FREE Weekend Reads!

“A piece of art – a story that flows from one page to the next, one year to the next, with absolute beauty. It was painful at times, full of raw emotion, but so beautifully, wonderfully written.” Amazon Review

For the next 5 days both

The House on Tenafly Road

and

The Dew That Goes Early Away

will be FREE on Amazon!

Now’s the time to get caught up with THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES before the final books are released in the coming months.

 

Fiction: Hooked Up

Buck followed, having nowhere else to go. He glanced around at the filth and total confusion of the tiny place divided by a soiled and torn old quilt. The walls moved with bugs in the flickering candlelight.

Fred grabbed at Ginny, who wore a threadbare wrapper. She had a wonderfully white and soft-looking body, Buck noticed as Fred unwrapped her, but old evidence of smallpox marred her face, making her ugly. As soon as Buck thought it he remembered his own disfigurement in shame.

“Where’s the money? Money comes first, child,” Ginny demanded even as Fred shoved his hand between her legs.

Unusual drawings sat piled upon a small footstool and Buck went to them. They were shaky and crass but familiar.

“I’ll give you an extra fifty cents if you put it in your mouth, girl,” Fred bargained while unbuttoning his trousers. “But wait, what’s that mark at your mouth? You’re not diseased or anything, are you?”

“I had the pox as a girl …”

Buck looked up from the pictures and for a moment caught Ginny’s eyes. “Fred, she must be just Thankful’s age.”

The girl stopped what she was doing and glanced back at Buck. “Thankful?”

“Yes, our sister.”

“Who the hell cares?” Fred asked. “Go back to work.” He grabbed Ginny by the hair and jerked her head. “I’m paying, he isn’t. Listen to me if you don’t want any trouble.”

“Fred!” Buck shouted, but his voice hardly carried.

Buck watched as a tear rolled down the girl’s cheek. How desperate she must be to do this for fifty cents! “Miss Ginny, even now, right this very minute, there’s someone who wants better for you,” Buck said.

“Shut up, Buck!” Fred shouted as something stirred behind the other side of the quilt.

Buck peeked around it. “Willy!”

The quilt hid the worst of the room’s mess. Empty bottles and crumpled papers littered the floor.

“William, it’s me, Buck Crenshaw.”

“I know who you are,” William mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Why are you here?”

“Fred is—well, he’s with the girl.”

“My wife?” William asked, detached.

“I-I don’t know. I mean, I hope not. Not the girl on the other side?”

“Yes, so what? I wanted to do right by her … and she cares for me. Ginny doesn’t judge.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE

THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

 

Featured Image: The Awakening of Conscience by William Holman Hunt

Fiction: Sleeping Arrangements

“Mrs. Crenshaw, I want to apologize for my acid tongue earlier on,” Mrs. Markham said. “I was worried over Buck, as I’m sure you were, but that was no excuse.”

Margaret surveyed the plump, plain, little woman. “I accept your apology. We Easterners have high standards as far as manners go. I couldn’t possibly hold you to them.”

“I am from the East,” Mrs. Markham said, holding her chin a little higher.

“Oh. From where?”

“North Carolina.”

“Well, that’s not really east is it? It’s practically southern.”

“It is southern—where manners were born!” Mrs. Markham said.

“On the backs of the darkies,” Fred quipped.

Again there was a long silence. Thankful could smell Fahy’s perspiration and urine. She wondered if anyone else noticed.

Mrs. Markham took a deep breath. “Thankful and I have a few ideas for the wedding, Mrs. Crenshaw. I hope you don’t mind I’ve gone ahead and reserved the dance hall.”

Dance hall? Is my daughter to be married in a saloon? I know the lieutenant is Irish, but this is ridiculous! I’d prefer a Catholic church to that.”

“Mama, the dance hall is just here at the fort—for military celebrations,” Thankful explained. “It’s easily decorated—we thought some desert flowers and special lanterns from a friend of ours in town …”

“Desert flowers? Is that what I smell because, honestly, I’ll be sick if I don’t get air soon,” Margaret said.

Graham figured what the smell was and sympathized with the bitter, young lieutenant. “Margaret, we should walk the grounds and get our things.”

“Our things won’t fit in this tiny house, Graham,” she half whispered.

“Mother, Meg will sleep up with me, and Fred will share a tent with Buck. You and Father will stay in a nice wall tent.”

“A wall tent? Me? I’ve always told you that I’m afraid of tents—they fall down—and there are dragons and bugs creeping and crawling—oh no. I can’t! I won’t!” Margaret cried. “I thought at least after all the other disappointments Thankful might find us a proper roof to sleep under!”

“Mama, the tent is very nicely done up.”

Graham laughed. “It’ll be like old times in the army, Maggie. It’ll be fun.”

“I guess you forget that I was never in the army like the nurse you slept with last summer! Sleeping under canvas will only serve to remind me of how much you’ve hurt me!” Margaret sobbed, mopped her eyes, and stopped. “I will sleep with my girls.”

“But Mama, there’s no space.”

“We’ll make space,” Mrs. Markham said.

“Perfect then,” Margaret replied. “Tonight we can discuss my plans for my daughter’s wedding.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Markham said.

They stood for another moment.

“I’ll go get your things then, Margaret,” Graham said.

Fred and Buck followed him out.

“Well, this is some disaster, Father. I don’t like that Fahy a bit—seems angry.” Fred lit a cigar.

“Of course he’s angry—he can’t walk!”

Fred changed the subject. “So I guess you and Mama aren’t sleeping in the same room anymore.”

“That’s none of your damned business, Fred. Now just take these bags to your mother and leave me be.”

Fred shrugged and did as he was told.

Graham sat heavily upon one of their trunks.

“Father, are you all right?” Buck asked, suffering the same queasiness he had often experienced as a child when he worried about his father’s tenuous health.

Graham took out a cigar and offered one to his son.

“No, it irritates my throat now,” Buck said. “Father, are you sure you’re feeling well?”

Graham looked at him differently now, almost as a friend. “No, son. I’m not all right. When have I ever been? I married a woman I never loved and in avoiding her I neglected the needs of my children.”

LINK: PREVIOUS EPISODE

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: The Wedding Party

On the train west, Margaret Crenshaw insulted the coachmen and train conductors while fretting over the linens and china purchased and packed with great care for Thankful’s wedding.

Fred in his booming arrogance educated his family about Indian tribes and the sinister Chinese—betraying his ignorance of both. Meg stared out the window, chin in hand, glum over a missed trip to Europe with friends. Graham fighting a mix of dread and sadness, begged Margaret and Fred to be quiet.

Thankful had always pleased Graham. Even after she stole his money, Graham assumed she’d come home married to William—not the best match, but one he could accept. Now Thankful was lost to a poor Irish soldier. At one time Graham suggested he might keep Thankful to himself as a nurse or even a doctor in his practice, but Margaret blocked the idea of careers for her girls. Often now the old doctor took to daydreams and fabulous fantasies only to wake up more depressed than ever. And sometimes still, he wished he might love his wife and resolved to try harder.

The waving grasses of the plains and now the bright desert sky held no appeal. Graham loved the soft forests, the friendly mountains—just the right size for average people to climb—and the temperate weather of New Jersey and his little part in it. He dreaded seeing Buck, whom he hadn’t spoken with since Christmas. There had been no news of his son since the telegram he sent to his mother from Willcox upon his arrival over a month ago.

“Well, there’s no point in worrying, I suppose,” he said out loud to no one in particular.

“It’s too late now to fuss, Graham. We’re here to marry our daughter to a Catholic,” Margaret complained, fanning herself. “I knew it was trouble to raise her so unprejudiced. You’ve done Thankful a great disservice. My Meg would never do something so scandalous.”

Graham turned back to staring out the window. Plain Meg would be lucky to marry anyone. Fred smirked until Margaret slapped him.

“Well, damn, Father,” Fred said. “We must be nearly there by now. These trains are never run on time—lazy foreigners and trash.”

“Dear, what’s the hurry?” Margaret asked. “All we have to look forward to is a dusty old camp with bugs and heat.”

“How about seeing your children?” Graham pointed out, wiping his brow.

“Don’t lecture me about valuing the children, Graham. How much time did you ever spend with them?”

“When did you ever let me? You conspired to have them hate me!”

Meg stood and pushed past Fred. “If I hear one more word from either of you I’ll scream!”

“Next station Willcox, Arizona!” the conductor called.

The Crenshaws stretched their necks to get a first glimpse of the town.

“It’s godawful!” Fred remarked, but his eyes were eager.

Margaret and Meg peered with their mouths ajar, taking in the rough and forlorn buildings and the array of unusual people as the train pulled into the station. In their elegant eastern attire, Margaret and Meg stood paralyzed with revulsion.

“Girls, let’s go,” Graham ordered, nudging his wife.

Fred trotted down the aisle. Graham’s heart raced and sweat poured from him as he stepped on to the platform, craning his neck in search of Buck and Thankful. He saw two soldiers on leave leaning against a dilapidated adobe storehouse near the tracks. “Fellows, we’re looking for my son,” Graham began. “You may know him.”

The disinterested soldiers sneered, but Graham stood, mopping sweat from his brow and waiting. One with a cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth relented. “Has this son of yours got a name?”

“Yes, of course. Buck Crenshaw—he’s a cadet.”

“Oh, you mean The Apostle?”

“Pardon?” Graham laughed at the notion.

The one nodded. “Yep, your son is just over there yonder.” He pointed behind the station.

Graham for a moment didn’t recognize him. Buck’s hair hung longer as he talked in an uncharacteristically relaxed manner to a ragged stranger instead of greeting his family at the train. Graham waited in curiosity. Fred paid someone to load up their things on a coach before joining his family as they appraised the situation. Taking the lead, Fred strode forward with the rest of the family at his heels.

Buck quoted, “‘The Lord is just in all His ways and holy in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of all who fear Him, He hears their cry and saves them. The Lord keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked he will destroy.’”

“What on earth?” Graham whispered.

“It’s a psalm, Father—145.” Fred smiled. “What’s Buck up to now?”

“I know it’s a psalm,” Graham said, and Buck whirled around at the sound of his father.

“Father!” he cried, his voice still weak. The sick man moved away into a shadowy alley. Buck embraced his stiff father. “Father, I want to ask you for forgiveness. I’ve been a terrible son. I’ve had a lot of time to think and …” He wept. “I’ve been a fool. I want to do things right this time. I love you.”

What sort of game was Buck playing? Graham hesitated, searching his son’s eyes for guile or something other than what seemed earnestness. “Buck …”

“I don’t deserve your forgiveness,” Buck began.

“No, son, it’s me.” Graham burst into unexpected tears. “I’ve treated you badly all these years and never should have been away so much.”

Fred, Margaret, and Meg looked on in horror.

PREVIOUS EPISODE

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Choices

“Do you really believe that you had any control over your parents?”

“Yes, they depended on me! I went wild when they needed me to be calm. I poisoned a teacher and Mother lost a replacement for Eliza, and then my father took me and I tried to please him but still he did the morphine.”

“You were a child.”

“Yes, but now, now it’s so much worse because I know it’s true,” William said, his fingers trembling a little as he flicked the ashes from his cigarette.

“The dream?”

“No! I know my father loved the morphine more than me.”

“Don’t be silly …”

“Mr. Kenyon, I’m not silly or a kid. I love to drink. I do love it more than my family. I love it more than anything, and now that I know how it feels—I feel more … sad or angry or something … about my father—and mother. She’ll always come second.”

“But … your father chose you and your mother, didn’t he?”

William put out his cigarette against the adobe wall. “I never trusted it would last. And it hasn’t.”

“So you waited all of these years to see what your father would do?”

“Yes, we all did. If my papa went anywhere on his own, we worried. Would he fall or stop at the druggist’s or leave for good.”

“Well, that’s a very sad story. It must have been hard for your father knowing you had no faith in him.”

“Yes, poor Papa. We all felt so sorry when he was the bastard to let us down.”

“You’ve let me down once or twice. How should I feel?” Kenyon asked.

“You can fire me—no hard feelings,” William offered.

“Yes, I suppose I could give up on you because you’re problematic, but I won’t. I’ll leave that decision up to you.”

“I thought I only had this one chance.”

Kenyon laughed. “Did I say that? I told you what my expectations were, but to be honest, I never imagined you’d be perfect. I recall promising not to desert you.”

“What do the others say?”

“They think I’m crazy, but I want your drawings,” Kenyon replied. “So what will you decide, Mr. Weldon?”

“I’d better not stay. After what happened the other night, I can’t make any promises. I don’t want to, and right now I’d love a drink,” William said.

“Very well. It’s your life—what’s left of it,” Kenyon said. He stood and patted William on the shoulder with a weak, disappointed smile and left.

William sighed in momentary relief. No more demands. No more cigarettes. Damn. He’d put himself at loose ends again with little money. Even the art supplies were not his own. Papa had been so proud of the cheap little set of paints he’d given him. Kenyon and his men would have laughed at such junk. But … his father had tried his best.

No! He would not pity his father. Yet William’s heart ached listening to Thankful talk to Buck out under the porch. He missed his mother—the way she laughed at ruined meals and the way she took off his boots and rubbed his sore leg as if it were some kind of honor. He shouldn’t have spoken ill of her to Kenyon.

William sighed staring up at the ceiling as a spider mended its web. He had to get out of here!

PREVIOUS EPISODE

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

 

FEATURED IMAGE: Edvard Munch Self Portrait

Fiction: The Only Thing Left

“Then I’ll be eternally damned, right?” William asked with a sneer.

Kenyon said nothing.

“But Buck, who admits to almost killing someone, is saved. Well, that’s some trick.”

Kenyon thought a moment. “It’s interesting that you feel within your rights to judge and require certain behaviors—say from your father—but it annoys you that God, who is all knowing, should require things of you.”

“Well, God’s just imagination and I won’t give over my whole life to a set of dumb rules with no pay-off. I thought God was all right years ago. I even considered the priesthood. I was a dumb kid. I thought if only my parents would stay together I’d do anything.”

“And they stayed together?”

“Yes, but it was a hell for me. I used to have smarts, I wasn’t a cripple—this is all my father’s doing and I hate him for it. When he came back to us he fawned over us or sat staring out the window like a moron. And my mother put up with it! And they let Buck and Fred make a fool of me. I was finally away from all that, but now they’re here again to make me look stupid, and Buck tells you about me?”

“Yes, he said some very kind things about you and your father …”

“I want peace and to be left alone,” William said.

“Now you lie. Your idea of peace is a drunken stupor, and take my word—each drunken episode will get worse and worse till you end up—”

“I’m not you, Mr. Kenyon. I have no intention of opening an evil den of iniquity.”

“I bet you had no intention of almost causing an Indian outbreak, getting Buck and Fahy shot, or nearly dying yourself because of drink.”

William said nothing for a minute. “That wasn’t all my fault.”

“But look what happens when you drink. Don’t you want anything better for yourself?”

“No. I can’t imagine anything.”

“When was the last time your father used morphine?”

“What? Why?” William straightened up.

“I suppose it’s natural to want to be like your father,” Kenyon said.

“That’s the last thing I wanted! I wanted to be so different, and I am different. He pretends to be so good now.”

“Maybe people aren’t pretending or faking you. Maybe they make mistakes—like you do.”

“You can’t compare me to them! I leave people alone,” William said and scratched his nose. “My father stopped doing it for a long time—as far as I know—but Thankful had to go and tell them how I was and out he came to see me, and he did the morphine again and someone saw him—not being himself. He’s not good without my mother. She makes everything perfect for him so there’s no upsets, but he doesn’t deserve it. Anyway, I treated him like shit so he did it again.”

“But how is any of this your fault?” Kenyon asked, handing William a cigarette of his own—though no one ever saw him smoke.

William lit up. “You know, God came to me in a dream once. Promised me if I was good, my parents would be all right. For all I know my father is hiding needles again and my mother is denying it … but there’s Lucy to worry about and Grandma, who’s so different without my grandfather and Uncle Simon … and maybe it’s wrong for me to drink—hell, I know it is. At least my father came by his problem acting bravely on the battlefield. I got this because I was weak and afraid on my own. So I drank once, and this is what God does—he punishes me with it forever. So fine, I should have been good, but now I’m pretty sure I can’t stop it. I did want to—for you, Mr. Kenyon—but it’s all I have. It’s the only thing, so that’s it.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Stealing Salvation

Buck cupped Thankful’s wet cheeks in his hands. “Poor you, you’re as messed up as the rest of us Crenshaws, but I love you for it. Don’t cry, it’s all right. I’m so glad now that I’m here for you.”

“Oh, Buck, it means so much to me that you don’t hate me. I’ve been such a fool and I’ve had no one to talk to! Pierce steals little things, silly things, and at first I was angry, but he pointed out what I had done to Father …”

“No, Father was glad you took the money. How else would you get by? And he hoped William might watch after you—that was a mistake.”

“Oh, I miss Father. I know he wasn’t so nice to you, but I love him,” Thankful cried. “And even Mama too!”

“I never gave Father a reason to like me,” Buck said.

“Buck, I used to think I was better than a whore, but I guess I’m not,” Thankful said, folding her handkerchief in her lap.

“I used to think I was better than a murderer until I almost became one,” Buck said.

Thankful and Buck burst out into hysterical laughter. William cursed them both. “Will the two of you shut up?!”

Ignoring him, Buck got serious.

“But if none of this bad stuff happened I wouldn’t have found God, so I’m glad for it. It makes no sense and it sounds crazy, but I’m very happy.”

Thankful smiled. “You are crazy, but it’s wonderful—you’re different now—I can see it already.”

“Oh, that’s just my gashes and pus filled sores,” Buck joked.

Thankful kissed his good cheek.

Mr. Kenyon walked in and took off his hat. “Miss Crenshaw, I heard that you had a rough time with the lieutenant. I’m sorry.”

Thankful took a deep breath and stood. “Mr. Kenyon, it seems that you’ve stolen my brother and sent another in his place. It’s an answer to prayers. Buck was always so unhappy and there he is foolishly beaming now! Thank you.”

“No, I won’t take the credit. The truth is, I was ministering to William, but your brother was a pest—thank God—or I wouldn’t have noticed. He kept whispering questions, like a fly buzzing in my ear. Meanwhile my pride was set on getting to William. But God has his own plans—that’s still a lesson I’m learning. So despite me, Buck found what he needed to find.”

William fumed in his bed with arms tightly folded as the three discussed alienating and annoying religious things. He wondered at how unchristian they were being by leaving him out.

“Thankful, maybe I’ll take air while the doctor’s not around to stop me. We can sit under the porch for a while.” Buck stood, putting his arm over Thankful’s shoulders. “Who knows how much trouble I’m in. I’ll enjoy my freedom while I can.”

Thankful led him out, marveling at Buck’s light mood.

Kenyon took a seat beside William and poured him another glass of water, which William refused. Kenyon waited.

“That Buck is such a fake. I can’t believe you stand for it,” William said.

“I don’t get that impression. Seems like Buck was saving all his words for now though.” Kenyon laughed. “I don’t think people have much listened to him over the years, but he’s quite an intelligent young man.”

“Yes, I know. I’ve heard all my life how smart they are—the Crenshaws. Now Buck’s charmed you and you’ll play the fool, I bet!”

“Well, I’ve played the fool many times. I’m not afraid of that. I’m happy for him. Buck’s told me an awful lot about himself—and you too.”

“Great.”

“People can’t be trusted, can they, William?”

“No.”

“So your father disappointed you, then?”

“No! It’s more than that, but it’s none of your damned business. I knew you were a liar,” William mumbled, searching for another cigarette.

“Liar?”

“You admitted to Buck and me just now that you were only trying to get me as some sort of trophy—one more caught in your net, right? Well, I told you from the start I didn’t want to be caught.”

“And I didn’t believe you,” Kenyon admitted. “But it’s not as if you don’t understand what missionaries do, William. You were the dishonest one from the start—trying to have it both ways. Drinking on the sly—but even in that, you’re no good at deception and I suppose I liked that about you. But don’t think for a second you were any more special or had any more potential than anyone else. You weren’t my very special case. I do my best for God—not you—although I hope I can be of service to you. In the end it was Buck who wanted and needed God. Maybe your time hasn’t come yet, or maybe you’ll never want it.”

“Then I’ll be eternally damned, right?”

Kenyon said nothing.

PREVIOUS EPISODE

***Featured Image: Edward Okun  The War and Us

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Faith

The doctor led Thankful and Buck through the short, cool hallway to the adjacent room reserved for hopeless cases. There lay the lieutenant asleep.

“He’s not dead, is he?” Buck asked from the doorway, craning his neck to see.

“No, Buck,” the doctor replied and turned to Thankful. “You may want to say your last goodbyes—just in case.” The doctor left them alone.

Buck squeezed Thankful’s hand. “We must try to have faith.”

Thankful glanced his way. He brought her to the top of the bed and spotted a chair around the other side to sit in himself.

“He looks perfectly well, doesn’t he, Buck?” Thankful asked and ran her fingers along his face. “What shall we do?”

“I guess we could pray or something,” Buck suggested, his color rising.

Thankful looked up at him in surprise. He shrugged in embarrassment.

“You lead us. I’d feel, well, idiotic,” Buck said.

Thankful took his extended hands. “Buck Crenshaw, you begin to worry me,” she said, regarding him with skepticism.

They bowed their heads. Buck concentrated hard to keep his head from spinning.

Thankful began, “Dear Lord …”

“Jaysus! God almighty! What’s all this?” Fahy suddenly shouted.

The Crenshaws jumped and Thankful screamed. “Oh, dear! We thought you were sleeping! Oh, lieutenant, this is awful!” Thankful cried. “Don’t you dare go and die on me! I’m going to have your little baby. I was saving it as a surprise, my sweetheart!”

For a second, Fahy forgot himself and a flush of excitement coursed the lines of his weather-beaten face until the reality of his situation came back. “But, Thankful, you wanted lots of children …”

“No, dear, that was you. You’re all I need. We’ll be all right. How are you feeling?”

“I don’t feel a damned thing,” he said. “I’m fucked in a cocked hat.”

Thankful kissed his forehead. “I wish you would mind your language, Mr. Fahy. You’ll always be a hero to me—the hero who saved my brother!”

Buck spoke. “Well, Fahy was drunk when he did it, and really, we were fine.”

“Buck Crenshaw!” Thankful cried.

“What is he doing here? Haven’t you done enough damage?” Fahy shouted.

“Only as much as you’ve done yourself!”

“Buck, now’s not the time!” Thankful sobbed. “Poor Mr. Fahy—Willy and Buck have been immature and reckless. Please don’t judge them harshly. We must focus on getting you well.” Thankful took his hand in hers and kissed it.

“Thankful, where’s your ring?” Fahy asked.

“Oh, it’s not important.”

“Of course it is!”

“Where is it, sis?” Buck pressed.

“Lieutenant, the ring you gave me … well, it was stolen. Of course no one believes that you had anything to do with it. When the men from the 24th Infantry came into camp, an officer from Fort Sill recognized the ring as the very one taken from his wife only last year.”

Buck whispered, “Fahy, you scoundrel, you said it was all the way from Ireland!”

“Yes, yes! It was! That’s what I was told—when I bought it!” Fahy said. “Thankful, please, believe me.”

“Buck, you’re behaving shamefully! Of course I believe you, lieutenant. I don’t give a fig about expensive things.”

Fahy glared at Buck. “You bastard.”

“Seems the army knows about the fixed scales and such,” Buck said. “I’m sure nothing will come of it though.” He stalked off. His first venture out of bed brought him into struggle and strife.

Thankful turned to Fahy. “Oh, I had so hoped that Buck had changed. I’m sorry I ever let him come visit you. I suppose I thought he might be inspired by you—a real and true officer.”

“You’ve thought too much of me, lovey. And now look—I’m useless. They say I’ll never walk!” Fahy cried.

“Never?” Thankful gasped, but regained her composure. “My sweet, we’ll make do somehow. My father will help. We’ll go back home.”

“No! How can I meet your family this way? And you with child and starting to show! They’ll figure what we’ve done and they’ll blame me.”

“Buck knows, and he’s still speaking to me—after the initial shock …”

“You told Buck? When?”

“Before …”

“Does anyone else know?”

“Well, William—”

Bill Weldon knew before me?”

“Miss Peckham, I think, told him.”

Miss Peckham knew? For Christ’s sake! When were you going to tell me?”

“You were distracted by Miss Peckham and then your trip. I wanted it to be special—so I waited.”

“Well, now it’s goddamned special, isn’t it? I can’t support you or a child! Why did this have to happen to me? Why do I always get the short end of the stick?”

“Oh lieutenant, but I love you.”

“You don’t love me! You never have. If you could, you’d escape but for the baby.”

“Pierce Fahy, don’t dare say it! Don’t lie!” Thankful began sobbing.

“I have nothing to offer you now.”

“But surely the army will take care of you.”

“A lieutenant’s pay at half is nothing … and the scales—those bloody scales!”

“Scales? You make no sense,” Thankful said.

“Those damned savages had it in for me from the start! Now they accuse me of fixing the scales—it’s that missionary Kenyon’s doing. I know it!”

“Mr. Kenyon?”

“He’s dodgy, Thankful. Kenyon’s turned everyone against me. Sure, he’s admitted to all sorts of perversions and crimes. But he puts people like your William under his spell. I only tried to help Bill out the other night—to get him from under Kenyon, but in the end they were all against me.”

“Please, quiet down. You must stay peaceful. No one wants to hurt you—you’re just upset—rightly so. We must believe in miracles.” She wiped his brow “You’ll be healed.”

“And how many other spontaneous healings have you been witness to?” Fahy asked tenderly and wept.

PREVIOUS EPISODE

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

 

 

Featured Image: Edward Burne-Jones – The Beguiling of Merlin

Fiction: Freedom

“Thankful is a uniform chaser,” William said.

“Now, you should take that back. Thankful’s a romantic and a good girl, and I’ll help her all I can.”

“So I guess you’ll be taking my spot on Mr. Kenyon’s team.”

“Me?” Buck chuckled. “My cartography skills are only fair to middling. Nothing on the wonderful maps you’re able to make. No, I’m going back to school and try to do better. I want to be a good officer if that’s what God wants.”

William moaned. “Oh, I get it. Is Mr. Kenyon going to give you a reference or something?”

“No. I’m grateful to Seth, but after all he hardly knows me.”

“I know your heart, son,” Kenyon said. “You’ll do splendidly, and if you ever do need a friend or reference you have it. You have a greater supporter than this old sinner, though.”

“Oh! I can’t stand another word!” William said. “How can Buck be forgiven and changed and all this crap in three days, and I’ve been with you, Mr. Kenyon, for weeks and weeks and I feel nothing new? God—if there is one—hasn’t made any effort with me. No tap on the shoulder. Buck is and always has been too weak to stand on his own, and now there’s no Fred or any other Crenshaw to hide behind so instead he’ll ask some invisible god to make his decisions. It’s a weakness.”

Buck glared at him with his one good eye. William chuckled at this glimpse of the old Buck, but then Buck said, “Seth pointed out we’re all weak and we all search for the magic thing within us or in the world to give us strength. Even the Indians do that. I used to think that if only I was the best cadet, had the shiniest rifle, then … but there’s no magic in men. Nothing will make me strong on my own. We laugh at the talismans of the Indians—they delude themselves. I was no better. I guess we all have to choose something or some way to live. Ask yourself, Willy, what’s more ludicrous—losing yourself in God or in drink?”

“At least I can experience the effects of whiskey—there’s no trick there—I don’t have to convince myself. It’s clear as day.”

“And what good does it do?” Kenyon asked.

“What? Why does it have to do good? I never said I was on a mission for good. What about fun and doing as you please? Like the Indians used to? I can see why they don’t want what we want for them.”

“So you want to be like the Indians? Blown by the wind, dependent on the government, or out murdering and plundering as they’ve done for generations? Do you want to make slaves of women and beat them to death with shovels like that young Apache did last week?” Kenyon asked.

“Hey, white men have done the same—even improving on some of their savagery,” William said.

“And what makes the Indians attractive to you then?”

“Why should men have to follow rules? Everyone should do what makes them feel good—as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. The Apaches get up and decide to drink or decide to do nothing but have a laugh, or they raid now and again. Didn’t Jesus say something about sharing your stuff anyway and waiting around like a lily or something?”

“There’s something in the Bible about stealing, Willy,” Buck said with a smile.

Why did Buck keep smiling? William wanted to clobber him. “Anyway, people talk about freedom, and that’s all I want.”

Kenyon shook his head. “This freedom you talk about—if the Apache had kept their agreements with the Mexicans or any other tribe in the West, then they’d have some allies. Truth is, their idea of freedom does hurt innocent people.” Kenyon folded a towel as he spoke. “We all know the army can’t defeat the Apaches without help. They’re not equipped. But the Apaches turn on their own as scouts, and they’re free to do it, I suppose. Your freedom has landed you and Buck in the hospital. Your fun caused you to lose Thankful’s money, and you’ve lost work and pay and friendship in enjoying your desires. Would your mother be proud? I’m not.”

“I don’t give a damn if you’re proud or not,” William said.

“Then why have you worked night and day doing splendid art for me?” Kenyon asked. “Why did you so eagerly seek my approval each evening? Why did you stay off drink for a month?”

“I broke my promise to you, and I’m sorry about that …”

“Willy, how many times did your father say the same thing to you?” Buck asked.

Just then the doctor came into the room, kicking a scorpion out of the way. “You scared us, Willy—nearly stopped breathing all together. You’re lucky to be alive. I’ll send word to your parents.”

“No, please don’t.”

“How is Lieutenant Fahy, doctor?” Kenyon asked.

“Not good, I’m afraid. The lieutenant will never walk if he lives. He’s conscious though.”

Buck and William exchanged horrified looks.

“What’s happened to Fahy?” Buck asked.

“Seems the bit of merriment you boys had got the lieutenant shot,” said the veteran doctor.

PREVIOUS EPISODE

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Awakenings

The cool adobe walls reminded William of Old Camp Grant as he awoke on yet another bright day.

“Finally awake, Willy?” Buck whispered from the next cot.

William lifted his throbbing head and turned to him, his body aching. “Buck? What happened?”

“My father’s Scotch landed us into a mess. I’ll have some story when I go back east—shot by an Apache and all.”

William moaned, remembering bits and pieces of the trouble. “I thought you were dead.”

Buck laughed. “Seems we were both near dead, but Fahy’s men found us in a heap with the horse tumbled down the hill and brought us back. I was only knocked out and grazed—see, right here.”

“Buck, I remember … you saved my life.”

“You’ve been unconscious for three days. That Apache liquor almost did you in—so the doctor says.”

“I remember you on that horse … all alone to come get me,” William said. “You’ve got courage.”

Buck sat up and William got a good look at him. The bullet had more than just grazed Buck’s cheek. His red eye was ringed in black.

“Your friend Kenyon’s been here with you every minute, but a few—praying over you and everything.” Buck coughed. “I’m sorry about bringing all that Scotch now. I didn’t know that you had any trouble with it.”

“Your family never told you how I lost Thankful’s money?” William asked.

“I hardly talk to my family,” Buck said, brightening with a grin as Kenyon entered the room. “William is back among the living.”

“I see that and thank God for it, Buck,” Kenyon said, handing him a small Bible.

“Thank you, Seth—very much,” Buck said, eagerly flipping the pages.

“What’s happened?” William asked. How was Buck on such familiar terms with Kenyon? He remembered what he’d said to the missionary and slid back down into bed.

“Well …” Buck explained, “I’ve been saved.”

“What?”

“Buck has accepted Jesus as his savior, William,” Kenyon said, bringing a water pitcher to William’s bedside and pouring him a drink.

“No. Now that’s impossible,” William said, with a laugh. “Buck is playing you for a fool.”

“No, it was you who played me for a fool, I’m afraid. We had an arrangement, and you didn’t keep up your end.” Kenyon adjusted Buck’s pillow.

“So that’s it then? You said you’d never give up on …” William began.

“I haven’t given up on you. I’m true to my word, but you’re not, and although I care for you—like you even—should I override my colleagues’ fair concerns? They were impressed with you, but now … well, you understand.”

“And now Buck Crenshaw is the winner?” William complained.

“Winner?” Kenyon asked with a chuckle. “He was ready for a change.”

William glared at Buck and sat up intending to leave bed, but his body rebelled. Someone had taken his shirt from him, and as William sat trying to gather strength, he noticed his stark, emaciated reflection in the mirror across the small room. It momentarily scared him.

Buck whispered something. “… and Willy, I don’t deserve your forgiveness for the cruel pranks—they were worse than pranks, weren’t they? It was so easy to hate you  … everyone fussed over you—even my very own father. You never deserved what we did, and I’ve been hating myself for years, but I never had the guts to stop it. I nearly killed a cadet—a black boy I actually liked. I was afraid to stand up. Someday you may forgive me—I hope so—but I will always suffer at the thought of how low I’m capable of being.”

“I’m glad you suffer—if you really do—” William scoffed, “but this is just another way to show me up by taking my friend away with a stupid conversion story. Next you’ll say it was the shot to the head and falling from the horse that did it for you.”

Buck looked at Kenyon. “Well, indirectly.”

“Land sakes, what bunk!” William slipped his mangled foot back beneath the blankets.

“The thing is, if I hadn’t been shot I wouldn’t have spent the last few days watching Kenyon care for you. I mean, you were rotten to Seth, and he forgives you. You were rude and drunk and disrespectful and …”

“Sakes alive, I get the picture!”

“Yes, well it was good for me in a way because if you didn’t get Seth so angry he wouldn’t have told us his sordid story,” Buck said in excitement.

“I’m glad I was of service to you,” William said. “I’m used to that—once I was the butt of your jokes and now I’m the path leading to your reform. This is like a bad dream.”

William wondered at Buck’s animated and informal manner. Maybe the shot to his head had done more damage than they realized.

“I kind of feel light now,” Buck continued. “It sounds crazy, but I had so much to hide and regret before. I never thought how hard things were for you, Willy, even counting money and such.”

“Okay, okay, let’s not go into that!” William said.

“Do you know how many fellows I helped beat the shit out of? Or how many animals I tortured and killed and didn’t even want to? I was my brother’s slave—no, I was a slave to my loneliness. I’d do anything only to keep him. But on the horse the other night, I was a little drunk and all—not as bad as you. You had alcohol poisoning! But when I went and got you it was a good thing.”

“So now you’re a hero—a saint even,” William grumbled.

“No, no, not at all. I’m the lowest of the low, but in that moment I was a little bit better than myself.”

“Drink gave you courage. So what?” William looked to Kenyon to see if he was listening.

Buck continued. “So anyway, I remember when we were thrown from the horse, and I don’t know what made me say it at all, but I remember asking for God—probably because I thought I was dying. And I even prayed for you!” Buck laughed. Buck never laughed.

William rolled his eyes. “Thanks for the prayers,” he said. He’d catch Buck out somehow. “So now you’re squeaky clean.”

“No, no. Seth convinced me I’m forgiven. I figure if God could forgive Seth for deviancy then maybe he could forgive me too. But I’ll never forget all I’ve done. Like practicing for that little spelling bee at your house, and your mother made us special treats and was so happy to see us. And your father, he took longer to warm up to us, but then he was over the moon and giving us little bits of change and all. Fred laughed at it, but I was worse because I felt something and ignored it. When you spelled a word correctly—you looked to me and I lied to you again and again. You trusted me.” Buck stopped a minute, struggling with emotion.

Seth patted Buck on the back.

William turned away, seething.

“And then I saw him, your father, Willy, right after the bee in your sister’s memorial garden outside the church, and he was crying. Someone was trying to say something to him, but he kept saying how it was his fault—but it was mine. I’ve done things to make grown men cry and laughed about it.”

“And now suddenly you’re a new man,” William said, staring at the ceiling.

Buck laughed again. “I’ve been hospitalized three times this year. Someone was trying to get my attention, and I thank God I listened for once.”

“So God hospitalized you for your own good,” William said with a snide laugh.

“No, for the world’s good. I’ve done enough bad—look how you still suffer.”

“I’m so sick of people pointing up my problems. I was doing all right until your sister came along.”

“I always thought my sister was foolishly bent on marrying you—I guess I was wrong.”

“Thankful is a uniform chaser,” William said.

PREVIOUS EPISODE

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”