Bullpen Short Story
The Civil War had ended, and Luke returned home to his wife and son. He and his brother Lonnie enlisted in the army, but fought on different sides. It was a long hard road back from the war. Some knew they would never find the home they once knew. Back home, with his wife Martha and their son Chester; Luke was feeling the weight of war. He took to drinking heavily something he had never done before. Martha tried to stop him, but it was no use. One day he just up and left never returning home. He thought they would be better off without him. His son Chester was only five.
As Chester grew his mother had a picture of Luke in his army uniform. He looked handsome and brave. “Your father was a war hero, and risked his own life to save a fellow soldier,” his mother proudly told Chester. Chester took that picture everywhere with him. When he was old enough he was given Luke’s gun. A Burnside Carbine that his father used during the war. Chester was proud of his dad even though he hardly knew him.
Luke moved to a place called Hay Town. He was drinking in a saloon he frequented, but ran out of money. The bartender threw him out in the street, and landed right in front of a woman named Bessie. She was a local with a reputation, and they decided to hook up together for a while. But, it ended in tragedy when Luke tried to defend Bessie. A man accused her of stealing his wallet. “That woman is a thief,” the man yelled. Luke jumped in and the man pulled a gun and shot Luke. He lived for a few hours and died. Later, they found out that Bessie had in fact stolen from the man. It was too late for Luke, though.
Chester was old enough to take care of himself, or so he thought. He headed to Hay Town. It had a reputation for gunslingers. It was there he met a beautiful girl named Ellie. She was the Reverend Duke’s daughter. He also met a woman named Bessie, who was dating the undertaker, and living in his rooming house. It was the same rooming house that Chester was staying in. Chester got work as a cow hand at a local ranch. His girlfriend, Elle was the sweetest and prettiest girl in Hay Town. Chester fell hook, line and sinker for her.
Elle first met Chester at church during Sunday services. He was seated in the front row. He noticed Elle right off. She smiled at him and he blushed. After the service, the Reverend Duke greeted all the parishioners on their way out of the church. He shook hands with Chester and welcomed him to Hay Town. “You’re new to Hay Town, and I hope to be seeing you at our Sunday service,” Said Reverend Duke. Elle walked over and introduced herself to Chester. They both hit it off. “Hello,” said Elle smiling demurely at Chester. “Hi,” Chester said bashfully. “Chester, my wife cooked a big Sunday dinner, and we would like for you to join us this afternoon,” said Reverend Duke. “Thank you kindly, sir. I would love to join your family for dinner,” exclaimed Chester.
It was late afternoon, and Chester was riding over to the Duke’s for dinner. He was nervous walking up to the porch, and used the palm of his hand to smooth his hair out. He was gallantly holding the flowers that he had brought for Elle. He gave one last look at the flowers, which consisted of Peach Roses, White Asiatic Lilies, and Dusty Millers. He counted to three and knocked on the door. Elle opened the door saying, “Oh Chester, I am so glad to see you. “ She was a vision to behold, and Chester was in love. “Chester, don’t just stand there, come on in,” she said teasingly. “Where do you get the beautiful flowers?” she excitedly asked. “I got them especially for you, Elle, Chester said meekly. “Oh, mom we need a vase for the lovely flowers Chester brought,” she said walking into the dining room with Chester. Mae, Ellie’s mother said, “Chester, I hope you are mighty hungry because there is enough here to feed a whole cavalry.” Mae cooked a delicious dinner. It consisted of a thick steak, cold slaw, potato salad, baked beans, chuck wagon corn, corn muffins, watermelon, fruit cup and assorted beverages. Chester was too full for her tempting apple pie. Mae insisted he take some home with him. He said goodnight to the Duke’s and waited for Elle to walk him to the front door. They went outside on the porch and talked a bit. “I am so glad you came to dinner,” said Elle. Chester just smiled and could not believe that he was on the porch with Elle. “I really enjoyed it, and the food was great,” offered Chester. Both were at a loss for words, but each knew what the other was thinking. Chester whispered something to Elle, and she shook her head yes. She then kissed Chester on the check and ran inside. Chester was in a fog riding back that night to the rooming house. All he could do that night was fall in bed, and dream about Elle.
The next morning he went to work. He was a full-time cow hand at a local ranch. All day long he thought about Elle. After work he stopped off with the other guys at the saloon for a drink. He had a few and went back to the rooming house. On his way in, Bessie was just going out. She looked at him like she had seen a ghost. Chester looked a lot like his father Luke. Chester said nothing to her, but he thought to himself that is the second time he had seen her tonight.
Bessie was on her way to see Abe at the funeral parlor that he owned. When she got there she heard voices in the back room. Bessie walked back and found Abe there with a woman she had never seen before. Abe saw Bessie and introduced her to Emily. “Hello,” Bessie said looking accusingly at Abe. “Emily came in on the evening stage, and will be staying with mother and me,” he explained. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Bessie,” Abe said nervously. Emily and Abe started back to the house where Abe’s mother was waiting for them.
Bessie left wondering who Emily was. She headed over to the saloon and stood outside talking to some cow hands. The cow hands heard rumors about Bessie. After talking to her, they decided they weren’t rumors but truths. Bessie had a bad reputation in Hay Town. Most folks blamed her for Luke’s death.
Emily and Abe returned to his house, where his mother was waiting in the kitchen. His mother was happy to see Emily; it has been nearly two years. “Why Emily you look as pretty as ever,” his mother said. Emily thanked her, and his mother asked her would she like something to eat. “I am not all that hungry, just tired, “Emily explained. “ It was a long journey on the stage. It was a good seven days of rough and tumble travel,” Emily continued. She said good night and proceeded upstairs to the bedroom they had prepared for her. Once Emily left, his mother asked Abe how did there meeting go? “Oh mother it was just like old times,” exclaimed Abe. “We were laughing and remembering the good times we had together,” Abe said smiling. His mother felt she was getting old and the day of reckoning was upon her. The next funeral might be hers. She told him exactly what she wanted down to the casket and all. But, what she wanted most was Abe to marry Emily. It was time for Abe to start a family of his own. Abe was approaching forty and getting old himself. He needed a wife to look after him. Mother would not be her forever. Abe kissed his mother good night and went upstairs to his bedroom. Just as he was getting ready to get in bed and turn the light out, there was a knock on the door. It was Emily.
Emily looked at Abe touching his face gently. Their eyes locked for a few seconds. She kissed Abe passionately. He pulled her into his bedroom, and that is where they stayed until morning. The next morning it was official Abe and Emily were engaged to be married. There was no time to waste. The wedding was already being planned. Abe’s mother was already making a list of things to do.
Word travels fast in a small town. Bessie found out about the wedding. She was furious. She started throwing things around in her room. She was cussing and swearing like no woman has ever done. But, she knew a secret she was not keeping for long. She saw the Reverend Duke in the general store getting some supplies. She asked to see him tonight. He self-consciously said okay.
They met in the back room of the church. “I’m pregnant and you are the father,” Bessie blurts out. They have been having an affair ever since Luke died. He was trying to console Bessie in her grief, but it went beyond that, and now he was paying for it. “What do you want Bessie?” demanded the Reverend. “I want what is coming to me is all,” Bessie shot back.
Chester and Elle were outside the church, and overheard the reverend’s conversation with Bessie. They both agreed to meet by the church when they were talking on the porch the night Chester was over for dinner. Elle was horrified that her father could be accused of something like this. Chester wasn’t surprised about anything Bessie would pull. He heard stuff from the other cow hands including how his father died. Elle started to cry. Chester tried comforting her. He had his arm around her talking to her softly. At that moment, Chester hated Bessie. She was always messing people’s lives up. She was as deadly as a poisonous rattle snake. “Come on now Elle everything is going to be all right. You just wait and see,” Chester softly said. “I don’t know, Chester. I just don’t know,” Elle sobbed sadly.
Reverend Duke looked at Bessie in shock. “This can’t be possible,” Reverend said incredulously. “Ha, you ministers are all alike. I am going to have this baby, and you can’t stop me. “Bessie yelled. “Well, there is nothing we can do about it tonight. I will see you tomorrow, and we can decide what to do,” Reverend Duke said nervously.
Bessie laughed and left the church. Reverend Duke was left speechless in a cold sweat. His whole ministry was at stake. He and his family would be disgraced if this ever got out. He went home thinking it was all a bad dream, but it wasn’t.
“I have to be getting back,” said Elle. “Yea, your daddy will be looking for you,” said Chester. They jumped on back of Chester’s horse galloping toward her house. Chester dropped Elle off. “Please, Elle try not to be too hard on yourself or your daddy. I heard stories about Bessie, and I think she is crazy for sure,” Chester said soothingly.
The next morning Chester headed over to the church for Sunday service. Reverend Duke was there, but did not look well. He looked ashen and his hands were trembling. After the service, Chester asked to speak to him. “I heard you and Bessie talking in the church last night, and I want to help,” offered Chester. The reverend listened carefully to him, and reluctantly agreed. “I don’t have much choice, do I?” he said. “This will work, sir. Bessie is a real low-life and will take the offer,” explained Chester.
Bessie was coming out of the general store when she saw Chester. “Bessie,” can I talk to you a minute?” asked Chester. Bessie looked suspiciously at Chester. “What do you want?” she asked. Chester lured her into the alleyway, and threw an envelope on the ground. “This is yours,” said Chester. “Swine like you know how to crawl on their belly,” yelled Chester. He told her to be out on the afternoon stage or else he had a secret to tell about her. It seems Bessie was stealing money from Abe’s cash box. He thought he misplaced the key, but Bessie had taken it. She opened the box, and helped herself to a sizeable amount of cash. Abe didn’t know about it, because he was still looking for the key. Chester witnessed this himself. He was in the funeral parlor looking for Abe to tell him he had a guest that arrived on the stage that was looking for him. Apparently Abe had already left to meet her. Chester saw Bessie helping herself to the cash. He walked out, and saw Bessie heading back to the rooming house. “What about the money you stole from Abe’s cash box?” Chester demanded. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” shouted Bessie. “This town is better off without a tramp like you in it,” exclaimed Chester. Chester walked out of the alleyway, and Bessie picked up the envelope with the cash in it.
Bessie went back to the rooming house to pack a few things, and catch the afternoon stage. She headed over to the telegraph office, and waited for it to arrive. She saw the stage pulling up, and the driver barely came to a halt when Bessie jumped in. She was laughing herself silly because she was never pregnant.
That summer was cause for celebration. Chester and Elle got married, and now own the general store. Ellie is expecting their first child. Life couldn’t be better for them. Abe and Emily tied the knot as well. Abe’s mother is still alive. The Reverend is paying closer attention to the scriptures these days.
Bessie made it to Dodge City. That’s right she is now in Dodge City. She should feel right at home with the rest of the scoundrels.