Poetry

A Lost Face and then Some & other poems

by Tom Sheehan

 

 

A Lost Face and then Some

 

When asked to read to celebrate my new book of memoirs,

I let the audience enter the cubicle from where the work came.

I told them: I’ll celebrate with you by telling you what I know,

how it is with me, what I am, what has made me this way;

a public posture of a private life near nine decades deep.

 

Just behind the retina, a small way back, is a little room.

with secret doors, passageways, key words beside Sesame.

If you’re lucky enough to get inside that room, at the right time,

there’s ignition, a flare, now and then pure incandescence,

a white phosphorous shell detonating ideas and imagery.

 

It’s the core room of memories, holding everything

I’ve ever known, seen, felt, spurting with energy.

Shadowy, intermittent presences we usually know

are microscope-beset, become most immediate.

For glorious moments, splendid people rush back

 

into our lives with their baggage, Silver Streak unloaded,

Boston’s old South Station alive, bursting seams.

At times I’ve been lucky, white phosphorescently lucky;

when I apprehend all, quadrangle of Camp Drake in Japan

in February of 1951, the touch and temperature of the breeze

 

on the back of my neck; I know a rifle’s weight on a web

strap on my shoulder, awed knowledge of a ponderous

steel helmet, tight lace on a boot, watch band on one wrist.

Behind me, John Salazer is a comrade with two brothers

not yet home from World War II, who the captain calls

 

and says, “You go home tomorrow. Be off the hill before dark.”

“No, sir, I’ll spend the night with Jack down in the listening post.”

At darkness a Chinese infiltrator hurls a grenade into their bunker.

The count begins again, eternal count, odds maker at work,

clash of destinies. On the ship heading home, on a troop train

 

rushing across America, in all rooms of sleep since then,

are spaces around me. Memory, fragile, becomes tenacious,

but honors me as a voice, and my will to spread their tenacity.

My book says, ‘For those who passed through Saugus, all towns,

comrades bravely walked away from home to fall elsewhere,

 

and the frailest one of all, frightened, glassy-eyed, knowing

he is hapless, one foot onto D-Day soil or South Pacific beach

and going down, but not to be forgotten, not ever here.”

I had their attention. We shared: The shells were cannonading

as one died in my arms, blood setting sun down. In darkness now

 

I cannot find his face again. I search for it, stumble, lose my way.

November’s rich again, exploding. Sixty-four Novembers burst

the air. I inhale anew, leaves bomb me, sap is still, muttering

of the Earth is mute. I remember all the Novembers; one tears

about me now, but his face is lost. How can I find his face again?

 

 

Burial for Horsemen

(For my father, blind too early.)

 

The night we listened to an Oglala life

on records, and shadows remembered

their routes up the railed stairway like

a prairie presence, I stood at your bed

 

counting the days you had conquered.

The bottlecap moon clattered into your

room in vagrant pieces…jagged blades

needing a strop or wheel for stabbing,

 

great spearhead chips pale in falling,

necks of smashed jars rasbora bright,

thin flaked edges tossing off the sun.

Under burden of the dread collection,

 

you sighed and turned in quilted repose

and rolled your hand in mine, searching

for lighting only found in your memory.

In moon’s toss I saw the network of your

 

brain struggling for my face the way you

last saw it, a piece of light falling under

the hooves of a thousand horse ponies,

night campsites riding upward in flames,

 

the skyline coming legendary.

 

 

 

Gandy Dancer of the Phoebe Snow

 

You began right in front of me today.

I don’t know where you came from,

patient muscles hanging loose in your

soil-painted, dark-blue suit coat,

one pocket ripped to a triangle,

one pocket stuffed oh so properly

with a coffee-filled paper-wrapped

pint bottle, your thin legs nailed down

into a pair of the saddest brown pants,

a long-handle spade extending your arms,

eyes folded over reaching for noon.

 

Off behind you, faded to gray,

jetted the rip of animate steam,

coal gases; railroad track arrowing

onto a lake top that still does not exist.

 

You said, “Manja,” and laughed at me,

your big teeth ripe of red meat and bread,

voice as loud as your hands slapping with music.

 

You untied the red bandanna at your neck,

a sun-bothered sail of red bandanna,

wiped the brow under a felt hat, sucked

at the papered bottle until I tasted iodine

at the bend of my throat, smelled coal dust

coming a talc over us, like a dry fog.

 

It was the same yesterday when I made

a v-grooved pole to hold the clothesline up,

and over the fence a visitor from the Maritimes

said, “You go back a long way. I haven’t seen

a pole like that in years and years.”

 

So I guess you came the way the pole did,

out of the roads I’ve traveled, down lanes

stuffed like chairs, past yard geographies,

a long view over trees, out of some

thing I was, an organic of memory,

celluloid flashing of wide spaces

I passed through, the odors I thought

I wore or was, cannons at the edge

of a distant war, colors banging

their permanence tightly against

the back of my eyes,

 

pieces of the circle I find myself on,

where you were a moment ago, just

out the window of my mind, bearing

the riddle of a melancholy whistle

from hollows among the Rockies.

 

 

Face of an Old Western Barn

 

The motley barn, like an old stain

gone haywire, is a dread easel.

Knots, carved into walls like old

promises, wait for campfires

or late hearths, warmth from Earth’s

beginning.

 

Only the darkness is inconclusive where

night points its finger. In the deep aches

knots have fallen from, stars fall in, fields

of them, with the evening leader digging

deepest, digging first after yesterday’s carcass

linking still in the eyes’ behavior.

 

Shadows, upstaging any moon, argue on

its surfaces laterally. I have seen more mandates

than dreams in the dim recesses where wood

envies time, chases after it a whole age of

transparent death; just sunken cedars

in the swamp, drowned black, live on longer,

scaled at new livelihood.

 

Against a thousand storms this barn has stood,

never folding inward, only down by faint degrees

of ant strokes, termite mandibles, the odd carpenter;

its shoulders going sideways, knees turning softly,

its breath slow and halting.

 

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52, and graduated Boston College in 1956. His books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; Collection of Friends; From the Quickening; The Saugus Book; Ah, Devon Unbowed; Reflections from Vinegar Hill; This Rare Earth & Other Flights, and Vigilantes East.  eBooks include Korean Echoes (nominated for a Distinguished Military Award), The Westering, (nominated for National Book Award); from Danse Macabre are Murder at the Forum (NHL mystery), Death of a Lottery Foe, Death by Punishment, and An Accountable Death. Co-editor of A Gathering of Memories, and Of Time and the River, two collections about our home town of Saugus, Massachusetts, both 400+ pages, 4500 copies sold, all proceeds from $40.00 each cost destined for a memorial scholarship for my co-editor, John Burns, in the Saugus School system as director of the English Department at the High School for 45 years. After conception of the idea for the books, and John putting out the word for material to be included by former students, and with a proposal of actions and schedules I prepared for a local bank, ten of his former students signed a loan from the bank for $60,000 to print two books not yet written!!!!

And paid it off!!!!

 

* * * * * * * * * *

jane30

painting by Jane Gilday

Standard
Fiction

Jehrico Finds a Mistress

by Tom Sheehan
Jehrico knew what he was, and right from his first pick-up, a token-type horseshoe: He was a collector of things tossed aside, and Jehrico assumed that the Indian woman he was looking upon had been thrown aside, like so many of the tossed parts he had retrieved and made something of in his foraging about the old west, which was, indeed, his land of discovery and recovery. In fact, the token-type horseshoe, at his insistence, was made into a Bowie knife by a Mexican blacksmith whose father had fought at the Alamo and came away with stories of Jim Bowie.
Unwittingly he had started his small business with that token-type horseshoe.
As for the Indian maiden, Jehrico made his pronouncement early. “She is the most beautiful maiden I have ever seen, ever been around.” It was Jehrico’s voice coming along a windswept passage in the Randolph Mountain Range. He was not talking about Lupalazo, his wife, or his oldest daughter, Kerradina, a beauty in her own right, and he was not talking to anybody but himself and a piece of the wind that would keep his secret locked in the clouds and the high mass of rock lifting his eyes to the blue sky … at least for the time being.
“I will not buy her if she is possessed now because she must be free in my mind as well as her own mind, but I will trade for her. That is my custom.” The junkman and salvager of the west had not let go of the talismans, the many of them, that brought him luck or the goodness borne in what God designed and what man made and then discarded.
And at the moment his eyes were studying another ghost town he had come across, the dust of the years blowing into the wind, to be grasped, run through the sieve of his mind for what he now called “salvagations.” He had coined his own word for what he accomplished over the years. His friend Collie Sizemore probably had some influence on the coining.
This maiden was part of the old building, for the knotted rope binding her to a beam was thick as her wrist, solidly in place, not eaten by time or vermin of the ghost town, a prisoner of the “knotter” whoever that might be. He had seen no other person and heard no other sound but her moaning.
Surely, though, someone was about, someone who would not let go of this beautiful creature, who had her hog-tied to a beam she could not break down or carry on her back.
In the rear of this decrepit building partially blowing in the wind, part of its dust making the last journey through creation, he’d found her. There was a moan riding an edge of the wind, a human in distress, and Jehrico made his way into and through the shanty-like building on its way to history. Rubble was everywhere, a mess of furniture and various implements, artifacts of a once-livable site, sitting in the last place they had been used, wrecked by time, twist or toss. But every article he spotted worthy of description and identification was slowly sifting through his mind.
He was at work, and at rescue.
Jehrico, once called by Collie Sizemore as the “razor appraiser,” carried only his sharp eyes and a rugged cudgel, a hand-fashioned weapon to ward off the first wild animal to set upon him. He had never used the cudgel for a weapon, but rather to thrust found things aside, into better view, to see what they were made of, what they had left in them, what they might become.
The stories of things he had “turned over” had assumed a legendary status, consisting of so many invaluable finds that truth built upon itself, for many believed what he had not yet found would come to his hand, without doubt, before it blew away into dust. Collie also said, “Jehrico is a savior of all things found and leave no life left on the ground.”
There were folks in Bola City who swore Sizemore worked out of some book that Jehrico had found along the way, in a deserted Conestoga or a fallen schoolhouse, who preached what he read.
Collie, one of his first friends, had become proficient in spreading his status in the west, the way his words seemed fashioned solely for Jehrico Taxico, Collector. “Don’t leave it, he’ll retrieve it.” Don’t toss your tool, you’ll look the fool.” “Don’t fling-off old gimmicks, he’ll make ‘em do tricks.”
Jehrico, it was also known, had never carried a firearm to protect himself. Excelling in bartering, in trading up or down for some target piece he noted still locked into original form, into its first intent, he followed the moaning that issued from the nearly-collapsed building in the sixth ghost town he’d come upon. Each sound, each sigh, each throaty call for help, drew him through the wrecked building, which he assumed even animals stayed clear of.
When he caught sight of her, standing in a shaft of sunlight dancing around her, his breath came to a halt, balled up in his chest, collected itself for a gasp noting pleasure without touching. She was absolutely beautiful in her horrible state. Her clothes, what was left of them, were shredded, tattered, but in such a haphazard manner they had left her as a most desirable woman, beautiful, wanton, dressed for company, undressed for company, exhibiting the shapeliest torso from hips to shoulders and slung with an obviously prominent bust, the finest and firmest of legs and arms, the perfect face of a woman of the west, her moans ascending the loveliest of throats, coming past a perfection of pale lips, sitting on his ears like a psalm of sorts, a prayer of thanksgiving before Jehrico could contemplate or conduct her rescue.
“What will I do now?” he asked aloud in the midst of dust, danger and derring-do. He had to release her from bonds, cover her, see who had imprisoned her in this dangerous site, and engineer a trade. He beheld a vision of Lupalazo when he had first seen her with the Indian he eventually traded with, and now envisioned Lupalazo looking over his shoulder, and fully noting how he viewed this new beauteous maiden of the west, this prisoner. Of all people, Lupalazo would know the unsaid that was being said, the feelings that were conjured, the minute joy being thrust into play.
This new woman of the west was easily the most handsome and beautiful he had ever seen. She was not an artifact, not something to improve, alter, absorb into some new element. She was perfection, unalterable, inalterable. He dared not close his eyes; he was concerned, afraid, disturbed by what he might do, hope for, end up with.
Then he realized she had not spoken a word, uttered only the moans of imprisonment, the pain of roped limbs, but she raised her eyes and stared off to her left; she was alerting him to something, someone. Her eyes squinted tightly and her jaw dropped slack. Fright broke out on her face, her mouth atwitter, her eyes begging salvation.
Jehrico grasped his cudgel tighter, swung around and saw two Sioux Indians standing at the door behind him, one with a lance, one with an arrow in his bow. Neither one carried a stone ax or a long knife.
Jehrico screamed the name “Wakan-Tanka,” one of the gods of the Sioux he was familiar with, then he swung the cudgel and hit above his head a cross-piece running across the room. The walls of the old decrepit building shook dust from secret places, echoed along other sections of joists and beams, shaking the whole building. The two Sioux dropped their weapons and stood entranced in place as Jehrico held out one hand in a sign of peace, even as the shaking of the old structure slowed down, and ceased. He showed no scowl on his face or any part of a smile, neutral for the moment.
But the next move was Jehrico’s and he knew it. Withdrawing his Bowie knife, he cut the bonds off the woman, knelt down in front of her, took her hand and held it on his head for a second, stood up and said again, in his most solemn voice, “Wakan-Tanka. Wakan-Tanka.” He wondered what the pair of them looked like, her in her tattered clothes that showed most of her body, him with a mighty cudgel in hand and saying the name of one of the Sioux gods.
Then Jehrico, not through any bartering as yet, made another strange move; he flipped the cudgel in the air, caught it coming down at its thickest end and held the handle toward the Sioux. Both Indians stepped back, refused to grasp the cudgel, and fled the building without their weapons, the god’s name leaping from their throats, “Wakan-Tanka! Wakan-Tanka!” From the dusty, barren road for more than a half mile he could hear their cries as they carried off fear and surprise in departure.
It was not his old pal Collie Sizemore who first saw the strange pair coming into Bola City, Jehrico leading his mule and a lovely Indian maiden, blanket-wrapped, sitting on the mule as though she owned it, her eyes looking straight ahead into the center of town. But it was Lupalazo from the porch of their home who saw them. The maiden did not see any of the men eventually staring at her, but saw Lupalazo and three children clutching at her knees while staring at the man with a strange woman on his mule, a sight they had never seen.
But it was Collie Sizemore, ever alert, who saw them next, who yelled it out, “See what Jehrico brought home now. She’s a beauty, a bubble of trouble does appear the way it looks from way off here.”
The saloon emptied into the street to see the sight. There was noise galore, roaring guffaws and aws and ahs, as the crowd looked upon the Indian maiden when the blanket fell away from her loveliness.
“Did you dig her up from one of those holy places, Jehrico?” Collie yelled out. “She looks godilly and quite bodily. And your wife is bound by strife.”
There was laughter and wonder and daydreaming galore as Jehrico threw the blanket back onto the maiden still sitting on the mule. Lupalazo smiled, knowing her man, throwing Collie Sizemore a quick look of condemnation for his remarks, but allowing a smile as punctuation, knowing what and who Collie was from near the beginning.
One of the older patrons of the saloon, who had heard or seen Jehrico at bartering before, asked, “What’d you give up for her, Jehrico? You still got all your arms and your legs.”
Collie Sizemore had to laugh at that one, and snapped his fingers in joy, and then Jehrico said, “I only had to use the bait of one of their gods for a couple of Indians.” He threw his head back, his mouth open, as if to show shock of some kind.
“Which one was that?” asked the old man, as though he was plumb familiar with the whole tribe of gods that ran the heavens above.
Jehrico said, “Why, Wakan-Tanka, of course,”
The old patron of the saloon simply said, as he turned and looked out over the congregation of drinkers, his eyes finally settling on Jehrico, “Oh, that one. Serves him right getting used up like that. You’re still ahead of the game, Jehrico. Gotta hand it to you.” He slapped his thighs with both hands.
All of them, including Collie and Jehrico gave the old man credit with heavy laughter; it was loud and lush and long. But it was Lupalazo, the Collector’s wife, the mother of his six children, who threw her arms around the still-frightened Indian maiden and said, as she ushered her away from the crowd, “Come along with me, dear, and we’ll get you cleaned up and into a proper outfit. Something special for what you’ve been through, something right out of my own collection, something a little more attractive for you.”
Looking back over her shoulder, she added, to one and all, “You will be welcome as mistress of our household and then we’ll see who wants to venture close to an Indian maiden.”
She was sure Jehrico understood every word but, just in case, she said it in her own tongue, with no twist in the meaning, “Le dará la bienvenida como maestra de nuestro hogar y, a continuación, vamos a ver quién quiere aventurarse cerca de una doncella India.”
The Master Collector of Junk understood every word, in both languages and, for sure, the full intent.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52, and graduated Boston College in 1956. His books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; Collection of Friends; From the Quickening; The Saugus Book; Ah, Devon Unbowed; Reflections from Vinegar Hill; This Rare Earth & Other Flights, and Vigilantes East.  eBooks include Korean Echoes (nominated for a Distinguished Military Award), The Westering, (nominated for National Book Award); from Danse Macabre are Murder at the Forum (NHL mystery), Death of a Lottery Foe, Death by Punishment, and An Accountable Death. Co-editor of A Gathering of Memories, and Of Time and the River, two collections about our home town of Saugus, Massachusetts, both 400+ pages, 4500 copies sold, all proceeds from $40.00 each cost destined for a memorial scholarship for my co-editor, John Burns, in the Saugus School system as director of the English Department at the High School for 45 years. After conception of the idea for the books, and John putting out the word for material to be included by former students, and with a proposal of actions and schedules I prepared for a local bank, ten of his former students signed a loan from the bank for $60,000 to print two books not yet written!!!!

And paid it off!!!!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

 

Samuel4

painting by Samuel Barrera

Standard
Fiction

Jehrico’s Wolf Pup

by Tom Sheehan

 

When Jehrico’s wolf pup bit the sheriff, on his gun hand, and on his trigger finger to boot, things went from bad to worse. To begin with, Ruben Tarpon was a new sheriff with a fast gun and was trying his best to make his name as good as his gun and do a good job for the folks of Bola City. He was also checking out the pup as a curiosity, some folks telling him about it locked in a cage behind the livery. The sheriff had heard about Jehrico’s stunts and ventures into the business side of Bola City, like his hauling in the first iron bath tub to serve the hygienic needs of Bola City’s male population. Jehrico, Tarpon figured, was gifted with accidental entrances into things that made him money, and him being nothing more than a collector of odd things found in his travels, often just junk. Jehrico, however, knew firsthand the desert, older Indian sites and dwelling areas, ghost towns, closed-down mines, caverns and caves and canyons, and the community trash deposits for a hundred miles around that he reveled exploring in.

None of that stopped the bite when the sheriff put his hand too close to the pup.

And the bitten finger had a far-reaching effect on Bola City’s relationships between the law, local merchants and the bank. The sheriff, an elected official, said aloud to some confederates, “This is all the fault of that damned junk collector, him and his pup.” Though he was a stalwart among the men and a favorite of the women with his ruggedly handsome looks, he was aware of his status at all times, knowing it all came with the territory of the badge, the turn of a key to a jail cell, and the hangman’s noose when it counted.

It all had begun so simply for Jehrico in his newest venture into the world of collecting things. He came up with the pup at the back end of a cave in the mountains, born to snarl it appeared, but cute as a doll.

“Look for the dog in him, Jehrico. He’s as much dog as anythin’.” Jehrico’s pal Joe Brewster was laying it on the line about Jehrico’s new wolf pup he’d brought to Brewster to get his view on having one for a pet. Brewster knew animals, once having lived in the hills around the Strict Elsie settlement on the Guila River for at least ten years before he walked out of the hills one day and came to town of Strict Elsie, leaving all the genuine silence behind him.

He’d spotted Jehrico as soon as he cleared the pass at the high point above Strict Elsie, some vultures riding the thermals hundreds of feet above him, their wings, even that far, as wide as the back side of a pair of oxen in the traces. It was not until Jehrico came within fifty yards that Brewster knew he was carrying a bundle of fur. The way he carried it told Brewster the fur was alive and, of course, had to be a young one.

“Watcha got there, Jehrico? It’s near alive far as I kin see. It ain’t peccary and it ain’t cow, so I’d guess it’s gotta be bear or wolf, and if you say it’s wolf, make sure you handle it like a dog. Like I said, it’s much dog as anythin’.”

He shook his head and said, “If you bring it down into Bola City, be ready to get some sand in your grits; them folks down there don’t like anythin’ that even smells wolf. So best tell ’em up front it’s a dog you found with the momma dead. Them big male wolves have been nosin’ into the wind for a hundred years now. It travels on the breeze, in the wind, and if they find it like we do comin’ in from a month in the desert, knowin’ girl on the wind from a hundred miles away, they’d get mean at things plumb near forgot.”

Jehrico, all smiles, still holding the pup like he was a toy, ignoring the threats of real life, said, “What’ll I call him, Joe? Got any special names you ain’t used up yet? I favor south names, if you know what I mean.”

Brewster, looking at the vultures still at games, said, “How about Bruto, him bein’ so mean and all? Bruto’s good name for that critter just waitin’ to bite your finger off given a chance he come of age.” The two old pals laughed long and loud as they shared the bundle of fur, with white teeth in the middle of the ball.

“You keep to mind them teeth, Jehrico, ’cause they come to growin’ easy as the ground shakin’ when the mountain moves. Bruto get set to use them there’s no kiddin’ around on him. Them kind ain’t born to chew, I should tell you. They was plain born to rip things apart, one part from another, ‘specially they any meat in between or settin’ on them parts.”

The two friends of the animal world set about to make a cage for Bruto, after Jehrico poured some water from his canteen on the pup and said, “I bless you and give you the name Bruto. Wear it where you will, but for now in this here cage we got made, me and Joe. It’s just to keep you from the dogs in town, and there’s lots of them nosin’ around all the time.”

Brewster added a bit more advice. “You best let Bruto smell you every time you feed him, Jehrico. Let him get your smell down good in his belly ’cause it might save a finger or a hand later he come of real age and them teeth do the real thing.”

Jehrico had a rig behind his mule that he could tote the cage in, and that’s how they entered Bola City, Jehrico on his mule and the wolf pup in his cage.

For starters, the sheriff was practically out of commission, and most people around knew it, including some gang members sitting in a cabin at the back end of Snake Canyon off in the mountain range, and knowing the hand of the law was bandaged to a fare-thee-well.

“He ain’t so good a shot anymore,” Dutch the German said, talking to his small gang of robbers, all rested after their last robbery, and just about all the money spent. “He ain’t going to get the jump on us, his hand like it is. That damned wolf pup did us a great big favor. Bola City’s next for us, boys, and that bank over there. We ought to give a toast to that scrounger that brought home a wolf pup, thinking he was going to fool people making them think it was a lost puppy dog his momma run off or killed.”

One member of the gang, No-Foolin’ Toulin, at the back end of the cabin, whittling on a stick, said, “We gotta have a better plan than last time, Dutch. We was lucky on that one.” He rolled his eyes and flashed his hands in the air, both moves for base punctuation.

“Whatta ya mean ‘we was lucky?'” said Dutch. “We came out of there with a whole satchel of dough. So we lost Butchie. Well, he ain’t no big loss to us. You gotta admit he screwed up on the Timberfield job and I think he was asleep again this time. No way he shoulda taken one right in the face. Just wasn’t payin’ attention and somebody else coulda been dropped too, in case you ain’t thought of that yet.” He stressed his statement by pointing to each one in turn and saying, “You or you or you and even you. All of you coulda had the deep end of the tunnel all to hisself, if you really think about it.”

A small wave of mumbling ensued and Dutch the German knew none of the others would speak up; they were too scared, but Toulin came right back. “That stupid scavenger, that Jehrico lug, he ought to be part of us, way things happen with him. You heard about his bath tub and his pianer he brought back one time, like the whole world turned over on its backside for him. They say he smells like gold or silver up close and even gets a free bath once a week. Man like that could throw a whole passel of Rangers right off our trail, he give it a mind to do so.”

Dutch the German had a sudden idea, and he let it run around in his head before he spoke up about it. “What about this?” he said, leaning forward, looking them in the eye, drawing them in one by one. “We turn that wolf pup loose. Let him shake up a few folks, the whole town maybe, and while the pup raises hell of any kind, we rob the bank when they’re all messed up with the thing being loose, like maybe he’s gonna bite a kid or some old lady hangin’ up clothes on her line, or just layin’ around like nothin’ ever’s gonna happen, but the sheriff hisself is already punched out of action by a baby wolf.”

“He still keep that pup behind the livery, near the tub set-up?” No-Foolin’ Toulin obviously knew the answer to his own question. “Want I should take care of him, Dutch? I ain’t too queasy doin’ somethin’ like that.” His head came down into the circle where Dutch’s head had been, demanding attention, getting it, along with a share of responsibility and command. Smiling at Dutch, and then at the other gang members, he laid out a plan. “I figure I ought to feed him somethin’ good, what he likes, while he’s still in the cage. If he’s on the running line, loose as far as his leash lets him go, I’ll still feed him with that somethin’ goin’ to get his blood all lathered up inside, waitin’ to bite the hell out of anybody else comes near him. I learned a trick from an old Indian one time, about dropping a piece of meat in a special sauce, makes an animal go kinda crazy he eats it.”

“Sounds pretty smooth, No-Foolin’,” Dutch said. “He scare half the women in town to screamin’ and we got a walk-through at the bank, and Sheriff Tarpon ain’t gonna draw down on us no way, while all the men folk try to be heroes for their women and kids.”

It all went awry, of course, by the intervention of, not by Jehrico himself, but by his pal, the joker and animal man, Joe Brewster, who, during the darkest part of the night, extricated the wolf pup from the cage, put him in a box in the loft of the livery, and inserted a badger in its place. The badger was as mean as possible for one his size, and Brewster was just hoping to have some fun come morning.

He got all he was looking for.

In the forenoon of the day, a full night’s sleep behind him, Jehrico came to feed the pup and was surprised, but not amazed, to see an entirely different critter in the cage. Instinctively he knew that Brewster had been afoot in the night. He decided not to show any anxiety or any of his surprise, because he wanted to set off Brewster in his own way. The critter was a new one to Jehrico and he decided not to feed him, just to get back at his pal and omit what might be an exciting moment. He heard the wolf pup up in the livery and went to check on him and to feed him his morning ration.

Of course, the exciting moment came when an unsuspecting and usually morning-sleepy No-Foolin’ Toulin came to initiate his plan to feed the wolf pup and set him free to raise havoc all around Bola City. He did not pay much attention to the critter and when he opened the cage to toss in his “special food supply,” that all-out mean badger latched onto the ankle of his boot with a grip that was not about to loosen and sent No-Foolin’ Toulin in a mad, wild, screaming escapade all around the livery area. He wanted desperately to shoot the critter but he could not get his handgun free of his holster, falling knocked down repeatedly or getting knocked against a wall and further drawing out from his deepest insides the unholiest of screams.

Those screams swept across the morning of Bola City like a wild animal caught in a deadly snare, which did force the actions of an uncounted number of people within hearing range.

Jehrico thought it to be Brewster getting hung up in his own tomfoolery, Dutch the German and his gang thought it to be the outcome of the wolf pup on the loose, as promised by Toulin, and Sheriff Tarpon thought someone was being attacked by thugs or a wild thing inside the town limits.

Jehrico sat back in the loft laughing his head off, the wolf pup locked under a box with a heavy weight on top of it. Dutch the German and his gang rushed into the bank to rob it. Sheriff Ruben Tarpon grabbed a pistol in his left hand and fired a shot in the air, then fired another shot, in his attempt to scare off any wild critter or a thug on his rounds of doing nothing good, whatever was going on in his town.

When No-Foolin’ Toulin rolled out into the main street of Bola City, the badger let go of Toulin’s leg and rushed towards the bank in his attempt to escape. Some women screamed their holy terror. People on the wooden walk, which ran in front of the bank and the general store, rushed into the open doors of both establishments, spilling goods in the store and throwing the bank hold-up into absolute turmoil with every man in the place wielding a gun, some expecting to rob the bank and some expecting the wild critter to come right through the front door and were ready to shoot him.

Sheriff Tarpon ran into the street with the smoking pistol in his left hand and screaming all the while for his deputy to get on the job.

Jehrico stayed in the loft, the wolf pup under wraps, envisioning what pal Joe Brewster might be thinking at the time, all the screams and the gunfire and the general excitement gathering steam in the middle of town.

To his credit, pal Joe Brewster was on his horse outside of town heading back to Strict Elsie, hearing the gunshots, thinking that somebody in Bola City was taking shots at the badger out and about town, thinking of Jehrico looking for the wolf pup all the while, and he himself counting ahead to all the laughs they’d have next time him and Jehrico got together, away from Bola City, probably during one of Jehrico’s scavenger hunts.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52, and graduated Boston College in 1956. His books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; Collection of Friends; From the Quickening; The Saugus Book; Ah, Devon Unbowed; Reflections from Vinegar Hill; This Rare Earth & Other Flights, and Vigilantes East. eBooks include Korean Echoes (nominated for a Distinguished Military Award), The Westering, (nominated for National Book Award); from Danse Macabre are Murder at the Forum (NHL mystery), Death of a Lottery Foe, Death by Punishment, and An Accountable Death. Co-editor of A Gathering of Memories, and Of Time and the River, two collections about his home town of Saugus, Massachusetts, both 400+ pages, 4500 copies sold, all proceeds from $40.00 each cost destined for a memorial scholarship for his co-editor, John Burns, in the Saugus School system as director of the English Department at the High School for 45 years. After conception of the idea for the books, and John putting out the word for material to be included by former students, and with a proposal of actions and schedules prepared for a local bank, ten of his former students signed a loan from the bank for $60,000 to print two books not yet written!!!!

And paid it off!!!

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

kristi2photo by Kristi Harms

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Poetry

Last Flight from Chichen Itza

by Tom Sheehan

 

I have pulled the moon

from behind a hill,

and a mass of distant

trees, with the corner

of my eyes. It brings

landing lights with it,

clouds like gray-white

aggies opened upright

and a lonely honker

off course, out of timing.

 

The aircraft is penciled in

in this scheme of things,

a late addition to what’s

been going on since moon

made partners with us,

 

since Big Bang theorized

itself and waters parted

and grass seed dowsed

into new-born earth.

The Graceful Goose, of course,

 

will not make it this time.

She’s had her share, to be sure,

and is planned as obsolescent

any moment now. It’s the way

it goes, Expression says.

 

Sudden clouds, moon-streaked,

wind-worn and wet, move on

to new dimension, the silent

articulation of falling

toward the dowsing grass.

 

They too are planned for exit,

as are all things abundant

and diffused and slippery

from the very beginning.

As we are, darers and designers,

 

moon-walkers, intrepid thieves

of space, Kitty Hawkers

and Nighthawkers, wingmen

with the eyes of eagles.

Man was born to fly and die!

 

Who will argue now the votes

are in? Since rocks slid across

the earth, fire had its moments,

the great rain had its way,

we’ve expired imaginable ways.

This aircraft has red-tipped wings,

roars like the Bay of Fundy

at the big exchange, falls like

Newton’s apple. We wonder

where the next flight goes.

 

*****************************************************************************

Bio note: Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951. His short story collections are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans, from Press 53; and From the Quickening and A Collection of Friends, Pocol Press.  He has 18 Pushcart nominations, appeared in Dzanc Best of the Web 2009, has 276 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine, appeared in 4 issues of Rosebud Magazine and 8 issues of Ocean Magazine. His novels include Vigilantes East, An Accountable Death, Death of a Phantom Receiver (an NFL mystery). Milspeak Publishers issued eBooks Korean Echoes, 2011 and The Westering, 2012 and will be followed by 9 more collections in the series. His work is in Wherever It Pleases, Nervous Breakdown, Troubadour21, Stone Hobo, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Canary, Subtle Tea, Red Dirt Review, Nontrue, Danse Macabre, Nashwaak Review, Jake’s Locked-Room Anthology, Ray’s Road Review, The Best of Sand Hill Review, The Linnet’s Wings, Wilderness House Literary Review, Dew on the Kudzu, Blue Lake Review, Qarrtsiluni, and many more Internet sites and in print magazines.

 

DSC_0065

photo by Dan Griffin

Standard
Fiction

Jehrico and Lupalazo

by Tom Sheehan

It happened overnight in Bola City, and Jehrico Taxico, local junk man and businessman, was right there in the middle of things again. The whole town never figured Jehrico to fall in love, be more attracted to a woman than to his love of junk and making things work again, those which had lost the chance or the token push to gain the new chance. Junk searching, junk collecting, junk re-use were Jehrico’s main dishes in life. No mere woman was going to displace such talents.

This is not a story of a mere woman.

“Hell,” said Collie Sizemore, “Jehrico never once jumped in the tub with Molly. Never once had that joy and I been thinking about it non-stop since they set that damned thing up and started making money on it, that old piece of junk he found out there in some lost canyon. Can you imagine the chances he had with Molly and none ever took. Shakes me to my boot bottoms, it does. Right down where it counts.”

But once in a rare moon, when all the magic sticks of Indian medicine men and their magic stones point in one direction at one time, fate takes a big bite of life and spits it out for proper drying and falling into a rightful place. The fact is that Jehrico, though never wishing for such changes as a woman would bring, totally happy as a junk collector, knew fate was always hanging out someplace in a canyon, out on the grass where a wagon may have passed on 30 or 40 years earlier, died in its tracks and left odds and ends, or on a bold spot on the trail where nothing salvageable was likely to appear, the “likely” part being argumentative. Up from Mexico he had come, as a footloose and abandoned boy making his own way in the world and using every little tossed-out item that came across his path. To him and his wiles, and his need for gain at any measure, nothing was useless; not a piece of wood because it made a toothpick, and not an abandoned or lost iron bath tub or an abandoned piano, all too promising for future business advantages. Never mind a hunk of iron destined, in his mind, for many uses time and again the way the west and its need for implementation grew.

But fate jumped in one day on a return trip to the ghost town of Welcome Fire, where Jehrico once had retrieved an old piano, and where on this return trip came face to face with an Indian brave who had a woman trussed on an Indian pony. Jehrico saw two things in her eyes, deep pain and fear for the near future and a note of both beauty and understanding that said she knew his soul was also hurting some way.

The Indian had seen Jehrico before. “You gather old pieces, trade them, make new use. Tribe talk about you. Tribe saw you take the iron devil out of the canyon many moons ago. I have found a woman. Make new use of her in village.” The Indian pointed at the dark-haired, dark-eyed woman tied to a pony, no saddle under her. She was a hidden woman that somehow crept into Jehrico … and stayed put.

Her plight offered no quick solution to the junk collector, who said, “Get the best you can out of her. She will not last long. She will fade quick as old dog in last days.”

The Indian said, “You think no good come from her?”

Jehrico looked into her eyes in a quick glance, shook his head, and said, “It is written by the gods, if pony run off on you with her tied on, you will lose good pony.”

“You want to trade for pony?” the Indian said. “I make trade.”

Jehrico was fixing his argument in place. “I will trade for pony. He is decent pony.”

“You take woman with pony?”

“Why would I do that?” Jehrico replied. “I have miles to go in my searches. I have little food. Enough for me. I don’t need something that will eat my food and then will die on me. I would have to bury her so buzzards not take away. My God says I would have to bury her. What do you do for dead woman in your tribe? Gather much wood? Make big fire? Wait until she burn away for the High Spirit to take up with Him?”

The Indian, seeing Jehrico’s hand rubbing the handle of a knife, said, “I take knife, you take pony and woman.”

Jehrico, said, “I swap knife for pony, like I said.”

The woman was staring at him; her eyes had changed, as though she finally understood what Jehrico was doing.

The Indian relented. “I swap pony for knife. You can have woman for free.”

Jehrico handed him the knife, took the pony by the mane, patted him slowly with his other hand, and rode away slowly, saying, “If woman dies on me on the trail I will ask the Gods for help to bury her.” Then he put his heel against Mildred his mule and nudged her. “Off we go, Mildred. We make camp in another valley.”

Down the prairie a few miles, the latter part of the day coming on, shadows making new landmarks come to life, Jehrico untied her hands, splashed water on her wrists, gave her a drink from his flask, and said, “My name is Jehrico. What is your name? Where did you come from? How did the Indian capture you?”

The woman, her eyes changed again, a crease of a smile trying to make way at one corner of her mouth that had pouty lips, shook her beautiful black hair and said, “I am Lupalazo. I came from Mexico when a man take me from my home. He was taking me home to be slave. The Indian killed him and took me. He was taking me to his village to be slave. Are you going to make me slave? You fooled Indian right from the start. I saw what you were doing. I can see down into you from far away out here. That is best thing happen to me since my father die two moons ago. I was alone. No family. Will I be in your family now?”

Jehrico found himself already at that idea. “Yes,” he said, “you can be in my family. You can be my family.”

She said, looking straight into his eyes, “Lupalazo say we both need to clean away the past from both of us. We need to go in water and bathe. We need to get rid of bad smell and bad things. Do you know where we can go in water? Water in Mexico is beautiful. Makes you feel clean where mountain send down a message from high up.”

To the most secret place on the river Jehrico took her, wondering how it would be handled, them both at her insistence needing a bath.

But Lupalazo made it the easiest part of the day, the easiest part of the trade. “Nobody outside my family ever see all of me,” she said. “The Indian and the cowboy not see all of me. But I am in your family now and you can see all of me and I can see all of you. We do not worry about such things in our family.” Her smile triggered goodness and joy in both of them.

And at the edge of the river, under a growth of trees that formed like an umbrella over one spot, she took off her clothes and stood there at the edge of the river waiting for Jehrico to undress.

But he was stunned. He could not move. She was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen, never having seen a naked woman before, never dreaming of this sight. Spirits ran right through him, speaking strange words to him, sending strange feelings. Was she not better than a worthy piece of iron, a bronze piece thick as his arm? The thick bottom of a broken bottle, the sun coming for it?

“Are you afraid of water?” she said. “You need to have bath like I do. I will feel better. You look like you have never seen a woman with no clothes on. Is it that way? Do you like what you see? Have you ever seen a woman with no clothes on?”

“No.” stammered Jehrico, “I have never seen a woman with no clothes on. Never in my life.”

“Do you like what you see?” She did not pirouette or make any sensual move. She stood still, a proud and beautiful woman at a crux in her life. “I am in your family now. You can see me anytime. I like how your face looks at me. How your eyes fill up with me. Now is my turn.”

She gestured at him still fully clothed.

Jehrico Taxico, for the first time in his life, disrobed in front of a woman and knew he was in love for ever and ever. And felt more so when Lupalazo smiled back at him, stretched her hand for his hand and the pair of new lovers walked into the cool part of the river and felt the wash coming over them, the wash of splendidly clear water from high in the mountains.

After their bath they lie down in the shade of the trees and knew they were put together for their whole lives. “I will see you from everyplace I am from now on. From far or near.” She held his hand tightly to her.

And of course, it was Collie Sizemore, Bola City’s social scout, saloon porch denizen in the last of the evening light, who yelled out to all in Hagen’s Saloon, “Hey, folks, here comes J&M and he’s got a woman on an Indian pony and she’s prettier than that damned pony, I swear. Her hair’s black as Hades must be black when the fires are out. She’s not an Indian, but she might be from Jehrico’s old home town, ‘cause they look like they’re the best of friends forever, and he ain’t been gone but two days to Welcome Fire to do some more scroungin’. And he scrounged up somethin’ awful nice, if you was to ask me about it.”

The barkeep said, “Collie, you sound like you need a drink.”

Collie Sizemore, as much herald as Bola City would ever know, said, “I feel like somethin’ to celebrate is comin’ on me.”

So it was, only a week later, marriage now the first thing on his mind, Jehrico Taxico asked Lupalazo to marry him in a ceremony to be held in J&M’s Emporium and Dance Hall, the place Jehrico and Molly Yarbrough built around the retrieved piano Jehrico brought in from the ghost town of Welcome Fire.

Jehrico wanted to marry Lupalazo in a hurry, to make her an honest woman, and the shindig promised to be a lively one, and all the sideline accessory actions went into play. Lupalazo, of course, pulled a lot of attention her way, and her and Molly Yarbrough had a great get-acquainted session at the livery site where Jehrico’s tub was still a customer favorite in warm weather and after long cattle drives or long hours with the reins of a coach or wagon.

Molly said, “We’re lucky, Lupalazo, that we caught up with a churchman, Father Rueben Galarzo. He will perform the wedding. I’d like to be the maid of honor for you.”

“Oh, that very nice news, Molly. A churchman from my country once and Jehrico’s country once, and you say it is okay to marry Jehrico who make me dizzy. Make my head spin. It is okay to get married when head is spinning? Does your head spin sometime? You get dizzy? Mine spin whenever Jehrico is near me, and even when I am here and he is down there and fix building for the wedding.”

She thought over what she had said, and asked again of Molly, “Is it okay to get married by churchman when head spin?”

“It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s good to let your head spin. But be careful you don’t fall off your horse.” The ludicrous image leaped at the two women.

Molly and Lupalazo laughed until their sides hurt, and then Lupalazo said to Molly, “Does your head spin, Molly?”

Molly said, “Once in a while, after all my business is done.”

Jehrico’s future wife said, in all honesty, “Is great when it spin all the time and don’t worry about food or where to go or what else to do. But when I wake up I know I am hungry. All the dizzy time make me hungry. I could eat big steak now.”

The two women of the west shared another laughing concert, getting to know each other with deep affinity.

Molly had only one question to ask Lupalazo, and it was the source of her name. “How did your name come about?’ she had said, the curiosity coming as a warm look in her face.

“Oh, my mother tell me about night I was born. My father drink while sit and wait, lots of tequila and branch wine, and he look with his magic glass at shooting stars, many of them that night, and got his riata and told my mother he was going to rope a falling star for me when I came born, which was in the next hour. That is how she tell me, father to rope a star fall from the sky for me.”

Molly, after necessary preparations, had shut down the tub operation, saving it for co-owner Jehrico Taxico and the future Mrs. Lupalazo Taxico’s wedding and she picked out a dress for the bride from her own finery, a red silk body hugger from St. Louis that nobody had seen her wear. When she saw Lupalazo put it on she knew Jehrico would be knocked for a loop further than his current knocked loop when he saw her in it. Such a man in a man’s world would be knocked away for the count seeing the Mexican beauty at her luscious best. She’d even taken Molly’s breath away for a short count.

Molly Yarbrough realized that the junk collector supreme had picked up the most retrievable good thing he’d ever found in his scrounging travels, and come away with a whole gold mine.

The wedding was the highlight of the year for Bola City, and activities went on for four days, but nobody knew after a few hours where Jehrico had taken his bride.

Molly figured it was up along the river, or more likely to a ghost town where Jehrico might be showing his new wife a whole lost town he might someday bring back to life.

*****************************************************************************

Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951. His short story collections are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans, from Press 53; and From the Quickening and A Collection of Friends, Pocol Press.  He has 18 Pushcart nominations, appeared in Dzanc Best of the Web 2009, has 290 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine, appeared in 4 issues of Rosebud Magazine and 8 issues of Ocean Magazine. His novels include Vigilantes East, An Accountable Death, Death of a Phantom Receiver (an NFL mystery). Milspeak Publishers issued eBooks Korean Echoes, 2011 and The Westering, 2012 and will be followed by 9 more collections in the series. The Westering has been nominated for a National Book Award by the publisher. His work is in Wherever It Pleases, Nervous Breakdown, Troubadour21, Stone Hobo, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Canary, Subtle Tea, Red Dirt Review, Nontrue, Danse Macabre, Nashwaak Review, Jake’s Locked-Room Anthology, Ray’s Road Review, The Best of Sand Hill Review, The Linnet’s Wings, Wilderness House Literary Review, Dew on the Kudzu, Blue Lake Review, Qarrtsiluni, and many more Internet sites and in print magazines.

 kristi56

photo by Kristi Harms

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Fiction

Jehrico and Lupalazo Townships, Inc.

by Tom Sheehan

(“Hard work getting done takes hard work getting to.” – written anonymously in scrawling black ink on a collector’s copy of an old western magazine, seen once  in a barn in Gilsum, New Hampshire, 1970.)

Jehrico had been gone for 13 days, his first time away from Lupalazo and the longest time ever away from Bola City on one of his junk retrieval excursions. Lupalazo missed him terribly and the town began to wonder; did someone catch up on an old score, or see a new Jehrico find that was worth money, or did he fall stray to chance where his whole life seemed to be buried in chance discovery?

The days had mounted and people continued to worry about him, those that knew him best and loved or admired him – Lupalazo, Molly Yarbrough, Collie Sizemore, Bobby Bell, and Arnold No-Last-Name at the livery.

It ought to be mentioned right up front, to throw light on one of them – Collie Sizemore – that bartender Bobby Bell had once found a piece of paper Collie had been writing on the night a gun fight broke out in Hagen’s Saloon and Collie ducked down along the bar and was not seen for two days. But the salvaged scrap of paper read, in Collie’s broad sweep of lettering, “Abracadabra – Any basic remake among Collie’s abbreviations/ definitions about Bola’s rack-abones.”

Collie Sizemore, still ginning up his imagination more for pleasure than any other purpose, had proposed his new idea to Molly Yarbrough before he could even mention a word of it to Jehrico, Bola City’s prominent entrepreneur and man of vision. Sizemore knew that Jehrico had unbounded talent at searching, ferreting, transforming the odds and ends in life’s clutter into sudden new use, sudden new value. And it was only by chance he heard a statement Lupalazo made to Molly on which he’d seized an addition to lesser language in what he called his “Abbreviary” or the fore-mentioned “Abracadabra.”

That was Lupalazo’s innocent reference to Jehrico’s current mission, and his being out of town for several days, much to her disappointment. But pride in her man sat right there in the middle of those spoken words, which really was a statement as much as a question: “Would you believe, Molly, if I told you my man Jehrico rides out there in the big world  to bring a whole town back for me?”

As he said later in the course of events, Sizemore did not want to hear Molly’s answer at that moment, rather finding the savage joy of settling a new bit of alphabet on a whole situation because he had unwittingly received the germ of the idea from someone else.

Despite that beginning, Sizemore danced into Hagen’s saloon, abeam of his own light, and the barkeep seeing from the entrance that he was at it again, knew he would initiate a new game sometime during the course of three drinks. Long ago Bell, behind the bar for close to 6 years, had determined that Collie Sizemore couldn’t hold things secret for more than three drinks, and just had the enormous ability to tantalize everybody for that long about what he was up to, in the reduction of proper names of the language. He also knew that the activity was the tip of a huge hunk of information about something that would have an effect on Bola City each and every time.

Of course, we out here know what Molly had to say to Lupalazo; “I should explain what Jehrico really meant when he said that, Lupalazo. He has a knacky way of talking, that man of yours.”

“Oh, Molly,” Lupalazo replied, “Jehrico long time now tell me not let anybody fill my ears what Jehrico say in his own words.”

She twirled about with those words in a little dance or pirouette of bodily punctuation. “Jehrico say that so Lupalazo keep spinning her man in her head and never let it change because words can change in me like he say Collie change words in his way. I am Jehrico’s woman. I am Jehrico’s family,” and as she said that, with a fabulous blush in her face that Molly had earlier understood meant a secret was kept but was let loose at the same time. She reached out, in the way only a woman can, and with a woman’s touch patted Lupalazo on the stomach, which made Lupalazo’s blush deepen more.

The beautiful Lupalazo, instantly more beautiful than she had ever been, even at her freedom from slavery, said, “Oh, my Molly and Jehrico’s Molly, it is a new Jehrico that sits in me waiting to see his father. Our Mexico lives again.” She hugged herself and that new being that was bound for this world of Jehrico and Lupalazo.

Jehrico meanwhile had bypassed Welcome Fire, the ghost town that he had “scoured down to the last nib,” as he’d put it, and was looking at a new site. This one was not a deserted ghost town and not an old mining area, but just a few broken down and weather-ravaged buildings in a pretty area “my Lupalazo would love for heavy reason.” It grabbed his attention as he rode with Mildred the mule over a rise in the road, about 10 miles past Welcome Fire. He stopped in place and saw his imagined  “new town in the middle of nowhere.” He’d tell Lupalazo and Molly and Collie Sizemore and Bobby Bell, each in turn of course, that he was stunned at how pretty the place looked, but it apparently was bone dry – not a drop of water in sight, though green life leaped at him. That fact of looking dry might have been the cause of its being long deserted. He readily believed that such a beautiful site had hidden resources. If it did, he’d find them. A promise made was a promise done.

The junk man from Mexico, the western salvager of serious note, the scrounger whom the Indians looked upon with a kind of reverence of things from the past, went looking for water that provided the leap of greenery – water he knew to be “as old as the hills,” as one old prospector put it, which caused Jehrico to say, “Men who spend life digging in Earth always find surprises.”

As he’d also say later, “I was in 6 or 7 caves, counting not mattering, when I smelled the water of the gods of the mountain. And the walls of this cave were moist with water trickles coming from up above, and the floor damp as moss under me. That water come from somewhere I couldn’t see and went somewhere else I couldn’t see. But the rock walls kept it in the hidden places. Make me wonder how to move the wall and make water run another way.”

“I went to find Mickey Lattimore way up in the hills and he sold me some dynamite. Mickey help me one other time when I needed a shovel. Sold me an old one, wore down to the nib but useful, and gave me a good cut branch to make a handle. That trip I dug 10 old horseshoes out of ground near Welcome Fire and made knife blades and two hammer heads from them.”

His eyes sparkled when he said, “I lit dynamite and run to catch up to Mildred who smelled what I was up to and run away. Good thing for me, and for Mildred same time. Half the mountain came down and in a quick hurry the water came down too, right into a hole in the ground and then it spilled and moved in a few days into its own creek. Before it go back into rocky places it was a pond you could swim in, wash, let you horse or mule cool off.

“My new town started with big bang of dynamite.  So I call it Boomtown.”

But that big bang also drew attention from two riders on a nearby trail. They were not Bola City citizens. They did not know Jehrico. But they knew what open and free water was – the salvation of many wrongs and the source of possible money at the touch of clear water.

The two men were neither friendly nor kind, and one said to the other, “We ride in slow, sayin’ we need water for our horses an’ when he ain’t lookin’ we whack him one an’ tie him up. There’s tons of places to hide him no one knows about. Maybe no one even misses him whoever he is.” He nodded at his own inspiration: “Then we got ourselves a neat piece of property and water to go with it.”

They rode in slow and hailing Jehrico. “Hey, fella, is that good water there? Our mounts are dry as desert bones. Can we give ‘em drink?” The speakers hands, fully exposed, touched at his own lips and throat to signify his own thirst.

The men were bandits fallen away from a bigger gang of bank and train robbers, looking for a better split on profits of their undertakings. Ben Simpron and Alex Chambers had thought themselves a little smarter than the rest of the gang they’d left. And before them, with water in this spot, loomed the best of any deal they could have cut for themselves.  The pair lounged in the saddle like cowpokes tired from a long drive or a long ride on a hard trail, portraying the images they wanted Jehrico to see.

Jehrico, innocent as always, bought the whole approach – and when he came to, with a thunderous headache pounding at him, he was bound and gagged and found himself in a cave. The stillness was deadly. The first thing he thought of, in that pounding headache, was of the little one that Lupalazo was carrying for him, and he wondered if it too, perhaps a little Jehrico or a new Lupalazo, was now caught in the same kind of stillness, the same kind of darkness, unable to get away from where he was – exactly like he was – bound here, words locked up in him with his own bandana tied across his mouth, and time ticking away like an old pocket watch one had no control over.

The pairing of things wrapped him up in his thinking; Lupalazo and her child, him and his thoughts of them, him and his bandana, the two men who had needed water and now might have it all, what he would have promised and given to Lupalazo as a birth gift for their child. His head was spinning the way Lupalazo said her head tended to spin with thoughts of him, a junk collector who had fled from Mexico, as a boy, where he was facing loneliness and slavery in one form or another.

But the junk collector was not to be called “one of them dumb little kids from over the border.” He had proved that time and time again in his long run at searching, finding, collecting, setting new uses for old things. All that, of course, required tools, tools at hand, to use at the accidental discovery of a relic piece on the open road, on  the wide grass, in the forlorn campsite. And those basic tools he had long ago designed to carry on his person with the least packaging; so the rasps for forming, the separate tongs of a pryer, a hammer as small as toymaker might employ, and several simple but stiff pieces of wire drawn from other material, were ensconced in the several small pockets of his high boots. He had crafted the pockets himself after arduous efforts at such work, and those hand-sewn pockets eventually carried all he needed for his sudden discoveries. The little boy right from the first was entranced by the workings of skilled men and would, whenever the chance came, study them at their crafts. Some of those men made tools to fit their own needs, or the needs of their neighbors.

So it was, in this newer experience of finding himself a prisoner, designed tools became his avenue of escape. And his favorites were two rasps he had made, having forged pieces of steel and shaped them to his choice and smoothed the blank rasps so he could form the teeth with a hammer and punch. That way he raised the teeth of metal on the forged piece of steel. He knew how to select the right hammer weight and the size of the punch. Then he “froze it in place with high heat.” An old blacksmith said it was called “stitching,” and Jehrico always listened to people smarter than him. When all the uniform stitching was done he “froze it in place with high heat.”

With thoughts of Lupalazo pushing him, he was able to extract one of the rasps from a boot pocket and used it to cut into one bind of rope, and in a short time was completely free of rope. He studied the tools he had, and the pieces of wire were used next, joining them to make a noose of sorts. Then, watching where one of the two captors would walk to check out the cave he was locked in, he made up his mind on a method of escape.

The guard’s attention had to be diverted in order for Jehrico to surprise him and get his gun. He could not find a loose stone in the cave to toss for a diverting noise, so with that in mind he took off his suspenders and tied them to the little hammer after cutting them into serviceable lengths for his ruse. He placed the hammer near one side of the cave entrance, stood away from that side, pulled on the end of the suspender lengths so that the hammer fell from a perch. When the guard came near and bent over to check the source of the sound, Jehrico dropped the noose of tied wires over his head and yanked it tight. The guard was now his quiet prisoner. He bound him up using the rope that he had been tied up with, bound the man’s kerchief over his mouth, and set out, now armed, to catch the second bandit.

Of course, it was Collie Sizemore who once again alerted all the folks in Hagen’s Saloon, and any Bola City citizen within earshot, about the parade now proceeding into Bola City.

“Hey, everybody,” he yelled into the saloon, “he’s back. He’s back. Here comes J&M proud as peacocks and Jehrico’s got two of the orneriest looking gents tied over their saddles, hand to foot and the ropes slung under their horses. A sight for sore eyes. Come have a look-see. Someone best go and tell Lupalazo and Molly that he’s back. J&M’s back. He’s back but he ain’t hauling no town with him. He’ll have high explaining to Lupalazo, I’m betting.”

It went easy for Jehrico, who explained to Lupalazo that their new home was so pretty he had to leave it in place. “It’s sitting right out there, Lupalazo, waiting for the three of us, and those two gents I brought in will never go visit there again.”

She said, as Molly came to their sides, “Jehrico left our new town out there for me to see right where it should stay. But he say not to be the only one we make. He find some other places to be big towns. Know they will grow when he starts them with name of their own.  I have first choice at new name for new town.”

Molly Yarbrough said, cocking her head and winking the way Lupalazo liked, “What will you call the new town of yours, Lupalazo?”

Mrs. Lupalazo Taxico replied, without a second’s hesitation, “I call it now and ever Jehrico Two, home away from home, but my man Jehrico is the boss and he call it Boomtown.”

So it was that Collie Sizemore entered in his Abbreviary and Abracadabra the simple Jay2/BT, which we all know became a major city with another name after Jehrico and Lupalazo and their six children went for a visit in Mexico and never came back to Bola City or any of the other sites built up by Jehrico and Lupalazo Townships, Inc. and those included Jehrico Two/Boomtown.

 

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Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951. His short story collections are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans, from Press 53; and From the Quickening and A Collection of Friends, Pocol Press. He has 18 Pushcart nominations, appeared in Dzanc Best of the Web 2009, has 313 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine, appeared in 5 issues of Rosebud Magazine and 8 issues of Ocean Magazine. His novels include Vigilantes East, An Accountable Death, Death of a Phantom Receiver (an NFL mystery). Milspeak Publishers issued eBooks Korean Echoes, 2011 and The Westering, 2012 (the latter nominated for a National Book Award) and will be followed by 9 more collections in the series. His work is in Nervous Breakdown, Troubadour21, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Subtle Tea, Danse Macabre, Jake’s Locked-Room Anthology, The Best of Sand Hill Review, The Linnet’s Wings (5th issue), Wilderness House Literary Review, Dew on the Kudzu, Blue Lake Review, Qarrtsiluni, and many more Internet sites and print magazines.

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Fiction

The Secret of Jehrico’s Creek

by Tom Sheehan

In the heart of darkness, in the heart of night, Jehrico Taxico told his wife Lupalazo about the secret of the creek he had been swimming in for weeks and weeks, practically every time on his way home after leaving Bola City on a new search for old goods promising new values. It was said by a traveling drummer by the name of Epaminondas Anganistopolus that the Mexican junk collector had the “Midas Touch.”

Jehrico whispered beneath the blankets to his wife, “Ah, Lupalazo, la señora más querida de mi corazón, I have been keeping a secret from you that must never escape your lips once I tell it to you, and if you even think of it, think of it in the language of our other country, the language we have taught our children so they will know two ways of talking without a split tongue.”

Slightly worried about some strange encounter he might have come through, Lupalazo, hugging him, said, “Dearest heart, what makes you wait until the darkest of nights to tell me a secret that must weigh on your soul. I feel fate is come upon us.” She nestled closer to him and threw one leg over him, a move he had loved from the very beginning, in the shadows of the same creek, but under the trees.

“Oh,” he said, “la señora más querida de mi corazón, dearest lady of my heart, it does not twist the tail of fate, this secret of mine, unless we let go of its tail so bad men can twist it, make it dance for them.”

Lupalazo, the only true lady of his heart, beautiful the whole day long, nudged him with the length of her body, and said, “The husband of the house will now tell his wife the secret he has held away from her, from the mother of his children, here in the heart of darkness, here where we begin each new child of ours, where her ears are sharp as a night creature and her tongue is as silent for secrets as the day owl.”

Jehrico, knowing he could hold nothing more from her, slipped his hand under his side of the bed and took hold of a small goatskin pouch, which had rough but loose contents. Into her hands he placed it and said, “This is the first part of my secret.”

The goatskin pouch she immediately squeezed in her hands, shook at her ear, and smelled close to her nose.

“I smell the creek in it,” she said, “and feel some hard parts of earth. Do I dare think what you have thrust at me, this pouch, has something precious in it? Must it be of value comes to you and once was left to become dust, but with your hand and eye see more value in it? From where do these hard parts of earth come from if that is what they are?” She was then sitting up in bed, alert as ever, tossing the pouch from hand to hand, and Jehrico knew she was enjoying some moment of true expectation.

She could not see his broad smile, but knew it was there; his voice told her.

 You and everybody in Bola City know I swim and wash in the creek every day I can. I do that for you and for the children so they will learn by watching us, and for me and my good being. And fate it is and fate is what this is and what you cannot speak about. Cannot tell one living soul on Earth. That will bring the hounds on us, the bad men, the robbers, the thieves. They do not find things like Jehrico does, but take what is not theirs from all others.”

“Oh, my savior, dearest Jehrico, my heart pounds now, not with a new value coming, but that we will share a secret between us alone and no one else in the whole world around us. That is a grand feeling and swells my heart again.” She dropped the goatskin pouch over the edge of their bed and hugged him again and again.

Then, when her heart had been fully exposed, she said, “Now you can tell me, my Jehrico, for my ears alone.”

Joy was busting all the stretch of skin on his body. “I wash and swim in many places on the creek, but in one place, near where we met for the first time, I just put my hand down alone the bottom of the bank and squeeze some mud through my fingers until I find some of these.” With a quick hand he picked up the pouch from the floor, untied the rawhide lacing about it, and dumped, unseen but felt, a small pile of gold nuggets into Lupalazo’s lap.

“I dare not scream, Jehrico,” she said, “for that would be part of the secret. Is it really gold? Does it come to you when you don’t have to dig into a mountain of the gods, or work all day down in a hole in the ground where the gods may point fingers at you? Does it come that easy? Say it is so, my dearest one of all men. Say it comes easy to you after all the work you have done around here near Bola City.”

Jehrico Taxico, lover of the woman he had freed from slavery, finder of gold by his bare hands, smiled at Lupalazo’s excluding her children from the last comment. “It is the way a mother should love her children,” he thought, “above all else.” He was next in line for her and that was good enough for him.

“Yes, that’s the way it comes. It does not happen every time, of course, but enough times so it brings me back the way a ghost town calls me from its long, long sleep, saying I missed something special on my last trip there.”

“Who, besides the love of your life, has seen you swim and wash in the creek?” The tone of her voice was touched by anxiety.

“The freighters and the coach drivers along the creek and a few others who waved from the saddle as they rode past. But not one soul has seen me put any of the gold in my pouch or hide it near the same place I swim. Not a single person have I seen.”

“When do you go swim again?” she asked, her head at a coy angle, images running in her head.

“You do not come with me, Lupalazo. You do not come where others may see what happens.”

 “I want to see the joy on your face when you find the pebbles in your hands full of mud at first. I will love to see that.”

 “No, dear wife, but you will know the joy the next time I come home. I will not hide it from you.”

“You are wiser than me,” she said, and nestled close to him again. Beneath her legs she could feel the scattered nuggets. “The little devils,” she thought, “that make men change, make women fall in love so easily. But they will not change the man of my life, the father of my children.”

A look he did not see came across her face, a preface to an idea shaping its form in her mind, and it finally came free. “Dear heart of mine, you keep on the trail, you work hard, but time will come when no people remember we live here in Bola City on the side of a hill.”

It puzzled her even as she said it, and thought it also puzzled her man, but she knew it was true. She had seen parts of life pass so quickly, lives here and gone, villages here and gone, relatives here and gone, the other place here and gone.

She could not stop talking about the idea building inside her head. “The people will not remember you and Lupalazo and our children, like I have been cut away from my village in the mountains of Mexico, I who am a Yaqui Indian, who looks ever for Yaqui leader, Ave’lino Cobayori Domingues Urquides, who came from Sonora Mexico to these plains and these mountains. If he survives, it is not him by his Yaqui name, but he has become someone else in order to survive.”

Some of her argument lit up in him, and part of it was lost. It was evident that she knew many things he did not, but he did know that gold was not that important; he had gotten this far without it, gotten this far with found junk.

For all the month of hot July and part way through hot August, Jehrico went searching the prairies, the dim canyons, the mountain trails, and paid several visits to his old mine where he had brought back dear friend Molly Yarbrough’s best gift ever, the gentleman named Ash Worthley, the pair newly married and living in a fine new house at the edge of town.

The useless mine, Jehrico had decided, could be used as a decoy of some kind, a way to throw bad men into the dead mine and off his ordinary trails. Fate said such men would find out about his secret in some odd manner.

And so it came down to Jehrico’s detecting one day, on a side trail in the mountains, two horsemen hanging back on the trail, but never leaving it. And it was him they were following. One of them sat a pinto and one rode a big gray, a proud horse that made Jehrico think his rider was the boss of the two. The men looked like drovers just off a cattle drive, clothes rough, hats beat up by trail dust and weather, but sitting their mounts as if they were born to the saddle.

With artful deliberation, leaving only slight trail signs, but always visible trail signs, Jehrico went to the mine where he and Ash Worthley found not a speck of gold and left it that way. Now, for the great junkman of Bola City, the mine that had yielded nothing had become a thing of value. The two horsemen, he was sure, would enter the mine once he left it, just as he had planned. True dust did have value, he had always believed; the mine was proof of it once more to the Mexican junk collector, Lupalazo’s husband, father of her children, one of Bola City’s leading businessmen, and dearest friend of Molly and Ash Worthley, now off on their path to happiness.

In spite of omens, life was good.

He left one of two picks stuck between two chunks of rock, as if he had just toppled them from place and was trying to break them apart. He stayed in the mine for several hours, and every so often snuck close to the entrance and looked for signs of the two men. They were not too careful and Jehrico caught sight of them just about every time he looked, where they had secreted themselves across a stretch of a rocky surface and behind a fallen chunk of rock bigger than both horses. They were, he believed, waiting his departure, waiting to see what he brought out of the mine and might add to the saddlebag on Mildred the mule standing as if at attention in front of the mine.

The two men, from what he detected in them, would not harm him, wanting to check the mine for gold before any other steps were taken. They could always come back to the mine, the way now known. And he was also sure they would not prevent him from leaving.

All his thinking told him someone knew he had come into possession of some gold nuggets. As much as he tried he could not figure out who it was; it was not Lupalazo he knew with deep faith. Somewhere there had been a break in the trail.

A quick thought said it had to begin at the creek.

He waited another hour, making what noise he could to keep the spying men alert, until he made his way out of the mine, put a handful of nothing into Mildred’s saddlebag, gave her a good share of water, and sat up on her backside. He touched his heel to her flank and they started back toward Bola City, at least two hours away on the trail.

Riding easily on Mildred, he had no need to look back over his shoulder at the mine. The men would soon be in there, looking for the strike: if Jehrico Taxico had found gold, it had to come from this mine, as they would most likely believe

 And he’d not tell Lupalazo about the strange riders who had followed him for half a day and searched his dead mine. Some signs are too ominous to understand and he did not want to disturb her normal routines.

But he knew what the horses of these men looked like: he could pick them out of any hitching rail in Bola City any day of the week, and all the nights included too. Their colors and lines stayed in his mind.

It was new friend Ash Worthley who told Jehrico what he had heard in the saloon, from three men seated at a table in a far corner. He said he remembered every word, had not let them know he was listening to them, which was easy because they had been drinking for a good part of the afternoon, according to the barkeep.

“Them fellas came in afore noon and been at it since then, Ash. Seen one of them around, name’s Skid Polk, worked now a year or so at The Bell Bar spread down river. Never saw them other two though. Not in here.”

The sometimes hushed talk of the three men, the sometimes grunts of approval or discordant disapprovals, was reported by Worthley to Jehrico, much as repeated here:

First man: “Humph! You sure the stupid Mex junkie’s found gold, Skid? If he did, it has to be from that mine he works up near Topaz Pass. Me and Burkie went there must be five or six times and can’t find nothin’. Ain’t that right, Burkie? Huh, huh?”

Second man: “I swear that’s the truth, Skid. Not a bit of shine anyplace, like there never was any there any time ever. Whataboutthat? Whataboutthat? You sure about what your nephew said? Ah, kids play games even when they’re dreamin’.”

Third man: “Yuh! Yuh! He swore up and down about it, and the kid’s no dummy. He knew what he was hearin’ from the Mex kid, and just like I said … the Mex kid says his pa found some nugget, and then he said, ‘What’s a nugget?’ like the little dummy don’t know nothin’, and my smart nephew tells him it’s kind of a furry prairie critter so nothin’ gets spoiled ‘cause he knowed damned right well I’d be real interested and he comes onto a cut of it.”

First man (who’s probably the boss, inferred by Worthley): “I believe him, both of ‘em. We just watch the Mex some more and let him lead us to it. It sure don’t look like the mine’s the place. It’s as dead as the bank got closed down in Tremelin up the river.”

Jehrico, hearing all that Ash Worthley knew, stayed in town that night to keep his eye on things. He had seen Skid Polk before and saw him ride off, toward the Bar Bell spread down the river. He figured Polk would not go near the cabin and Lupalazo and the children; it was the other two he was concerned about. They had taken a place to sleep at the back of the barbershop, rooms at a premium in town. He didn’t know where their horses were, but they had to be close by.

For his night watch, Jehrico set up in an alley between the last two buildings in town, on the opposite end of town from the slow rise where his cabin was located. Mildred was as quiet as ever, resting from her normal rigors of carting junk.

Well before the dawn flash put a hazy light on the eastern sky, Jehrico heard two horses on the dusty road heading out of town. He and Mildred, quiet as scroungers on the hunt, followed at a safe distance, and he was glad the two men did not go near his cabin on the slope. It was the slight bit of light that showed him the two men who’d been in his mine, who had trailed him there, whom he was now trailing. He’d not get too close, not go too fast, and smiling at the last part because Mildred never once went too fast at anything at all, except for good grain or fresh water.

It was soon apparent that this type of work at this time was not for Jehrico. As he turned one sharp turn in the dusty road, he realized he had lost sight of the two riders in the growing light of dawn. Perhaps they had turned off the trail and were headed north or south … or were hidden, in an ambush set-up.

He brought Mildred to a standstill with a quiet command, but he had already been caught unawares, for the two men appeared at his side directly from clumps of brush at the side of the trail. Their guns were on him.

“Don’t move a muscle, Mex,” one of them said, “or we drop you off that critter in a hurry. Then we’ll go back to town before it really wakes up and raise a bit of hell with your woman and the kids. All that less’n you tell us where you found the gold and where you hid what you found already. It ain’t in that dried up mine that never was in the first place. We know that.”

The final word was the final threat. “You ain’t got a lot of time to do what I say, Mex.”

Jehrico was filled with a real fear, imagining the men loose in his home, anger making decisions for them, and greed, getting something for less than honest work. There had to be a way, and the most apparent one was to give them at least a clue to finding some gold. He might get a chance to escape.

“It’s down near the creek, off to the southwest there, past that hill you can see in the distance. It’s down there.”

The rifle barrel was jammed into his stomach. “Listen, Mex, you tell us any lies and we start breaking fingers, busting hands and leg bones, croaking you piece by piece so you can’t ever crawl home to that woman of yours, that squaw woman. We know all about her, Injun come over the big river.”

The rifle thrust came again, and harder than the first time. “I ain’t kiddin’ none, Mex. You remember that. And remember the squaw and the kids playin’ at her skirts. We ain’t afraid of doin’ things up the old fashioned way.” He jabbed Jehrico again and toppled him from Mildred’s back.

“If I don’t get there to show you, you won’t find the gold, and there’s no digging with it.”

The last part caused a change. “Okay, get back up there on that damned critter and we’ll go look.”

In an hour they were moving along the bank of the creek where Jehrico and Lupalazo had found their first joys and where he had found his gold strike. He searched out for some excuse, some way that he could get out of this problem, get free of these bandits, thieves, kidnappers, and once more enjoy a swim here with Lupalazo.

He made up his mind he’d delay as long as he could, perhaps time and fate to bring a stage or a freighter along the road, drivers recognize him, determine there was a problem to be solved.

“It all looks the same to me. I was only here once and it is hard to remember where I was.”

The rifle found his gut again, a thrust like the thrust of a bighorn bull. Pain shot down his legs, leaped onto his back, made him dizzy. “I have trouble remembering. There should be trees near here. He had seen a clump of trees down the creek a hundred or so yards. The trees presented only a short time of delay, Jehrico realized. Mildred would make it in little time, mere minutes.

“The man on the big gray said, “Down there! See those trees? Is that it?”

“I think so,” Jehrico said, ”but I get dizzy when you pound my belly with your rifle.” Each complaint might add but a few seconds or long minutes, but he’d keep trying. With no weapon he was at their mercy.

When they reached the clump of trees, the boss said, “Is this it? I’m getting damned tired of you playin’ them games on me. Is this it?” He knocked Jehrico off Mildred’s back once again, and yelled, “Show me where you found the damned gold. Now!”

They now were opposite the turn of the creek, and a growth of trees that formed like an umbrella over one spot, where he and Lupalazo were first wholly introduced. The scene came back to him in one image and one emotion and he saw Lupalazo as he first saw her. If he was to die, the time was full of her.

Jehrico, be delaying, got the rifle barrel right in the middle of his back again. Pain shot through him and he promised he’d never yield, then thought it was useless. He didn’t want the gold. He wanted Lupalazo and the children. How could he trade them for gold, and then, when he was jabbed once more by the rifle, again in the back, he believed they’d never let him go. They’d shoot him and toss him into the creek, right where the gold was.

He spun on his heel and said, “Why should I tell you and know you will kill me when you find the gold hidden in the trees.” It was his last ruse and last comment on the matter.

But concurrent with his kidnapping, his intuitive Yaqui wife had had not stood still in her home, wrapt up in her children. She had gone into town and called Ash Worthley from his work. There was a flurry of activity soon thereafter in Bola City, in the saloon, at the livery, at the general store.

As Jehrico Taxico was jabbed one more time by the rifle barrel, a shot came from the other side of the creek, a shot that knocked the bandit boss unconscious, and froze his partner upright in the saddle.

Jehrico saw Ash Worthley and the sheriff and a more men from Bola City with their guns trained on the second kidnapper.

And beautiful Lupalazo was shouting out at him, “Marido, querido corazón, estamos aquí. Estoy aquí. Estaremos en nuestra casa pronto.” And she said it in English so all could understand what was important in life: “Husband, dear heart, we are here. I am here. We will be in our home soon. I knew you would end up here, if you could help it.”

For closers, the Yaqui maiden, freed from slavery by her own junk collector, said it in her Yaqui language, knowing none of them understood it, including her husband. But she’d tell him in the night, under the cover of darkness and a blanket, in the secret confine of their home.

 

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Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951. His short story collections are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans, from Press 53; and From the Quickening and A Collection of Friends, Pocol Press. He has 20 Pushcart nominations, 325 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine, appeared in 5 issues of Rosebud Magazine, 6 issues of The Linnet’s Wings and 8 issues of Ocean Magazine. His novels include Vigilantes East, An Accountable Death, Death of a Phantom Receiver (an NFL mystery). Milspeak Publishers issued eBooks: Korean Echoes, 2011, nominated for The Society of Military History’s Distinguished Book Award and The Westering, 2012, nominated for a National Book Award. His newest eBook, Murder at the Forum, is released January, 2013 by Danse Macabre/Lazarus/Anvil Fiction.

His work is in Wherever It Pleases, Nervous Breakdown, Troubadour21, Stone Hobo, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Canary, Subtle Tea, Red Dirt Review, Nontrue, Danse Macabre, Nashwaak Review, Jake’s Locked-Room Anthology, Ray’s Road Review, The Best of Sand Hill Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Dew on the Kudzu, Blue Lake Review, Slice of Life, Blue Ridge Literary Prose, KY Story, Eastlit, and many more Internet sites and print magazines.

 

Art by Sheila Lanham
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