In 2021 Joan Myles answered the call of fellow Behind Our Eyes member Winslow Parker to write a chain story. They emailed chapters back and forth for nearly a year, each twisting the plot and creating new characters without much discussion. Once completed, the story needed only a bit of tweaking and a reader. They appreciate any who find it enjoyable.
Today, for your enjoyment are chapters 3 and 4.
The School Marm
A joint project of Joan Myles and Winslow Parker, 2021
“Billy, wait a sec.” The lawman searched in his pocket. Finding what he sought, he withdrew his hand and flipped it to Billy. It cast bright shards of light as it danced in the air. Billy’s eyes widened as he caught it.
“Geez, sheriff,” he breathed, “a quarter? Thanks a lot!”
She smiled. “Thank you, sir, that was very kind of you.”
“’Tain’t nothing ma’am. It ain’t far to the Kranes, ‘bout three blocks, I reckon. Can you make it that far on foot?”
“Of course. You’ll find I’m made of sturdier stuff than what you’re obviously thinking, sheriff. Lead on.”
He picked up her satchel and hoisted it to his shoulder, still holding the shotgun in the cradle of one arm. They walked in silence.
“Were you expecting trouble, sheriff?” she asked, pointing at his weapon.
“Nah, it’s just precaution. Never know what the stage might drag into town.”
She looked up into his eyes, then lowered them quickly.
“We don’t have much trouble hereabouts. I keep a pretty close eye on the cowboys who come to town on Saturday night and the drifters who pass through. We’ve not had a shooting in six months or so.” He paused after this long oration. “Where did you say you’re from?”
“Didn’t say, but it’s Oregon.”
“Long way away.”
“As the crow flies, about 1200 miles. By stage coach, about a month. No telling how many miles it is.”
“Looking for a teaching position and my aunt Beatrice lives here. I guess it was a natural.”
“Here we are.” He turned from the street, opened the gate in the picket fence and escorted her up the three wooden steps to the front porch.
“They have a powder room with real running water,” he said, face reddening. “Um, I’m sure they won’t mind if you freshen up a bit.”
“Thank you, sheriff. I can take care of myself from here.” She reached for the handle of her traveling case and opened the door. “Thank you again, sheriff. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around.”
He touched the brim of his hat. “If you have any needs, I live above the livery. I’m used to being called any time of the day or night.” He started to turn away. “Oh, if the Kranes don’t return by dinner time, come on down to the cafe. I’ll buy your meal.”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine, sheriff,” she said, her voice cool, “but thank you for the invitation.”
He touched his hat again and turned to leave.
A distant rumble caught her attention.
“What was that?” she asked, “It can’t be thunder, there’s not a cloud in the sky.”
“Blastin’ at the gold mine in the west face of La Mesa. Getting’ ready for tomorrow’s shovelin’. Don’t much like it cuz it brings in the worst kind of riffraff. Makes being sheriff a bit more difficult, if you know what I mean.” The expenditure of so many words at once seemed to exhaust him. He turned again and strode away.
She watched until he disappeared into the livery three blocks away. He didn’t turn to look at her, which was fine with her.
The air beneath the porch roof was somewhat cooler, but the day’s heat hung close, like something not quite welcome. Not like Oregon air at all. She closed the door and sighed, remembering the scent of pines at dawn, the pools of shadow stretching long and soothing across her mother’s porch.
This is home to me now, she resolved.
She pulled her satchel to the edge of the steps, situated herself properly beside it, and unlatched the bag. Just inside, her leather journal and the pencil she always kept ready came easily into her hands. It was a new journal, beautifully tooled and smooth to the touch, fresh and open to her thoughts. A gift from her brother Dan as he put her on the train in Portland.
“I know your head will be swimming with impressions.” His quiet rumble came back to her, the timbre she knew he used to mask uncomfortable emotions. “And we’ll want to hear every one of ‘em, once you’re settled in.”
She could still feel the bigness of his embrace and the stubble of his cheek, still sensed a trace of his pipe smoke in her clothes.
Even with all this dust, she mused.
Who knew when they would see each other again. Portland wasn’t an unmanageable distance, but life was an untamed river, and the days of men like fleeting shadows.
She opened the journal and wrote:
Arrived in Furnace Wells late this afternoon.
But raspy whistling and the sound of something being dragged caught her attention. It was Billy coming through the gate, his face red with effort. He grinned broadly and touched the top of his hatless head.
“Knew I could do it,” he puffed up the steps.
“As did I,” she assured, closing the journal.
She reached out just in time to catch the boy’s arm, keeping him from toppling backward with his load.
“Whoa now!” Billy laughed. He straightened himself again, managed to tug the trunk up the final step, and stooped to retrieve the fallen journal and pencil.
“Oh, thank you, Billy,” she moved to tuck the items back into her bag.
The boy perched on the bottom step and looked up at her,, “Whatcha doin’, Ma’am?”
“Recording a few thoughts about my day. She brought the journal closer to show him. “I didn’t get very far I’m afraid.”
Noticing Billy’s eyes were fixed on the pencil, she held it out to him and turned to a blank page.
“Maybe you’d like to record something for me?”
“I only do pictures, ma’am, don’t know many letters,” he sighed.
“All right, a picture then. You were drawing in the dust a while ago. Something like that, perhaps?”
But the pencil was already moving as Billy’s concentration focused on the lines flowing easily across the page. Miss Phillips waited.
A crow flew across her gaze and a horse whinnied somewhere down the lane, and the pencil kept moving.
About the Authors:
Winslow Parker is retired and lives with his wife of 50 years in Portland Oregon. He has, during his work years, been a hospital chaplain, school teacher (which taught him more than he taught), associate pastor, Mental-health tech, social worker and finally an adaptive technology instructor at the Oregon Commission for the Blind. He flunked Freshman comp the first time around and did not begin to write seriously until 2007. Since then, he has self-published several books, including Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence a book of short stories and Hitler’s Hell a book of iconoclastic Christian theology. He wrote his first poem, a year and a half ago. “Tears,” at the suggestion of another member. Always delighting in word manipulation, he finds BOE a receptive and welcoming environment in which to sharpen his quill.
Joan Myles has always been a child of Wonder as well as a spiritual seeker. When she lost her sight at the age of 12, these qualities and writing poetry saved her from despair.
Joan earned a B.A. in Education, a Master’s in Jewish Studies. She married, raised four lively children, worked as a Rehabilitation Teacher, and taught Hebrew and Judaics for over 15 years.
Her first book of poetry, One With Willows, vividly expresses Joan’s child-like joy. She considers her poems to be a kind of footpath for readers, an opening into Wonder and Awe as a means to reclaim their own sense of spiritual playfulness.
Joan’s words also reveal the invisible link between one human being and another, between humans and Nature, between the physical realm and the Spiritual. The idea of the Oneness of Creation flows through her work, the understanding of living in the world as a journey of discovery, of stepping into and between the various layers and levels of existence. the poems in One Glittering Wing represents this kind of journey, specifically through Joan’s yearlong passage from the deep pain of her mother’s death toward reconciliation with Life.
And of course One Goes to the Sea is her way of asking, “What can we learn from imagination as we dream our days and nights away? And can these lessons help awaken us to Love?”
Joan currently lives in Oregon with her best friend, who also happens to be her husband.
You can contact her at