The School Marm – Chapters 7 and 8
by Winslow Parker and Joan Myles
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.
“First, you must tell me why I should not call you ‘Birdie’.”
“Well, it’s a long—” began her aunt. She was interrupted by curses, the sound of galloping horses, then a single pistol shot.
“Oh, my goodness!” cried Mrs. Krane. She rushed to the front window and stared in disbelief. “Oh, Jonathan!” she wailed, opened the front door and rushed out.
Lucy moved through the door, quickly assessing the tableau. None but Mrs. Krane moved. Within the half-circle of mounted horsemen, Reverend Krane lay face down in the dust of the street. Blood pumped from a hole in his back.
Beatrice released her apron, folded it three times and pressed it against the wound. She could feel no breath, no pulse.
When she regained her own breath, she demanded, “What happened? Who did this?”
The horsemen, in unison, turned their horses and galloped northward toward the Bar-J-Bar ranch.
Billy suddenly reappeared at Lucy’s side. “Can I help, Ma’am?”
“Get the sheriff, please. Be quick about it,” Lucy commanded.
Billy ran to the livery stable. “Sherriff!” he shouted through the open door. “The rev’s been shot.”
“Coming, coming, Billy. I was out in the privy. Can’t walk down Main Street with my britches around my ankles.” He grabbed his shotgun from its wall pegs and ran toward the reverend’s house.
He knelt in the dust, felt for a pulse, then put his ear to the prone back.
“Sorry ma’am, he’s gone.”
Beatrice’s weeping increased in volume and pitch. Her fine singing voice lent power and emotion to her grief. She rocked on her knees, then threw herself over her husband’s prostrate body. “Oh, Jonathan, Jonathan,” she wept.
Lucy knelt beside her, drawing her close. Beatrice turned and clung to her, shaking and weeping.
The sheriff nodded toward the house. Lucy helped Beatrice to her feet and turned her toward the open door.
“Billy, go find Walt. Tell him to start digging a grave. He’ll know where. Tell him I’ll pay the usual price.” For the second time that day, the sheriff dug into his pants pocket. This time he merely handed the coin to Billy.
“Much ‘bliged.” He leaped to his feet and ran to the saloon where he knew he would find Walt that time of day.
That evening, yellow lantern light cast a warm glow over the kitchen table, pushing darkness into the corners of the room. Beatrice held a cold cup of tea between trembling fingers. Silent tears coursed down her cheeks. Lucy drank her tea in small sips. She stood, rounded the table, and knelt beside her aunt. She wrapped her arms about her and held her as her aunt wept.
Only a few townsfolk gathered at the graveside that evening to bid Reverend Crane a respectful good-bye. Most of his congregants huddled in their homes, fearful to venture into the street, and trying to puzzle out why such a thing should happen to quiet, unremarkable Jonathan Crane.
Lucy supported her aunt as she wept without ceasing—dressing for the church service, throughout the recitation of Psalm 23 at the graveside, and during the long dark hours they passed until the morning light crept over the garden gate.
Then, as if on command, Beatrice recovered. And more than tearless, she was suddenly calm, uncharacteristically calm for her usual nervous nature.
“I need to tell you a few things,” she said to Lucy as they finished their morning tea and biscuits.
“Yes, because my Jonathan wasn’t just any random shooting victim. Those gunmen knew what they were doing, who they were doing away with.”
She became suddenly conscious of voices coming through the parlor window, and ran to look out.
“Just youngsters out for a lark,” she sighed in relief. But she closed the window and the curtains nonetheless.
“Come sit beside me, dear. We need to keep our talk as quiet as we can. There are too many uncommitted hearts in this town, too many who would just as soon turn away from the cruel things that go on when nobody speaks up. That’s why he was killed you know, my dear, darling Jonathan, because more and more he was using his pulpit to speak out, to shine a light on the ugly, unspeakable goings on in this town—even after they burned down the church, or maybe because they did—they had to silence him.”
Lucy settled in close beside her aunt, and said, “Tell me Aunt Birdie, I’m here to do what I can.”
“It has to do with the gold mine, all the men coming to town, all the gold, the greed, the ugliness that greed sparks, the lust and ugliness…” she shook her head and turned her face away from Lucy for a long moment.
The young woman waited, bracing herself for what might come next.
“…you know how greedy men are, how they expect all their lusts to be gratified.”
Beatrice looked deep into Lucy’s face to measure her understanding.
“I understand,” Lucy assured.
“The Mexican girls are especially easy prey,” the words were almost whispered, “because this town…these folks…don’t always care about what happens to brown folk.”
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