Fiction: East Meets West

Lieutenant Fahy cursed to himself. While he baked in the sun weighing sugar at San Carlos, the rest of his battalion prepared for the field against Geronimo. The assignment of handing out weekly rations to the Apache women was a great slap in the face. Fahy considered leaving the army if he didn’t have excitement soon. He read Thankful’s note testily:

Dearest Lieutenant,

My prayers about your safety have been answered with the news that you won’t join the others in the field. I am waiting to tell you something and want you here desperately. But do stay on at the reservation until your unit is out. I don’t understand why the men are so excited. They mustn’t care at all for us women who worry ourselves to death! I know that you will want for me to wish Lieutenant Barnhart all the best luck as he was picked to take your place. He is terrible down spirited about it. Some say he is a coward, but he seems just an overly sensitive fellow.

I have sent someone out to see you. I hope that you will like him as he is dear to me.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

Affectionate regards,

Thankful Crenshaw

Across the way and under a fly tent shaded by branches sat William sketching the Apache women as they squabbled over the weight of this or that. When the military took over handling the annuities, the weights had been fixed fairly, but the Indians, wary of being cheated in the past, kept a close eye. More often than not now it was the Indian women coming in with gathered hay for the army mounts who fixed their bundles with rocks hidden in the middle. The women didn’t trust the new unhappy officer.

Fahy fumed seeing William recording this less than heroic duty as if to purposely annoy him. And there was one of Kenyon’s missionaries handing an old and befuddled Apache a Bible tract in English. It would be almost laughable if it wasn’t so damned stupid. The missionaries had a way of getting involved in everything. They were energetic—he’d give them that.

Fahy figured the old shriveled heathen would use the paper covered with indecipherable words for kindling. And wasn’t it the government who spent money and men on these foolish American evangelists when the funds could be better spent on paying army personnel proper salaries or at least supplying them with more desert-friendly uniforms?

“No stone in bag? No stone in BAG?”

“Pardon?” Fahy asked the young woman before him. “Oh, no, it’s a perfectly fair measure . . .”

The willowy squaw with high cheekbones didn’t understand a word. Fahy admired her, sighing as he surveyed the crowd of women enjoying this waste of a day and wondered how he’d get through it, but luck shined upon him and the visitor Thankful had promised arrived.

Lieutenant Joyce called to Fahy. “Bully for us. A visitor bearing gifts.”

A young man dressed in a partial West Point uniform and a bandage around his head trailed Joyce.

The lieutenant stepped away from the scales to the annoyance of the women.

“Fahy, here’s someone you need to meet,” Joyce said with a grin. “Can you guess who it is? I did on the first go.”

Fahy fumed. While his men were out chasing Apaches, he was expected to entertain boys from the East? Fahy looked the cadet over for signs of the usual West Point arrogance he despised. The cadet on holiday had no mirth–just weird eyes and a pretentious cravat around his neck. “Should I know him?” Fahy asked Joyce, giving the intense young man a challenging stare.

“You are to marry my sister, sir,” Buck whispered.

“What? Why are you whispering?” Fahy demanded.

“Fahy, Thankful’s brother. . .” Joyce said.

“Oh, shit, you’re one of the twins from the Point! I should have seen it a mile away although you look nothing like I imagined.”

“Yes, well I guess you’ve heard of my troubles,” Buck said, touching his head.

Fahy rubbed his chin. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Fahy! You must be joking,” Joyce interfered. “He’s all Thankful ever talks about—worrying after him.”

“Oh, yes, that’s right. Something about a colored cadet roughing you up.”

“No.” Buck replied.

“No need to whisper, cadet. Men respect a strong voice,” Fahy said, slapping Buck’s back too hard.

Joyce cringed. “Seems the young man’s voice is damaged, lieutenant.”

“Oh, he’s sent here to recuperate then. Good. That’s nice for Thankful. She’s wanting company and I expect to be out in the field soon. She’s been a fair bit homesick of late.” Fahy caught Buck’s unfriendly look. “What’s the matter? Has something happened with Thankful?”

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Thoughts on Romantic Reformers

“When the romantic fails to illuminate or enlighten others, and when social reform is slow to come—or seems not to come at all—then he or she can only resort to violence.”

The Nation review of Man’s Better Angels: Romantic Reformers and the Coming of the Civil War by Philip F. Gura

“They have no heart, no sympathy, no reason, no conscience … They will keep no friend, unless he make himself the mirror of their purpose; they will smite and slay you, and trample your dead corpse under foot, all the more readily, if you take the first step with them, and cannot take the second, and the third, and every other step of their terribly straight path.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Blithedale Romance

***featured image: The Gang by John George Brown