Fiction: Drawing From Memory

William sat beneath a cottonwood in the searing heat trying to ignore the hordes of flies and eye gnats commuting from breeze to hot breeze. Kenyon gave him the well-kept sable brushes and the vivid oil tubes left by their fallen leader. William flipped through Ignatius’ leather bound sketchbook with sinking heart. Crow warriors, Sioux women and children stood stiffly on the pages with orderly lists of Indian sayings and Bible references written out in a regular, precise script. William considered keeping the book to emulate it, but it was impossible to be so perfect. He tossed the book aside.

The hum of light female conversation from the little yards on officers’ row and the gruffer voices of men on police and stable duty floated over the parade ground. The buzz of the telegraph wires sang William a lullaby. There was nothing as regular and homey as a western army post.

A small dog, well-fed and friendly, trotted up to share the shade. William scratched it behind the ears before sketching the quaint maternal scenes in the yards. He hadn’t put pencil to paper in a long while and was rusty, but this world on paper was his. The characters kept a safe and idealized distance.

Two dirty children raced up, wanting pictures. William complied and sent them off as Mrs. Markham strode toward him in her heavy-footed way.

“Bill, sorry to trouble you. I’ve got some oranges—all the way from California.” She handed him the fruit.

“Thank you, Mrs. Markham.” William waited for the real reason she stood over him.

“Bill, I know you’re busy.”

William laughed, peeling his orange. “I look busy?”

Mrs. Markham glanced back toward her quarters. “Would you mind doing a nice sketch of the children? Lydia–is awful weak—she’s day to day and the captain’s pet. We’d like a nice picture—just in case.” Her eyes held the worry so like his mother’s years ago when his sister Eliza was sick. “We’ve tried having them sit for a camera, but you know how antsy young ones get and your drawings—the ones Thankful showed the captain really pleased him.”

William got to his feet—realizing that he should have done that already “Mrs. Markham, I’m out of practice—but I’ll do my best. Anything to help you.” He gathered the supplies and followed Mrs. Markham into the house. Thankful pretended not to see him and soon disappeared. The children were gathered, cleaned up and sent out back where Mrs. Markham had cultivated a sparse desert garden along the side fence.

None of the children cooperated but for the weak one so William set to work on her. Lydia folded her petite hands and smiled. Her eyes were framed in circles of dark sickness, but her voice was like music. William had no trouble exchanging the reality of a sick little girl before a wilted garden into a composition of vitality and splendor. The girl recited nursery rhymes while William sang to her in his father’s awful voice the salty songs passed among military families:

It’s all for me grog, me jolly jolly grog

It’s all gone for beer and tobacco

Well I spent all me tin on the lassies drinking gin

And across the western ocean I must wander.

The music for supper came from outside the adjutant’s office.

Mrs. Markham, in a thick sweat from the stove in desert heat, rushed out back then. “Oh dear, Bill, I forgot all about you! Supper for those missionaries and the rest of you kept me in a great flurry.”

William looked as though he had just wakened from a trance. “I didn’t notice the time, ma’am.” He handed her his work with a wary smile. “I’m afraid that I’m not much interest to children. I couldn’t make any of them stay, except for Lydia here.”

Mrs. Markham looked over William’s work for a minute and cried. “Bill, the captain—he’ll be astonished. It’s lovely.”

“I’m sorry I have no time to do the others.”

“Never mind. This is more than enough. Thank you.”

“It was nothing, ma’am.”

“Oh, you don’t know!” Mrs. Markham gave him a warm embrace. “I will pray for you, Billy. You’re good deep down.”

“I guess,” William replied. His new shirt itched at the collar.

Mrs. Markham placed the drawing on a high shelf in the kitchen and pushed William into the parlor where Miss Peckham read and Thankful mended socks.

“Girls, our first guest is here. See to it that Bill is given something to drink.”

Neither of the girls were in a hurry to offer William anything. William pulled the flask from his bag and took a long gulp—a deserved one.

As William lowered the flask from his lips the missionaries entered the front vestibule with Captain Markham and Lieutenant Fahy in happy conversation.

“Ah, there you are, Mr. Weldon,” said Kenyon.

William put away the liquor.

Mrs. Markham passed around drinks. William asked for water, but felt put upon and angry. They talked about the San Carlos Agency and the Indians and Geronimo, but William didn’t care a fig. He considered different ways of slipping out to get drink.

It was then the thought came to William–the alcohol was in charge. It was a fleeting, yet terrifying realization he wanted to escape—by getting drunk. Absorbed in his thoughts, the sound of his name brought William back.

“Captain, dear, I must show you what our Mr. Weldon has done.”

The captain looked as though he expected something less than admirable but waited patiently for his wife to return with the sketch. He glanced at William and then at the drawing. “But . . . you never saw her when she was well, son. How did you capture Lydia as she used to be?”

“I imagined her, sir, and it was easy since Lydia’s such a good little pixie,” William explained. All eyes moved from the drawing to him. “May I have a drink?” he asked Mrs. Markham, but saw Kenyon and Thankful. “Of more water, I mean, ma’am.”

Captain Markham put his arm over William’s shoulder, with an emotional sigh. “You Weldons sure have a way of surprising folks.”

“What do you mean, sir?” William asked.

“I never knew Lieutenant Weldon, William’s father, well,” the captain said to the others. “Met him only once, in fact. A good soldier from what I was told, but a secret saint according to a friend of mine who is no longer with us. Seems Lieutenant Weldon gave my friend all his savings so my friend could live out his final days in California in comfort with his family—all had consumption. The poor sergeant and his family were sent small sums of money till they died.”

This was the family that gave Eliza the disease. William remembered and his heart grew hard. His father was a fool. “I guess that was a waste of money in the end,” he said.

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Fiction: Tolerance

“The Apache people will never take to Christianity with all of its ridiculous rules and regulations,” Miss Peckham said.

“And you’re an expert, then?” Thankful asked.

“I’ve seen enough to know that God can’t possibly take notice of us. No god would allow such false hope and suffering,” Miss Peckham replied.

“I agree whole-heartedly, Miss Peckham,” Fahy said. “Good luck to you, Bill.”

“Mr. Fahy, you can’t believe God wills suffering. People choose for themselves,” Thankful said in surprise at Fahy’s cynicism. “I think what you’re doing is noble, William.”

“Of course you would, Thankful,” Fahy remarked.

“You think Indians choose suffering, Thankful? That’s more heartless than I would have given you credit for,” Miss Peckham said.

“No, people make decisions and seek no counsel in God—that’s where we all lose our way.”

“And when have you ever lost your way, Miss Thankful? You always have a perfect map and plenty of funds,” Miss Peckham pointed out.

“I’ve been lucky in many ways, it’s true. When I was young, I had a dream that I witnessed Jesus carry his cross. He turned to me and asked what I would do.”

“Thankful, enough of this talk—don’t embarrass yourself,” Fahy said.

“I think she’s interesting,” William said.

Fahy cocked his head with a haughty laugh. “Since when does anyone put stock in what you think?”

“That was uncalled for, Mr. Fahy.  I’m ashamed of you!” Thankful cried. “Ever since Miss Peckham has come you’ve turned into a complete cynic and a stranger to me!”

“Thankful, I can’t have changed in three days,” Fahy groaned. “I don’t know why you’re being so sensitive.”

“Why did you have to go ride with HER?” Thankful cried.

“You said it was all right!” Fahy replied.

“Well, I didn’t mean it of course!” Thankful sobbed. “And all of this horrible talk about religion and keeping babies from being born is disgusting and beneath you, lieutenant!”

Miss Peckham patted Thankful’s shoulder and spoke in the syrupy way she had.  “Oh, Thankful dear, don’t you worry about God. Everyone, including the Indians have a right to be spiritual in their own way.”

“Worshipping trees and such is not like worshipping God,” Fahy laughed. “I’ve had more fun watching Indians whooping and hollering to their gods than I ever had attending mass. Everyone has a right to do what they like.”

“What about truth?” William inserted timidly.

Thankful had tucked herself under Fahy’s arm but turned to William with curious eyes.

“Christianity has its merits as a civilizing force. That cannot be denied,” Miss Peckham said, “but let’s all be mature—the basic notion of Christ rising from the dead is ridiculous and impossible to prove.”

“So . . . what you’re saying, Miss Peckham, is that an educated person would never believe in the supernatural or miracles or. . .” William’s head hurt, but his heart quickened, too.

“Bill, there are no miracles. Science will one day prove it,” Fahy said.

“I don’t know much, but maybe it’ll be Christ, who comes to prove things,” William responded.

Miss Peckham chuckled. “I bet the Messiah snuck off to France and had a good laugh.”

William scratched his head, but no thoughts came.

Mr. Kenyon had been listening from a distance and entered the fray. “If our Lord had played such a contemptible trick on the apostles then we’re doomed and should throw in the fiddle.”

“Well, his people could have faked the whole thing,” Miss Peckham pointed out.

“You’re welcome to your theories,” Kenyon said, “but the apostles went from timid, cowering fishermen and misfits before the Resurrection to courageous founders of the Church who were willing, one by one to be martyred for their beliefs.”

“That’s a high price to pay for a lark,” William remarked.

“Your livelihood depends on making us believe that,” Miss Peckham scoffed, “but I’d rather worship a tree. At least I can cut it down to make firewood.”

“It’s not just about you!” Thankful cried.

Kenyon laughed. “What an opinionated bunch of friends you have, Mr. Weldon.”

“They’re not my friends, sir,” William said, saving them the trouble.

Thankful took his hand. “Willy, be careful and write your parents. They worry an awful lot.”

“Miss Crenshaw, stop being such a mother hen,” Fahy said, joking to hide his annoyance. He kissed Thankful on the forehead.

Kenyon turned to see William’s reaction, but there was none. “Mr. Weldon, Captain Markham has kindly lent us two soldiers as escort. Do you know Lieutenants Joyce and Fahy?”

“Sir, I am Lieutenant Fahy.”

“Oh, good. Very nice to meet you. Now William will have a peer.”

Fahy sneered at William.

“Do we really need escorts?” William asked. “I’m very good with a gun, sir.”

“My friends want soldiers, William,” Kenyon said.

“Yes, preaching the love of Christ will take a show of force,” Miss Peckham scoffed.

***the Peacemaker by John George Brown

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Fiction: Grace Before Meals

“Young man, you lost the girl to drink, didn’t you?”

“No,” William replied, folding his arms before him. “You’re wrong. She’s not my girl.”

The missionary raised his hands. “All right, I believe you, but you see, I desperately need a mapmaker—a real artist to capture the flavor of the tribes and the landscape. I need a first class cartographer to illustrate the routes we’ll be exploring. Captain Bourke said you were the one, and I believe him.”

“You don’t even know my work.”

“There you’re wrong.” The missionary laughed and pulled three wrinkled sketches of women from his bag.

William wanted to vomit. His most disgusting work in the hands of a missionary!

“These belong to you, I assume, though you didn’t sign them.”

“Where did you get them?” William asked.

“Father Diaz. He says that a man came full of regret at the way his life turned out and gave over his worldly possessions to the church.”

William scratched his head. “That sort of thing sells here, sir. I was sort of desperate for cash.”

“We’re not in the army, William. No need to call me sir. Technically, these drawings show talent–and misplaced use of it. The captain says you’ve had it hard at times, but he vouches for your character.”

“Really?” William leaned in, hungrily. He’d made such a mess of things in the army.

“So will you come? We can’t pay much, but . . .”

“Come where?” William asked.

“I’m not sure yet, but you’ll be fed,” Kenyon said.

“I don’t know. I have to think . . .”

Kenyon took the last sip of his non-alcoholic drink. “But I’m afraid that when we travel, spirits—in the form of liquor—don’t follow. We need to present our best side in order to convert.”

William sighed. “It’s not for me, sir. My leg . . . I don’t have much time for God, and I won’t convert people.”

Mr. Kenyon laughed again. “I would never ask you to convert people. How could you? You don’t know the Lord. This is purely a practical thing. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s not a wealth of talent here. We have no money to attract established artists, and you seem to be at loose ends—though you’d have a difficult time leaving behind the drink.”

“Do you think I’m that weak?” William asked.

The missionary didn’t answer. He adjusted the sack on his back and walked toward the saloon door.

William stood with his arms crossed. He was weak and pathetic and hungry. “Sir . . .”

“Come along and let’s eat,” Mr. Kenyon said with a generous wave of his arm.

The missionary wiped food from the dirty table at Matilda’s with his bandana. “Crumbs bother me,” Mr. Kenyon said. He ordered for both of them in a Spanish dialect that pleased the older lady who served them.

William said, “I’m not good at language.”

“English or Spanish?” Mr. Kenyon teased.

William was serious. “Neither, I guess. I’m like my father.”

“I’m like my father, too. He was a missionary, and so am I.”

“Well, that’s an impressive thing,” William replied, tapping his fingers on the table.

“I don’t know, but sometimes it’s lonely, hard work. I’m away from family and friends most of the time. Thank you again for joining me.”

“Well, I have nothing better to do,” William replied, but felt he’d been too harsh. “I mean, thank you for inviting me. Can I ask—why do you do it? Probably the Indians will die off and good riddance to them—so what’s the point?”

“I said that my life can be hard at times, but I love it. The Indians won’t die off. They’re strong and interesting in their way. I’m blessed to be alive at a time when there is such potential for the Gospel to change their lives.”

“What if the Indians want things as they are?” William asked.

“Most people like what they know. It’s easier, isn’t it?” Mr. Kenyon replied.

William stretched his neck, waiting for the food. A young Mexican girl with soft eyes brought their plates. William grinned at her, and she giggled before leaving them.

Mr. Kenyon asked, “Shall I say something?” It was more of an announcement than a question.

“Go ahead. If you want to,” William replied, but was aghast when the missionary took his hand for prayer. He glanced around and back to Kenyon, who bent his head with eyes shut.

“But thanks be to God who always leads us in His triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

William chuckled and turned to his food. “The only aroma I smell is of burnt beans and chilies.”

“Nourishment is from God.”

William dropped his fork on the plate. “Is that the way religious types talk all the time? Do you ever have normal talk or do you have to bring God into every little thing? It’s damned annoying—and off-putting, I might add. All those quotes from the Bible like you’re so smart and holy. If God didn’t pick such conceited men to preach His words He might get more followers. I think you’re a fake.” He considered leaving, but the food smelled so good. He sat for a few moments trying to come up with something to say. “Listen, I’m sorry about the joke.”

The missionary shrugged and continued eating. “Good stuff,” he said in between bites.

“Yes, it’s good,” William said as the hot food warmed his empty stomach.

Kenyon took a drink and said, “Missionaries are pretty ordinary, William. We talk about normal boring things, of course, but to be honest, I feel in a celebratory mood. A good meal, a new friend and finally a replacement for our last artist. For some, hearing Scripture is like a fork scratching china, but to me it’s poetry. I’m not much of a singer, but good words I can say. I am what I am. How people will judge me is of no consequence.”

With his mouth half full, William said, “I’m not really the person you’re looking for. Thanks for the meal, but . . .”

Kenyon unfolded the pieced together map William had made for Bourke. He passed it to William.

“William, here, you have a great gift. Whatever darkness you have in your heart, you made this. I’ve seen many a map, but none that captures the soul of its maker so beautifully. That map is a work of art. If you can put the world on paper like that, I can put up with your cynicism and less than stellar opinion of humankind—especially the religious types.”

William swallowed. “So you like the map? You think it’s all right?”

Kenyon gave him a sideways glance, wiping his forehead. “We have some supplies—paints and things—you can look at if you’re interested.”

“Um, what happened to the other fellow—the last artist?” William asked.

“He was killed,” the missionary said his eyes welling with tears.

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Fiction: Strong Medicine

Miss Peckham’s mistake was sympathizing with a drunk.

Someone pinched William’s arm. He shielded his eyes from the light of day as Miss Peckham stared down at him.

“Mr. Weldon, I sent you to get my things YESTERDAY. I expected you back YESTERDAY.”

William looked up with scorn. “Why should I care what you expect? You’re not my master.”

“I smell your master on your breath,” Miss Peckham said. “Now where are my things?”

William inched up, scratching his sweaty chest through his damp checked shirt. “In the corner—over there.”

Miss Peckham folded her arms. “Don’t fool with me, Mr. Weldon.”

William saw that the corner was empty. “Damn, I think I left it at The Buckskin.”

“You really are a moron like they say.”

William couldn’t deny it. He grabbed his boots, slipped them on and led her into The Buckskin. “We’re looking for a carpetbag I may have left here.”

The bartender handed it over to him. William considered ordering a drink, but thought better of it.

Miss Peckham took the bag and once outside inspected it. “Everything is wet!” She pulled out the journal of her travels and shoved it under William’s nose. “My work is destroyed! How could you, Bill?” she cried.

“I-I didn’t spill anything!”

“Of course not! Oh, I’m cursed! No matter how many times it happens, I’m still taken in by drunkards and bummers! You’re both. Lieutenant Fahy said as much. But you seemed so harmless!” She burst into tears.

Miss Peckham slumped onto the bench usually occupied by two Mexican alcoholics. “I was orphaned because of the drink. My father and mother both and no matter how I try I still land sitting outside a tavern with my life in tatters. All of my work ruined!” she cried again.

William sat beside her, half expecting to be hit. “I know how you feel, Miss Peckham. Honestly, I do.”

“I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t need it, and I’d rather you left me alone, now that you’ve ruined my life,” she replied and pulled a hankie from her sleeve.

William was tempted to point out that anyone with half a brain would never leave things in the hands of whores and drunks, but didn’t. “No, Miss Peckham—I mean, my father is worse than a drunk—he’s an opium eater and if he hadn’t quit the army he would have been drummed out. I hate him, but then . . . look at me.”

Miss Peckham wiped her tears and glanced at him. She laughed. “By golly, if we aren’t the most pathetic pair.”

William took a deep breath. “I used to think God wanted me for something.”

“God doesn’t exist. Science has won the day, I’m afraid. We’re just tiny parts of a long march to perfection.” She laughed again. “You said yourself that weak ones like us will die out for the good of the species.”

“The species? You are unusual, Miss Peckham, but I’m not able to completely give up on at least the idea of God.”

“Well, maybe with an education you would be,” Miss Peckham said, fanning a wet journal page. “Look, what has God done for you?”

“God expects decent behavior,” William said. “I’m just a rotten drunk. I’ll never forgive my parents. I’m not good enough for . . .”

Miss Peckham closed her wet book. “Who says you’re not good enough? You are what you think you are. That’s what my uncle always said. Listen, I’m sorry for you, but I want to be a great writer, not someone who allows self-pity keep her down. I’ll copy as many of my notes as I can into a new journal—so don’t feel bad. Your mistakes won’t finish me.”

“Well, can we remain friends then?” William asked.

“I can’t—no–I won’t be around your type anymore.” Miss Peckham stood and walked off without even a glance back.

William sat for hours, staring out at the awful little settlement with its wilted cottonwoods and dusty, filthy paths. People moved in slow motion. This was home. He had no parents, no friends, not one person to turn to. He had no work, no money and no inspiration as to how he might get some. He starved but could get no nourishment. Not a single person acknowledged him as all day he sat in the blistering sun until it fell with only the smallest relief. As a child William sat upon his father’s knee following the hummingbirds darting to and fro at sunrise in the desert. How William had admired his father then. Adored him even.

A man came and sat beside him. William held his breath in annoyance and considered rising but had no place to go.

The man spoke. “I’ve been watching you all day.”

William glared at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a statement of fact,” the man responded.

William waited for further explanation, but none came and so they both sat watching men unload flour sacks at the general store.

“This is an interesting little town,” said the man.

William chuckled. “Yes, it’s all very interesting.”

“You’ve been out here for hours—since the girl left you.”

“Hey, are you some kind of spy?”

“No, I was reading beneath the tree over there and fell asleep. When I woke up you were still sitting here.”

William shrugged.

“What’s your trade, son?” the man asked.

William took a good look at the heavy, bearded man and figured he was harmless. “I have no trade to speak of anymore.”

“Why are you here?”

“I ask myself that very same question. My father sent me for an adventure—to learn something, I guess.”

“Well, that’s nice,” the man said, stretching his legs before him as if he might stay a while.

“Not really. I’ve bungled it all. My parents and friends are ashamed of me—as well they should be.”

“That’s too bad.”

William rolled his eyes. “Yes, it is too bad.”

The man wiped his shiny forehead with a faded bandana. “Listen, I’m not one for hot climates. I’m going to get out of the sun. Would you care to join me? For a meal. I’ve no company as my associates went in search of artifacts, and I hate to eat alone.”

“I don’t know what you’re on about, or what you want from me, but I may as well tell you I’m broke—there’s nothing you can take from me.”

“I’m a little out of my element here in the desert and everyone is a bit intimidating. I just thought you looked trustworthy.”

William cussed under his breath. This man had lost his wits.

The man stood up. “Maybe you could point me in the right direction for a decent place to eat.”

“The only place in town is Matilda’s. It’s over there and it’s Mexican.”

“So have you decided you’ll come?”

William shielded his eyes from the last bit of sun. “I don’t even know you. Why would I eat with you?” he asked, his stomach grumbling.

“There’s not much to know. I’m a missionary. My name is Seth Kenyon, and I was told by Captain Bourke that there was a talented mapmaker and artist living here in town. Maybe you know him—a William Weldon?”

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Fiction: Whores Have Dreams Too

William hitched a ride to Willcox on the back of a supply wagon, singing all the way:

 

“It was once in the saddle I used to go dashing;

It was once in the saddle I used to go gay.

First to the dram house and then to the card house,

Got shot in the breast and I’m dying today.”

 

Why had he always fought so hard against dancing? Plain Miss Peckham enlivened a part of William he thought he’d lost. He jumped from the wagon just beyond the outskirts of the sleepy desert town and walked the rest of the way to the hotel and Ginny. William whistled past The Buckskin, not needing a drink to celebrate, and the usual loungers saw that a change had come over him.

A mule brayed in the rode as William walked up the stairs to the brothel and knocked at Ginny’s door.

“Morning, Gin—how’s things?” he asked, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek as he glanced around for Miss Peckham’s belongings. “I’ve come to fetch Miss Peckham’s luggage. What’s wrong?” he asked when Ginny turned away.

“Nothing, Billy. How was yer night? You look refreshed.”

“It was nothing like that, Ginny. Miss Peckham isn’t that way. . .” he replied suddenly uncomfortable. “Ginny, what happened to your arm?”

Ginny pulled her shawl over a makeshift sling. “I fell down the stairs last night.”

William laughed. “Oh, poor Ginny. You should be more careful. Does it hurt much? Would you like me to get you a strong drink?”

“No, I ain’t got any use for strong drinks—you know that,” Ginny answered with an uncharacteristic edge in her voice.

“Yes, you’re right. I should know better. Anyway, I need Miss Peckham’s things. Ginny, it’s been fun and all to spend some time, but . . . I don’t think I’ll be coming here much anymore. I mean, you can still count on me as sort of a friend.”

“Thanks, Bill,” Ginny replied. “But, you ain’t the type to count on—I hoped you might be.”

“When have I ever done you wrong?” William asked, avoiding the hurt on Ginny’s face. He scanned the room for something expensive looking that might be Miss Peckham’s.

“Bill, that Miss Peckham is no good.”

“Oh, Ginny, what do you know?”

“You think cause I ain’t educated that I’m stupid?” she asked.

William scratched his head. “No, I didn’t say—“

“Bill Weldon, you’re impressed with smarts cause you ain’t got none like you used to.” Ginny threw Miss Peckham’s carpetbag at William’s feet. “Look how this woman already has you picking up her scraps like a dog. I never would go and do that to you, Bill. I thought you’d see by now, it’s us that’s meant for each other. I like you as you come. I take care of you, and I thought you might take me as a wife.”

William wanted a drink and knew where Ginny kept it for customers. He took a long slug from one of the bottles and remembered a talk his father had had with him before coming out west. “Now you’ll be all on your own, and the fellows you’ll meet will tell you it’s all right, but if you take a woman . . . s-s-sleep with her . . . it’ll be awful hard to get rid of her. A part of her will linger . . . and bring you down.”

William took another long draw from the bottle.

“Give me the bottle, Bill, and talk to me. No one will understand you like me. I don’t mind if you drink and carry on; I ain’t concerned if people say you’re as dumb as a plank o’ wood. You never hurt me even once when you was drunk. We could get some land. I could work it—I’ve got strength. And you could make those drawings—do the dirty ones and I bet the miners would buy them.”

William stood appalled at the image presented. “Ginny, I can’t hardly care for myself. I don’t want a farm or babies!”

“What about me? Don’t you care for me?” Ginny’s chin quivered, and she took the bottle from William.

“I care, but . . .”

“Oh, you never cared! You used me! You always did, but I—I hoped—I can’t help I ‘m so ugly, but Miss Peckham is hardly better, and she’ll make a fool of you one time soon.”

“For the first time in a long time I feel good and hopeful, and you try to destroy that!” William said. “I don’t always remember things, but I’m not so stupid. Miss Peckham, who is a learned girl, recognizes that about me. You’re like a heavy stone on my chest keeping me down! It’s not my fault you’ve chosen to be a whore. I don’t know how you ever thought I’d marry—or have children with you! You’re crazy! Now, I need Miss Peckham’s things.”

“Fine! Here’s what’s left of them. And one thing, Bill Weldon. If you plan on marryin’ I may as well let you in on something. Now, I never said nothin’ cause I was a true friend and never wanted to make you feel down, but you ain’t no good at things. I mean to say, you’re fairly well repulsive in the act. Maybe it’s your crooked leg or the god-awful faces you make . . . anyway, experience ain’t improved you neither.”

“Shut the hell up!” William shouted. Ginny had gotten him good. His leg was hideous to look at, that much he knew. With Miss Peckham, sex was not the first thing on his mind, but it was an idea that lurked second or third. Maybe she just needed a dance partner and a man to get her things. William picked up the carpetbag, glanced inside and turned toward the door.

Ginny took a sip of the bottle and poured the rest into the bag as William fumbled with the door. She grabbed Miss Peckham’s leather journal from on top of her clothes press and shoved it into the wet corner of the large bag. “Oh, Bill, here—her book.”

William nodded a thank-you and closed the door behind him.

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

the watch

Fiction: Adventurous Thoughts

As Thankful hung the last diaper, she heard Fahy’s laughter in the front parlor. Forgetting how she looked, she ran inside, trailing suds and sand behind her. “Thankful, you look a caution!” Fahy said with a grin. He liked the way she looked.

Thankful nodded his way but addressed her enemy. “Miss Peckham, Mr. Weldon was here awaiting your orders, and he was very sore!”

“Do you mean physically? Because we met him on officers’ row and he was cheerful as a bird in summer. Don’t you agree, Mr. Fahy?” Miss Peckham turned to the officer with a smile.

Fahy nodded in agreement then met eyes with his fiancée. “Miss Crenshaw, I was hoping you might be done with your chores so we could take a ride. I nearly have to get back to work, but our horses are warmed up.”

“Warmed up?”

“Yes, I hope you don’t mind that I let Miss Peckham ride Durie.”

“That horse needs firmer discipline and less feed. If he were my horse, he’d receive a sound thrashing,” Miss Peckham bragged.

Fahy gave Thankful an exasperated look. Thankful dug her fingernails into the soft wood of the little dining table. “It’s very pathetic that you must prove your masculinity by mistreating animals, Miss Peckham. Mr. Fahy never should have been such a gentleman to take you out, but you probably strong armed him.”

“I will have you know, Miss Thankful Crenshaw, that I’ve won at many women’s riding events in New York!”

“Isn’t New York famous for its corruption? It’s the only way you could win a horse show–or a beauty contest,” Thankful said.

Fahy stood with his cigar hanging from his mouth. Miss Peckham tossed her gloves and hat on the sofa and ran up the stairs to Thankful’s room. Fahy and Thankful listened to her muffled cries.

“Damn it, Thankful, that was low of you. Peckham’s no great shakes, and she’s a pest, but really—you’re better than to be so—well—so vicious.”

“She abuses my horse and I’m low?” Thankful asked.

“Well, I took the whip from her pretty quick,” Fahy said.

“Thank God for small favors.”

“Mrs. Markham said that you threw a tantrum over an egg . . .”

“Land sakes! Not even an egg gets by people in the army! I just hate Miss Peckham. She told me last night she was only being nice to William for his family’s connections to the military.”

Fahy laughed. “So what? I’m so tired of Bill Weldon. I don’t care a fig, and you shouldn’t either.” He pulled her close. “I love that you care so much about your homefolk and all, but a different man than me might get jealous.”

Thankful looked at his sunburned and freckled face and his impressive sun-bleached mustache. “My sweet lieutenant, you are the most attentive, kind person I’ve ever met. I hope one day we’ll have adventures of our own.”

“Adventures? You amuse me. Sometimes you really act your age.”

Thankful pulled away. “What does that mean?”

“Well, nothing exactly—you’ve got very romantic and naïve ideas. It’s adorable.”

“Miss Peckham has all the adventure she wants and . . .” Thankful began.

Fahy tapped her nose. “And she will most likely spend her life alone.”

“She has such a full life and . . .”

Fahy grinned. “I thought you didn’t much admire Miss Peckham? Anyway, won’t your life be full enough taking care of me?”

“I plan to care for you, but is that all?” Thankful asked, feeling sweat trickle down her spine.

“No, of course not. There’ll be children and we can take trips if you like.” Fahy looked worried. “Won’t I satisfy you?”

“Oh, Mr. Fahy, you already do. But I never have any larks with you. We both work so hard. I want to play a little more than I do now—don’t you?”

“Life is about work, I’m afraid. Childhood is almost over for you, Thankful. There’s no point clinging to it. That just makes the adjustment more painful.”

Thankful sniveled. “But when we are married won’t we still dance and ride?”

“Of course, silly,” he said.

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

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“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: Dirty Diapers

When was there a time when Thankful did not have to concern herself with diapers? Now as Thankful scrubbed shit far from her family, she wondered why she had traveled a great distance only to immerse her hands in dirty laundry water again. Her tantrum may have ruined a friendship with Mrs. Markham, who had been a kinder mother to her in a few months than Margaret had been in her entire lifetime. Either way—in Englewood or Arizona—she was pushing other folks’ strollers.

“Say! Anyone at home?” William called as he came around the back gate. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting to see you, Thankful.”

Thankful’s dress and her stylish apron hung sodden and dirty. “I live here don’t I? What do you want?”

“Um, well . . . are you all right?” William asked.

“I’m perfectly fine, William. You must be wrecked after the show you put on for the garrison last night,” she said, punching at the diapers in the basin and giving herself an uncomfortable splash in the eye.

“Funny thing; I’m right as rain,” William replied, tipping his hat back and leaning on the gate. “I always sleep well at army posts. My legs are sore, but . . .”

“Well, that serves you right—hopping around foolishly!”

“I can’t hop, Thankful, so I guess you’re wrong on that. As far as being a fool—well—I don’t mind if I was!” William laughed.

“Why are you here, William? I’m too busy for small talk.”

He didn’t seem to mind how angry and upset Thankful was.

“Well, yes, um, is Miss Peckham in?”

“No!” Thankful replied, huffing as she punched the wet diapers in the water. “She’s not in. She’s doing ‘research’ on the army species of man. She’s man enough—she needs no study.”

“Which way did she go? I wanted to know if she needed anything else from town before I head back.”

“Perfume and plenty of it!” Thankful said.

“What? Oh, your idea of a joke, I guess. Anyway, you don’t seem to know much so I’ll be on my way, Thankful.”

“Oh, yes, girls in trousers are much cleverer than the rest of us!” Thankful muttered as William closed the gate behind him, and was gone.

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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Fiction: The Morning After Pill

Thankful Crenshaw wakes to find her position at Fort Grant changed.

Thankful had just finished buttoning up the smallest child for a walk out in the morning air when Miss Peckham, wrapped in one of Thankful’s favorite robes, descended the stairs from the bedroom. Miss Peckham motioned for one of the children to give up his seat and pointed to the door. The child left politely.

“Oh, I’ve such a head this morning! Late nights can be such a bother,” Miss Peckham lamented. “And such busy bees you are; banging around all morning.”

“Have you been crying?” Thankful asked.

Miss Peckham gave her a barely tolerant look. “No, of course not. Why?”

“Your eyes are horribly puffed and your poor complexion is so ruddy.”

Mrs. Markham scolded Thankful with her eyes. “Miss Peckham, are you hungry?”

“Positively famished,” Miss Peckham said while adjusting Thankful’s flower arrangement on the dining table.

“Too bad you missed breakfast,” Thankful said, scooping up a toddler.

Miss Peckham smiled. “My, Miss Crenshaw, with that child in your arms you look like a dear old matron.”

Thankful opened her mouth to speak, but Mrs. Markham again stepped in. “Thankful, please go to the kitchen and fetch our guest coffee and toast.”

“Have you got eggs?” Miss Peckham asked.

“No, I’m sorry . . . but Thankful will go next-door to Mrs. Tremble, and see if she’s got an egg to spare.”

Thankful deposited the messy toddler onto Miss Peckham’s lap and stormed off to Mrs. Tremble’s quarters. She knocked until the hired-on Mexican girl Anita answered, peeved at the racket. Thankful pushed past the servant. It annoyed Anita that Thankful held her nose so high when she was still just hired help until she married Lieutenant Fahy.

Mrs. Tremble spent hours upon hours doing needlework and studying the occult. She claimed to talk to dead soldiers though living ones did their best to avoid her and her weird husband who’d lost one of his eyes to a bear (though some said it was a bar brawl in St. Joseph). He never bothered with a patch.

Mrs. Tremble’s eyes were serpentine green and her dark old teeth gave Thankful shivers. But who cared about her feelings now that Miss Peckham was here? Thankful sniffled.

“Miss Crenshaw, how nice to see you.”

“I-I need an egg, please.”

“Excuse me?” Mrs. Tremble said over her glasses as she pulled a red thread through her needlework.

Thankful burst into tears. “An egg. May I borrow one?”

Mrs. Tremble dropped her work and went to Thankful. “My dear, what in heaven’s name is wrong? Of course you may have an egg. Take two even . . .”

“No, no, it’s not the egg,” Thankful sobbed, wiping her eyes on her apron. “Oh, I don’t know what it is exactly.”

“Have you and the lieutenant quarreled? Do tell!”

“No, never mind. I’ve just behaved childishly, but Miss Peckham is so awful!”

“Miss Peckham? The lady on the horse?” Mrs. Tremble asked.

“Yes, and I think that she’ll take advantage of William.”

“I’ve never seen your friend William smile so much as he did last night at the dance.”

“I don’t care!” Thankful cried. “And we’ve had breakfast already, and she has the nerve to ask for an egg after she was offered toast! Miss Peckham is forward and ugly—don’t you agree?”

“Now Thankful, I’ve never heard you be so mean before. It’s unattractive.”

“Have you got any spells maybe?” Thankful eyed the mantle full of skulls and glass balls.

“Spells?” Mrs. Tremble giggled. “I’m afraid not, but here’s some advice—there’s no protecting others in love.”

“Love? Who said anything about that? William was drunk, and that’s why he behaved so foolishly. He’ll realize it today, I bet.”

“Or not. Bill didn’t look so foolish to me,” Mrs. Tremble said. “He’s a handsome young man. Miss Peckham seems to have done him a world of good. He was never meant for you, young lady.”

“No. You’re wrong,” Thankful said blushing. “I mean about Miss Peckham. May I have the egg, please?”

Mrs. Tremble returned to her chair and rocked. “Anita will give you one. Cheer up; your friend will be fine. You’ll see, dear.”

“I think that I know my friend best, Mrs. Tremble, but thanks all the same.”

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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Fiction: Pillow Talk

“It’s too bad you suffered a headache,” Miss Peckham said as she slipped beneath the covers. “What do you suppose it was from, Thankful?”

“I guess with all the excitement today …”

Miss Peckham giggled. “You call today exciting? You really haven’t lived much have you?” Her back itched from the wool and she shifted around uncomfortably.

Thankful turned on her side. “It was foolish of you to force William to dance so much—he’ll be the laughingstock and be in pain when he sobers up.”

Miss Peckham laughed. “Is there a time when Mr. Weldon is sober? He chose for himself to dance.”

“To impress you. He doesn’t seem to have much luck with girls.”

“Well, if he kept his head out of the bottle and his, um, body out of whores, he’d present a better picture, but it’s his life. It’s not my problem,” Miss Peckham stated. “He’s a child.”

“That’s a very nice attitude.”

“Men are either children or brutes. Mr. Weldon has a few connections that will be helpful in my research. It’s in my best interest to remain on good terms with him—and truth be told, he’s not bad company for a drunk.”

“He’s more than that! Must I remind you he saved your life?” Thankful asked.

“Oh, I’m tired of hearing about that already. I gave him a thrill tonight on the dance floor so I say we’re even,” Miss Peckham replied and climbed out of bed again. “It’s so damned hot.” She pulled off the last of her clothes, the moonlight illuminating her. Thankful shut her eyes tight. “Miss Thankful, it’s curious how army women play a game of adopting all the men in camp. I don’t understand it yet, but it’s intriguing.”

“Everything you say seems so dirty and cynical,” Thankful grumbled.

“Well, Miss Thankful, I see through the false modesty and virtues of society. You just don’t enjoy feeling exposed.”

“No, I feel sorry that people like you exist,” Thankful said, turning away from her.

“The feeling is mutual,” Miss Peckham replied with a laugh.

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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