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The Last of the Light (part three)

A weird Western in four parts.

By Jean McKinneyPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
Image credit: Amanda Stevens via Pixabay

The sky is a never-ending vault of lavender and violet, and the moon, just coming on to full, is rising like a vast golden coin over the mountains. Lily sits on the porch, watching the road for Ethan, longing for the sight of his broad brown hat. The baby sleeps in her arms, full and warm and finally quiet.

“How are we this evenin, Missus Pollard? Little one doin all right?”

Smells of old sweat and dirty leather; scuff of boots and the jingle of many jackdaw bits of jewelry. It’s Scout, and Lily’s heart jumps up in a way she doesn’t like to think of. She smiles. How does he come up behind her unnoticed like that?

Scout cradles the baby’s bare head gently in his big hard hand. His hair is long and graying brown, and he has an eagle feather tied to a red thread at his temple. White man turned brown by this never-ending sun: Scout wears fringed leather and cavalry issue pants; rings gleam on his fingers and in his ears. He’s been stopping through more and more these last days, with Ethan away so much. He makes her laugh and tells her stories, and sometimes, she knows, he walks the yard while she sleeps.

“He cries a lot,” Lily says. “I think he’s missin his papa.”

Scout eyes a bat, flittering like a scrap of burned paper above the trees. “And what about you? You missin his papa too?”

Lily shifts the baby in her lap. “I am, Scout. But he’s just doin what he has to do, if we’re to make it.”

“You know, Miz Pollard, Lily,” Scout’s voice is soft, just a murmur in the twilight. “I’ll make sure you're all right, make sure you never worry about a thing."

“I know that, Scout.” Lily says. Why does her breath catch in her throat when he speaks so gently? “I’m grateful you come around. I know you got a long way to go home.”

Scout laughs, a dry, bitter laugh that makes Lily jerk around to stare at him. “You might could say that. But I’m always here if you need me. You just remember that, when old Ethan’s pourin out the last of his pesos on the table and he’s forgot all about you.”

The breeze tickles Lily’s sweaty hair, turning her briefly cold. She shivers, and the baby, roused by the movement, wakes and begins to whimper. The whimper turns into a full-bore screech that rips into Lily’s tired brain.

“Be quiet!” she whispers. “Oh, please be quiet!” She rocks him harder and harder, the screams ricocheting around the clearing. Lily fumbles for the buttons of her dress, pops a breast into his mouth. Diverted, the baby settles down to nurse again.

In the echoing silence, Scout exhales hard and slowly straightens his legs, crossing the ankles. His eyes slide past the pale curve of her flesh. “Well. That’s a good lad. I’d be proud to have him. Proud to have you too.”

Lily smiles gratefully. What a blessing her friends have been, these long days out here all alone. Scout’s a good man. She knows Ethan would like him. When Ethan gets home, she’ll introduce them.

This is Part Three of four parts. Read Part One here, and Part Two, here.

Behind the Scenes: When Ethan and Lily arrived in the Arizona Territories, the "Indian wars" were still going on, as the local Apache and Tohono O'odham tribes fought to defend their lands. The US Army established Fort Huachuca near the border in 1877, and it employed civilian scouts to support cavalry units on their missions. (Fort Huachuca is still an active Army installation today.)

FantasyHistorical

About the Creator

Jean McKinney

Writer/artist reporting back from the places where the mundane meets the magical, with new stories and poems every week. Creator of the fantasy worlds of the Moon Road and Sorrows Hill. Learn more and get a free story at my LinkTree.

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Comments (1)

  • Wali Ahmed Khanabout a month ago

    "Beautiful content! I support you and appreciate your support for me. Together, we can achieve great things! 🌟😊"

Jean McKinneyWritten by Jean McKinney

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