Old Nick’s Garley: The Last Stand
“Don’t do it. I won’t go back. Don’t tell them anything.”
Now I can enter the serial challenge. I wrote Old Nick’s Garley within September’s theme(s). There’s even a hint of a campfire in this chapter to fit in with October’s theme, though ordinarily, I don’t want to mingle months. I just wanted y’all to have the last chapter.
The full moon rose on the circle of blanketed elders. They were moving off the desert soon and the chief wanted an answer.
Smoke drifted in the night breeze as they went through the ceremony of each one telling about ‘the woman’ and “the girl” as if they were one person. I did my best to pick them apart.
She didn’t wear a poke bonnet anymore. Instead she balanced a beautiful woven hat on her head and if she hadn’t been tall, I’d never have distinguished her from the chief’s sister. I looked around. Wuai’nahk didn’t attend.
“You are the first choice,” the chief informed me. “Marry her and she will have status my people understand. We are reluctant to give her a husband among us, but that can be done.”
As the moon-shadows began lengthening again I studied the eager tilt of the hat. She was being respectful of their customs. What did she really want? “It’s high time Mrs. Warbleyham went home.”
She gasped, threw off the blanket and staggered back a few paces.
“Blew your cover there, ma’am. If you’d just kept quiet.” I spoke in O’odham.
“How did you know? Did he come? I’m not going back,” she blurted in English.
I addressed the chief. “There’s a good story in this and the moon is fresh.”
The chief gave his permission.
“Not me.” I shrugged. “The lady is our storymaker tonight. Come sit down, ma’am. You’re among friends.”
She stood a long while, a silhouette with a silver lining. The desert sang around us and far away a puma yelled. A mouse scurried into the circle, looked around, and scurried out.
A furry body hurled out and collided with Mrs. W. I jumped to my feet, trigger finger pulsing. All the warriors had their rifles trained.
“Don’t do it.” Miss D wailed. “I won’t go back. Don’t tell them anything.”
Mrs. W guided the girl to her mat and wrapped her in her lap and blanket. Their neighbours tucked it in around them.
“Don’t be afraid,” the chief’s sister comforted. “We are your friends. If wrong is done to you, we share it. If wrong is done by you, we share it.”
The silver moon-lightning played in her braids. “My name is Ruth. I did marry a Warbleyham.” The English words sounded strange amidst the O’odham.
I rubbed my lips together.
A little head popped out of the blanket. “My name is Dorothy.”
Mrs. W nudged Miss D back in. “I’m not going to say anything against the man. I took the first chance to get away. I forged the custody order.” She used the English for these words.
My eyes flew wide.
She looked at me. “Blew my cover again? Maybe I should wait until I know what you know.”
“Full disclosure, ma’am. Now that you’ve got going. I have a whole yard full of outlaws that I know every bit about.”
“And you’ve got history on yourself, Mr. Garley.”
I bowed. “You chose well. What about the kid?”
“There’s plenty of orphans, Mr. Garley. I watched the school and picked Dorothy. She was eager to come with me and didn’t mind pretending to be a Garley.”
“Can’t help remembering as a man died of your actions.”
“I told him not to shoot. If he’d listened to me, he’d be alive today.”
I could hear the warriors around us thinking, yeah, listen to a woman when there’s shooting to be done. “What about the government man?”
“He’s legit. He took some convincing.”
Four winters of living with that man. “Why’d you say it was my granpappy’s daughter’s family?”
“That was the grain of truth in it all. I lived next to a Miss Garley back in Wishing Toad. She told me about her brother whose son had taken him out the length of Get the Hell Out.”
“So there’s no $200?”
I shrugged. “You want to stay? I can’t marry a married woman.” I turned to the chief.
“Does the man claim her as wife?” he asked.
“He came to my place raising stink doing it.”
“I saw him.” Miss D popped up again. “The dog told us someone was coming and we followed and watched him raise stin …”
Mrs. W shoved her back.
The chief nodded. “That’s enough for us. She can stay.”
Miss D jumped up and did a victory dance around Mrs. W, making her braids dance. Nick cavorted like a bean with worms. Mrs. W looked like she’d like a word with me.
“The child …”
All stilled to hear the chief. Miss D flung herself into the chief’s lap and snuggled under his blanket.
“In five summers the child will be of age.”
“Plenty of time for her to grow strong among your people.” I stared Mrs. W down.
The chief patted Miss D’s head. “And for a young man to …”
“Oh you don’t need to worry about that.” Miss D stroked the chief’s cheek. “I have a man to claim me. I met him when I stalked Mr. G’s house. He calls himself Car-lyle. He says he’ll make a proper Garley of me.”
Thank you for reading my first western story. I hope you enjoyed the characters and the setting. For more of my writing, may I suggest https://leoshine.micandpen.com/