Tag Archives: western

No Work, No Money, No Food

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When Ma set out for the post office, Alina flipped the sign on the door over to say “CLOSED” and stayed behind, stocking shelves. She was old enough now to mind the shop during Ma’s errands, big enough to carry the seed bags out from the back, smart enough to write receipts and tally up the costs of customers’ orders, but Ma made her close up anyways. Ma was just acting scared, Alina figured, with Pa being out on a posse and all. Made no sense, to Alina, being scared just because Pa was gone. There hadn’t been a shot fired in town for over three months, not since the new sheriff had arrived. The streets were clean now, that’s what cousin Jacob said, and he was a real deputy, with a badge to prove it.

Besides, there was Pa’s rifle in the store room, if it came to it. He’d left it behind, and always kept it loaded. That was no big secret. The way Alina saw it, there wasn’t much to fear when you had a loaded gun.

Of course, Ma had probably never fired a rifle. She could knit like a fine fury, but holding a gun? Alina just couldn’t picture Ma doing that. Not that Alina had ever used a gun, either, but she figured she had the hands for it. Pa had said so, once, when Ma couldn’t hear. He’d said she had strong fingers, and he’d given her a little jackknife to skin squirrels with, if she could ever catch one. How Ma would scream if she ever learned about that!

As Alina trudged in and out of the store room, carrying canned beans and bags of corn seed out to the shelves, she felt the little knife bouncing in the pocket of her apron. After the shop got closed tonight, she was gonna go out and find a way to catch one of them squirrels. She’d have a skin to show Pa when he got home, a whole collection of skins. Maybe a groundhog or even a fox, too. He was gonna be so proud.

Alina hefted a seed bag off the store room shelf, sat it on the floor, and was wiping sweat off her forehead with one of her dirty-blonde braids when she heard the bell above the front door jingle quietly. Probably another one of these ranch-hand cowboys who’d never taken the time to learn his letters…

“Pardon me,” said Alina, stepping out of the store room, “but the sign says we’re Closed, so—” She stopped and frowned. The shop appeared to be empty. Maybe someone had started coming in before reading the sign, and then closed the door and went out again.

A silhouette stomped past outside, moving across the boardwalk that fronted all the shops along Main Street. Alina recognized cousin Jacob’s peaked hat and heavy steps.

Turning back to the storeroom, Alina’s eyes caught a hint of motion, and she noticed a pair of leather boots standing behind the shelf in the corner.

Alina walked past the cash register and popped around the shelf. A tall cowboy with a grimy face and fidgety eyes was standing there. “Excuse me, mister, but the shop’s closed while my Ma’s out. She’ll be back before much longer, but there ain’t supposed to be customers in here while we’re closed, so why not take a look in at the saloon on the corner and come back when…” She trailed off.

The cowboy was watching her talk with a strange expression on his face. He seemed to become aware of the strange lull that had fallen and crouched down beside Alina, so that he was looking up into her eyes. “Don’t worry ’bout me, little woman. I’m just havin’ a look around.” He grinned and winked. He was missing three teeth, and his breath smelled like dust and cacti.

“All the same,” said Alina, “it’s store rules that you ain’t supposed to be in here.”

“The rules is pretty important to you, eh?”

“Of course the rules are important,” said Alina, impatiently. “That’s why they’re rules!”

The cowboy cocked his head to the side and grinned again. Then he reached up and gave one of Alina’s braids a gentle tug. “I got a girl like you. Face full of freckles, smile like the sun reflectin’ off a lake. Calls me ‘Pap’; treats me like I could never do no wrong. How old are you, little woman?”

“Near to nine,” replied Alina.

The man nodded approvingly. “She’s turnin’ seven soon… Wish I could be there for it.”

“Why can’t you?”

The cowboy shook his head gently, wistfully. “That’s no story for a girl who h’aint reached nine years old yet.”

“I’m big for my age, and smart, too,” protested Alina, drawing herself up to her full height.

“Does your Pa tell you so?”

Alina nodded.

“And where is your Pa, little woman?”

“He’s on a posse,” declared Alina proudly. “Sheriff asked him to help hunt down an outlaw who was thievin’ from the ranches.” A terrible thought crossed Alina’s mind. “Say… You aren’t planning to try any thievin’ yourself, are you, mister?”

The cowboy rocked on his heels and grinned. “And what if I was? What if I was to take one of these here cans of beans”—he pulled one off the shelf—”and tuck it into my vest and just walk out without payin’? What would you do about that?”

“I’d run after you and scream!” said Alina, defiantly. “And the sheriff would arrest you and throw you in jail.

“But I thought the sheriff was out on a posse, huntin’ down an evil outlaw.”

“Then Deputy Jacob would do it. I saw him walking past only a minute ago.”

“Did you, now?” The man scratched his cheek. “Yeah, I reckon he would.” The man tossed the can of beans in the air and caught it again. “Do they feed you when you’re in jail?”

The question caught Alina off guard. “I… Well, I reckon so. Everybody’s gotta eat.”

“Then maybe I oughta get myself arrested!” said the man.

“That would make you an outlaw,” Alina pointed out.

“Better to be an outlaw than die of starvation,” the man mused. “See, truth is, I h’ain’t had a bite o’ real food to eat in near on a week, so these here beans are lookin’ mighty good.”

“All you gotta do is buy ’em,” said Alina. “Them cans are only ten cents a dozen.”

“What if I h’ain’t got ten cents?”

“I’ll put you down for credit,” said Alina, “and you can come back when you do have ten cents. Ma does that all the time.”

“That’s kind of you, little woman,” grinned the cowboy. “Most folk wouldn’t give credit to a man like me.”

“Why not?” asked Alina.

“Wouldn’t trust me to come up with the money,” said the man.

“It ain’t hard to earn ten cents,” said Alina. “Ma gives me ten cents a week for helping with the laundry and weeding the garden.”

The man placed the can of beans back on the shelf. “There’s the trick of it, though, little woman. Most folk wouldn’t give me work to do, neither.”

Alina wrinkled her forehead. “But if you can’t work, then how’re you supposed to earn money to buy food?”

“Don’t seem fair, does it?”

“Why won’t people give you work?”

The man leaned towards her and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper: “‘Cause I broke a rule, once.”

Alina’s eyes opened wide. “Are you an outlaw already?”

The man held his hands out innocently. “Do I look like an outlaw, little woman?”

Alina pondered this for a moment. “Not to me, you don’t,” she admitted.

“I don’t feel like one, neither, and don’t much want to be one, but they tell me I am one, anyways,” said the cowboy.

“Can’t you ever change folks’ minds?”

“Only one way to do that,” said the outlaw, “and that’s for a judge to declare me a regular citizen again. But that ain’t likely to happen.”

“Why not?”

“You ever met Judge Gordon?”

Alina nodded. Judge Gordon was a fat man with beady eyes and a bald head who always treated her like she was still a toddler.

“Well Judge Gordon hates my guts. He’s hated me ever since he saw me kiss a girl he fancied… And then I married her, too. He ain’t never gonna forgive me for that.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I’m gonna head out east, find a different judge to turn myself in to so I can get a fair trial, where Judge Gordon can’t interfere. Only problem is…”

“What?” asked Alina.

“I h’ain’t got enough food to get me there, and no horse to help me carry it, even if I did. If I had a gun I could hunt along the way, but if nobody’s gonna sell me a can o’ beans, then for darn sure nobody’s gonna sell me a rifle.”

Deputy Jacob’s silhouette passed across the front windows again. Alina saw that the outlaw had noticed, too.

“Is he out there looking for you?” asked Alina.

“Your Pa’s right,” nodded the cowboy, “you are a smart little woman.”

“What’ll happen if he catches you in here?”

“He’ll lock me up, like you said, probably say I was thievin’ from your shop and tryin’ to kidnap you.”

“But you aren’t doing either of those things! I saw you put those beans back myself.”

“That’s justice for you,” shrugged the outlaw. “That’s the rules, when you’ve got a man like Judge Gordon in charge. I reckon he’ll prob’ly want to tie the noose himself.” He let loose a haggard sigh.

Alina made up her mind. “Wait right here, mister.” She went back into the store room, climbed onto a barrel, reached up to the top shelf, and wrapped her fingers around the butt of Pa’s rifle. She clutched it carefully to her chest. It felt much bigger and clumsier than she had imagined.

The outlaw was standing beside the cash register when she returned, glancing over his shoulder through the front windows. “Hey, now,” he said. Whatcha gote there?”

“This’ll help you get out east,” said Alina, handing him the rifle. “And when you’re a free man, you can bring it back. Like you’re buying it on credit.”

“Bless your heart, little woman,” said the cowboy. “This world needs a million more generous, forgiving souls like yours, I reckon.”

Alina blushed. “Oh, and in case you need to skin any of them animals you catch while you’re hunting…” She dug the little jackknife out of her apron pocket and pressed it into his hand. “Here. My Pa gave me that, but I haven’t caught any squirrels yet, anyways, and I can always save up and buy another one.”

“Thank you, darlin’,” said the man, gently, tucking the knife into his pocket.

“Quick, now,” said Alina, “you can come out the back way before cousin Jacob comes around again and sees you.” She turned to lead the way through the store room but stopped in midstep upon hearing the bell above the shop door jingle again. She spun and saw Jacob standing in the doorway, arms folded across his broad chest, a grim smile on his round, clean-shaven face. His tall hat was cocked back on his head, and his long blond hair spilled out from under it.

There you are,” growled Jacob. “Knew you had to be along here someplace. Musta been some neat trick you pulled, doublin’ back and shakin’ a whole posse off your trail.”

The outlaw kept his back turned so the rifle was hidden from the Jacob’s sight. “Not such a tough job, when the posse’s bein’ weighed down by a fool like Gordon.”

Jacob shook his head slowly. “You shouldn’t’ve come back here, Holden. Just another poor decision to add to your long list of mistakes.” He noticed Alina standing in the door of the store room, then. “Come on over here, Alina. Your Ma would have a fit if she saw you standin’ so close to a filthy outlaw.”

Alina looked up and saw the desperation in the outlaw’s eyes. He gave her a slight, reassuring nod, and she cautiously stepped forward to join Jacob.

Just as she started to move, the outlaw whirled, raised the rifle to his shoulder, and shot Jacob straight through the stomach. Jacob toppled over against a shelf, sending it and its contents crashing to the floor.

The outlaw winked at Alina, tipped his hat, and sprinted out the front door, shouting “Yeehaw!” as he went. Alina stood paralyzed in shock as she watched the outlaw spring onto cousin Jacob’s horse and go galloping off down Main Street.

Alina was vaguely aware of yelling and screaming breaking out in the street, and footsteps thundering across the boardwalk. Ma rushed in, dress flapping behind her. The sight of Ma broke Alina out of her paralysis and she slumped back against the counter, bumping the cash register. It dinged, and the money drawer slid open.

It was empty of all but ten cents.

Year of Stories – Week 14

Welcome to week 14 of the Year of Stories!

Free this week is From, a 3,100-word western-inspired drama. Read it now! You can also buy it for 99¢ in the Store.

Synopsis
People change. Places change. Dean Cooper knows that as well as anyone. Change is the only constant thing in his life; he accepted that fact a long time ago. But when he decides to stop in at his childhood home one day, will he find its new owners’ changes so easy to handle?

The highlighted Store release for this week is Jef and the Sad Sack, a 5,300-word sci-fi children’s story. Read it now for only $0.99!

Synopsis
There is a boy who lives in an attic. His name, when he bothers to remember it, is Jef. No one ever comes to visit Jef except the man at the trapdoor, until one day a spaceship crashes into Jef’s attic and whisks him away on a fantastic adventure!

To read previously released stories, check out the Year of Stories page.

From

Prefer to do your reading on your ereader, iPhone, or other device? Download this month’s stories from the Store!


The odometer clicked over to 200,000 miles as Dean Cooper crossed the state line into Minnesota. He celebrated the milestone with a swig of coffee and a mouthful of greasy hamburger. He was back home, after all these years, but he was only passing through.

Dean reached up and scratched a spot behind his ear, under the red knit cap O’Malley’s wife had made for him years ago, decades ago. She’d worked so hard on it during that in-between time after he and O’Malley had returned from Vietnam, when Dean had spent a couple of weeks living in their guest room. The cap was old now, faded, stained. Still rough and itchy, but still warm.

He needed that warmth today, even with the hot air pumping out of the truck’s vents. It was spring, technically, but apparently no one had informed Minnesota of that yet. The sky was grey, the wind was blowing, and the puddles beside the highway were coated in thin sheets of ice, the kind that Dean and his friends had loved to throw rocks through when they were kids, or pick up in big, clear sheets and toss up into the air so they shattered on the ground.

Did kids still do that these days, or were they all too busy inside playing on their computers? If Dean had ever had kids, he wouldn’t have given them computers. Of course, to have kids he would’ve had to settle down, and it was much too late for that. He was too used to racking up miles in his truck. He’d crossed too many state lines. He was just too restless. The constant movement was what kept his heart going, kept him warm. Settling down meant sitting still, and if he sat still Dean knew he would soon get cold and tired and frozen-over like those little ponds he was driving by. So he kept moving, kept looking for his destination, didn’t get too attached to any one place.

Last week he’d been a carpenter in Bismarck, North Dakota. In the fall he’d spent some time as a landscaper in Seattle. Summer had seen him working as a farmhand to bring in the Montana wheat harvest.

Now there was a job waiting for him in Wisconsin. He was going to drive a logging truck up and down the mountains, delivering timber to the mills. It seemed right up his alley, but he knew it wouldn’t last. Nothing ever lasted. In a month, or two months, or three, he’d quit and go searching for something new. Maybe he’d try Milwaukee, or Des Moines, or swing back through Montana again, maybe continue on to Boise.

Or maybe there’d be something here in Minnesota. It might be nice to spend some time back around his old haunts, where he’d grown up with the trees and the snow, the mountains and the lakes. The fresh, clean air and the down-to-earth, simple people of the Minnesota countryside would be a nice change from the noise and busyness of the cities and the rough-and-tumble backwoods atmosphere of the lumber camps.

It was an option. Anything was an option. Dean knew he’d probably feel differently about things in a month or two. He’d make his mind up later, go where the wind carried him. If it brought him back to Minnesota, fine.

In the meantime, Dean decided to take the scenic route. He turned off onto Route 10.

The miles flew by under his tires, carrying him closer to his long-forgotten home. Dean stuffed the last bite of his hamburger into his mouth and wadded up the wrapper and the bag. He rolled down his window so he could toss the garbage out, but before he made the throw he saw three young boys trooping along in the grass by the trees, dragging long sticks behind them and looking up at his truck as he drove by.

He had been one of those boys once, dragging those sticks, imagining them to be a sword or a spear or a flagpole. And he’d watched the men in their trucks come driving by, and wondered where they were going, and seen them toss their trash out their windows, making a mess of his pristine playground.

Dean rolled the window back up. People didn’t throw trash on the road around here. It wasn’t how he’d been raised, at least, and no matter where he’d been, this was where he’d come from. No one would know it anymore, to look at him—he’d become someone very different from the nineteen-year-old he’d been when he left for ‘Nam—but there was still some piece of that Minnesota boy deep down inside him. He still treasured these trees, these mountains, these lakes. If he had ever settled down anywhere, it would’ve been here.

The highway rolled up around a bend and the trees opened up, revealing the broad grey waters of Boyer Lake rippling gently in the wind. Though it had been at least 30 years since he’d last driven this road, Dean knew exactly where he would’ve found that old rope swing he used to jump off of into the icy cold water, following through on some dare or trying to impress a girl. It would’ve been right… there.

And there it was, much to Dean’s surprise. It wasn’t quite the same—the rope had been replaced, and there was a wooden seat at the bottom instead of just a knot to stand on—but it was in the same place, hanging from the same tree, dangling over the water like it always had.

Dean pushed the red knit cap up over his forehead, scratched at his receding hairline, and smiled. Who would’ve ever thought it would still be there? Some things really never changed. Seeing that swing brought back so many memories, so many familiar faces. He had been young then, and innocent. He’d known the answers to all the important questions, and whenever he’d felt that familiar restlessness he’d just gone off on an adventure, knowing he’d have a soft bed and a warm house to come home to when he’d seen it through.

So, if the rope swing was still there, what about the house? He hadn’t thought about that house since his father had died. In his mind, the two had always been connected: his father had built the house with his own two hands, and never slept a night outside of it for the rest of his life. When he had died, as far as Dean was concerned, the house had died. His mom must’ve felt the same way, because she’d sold the place and moved in with some friends in Minneapolis. The house had faded into Dean’s past.

But wouldn’t it be something if…?

Dean made the turn out of decades-old habit, crunching over the gravel down under the shadows of the trees. The road was smoother now than it had once been, gravel where there used to be just dirt. The naked branches of the trees were denser overhead, crowding down on either side like reaching fingers. A cat slunk out of the way as Dean rolled past.

There was the driveway, wooden posts standing on either side. There’d been a hand-carved sign at the top of one of those posts all those years ago, proclaiming “COOPER” to no one’s benefit, since anyone who came down that road already knew who they were there to visit. But Dad had been proud of that sign. “If you own something,” he’d always said, “you gotta put your name on it.”

There was no sign now, just a rusty mailbox with illegible white numbers painted onto the side, smeared by age. A wire fence stretched out to either side of the driveway, and it, too, was rusted and sagging. Maybe no one lived here anymore.

He’d already come this far, so Dean decided to find out. Something was telling him to stop, to turn around, to get back on the highway so he wouldn’t have to see what his father’s pride and joy had become, in case it had fallen into ruin, but he turned into the driveway anyways and bumped slowly through the potholes and the puddles until he emerged into the clearing.

And there it was.

It was old, it was worn, it was sagging here and there, but it still stood. The walls had been painted a faded light green, the roof was patched over in a few places with shingles that didn’t quite match the rest, and the truck out front was a little black Ford with a stained canopy instead of an old crew-cab Chevy, but the house was still here, and smoke was curling up out of the chimney.

And now that Dean was here…

He never did this kind of thing, but he found himself pulling up beside the little Ford, getting out of his truck, climbing the three stairs onto the front porch, and reaching for the door handle. He caught himself before he turned it. He couldn’t just walk in; he didn’t live here anymore, and neither did his father. How strange the ways that some things never change, and yet they never stay the same.

He raised his hand and knocked, not really knowing why he was doing it, or what he was going to say. He heard footsteps coming to the door and pulled off his red knit cap, tucking it into his jacket pocket. Dad had never let him wear hats inside the house.

A woman answered the door, and Dean’s first reaction was to wonder why she looked so little like his mother. Mom had always been short, plump, and rosy-cheeked, with bright eyes and a bounce in her step. This woman was thin, almost gaunt, and might have been taller if she hadn’t stood with so much of a slouch. There were dark circles around her eyes, and her skin was too powdery, too blotchy, like she was wearing a thick mask of makeup.

“Hello?” said the woman.

“Hi,” said Dean. “This is, well… It’s kind of strange, I guess, but I used to live here when I was a kid, and I was just driving by…”

The woman’s eyes brightened just a little, and she tried to smile. “Isn’t that nice?” she said. “You want to see what’s become of the old place?”

“Yeah, I guess. I’m not really sure what made me come to the door like this, to be honest.”

“I’m glad you did. Come in,” said the woman, eagerly, even hungrily. “I’ll show you around.”

Dean accepted the invitation, stepped inside, and pulled off his shoes—another one of the old habits. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” he said.

“No, no, nothing,” said the woman. “So tell me, which bedroom used to be yours?”

“Upstairs,” said Dean.

“Let’s go take a look,” said the woman. “You can tell me what it used to be like. I’m sure plenty has changed.”

As they climbed the stairs, Dean asked, “Do you live here alone?”

“No,” said the woman, “my husband and I have lived here for about eight years now.” She quickly added, “But he isn’t home right now.” She opened the door to Dean’s old bedroom and he stepped inside. It was a sewing room now, piled high with shelves of fabric and various storage boxes. A dresser stood in the corner, one drawer open and overflowing with hand-sewn blouses and dresses.

“My bed was along this wall,” said Dean, pointing. “There used to be a tree outside the window. I climbed down it more than a few times to get out without my parents knowing. I guess it’s gone now.”

“Someone who lived here before us must have cut it down,” said the woman. “Would you like to see the rest of the house?”

“Sure, why not?” said Dean.

The woman led him through the house, showing him what she had done with each room. Dean told her what the rooms had used to be, and shared a few stories from his past life. He surprised himself with how many things he could remember, even from so long ago.

“Well,” said the woman, when they had been through most of the house, “that’s about everywhere.” She seemed disappointed that the tour was over. “We could take a quick walk around outside, if you’d like.”

“What about this room?” asked Dean. “This is the master bedroom, isn’t it?” He put his hand on the door handle, but the woman stepped over quickly and held the door closed.

“Yes, it’s our bedroom,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind if I keep that room private. It’s… very messy right now.”

“Okay,” said Dean. “I understand.” He turned away from the room reluctantly. Thinking of his parents’ bedroom had stirred up some powerful memories of his childhood, crawling under the covers for story time or bursting in on Christmas morning with his stocking in hand, marvelling that it had magically been filled.

When they had only taken a few steps towards the front door, Dean heard the door of the master bedroom creak open behind him. He looked back to see a man standing in the open door with his plaid shirt half-buttoned and his belt buckle open. The man’s cheeks were rough and red, his nose was broad and dimpled, and his eyes were watery.

“Who are you?” sneered the man.

“I’m, uh…”

“Whatever you’re selling,” the man’s words were slurred, “we’re not buying any.”

“I’m not—” began Dean.

“And if you’re looking to buy, we’re not selling, neither. This is our house.”

“I just—”

“Time for you to leave,” said the man, stepping up and poking a finger into Dean’s chest. “I don’t much care what you’re here for. I don’t like strangers wandering through my house.” He glared at the woman. “What were you thinking letting him in here, Tracy? Tryin’ to fool around behind my back? Is that what this is about?” The man gave Dean a shove, pushing him back a couple of steps. “That’s it, isn’t it? I see what’s going on.” He leaned in towards Dean and growled, “Get out before I throw you out.” His breath reeked of alcohol.

Dean backed up and turned around to go. He knew it had been a mistake to come here. “I thought you said your husband wasn’t home,” he remarked to the woman as he made his way back to the front door and began pulling on his shoes.

“I’m sorry,” said the woman. “I’m so sorry. Please, don’t go. I—”

“You what?” snarled her husband. “You like his company better than mine? I can see right through you, woman. Don’t you ever bring another man around here again!”

Dean’s blood was beginning to boil. The man’s voice was setting off all kinds of triggers inside him, but he was decades removed from being the reckless soldier boy out looking for a fight. He tied his shoes, stood, pulled his red knit cap over his head, and shoved through the front door onto the porch.

He was halfway to his truck when he heard the smack and the yelp. It was the last thing he needed to hear.

Turning on his heel, Dean stormed back up onto the porch and into the house. The man was standing over his cowering wife, raising his hand for another blow, and Dean barrelled into him like a bull. The man was slow to react and tumbled down onto the floor but came up swinging. He caught Dean with a thump to the side of the head, but Dean put a fist into his gut and knocked the air out of his lungs.

The man stumbled backwards towards the fireplace and reached for the fire poker.

The woman screamed, “No, Keith, don’t!”

“Shut your hole, mouse!” the man snarled. He lifted the poker like a club and rushed at Dean, swinging it over his head.

His movements were clumsy and sluggish, and though aging and diet hadn’t been especially kind to Dean, he had still spent the last 30 years working with his hands. He pivoted out of the way of the man’s charge and kicked at the man’s ankles. The man went crashing to the floor.

Dean pounced and wrestled the fire poker away, then pinned the man’s arms to the floor under his knees. He landed a solid punch to the man’s jaw, then another for good measure. “You’ll respect a woman in my father’s house!”

“This ain’t your daddy’s house,” said the man, wriggling as he tried to get free. “This is my house, and she’s my wife. I’ll do what I please!”

Dean shook his head. “Not if I can help it.” He reached back and pulled the man’s belt out of his pants, then grabbed the man’s wrists and wrapped the belt around them. The man fought and squirmed but was soon helpless. Dean yanked him to his feet and shoved him towards the front door.

“Where are you taking him?” asked the woman. “What are you going to do?”

“Just a little old-fashioned country justice,” said Dean. “I don’t know what’s happened to people around here, but I’m not going to leave things the way I found them. You can call the cops, if you want. Doesn’t bother me either way.” He marched the man to his truck, tied his ankles with a bit of rope he had lying around, and threw him in the back. Then he started up the engine and headed towards the lake.

***

When it was done, Dean sat shivering in his truck, wringing the water out of his pant legs and massaging some life back into his frozen feet. This kind of thing had been so much easier to recover from when he was young and his heart was strong.

“Let me down!” the man was shouting as he dangled upside-down over the water, his ankles tied to the old rope swing. “Take me down, you coward! I’ll see you rotting in jail for this!”

“Maybe we can share a cell,” retorted Dean. “Anyways, you’d best quit making all those threats, or maybe someone’ll come out there and hang you right side up.”

Dean pulled the door of his truck shut, snugged his red knit cap down tight around his years to block out the man’s hollering, started up the engine, and hit the road. It was time, again, to be moving on.

END

Year of Stories – Week 13

Welcome to week 13 of the Year of Stories!

Free this week is Unsettled, a 6,800-word sci-fi action epic. Read it now! You can also buy it for 99¢ in the Store.

Synopsis
Darien Hammond and his wife, Tiffany, helped clear planet Oronado of the incumbent alien Cust almost two decades ago. They laid down roots, started a farm and a family, and settled into their new life. Then the Cust returned. The human settlers are on the run, scrambling into shuttles as their cities and farms are burned from orbit. Can Darien and his family make it out in time?

The highlighted Store release for this week is From, a 3,100-word western-inspired drama. Read it now for only $0.99!

Synopsis
People change. Places change. Dean Cooper knows that as well as anyone. Change is the only constant thing in his life; he accepted that fact a long time ago. But when he decides to stop in at his childhood home one day, will he find its new owners’ changes so easy to handle?

To read previously released stories, check out the Year of Stories page.