~ Sitting on a bench on the platform ready to depart for Cedar City, Addy is lost in thought watching some children standing with parents nearby. She leans against the end cap of the bench with her right arm wrapped over her middle, subconsciously cupping her nearly healed injury ~
Children live in such different worlds, I think. And they can come up with the most astute observations, sometimes. I am never around them very much, but I expect I’ll have one or two of my own someday. Quite a bit needs to happen between now and then! Not that a lot lately hasn’t happened; law’s a’mercy, it’s like there’s a curse following this group. We run into one mishap after another. Maybe there really is somethin’ to Munroe’s idea a’ bein’ cursed, but I wonder if it ain’t a bigger curse on him than he thinks. That poor man is lookin’ a mite rougher than the first day we met; I can’t really put my finger on it, it’s like he’s getting’ thinner through-wise, like the sun shines right through him a little more each day. I reckon that’s frightenin’ feeling for a body. Warmed my heart to see my whisky bring the color to his cheeks, though. Man needs a helluva lot more than my liquor can offer. I must say, he looked a sight with that cravat, like one o’ them gentleman he always acts—funny code of conduct he has; must be part o’ all them English ways—but I have got no other Englishman to compare him to. I find myself watchin’ him to see what he’ll do, though, an’ more often than not, he does just the thing the widdah’ would do—or is doin’—an’ I sure do like the level-headedness of that one!
The gala was quite a lot of talkin’ and then a little bit o’ shootin’. I never seen a pair of people pull together the way Mrs. Chapman and Mr. Cobb did, ‘twas uncanny. She can be sweet but she has got some fire inside her and ain’t afeared a’lettin’ it out! I couldn’t see much but gun barrels once the dustup started, but halfway through, a few of these Junkyard residents reached back and found their backbones and helped put a stop to the rowdiness. I can’t rightly say now what all Dr Haskins was blatherin’ on about up there on the dais before them roughnecks wandered in, but I reckon we’ll get a’ earful o’ details on the trip an’ if we don’t, we’ll get an eyeful firsthand.
Mr Feathers, well that just don’t sound right, I better have a set-down with him and see who he is if we’re gonna be sharin’ a trail for a week or four, but I reckon “Mr Feathers” will have to do for now. Mr Feathers don’t strike me as yella’ but he got scarce once the lead started flyin’; I will have to keep my eyes out for him and see what kind of medicine he has. I think he’s Lakota, but he’s awful tight-fisted with credentials. Hard to know who you can trust these days, so I can’t say I blame him, but a body needs to know who her compatriots are.
We been doin’ a good bit o’ ridin’ and strollin’ and my side hardly twinges at’all now. The last couple days have been naught more than a blur, what with all the buyin’ an’ packin’. Mrs. Chapman’s horse showed up on the mornin’ train yesterday, and shoo-wee wasn’t she just pleased as punch to see him, understandably so, he’s a fancy beast. I thought she’d hug him when I saw her watchin’ him come off the train and I swear he looked around for her when he stepped down that ramp, snortin’ with each step and peerin’ all around! I have been right busy myself, but I managed to spend a few minutes with my new ride too, though he’s a shabby boy compared to Lonesome’s feller. I reckon a few weeks’ ridin’ will have him trimmed up and me a good bit more limber as well. A couple weeks have worked wonders for improving my condition. I must say, the bug-crawlin’ feelin’ of havin’ my stitches pulled was such a relief—nice to keep a body to a body’s self now too—I’m right tired of havin’ some sawbones peerin’ an’ pokin’ at me. I do find my fingers wanderin’ to that new flesh though—gonna be a bit of a nasty mark there now, but nothin’ I reckon a pretty get-up won’t make up for now an’ again, least-awise for me. Anyways, them few who will see it, nobody who matters won’t pay it no nevermind, so I reckon I ought not as well.
Speakin’ of get-ups, I had my eye on those leather britches Miss Sophie wore—they seemed like they could stand up to a week in the saddle, three days in the bottom of a rucksack, and a night on the grass and come back just as good the next time a body put ‘em on. I had that modiste who fixed me up with the new green skirt and cream blouse piece me together a black pair o’ them trousers too and I’ll say, they look to be a right solid piece of work. Reckon a gal in her position out here needs to work in leather an’ rawhide as well as silk and chambray. Nice to have a chance to change the scenery ever’ once in a while! Them canvas britches‘ll be waitin’ for me in my pack when I need ‘em again. Her little apprentice complained of a megrim while I was havin’ my fittin’ and that little lady rubbed some lavender oil on the poor gal’s temples and sent her to bed. I asked her if that was efficacious and she said about half of the time it was. I asked her where to get it and she said the mercantile had some; I stopped by that shop after the fittin’ and picked up a little phial of it, can’t hurt to see if it’ll help Mr Munroe. I was gobsmacked when the old gal had a pair of black silk stockins’ too. When I saw my mama’s pretty stockins’, which papa gave her as a weddin’ present, all soaked through with lantern oil, I felt like I was losin’ another piece of her and there ain’t too many pieces yet left to lose—havin’ her pretty things is a poor lesson on bein’ a female, but a lesson nonetheless. I reckon she’d want me to hold on to that part of me and let her go, seein’ as she’s been gone long enough.
Mr Munroe doesn’t say much about his wife, God rest her, or that little mite o’ theirs that passed. I reckon it’s still too fresh for him. That poor man is full up on death. Seems like if he could just find that one thing to remedy his curse or whatever, he’d be alright, once he gets his head straightened out and lets that family of his go on to the next world. Sometimes, he seems a good bit older than he really is and my heart just tugs for his sadness. I see that same look in his blue eyes that Papa had a few weeks after my mother passed away; I just wanna’ take his hand an’ tell him it’ll get better if he can just hold on for a spell and let the storm blow by; reckon that wouldn’t be appropriate seein’ as I hardly know the man. I did see him standin’ out under the stars one night, just a’gazin’ up, barely breathin’, his eyes searchin’ the sky, watchin’ like one o’ them specks had a message if only he could find the right one and listen hard enough. Couldn’t bring myself to interrupt him, he almost looked healthy, starin’ up so solemnly with somethin’ like hope and yet wistfulness at the same time on his face, and I do wonder if he don’t need a friend right now. Hard to tell with foreigners, when a body’s crossin’ a line and when one’s bein’ unfriendly. Suppose I’ll keep an eye on him.
Seems like things picked up tenfold once Mr Munroe told Dr Haskins we’d take his little proposition. I been so busy preparing, I ain’t had two seconds to string together. S&R said they’d sell us a steam car or other some such contraption; what they think a steam powered thingamajig’s gonna help us over the Havasupai lands I never heard tell, but the agent said he knew a few horse dealers and he’d arrange a meetin’ gratis. Lonesome told me she had a lovely sorrel of her own comin’ in special, but she’d help us look over what was on offer. I’m none too attached to any of our beasts at home and really, ain’t none of ‘em truly made for any o’ this rough trekkin’ I bet we’re fixin’ to do. I thought Lonesome was gonna draw on that Smith and Robards agent when he took us out to that dusty corral full o’ sorry nags. By god if that weren’t a sad collection in the first bunch! The blazes I saw in Mrs. Chapman’s glare were hotter’n a billy goat in a pepper patch! Somehow just a whisper from that beldame can jerk a knot in any rascal’s attitude. ‘Course, the look alone on his face when he started backin’ away from her stare and then my throwin’ knife landed halfway to its hilt in the dirt next to his boot was worth the two hours I spent practicin’ the evenin’ before! The little leather shoulder holster the saddler made for my throwin’ pieces worked out real smooth for that lesson—keeps my six knives snugged up next to my ribs ‘n ready to fly. The Smith and Robards agent jumped a foot, nervous as a whore in church!
He reluctantly walked us back across town to a little corral off the main thoroughfare and showed us a second bunch that looked a bit better but weren’t none o’ them winnin’ any beauty contests neither. That grulla beast I got couldn’t a’ even won the prize for congeniality—he’s a mean cuss; glad he’s cut, I’d wager he’d be a unholy terror intact. Them blue eyes o’ his had a ornery look in ‘em the second he swung his head my way, but he’s a sturdy boy—if he were an inch taller, he’d be round. That should come in handy long about the third week out and feed starts runnin’ thin. Reckon he’s too mean for his herdmates to get near the trough ‘til he’s had his fill, or close to it. I saw him lay them ears back when that rangy bay walked past an’ he looked meaner’n a snake! That agent tried to tell me the grulla was new to the group and findin’ his way—ain’t nobody gonna mess on me an’ call it apple butter! That ol’ boy had carved out his place at the top o’ the totem pole an’ weren’t nobody gonna back talk him! I’m a bit concerned he’s gonna stand out like a sore thumb with that long white stockin’ on his front left and that white face o’ his—we do much night ridin’ and you might as well post a ‘shoot me’ sign on his rump! I think that agent pulled all the tack off the dead nags from the original expedition though—that’s some mighty rough stuff. Glad I took the time to fit it on that beast ‘afore we loaded him, rig up some paddin’, and find a good blanket for it—that bridle’s seen better days though.
I plan to visit the stable car a bit during the ride—we’ll be on for a few days and that swayin’ passenger car can be pretty soporific. Mean as that fella’ is with the other animals, he’s docile as baby with folks. Likes a scratchin’ under the chin, like a dog—now that’s gotta be some kinda’ disgrace for horseflesh. Can’t do no harm to get to know ‘im a bit though, we’re stuck with one another for the next month at least, barrin’ any unforeseen difficulties, an’ given the way the trip’s been heretofore, I ain’t above seein’ quite a bit! I warned Papa he won’t see me to July, that’s two months, don’t want him to worry when we’re out in the back o’ beyond and things get wild as a junebug on a string. Won’t be no telegraph man can let Papa know then, now, will there?
I’d given up on findin’ more rounds for the derringer and the Navy; hell, weren’t a proper throwin’ knife to be had in town until I stopped by the colored smith on the far side o’ town. That fella’ hammered out four of the best balanced throwin’ knives I’ve ever held in my palm, an’ he done it just inside an hour. From the way he stuck them things in the straw bale back o’ his shop, he spent more’n a winter or two with the Coyote Confederation people, too. He pointed me to another fella’ peddlin’ ammo and I stocked up, what a load off the mind! I can’t see venturin’ out along the Colorado with the twenty rounds each I had left—not if town’s been as lively as it has—Lord knows what the wilderness holds.
That Dr Haskins is a slick talker; I think he’s above board, but somethin’ about him just makes me feel like a goose is walkin’ on my grave—I don’t like him none. Maybe it’s them fancy East Coast duds he’s got or his pomaded quiff, but he’s got a streak o’ sheister in ‘im if ever I seen one. Useless as tits on a boar hog to boot, I bet. Face man, I suppose, with his curios and relics; like we can’t recognize a cow’s shinbone when we see one. Tinhorn dandy.
Platform’s gettin’ a mite busy, I reckon I might oughta’ step up there and prepare to jump aboard once that train rolls in. I think that’s Lonesome and Mr Cobb comin’ this way; on first glance, a body might think he’s ursine, but that there is an end all be all man! I wonder where Mr Munroe is, maybe I ought to have a peek around an’ find him.