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  1. #13
    Poet. Veteran. Comic Book Maker jst5150's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    The South

    Entry #12 (Final Entry) by Teige Benson

    As proprietor of the 99ers Ranch, Buck Waterston knew every hand that worked for him. Some he knew well, others not so much. His sharp eyes narrowed in on Brenda Karricker, sitting at the long mess table amid the other ranch hands.

    Brenda remained a puzzle. When she arrived three seasons before from Maryland, she was slender, well groomed and not accustomed to the country way of life found here on the ranch, a few miles outside of Butte. He watched her now as she shoved another large mouthful of mashed potatoes into her mouth. No. This was not the same woman.

    Her plaid shirt, only half tucked into her worn jeans, barely concealed the rolls around her midriff. Wasn’t surprising really, the way the woman ate. Her skin had also morphed from the made-up face of a professional investment banker to that of sun-baked leather. Worn, ruddy and rough.

    The biggest change, though, was her hair. Gone were the full-bodied chestnut curls that hung loose down her back. Instead, she kept it buzzed short, which emphasized her pudgy cheeks and sparkling green eyes. Darker than emeralds, those eyes pierced through her long lashes, reminding you that no matter how much she had changed, Brenda Karricker was still a woman.

    He muttered under his breath, certain his thoughts set off her woman’s intuition, for she was walking right towards him. She stopped at the coffee urn, and after filling her Styrofoam cup, came to stand beside him. “How’s it going, Buck?”

    “Still on schedule,” he said, trying to ignore the piece of beef caught between her teeth, “though there’s still work to do before the guests arrive.” His hand came up to tap on his own teeth but her penetrating stare stopped him. Damn those eyes. With the dangling piece of meat forgotten, he looked into the emerald depths of her eyes and rocked on his heels. When he spoke again, his voice took on a hoarse quality. "You hear from the family this week?”

    Her eyes snapped shut and when she opened them again, a fiery darkness blazed within. “Not this week,” she said hurriedly, and then, “like you say, though, lots of work to get done.” Without another word, she turned and walked away, her boot heel marking the old linoleum floor as she left.

    She knew what they were up to with their questions. Especially Buck. Well, he could forget about it. She had told them all she was going to tell. This was her life now, out on the Montana plains, far away from the city of Baltimore. That life was over, all the ties of the past firmly cut. For Brenda, the future was the only way to look.

    The hot temperatures of the past few days had dissipated thanks to the cloud cover that settled in the night before. She ran a calloused hand over the short bristles atop her head before cutting a path behind the horse stables. There, she pulled a pack of Lucky Strikes from the breast pocket of her shirt. With one long inhale, the cigarette between her fingers came to life, filling her lungs with its potent flavor. She exhaled and tilted her head to the sky.

    They were in for a storm. The clouds were building, a large grey army looming overhead, ready to cast down its warfare to the open ground below. A crack of thunder sounded and she jumped in surprise. She did not scare easy but that had done it. The sharp crack too familiar, the same sound… she shook the thought away. With one last drag, she tossed the cigarette to the ground and snubbed it out with the toe of her boot. Some things you could outrun, but the haunting sounds of the past were not one of them.

    The images flashed through her head on her walk back to the main hall. Although distorted in time, each scene a vivid picture in her mind. The seventeenth floor corner office. The faces of her children. The gun. Black, cold, and deadly.

    Her eyes blinked in rapid fashion as an icy chill ran down her spine. Before the memories could consume her, she tilted her head in determination and ran for the main house. It was harder to run now, she mused. It used to be easier, before the extra sixty pounds. By the time she made it inside, a hot flush covered her face. Her breathing came fast and heavy and a sheen of sweat beaded across her forehead.

    She was half way up the stairs when a voice stopped her cold. Frozen on the stairwell, she gripped the rail, her fingertips turning white from the force. Maybe if she just stood there long enough, refusing to turn around, she could make it go away. In her mind, she understood the absurdity. It would be like one of those bad dreams. The ones where you told yourself to wake up but your head would not obey.

    Drawing in a deep breath, she steadied herself and then turned around. The young man stood adjacent to the kitchen entrance, a sight she missed when she came through the door. She tried to smile, but instead, her face took on a distorted grimace. Her throat constricted, and no matter how many times she opened her mouth to speak, the words would not come out.

    At the same moment, Buck walked through the front door, stopped and took in the scene before him. He noticed Brenda's normally reddened face was void of color and the look fear clouded her eyes. Whatever he had walked into, it was big.

    He turned to Brenda in question but the young man was first to speak. "Aren't you going to introduce us, mother?"
    Last edited by jst5150; 11-24-2007 at 05:53 AM.
    “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” -- Maxwell

    I write and draw a printed space opera/scifi comic book, "Vorpal":

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