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Weary of running series

Captivating saga of betrayal, revenge and redemption in Gilded Age America!

Cadet Buck Crenshaw’s integrity is tested when West Point Military Academy opens its doors to black cadets. Will Buck keep his place in the yearling pecking order or throw it away taking a stand for Cadet Milford Streeter?

Escaping west to Fort Grant, Arizona, Buck confronts his demons while witnessing the downward spiral of his sister Thankful’s romance with a dashing army lieutenant.

Weary of Running, the second book in The Tenafly Road Series, highlights the dangers of moral ambivalence and the redeeming power of love and friendship in an imperfect world of mixed emotions and foolish decisions.

Fall in love with the members of the Crenshaw and Weldon families and buy The Tenafly Road Series today!

Books in the historical family saga:

The House on Tenafly Road

Weary of Running

The Dew That Goes Early Away

Forget Me Not

The One My Heart Loves

The Grand Union

 

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Fiction: Gaming

“I want to make money and visit with real whores. As the teamster said, life’s short.” Fred gulped his last drink and down the road they went.

Quiet, almost sweet, music played somewhere within the gaming hall.

“I’ll wait out here, Fred.”

“Oh, no you won’t! Don’t be such a prig. Play one hand,” Fred urged him.

Buck had just a small amount of money saved from pawning his things and planned on buying Thankful a household trinket for her wedding, but if she was moving home there would be no point, he reasoned. Buck didn’t mind cards but hesitated.

“Say, Buck, you might win some money for the poor. Look, whatever you win tonight, I’ll match it and we’ll do a good deed with it,” Fred suggested. He pushed Buck along and sauntered in with a big smile.

“Oh, damn, the apostle is here with a friend,” someone said through the smoky haze.

“He won’t be doing any talking, men. I can assure you of that. Now let us in on a hand and I’ll show you how it’s done.”

The men laughed at Fred’s bravado and made room when he flashed his money. Buck, more tentatively, placed his small savings on the table.

Fred whispered, “Here’s to the poor.” After a few lucky hands, Fred proceeded to lose everything they had, all but four dollars. “Oh, well. It’s only money,” he announced, throwing his cards on the table. “I have more at home anyhow!”

Buck stalked out. Fred soon followed. “Sakes alive, what a night! Those men are damned good card players. I’ll have to bone up this last year at school or I’ll be laughed out of the army!”

“Now what’ll we do, Fred? I’m tired.”

“A fellow in there says there’s a place down the road we could spend the night cheap,” Fred said.

“With four dollars?”

“Yep. Follow me, Apostle.” Fred whistled.

Buck cursed under his breath but followed with hands shoved deep into his empty pockets.

They came upon a ruin of an adobe building with a sooty candle-lit window at the side and a falling-down, rotted door at the front. “What’s this place?” Buck’s stomach churned.

“It’s cozy in a way,” Fred said flashing a charming smile before knocking.

The door opened a crack with a loud creak and the sound of a smoker’s cough behind it. “What you want?”

“Mr. Beadle sent me this way. You open?” Fred asked.

“You got money?”

“‘Course.”

“It’s a dollar a poke—extra for anything else,” the woman said.

Buck pulled Fred back. “You can’t be serious, Fred. A dollar’s cheap even for here—this is disgusting. We can’t do this!”

“Cheap is good—it’s why I came out here tonight. I’m getting some western refreshment like it or not. You jinxed us at cards—at least give me this thrill.” Fred shoved Buck out of the way. “Let us in then, ma’am!”

The door opened, almost falling on them. The woman pushed it back in place. “My name’s Miss Ginny, sir. Come in.” Her doe eyes went to Buck lingering in the shadows. “Are you comin’ or ain’t you?”

PREVIOUS EPISODE of WEARY OF RUNNING

 

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.”

Fiction: Blood Brothers

“The night is running along and I want a good time—for your sake—to educate you. I can’t stand you leading such a morbid, saintly life,” Fred groaned.

Buck was disappointed at the stables. With most of the army out looking for Geronimo, the stable owner feared for his safety and ordered that no one be let in after dark so Buck had to stay out with Fred.

“I’ve dreamed of this night, Buck. In the dream I come into town on a white mount and with an officer’s jacket after slaughtering a pile of Indians.”

Buck laughed at Fred’s childish notions. Fred, happy to make his brother smile, threw his arm over Buck’s shoulder. “Point us in the right direction, my boy.”

“There is no right direction here, but there’s the Buckskin.”

“Bully!” Fred ran ahead. “Come on!”

Buck followed, dreading their entrance. Fred dragged him into the noisy saloon. “Don’t be yellow.”

“I’m not!”

Fred met each hard stare with an arrogant smirk and pushed to the bar. “Give everyone a drink on me,” Fred ordered and turned to the small crowd of roughs, soldiers, and miners. “Gentlemen, I’m here for my sister’s wedding and would like you all to share in my happiness. You soldiers probably know my brother, Buck.”

The group of soldiers turned away.

“Well, anyway, Buck may look bad, but he’s all right. Let the next two rounds prove it.”

The men brightened at the promise, but Buck whispered, “Fred, how much money have you?”

“Plenty. Now take a drink. Even Jesus drank wine—God, I can’t believe I’m saying that. Go on, drink up.”

Buck threw back the whiskey and swallowed hard. Before long Fred played the best of friends with two surprisingly well-educated miners and a few well-spoken soldiers. Fred had no tolerance for stupidity and froze out any less than adequate conversationalists with his haughty manners and large vocabulary. Buck fell into his old role as quiet observer, waiting for something to happen.

A miner kept glancing at Buck. Finally he asked, “What happened to your sidekick? Looks like he’s been through a meat grinder. Isn’t there any way you can cover yourself?”

“You dare talk about my brother that way? You lousy piece of shit! My brother here was shot by an Apache so you thieves can scrape riches from Indian land!” Fred replied.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize …”

“What? That you’re an ignorant son of a bitch?”

“Hey, you better calm down, mister. I’ve got a gun and I’ll use it,” the miner said.

Fred flashed his own weapon, resting it up against the man’s shining temple. “Try me, you little shit.”

“Fred, calm down,” Buck whispered.

“I am calm. No one’s going to get away with hurting you on my watch.”

“I’m not hurt. I’m fine.”

The man with the gun to his head fainted.

Fred shook his head. “What a jackass.” He kicked the man out of the way and ordered another drink for the soldiers, but they declined and soon excused themselves, dragging with them the humiliated miner.

“Bully,” Fred said. “This is just bully. See, Buck, see how it’s done? I’m teaching you valuable lessons.”

Buck sighed. “We should go.”

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.”

Fiction: A Doctor’s Mistakes

Graham wiped his eyes. “That watch … the one I gave you … it was for Nathan—my younger brother first — during the war. You are the light of the world like a city on a mountain … Nathan was the light of my family. Something about him—we could all love him without embarrassment—he was soft and pampered. My brother Luce was the hero, but Nathan was the light.

“Seeing Fahy—my God! So many men just like him. I cut them apart—for their own good, but my stupid brother Luce! I was still so angry at him for taking my girl! And there he comes wandering into camp. He’d walked for miles! Thought I could keep his leg—thought I was a miracle worker. Did I tell you about the time he baled all the hay on three farms, saved a girl from drowning in the Hackensack, and won the turkey shoot all in one summer?”

Buck shook his head.

“Luce was a winner. He was a god to me and I was damned jealous. And there he was lying there on the table, his leg shattered, and he’s telling me no heroic measures—don’t take the leg. But it had to go! And I couldn’t find the bullet. I could barely stop the bleeding once it really got going. There was a bleeder, Buck. I found it and tied it shut.” Graham stared at Buck, but his eyes saw into an unknowable past. “When Luce woke up, he told me about a girl he had. Some other girl and Mai, his wife, home with his baby. That asshole had everything and screwed it all up.”

“We have a cousin?” Buck asked.

“Yes.” Graham mopped his forehead.

“So then what happened?”

“I was given time off—I was ordered to take some time. I left Luce at the hospital tent. Last I heard, Nate had taken ill—hadn’t made it into battle and I’d been glad—he was no soldier. I decided to go visit him, thinking he’d be with his unit, but he wasn’t. Nate left with a few other sick men to a makeshift hospital on a derelict farm. You should have seen the place. Flies—so many flies. And Nathan was dead.”

Buck stayed quiet.

“He died of dysentery. If I’d have got there sooner, I could have taken him from that God forsaken place. The surgeon in charge should have been hung for what he let those men go through. He said Nate helped the others till he got too weak himself. He handed me back the watch I’d given Nate for good luck. The watch I gave you.”

“I’m sorry, Father.”

“When I got back to camp, Luce gave me hell for not going to Nate as soon as I got word he’d fallen ill. We were fighting as I checked on the artery—the one I’d tied. I moved it only slightly, but something let go. I just couldn’t stop the blood and he just lay there looking at me and then he was gone. The other soldiers—they just looked at me like I was the worst sort of man.” Graham wiped his head again. “Buck, I wanted you to have a piece of me.”

“Father, it wasn’t your fault—about your brothers.”

“I’m sorry.” Graham ran his hand over his heart. “I lied when I said that only your mother wanted all of you. I did too. I wanted enough so if anything happened I wouldn’t lose all of you at once. Look at the unhappiness I bring into people’s lives. Look at your mother. Oh, look at you all!”

“But Father, it’s not up to you to make us happy. You did your best, I suppose. And you’re forgiven your mistakes if you have faith.”

Graham stared at his son. “I want to believe you. I’d like to have the assurance you suddenly have—but frankly your behavior frightens me.”

“Sometimes God’s hand in my life is very frightening,” Buck admitted. “I don’t know what He’s up to, but at times I feel—I don’t know—pulled into this perfect love beyond my comprehension. I can’t figure out how to say things yet. When I read the Bible now it’s as if I’ve stumbled upon long lost relatives and I’m happy.”

“So you like the saints?”

“I like all the imperfection. All the stumbling toward God. I like how God reaches first and knows our hearts and refines them if we let Him,” Buck said. “Father, it’s God’s hope that you’ll come when He calls.”

“I’m happy enough that you’ve softened your heart to me. Maybe that’s all I’m ready for.” Graham stood and patted Buck’s shoulder.

“I’ll keep praying for you, Father,” Buck promised.

Graham studied his son with suspicion, but Buck’s smile from beneath the tight bandage disarmed him.

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: Home Sweet Home by Winslow Homer

Fiction: Honest Appraisals

A soldier poked his head in to the coach to greet the Crenshaw family when they came to a stop. He scanned the group of strangers. Opening the door, the soldier held out his hand to Buck’s sister Meg. “Allow me to help you, miss.”

Despite her best efforts to appear unmoved, she giggled, blushed, and took the soldier’s hand. “Thank you, sir,” she said, hopping down as lightly as she could but still managing to bump up against the soldier.

The soldier laughed and Meg went red.

“Will you be staying long enough to attend one of our dances, miss?” the soldier asked. “A pretty girl like yourself would be happily employed all evening. Do you like to dance?”

Meg pursed her lips but replied, “I love to dance.”

“Bully. You might reserve a dance for me. I’m Lieutenant Wilder. Royal Wilder.” He called to Buck. “You never told me you had two lovely sisters, Crenshaw!”

The rest of the family descended into the withering heat of mid-afternoon, shielding their eyes.

“Lieutenant Wilder,” Buck said, “this is my father, Doctor Graham Crenshaw, and my mother, Margaret Crenshaw, and this is Fred. You’ve met Meg.”

“Just Meg?” Lieutenant Wilder asked. He was a heavy man with clear blue eyes and dark hair.

“You may call me that if you like,” Meg replied with wide doe-eyes as she fanned herself.

Margaret took her by the arm. “My daughter is rather forward, sir. You may call her Miss Crenshaw. She’s not a sodbuster’s daughter.”

The man kept smiling. “Whatever you say ma’am. I suppose your daughter gets her looks from you.”

“You soldiers don’t charm me in the least, sir,” Margaret said. “Meg’s not meant for frontier living.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Wilder said but turned and winked at Meg.

“Sir, I’m to take my family to Captain Markham’s,” Buck said.

“Yes. Certainly. And it’s been a pleasure meeting you all,” the lieutenant said, touching his cap.

Meg waved. Margaret caught it and slapped her hand. “Young lady, you are not to make eyes with every bold soldier you see. Besides, you should realize that Mr. Wilder was obviously not serious. I saw the way he laughed at your clumsiness—that’s why he mentioned dancing—as a joke on you, dear. I tell you all the time that there’s a great deal of difference between plump and downright fat, and you have long since crossed that line—just like your father. Do you think I’d ever be brave enough to dance with him?”

“I’d never ask you,” Graham grumbled.

The soft flesh beneath Meg’s chin trembled.

“Sis, the lieutenant’s fat too,” Buck said. “Wilder’s in no position to judge.”

“Oh, Buck, you’re a caution!” Fred laughed. “Is this the new man? All full of helpful honesty.”

“Meg, I didn’t mean it the way it sounded,” Buck said.

“Buck, shut up your glab! Don’t try and do me any favors,” Meg said. “I may be fat, but you’re ugly.”

Buck kept quiet, but thought to himself, “I will forgive her because I must.”

“Were these buildings erected by soldiers?” Margaret asked. “They certainly are shabby. Thankful would have one believe she lived in a paradise. God deliver us from this sand!”

“Mama, that’s a ridiculous prayer!” Buck said.

“Well, maybe you can teach us how to do it properly, if you’re so smart,” Fred said. “What did those soldiers call you? Apostle? Give us a break if you would. I see nothing but the same old Buck insulting his mother and sister. It’s no wonder you have no luck with the ladies.”

Buck lunged forward, but then said, “No. I won’t do this. I won’t fight you.” For a moment Buck had shown restraint. He thanked God.

“Good thinking. You’ve never beaten me yet at anything. You need me, so stop being a fool.”

“I don’t need anyone—but God,” Buck said not sure if he meant it.

Fred, Margaret and Meg laughed uproariously. Graham looked disturbed. “You seem tired, son,” he said, but Buck knew he meant “unhinged” by the tone of his voice.

“Look what happens when you’re left alone,” Fred said. “You take up with niggers, get beaten and shot. Now you go over into a religious rapture …”

“I’m afraid that Fred is right, dear,” Margaret added. “You need guidance—someone to stabilize your mind. You’re a danger to yourself, and that’s a fact.”

“No,” Graham said. “Buck can and should stand on his own. He’s struggling lately. It’s why he needs the crutch of religion, but it’ll pass when he’s stronger.”

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Featured Image: Portrait of an Italian Lady by Mary Cassatt (Gilcrease Museum)

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.”

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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.

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

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Fiction: Purity

Buck sat tucked back in bed, trying to read his small Bible while swatting gnats. William, with the occasional sideways glance at his roommate, smoked cigarette after crummy cigarette, wondering how things had gone so wrong. How had Thankful ever loved him? And how had he not seen it?

Soon the doctor strode in, leading a sobbing Thankful to her brother. Thankful sat at the edge of his bed, wringing her hanky. “Oh, Buck! I’ve already failed the lieutenant! I’ve upset him—I’m so afraid!”

Buck took a quick glance into his Bible, hoping to catch a bit of inspiration, before turning to the doctor.

“Miss Crenshaw collapsed,” the doctor explained. “It’s all so shocking for her—don’t be so hard on yourself, dear. You’ll get used to everything.”

“I don’t want to! I’m not able for it!” Thankful admitted and sobbed some more. “How will I care for Mr. Fahy and a baby? I couldn’t even look at the catheter!”

“Sis, you can do anything. We can do anything …” Buck quickly flipped through his Bible and found what he was looking for. “Here, this is what I read yesterday … um, wait—oh, yes, here it is.” He glanced up at Thankful, sheepishly. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

“Yes, yes, very good, Buck. You were always good at memorizing …” Thankful wiped her eyes.

“Sis, I promise—I’ll be by your side come what may,” Buck said.

“When the lieutenant needed my assurance, I gave him my weakness,” Thankful said. “He thinks I find him repulsive. He told me to leave and was so hurt. I’m a terrible failure. Why did I ever come here? Everything has gone wrong!”

“You came here because you wanted to be away from Mama and Father, but a girl shouldn’t be on her own. Fahy led you astray—you see that don’t you? I know you think you love him.”

“How dare you! I do love him and why shouldn’t I?”

“First off, he’s a thief.”

William turned on his side, straining to hear Buck over Thankful’s sobs. If Buck had one weakness that William understood, it was his reticence, his timidity of voice, but now Buck’s raspy voice was full of emotion and power. William remembered listening to Buck and Fred mechanically recite scripture in church. He’d always been envious and impressed, but Buck’s words now were his own set free.

“Mr. Fahy is struggling to live,” Thankful said. “He’ll never walk, and you bring up petty crimes.”

“Stealing from destitute people and sullying the army’s reputation is hardly petty, and I hope you took no part in it,” Buck said.

“Destitute people?”

“The Apaches. William accused the lieutenant of fixing the scales for the Indian annuities, and he didn’t deny it. He’s charging them for condemned military clothing against orders—Seth says.”

“Seth? For heaven’s sake, who’s Seth?” Thankful asked.

“Mr. Kenyon, to the rest of us,” answered William.

“Pierce said William was under Mr. Kenyon’s spell, but you, Buck? What’s happened to you? Maybe it’s your injuries …”

William laughed with a roll of the eyes. “Nope, Thankful, he’s been saved by Kenyon.”

“Sakes alive, what’s going on?” Thankful asked.

“It’s only that I’ve put my life in God’s hands,” Buck said with an unnerving giddiness. “I don’t understand why it bothers you, Willy.”

“It bothers me because it’s fake and I don’t think you should trick Seth—I mean Mr. Kenyon.”

“Oh, so you’re worried about Seth now, are you?” Buck croaked.

“Boys!” Thankful cried. “Mr. Fahy, my future husband, is more important than Mr. Kenyon. Why would anyone accuse the lieutenant of stealing? He’d never hurt poor people!”

“But what about your ring?” Buck asked.

“It was a mistake—everybody says so. And the small things from the quartermaster’s—well, everyone does things like that.”

“What have you ever stolen?” Buck asked.

“Father’s money!” Thankful cried.

“Hmm, that’s right, I forgot,” Buck said. “Well, we all make mistakes.”

William sniggered at Buck’s attempt at support.

“And the lieutenant too, I guess,” Buck continued. “I shouldn’t be so quick to point out his flaws when I’ve more than enough of my own. Thankful, I know what it’s like to be taken down the wrong road, and I think Fahy is wrong for you.”

“Well, your advice is too late now, isn’t it?” Thankful said, still wringing her handkerchief.

“I only wish you hadn’t let Fahy poke you,” Buck said.

“Miss Peckham was right!” Thankful cried. “There’s no equality between the sexes!”

“Who’s Miss Peckham?” Buck asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Thankful said with an impatient toss of her head, “but you men do as you like!”

“You took no part in your condition, sis?” Buck asked.

“No, I … well, the lieutenant wanted it so badly, and I couldn’t stand to see him angry. Anyway, it’s not as if you couldn’t have the same trouble.”

Buck said, “Our father is a bastard. I don’t want that for my children.”

Thankful laughed. “And please tell me how you’ve prevented that so far.”

Buck’s face went red as he glanced over at William. “I’ve saved myself.”

“What?” Thankful exclaimed in disbelief. “But Fred always said …”

“Fred never was with me spooning. Father once told me it was the worst mistake of his life, marrying Mama because she was pregnant with Fred and me, so I don’t have anything to be ashamed of in that one regard.”

“So you were a lily-white Christian boy underneath it all?” William said.

Buck coughed, keeping his attention on his sister. “I guess I thought it would be nice if it meant something. I hope it meant something special for you, Thankful.”

She began to cry again. “No! I only did it to make him keep me! Just like Mama!”

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Featured Image: Detail from john Collier’s Portrait of Marian Huxley

 

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.

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Fiction: A Race and a Rescue

William wasn’t used to such high-quality drink, and it affected him strangely. He pulled out his Bowie knife—passed down from his Uncle Simon’s old things—and started for the mountains where a band of Apache camped.

“Bill, what are you playing at?” Fahy asked.

“Apache tizwin. I heard it’s good drink. I’m gonna try it.”

“How? No, I can’t let you go up to the Indians in the middle of the night.” Fahy wanted no trouble with the peacefuls on his watch. “Weldon, how about a race—you versus Buck here. Winner gets bragging rights at home and what’s left of the spirits.”

Buck vomited, but was shoved along by the drunken men around him to take the challenge. They led him and William to the horses, and Fahy had the two fleetest ones saddled. The moon lit the flat grounds for a quarter of a mile. Someone ran to alert the sentries. Spectators wondered as the race began how the two would stay afloat as they mounted the horses drunkenly. The rushing air woke them both to the spirit of competition and they flew over the land. One was no better than the other, but at the specified end point William raced on to the Indian drink in the hills.

Only Buck was close enough to get William and turn him, but he had not been given orders to do so and he sat on an army horse. He slowed just long enough to hear Fahy yelling for him to follow William and pushed his horse forward.

William slipped out of sight, hidden by the dark and rugged terrain. Buck, getting sick every so often and lost, tried to follow what seemed to be a trail, but hoped his horse knew better. Something stirred to Buck’s left and barreled towards him on the narrow path. Buck clutched the small gun he had with one hand and the reins of his excited horse with the other. William’s riderless horse dashed past them back toward home. Buck pushed forward.

A small firelight and William’s familiar silhouette, drinking tizwin with a few of the older Apache friendlies around a bed of embers, appeared in a clearing just ahead. They aimed their weapons at Buck, who said, “Friend. I’m a friend.”

William staggered to his feet long enough to make signs that Buck was no trouble. He tried to grab Buck’s gun, but Buck wasn’t having it. “Willy, we have to get out of here.”

“No, try some of this …” William passed the tizwin, but Buck’s body revolted at the taste of it and he vomited again.

The Indians laughed.

“Let’s go—now!” Buck said.

“You go,” William replied, shoving him. “No one asked you to come.”

Buck waved his gun.

“Buck, put that away! Are you crazy?”

“William, we have to go!”

William lunged forward trying for Buck’s gun again and they wrestled. A shot rang out. The old men joined the fray, trying to break up the two boys, and into the confusion galloped Fahy and a few of his men. Upon seeing the cadet held around the neck by an Apache, Fahy took aim at the Indian, grazing him but angering the others, who took up their weapons in the murky light of early dawn.

Fahy and his men struggled and cursed at the tight spot they were in on this narrow trail.  They slipped off their animals and used them as breastworks, aiming into the ruckus. Stray bullets and arrows whizzed into the air amidst the shouting and stumbling.

Buck jumped on his horse after losing his gun in the scuffle and became an instant target. William stood like a wilting statue of wax. Now other Indians from the camp took positions behind the rocks and shot.

“Get out of the bloody way, cadet!” Fahy shouted, but Buck refused to leave his spot until he got William.

His voice was no use, so he pulled off his boot and threw it at William, getting his attention, and then pushed through the mess and took William by the hair on his head, helping him climb aboard.

Fahy shouted, “Leave the bastard who got us into this!” But he let the two get by him and down the path a short way.

Buck’s scarf at the neck shone in the breaking dawn. William felt a jolt and Buck’s body went limp, but William steadied him and took the reins. The Scotch and tizwin were still at work on William, and he soon passed out and slipped from the horse with Buck in his arms.

As the sun peeked through the tall pines on the hilltops, the Indians disappeared into the woods. The younger ones edged their way in to carry home their drunken elders as Fahy watched in disgust.

 

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