Bullpen Western Short Story
Summer lived with her dad on a farmhouse just outside of Virginia. Her mother had passed away during childbirth. The baby boy was stillborn. She was only five years old, and still remembers how afraid and alone she felt. Her dad methodically did his work, and never showed any emotion after his wife died. He never laughed or smiled. As she got older, Summer started to take over the chores around the house. She cleaned, cooked, did laundry, and tended to the animals. Vern, her dad, occasionally dated, but never got serious about another woman.
Summer felt lonely on the farmhouse. If not for the occasional trips to town, she would have had nothing to look forward to. There was boy who worked with his dad at the Telegraph Office. His name was Chip. He would smile and say hello to Summer when she came in with her dad. Then, she would go to the post office with her dad to see if there was any mail for them. Once Summer got a letter from her aunt in Philadelphia, and she invited Summer to come for a visit, but her dad said city folks are too different. Her aunt married a guy who was travelling by stage. She was a passenger, and he got on board in the next town. They started talking and clicked. His family lived in Philadelphia, so she upped and moved to the big city. She loved it from the moment she got there.
Summer was now sixteen, and felt she wanted a little more freedom. She once asked her dad if she could take the buggy into town by herself. He turned around, looked at her and said emphatically no. He told her it was dangerous for a young lady to travel alone and walk around town by herself. Summer thought her dad was being over-protective. She could handle the buggy and knew everyone in town.
The next morning she got up to do her regular chores and heard the stage coming in. They were an hour earlier than usual. Clem, the driver, dismounted and put the horses in the corral. He gave them some hay and water. He would rest the horses on her dad’s farm until the next morning. “Hello Summer,” said Clem. Summer said hello back. Clem was an older man who married a widow with three children. They lived a few miles away. He was a very nice man always joking around. Clem left on horseback to his house, and told Summer he would she them tomorrow.
Later that afternoon, there was a knock on the door. Two men were standing outside the porch door. One was young and very handsome, and the other a much older man who looked like he was in a lot of pain. Her dad came to the door to see who it was. Summer stepped aside to let her dad talk to the men. Apparently, one was shot, and was in need of a doctor. Vern bandaged him up as best he could and, said he would take them into town to the doctor. They refused saying they would tend to it themselves. Vern put them up for the night because it was getting late. He offered the older man the couch, and told the younger one he could use the barn. Vern told Summer to bring some food out to him. She took some leftovers and went to the barn with them. The man was sitting on a haystack playing a harmonica. Summer laughed at the sight of him. He jumped up appreciatively accepting the food. Summer started to talk to him. His name was Jeremy, and he was nineteen years old. ” Is the man inside your pa?” asked Summer. Jeremy told her he was not, but a good friend of his pa’s. He said that his pa died years ago. Summer told him her mom died when she was five.
He ate like he was starving and drank the cider in one gulp. Jeremy went back to playing the harmonica. Summer started clapping her hands and dancing. “Where did you learn to play?” she asked. “My daddy,” he replied. He could wheedle, yodel, and play the harmonica. They both laughed. “What do you do around here?” asked Jeremy. There is not much to do maybe a trip into town,” Summer said. “Where do you live?” asked Summer. Jeremy told her he has been everywhere. In every city back East, and every town out West. “Wow,” exclaimed Summer. She never travelled anywhere and wondered what it would be like. She told him about her Aunt in Philadelphia. She hoped one day to go, but her dad was not too keen on the idea. Jeremy told her he used to live in Philadelphia. It is an exciting city. He told her that is where he is heading next. Summer was breathless. The thought of going to Philadelphia gave her goose bumps.
At the crack of dawn, Vern came rushing into the barn. He told Jeremy he could not wake his friend. Vern was up preparing breakfast, and was trying to wake him but couldn’t. Jeremy rushed into the house and shook him yelling his name. He didn’t wake up. He listened for a heartbeat, there was none. His friend was dead. Jeremy said he would go into town to wire the man’s kin.
Clem was out front harnessing the horses for his next trip. When he was ready to leave, Jeremy jumped on it. Summer had a small suitcase with her and snuck on before her father could see her. Jeremy never went to the Telegraph Office. He was going to Philadelphia with Summer. Summer was excited about the trip. She had never been away from home before. She couldn’t wait to see her aunt’s face when she arrived in Philadelphia. She thought about her daddy, but once she got to Philly, she would wire him to tell him she is all right, and staying with Aunt Katie.
Summer’s father went into town to see the sheriff. He realized Jeremy was not returning and he took his daughter with him. “Now, calm down Vern tell me what’s the matter,” sheriff asked. Vern told him about the two men who came to his house yesterday. The one that was shot is dead. The boy with him was supposed to wire his kin. He never came back, and he took Summer with him. “Where do you think they might be heading?” sheriff asked. Vern thought maybe Philadelphia because he has a sister there. The sheriff told him to wire his sister and tell her what is going on. In the meantime, he will wire the towns up ahead where the stage will stop.
The first town wired back that they already passed. So, he hoping the next town would stop them. They had no luck, because the next town said they were not on board the stage. They said they must have gotten off before they reached there. He didn’t want to tell Vern, but he had to. His daughter has gone missing with this stranger.
The dead man was later identified as an outlaw wanted for murder. Vern was frightened that he may never see Summer again. Summer and Jeremy were on horseback heading East to Philly. Jeremy stole the horse from outside a saloon in the last town they stopped in. At first, Summer thought he was fun and exciting. Now, she realized he is dangerous. His friend was shot for some reason.
She decided the next town they stopped in she would go to the sheriff and have him get in touch with her father. Jeremy didn’t have a clue. He thought Summer was having the time of her life. They arrived just before dusk and the town was closing up except for the saloon. Jeremy said he would be right back and entered the saloon. Summer ran as fast as she could to the Sheriff’s Office. The deputy was there and knew who Summer was from the wire he received an hour ago. He asked where Jeremy was. She told him in the salon. He told her to stay put.
The deputy left for the salon. It seemed like ages, then Summer heard shots ring out. She ran outside to see what was going one. She saw Jeremy lying in the street. The deputy had his gun out pointed directly at Jeremy. Summer screamed and ran back inside the Sheriff’s Office. The deputy came back, and told her he is dead. He asked her did she know who he was. She said not really. Well, he told her he and his friend were wanted for murder. He showed her the wanted posters for the both of them. Summer asked about her father. He said her father was worried sick about her. Please let him know I am all right pleaded Summer. The deputy said he is sending a wire to him as soon as he can. He told Summer she would have to spend the night in the jail cell. She thought it was coming here because of the way she behaved.
The next morning her father was there talking to the sheriff as he watched Summer sleeping in the cell. Summer woke up and it seemed surreal that her father was there and she in jail. She heard the sheriff say he could take her home now. He opened the cell and Summer walked out. She was a lot older and wiser than she was yesterday. She could barely look at her father. She felt so ashamed. Her father put his arm around her and Summer started to cry. They both cried together.
Heading home they realized how her mother’s death still affected them. They had to talk about their feelings. Her mom would want them to be closer and not drift apart. Her dad told her he loved her after so many years. She told him she loved him. It is a long way back home, but they will make it. They have each other.