tonight and you may speak to Miss Thankful first thing.”

Fahy and Thankful dashed up to the table in high spirits and took drinks.

“Those darned buttons and medals and such are pretty to look at and certainly keep my attention, but they scratch awfully much in a dance,” Thankful giggled, rubbing her cheek.

“If you weren’t so energetic in your steps, Miss Crenshaw, maybe a fellow would have a chance to mind his buttons,” Fahy laughed, his dark eyes full of merriment.

“Well, Mr. Fahy, I learned to dance from my father and he’s gracefuller than most,” Thankful said with her nose in the air.

William hated when she spoke childishly for attention.

“I guess your father had less buttons to get in the way,” Fahy quipped.

“Oh, Father has his big belly to watch out for. . .” Thankful burst into tears.

“Miss Crenshaw, did I offend you in some way?”

“Oh, it’s just you’re such a gentleman—like my father and you’ve all been so kind—what with taking up a collection for me—almost thirty dollars even! I’m so horrible and partly homesick—but I’ve made some very special . . . friends here, I think. I’m so mixed up!” A familiar figure stepped out of the shadows. “Willy?!”

Mrs. Markham could not hold him back.

He tucked his shirt as he walked up. “Thankful, I’ve retrieved something of yours.”

“Oh, William! I knew you couldn’t have taken the money. You wouldn’t! It’s not in you!” Thankful cried, deserting Fahy.

“No, Thankful . . . it’s not the money.”

“Well, whatever is it then?” Thankful asked with pained expression.

“It’s this; your watch.” He handed it over.

Fahy came up behind Thankful, protectively. “What has he done?”

Thankful flipped the elegant watch in her hand. “He’s given me my watch back,” she replied, expressionless.

“What’s the matter, Weldon? You couldn’t pawn it?” Fahy asked.

“Mr. Fahy, I think it’s best if you stay out of family business,” Mrs. Markham warned.

Thankful wiped her teary eyes. “I’m so ashamed of myself! I’m no better than poor William who has some excuse! He’s no cousin of mine—just a friend from home, and we lied to you. I put William up to it so I wouldn’t have to stay in that awful town! And I never should have taken the money from my father without permission! I’m a terrible girl who has brought shame to my family. I hope you can see it in your hearts to forgive me!”

Mrs. Markham took Thankful’s hand. “Oh, child, sometimes we learn from failure—I hope you will. Of course, I forgive you.”

“I just feel a little offended, Miss Crenshaw,” Fahy added. “That you would think that the men of the army would ever allow you to stay in town!”

“I realize that now and feel so mortified and foolish to leave my money—and now I will have to leave before I can regain your trust and friendship, Mr. Fahy.”

“You already have my friendship, Miss Crenshaw, and maybe it is you who must learn to trust others who will like you even more for being honest.”

“I will remember it as a lesson learned, Mr. Fahy,” Thankful said, flashing her long wet lashes up at him.

The color rose on Fahy’s face, and he took her hand in his and kissed it.

William froze. The way they gazed at each other was like his mother and father once did. It was like looking at his own lost dream.

Thankful turned to William, her voice icy. “Thank you for the watch back, but . . . well, it’s broken and all. Maybe you should pawn it.”

“Thankful, I just know that I would never take your money—I know it,” William said.

“Then where is it, Willy?” Thankful demanded.

“I think that maybe my friends . . .”

“Your friends? Who are these friends?” Thankful pulled William aside. “Are they the other drunks from town? I’m ashamed to know you. You’ve turned into what your friends are and your father would be very upset.”

“My father? What do you know about him, Thankful?”

“All I know is that he’s a sweet old man, and he’d be as heartbroken as I am seeing you like this!”

“Who do you think you are? After two days you’re sparking with the officers! Lieutenant Fahy even! Getting their hopes up only to go off and take up with someone else. I thought maybe you were better than the other Crenshaws, but you play tricks with people like nothing!” William said.  Unsteady on his feet, he took a step back.

Fahy and Mrs. Markham inched closer again.

“I’ve never played a single trick on you!” Thankful cried. “Why are you so cruel?”

“Because all of you Crenshaws are a pack of liars and cheats!”

Thankful threw the watch at him, “You are so eaten up with hate and jealousy. There’s no helping it! I don’t want a friend like you when there are men like Mr. Fahy. I’ll be a true and loyal friend to him—in letters even—if he’ll allow it.” Thankful turned to the lieutenant.

Fahy lingered in her adoration a moment.  He turned to William then. “Bill, you need to go to bed. I’ll set something up in my quarters,” he proposed with a magnanimous smile sent Thankful’s way.

William was in no shape to decline his offer.

PREVIOUS EPISODE FROM 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.”

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