Tag Archives: fiction

Buckshot Bryant thinks it is time to remind y’all…she is still here !!!

BUCKSHOT BRYANT

Buckshot early in her career…

Joanne “Buckshot” Bryant was a notorious bank and train robber and is possibly best-remembered as the Queen of the Rustlers in the American West of the 1800′s. It could truly be said that this queen came from a family of outlaw aristocracy. Her parents ran the infamous Bryant Gang in Australia and may have even known the outback bandit Mad Dog Morgan before he earned his enormous reputation. When you consider the fact that the later Kelly Gang, Australia’s most well-known gang of outlaws, often pointed to the Bryant Gang as their biggest inspiration and their own personal heroes, Buckshot Bryant came from the most blue-blooded bandit stock imaginable.

Joanne, or “Jo’s” parents settled in America to live in comfortable retirement from their ill-gotten wealth from Down Under. Jo was always a handful, a very willfull and adventurous young lady who caused her parents no end of trouble. In 1861 Bryant’s parents left Missouri (where Jo was born) to escape the freshly-started Civil War and traveled east. While her family hobnobbed with various east-coast gentry Jo herself purportedly began a fling with THE Samuel Colt, a newly commissioned colonel in the Union army. Colonel Colt never saw action in the field, doing mostly administrative work, but that left him with plenty of time to frolic with the beautiful young lady he had fallen in love with. Jo was in her late teens or very early twenties (accounts vary) and Colt was as old or older than her father. When Jo’s family moved on in their travels Jo insisted on staying behind to be with her lover, remaining with him until his death in 1862.

Rather than return to her parents at this time Jo’s adventurous nature led her to begin frequenting east coast rail lines, bedecked in fashionable outfits and luring well-to-do men with amorous intentions into her coachroom, where she would immediately pull a revolver on them and force them to undress and give her all their valuables. She would then slip out of the room and off the train. When the high-living young beauty was running out of the funds from her latest haul she would once again start riding the rails, relying on her sultry looks and her well-dressed appearance to draw another victim her way. One passenger she did not rob during that period of her life was a young Union officer named Humphrey Bogart,

Humphrey Bogart

with whom she supposedly had a brief fling. Bogart would later marry Amarillo Rose, the most colorful figure of the Amarillo Range War.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War Bryant traveled to Missouri, siezed with an uncharacteristically nostalgic desire to once again see the home where she had spent her childhood, Kiwi Aussie Manor. She found the place a gutted shell because the abandoned home had been used as a headquarters by Confederate forces and then burned during a Union raid. Feeling more rootless than ever Jo boarded a train headed west, planning to resume her usual criminal activities. As fate would have it, once the train got into eastern Kansas it was boarded and robbed by the James-Younger Gang.

Top: Jesse James, Cole Younger, John Younger – Bottom: Frank James, Clell Miller, and Bob Younger.

As various members of the gang made their way through the train cars relieving the passengers of their valuables, Jo sprang into action and nearly shot Frank James right between the eyes before being grabbed from behind by Frank’s buddy Cole Younger. While the now-disarmed Jo stood there cursing the two outlaws in the foulest language imaginable they both stood there eyeing the gorgeous young thing before them with just one thing on their minds and it wasn’t Reconstruction Era politics. Calming down, Jo further charmed Cole and Frank by shrewdly telling them how her home had been burned by Union troops and about her railroad scam. Soon Jesse himself was on the scene ogling Jo and listening to his brother and Cole fill him in on this unexpected development. Jesse offered Jo a place in the James-Younger “organization” and she accepted, riding off with the outlaws.

Jo started out serving as a “plant” on trains the James-Younger Gang intended to rob. Dressed in finery she would pose as a passenger, then once the gang began their assault she would produce a gun or two to keep the passengers in line and accomodate the heist in any other way she could. Ever fiery, however, Jo soon tired of that role and began taking a more active part in the robberies, toting a shotgun and even dressing in the gang’s legendary long dusters and dark cowboy hats like the other notorious woman in the gang, Belle Starr

Belle Starr

(though since this was before her marriage to Sam Starr she was still known as Belle Shirley). Jo and Belle got along famously and Belle herself gave Bryant her nickname following a legendary incident. Bob Ford, a fringe character in the Missouri outlaw world, was often trying to force himself on Jo. After one such incident Jo began loading her shotgun, swearing she would blow off Ford’s manhood so he would stop troubling her once and for all. Bob Ford fled as quickly as he could but Jo still fired off a barrel full of buckshot at his retreating form to drive home her point. Ford was far enough away that the shot wasn’t fatal but it caught him full on the buttocks, making it difficult for him to sit down for several days. Belle laughed uproariously and began calling Jo “Buckshot” Bryant, the name she would be known by forever after.

Buckshot spent a few happy years with the James-Younger Gang, enjoying dalliances with Cole Younger and the two James brothers, sometimes both at once according to Belle Starr in her memoirs. All that Hell-raising took place in between daring bank and train robberies. Eventually, however, Buckshot Bryant wanted to lead a gang of her own and headed west along with her latest lover and fellow gang member Kevin “Colorado” Costner.

Kevin ‘Colorado’ Costner

In Texas, Buckshot and Colorado gathered around them the nucleus of the bank and train robbing gang that became known as the Poker Studs. That name for the gang came about because of Buckshot Bryant’s ever-roaming eye for handsome young men, whom she grew to love having around her as her subordinates. Treating these young men as her male harem, Buckshot was so desired by all of them that she took to having the young studs play poker for the privilege of sleeping with her each night. Thus, they became known as the Poker Studs, a name which was supposedly inverted and became the namesake of the game called Stud Poker, in a Burnside/Sideburns kind of way.

Colorado Costner grew increasingly jealous of this behavior and after a furious argument with Buckshot, blurted out his love for her and rode off. Bryant was surprised by Costner’s declaration of love since she thought he saw it as just fun and games like she did. Sad but too proud to chase after him, Buckshot watched him ride off, not realizing they were destined to meet again.

Oddly stirred by the depth of Colorado’s feelings for her, Bryant tried losing herself in booze, loveplay with her Poker Studs and non-stop larcenous behavior. Eventually feeling that banks worth robbing were a bit too far apart this far out west compared to back in the Missouri-Kansas area, Buckshot decided to move into rustling instead of bank robbing, though the gang would still keep their hand in train robbing with occassional heists. Sitting tall in the saddle and with her trusty shotgun always at her side, Buckshot Bryant molded her Poker Studs into a very lucrative operation. The gang would rustle cattle from ranches throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, herd them below the border into Mexico where they would be either sold or traded for horses, which could then be sold back in the U.S. for a profit.

Once, after rustling some livestock from the High Chaparral, the gang was pursued by Manolito Montoya himself, who attacked the band of rustlers single-handed.

Manolito

Intrigued by this foohardy courage, Buckshot ordered her Poker Studs not to kill the handsome Latino, with whom she checked into a Tucson hotel. There the two reached some form of accomodation, with the result that Jo promised to stop rustling from the High Chaparral and Manolito promised to never reveal the location of the desert hideout that he had trailed the gang to.

Sometimes Buckshot and the Poker Studs would rustle just a few cattle for the gang’s personal consumption and would have a massive cookout under the nighttime desert skies, the beef accompanied by tortillas, rice and beans, all washed down with gutrot whiskey. Bryant would revel in these festivities, comfortable and very pleased, surrounded as she was by a gaggle of toughened hombres who all desired and feared her at the same time.

Joining in the fun with Jo at these events would be Poker Studs like:

-Dancin’ Pat Swayze, formerly of the Point Break Gang, who joined Buckshot’s gang when she sheltered him from the Texas Rangers who were pursuing him

Dancin’ Pat Swayze

- Lariat Leo DiCaprio, the experienced rustler, fresh out of prison, who helped educate Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs in the ways of rustling. His specialty was altering cattle brands

Lariat Leo DiCaprio

- Colin “Wild Irish” Farrell, who fancied the rustling trade (and himself) as a continuation of the ancient Irish “art” of rustling as depicted in Celtic Mythology.

Colin ‘Wild Irish’ Farrell.

During this period of her career the Queen of the Rustlers enjoyed tweaking the forces of the law in the frontier as they ineffectually tried to bring her to justice. In the New Mexico Territory Buckshot Bryant made it her personal mission to confound the best efforts of Pat Garrett as she continually bested him at the mental chess game they played. Jo made him look so foolish that she is considered the main reason why he eventually lost reelection as sheriff and moved to Texas.

Bryant held Judge Roy Bean in particular contempt and loathed him as the epitome of the hypocritical, self-serving and corrupt system of law enforcement in the Wild West. Bean had vowed that if Buckshot was brought before him he would sentence her in one minute and hang her in two. Once, when Dancin’ Pat and Wild Irish had been captured and Bean had sentenced them to the gallows Jo mounted and executed what would today be called a commando-style raid to free her imprisoned Poker Studs. This escapade infuriated Judge Bean so much that Bryant took to freeing many of the other prisoners Bean had sentenced to death. She was so successful at this that, from then on, despite the many felons given a capital sentence by the power-crazed Judge only one was ever actually hanged. One of the men Jo rescued from Bean’s demented form of “justice” was the wandering gunfighter Juniper Johnny Depp, said to be a descendant of the notorious pirate captain Jack Sparrow. Depp and Bryant had a brief affair, which ended when the next paying client for his skill at gunplay came along and he rode off.

Juniper Johnny Depp

Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs are still a very sore subject with the Texas Rangers since no other band of outlaws was as skilled at foiling their pursuit. If cornered Jo and her minions were more than happy to resort to gunplay and Bryant’s shotgun sent many a law enforcement officer or bounty hunter to their graves.

Ranger William Wallace

Ranger William “Bigfoot” Wallace so admired Buckshot’s pluck that he had an unofficial “truce” with the rustling queen and would often get together with her and the Poker Studs across the border in Mexico to raise Hell in saloons.

Texas Ranger Mark Wahlberg

Texas Ranger Mark Wahlberg came the closest to actually bringing Buckshot Bryant in, but, supposedly smitten with his gorgeous quarry, he let her go free instead. Unable to reconcile this with his devotion to law enforcement Wahlberg shot himself to death after watching Bryant ride off.

Poker Alice

Buckshot’s friendship with Poker Alice, the frequently widowed card-player who roamed the west, is legendary. Bryant was far too shrewd to ever get involved in a poker game with the gun-toting mistress of the card tables but the two loved tearing up the saloons during the many times their paths crossed, often with mutual friend Doc Holliday present as well.

Doc Holliday

The biggest strain on their friendship came when Poker Alice was working as a dealer in a saloon owned by Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James and the would-be lothario whose antics had led to Buckshot being so named during their years in Missouri. Jo threatened to blow Ford away for his betrayal of Jesse and had to be physically restrained by Poker Alice to prevent her from killing Ford in front of a room full of witnesses. Alice persuaded her old, dear friend to leave, but Bryant vowed to never speak to Poker Alice again as long as she worked for Ford. That promise was kept but after Alice wandered on to another location the friendship between the two legends resumed.

Many books have been written about Buckshot Bryant’s involvement with various Native American leaders. Debate over her motives for assisting them in their battles with the bluecoats of the U.S. army continues to this day. Bryant would see to it that meat from rustled cattle would find its way to hostile chiefs like Red Cloud, Geronimo and Cochise to keep their people fed during hard times. Not only that but horses that she obtained in Mexico in exchange for rustled livestock would sometimes be given to those same chiefs to help fuel their war effort. In exchange the chiefs would help Jo and her gang to hide from particularly dangerous pursuit.

Red Cloud
Geronimo
Cochise

Buckshot was especially close to Cochise, who named her “Shoots Deadly Woman”, and the Queen of the Rustlers was foolhardy enough to visit Cochise in disguise when her old friend was on his deathbed in 1874. Bryant even accompanied the burial party and was said to be the only white person who ever knew Cochise’s exact resting place.

With the death of this friend of hers, Buckshot Bryant’s conviction to assist the warring Native American leaders was doubled. She took to leading her Poker Studs in running guns to the Sioux during the Sioux uprising. These activities led her into contact with former Lieutenant John Dunbar, noted for his years living with Native Americans, who named him Dances With Wolves.

John Dunbar

Dunbar had once been mistakenly arrested for a few days because of his uncanny resemblance to Bryant’s old beau Colorado Costner. Dunbar’s philosophical musings about the plight of the Native Americans helped strengthen Jo’s resolve.

One day in the 1880′s who should come riding into the canyon hideout of Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs but that same Colorado Costner. He hadn’t lost his touch, and had tracked the gang down and penetrated their lair without them so much as noticing. He and Buckshot embraced and he related to her how he had been caught and arrested less than a year after riding off following their argument long ago. Luckily, when he left them the gang was not yet under a death sentence so he was not hanged but he had served a long prison term. His sentence was lengthened by his refusal to cooperate by giving law enforcement any information that would help them locate the woman he loved. Kevin told Jo how the thought of being able to one day hold her in his arms again was the only thing that kept him going during his time suffering in the hellish prison conditions of the time. This time Jo wasn’t too proud to admit her feelings for this man who had endured so much for her sake and the two were supposedly wed, although no records to support that assertion have ever been found.

Kevin ‘Colorado’ Costner

Costner enthusiastically embraced his true love’s desire to aid Native American resistance and the two spent several happy years devoted to each other (the gang was now the Poker Studs in name only since Jo and Kevin were deeply in love). Their lives were filled with rustling, periodic train robberies, hair’s-breadth escapes from the law and with providing surreptitious aid to the Native American cause. The two felt a tight bond with the Native Americans, whom they saw as kindred spirits in living on their own terms against the power of outside forces.

In 1890 events came crashing down on Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner. After the gang was very nearly caught while running a supply of fresh beef to a suffering Native American community, the Poker Studs were fed up with risking their necks in such endeavors and abandoned Jo and Kevin. The two spent a few weeks in the village and therefore got to be first hand witnesses when the Ghost Dance spread into the community. The Ghost Dance has been classified as a semi-ecstatic state in which the participants were encouraged to believe all the dead Native Americans of the past, as well as all the dead buffalo, were going to return and the white people would all be driven away. This was all misinterpreted as another uprising and troops were sent to squelch it.

Thus it was that Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner were on hand at Wounded Knee when the army moved in to massacre the Ghost Dancers, who were all dancing, not fighting. From what has been reconstructed of the scene, Bryant and Costner, presumably sickened at what they were witnessing, savagely fought off the attacking bluecoats for as long as they could before the overwhelming odds caught up with them and they perished alongside the people with whom they had shared their strongest bond of kinship.

Buckshot Bryant has been portrayed in films by…

Rita Hayworth,

Rita Hayworth

Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale

and Angelina Jolie.

Angelina Jolie

Tristan Ludlow himself was said to be inspired with his interest in the Native Amerian lifestyle by reading dime novels and history books about the legendary Queen of the Rustlers.

Tristan Ludlow

Signed,

The Blackwater Kid

Buckshot not long before The Wounded Knee Massacre

 

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

Now admittedly I have posted this in the early days of my blog. But Ed [who wrote this masterpiece] and I got talking on his recent post about: TEN NEGLECTED GUNSLINGERS: COUNTDOWN TO FRONTIERADO and Buckshot, as she tends to do when Ed and I get talking, made a few waves about being forgotten. So…to keep her quiet while I work, I gave in…and I hope those of you who have not met her before will enjoy her adventures as much as I do !!!

If you want your own saga then contact the Balladeer here.

To The Blackwater Kid – thanks for this great story from your friend Buckshot Bryant.

Buckshot is mentioned in The Amazing Saga of Lady London.

And although she plays no part in these sagas – Buckshot recommends you check them out:

Doc Robin and Kid Equus

Cactus Cathy

Buckshot did manage to get her adventures with the Winchesters chronicled: Buckshot Rides Again…with the Winchester Boys. Well worth a read if you ask me.

HAPPY FRONTIERADO! It is one holiday you shouldn’t miss. And to get you in the mood for it…

CELEBRATE WITH A LOST ADVENTURE OF BUCKSHOT BRYANT

 

Another vavavavoom lady for you to enjoy – complete with her own brand of Poker Studs !!!!

Related posts

Hatfields & McCoys

Buckshot rides again…with the Winchester boys !!!!!

Laminated List

Kevin – Part One – The Early Years

Marionette – My Thoughts

T B MarkinsonSome of you may know the lovely lady above. T B Markinson is her name for those of you who do not.

I recently got my hands on a copy of her newest book…MARIONETTE.

I was a bit hesitant about reading a book from someone I know…ye Gods…what if I hate it ?? Especially when you are dealing with subject matter such as this book does…attempted suicide, homosexuality, hiding who you are and dysfunctional family bonds.

Suicide has touched my life…and in every case…every single one…those left behind are broken and shattered and struggle to find their way past the moment that the person who took their life passed the burden on to them.

I grew up trying to be the perfect daughter, wife, mother…never trusting that the real me was good enough. I hid behind a veneer of what I perceived was acceptable.

As for dysfunctional family bonds…I am writing a book on those. From experience.

Thus…when I started reading Marionette…I was like…oh no !!! Because the beginning of the book starts with a failed suicide attempt.

Then…wham bamm thank you ma’am, you step right in to her crazy family where Paige hides everything important about herself.

Three out of four boxes I know about…Marionette was hitting close to home.

Paige Alexander is a young woman who has lived her life with parents who frankly…need shooting on sight. Seriously. These are the sort of people that were they dogs…then they would be euthanized to protect the community .

Paige loves Jessica. Secretly. Why you may ask ? Well, for that you need to read Marionette.

What can be a problem with books such as this one, I have found at least, is making the characters believable. Too many writers turn the people in their books in to cardboard cutouts that have no real dimension to them.

As Paige goes off to college, and to counseling, piece by piece we get to travel within [think Fantastic Voyage] her until we finally end up completely in Paige’s head, really knowing her.

Along the way we also get to know Jess better. Quite early on you wonder a bit about whether Jess is all she seems. I am not going to give any spoilers here, so if you want to know the answer to that…you know the drill…get the book. Why does this older, educated, confident, funny woman want to be with the younger, damaged Paige ?

The other characters in the book, except for the completely hellish parents, are all well written complementary characters. Not that the parents aren’t well conceived, they are just downright evil people.

Liddy, Paige’s counselor, is one of my favourites in the book. Slowly through Liddy, we the reader get to know Paige.

Then there are the college friends. Audrey [the roommate], aptly nick named ‘Minnie Mouse’ by Paige. Jenna and Karen [the suite mates]. Jewels, Emily, Tom, Ben and Aaron. Paige’s relationship with Tom provides a few nice twists.

Then there are:

  • Mel and Wesley. Talk about a couple who need a swift kick.
  • Alex. Paige’s childhood friend. This was one of the saddest but most unexpected relationships in Marionette.
  • Abbie. Paige’s sister. Abbie has more than her share of demons too.
  • Julia. Who runs a diner and through her food has become part of Jess’s family and so therefore also Paige’s.

This is a book about relationships. How they can grow and surprise you. How you can survive the ugly ones and rejoice in the ones that lift your spirit. It is also about secrets.

I read Marionette in one sitting. Then I went back to read it again for this review and was just as delighted the second time.

Thank goodness it has also been edited and proofread. Self published books that haven’t are sadly too many to name these days. They do little to serve the readers or the authors who can’t be bothered to make sure that their finished book actually is that – finished.

I look forward to reading the next of T B Markinson’s efforts after this.

mar-kindle

This article was originally published on BlogCritics: Book Review ‘Marionette’ by T B Markinson.

Day thirteen and I am going a little nuts. Well a little more than usual !!!!

You might be wondering how NaNoWriMo is going ??

I would have shown you a photo of me writing…but I look a little scary these days. Too much caffeine, late nights, hating my writing and a lot of head banging will do that !!!

It has its moments. I am really struggling with not being able to edit as I go. It is a very bad habit I hope NaNoWriMo will cure me of…but I am really finding it hard.

I feel like everything coming out is crap…which I know most first drafts are. And all I want to do is work on it until it is better. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr…habits are very hard things to break.

So here is some more of Chapter I. The next excerpt will have someone going over a cliff…who will it be and will they survive is the BIG question.

###

Chapter I Scenes VI & VII

Zak approaches, he is alone. “Other than the customary inhabitants, we are on our own here.”

“Evijan?”

“Our cautious friend is laying out a warning system.” he stares up at the mountain. “I want to go with you.”

“Brother…”

“Deveron. I know what you seek.”

“You do?”

“You are not the only one Father has told the stories to.” I do not tell him that they are not just stories for me.

“Then you also know what waits on the mountain. Not everyone who seeks the Phoenix comes down again.” And now I do not tell him that anyone with me when I find the Phoenix King is in even more danger.

“If I am old enough to be here, then I think I am old enough for that as well.” His eyes bore into mine, and I realise that he is now as tall as I.

“I promised Father that you would return. I intend to keep my word Zak.” I understand his eagerness for this, his first real adventure. “If I allow you this, your death will likely follow.” I hope, foolishly perhaps, to make him understand. “No-one is allowed into their realm, I must go alone.” There were only deadly mistakes from this point, how could I make him see that.

“I will not be a disappointment to you.”

“I am not worried about disappointment.” Evijan arrives at the lake as the other men set about making camp for the night. He carries with him two large water birds slung over his shoulders, and tosses them to Zak. “I speak to you no longer as your brother Zarek, but as your commander.”

“Deveron…”

“Enough. You stay behind. Speak no more of this.”

###

“We are quite alone here,” Evijan announces, as he sets about making a fire. “Time to make yourself useful,” he nods to Zak to sit by him, hoping to distract him I know. “Jareth is tracking a herd of hippus.” These small grey animals are equally at home on land or in the water. Their tough round bodies make them seem slow, but when threatened their speed makes them difficult to catch. Jareth is one of a few hunters who can boast of bringing one down. Their flesh is a delicacy, and my mouth waters in anticipation of the forthcoming meal.

Zak glares at me as he throws himself  on to a log beside Evijan. Eventually, everyone returns to the camp, Jareth, Adsel, Ryder, Cato, Gye, and Nils return, their kills hanging from poles they carry between them and we sit together in a sociable peace. Each face is a portrait of a part of myself, and I wonder how many of these bold companions will return home. Throughout the meal my brother remains silent, never looking in my direction. Evijan watches him as closely as I. When Zak is finished he nudges him slightly and smiles in Jareth’s direction.

“Did you purposely seek out the smallest of the herd? Or did they by chance hear you coming – oh grand hunter of the Opinouwi? Evijan is smiling at me as he taunts Jareth. “Lucky for those of us with hearty appetites, others were able to provide.” I watch as Jareth’s eyes narrow. “Perhaps I should…” Jareth pounces and Evijan is sent sprawling in the dirt.

“Perhaps you should keep your thoughts inside that minute brain of yours…friend.” Jareth sits atop of Evijan, their arms flailing as each tries to gain the advantage. I see Zak smile for the first time since our discussion, and silently thank both men. It troubles me that I must now force our minds back to our task.

“Quiet,” I hold up my hands to silence the men. Immediately all are still, and I began to outline my preparations. “Should I not return within eight days Evijan, you are to lead them on. Wraith will give you aid in finding another way.”

“There is no other way Deveron,” Evijan shakes his head.

“Then you shall have to make one. You cannot go into the Devil’s Den if I do not return…and you must not come seeking me. I want your word. Eight days and you all leave. “Understood?” He does not look pleased.

“If two of us were to go…” Zak begins.

“No. I go alone. Give me your word Evijan.” Zak’s eyes flash in the firelight as he lowers them.

“Arrogant fool,” he protests before walking away.

“Evijan?”

“You have my word, but I trust it will not be needed,” he reaches out grasping my arm. “He will be alright.” His hold stops me from following my brother.

“He is too impetuous,” I silently wish I had been able to sway my father from allowing him to come on this journey. “I should have made him stay behind. He is too young, too eager for adventure. He will take too many risks.”

“He reminds me of someone I used to know,” he says, lifting his brows. “I shall just have to keep my eyes on him. And use my persuasive manner. Do not worry. Zak is like a brother to me.” I stare at the hand still firmly grasping my arm.

“Leave him,” Evijan can read my thoughts almost as well as Wraith. “Allow him to master his feelings.” Zak stays just outside the firelight, and my sleep is uneasy.

###

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The Draco Stone continues…

Chapter I Scene IV

He turns immediately to the left and begins picking his way through the dim brush. We proceed single file. For many hours we trek with only the unicorns’ sight to guide us through the darkness. As we go deeper, even though the sun would be rising, it does not reach onto the forest floor. The gloom transmits itself, and I feel the weight of the task creep under my skin.

What is it you doubt Deveron?

We are but nine Wraith.

And the Sadistiens are but six.

I fear for them. I should have come alone.

Are you so absolute in your view of yourself?

No, but I am not sure that we shall be successful.

And?

My choice of them may be their death.

Arrogance. It does not suit you my friend.

Not arrogance Wraith, foreboding, and regret.

You must know that there is not one man here that you could have stopped from coming.

I did not try.

No, but it makes no difference, they each have the right, as do you, to be part of this.

If we fail, they will be needed more than ever.

Your lack of faith does them discredit Deveron. We are only just begun, and you sound worse than the bleakest doomsayer. Have faith, my friend.

Was it not you Wraith, who just warned me that some might not survive the Devil’s Den?

It is true. You should know by now Deveron, Unicorns always prepare for the worst. It is our way. It does not mean anything other than that. We are not blessed with vision. Were that so, we would not have been almost annihilated ourselves.

I’m sorry for it Wraith.

I begin to fear for you more than the others Deveron. You must not enter the Devil’s Den with so much weighing on your soul.

I shall feel better once I have spoken with the Phoenix King.

I hope so.

###

Chapter I Scene V

Wraith looks doubtful, but keeps any further thoughts to himself as he leads the way through the forest. Talking is impossible, the deeper we go the louder the noises from the inhabitants become. From deep within the underbrush to the highest canopy they call to each other of our passing. It is almost time for the sun to leave the sky when we reach Lissiom Lake. I will have to circumvent it to reach the bottom of Fire-Bird Mountain. I call a halt.

“Evijan, have a look around and make sure that we are alone here. Adsel, take Ryder…” before I finish the twins spring from their mounts and make off around the lake’s edge. Both adept hunters, we would soon have fresh food to fill our bellies.

We will leave as the sun rises? Wraith’s tone is troubled.

Before.

Deveron…

I know Wraith.

The King will not be happy to see you.

 No, but he will not kill me.

Are you so sure?

No. But I hope.

How long?

With good fortune, four days, no longer should things go well.

And if they don’t?

I shall leave Evijan with instructions to leave after eight days. You will need to help them find another way. If I do not return, they cannot travel through the Devil’s Den.

Then we must hope that you do my friend.

I look out over the lake to Fire-Bird Mountain. In the dusk, fog circles the base rising to a third of the way up. The face of it appears sheer, but I know that inside there is a single path that leads up to a secret gateway to the clandestine realm of the Phoenix people.

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Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

Well you may be asking how it is all going.

I had to take the weekend off to wizz up to Auckland…which provided lots of photo taking opportunities. It also provided a chance to get dressed up. Gilly tells me I should make the following photo my gravatar – instead of [as she very politely puts it] hiding behind the camera.

When I mentioned I didn’t like my ‘scrunched up eyes’ she let go of polite with a resounding ‘STOP IT !!!!’. We all have it though…that one feature we don’t really like about ourselves. Well, mine is my eyes. It’s hard to smile and stretch your eyes open at the same time. Believe me I know. Ah well…could be worse. I might have to tuck my boobs in to my belt…oh wait…I do !!!

Shit !!!

I even wore make-up and heels. I ate, I drank, I danced, and I met lots of fabulously fun people.

I arrived home shattered. So yesterday I got back in to it. I have some very pissed off horses at the moment. They recently told Wraith just how pissed they were about being taken in to Gryphe territory as Gryphes love horses…to eat. Wraith wasn’t to happy about it either, being a cousin of the horse.

And so…Scenes II  & III of Chapter I are here for your thoughts. And please…no matter how you think I sound when I reply to comments…I DO WANT your thoughts. If you don’t like something/don’t get it/think it’s shit…say so. I am more than happy to take on board what you say.

A wonderful tutor once told me: “If your readers aren’t getting it, it has nothing to do with them. It is all about you not writing it so that they can ‘GET IT’, so rewrite it until they do the first time they read it…or you’ve lost them forever.” Very wise man my tutor !!!

###

Read on…

“Stop,” I murmur, as we reach the first rise outside the City. Wraith halts and I turn back.

“Brother?” Zak pulls up beside me.

“Is it not a wonder?” I ask. As the gates draw close the city shimmers, moonbeams bouncing off the rooftops back into the air above.

“He does this each time we leave.” Evijan is laughing. “Your brother would have us believe that he possesses no tender traits, and yet I see a softness in his eyes every time we farewell the Elusive City.” As we watch, the city fades until there is no trace of it under the night sky.

“Evijan.” My thoughts are of the missing Stone. “Only one of the Opinouwi can open the City. Whoever took the Stone had help to enter. From one of us.”

“Runolf will discover those responsible,” Evijan replies. “And punish them, while we shall recover it and return it to the Citadel.”

“If they knew who was to track them…they would not have been so foolish,” Zak sounds younger than he looks. His pale blonde hair hangs loose about his shoulders, and his eyes, so like our mother’s, have not been marked with misfortune or sin.

# # #

Silent, I urge Wraith on. It feels good to be out of the city. With the moon out, I no longer need to rely on Wraith to pick a path, and I push him hard. His body relaxes as he hits his stride.

Hold on Deveron, he tells me. We ride hard for many miles and reach the forest before light. I call a halt when we pass the first trees.

Evijan slides to the ground immediately and begins to search. He is an accomplished seeker; I know without him we would waste valuable time. He waves to Zak to join him, and quietly begins to speak as he points to traces only he can see.

“Here,” he says to Zak kneeling beside him.

“I see nothing, old man,” Zak teases.

“Look,” Evijan runs his hand over the ground. “The dust flows back toward the clearing, something has passed over in haste.” He turns to lay his ear upon the earth, and holds up a finger to silence Zak. “There are five of them. No six, two are riding the same beast.” He looks up at me. “They ride toward the Devil’s Den.”

“Then we must prepare.”

I do not like this Deveron. The Devil’s Den can drive men to madness. Some of your men…I do not know if they can make it through.

 I know Wraith.

“Are the stories true?” Zak looks from Evijan to me.

“No brother, they do not begin to tell of the malevolence that lives there.”

“I thought they were just tales, told to scare children,” he swings back on to his mount. “What must we do then, to prepare? Deveron?”

“We shall need to hunt while we are in the forest.” I look about. “If we do not touch the food stores, perhaps we shall have enough to get us through.”

We must find the Phoenix King Deveron.

I look up at Wraith’s words. It will mean a detour that will delay us, but I know he is right. Hidden deep in the forest there rises a solitary peak.

“But first, we must make our way to Fire-Bird Mountain. Come.”

Find us a way there Wraith. The quickest way please.

###

Word Count: 8596…which means I need to catch up.

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12.01 am

It is impossible to sleep. I have worked myself right in to this whole NaNoWriMo thing. So what the heck…I am starting right now. Well as soon as I post this I am. Not even going to look online until I have done as much as I need to. I need to get a little ahead as I am off to a wedding this weekend in Auckland. I am leaving Saturday morning and will be away until later Sunday…so I won’t get any writing done Saturday.

Just to keep you entertained…here is Scene 1 from Chapter 1. Remember this is only a first draft guys so it needs…well it needs work.

Chapter 1

 

Where there is great love, there exists great tragedy. It is the tragedy that opens the enormous capacity inside of men for devotion to another that is greater than their instinct for self preservation.

 

 

Darkness shrouds the city. The light from the Citadel window falls on the bleached skulls that pave the square below and refracts back illuminating the men and their mounts as they wait. Beside me my brother reins in his mount, both impatient to be off.

He is my mirror image, except for the eyes. Zak’s eyes are a soft clear blue, like the inside curve of a wave, our mother’s eyes. His face no longer sprouting the first soft downy hairs of youth but bristled and more defined as he enters his manhood. His eyes are bright, and his smile full and easily given. The sight of him mounted and ready to leave brings a pain to my chest.

“I’ll keep you safe brother,” I swear quietly. I shall bring you home untarnished, if I must die in doing so, I silently add. Beside him is Evijan. Our mothers had birthed us on the same day; we had played together as children. We had passed through our manhood rites together, hunted together, lain with our first woman on the same night, fought our first battle by each other’s side. After he breathed in, I would breathe out. As he ran his gaze over Zak, he nodded slightly and I knew my brother would be protected should I fall.

A young groom appears and hands me Wraith’s halter. He is out of breath and dishevelled.

“I see he has been up to his usual trickery.” Wraith’s stark white coat is broken up with slashes of black and silver, running from his backbone vertically down his legs, as well as spiralling together in his great horn. “Do not worry lad, he has bested many besides you.”  The unicorn had been a gift from my father. I had wondered many times if there was a meaning behind the gift. Wraith is the most complex of the creatures, but I trust him as I do my own limbs.

“Wraith,” I ask him, “will you carry me on this journey?” His black eyes study mine before he lowers his head. Springing on his back I feel his muscles undulate as they fit to my body. Another six men form two rows behind us, the last of them leading our pack animals.

“Why is it I am always gifted with a view of your behind?’ Jareth asks, older than I by two cycles he is the most experienced hunter amongst the party. His keen eyesight and sense of smell had often kept my belly full, and his good humour is quick to raise the dourest of spirits.

“So I do not have your incessant babble constantly in my ears.”

“Oh my friend, you wound me,” I can feel his smile.

Go,” I whisper to Wraith in my head, and he begins to fly over the ground. I let him lead, winding his way through the dark city. We make no sound and his hooves leave no imprint in the earth beneath them. Passing through the city gates I see the moon begin to rise.

# # #

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The short story that morphed in to a novel.

Tomorrow NaNoWriMo begins. As does my task of taking Deveron on his journey to retrieve the Draco Stone and return it to the Opinouwi. For now I would like to share with you the short story that started it all.

Actually it is not soooooooo short…2,967 words to be exact.

I hope you will get settled with a coffee, or a cup of tea, curl your feet under you, let the cat out, turn off the phone and read.

I really would love to hear your thoughts on this. Of all that I have done so far…this story is a defining moment for me. For it set me on a previously unimagined path. The one of trying to become a published author. If you hate it…don’t worry. It was written long ago…and I know it needs improving in many areas. I thought though that I should put it up as it was. Also, I am Australian born. We have thick skins. I have also lived in New Zealand for nearly 20 years. Kiwis don’t say much…they are very…hmmmm…stoic. It’s rubbing off on me. So feel free to let me have it either way. Just don’t stay silent. I NEED your thoughts to improve as a writer.

The Draco Stone…by Jo Bryant

Behind their green-eyed leader the troop rode in formation, rows two wide, as they entered the Elusive City. Streamers of flowers waved them along the path, floating down to lay entangled in their hair, as they made their way to the Citadel. Underneath the hooves of the unicorns the road crunched as they landed on the bones of their ancient enemy, the Sadistiens. Though worn and compacted, the outlines of their bleached skulls from a century of warfare were still visible.

Leading the march was Deveron. His hair brushed his shoulders as he rode, the streamers so thick they hung about him like a rainbow cape. Sitting tall and straight, his eyes focussed ahead, ignoring the wall of sound that surrounded them. As he passed, he noticed how the children were all pointing in his direction. This did not surprise him, he knew for many it was their first sighting of a unicorn. Wraith was enjoying the attention. The sound of Wraith’s voice inside his head startled Deveron out of his own thoughts.

‘They scream your name Deveron.’

‘Only because they do not realise…’

‘It does you no good to blame yourself.’

‘I know that your intention is good Wraith.’

‘You would rather I kept my thoughts to myself.’

‘I do not need you in my head. I must…’

‘Prepare.’

At that, the unicorn closed the connection between their minds.

Wraith’s stark white coat was broken up with great slashes of black and silver, running from his backbone vertically down to his feet. His markings were unique. He had been a gift from his father. Deveron wondered if there was a meaning behind the gift, Wraith was often the most complex of the creatures, but he trusted him as he did his own limbs.

As they approached the Citadel, he urged him into a gallop and left the deafening mass behind. Waiting on the stairs outside stood a group of Officials. Deveron grabbed a bag from his saddle, before kneeling on the stairs bowing his head. A young groom stepped forward to take Wraith’s halter.

Wraith’s ebony eyes looked over the groom with amusement.

Do not bedevil the lad Wraith,’ Deveron warned, glaring at him. The groom’s hand trembled as he took Wraith’s halter from Deveron.

“Be careful lad,” he advised. “He is likely to draw on trickery to get his way. Make sure he is settled and bedded before leaving. I should hate to have to scold you on my first day home.” The groom’s eyes widened and he quivered, Deveron smiled at him. “It’s all right lad. I’m much too weary to be stern today.” He stood up and turned his attention back to the Officials before him.

“Deveron,” the tallest one spoke holding out his hand. “It is wonderful to see you, but you look weighted, my son.”

“Thank you, Father. It is a great honour that you would welcome me publicly. I had not expected it,” he looked away from his father’s face as it searched his. Pain flitted briefly across Runolf’s eyes.

“Come,” Runolf’s voice wavered as he turned and led the way into the Citadel. “We have much to discuss.” Inside the entrance, under massive carved crevasses running vertically from floor to ceiling, stood large stone vases. Deveron and his father stared into the dim recesses, before looking to each other.

“We’ll leave you Runolf,” said one of the Officials. Bowing slightly to both men, they mounted a large stairwell. Deveron and his father waited until they were no longer visible before turning into an open doorway.

“Wait,” his father urged, closing the door. “For old men, some still have unaccountably good hearing.”

The room they entered had a window from floor to ceiling, as wide as four men – their arms stretched wide between them. The walls were white and grey marble, long slender rectangles bordered by light green. In between each panel, slits – the width of a man’s hand – ran vertically. Steam rose continuously in the panels, warming the room and refreshing the air.

“Come, sit with me,” his father sat on a divan near the large window. He waved for Deveron to sit opposite. Reaching out he took a decanter from the table between them. “A toast,” he said pouring the dark red liquid into two glasses. “To your return…and to those who did not.”  Deveron placed the saddle bag on the ground. Taking a glass he downed the liquid, sat, laid his head back, and closed his eyes. His father watched, and remained silent.

“You would like me to speak of it?” Deveron asked.

“I, yes,” Runolf paused. “I need you to speak of it.”

Keeping his eyes closed Deveron ran a hand through his thick russet hair. His chest rose as he sighed deeply.

“Then there is much to tell.” Opening his eyes he sat up. For many breaths he was silent, looking past his father, through the glass to the city spread out before him. The only sound came from the steam bubbling up through the crevasses. His father waited, and watched his son’s green eyes flicker with emotions. Deveron held out his glass and Runolf filled it. Emptying it in one movement, he set it aside and looked directly at his father.

“We journeyed for weeks after we left, with no sign of them. It seemed as if they were just an imagined thing, a delusion in the Elder’s minds. We crossed the Symian Desert and saw no tracks before us, not one grain of sand turned over and pressed down under their feet, though there was a flavour to the air that spoke of their passing.” He paused to pour more liquid into his glass then raised it to his lips. Runolf remained motionless, waiting for Deveron to resume his tale.

“We were at the Abyss Lakes before we found evidence of their passage, a patch of compacted grass, a footprint by the shore, a branch fractured or bent, slivers of hair caught between thorns. Small things; so small I wondered if I was looking too hard. We pushed forward, stopping only when night forced us to.” He paused, his eyes closing again, as if he could no longer bear to look at Runolf.

“It was on the fourth night at the lakes that we knew. The men were tired, so we stopped early. We let the unicorns loose, and as we ate the night settled around us. It was during the second watch.” He paused, and dropped his head into his hands.

“Zak was drawn away from the camp. I can only guess that some disturbance made him curious, but that it seemed minor. He roused no-one. I found him as dawn broke. He lay on his back as if asleep.” Deveron lifted his head and stared at his father.

“His sword was sheathed, and I made to rouse him. My intention was to…when I saw a thin line of red on his neck. There was so little blood, I still believed, but he was no longer a part of this world.” Both men had tears forming as he continued.

“I could not bring myself to leave him. I held his head on my lap and told him to be valiant. I spoke to him; telling him that I would make sure his crossing would be easy. I prayed for his spirit, and spoke the words of the departed for him. I was almost finished when Jareth found us. The men were fortunate that Zak’s murderers had left the area – perhaps they thought him a lone seeker – for I had spoken not one word of warning.” Deveron bowed his head.

“Forgive me Father. I have dishonoured us, and cost the life of a beloved son. My arrogance, my belief that we were indomitable, is the reason Zak is gone.”

“You are not to blame,” Runolf held up a hand to stop his son from speaking. “I should not have allowed Zak to go. My pride…is at fault. I sought glory for both my sons, selfishly. I demanded our legacy to be one of courage and honour.” He stopped, swallowing hard. “Living should have been enough.” Nodding at his son, he signalled that Deveron should continue.

“Zak’s interment delayed us. I am sorry we could not bring him home, but I did all that I could to make his journey a swift one. I swear to you Father, that I performed the proper rites. After we lay Zak to rest we began to search in earnest. Evijan found traces of their camp some two hundred luerons from the lakes.”

“Many cycles passed but finally we knew that we were closing the distance. They no longer took as much care trying to obliterate traces of their whereabouts.”

Outside, the light began to fade. As darkness crept into the room Runolf held up his palm and stood. Deveron observed that his father seemed to have shrunk in the time he had been seated.

“I shall arrange for something to eat. I feel the need for a respite.” He walked over to a large desk and pressed a button. “We shall continue with your chronicle, after,” he said, looking away from his son. “Age,” he pursed his lips outward. “It demands you take more mind of what you do.”

Within minutes a young woman glided into the room, pushing a trolley laden with food and a full decanter. She bowed deeply before leaving. Deveron made no move towards it.

“Come, eat something. I had them prepare some things you like.”

“I have little appetite these days Father,” he replied. Runolf approached his son and sat on the small table.

“Son, I share your grief, but Zak was eager to go with you. We have…lost a part of us forever.” Leaning forward he placed his palms on each side of Deveron’s face. “And yet we go on. Do not waste what you still have by letting this overwhelm you. He would not want that for you.” Taking his son’s hand he pulled him upright.

They ate in silence. When finished, the first of the three moons had risen and the city was dotted with tiny orbs of light from the dwellings of the populace. A small circle of light cocooned around them in the otherwise dark room. Deveron leant forward and began the rest of his tale.

“Evijan was convinced that they had entered the Devil’s Den. We approached the opening from the right side of Malodorous Bay,” his frame shuddered slightly.

“I’ve never seen such a place of despair. Evil emanates from every surface. Even the unicorns were affected; in the end we dismounted to guide them. Not until we were through did we find any more signs. For twenty eight cycles we kept moving. None of us wanted to rest until we were out.

The Cross Mountains are the first thing you see when you leave that foul place. They are a balm to your soul after the Devil’s Den. Evijan found traces of them and although none of us had slept, we spurred the unicorns on. As we closed the distance we could feel them, the stench from their tainted bodies left a trail as clear as a signpost. Every trace of fatigue was gone.

Far off, a spiral of smoke drew our attention. We dismounted some five luerons from it and let the unicorns loose. I sent five men to circle around the right of them, and five to the left. Jareth and Evijan came with me, as we followed their tracks.

Each group got as close as we dared, and then we waited until the second moon was high. Their sentries were disposed of quietly, one by one. I counted fifteen asleep; they were spread out around the fire. We worked as silently as possible, slowly dispatching them by slicing their throats, as they had done to Zak.” Both Deveron and his father drew a deep breath at the mention of Zak. Runolf nodded for his son to continue.

“Their leader was easy to discern, and my group approached him while the others continued sending the rest of them to hell. Jareth tapped him with his sword. It was laughable, the surprise on his fetid features when he realised what we were about. Beside the fire lay a satchel. It seemed impossible to me, that they would be so cavalier with the stone. Yet the way the leader looked, I knew that it lay inside.

As I bent to retrieve it he went mad, foul sounds poured out of his mouth, and he rushed to stop me. Jareth and Evijan held him at the point of their swords, and he began screaming. Once I had the satchel, I opened it. The stone fell out into my hand. The beast knew that it was over. I nodded to Jareth, and he drove his sword through its neck.”

“May I see it now?” Runolf asked. Deveron lifted the bag and handed it over. Gently Runolf laid the bag on his lap and reached inside. As he withdrew his hand he smiled the first real smile in hours.

“It is more beautiful than I remember.” In his hands the stone threw off a modest luminous glow. Etched into it was the figure of a dragon with a woman’s upper body. The deep lines seemed to move so that the creature swayed and her long tresses wafted around her.

“I’ve never seen the stone out of its place. Intriguing isn’t it? I did not know there was a carving of Draco on it.”

“I too was surprised by it at first,” Deveron replied. “But it seems logical, that she would not leave us… completely. That the stone would bear something, to mark it forever, as her gift to us.”

“We must return her to the chapel. It is a great thing you have done my son. You and your men have bought home the heart that beats inside our people’s essence.” Runolf stood, reverently clasping the stone. “I should like for you to be there for this,” he said. He made to leave, stopped, and turned to walk back towards Deveron. “Hold out your hands,” he commanded. As the younger man did, he placed the stone in them.

“You have risked much and have paid a high price to bring this back. To you must go the honour of putting it in its place.”

“Father?” Deveron’s brow furrowed. “Will the Elders permit this?”

“They will do as I say,” Runolf replied. Walking before his son, they made their way into the great hall. They passed through a large door and began to ascend a marble spiral staircase. On each step, a warrior stood clad in blood red armour. As the men passed they beat a single fist to their chest. Reaching the top they were greeted by a party of ten Elders, their faces masked by purple hoods.

“Runolf.” the tallest of the Elders spoke. “Welcome.” When he saw Deveron behind him, he pulled off his hood and walked closer. “Why are you not alone? Deveron is not allowed here. You know that well.” The other Elders formed a guard stopping both men from advancing.

“Adsel,” Runolf raised his body to its full height, dwarfing the other man. ‘If not for my son, we would still be without the stone. Our civilisation would suffer, wither and die wretchedly, without its heart. I should not have to ask that he be granted the status he deserves.”

“Runolf,” the Elder shook his head with displeasure, raising his hands to quiet the others who were speaking among themselves.

“I have given a son for this Adsel. This gives me the right,” Runolf interrupted. Leaning closer he bent his head. Adsel appeared to be swallowed up by his body. The little man shrunk backwards. “If needed…I will bring this matter before the Senate.” Adsel looked up, and his brow creased.

“I do not think that will be necessary,” he replied, and turned to the other Elders. Each man nodded slightly before standing back. Adsel moved to the side. “Perhaps you have a point,” he ceded. Runolf and Deveron bowed their heads at the Elders before moving on.

They made their way through two large archways and continued along the hall. They came to another stairwell, which ended in a darkened room. They crossed the room to an altar that reached three times their height. Level with their heads was a deep hole. Runolf stepped aside and waved his son on.

Deveron raised his arms and placed the stone in the hole, then stepped back. A light began to pulse out from it and the air around vibrated. They could hear a humming sound. A brilliant flash burst out from the stone, and beams of light raced through the air touching markings on each wall. The markings glowed, then bounced into the air and floated free. New markings appeared to replace them; they too quickly rebounded about the room. This process became a continuous occurrence.

“It is good to have our history returned to us,” Runolf spoke softly. “Without it, so much would be lost.” He pointed to a series of markings glowing more vibrantly than the rest.

“Already the chronicle of your deed has been added.” A face with eyes exactly like Deveron’s could be seen in the air near the symbols depicting the Stone’s return. “He shall never be forgotten,” Runolf drew his son toward him. “Into one, shall all men journey,” he said.

“And all journeys shall become one,” Deveron replied. They looked at each other for a time, and before leaving the chapel they stared around, their faces glowing under the light show. Runolf placed his arm around his son’s shoulder and squeezed.

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Buckshot rides again…with the Winchester boys !!!!!!

Now Friday the 3rd of August is officially Frontierado Day.

What’s that you ask ???

 Ed explains it here.

There are recipes and Frontierado Poker and Silverado.

Due to some glitches with the computer I have been lax this year in promoting what has to be one of the best thought out holidays there ever was.

And due to Ed…it just got better.

Sam: “Hey Dean, are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
Dean “Wow they weren’t kidding…Buckshot is amazing.”

Because Buckshot has been spending time with TBs. Oh yes she did !!!

Dean “How do you think she does THAT?”
Sam “Who cares as long as we can watch.”

Ain’t time travel wonderful ????

For those of you wondering who Buckshot Bryant is...head here to catch up.

And if you perchance want your own WILD WEST SAGA after reading mine then ask Ed nicely. He has done a few for us bloggers out there, as well as a few other folk.

It’s a tale like no other. Rustling, train robbing, and having her own harem of boys (The Poker Studs) is all in a day’s work for Buckshot.

Some of Buckshot’s Poker Studs were…

Dancin’ Pat Swayze

***

Lariat Leo DiCaprio

***

Colin ‘Wild Irish’ Farrell.

Considered such a badass that Cochise named her “Shoots Deadly Woman”.

Cochise

Even when she settles down with the love of her life Buckshot remains a force to be reckoned with.

Kevin ‘Colorado’ Costner…Buckshot’s one true love.

But…yes there is always a but…Buckshot and Colorado Costner came to a bloody end…as all good swashbuckling love stories should.

It seems that there is more though.

Here is a snippet from the previously unknown saga of Buckshot and her time with Sam and Dean Winchester as they…well if you want to know more you’ll just have to head on over to Ed’s.

Courtesy of a package mailed to me by the late George MacDonald Fraser several years ago, but which wasn’t delivered until a few days ago (you know the mail service) I am in possession of a long-forgotten 1800′s newspaper account of a heretofore unknown adventure of Joanne “Buckshot” Bryant, the woman who keeps the spirit of Frontierado alive all year ’round!

(Clipping from the Dallas Morning News. The headline was like confetti in my hands, but I could see the date was April 19th. The year, unfortunately, could not be made out)

(indecipherable) maintains it was Buckshot Bryant herself, the Queen of the Rustlers, sitting at a table and drinking fine Kentucky bourbon. The two young men who burst into the saloon, supposedly named Sam and Dean, carried Winchester rifles and were dressed in garb the like of which none of the cowpokes or farmers in town had ever seen before.

Now read more…

Find out just how far Buckshot went with The Boys to get what she wanted…and visa versa.

Find out whether The Boys made it out in one piece !!!!!!!!!!

And because she is born on the same day I was (exactly), and is a cowboy slapping, high stepping wench…

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Create A World Writing Contest.

Click on this photo to be redirected to the voting page.

Sorry guys…I’m back chasing People’s Choice votes again.

This time I entered a story over at The Dark Globe.

It is an edited version of an earlier story I posted in my fiction pages.

Less wordy and I hope better than the original: The Dragonflies Loop.

I am interested to hear your opinion !!!

You can vote for up to three stories.

Just make sure one of them is Submission #35 !!!!!!

You do need to have a website in order to vote.

And here is my entry.

***

Dragonfly Pond

(C) Jo Bryant

Ariki hovers over the mirrored water, obscured behind a battered Matai branch felled in a furious summer storm. Silver ferns, heavily curved with raindrops, dangle their leaves breaking the water’s surface. They vie with each other for space along its edges. Spider webs shimmer in the mottled sunlight. Spreading his wings wide; he circles over the damp domain silently disturbing the surrounding air. Searching the area for male interlopers, he checks for mosquitoes as well.

Smiling at the vista below he rises higher, wanting the certainty he has enough distance. With the sun losing height in the sky he knows that soon he will be able to hunt; for now, he has time to have some fun. Satisfied with his starting position he descends, rapidly building his speed till he reaches fifty kilometres per hour. Positioning his wings he begins to loop-the-loop. Three times he performs the manoeuvre, each loop tighter than the one before. As he manoeuvres out of the third loop his mouth curls with pleasure. Ariki positions his wings for a synchronised movement, them plummets, doubling his speed before he reaches the mirrored face of the pond.

Before he hits the water he pulls out of the dive and soars horizontally. His 360 aids his visual sweeping of the area. A familiar form, partially hidden in the sword-like leaves of a harakeke plant looks unswervingly toward him with large slate eyes. Marama’s gaze sends a tremor undulating through his body. Relax, take a deep breath, he tells himself. Nonchalance okay. His antennae however, ripple slightly with excitement.

“Hello,” he says manoeuvring to land in front of her.

“Hello,” she replies. Her voice tinkles like water descending over smooth river stones he thinks. Mesmerised by its sound he stays silent.

“Ariki?” Marama smiles joyfully and his legs feel like tadpole blubber. Lowering her antennae she mischievously swats him on the head. “Anybody in there?”

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I was a little distracted.”  He watches her smile widen. Nice comeback dunce head, he thinks.

“Distracted Ariki?” she teases. “What has you…so distracted?”

“I was, umm, wondering.”

“Anything I could help you with?” Marama is enjoying his discomfort. She can’t resist stretching out her wings so that they glisten red-gold from the setting sun. Changing the subject she remarks on his flight. “That was an especially fine loop-the-loop you just did.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you think you could coach me a little? I’m afraid I’m not getting it right. My loops are rather sloppy.”

“I’d love to help,” he’s unable to take his eyes away from her wings as they flash in the light. “You’re not as bad as you think. You have a lovely exit, I mean…” Ariki realises he’s admitting he’s been watching her. “You’re probably not getting up enough speed before you start.”

“Do you think that we could start now?” she asks, graciously ignoring his admission.

“Now? Sure.”

Marama stretches her wings, giving them a shake.

“C’mon then. I’ll race you to the other side,” she calls out. Her laughter rolls back on the breeze as Ariki realises she’s managed a head start.

“Cheat,” he shouts, flexing his wings he flies after her. She really is glorious he thinks as he watches her soar effortlessly. Reaching the other side Marama hovers above the flax lining the bank.

“Ha, I beat you.” Her smile softens the words. “But now I’ll let you show off a little while you teach me.”

“Sounds fair,” he replies. “Watch what I do. Then we’ll try it together.” Ariki ascends, signalling for her to follow; he stays close so she can see his movements. Building speed they race skyward. “Here goes,” he yells as he turns and drops. Trailing closely Marama is overwhelmed by the splendour of his movements. God, he’s stunning, she thinks as he goes into another loop. Finishing, he turns and waits for her to join him.

“Oh Ariki, that was more beautiful than before. I could hover here and watch you do that forever.”

“It’s nothing really,” he stammers. “We’ll have you doing it better than me in no time.” Secretly he is pleased. “Want to try? I’ll watch and then we’ll know what you need to work on. I think if you can go faster, before you start, you’ll be much better.”

Together they rise and fall perfectly synchronised. Beams of brilliant gold sunlight add drama to their dance.

“Marama,” Ariki pulls back and hisses at her. “Wasps. By the tree. Fly. Now!” He pushes her with his body. “Go,” he whispers, searching for somewhere to hide in the leaves of a manuka tree. “Higher, we need to get higher.” Keeping an eye on the activity below, they watch as the wasps search in vain between the red flax flowers.

“Ariki, what are they doing? Can you still see them?” Marama slows until he is beside her.

“Keep going,” he turns to look behind. “I can’t see them, but it doesn’t mean they’re not around.” He uses all his thirty thousand lenses to try and track any trace of the wasps’ path. “Keep going.” He hovers while urging Marama on. “Go higher. I don’t want them to see us if they are still around.” With a turn of her wings she soars away. Remaining behind he scans the area below. Satisfied that the wasps have not followed, he follows her path into the security of the manuka branches.

“I don’t think they saw us,” he says drawing level. Surveying the sinking sun he adds, “Don’t worry, they will be heading home soon.”

“Damn filthy bugs,” she shudders. “I hate them.”

“At least we are faster,” Ariki moves closer to her, “and smarter. Some of us are prettier as well,” he said waggling his antennae at her. Marama’s laugh jingles softly as she nods her head in answer to an unspoken question. Encouraged, he strokes her body with his wing.

Together they wait for the sun to set before leaving the security of the manuka. Adjusting his wings Ariki flies in reverse until he is behind her and waits for her reaction. When she slows her flight, he moves to join himself to her. Hovering, their bodies twisting, they form a perfect circle. He grasps the top of Marama’s head as she reaches around with her abdomen to allow him access to her.

“Is this what you were wondering about,” she quietly murmurs. Ariki’s body responds immediately and together they spin around; a shimmering ferris-wheel freewheeling through the softening dusk air, their wings flickering in the reflected light off the water. They slowly rotate until they are within millimetres of the pond’s surface, still joined to him Marama searches for a suitable place to lay her eggs. She seeks out an area by the side of the pond where vegetation is thick. Together they hover just above the surface as Marama expels her now fertilised eggs into a space between the plant’s green foliage.

“I think they will be safer here,” she whispers. Ariki nods in agreement. Once Marama has laid all of her eggs, he slowly withdraws and glides up beside her.

Without looking back they both speed off, leaving the pond’s next generation waiting to hatch.

***

For more info on the NZ dragonfly click on this photo.

Just a BTW – Harry from dribblingpensioner has a story in it as well: Submission #4

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If you want to vote for Chronicles of Illusions just click on the pretty button above and follow directions.

Thank you for all your support.

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A Taste of Honey – Part III

Her name was Honey Murray. You were named after her.” Daddy hands me the photo. “She was different. As she grew up, she felt it more and more. While other girls fantasized about Elvis, or the boy down the road, she found herself having thoughts, about…other girls. Puberty was a horrible time. She hated watching her breasts grow; she used to tie a strap around them, trying to hide them. It was a different time. Homosexuality was a crime. At sixteen she ran away to the city.

She got a job, and after a couple of years she met your mother. They worked in the same hotel. Your mother was on reception, while Honey worked in the bar. They became friends and decided to get a flat together. Finally, one day, Honey confided in your Mother. She was astounded at your Mother’s reaction. She said she’d already figured it out.”

As he speaks I look at the photo in my hands. I wish I’d known the woman Mother was then.

Are you sure we’re talking about the same woman?”

I imagine it’s hard to believe, but your Mother wasn’t always so…your Mother.”

How do you know all this?”

Because…” But I already know what he’s going to say. Staring out at me from the photo are those beautiful greenstone eyes. The hair’s longer, and the features softer, but I realise why I’d always thought I was missing something that was right there. “Honey was me.”

You’re a woman?” Could this get any weirder?

On paper. Yes.”

This is not…what I expected…coming here. A woman? Really? And Mother, Mother was a…my Mother. Really?” I was beginning to feel like the ice cube again.

Honey, are you okay?” He sounds worried.

No. No, I don’t think I am. But I think – before I run screaming from this house – you better…tell me the rest.”

I was in love with your mother, and unbelievably, she felt the same. We had to be careful, being against the law, and socially, well…we kept it secret. It was harder for her, she was raised Catholic. In the beginning, I think that was part of the attraction. As it went on, she started having doubts, damn Catholic guilt. Then she wanted a baby.”

Oh, right, your brother.”

Yes.”

The rest of your family, do they know?’

I don’t know, maybe. They disowned me when I told them what I was feeling.”

But you look like…”

A man? I am in all the ways that count. I just wasn’t born that way.”

How?”

Hormones.”

Hormones? Really? Even then?”

Loving me went against everything your mother knew. She tried, but when she started having doubts, that’s when I decided to get treatment. There was a trial. A doctor in Switzerland. I applied, got accepted. I thought if I looked like a man, we could make it work. Honestly, I wanted it too. I’d never had a typical girlie figure, but when things started changing, for the first time…I felt right. That’s the only way to explain it.

Once I looked the part, we moved. Started again, where no-one knew us. It wasn’t enough though. I loved your mother, but she was dying of guilt because of what we were. And I started dying as well.”

Hormones. Did all this?” Wow. “You still take them?”

Hormones did a lot, and yes. But there are other things you can do.”

“Other things?” He looks like he is about to answer so I shake my head. I’m not ready for that conversation just yet. “If you stop, taking the hormones I mean…you’ll look more like a woman?” This was the weirdest conversation. God, I’d really like a look at his life thread about now.

Some of the changes are permanent, some not so.”

This is a lot to take in.” I am the master of understatement. “Wow. It’s a lot. A real lot.” Babbling understatement.

I understand. My question is, do you want to?” He…she…no…he, was looking at me with those beautiful greenstone eyes. My Daddy’s eyes, and I automatically stroke my necklace.

You still have that?” He sounds surprised. I reach out to caress his face.

Every night, I hung it on the bed-head. It made me feel like you were watching me.” And there, before me, are the eyes that had loved me. I realise that those eyes, like his heart, are my father’s. That they had once belonged to a woman – I’ll need to work on that – but this is my parent. He hadn’t left me. “I’m going to need…a little time.” I still have questions, so many questions.

You’re okay with this?” he asks.

I don’t know if okay, is the right word for it. But, hey…it’s the seventies; besides, I don’t want to lose you a second time.”

Do you want to stay? I’ve got room. I’ll make us dinner, we can talk. All night if you want.”

Dinner sounds good, but I’ve got a motel.”

Honey, you don’t…”

No, I think I do. I want some time to sort through all this. You. Mother. Everything’s spinning. Everything is not what it was.” Please, please understand.

Okay. I get that.” His fingers trace the line of my jaw. “You get that from my side of the family,” Daddy smiles. “And that’s definitely our nose.”

Maybe you shouldn’t push that so much. I don’t much like my nose.” He pulls me up. “C’mon, you can watch me cook. I make a mean lasagne.”

I remember.”

I was hoping you would,” he says. “I always hoped.”

So did I Dad.”

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A Taste of Honey – Part I

A Taste of Honey – Part II

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I am experimenting with Split Toning in Gimp…some successes…some duds. The photo above was a picture I liked, felt had potential…but it wasn’t special…so here is the original.

Love to know what you think !!!

Brightie’s Unaccountable Allhallows Evening.

 

“C’mon Brightie, we’ll be late,” Arthur pleaded with his wife as she slowly traced the outline of her lips with lipstick. “You don’t need all that muck on, you’re always the prettiest girl in the room.” If they didn’t get a move on, they’d still be here at Xmas Arthur thought worriedly.

“And you are the most charming man,” Brightie replied. “But it won’t hurry me along anymore now than it did fifty-four years ago. I suggest you just go and wait quietly if you want me done any quicker.” Brightie’s smile softened the rebuke. Arthur left muttering under his breath about the unaccountable amount of time it took her to look precisely as she did without makeup. Before he had time to sit down, Brightie bounced into the room. “Okay lovey, shall we go then?”

“All the best tables will be gone by now,” Arthur grumbled. Brightie laughed and shook her head at her husband, while Arthur held open the door to their small apartment. He stepped back to allow her room to pass, waving her through with a gallant gesture. “Mother was right you know. She said you’d be trouble.” Smiling to herself Brightie wiggled her bottom suggestively at Arthur.” As they headed off down the stairs Arthur reached out and took hold of Brightie’s hand.

“I rather thought that was the attraction, besides my horoscope said I should take care with my appearance today,” Brightie said as she squeezed his hand. “After all, it is Allhallows. Reaching the floor below, they made their way to a large hall. Inside the hall tables were filling up fast. Under a large bay window a man stood searching the crowd. Spotting Arthur and Brightie he began waving at them. “All that fuss you made. Silly man, you should have known old Bob would hang on to a place for us Arthur.”

Making their way to the table Brightie was dragged along at a decent pace. “Arthur, for goodness sake. If you keep pulling me like this I’ll break something. I’m not as fleet on my feet as I used to be.”

“That’s not the only thing failing you these days,” Arthur remarked.

“If you are talking about my problem, well it’s not my fault,” Brightie answered. “I can’t help it if I am unable to be continent anymore.”

“If you did those bloody exercises…” Arthur began.

Cutting him off Brightie’s voice lowered. “I blame it all on those fella’s,” she said.

“Give it a rest Brightie. Genetic engineering has nothing to do with it.” Arthur had heard this argument from his wife at least once every day for the past five years. He knew that if he wasn’t quick she would start blaming electromagnetic radiation as well for her troubles. He really had to stop letting her read all those articles. Luckily they were almost at the table, she’d shut up about it in front of Adele and Bob.

“I wondered if you were coming,” Bob rose from his seat and pulled out a chair for Brightie. Arthur walked Brightie away from the chair Bob offered and seated himself between her and Bob. He was wary of Bob, his being known as a dyed-in-the-wool womaniser.

Brightie and Arthur had first met Bob and Adele at the local Jai Alai tournament. Arthur had offered to help Bob in marking the wall for the players. The basis of the game seemed to Arthur to be similar to what he knew as squash. Arthur was however, not one to obtrude, and kept his thoughts to himself. Very unlike Bob, who professed himself to be extremely knowledgeable about the game, its rules and its origins.

Once settled at the table, Brightie began to look around. “Oh Arthur, look outside. The pier is covered in lights. Doesn’t it remind you of the vacation we took by the sea.”

“Yes it does,” Arthur agreed. “You were still a Wren at the time.”

“What was that?” Adele asked. “I never knew you were in the service Brightie. You are a dark horse at times.”

“Yes, I guess I forget sometimes,” Brightie remembered how she and Arthur had danced to the music. The band had played long into the night. She’d found herself completely taken over by the feel of Arthur’s arms around her. “Do you remember the drummer?” she asked Arthur.

“Right,” Arthur smiled at Brightie. “Tall fellow from Africa. Zulu wasn’t he? On some sort of quest to be a famous musician.”

“Yes, you were jealous, thought I had an eye for him.” Brightie was enjoying the discussion.

“Okay, that’s all very interesting but don’t you think it’s time we got on with the game?” Bob was ready to turn the discussion away from the past. Next thing you know they’d be hauling out their old yearbook and this discussion would go on forever. Perhaps he should have taken an extra dose of laudanum to get him through this evening.

“Sorry, old man,” Arthur surveyed the table. He reached out and began picking up the upside down pieces. “I’m starting, if I remember right.” The others in turn reached out and picked up their pieces.

“Brightie, I think you have one too many there,” Bob tried to peer over at the number of pieces Brightie had on her plank.

“I don’t think so,” she replied. “Besides who made you inspector? No. I’m perfectly fine thanks,” she added giving Bob one of her brightest smiles.

“I’ve never said I was anything like that,” Bob seemed a little offended, and quickly renounced any inclination to be anything other than a player. Adele looked slightly amused as she watched Brightie put her Bob in his place. She enjoyed these moments as they happened infrequently.

“I believe I’m going to make a good start,” Arthur began laying down his letters. “T,I,D,D,L,Y, not a bad start.”

“Very good Arthur, now If only I had one more letter I could make tiddlywinks. What a score…”

“Brightie darling, you are not supposed to give away what you have,” Arthur admonished.

“Now Arthur, don’t have an attack.” Under the table Brightie reached across and ran her hand up Arthur’s leg. Tickling his inner thigh, she watched as he squirmed. “The game has only just begun. Right, my turn. R,O,U,B,L,E. What do you know, I’ve got trouble.” Bob and Adele looked on bemused as Arthur laughed so hard his chair fell over.

A Taste of Honey – Part 2

Seven years later, I still don’t understand.

“I’m sorry,” Father Gormbles says. Funny, nothing has changed. I’m an adult now, yet he still looks through me with his vacant milky eyes. “We really must start. I have a christening coming.”

“Right, um…yeah.” I wonder where everyone else is. “Okay.” Jane, her parents, Mrs Morriss, Mother’s boss, and some ladies from the CWA are the only people who came. We fit on the front pews of the church.

Listening to the priest, I want to laugh. He’s talking about Mother like he knew her. Nineteen years…I can’t remember a moment when she let me see behind the person she painted on every morning. Where was she born? Where’d she grow up? Where’d she fall in love? Questions I have no answers to.

“You okay?” Jane whispers. What he’s saying? I’m getting a headache. Concentrate.

Father Gormbles finishes, there aren’t enough strong men to carry her to the hearse, so Mother rolls passed on a trolley; one of the wheels squeaks and wobbles from side to side with each turn. I hope the CWA ladies don’t spread that story about. Oh…wow…I sound like her.

Organising her things takes no time: clothes – Salvation Army, food – Church, the rest – second-hand dealer. All that’s left are some boxes from the attic, her car, jewellery. Mr and Mrs Mitchell make up a room for me, with Jane home as well it feels good, which makes me feel guilty.

“I’m sorry we didn’t know your mother better dear,” Mrs Mitchell is making my favourite dinner, lasagna. I’ve missed this kitchen, bright blue everywhere, the table covered in crisp white linen, her good service and cutlery laid out.

“No sense keeping it for special occasions,” she always says. “Everyday should be special.” I thought of Mother’s – only used for birthdays, Christmases, Father Gormbles visits – now on a shelf at the second hand shop. On her way in from the funeral I saw her caress Buddha with her hand. She feels guilty ’cause she thinks Mother was a nutter.

“When are you planning to go back to uni?” Jane’s asking because she needs to get back, but doesn’t want to leave ’til I do. There’s guilt everywhere.

“I’ll close up the house tomorrow. No sense hanging on to it. I won’t be back, not to live anyway.”

“I agree,” Mrs Mitchell comes and sits down. “Time to start a new life. That’s what I tell Jane. Go find your place in the world. There’s a lot of it to explore. Before I had Jane I was quite the traveller. When Mr Mitchell retires, well…who knows where we’ll go then.”

“All right Mum. C’mon,” Jane’s out the door before I’m out of the chair.  “Let’s go for a walk before dinner,” The outside world is covered in a pink blanket as the sun sets, like a cotton candy village. I steer her toward Mother’s house. She gives me that ‘what are you up to’ look as I open the door.

“I found this…in the letterbox yesterday,” I give her the letter I’d left on the bench. “Read it.”

“Good Lord,” she says when she reaches the end. “You waited ’til now to show me.”

“Hmm.”

“Are you all right?”

“Don’t know really. It still doesn’t explain…everything.”

“What’re you going to do?”

“Go.” What else can I do?

“Well. Yeah. Go…I guess.”

Driving out of town, sitting in Mother’s Torana makes me feel like a learner all over again. By the time I’m on the highway, she feels more…mine. I’ve got two hundred kilometres to travel, though the speedo is in miles, damn confusing sometimes, so I put a cassette on. The sun, wind, speed, Joe Cocker, work their magic and I notice in the rear-view mirror I’m smiling. My first smile since I’d come back.

The directions lead me straight to the house. I drive past and park down the street. I stick my hands in my pockets so I don’t have to see them shaking, I feel…queasy. For Goodness sake, calm down. Where are the cigarettes? It’s a pretty house, fresh, cared for. I’m like a stalker. Ha, that’s a laugh. It’s an hour before my stomach settles.  Right then. You can do this. A spray of Opium, breath mint. Hair – okay. Apply a fresh coat of Lover’s Fire to the lips.

Half way up the drive, the door opens.

“Hello poppet,” he says softly.

“Daddy?”

“Sure is.” At the sound of his beloved voice, fourteen years disappear, and I run into his arms. “I’ve missed you,” he whispers, rubbing his face in my hair. I breathe deeply, trying to suck his smell inside me. When he draws back, I do my best five-year-old octopus impression and cling harder. “Honey, I’m not going anywhere, but if you want to come inside, you’re going to have to let go a little.”

“In a minute, okay?”  Well it was more than a minute, but I had a lot of time to make up for.

The first things I notice inside are the photos. On every surface are images of my first five years.

“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” he says.

“I thought about it. The letter, well…it was a shock, yet it answered so many questions. But not enough, and I need…well, to understand. I missed you,” I accuse him. “Every day I missed you.”

“I know.”

“Why? Why now?”

“Like I said in the letter, I only found out where you were when your mother died. She left a letter to be forwarded to me.”

“But you left. I’ve seen your letter. You didn’t just leave her, you left me,” anger and grief rolls around in my throat. “You left for someone else. She told me.”

“It’s not that simple. Honey, when I left, I planned to come see you, but your mother disappeared, changed her name.”

“God, I have so many questions.”

“I thought you might,” he said.

“Why aren’t you on my birth certificate? What did you mean about not being married, and why didn’t you have any legal right to find out where I was? I don’t understand.”

“Come. Sit,” he gently pulls me down on the sofa. “There’s so much I have to tell you.” I watch his thumb rub over my hand. “I’m not on your birth certificate,” he’s staring at me with those familiar eyes, “because I’m not your biological father.”

“Pardon?” What the hell is he talking about? “Sorry…you’re not…” His mouth is moving again, but I feel like I’m in an ice cube. I’m trying to focus him, when I notice the picture on the table behind. It’s the same one I’d seen in Mother’s album, only larger, and in colour. Mother is holding me, behind her is her friend. Odd.

“Honey? Are you okay?” I hear his voice, it sounds like I’m under water. I look at Daddy. Look into those eyes, only there are two perfectly matched sets of them.

“Umm, sorry. You’re not my father? This is a lot…who…?”

“Biologically – you’re my niece – my brother’s child, but you have always been my daughter to me.”

“Umm, right. Niece? Your brother and Mother…” I need a toilet. “Bathroom?”

“Last door,” is all I hear as I run down the hall. After, I lay my forehead against the cold curve. My stomach rolls, trying to convince me there is more to come up, but I’m empty. Hollow. A brittle shell.

“Can I come in?” The shell has no voice. Daddy, I can’t think of anything else to call him, comes in. He sits on the tub across the room. “I’m sorry.” I sit up against the wall, hugging my knees.

“You’re sorry? For what? For leaving? That you’re not my father? That you all lied?”

“Everything.” He moves toward me, but I hold up my hand. He looks like I feel.

“You’re…my uncle?” Wow. He looks, well, uncomfortable. “Did they…” stabbing imagery, “do it I mean?”

“God no. We used a poultry baste.” Bad, bad image. Gross.

“Honey, come back to the living room?” I’m not sure I want to, but when he holds out his hand, I take it. Back on the sofa I’m drawn to the photo again.

“Why do you have that?” I ask. “Who is she?” Parts of her seem familiar. “Is she a relation?” I always thought she was a friend of Mother’s, but she looks…

“You’ve seen the photo before?”

“Yeah. Years ago. I found it in an album Mother had.”

“Honey, there’s a lot I need to tell you.” He drags a hand through his hair. “I want you to promise me…that you’ll hear me out. Hear it all.” I’m not going to like this. He picks up the photo.

#
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I haven’t completely finished (rewritten – that means) the ending, but thought I’d post this  – the story so far.

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To read Part 1 – click here.

For Part 3 of A Taste of honey – click here.

The Watcher

Okay – I’ve taken the Indy Ink Challenge for the first time. I was challenged by Melissa R to write something that included the following: 97 degrees, a subway ride, a high school classmate, a woman in a hat with flowers.

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I in turn challenged Sir. Who started off his post titled EVOLVED with: This week’s installment of the IndieInk Writing Challenge was submitted by Jo, who may have been under the influence of something when she directed me to:

Write a story about your dream for evolution – it must contain a redhead, a garbage truck, two frogs, and a shower curtain.

Sure! Why not?

***

I have been LMAO for the last 30 minutes after reading it.

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

They look at peace is how I would describe it. The young woman and the elderly lady. They sit across from me, holding hands, whispering to each other. I hate trying to estimate someone’s age. Never been good at it – usually get it wrong by years, but the young lady looks like she is in her twenties.

She’s wearing jeans. I’d like to take a jagged rusty dagger to the throat of the man who invented jeans. Let ‘im know I’m coming for him, walk slow, real slow and…real slow, grip that knife and drag it across his throat ‘til the blood oozes out and down over his chest. Yeah – don’t much like jeans I don’t.

She looks good in ‘em though. They stroke her skin, like a man would do if he were to give her a good plugging. I bet she gets it all the time. Yeah. They’re all sluts at that age, Never learnt it makes no sense to give it away. Mama used to say who’s…no…why…hang on a bit.

Right.

What’cha wanna buy the cow for if ya get the milk for free. That what Mama said. Smart woman was my Mama. All us Hays are smart though, not just the women. Well maybe not book smart. But none of us have ever lined up with our hands out. Nope. Not a one.

So what if we didn’t get all that extra learning like doctors and such. We did all right. Street smart they call it. I like that. Yeah – street smart. I’ve been working since I was twelve.

Wonder if that twenty something slut has a job. Bet she goes to one of those nancy-pancy-fancy schools. Sits there all day reading and drinking bought coffees. Probably doesn’t even know how to make one herself. Then opens those legs for a different guy every night. Yeah. Stuck up slut. I bet. What she doing on a train anyways? Don’t Mummy and Daddy pay for a fancy silver car for her to drive?

They always drive silver cars, those spoilt rich bitches. Why is that? Isn’t a coloured car good enough for them? I’d drive a coloured car. Yellow. Yeah. Yellow’s nice. Need to get a license first. If I was gonna get a yellow car that is. Which I’m not. Rode this train damn near everyday of my life so far, hasn’t done me no harm.

I’m not a stuck up, spoilt, rich…nope. Not me.

Why do they keep whispering? Afraid someone’s gonna hear all their little secrets. Bet they’ve got a few. Yeah. That old biddy sitting there. Probably offed her husband to get her hands on all his money. Happens all the time. Cheap sluts marry some old guy who’s loaded, then slip him a nice little cocktail he’s never gonna wake up from.

Yeah. Happens a lot I bet. She looks the type. Sitting there with her pearls on. What you wanna wear pearls on the subway for? Unless it’s to let everyone know that you’re someone…sppppppeeeeeeeecccccccciiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaalllllllll. Bet she’s a tight bitch too, except when it comes to herself. Why else she is dragging that young girl on the train?

Don’t that girl have no friends her own age? Fancy college friends from her fancy school with all the parks and gardens, and what do they call those things? Yeah. I know. Sororities. Just a bunch of snotty brats who think they’re too good for the rest of us. Never really had a school friend. Except maybe that Racine kid. Yeah. Right up ’til I stabbed the little shit. Drove that blade right into his spine. Ha. Never saw it coming, dumb sucker.  Never been to no fancy school, or been part of no stuck up sorority. Who needs that shit?

They’re right beside the door. Waiting for my stop I hear the girl talking. Should’ve got up earlier. Damn. They’re tourists. Not much better than the damn idiot who invented jeans.

Maybe I should wait. ‘Til they get off. Follow ‘em. Slit the girl’s throat first. Watch the blood bubble. Yeah. I like it when the blood bubbles and then pops. Little explosions. The nana won’t do nothing. Probably won’t even scream, silly old bitch. Yeah. Do her last. Slow like. Leaving little bits of rust off the knife, all along the open hole in the neck. Nice touch.

Maybe.

Next time.

The doors open and I am pushed out by the weight of everyone behind me. Like a packet of soap flakes on the conveyor belt at the supermarket. Pushed along the platform, and up the stairs. Just a bunch of mewing cows. Follow the leader.

If there was a hole in the ground, I wonder how long it would take before they stopped falling into it. I wonder…if it reached all the way to Hell. Would it ever fill up? Maybe they’d just keep falling, burning. Their clothes melting into their flesh. Would their bodies melt, cutting off their screams of pain before they reached the end?

Out on the street the sun is burning me already. What did they say? Going to reach 97 degrees today. Bah. I bet it is already at least 100. Maybe someone should sneak into one of those TV stations and let off some poison gas. Everyone choking, falling to the floor while the cameras keep filming.

That’s a thought.

Panic. I like it when they panic. Knowing they’re dying. Not knowing how to stop dying. Their eyes go all wide and moist.

Fear.

You can see fear. It stirs the blood, sends it racing to their skin. Red. Lots of red. In their eyes, and under their skin. They almost burst with it.

Hmmmpppphhh.

Yeah.

“Hey Mrs P.” The young man is standing by the door, holding it open.

“Hello John.”

“How was your trip?” he asks. Polite. Always polite. He’s smiling. I smile back. I can’t seem to help myself when he smiles at me. Climbing inside is a relief. The air is cool and the sweat starts to dry immediately.

Could smiling …hmmm. I wonder. Maybe it could go viral. Everyone smiling. Unable to stop. Painful in the end, always with your mouth pointing up.

“Home?” he asks when he climbs into the front seat.

“Yes please.”  The street becomes a blur. He always drive too fast. One day he’s going to…

“How’d it go today Mrs P? Did you kill anyone?”

“No. Not today,” I tell him. Oh dear. I notice my reflection in the window. I look, sort of melted. Tipping my head sideways the petals on the carnation flop from side to side. Like a dead goldfish. I think it’s time I went shopping.

“I bet you planned a few,” he says.

“One or two, yes.”

“So…who were you?” he asks.

“Billy.”

“Eeewwwhhh. I don’t like him. Bad piece of work is Billy Hays.”

“Don’t I know it John. But he is interesting.”

“Hmmm, if you say so Mrs P.”

“I’d like to stop off at the milliners John. On the way.” I examine the hat in my hands. The carnation flops about like a dead fish as I wobble it back and forth.

“Sure thing Mrs P.”

“What’s so funny John?” I ask. His smile has bent the bottom half of his face.

“You Mrs P. Nobody would ever imagine what horrible deeds you plan in that head of yours.”

“I rather thought that was the point,” I tell him. “If people knew. Well I would not be here now would I?”

“No I guess not.” He’s quiet for all of five seconds. “Did you work out…I mean…what about this one? The one you’re planning” He looks back at me through the rear vision mirror.

“I think so.” I tell him.

“Aww, come on Mrs P.”

“How about…the death of the curious chauffeur,” I smile back at him. He’s laughing loudly now.

“Writers,” he mutters. “You’re all crazy.”

Probably John, probably.

*********

When I first saw the challenge I freaked a little. This is the third evolution of the story. Numbers 1 & 2 obviously didn’t work. This – hmmm – not sure of it yet. I think it still needs some work. I will be very interested in any opinions and suggestions.

*********

Revenge is my 2nd attempt at the Indie Ink Challenge,

A Taste of Honey – Part 1

Mother’s pace quickens as we approach the last shop in town, dragging me past the window filled with fairies in tuxedos and white lace, holding hands atop swirling ivory layers. Petite wine-red roses, purple irises with yellow tongues, orange poppies and sunburst daffodils adorn concoctions shrouded in a rainbow of icing. Chaff coloured loaves stacked high next to dainty rounds of pastry finish the artwork of edible treats.

Through the window, the lady with straight black hair and sloping eyes looks at me with a dark chocolate gaze, her face rumpling and lips curling. Warming blood flushes my cheeks, the same colour as her painted lips. I smile back while keeping up with Mother’s stride.

“Their skin reminds me of bile,” she shudders. Mother bakes her own bread and biscuits so she needn’t buy from those people. The open door allows a bouquet into the air, spit fills my mouth, and I peek around her wobbly belly, cut in two from the size too small stockings she wears, even on days the bus-stop bench burns your bottom through your clothing. She rages about the businesses closing down.

“Bloody immigrants: taking jobs, sending our money home to their families, or worse, bringing them here.” Mother pulls my hand, demanding attention. “Come on, don’t dawdle,” My shoes are scuffed on the toes, the heels rarely touching the dirt road as we reach the outskirts of town.

I run out of animals waltzing about in my head to my silent chanting of old MacDonald’s farm. Sometimes, when I sing aloud, I forget to leave out the lions, elephants and such, ’til Mother’s hand slaps the side of my head. She screeches, her eyes fiery with something I don’t understand. “People’ll think you’re daft, whoever heard of such things on a farm.” I think it would be a magical place, Noah’s Ark without the sea sickness.

Our rusted gate tilts, hinges hanging on nails half out and bent. It screeches like Mother as I push it open, digging a furrow in the dirt, Jingles rushes at the opening and I pull it closed. He makes do with a head butt slamming me against a rail and looks me in the eyes. One day, when Mother isn’t watching, I’ll be sluggish – something she says a lot about me – I’ll let him run away from the sagging wire and endless gorse that share his imprisonment.

Home on the veranda a silent mobile of dead ducks wait to be plucked. Our neighbour always drops something off when he goes hunting. Their chests are the colour of polished greenstone. They remind me of Daddy.

“I’m home,” he’d yell, back from the bush, dirty and smelly. He’d spread his booty over the bench in the shed, and for weeks he’d shape and polish every piece. I’d hold the pieces of greenstone up to his eyes to see if they matched. The ones that did, he’d keep. “For your necklace,” he’d say, laughing. “Then you’ll always know who your Daddy is. Just hold it up to my eyes.” Mother glares at my neck every day, but never speaks of it.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. Their eyes are milky, empty. Settling on a warped wooden stool I lay the first duck on my lap, grabbing feathers I tug them backwards, leaving small holes that close slowly. With each pull, their beaks sway back and forth hitting my leg; their limp necks protest, complaining at my attempt to reveal their naked corpses.

Against the cracking grey wood trellis a matted sunburnt rose sprawls down into the dandelions, sucking up moisture left from the morning dew. Some days, I wish the sun would suck up moisture from me. Maybe then everything would quieten; become slow, cool, calm, like the pond when the breeze stops and the ripples disappear. When I dig for worms under the soil’s cracked top, it’s crumbly and moist. Maybe that’s Heaven. Fresh. Shady. Spongy. Silent.

Father Gormbles – his eyes are like the ducks’ – says wanting to die is a sin, just as bad as murder, fornication and adultery. I looked up adultery in the dictionary, ’cause Mother says Daddy’s damned to hell for all the adultery he did. I wonder who he did it with, seems like a lot of trouble just to go to someplace not so different from here.

“It’s a load of bollocks,” says Jane. “There’s no heaven, no hell.” Her Mum says it actually. Mother thinks Mrs Mitchell is a sinner, and mouths an unvoiced prayer when she sees her, but she’s the bank manager’s wife, so she does it when Mrs Mitchell is walking away. Jane Mitchell has all sorts of ideas. Her mother keeps a fat Buddha in her hall.

“He was a great man,” she talks about all the people who pray to him. I don’t mention him to Mother. If it wasn’t for Mr Mitchell’s job she’d never let me visit. I looked Buddha up; I think I’d have liked him if we’d met. Mrs Mitchell talks a lot, using her hands, Mother says people who talk all the time just waste words.

“Never say more than is necessary.” Even her prayers are short, to the point. “Dear Lord, make me less of a sinner, forgive me for not being the person you intended; help me raise this child to do your bidding. Amen.” She never says my name. I hope he knows which child she’s talking about. I can’t wait for Saturday, Jane and I are going to the library. It’s crisp inside, silent.

She’s waiting for me when I get there, reading a book, sunlight hammering the back of her head, turning her hair into a curling bonfire.

“Listen to this,” she whispers. “It says here, every life’s represented by an unbreakable thread. Each thread’s different, and colours show what type of life you have. Sometimes your colours change, depending what you do of course.” I wonder, are they stitched together, or does your thread hang along side the others without touching? “Wanna go to the beach tomorrow?” Jane asks laughing. “I know, I know – after church, tomorrow then.”

“Race you,” I yell as we run up into the deserted sand dunes. We drip sea water as we throw ourselves on to our towels.

“I wish I was older,” Jane wants desperately to grow up, have a boyfriend hold her hand, kiss her. “He’ll own a car,” she says, “take me to the movies, the beach. At night we’ll go parking; when we’ve been together a year, I’ll let him touch my boobies I think.” She imagines the future more than me. When I roll over she’s got her top off. “C’mon then, show us yours.” Hers are kinda like mine, but her nipples don’t point.

“Jane…”

“Don’t be a scaredy-cat. Give us a look.” Mine look like the end of an ice cream cone. It’s embarrassing; I wear a singlet to flatten them.

“I don’t…” my cheeks are hot.

“Baby,” she taunts. My eyes start watering.

“Shh,” she says, hugging me. “It’s okay. At least they’re not like Trina’s, hey.” Trina already has a bra; her boobs popped out just before summer. During athletics, it’s funny to watch ’cause they move when she runs. These days most of the boys look at them instead of her face. Trina punched Oliver Broome on the nose for staring. Oliver is such a jerk.

I’m getting a training bra next time we go into the city. Funny name for a bra. I looked it up in the dictionary. There wasn’t anything about training bras, but it said training means bringing a person to an agreed standard of proficiency by practise or instruction. I had to look up proficiency.

“How do you instruct boobs?” I decided to ask. It seemed an innocent question, ’til Mother slapped me.

“Don’t you…ever…let me hear you say that. People will think you’re a slut.” I was crying and she shook me.

“I won’t,” another slap, “…I’m sorry.” Covering my head I took off for my room. Mother hates gossip about us, but her reaction to the word boobs seemed over the top. Sometimes I can’t do anything right.

When I get back from the beach, there’s a note. Grandmother Willis, her mother, has had a stroke and she’ll be home late. Grandmother has been in a home forever. I’ve never met her. Daddy and I would drop Mother off for visits and go off to the beach. If it rained we went to the aquarium. I loved watching the sharks skim by the windows, sleek, as if they had a purpose.

“Grandmother gets confused,” Daddy said once. We never speak of Grandmother, or about where we come from, as if we never existed before here. One day I heard Mother say she’d been an orphan for a long time, and was a widow; I wonder why she lies, and makes me lie.

Since Daddy left, his photos are in a box. When we moved here, they went into the attic. I’m not allowed to go into the attic, but now I’m alone, it’s time to go peek around. The box is pushed behind and under others. I dust off a seat and open it. Underneath all the framed photos are a bunch of albums.

In one are photos of Mother, at picnics and parties. Her face is soft, even in black and white her eyes have colour, and her lips are curled, like she knows some delicious secret and is teasing you with it. There’s a photo with flowers in her hair, she’s dancing, and photos of Mother with a friend, in places I’ve never seen, laughing, smiling, hugging.

Stuck between some pages is a yellowed envelope. Inside is one sheet of paper, crinkled. Like it’s been scrunched up and smoothed out again. It’s Daddy’s writing.

My darling,

 Not a day shall go by when I won’t think of you as that, when I won’t think of the two of you. I can’t pretend anymore that we will be okay. I’m sorry. Loving you was the most breathtaking thing of my life. Now I watch you, everyday getting deeper into guilt, and I see it breaking your soul into pieces. Even changing the way I was isn’t enough to drag you out of all that guilt. You’re not sick, you’re not bad, but I don’t believe I shall ever make you see that. I’m sorry for the others, but I was dying. I need to be loved incandesantly. Instead, your light is dimming every day. Maybe without me, you’ll find some way to be happy again. I’ll never stop missing you both.

xx

What does that mean? Sitting still for a very long time, I realise Mother could be home soon; I shut the box, push it back. Keeping the album, I hide it in a box with my old dolls, in the corner of my closet. Checking my clothes for dust I hear Mother’s car pull in. She’s quiet when she comes inside. She sits at the table, looking at everything and nothing at the same time.

“What have you been doing?” she finally asks.

“After the beach, I did some homework.”

“I’ll make us something to eat then.” She stands up and looks at me.” Your grandmother died. I’ll have to take Thursday off work, for the funeral. I’ll say it’s an aunt who died I expect. Go wash your hands.” At dinner neither of us talks; when I’m finished she waves me away.

“You better go to bed, it’s late.”

“Night Mother,” I reply, but she’s not listening. I get into bed and listen ’til I hear her door shut. Quietly I get out the album, pull the covers up, turn on the torch, and open it.

There are more photos of Mother and her friend. Mother’s pregnant in some of them. There are no photos of Daddy anywhere, but no spaces either, no missing photos. On the last page is a large black and white photo. Mother is holding me; standing behind her is that friend again.

I slide the album back into the box but can’t sleep, so I get up and sit by the window. I’m still there when the sun rises. When I hear Mother moving around, I get dressed and go into the kitchen. She looks like she hasn’t slept either.

I don’t get a chance until Thursday to go back to the attic. Pretending I’m sick I stay home. Mother’s worrying about the funeral so she doesn’t look too closely, or ask too many questions.

“Stay in bed, I’ll get Mrs Morriss to look in on you,” she says. “Remember that I am burying an aunt, if she asks.”

“I know.”

“Don’t cause any trouble. I don’t want people looking for me today. I mean it…behave.” She pats me on the head before leaving. I lay in bed watching the clock. Best to give her time to be really gone. After ten minutes I can’t wait any more.

In the attic I quickly dig out the box. Placing the frames on the floor, I’m struck by a feeling I don’t understand. Something is out of place but I’m not sure what. I take out another album and head back to my room.

In the front there’s a photo of Mother, Daddy and I. I’m not much older than the photo in the other album, and I get that feeling again. Jumping up I grab it, first looking at one, then the other. I know there’s something I’m missing, but I don’t know what. I have a feeling it’s important. Maybe I should talk to Jane. Her mind works different; maybe she can figure it out. When I finish one, I go upstairs to get more; slowly I see our family change. The smiles aren’t as big and goofy. Mother and Daddy stop hugging; they stand beside each other like nutcracker soldiers. Then it’s just Mother and I.

After school, Jane barges into my room.

“Right then, what’s the matter with you?” she asks.

“Nothing really. Mother’s away for the day. So…”

“Oh my, you’re becoming a scoundrel,” Jane laughs. “Your Mum’s gone to the funeral?”

“Yeah.”

“Why can’t you tell anyone?”

“I don’t know. She’s funny about anyone knowing stuff like that.”

“She’s a bit strange. Does she still cross herself and pray after she sees Mum? Mum thinks it’s really funny. She’s always saying she wants to give your mum a proper scare, but Dad won’t let her.”

“Jane…”

“Yeah.”

“Wanna see what I found?”

“Sure.” Laying the albums on the bed, I pull Jane down. First I open the one with Mother and her friend.

“Look. Where’s Dad? There isn’t one photo of him. I’m sure that’s me,” I point to the baby in the last photo. “Who is this person?”

“Seems…funny there’s no photo of your Dad.”

“Look at this.”

“What’s in it?” she asks. I show Jane the page with Mother and Daddy and me.

“This is the first time Daddy is in any of the books. After I was born.”

“Weird,” she says.

“It’s really…”

“Weird,” we say together.

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

Part 2 – I am not 100% happy with the way this story ends at the moment – so when I am I’ll post it.

Stay tuned…if you are interested in finding out what happens that is.

For A Taste of Honey Part 2 – click here.

For A Taste of Honey Part 3 – click here.


Buckshot Bryant

BUCKSHOT BRYANT

Buckshot early in her career…

Joanne “Buckshot” Bryant was a notorious bank and train robber and is possibly best-remembered as the Queen of the Rustlers in the American West of the 1800′s. It could truly be said that this queen came from a family of outlaw aristocracy. Her parents ran the infamous Bryant Gang in Australia and may have even known the outback bandit Mad Dog Morgan before he earned his enormous reputation. When you consider the fact that the later Kelly Gang, Australia’s most well-known gang of outlaws, often pointed to the Bryant Gang as their biggest inspiration and their own personal heroes, Buckshot Bryant came from the most blue-blooded bandit stock imaginable.

Joanne, or “Jo’s” parents settled in America to live in comfortable retirement from their ill-gotten wealth from Down Under. Jo was always a handful, a very willfull and adventurous young lady who caused her parents no end of trouble. In 1861 Bryant’s parents left Missouri (where Jo was born) to escape the freshly-started Civil War and traveled east. While her family hobnobbed with various east-coast gentry Jo herself purportedly began a fling with THE Samuel Colt, a newly commissioned colonel in the Union army. Colonel Colt never saw action in the field, doing mostly administrative work, but that left him with plenty of time to frolic with the beautiful young lady he had fallen in love with. Jo was in her late teens or very early twenties (accounts vary) and Colt was as old or older than her father. When Jo’s family moved on in their travels Jo insisted on staying behind to be with her lover, remaining with him until his death in 1862. 

Rather than return to her parents at this time Jo’s adventurous nature led her to begin frequenting east coast rail lines, bedecked in fashionable outfits and luring well-to-do men with amorous intentions into her coachroom, where she would immediately pull a revolver on them and force them to undress and give her all their valuables. She would then slip out of the room and off the train. When the high-living young beauty was running out of the funds from her latest haul she would once again start riding the rails, relying on her sultry looks and her well-dressed appearance to draw another victim her way. One passenger she did not rob during that period of her life was a young Union officer named Humphrey Bogart,

Humphrey Bogart

with whom she supposedly had a brief fling. Bogart would later marry Amarillo Rose, the most colorful figure of the Amarillo Range War.   

Shortly after the end of the Civil War Bryant traveled to Missouri, siezed with an uncharacteristically nostalgic desire to once again see the home where she had spent her childhood, Kiwi Aussie Manor. She found the place a gutted shell because the abandoned home had been used as a headquarters by Confederate forces and then burned during a Union raid. Feeling more rootless than ever Jo boarded a train headed west, planning to resume her usual criminal activities. As fate would have it, once the train got into eastern Kansas it was boarded and robbed by the James-Younger Gang.

Top: Jesse James, Cole Younger, John Younger – Bottom: Frank James, Clell Miller, and Bob Younger.

As various members of the gang made their way through the train cars relieving the passengers of their valuables, Jo sprang into action and nearly shot Frank James right between the eyes before being grabbed from behind by Frank’s buddy Cole Younger. While the now-disarmed Jo stood there cursing the two outlaws in the foulest language imaginable they both stood there eyeing the gorgeous young thing before them with just one thing on their minds and it wasn’t Reconstruction Era politics. Calming down, Jo further charmed Cole and Frank by shrewdly telling them how her home had been burned by Union troops and about her railroad scam. Soon Jesse himself was on the scene ogling Jo and listening to his brother and Cole fill him in on this unexpected development. Jesse offered Jo a place in the James-Younger “organization” and she accepted, riding off with the outlaws.

Jo started out serving as a “plant” on trains the James-Younger Gang intended to rob. Dressed in finery she would pose as a passenger, then once the gang began their assault she would produce a gun or two to keep the passengers in line and accomodate the heist in any other way she  could. Ever fiery, however, Jo soon tired of that role and began taking a more active part in the robberies, toting a shotgun and even dressing in the gang’s legendary long dusters and dark cowboy hats like the other notorious woman in the gang, Belle Starr

Belle Starr

(though since this was before her marriage to Sam Starr she was still known as Belle Shirley). Jo and Belle got along famously and Belle herself gave Bryant her nickname following a legendary incident. Bob Ford, a fringe character in the Missouri outlaw world, was often trying to force himself on Jo. After one such incident Jo began loading her shotgun, swearing she would blow off Ford’s manhood so he would stop troubling her once and for all. Bob Ford fled as quickly as he could but Jo still fired off a barrel full of buckshot at his retreating form to drive home her point. Ford was far enough away that the shot wasn’t fatal but it caught him full on the buttocks, making it difficult for him to sit down for several days. Belle laughed uproariously and began calling Jo “Buckshot” Bryant, the name she would be known by forever after. 

Buckshot spent a few happy years with the James-Younger Gang, enjoying dalliances with Cole Younger and the two James brothers, sometimes both at once according to Belle Starr in her memoirs. All that Hell-raising took place in between daring bank and train robberies. Eventually, however, Buckshot Bryant wanted to lead a gang of her own and headed west along with her latest lover and fellow gang member Kevin “Colorado” Costner.

Kevin ‘Colorado’ Costner

In Texas, Buckshot and Colorado gathered around them the nucleus of the bank and train robbing gang that became known as the Poker Studs. That name for the gang came about because of Buckshot Bryant’s ever-roaming eye for handsome young men, whom she grew to love having around her as her subordinates. Treating these young men as her male harem, Buckshot was so desired by all of them that she took to having the young studs play poker for the privilege of sleeping with her each night. Thus, they became known as the Poker Studs, a name which was supposedly inverted and became the namesake of the game called Stud Poker, in a Burnside/Sideburns kind of way.  

Colorado Costner grew increasingly jealous of this behavior and after a furious argument with Buckshot, blurted out his love for her and rode off. Bryant was surprised by Costner’s declaration of love since she thought he saw it as just fun and games like she did. Sad but too proud to chase after him, Buckshot watched him ride off, not realizing they were destined to meet again.

Oddly stirred by the depth of Colorado’s feelings for her, Bryant tried losing herself in booze, loveplay with her Poker Studs and non-stop larcenous behavior. Eventually feeling that banks worth robbing were a bit too far apart this far out west compared to back in the Missouri-Kansas area, Buckshot decided to move into rustling instead of bank robbing, though the gang would still keep their hand in train robbing with occassional heists. Sitting tall in the saddle and with her trusty shotgun always at her side, Buckshot Bryant molded her Poker Studs into a very lucrative operation. The gang would rustle cattle from ranches throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, herd them below the border into Mexico where they would be either sold or traded for horses, which could then be sold back in the U.S. for a profit.

Once, after rustling some livestock from the High Chaparral, the gang was pursued by Manolito Montoya himself, who attacked the band of rustlers single-handed.

Manolito

Intrigued by this foohardy courage, Buckshot ordered her Poker Studs not to kill the handsome Latino, with whom she checked into a Tucson hotel. There the two reached some form of accomodation, with the result that Jo promised to stop rustling from the High Chaparral and Manolito promised to never reveal the location of the desert hideout that he had trailed the gang to.

Sometimes Buckshot and the Poker Studs would rustle just a few cattle for the gang’s personal consumption and would have a massive cookout under the nighttime desert skies, the beef accompanied by tortillas, rice and beans, all washed down with gutrot whiskey. Bryant would revel in these festivities, comfortable and very pleased, surrounded as she was by a gaggle of toughened hombres who all desired and feared her at the same time. 

Joining in the fun with Jo at these events would be Poker Studs like:

-Dancin’ Pat Swayze, formerly of the Point Break Gang, who joined Buckshot’s gang when she sheltered him from the Texas Rangers who were pursuing him 

Dancin’ Pat Swayze

- Lariat Leo DiCaprio, the experienced rustler, fresh out of prison, who helped educate Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs in the ways of rustling. His specialty was altering cattle brands

Lariat Leo DiCaprio

- Colin “Wild Irish” Farrell, who fancied the rustling trade (and himself) as a continuation of the ancient Irish “art” of rustling as depicted in Celtic Mythology.

Colin ‘Wild Irish’ Farrell.

During this period of her career the Queen of the Rustlers enjoyed tweaking the forces of the law in the frontier as they ineffectually tried to bring her to justice. In the New Mexico Territory Buckshot Bryant made it her personal mission to confound the best efforts of Pat Garrett as she continually bested him at the mental chess game they played. Jo made him look so foolish that she is considered the main reason why he eventually lost reelection as sheriff and moved to Texas.

Bryant held Judge Roy Bean in particular contempt and loathed him as the epitome of the hypocritical, self-serving and corrupt system of law enforcement in the Wild West. Bean had vowed that if Buckshot was brought before him he would sentence her in one minute and hang her in two. Once, when Dancin’ Pat and Wild Irish had been captured and Bean had sentenced them to the gallows Jo mounted and executed what would today be called a commando-style raid to free her imprisoned Poker Studs. This escapade infuriated Judge Bean so much that Bryant took to freeing many of the other prisoners Bean had sentenced to death. She was so successful at this that, from then on, despite the many felons given a capital sentence by the power-crazed Judge only one was ever actually hanged. One of the men Jo rescued from Bean’s demented form of “justice” was the wandering gunfighter Juniper Johnny Depp, said to be a descendant of the notorious pirate captain Jack Sparrow. Depp and Bryant had a brief affair, which ended when the next paying client for his skill at gunplay came along and he rode off.  

Juniper Johnny Depp

Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs are still a very sore subject with the Texas Rangers since no other band of outlaws was as skilled at foiling their pursuit. If cornered Jo and her minions were more than happy to resort to gunplay and Bryant’s shotgun sent many a law enforcement officer or bounty hunter to their graves.

Ranger William Wallace

Ranger William “Bigfoot” Wallace so admired Buckshot’s pluck that he had an unofficial “truce” with the rustling queen and would often get together with her and the Poker Studs across the border in Mexico to raise Hell in saloons.

Texas Ranger Mark Wahlberg

Texas Ranger Mark Wahlberg came the closest to actually bringing Buckshot Bryant in, but, supposedly smitten with his gorgeous quarry, he let her go free instead. Unable to reconcile this with his devotion to law enforcement Wahlberg shot himself to death after watching Bryant ride off. 

Poker Alice

Buckshot’s friendship with Poker Alice, the  frequently widowed card-player who roamed the west, is legendary. Bryant was far too shrewd to ever get involved in a poker game with the gun-toting mistress of the card tables but the two loved tearing up the saloons during the many times their paths crossed, often with mutual friend Doc Holliday present as well.

Doc Holliday

The biggest strain on their friendship came when Poker Alice was working as a dealer in a saloon owned by Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James and the would-be lothario whose antics had led to Buckshot being so named during their years in Missouri. Jo threatened to blow Ford away for his betrayal of Jesse and had to be physically restrained by Poker Alice to prevent her from killing Ford in front of a room full of witnesses. Alice persuaded her old, dear friend to leave, but Bryant vowed to never speak to Poker Alice again as long as she worked for Ford. That promise was kept but after Alice wandered on to another location the friendship between the two legends resumed. 

Many books have been written about Buckshot Bryant’s involvement with various Native American leaders. Debate over her motives for assisting them in their battles with the bluecoats of the U.S. army continues to this day. Bryant would see to it that meat from rustled cattle would find its way to hostile chiefs like Red Cloud, Geronimo and Cochise to keep their people fed during hard times. Not only that but horses that she obtained in Mexico in exchange for rustled livestock would sometimes be given to those same chiefs to help fuel their war effort. In exchange the chiefs would help Jo and her gang to hide from particularly dangerous pursuit.

Red Cloud
Geronimo
Cochise

Buckshot was especially close to Cochise, who named her “Shoots Deadly Woman”, and the Queen of the Rustlers was foolhardy enough to visit Cochise in disguise when her old friend was on his deathbed in 1874. Bryant even accompanied the burial party and was said to be the only white person who ever knew Cochise’s exact resting place. 

With the death of this friend of hers, Buckshot Bryant’s conviction to assist the warring Native American leaders was doubled. She took to leading her Poker Studs in running guns to the Sioux during the Sioux uprising. These activities led her into contact with former Lieutenant John Dunbar, noted for his years living with Native Americans, who named him Dances With Wolves.

John Dunbar

Dunbar had once been mistakenly arrested for a few days because of his uncanny resemblance to Bryant’s old beau Colorado Costner. Dunbar’s philosophical musings about the plight of the Native Americans helped strengthen Jo’s resolve. 

One day in the 1880′s who should come riding into the canyon hideout of Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs but that same Colorado Costner. He hadn’t lost his touch, and had tracked the gang down and penetrated their lair without them so much as noticing. He and Buckshot embraced and he related to her how he had been caught and arrested less than a year after riding off following their argument long ago. Luckily, when he left them the gang was not yet under a death sentence so he was not hanged but he had served a long prison term. His sentence was lengthened by his refusal to cooperate by giving law enforcement any information that would help them locate the woman he loved. Kevin told Jo how the thought of being able to one day hold her in his arms again was the only thing that kept him going during his time suffering in the hellish prison conditions of the time. This time Jo wasn’t too proud to admit her feelings for this man who had endured so much for her sake and the two were supposedly wed, although no records to support that assertion have ever been found. 

Kevin ‘Colorado’ Costner

Costner enthusiastically embraced his true love’s desire to aid Native American resistance and the two spent several happy years devoted to each other (the gang was now the Poker Studs in name only since Jo and Kevin were deeply in love). Their lives were filled with rustling, periodic train robberies, hair’s-breadth escapes from the law and with providing surreptitious aid to the Native American cause. The two felt a tight bond with the Native Americans, whom they saw as kindred spirits in living on their own terms against the power of outside forces.

In 1890 events came crashing down on Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner. After the gang was very nearly caught while running a supply of fresh beef to a suffering Native American community, the Poker Studs were fed up with risking their necks in such endeavors and abandoned Jo and Kevin. The two spent a few weeks in the village and therefore got to be first hand witnesses when the Ghost Dance spread into the community. The Ghost Dance has been classified as a semi-ecstatic state in which the participants were encouraged to believe all the dead Native Americans of the past, as well as all the dead buffalo, were going to return and the white people would all be driven away. This was all misinterpreted as another uprising and troops were sent to squelch it. 

Thus it was that Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner were on hand at Wounded Knee when the army moved in to massacre the Ghost Dancers, who were all dancing, not fighting. From what has been reconstructed of the scene, Bryant and Costner, presumably sickened at what they were witnessing, savagely fought off the attacking bluecoats for as long as they could before the overwhelming odds caught up with them and they perished alongside the people with whom they had shared their strongest bond of kinship. 

Buckshot Bryant has been portrayed in films by Rita Hayworth,

Rita Hayworth

Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale

and Angelina Jolie.

Angelina Jolie

Tristan Ludlow himself was said to be inspired with his interest in the Native Amerian lifestyle by reading dime novels and history books about the legendary Queen of the Rustlers.     

Tristan Ludlow

            

Signed,

The Blackwater Kid

Buckshot not long before The Wounded Knee Massacre

If you want your own saga then contact the Balladeer here.

To The Blackwater Kid – thanks for this great story from your friend Buckshot Bryant.

Buckshot is mentioned in The Amazing Saga of Lady London.

And although she plays no part in these sagas – Buckshot recommends you check them out:

Six Gun Sara

Doc Robin and Kid Equus

Cactus Cathy

Buckshot Rides Again…with the Winchester Boys.

HAPPY FRONTIERADO! CELEBRATE WITH A LOST ADVENTURE OF BUCKSHOT BRYANT

Another vavavavoom lady for you to enjoy – complete with her own brand of Poker Studs !!!!

Related posts

Hatfields & McCoys

Buckshot rides again…with the Winchester boys !!!!!

Laminated List

Kevin – Part One – The Early Years

The first kiss…

There weren’t a lot of people at the party when she arrived. She can’t remember who she went with, or how she got there, and is not sure whose party it was. She does remember the boy.

The features of his face are fixed in her memory, like old songs; the ones you can’t repeat the words of until you hear the music, then the words flow. A shadow of facial hair barely present softens the solid curvature of his jaw line, and the sardonic smile that reaches the eyes. Slothful eyes, seductive, framed by ridiculously long lashes

Mutinous dark curls wrap around his head. The top half of one arm is holding up the wall, both hands tucked in the pockets of his jeans. There is enough hanging out to tell her those hands are large. Every line of his body seems to flow into the next part. The rest of the room seems beige behind the colour of him.

He stands slightly apart from a small group. She knows his name; two girls trying to include him in their conversation repeat it like a mantra.

She sees his eyes are watching her, but keeps her attention on the girlfriend she’s talking to. She must have blinked, because he is standing in front of her, so close she can taste the smell of him in the back of her throat. Those eyes hold her reflection in them.

“Hey,” he says. She looks at his lips, they’re smooth, they’re smiling at her. At some point, she regains vocal ability and its connection to her brain. She learns he’s two years older, and goes to a Catholic school nearby. A good Catholic boy, what every girl needs.

More people begin to crowd into the small rooms, they start to move into bedrooms and onto the balcony. It is getting smoky. No-one worries about lung cancer. Cool people smoke, she is afraid to try; afraid she’d cough and look foolish.

The rest of the night, is spent in the ritual of mating. It is the first time a boy pursues her. Physically, mentally, it’s intoxicating.  They spend the rest of the night together. If she goes to get something to drink, he is there to fill her glass.

A trip to the loo finds him standing in the hall when she comes out. Terrified he heard what she was doing in there, she did her best to pee quietly, going slowly and sitting as far forward as she could get on the loo, trying to stop it directly hitting the water.

When they finally find themselves alone on the balcony, he is holding her hand. She thinks that’s how he managed to get her there. She wonders why this dark God is out here with her.

There had only ever been one boyfriend. He’d been a few inches shorter, and the one kiss they’d snuck had been in his parent’s carport. With little more experience than her, it took a few minutes to get their noses placed right. When they had that sorted and their lips had touched, his Mum was spotted, watching through the kitchen window. Not a great success.

She knows he’s going to kiss her. Slightly naïve, but not stupid, she knows this kiss is not going to be like the last one, this boy-man has experience. She crosses her legs to stop them shaking. She wants him to kiss her, just to shut her up, stop her from talking nonsense. But…she feels…fear. What if she misses? Makes a fool of herself. Maybe her breath smells. Will he use his tongue?

She need not have worried. He knows what he is doing. Slowly, very slowly he pulls her in. One hand holds her body; the other nestles one side of her head. His palm draws her into the curve of it. Eyes closed, she feels his cheek slide down hers until his lips rest against her neck. His breath comes in warm circles against her skin, his lips barely disturbing the tiny hairs there.

Turning her head against the roughness of his skin, the softness of his lips moves in the direction of hers. Gently, like a dragonfly’s wings he lands. Once, twice, repeatedly touching and moving away, he kisses her. Then his lips come down on hers.

Technically this was not her first kiss. Yet, she always remembers it so. Even when she forgets his name.

Happy Hour

The yard had lost its greenness and only the slightest breeze caused small eddies of dust to cover everything in a fine film. The deck, on the south side of the house, was the only place that offered shelter from the summer sun. The couple were seated on cast iron chairs that matched the table between them.

The woman reached for the glass that was closet to her, pushed her sunglasses down the brim of her nose, and glared across the table at her husband.

“How on earth could you say yes,” she demanded. “You know how she is these days; it was hard enough last year.”

“That’s why I said yes, it could be the last time Mum recognises us and it’s only for two weeks.”

Only two weeks, and who’s the one who will have to do all the looking after, not you that’s for bloody sure. You’ll run off to work and only deal with her when it suits you, in her better moments.”

He didn’t answer, just adjusted himself in the chair and rolled his glass across his forehead. Water clung to his skin.

“Well, I’m not going to do it. Will you stop doing that, and look at me?”

The man placed the glass on the table and slowly closed his eyes.

Lisa

This was usually one of my favourite parts of the day, on the deck, cold drink, chatting together, but not today.  I know he hates it when I look over the rim of my glasses, but annoying him is alright by me right now.

“How on earth could you say yes?” I really just wanted to kick him. “You know how she is these days; it was hard enough last year.” Doesn’t he remember the time she wandered off and we had to get the police to look for her?

“That’s why I said yes, it could be the last time she recognises us and it’s only for two weeks.”

Did I just hear that right, God he stayed away from the house the last time she came? I had to deal with everything, that’s not going to happen again.

Only two weeks, and who’s the one who will have to do all the looking after, not you that’s for bloody sure. You’ll run off to work and only deal with her when it suits you, in her better moments.”

I know he hates to see his mum this way, I’d hate it too, but he can’t just leave me to it and pop in and out when he feels like it. If he doesn’t say something soon and put that damn glass down, I’ll scream.

“Well I’m not going to do it. Will you stop doing that, and look at me?”

Rodney

The holes in the chair were cutting into the back of his legs, but it took his mind of the tension vibrating across the table. He knew she was going to say something soon, especially when she did that awful thing of peering over her sunglasses.

“How on earth could you say yes? You know how she is these days; it was hard enough last year.”

Ok, I knew this was coming, so why did I hope for a different attitude? We are slowly losing Mum, and she can’t give me a couple of weeks. Maybe if I just didn’t have this bloody headache. Why does she insist on sitting out here every single day?

“That’s why I said yes, it could be the last time she recognises us and it’s only for two weeks.”

Oh God, the glasses are coming down further, here we go.

Only two weeks, and who’s the one who will have to do all the looking after? Not you. That’s for bloody sure. You’ll run off to work and only deal with her when it suits you, in her better moments.”

I’m only asking for two weeks, ahh that feels so good, oops water is dripping; God that glare of hers is just making my head worse.

“Well I’m not going to do it. Will you stop doing that, and look at me?”

Maybe if I just close my eyes, it will all go away.

A Gentle Seduction

For my writers group exercise we had to write a seduction scene in the style of Mills and Boon. I had fun doing it. It’s harder than you think to keep to the genre. Part two of the exercise was to write the same scene as we would normally write it. Look for ‘A Tender Trap’. Okay the title still sounds Mills and Boonie, but hey – I was still in the headspace.


Julia’s smoothed down her cotton skirt. The bright blue blouse she wore with it set of the aqua flecks in her eyes and gave her flawless peaches and cream complexion a rosy glow. Her thoughts were on another room in her tidy cottage, where Tony sat sprawled on her leather sofa. She imagined her fingers wrapped in the sleek black curls of his shoulder length hair.

“Stop it,” she whispered to herself. “Get control.” She wished he would leave, as she found it increasingly difficult to rein in her emotions whenever she found herself around the man.  Julia had planned out her life and since meeting Tony nothing was going the way she wanted. From a small girl she had imagined herself falling in love, followed by marriage after a suitable time. Lately though, she had begun to believe that romance wasn’t for her. So Julia had thrown herself into her career and was finally beginning to make a name for herself in the antiques world.

Then one day Mary had walked into her shop. The girls had hit it off immediately and Julia had looked forward to meeting Mary’s boyfriend. She was remembering that day when Tony came up behind her. His arms encircled her petite waist and without thinking she instinctively leant into his body.

“Thinking of me?” he whispered. Julia’s body arched away from him, and she spun around.

“Tony, you…” she pushed him away from her.

“Jules, you know you feel something. You can’t keep pushing me away.” Tony leant forward and nuzzled her neck.

“I can and I will,” she replied. Why did he have this effect on her? “You aren’t free to do this.” Julia had to catch herself from stomping her foot. Every fibre in her body was reaching out to him. Traitorous body she thought.

“Mary and I are…” he paused, shaking his head. “Jules, you’ll just have to believe me on this. Mary and I aren’t what we seem. It is not for me to tell you though. Julia’s gaze moved to his mouth as he spoke. She stared at the full lower lip, and then followed the hard line of his jaw. Would his face soften in passion she wondered?

His hands reached up to hold her face still between his large palms. He leant forward and kissed her thoroughly, skilfully. Exerting more pressure he deftly parted her lips. Tracing the outer edges of her mouth with his tongue Julia became disorientated. Blowing gently on her eyelids she found her body burrowing closer to his. Her breathing became erratic as her chest laboured to suck in enough air.

“I’m not sure I believe you,’ she uttered.

“I’m not sure I care at this point,” he said as he reached down and scooped her up into his arms.  He rapidly covered the distance to her room and never taking his eyes from hers lowered Julia gently onto the crisp white linen of her bed. She felt completely wanton.

“You want me,’ he whispered against her ears. “Just as I want you. I want to touch you the way a man touches a woman, undress you slowly and rake my mouth from your face to your toes.” Julia shuddered at the thought of him doing just that. Her body betrayed her true feelings.

“Please Tony,” his mouth covered hers before she could finish. She wanted to yell at him to stop. This was wrong; she shouldn’t lust after someone else’s man. Julia was horrified at the way her body was responding to him, she had never realised what passion could feel like.

His hands slid caressingly down the length of her body, and the sensation of Tony’s body against hers set in motion a perilous physical change within her and an even more dangerous reaction outwardly to him. Julia had felt physical attraction before, she understood how delusionary it could be, but this emotion she felt now, had taken hold of her and become too powerful. She felt completely overwhelmed as Tony provocatively lay his body against hers.

Deep within the core of her Julia felt a primal desire building as it thrust her into new world of sensation. Around them an atmosphere of sexual tension was building ‘til she could almost reach out and touch it. The force of her desire began to erupt inside her, building to a crescendo that made her ache with pure physical pain.

Opening her eyes she could see Tony’s reaction in the way his pupils dilated, and feel it in the tremors that passed through his body. Her need had set off a response within him and she could feel his longing. Dragging her mouth from his she whispered his name and saw desire flash across his eyes.

He pulled back and tore the shirt from his body. Shocked at first by his drawing back, Julia instinctively ran her hands over his rock hard chest. Urged on by her traitorous body she began tearing the clothes from her body. As Tony watched her he quickly disposed of the rest of his clothing.

“This shouldn’t be happening,” she uttered. “No,” she protested, but she knew her denial was more about her reaction to him than to what was happening. Seeing him ready for her turned her insides to molten lava, burning its way from deep inside her.

“Yes,” she cried out as he cleaved himself to her. Together they rode their passion, matching each other in a rhythm as old as time. It was torture, and torment, as a white heat overtook Julia. She wanted to cry out with the sensation as an exquisite ecstasy drove her over the edge. As she opened her mouth a wave of pleasure broke over her and she was tossed, churning through the white tipped waves, dragged under the speckled rapids of her consuming desire. She heard Tony cry out, and then suddenly it was over.

When Julia opened her eyes the room was in darkness. She had fallen asleep so deeply it took a few seconds to register where she was. A powerful naked leg was thrown across her, anchoring her to the bed. She must have moved as she felt Tony’s breath quicken against the back of her neck. Lazily he stroked a hand down her arm and back up again. Her body quivered with sensation, and small pinpoints of pleasure emanated from the place place under her ears that he was caressing with his mouth.

“Turn around,” he said softly. “I want to kiss you properly.” This time the build up was slower and their caresses more intimate as they explored each other. The outcome was the same however, as a burning passion engulfed them both. They clung to each other as the flood of their need ripped through them.

Legend

The Nurturer

 

Some legends live amongst the world, discussed, debated, believed or scorned.

My legend belongs to a few, those that know. Those who don’t, live in a state of imperfect oblivion.

And then there are those that wonder. These are the attentive kind, they see things the ignorant miss, small things that when seen or heard together form a pattern.

An unbelievable pattern the ignorant would say if you showed them.

Or perhaps they would use the words unlikely, impossible.

A pattern as decipherable as a worn map, a pattern that causes some of those who wonder, to seek the truth.

As in nature, the females are the nurturers.

They carry the legend from generation to generation, incubators of the truth.

The story feeds itself through their lifeblood.

Umbilical cords linking mother to child, holding the narrative together like the binding of a book.

Using Cliches and ‘Having A Ball’

Dyed in The Wool

(I had so much fun writing this for my writers group – and watching the horror on their faces as cliche after cliche tumbled out of my mouth until they realised I was doing it intentionally)

“Mary, show me your hands, I want to know now girl, do you have green fingers?” Mary’s mother asked. Mary kept her hands out of sight.

“What in tarnation? Cool your heels Mother,” Mary replied.

“Don’t try your smoke and mirrors trick with me,” her mother waved her hands. “You’re growing like a weed lately, and I’m pinning my hopes that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. So, if you’re headed the wrong way down a one way street I want to nip it in the bud.”

“There’s no time like the present to tell you this, I don’t see eye to eye with you on many things, this included. You can hope against hope mother but I am not following in my father’s footsteps.”

“Darling, before you were a gleam in your father’s eye, I knew that I’d have a long road to hoe with you. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’ve said it time and time again, the times, they are a changing. Life will show you that what goes around comes around. I don’t intend to have a cow over this, but I’ve had it up to here with your shenanigans.”

“For Pete’s sake mother, there’s no need to pop a vein. You’re getting a bit long in the tooth to work yourself into a lather. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail you’ll be pushing up daisies,” Mary’s mother strode toward her until Mary was backed into the corner.

“Are you fair dinkum, child?” Her mother’s face was beginning to redden. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap. That was what my dear mother always said. At the end of the day it appears she had the right end of the stick, show me your hands. I’ve caught you with your hands in the cookie jar this time.”

“Just a second Mother, you have had a stick up your arse ever since Father cashed in his chips. You’ve been trying to hang me out to dry at the drop of a hat. Come hell or high water I’ve had it up to here with you. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. Anyone would think I just fell off the turnip truck the way you talk to me; you’ve jumped the gun once too often. My bags are packed and ready to go. The ball is in your court, do you feel me mother?”  Mary still kept her hands behind her as she yelled, but before she could fly the coop her mother grabbed her arm and yanked it forward.

“Gadzooks,” her mother exclaimed. “You’re dumber than a bag of hammers, standing there acting cool as a cucumber. The bottom line, Mary, is you can bet your bottom dollar that in due time all will be revealed. Wake up and smell the coffee girl, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. You gotta stop taking the easy way out. Instead of seeing the glass as half empty you need to see it as half full. Child I wasn’t born yesterday. I knew it was you. You’ve been as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof ever since I mentioned that someone had made out like a bandit with my savings. I just needed to see it for myself.”

Mary’s eyes looked everywhere except at her mother’s face. “I’m sorry as can be Mother. I wasn’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes. I’m under the gun, that’s why I took it. Cecil says if I don’t return the money real soon there’’ll be hell to pay.” Sheepishly Mary put her hands out. “It was real smart of you to catch me out like you did. Green dye…whoever would’ve thought.”

“Girl, with bad apples like Cecil you’ve gotta read between the lines or you’ll paint yourself into a corner. Okay. No use crying over spilt milk Mary. Two heads are better than one so let’s see if we can’t kick that scallywag to the kerb.”

“Mother Cecil wasn’t born yesterday. He’s as sharp as a tack when it comes to money.” Mary hung her head in shame.

“Never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today I always say.” Her mother threw her arms around her..

“It’s time we gave Cecil a dose of his own medicine. I’ve sweated blood squirreling that money away. Perhaps we should go the extra mile and call your Aunt Bertha in. Ain’t nobody who can deliver a knockout blow like Aunt Bertha.”

“Oh Mother, I was so out of whack, hiding it from you. I’m sorry,” she said.

“Don’t get your knickers in a knot. Time for you to hit the hay I think. Things always look better after a good night’s sleep. Put it out of your mind, I’m all over this.” Mary hugged her mother, then pulled away. “You go get some zzz’s. Sleep tight Mary.”

“I will Mother. You too, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Smiling for the first time Mary ran up the stairs.

“You’re about to meet your worst nightmare Cecil,” Mary’s mother whispered under her breath.