Sunday, December 16, 2012

In answer to a western challenge

I spend a lot of time at the western forum at Amazon. Maggie, a reader, is wonderful about issuing challenges. Most of the time I don't really have time to participate, but I wish I did. There is something very liberating about just writing without an end purpose in mind. Indeed, a lot of my work starts out that way anyway as I'm a pantser, but ...

So, the first challenge she issued has us drafting a short scene with the following words:  Cake, Rustler, Tuesday, Cheyenne, and Jack rabbit.  I wrote a short scene that I really liked. So yesterday she issued another challenge whereby we had to use the words: Ghost town, Tumbleweed, Townsfolk, Gingerbread, and Angel(s). 

I decided instead of working up something new, I'd just add to what I'd done before. Since it's too long for the forum, I'll post here for any who want to read it. I'm stealing the idea of posting the longer version here from Alison Bruce. Be sure to read her challenge answer also. It's amazing.

So without further ado, here's my short:

Cheyenne Meeks leveled his Smith and Wesson model 1870 Schofield at the unsuspecting jack rabbit foraging for its own supper. The tall eared critter hopped to the left and just out of view, its gray brown body hidden behind a fallen log. Cheyenne continued his vigilant pursuit and stood stock still hoping dinner would reenter his sights soon.
“You best hightail it out of there, mister.”
He jumped and whirled toward the voice. The movement had the rabbit bounding away faster than a rustler making a quick get-away. “You just cost me dinner.”
“Better an empty stomach than having to digest one of my bullets.”
The voice was decidedly female, but her garb was anything but feminine. Dressed in buckskin pants, fringed tunic, and a wide rimmed cowboy hat, she presented a comical picture.  He relaxed his stance and rocked back on his heels. His stomach growled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten since leaving Fort Worth on an errand he hoped would solve many of his current problems. The piece of cake he’d nibbled yesterday morning couldn’t stave off the gnawing hunger working its way to his feet. “Mind telling me why you stopped me from shooting.”
“Floppy White Toes is a pet.” She lowered her Colt revolver and smiled. “You wouldn’t happen to be Cheyenne Meeks, would you?”
“I guess that depends on who’s askin’.” Her eyes were sure an interesting shade of amber.
“I knew it. Been expecting you since last week. I’m Tuesday Henshaw. Your fiancée.”
Cheyenne maintained his smile with some effort. He hadn’t come all this way for a bride that could probably outshoot, out cuss and out ride him. Damn the war for forcing him into his current situation, but his place of birth was all but a ghost town, and he was right tired of living from hand to mouth. Her advertisement promised a large plot of land for a man willing to work. The only catch – marriage.
Tuesday holstered her Colt but maintained a wary stance. “Got vittles simmering at my place if you’re still willin’ to marry me. If not, then you can just mosey on back the way you came. Got no use for men who don’t keep their word.”
His glands salivated at the mention of food and desperation forced an answer. “I’d be honored to accept your proposal, but I require an inspection of the property first. I, too, would prefer not to be swindled with an unsatisfactory promise of goods.”
“Well now, ain’t it grand that the wind blew me such a cultured tumbleweed. I s’pect I can give you a tour. We’ll start out at first light tomorrow after a good night’s rest. I’ll even take ya into town to meet some of the townsfolk. They’re right curious about my future husband. Though I can’t quite understand why. Women get married all the time without all the fanfare my notice created.”
“About that. Are you still set on wedding a stranger? Perhaps we can work a deal whereby you hire me instead.” Though to be honest, the idea of owning a hundred forty acres of prime land appealed more than he wanted to let on.
Something flashed in her eyes. Hurt? Surely not. After all, they didn’t even know each other.
She flicked her head to the side. “Come on. Let’s get on up to the house. We can discuss the details then.”
He plowed through fallen leaves and clinging foliage until they hit a more established path. From there, they walked in companionable silence until they reached their destination. He stared in awe of the two story white washed house trimmed in gingerbread scrolls. The wrap-around porch held a cozy appeal that reminded him of his childhood home. The quaint abode somehow didn’t match the woman who stood beside him. Perhaps she had a soft side after all.
He was about to voice his approval when the door squealed open and a small child peaked out at them.
He straightened against sudden and intense pain, his appetite gone. “I believe our deal is off, madam.”
“Beg pardon?”
“Your advertisement said nothing about children.” God, why did she have to look so much like Savannah?
“Have you got somethin’ against the wee angel? Cuz if’n you do, I s’pect you’re right.”
No. He didn’t have anything against angels, but the doe eyes, full cheeks and blonde curls reminded him more acutely of all he’d lost. The cherub peered up at him through thick lashes and stuck her thumb in her mouth.
“Is she yours?” he asked.
“Hell no. Got no little ones. This here’s my niece and one of the main reasons for my need of you.” She hefted the child into her arms and smiled. “Wednesday Lou, meet your new daddy.”
He started at her brazen announcement. He took a deep breath and willed himself to remember why he’d agreed to her terms in the first place. For better or worse, he was about to accept the hand of a woman more suited to herding cows than being the wife of a misplaced, southern plantation owner.


Alison E. Bruce said...

Wonderful! I can see a novel coming out of this... a novella at least.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I really need to read the entire book, Ciara. Love this teaser you've written. Please keep going! By the way, white-wash (unless you mean it as such) is not paint. It's a cheap substitute that won't stay on in weather. Remember the old saying, "Too poor to pain and too proud to whitewash."

Ciara Gold said...

Thanks Alison and Caroline for the encouragement and you're right Caroline. If I made this a novella, I'd have to do some editing but I always think of white-washing as a poor man's way of handling the outer care of these buildings. I know they did it a lot to fences so hmmm, I'll be giving this more thought as I figure out his and her motivations, etc.