The School Marm by Behind Our Eyes Authors Winslow Parker and Joan Myles – Chapters 18 and 19

The School Marm by Behind Our Eyes Authors Winslow Parker and Joan Myles – Chapters 18 and 19

The School Marm

by Winslow Parker and Joan Myles

 

How the School Marm Came to Be…

 

 

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.

 

 

Chapter 18

 

It was a comfort for the townsfolk of Furnace Wells to gather inside their regular place of worship. After all they had been through—the months of uncertainty, the fear and distrust—it felt good to come together as neighbors and fellow travelers. Reverend James Lucas—or was it Lucas James, no one was quite sure yet—was still polishing his opening sermon for the small congregation, but he welcomed them warmly, marveling at their eagerness to come inside, despite the unsightly appearance of some of them.

 

“Why, come in, dear friends,” he hurried to hold the door as the group scurried in. “It’s not a regular prayer time, but the Good Lord is always open for business.”

 

“We need a good word, Reverend,” Lizzie Grandbush spoke up without reservation. “Just found out the sheriff is a no-good so-and-so, and that our town’s been livin’ a lie, our young gals been stole away for devil’s play…”

 

“Lizzie!” a lady or two gasped.

 

“It’s the truth, ain’t it?” she demanded.

 

“Well, ummm…do come in, friends, do come into God’s House, and let’s find a good word to share between us, to find our way back to His care, back to peace, back to one another!”

 

The faithful ambled into the cozy room, and everyone found a seat. After a bit, the mumbling dissolved into quiet attention, all eyes fixed on the young minister at the front of the room.

 

“Welcome friends,” he said again, “I’m delighted to find you all here on this occasion, this occasion of, well, coming together in fellowship, in the good faith of good neighbors seeking…seeking peace and harmony…the ready comfort only found.”

 

“Great balls of fire, Reverend,” Lizzie was on her feet at the rear of the room, “we come here to learn what’s to become of our town now that law and order’s been turned upside down.”

 

“Yeah!” male voices sang out.

 

Just then, the side door burst open, and Mayor Willie Wadley bounded into the room.

 

“Friends, there’s no need…no problem we can’t…just settle down and let’s…”

 

A tall, white-haired gentleman rose slowly from among the gathered townsfolk, the editor of the newspaper, and drawled deliberately, “Got my tablet right here, Mayor, how’s about a statement for the Chronicler.” He knew he was baiting the mayor, knew he had spied him lurking about the jail when the sheriff was locked up.

 

Wadley stopped in his tracks, then slowly approached the front of the group.

 

“Reverend, if I may…” he said.

 

The younger man stepped aside without a word.

 

“Friends,” Wadley began.

 

“We heard that part already,” Lizzie called out.

 

A chuckle from the group.

 

“We been through things like this before,” Wadley offered.

 

“I never had to rescue my girl from kidnappers!”

 

“Never knew a devil-dog sheriff like this one!”

 

“Never had to be the law myself!”

 

The shouting became more and more heated as every citizen of Furnace Wells proclaimed his personal grievance and utter disappointment in the mayor. At length it was only the lateness of the hour, and the exhaustion of those assembled, that brought things to a close.

*JM*

 

Chapter 19

 

An elegant coach drawn by six matching horses stirred the town like a beehive poked with a stick. It paused in front of the livery. The driver leapt from the driver’s seat and strode into the livery. He returned and opened the coach door. Onlookers heard the exchange of a few muffled words. He climbed back onto his perch and drove to the mayor’s house. The driver descended, opened the coach door and set a stool on the ground. A spotless black boot stepped onto the stool, paused before lowering it into the street dust. Its owner finally let it sink delicately into the powder. Almost as wide as he was tall, the man turned in a slow, deliberate circle, looking at each person in turn as if searching for someone. He turned and made his way to the mayor’s front door. Using the gold head of his walking stick, he pounded the front door, peremptorily summoning the mayor.

 

Willie Watley opened the door, gasped and retreated into the house, leaving the door open to follow.

 

“W-what are you doing here, Mr. Ackley, sir?”

 

“I’ve come to learn what has stopped production at my mine.”

 

Stammering and meandering in his explanation, the mayor told the story.

 

“You let them take a town girl?”

 

“Well, the miners were getting tired of the girls you furnished. They wanted some um, well, someone new.”

 

“You stupid man. Didn’t you know what would happen?”

 

“N-no sir. I thought we had ‘em pretty well cowed. We owned the Bar-J-Bar ranch hands who were supposed to provide protection. I found out this morning that the men of the town ganged up on them, shot a few. The rest hightailed it for other regions.”

 

“Where’s the sheriff?”

 

“Wellll,” he let the word hang in the air. “Well, you see, sir, he’s locked in his own jail.”

 

“Jail? How did that happen?”

 

“You see, sir, there’s this school marm, new this year, right pretty and smart as a whip. She’s got all the kids wrapped around her little finger and—”

 

“Shut up,” demanded the rotund little man,” stamping the floor with the butt of his cane. “Get on with the story.”

 

“Oh, yes, um, yessir. Well you see sir, she’s not just a school teacher…”

 

“Will you get to the point, Willie! I’m getting damned tired of the sound of your voice.”

 

“Yessir. Well, she came to town and when they stole the local girl from her mother, she used her badge to get all the men in town to help her rescue the girl, actually, all the girls.”

 

“I’ll have a word with this young lady after you and I pay a visit to the mine. Come with me.”

 

“Yessir,” mumbled the mayor. “Let me just get my hat.”

 

“No time. Let’s go.”

 

The mine owner stepped up into the coach. The mayor made as if to follow.

 

“No, up on the box with the driver. Don’t want to dirty my coach with your dusty boots.”

 

The mayor let his eyes drop and mumbled something under his breath.

 

He started up the ladder to the driver’s seat.

 

“No room up here with me and the guard,” the driver spoke down into his face. “Scoot behind me onto the luggage rack.”

 

The mayor’s face flamed red.

 

“I’m the mayor, you can’t—”

 

“Do as he said,” floated up from within the coach.

 

The mayor, humiliated before the gathering towns folk, sat cross-legged on the bare boards of the coach roof. The driver’s whip flicked past his right ear as he started the horses, turned and headed south out of town.

 

At the mine, the stranger and the mayor walked through the wreckage.

 

“That ragtag village did all this?”

 

“Yessir. Mostly it was that young snip of a girl. She led them, planned it all out, so to speak.”

 

“Where is she?”

 

“Staying with her aunt near the north end of town.”

 

“Bring her to me. I’ll be in your office. Be quick about it. I need to be in Tucson tomorrow.”

 

“Yessir.”

 

“So you’re the missy that’s been causing me all this trouble.”

 

“If you mean the rescue of the women held at your mining camp, then yes, I am that missy.” She eyed the guard and the coach driver, each holding a shotgun.

 

“This is a big desert Miss Phillips.”

 

“You’re threatening me.”

 

“Absolutely. Actually, it’s more like a promise. I get what I want, young lady. I’ll make sure you never cross me again. My mine is the foundation of all my enterprises and I’ll not let anything interfere with its operation.”

 

“You’re pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you, Mr. Ackley?”

 

He leaned back in the mayor’s chair, drew deep on a cigar, and blew smoke into her face. “You might say that. It’s worked for me ever since I inherited my grandfather’s businesses.”

 

“You’re about to take a big fall, Mr. Ackley. Right on that little round backside of yours.”

 

“Oh? How so?” he sneered.

 

“Well, for one thing, Sheriff Griffith has turned on you. He has agreed to give testimony against you.”

 

He waved his cigar, describing a smoky arc in the air. “Pshaw, he’s nothing. My lawyers will poke holes in his testimony big enough to drive a stagecoach through. In the meantime, what am I going to do with you?” He eyed her, speculatively. “Perhaps you could be used to my advantage elsewhere. I’ll think on that a bit.”

 

Lucy saw a flash of movement from the corner of her eye. She recognized Billy’s tousled hair.

 

“There is something you don’t know, Mr. Ackley. I am a U. S. Marshal.”

 

“You? You’re a girl. You couldn’t possibly be a U. S. Marshal.”

 

“I’m not demanding you believe me, but you have stepped into something that is going to be a bit difficult to clean off your dainty boots.”

 

“How so? I run this territory. The governor is a good friend, if you take my meaning.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Ackley, you have just fitted in another puzzle piece.”

 

His face reddened. “I’m afraid you won’t be around to interfere much longer. We’re on our way out of this podunk town. You’re coming with us, but only part way.” He grinned. “Like I said, it’s a big desert out there with all kinds of varmints. Tie her up, boys.”

 

Arms tied behind her back, a gag in her mouth, the two men pushed her through the door. The street was as empty as if the entire population had been sucked into the burnished copper sky by the heat of the sun. Dust devils danced in dry arroyos. Distant mountains shimmered in the heat haze. Mirage water reflected bright sunlight in the road a mile north of town. A sleeping dog twitched in the narrow shade of an awning.

 

The guard stepped out of the door, swept his eyes left and right, then took another step, holding his sawed-off shotgun at the ready. The coach driver prodded Lucy’s back. She stepped through the door followed by the driver and the mine owner. In a line, they headed for the coach.

 

A sudden commotion stopped them. The six matched horses whinnied, bucked and then began running down the street trailing their traces.

 

“Someone’s cut the lines,” shouted the driver.

 

Lucy saw the grinning face of Billy poking through the spokes of the front left wheel. He winked.

 

“Grab her!” cried the mine owner.

 

The guard whirled and took her arms, shielding himself with her body.

 

The near-unison click of several guns made him pause and turn around.

 

Eight townsmen each holding a rifle or pistol aimed their weapon at Mr. Ackley and his guard and driver. The guard raised his shotgun.

 

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” said Billy’s father. “Drop the gun.”

 

The guard aimed the weapon and pulled the trigger just as Lucy flung herself forward, throwing the weapon off target with her shoulder.

 

The shotgun roared, taking Yancey Bushnell’s hat and gracing his scalp with buckshot. His scalp began to bleed.

 

Three bullets tore into the guard. He twisted, then fell heavily to the ground, dropping his still smoking weapon.

 

“OK, you two, back away,” growled Mr. Bushnell. He held a red bandana to the wound.

 

The driver dropped his weapon.

 

“Untie me please,” Lucy asked. “Billy,” she addressed her mischievous student, “Go fetch it. You know what I mean, our secret.”

 

“Yes’m,” Billy smiled and ran to Beatrice’s home. He returned a few moments later, holding her badge. He handed it to her.

 

She pinned it to the wide collar of her shirt. “Mr. Ackley, I’m placing you and your driver under arrest awaiting trial in Federal court for murder, kidnapping, accessory to murder, exploitation and enslaving of women.” Turning to the men around her, she said, “Tie these two up. Search Mr. Ackley carefully. Little men often carry little weapons with which to defend themselves.”

 

They found a tiny two-shot derringer in an inner pocket.

 

“Here are the keys to the jail. Lock them in with the sheriff. I’m deputizing all of you. Please arrange for two men to be on duty at all hours to guard the prisoners. I’ll wire Tucson for more agents. If a couple of you could find and bring back the horses, I’d appreciate it.”

 

Two men mounted their horses and trotted north, following the dust cloud raised by 24 galloping hooves.

 

“You’ll all be sorry for this,” blustered the mine owner. “I’ve got friends in Congress and even higher.”

 

“Thank you for that information. It will be quite useful at your trial,” said Lucy.

 

He swore.

 

*WP*

 

 

About the Authors Winslow Parker and Joan Myles

 

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, schoolteacher (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.

Find his work at:  https://www.scribd.com/author/533143987/Winslow-Parker

 

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.

Find her work and contact her at:  http://www.jewniquelymyself.com

 

 

 

One Comment

  1. Love being in your world, darling Patty, thanks for sharing this!

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