Tuesday, May 28, 2019
BUSTING AT THE SEAMS WITH GOOD NEWS! by CHERYL PIERSON
I am so thrilled to have a western short story that made the “short list” in the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Awards this year! My story is called THE GAMBLE, and it was published in a western anthology called THE UNTAMED WEST. Let me tell you, there are a ton of great stories in that book alone, not to mention the many other entries that were received in the Peacemaker competition. That’s why I’m so proud to have my story be chosen as one of only FIVE finalists, along with Troy Smith, Michael Ritt, Jeff Mariotte, and Ron Schwab.
Now I will be waiting like a nervous Nellie until June 15 when the winners are announced. No matter who wins the award in this category, I’m just thrilled to have made the finalist list among so many excellent stories and talented authors who submitted stories. Wish me luck!
Here's an excerpt from THE GAMBLE starting with the "set up" of what's going on: A wounded man, Jake Kelly, has ridden onto the homestead of Lizzie and Ethan Riles, an older sister and younger brother whose parents have died not long before. Lizzie takes her responsibility to see to Ethan's safety seriously, but how can she turn away a wounded stranger who needs help?
When Jake came to, it was dark as hell. He was disoriented for a moment, wondering where he was. But the smell of stew came to him… and then, the raw pain in his thigh and side brought a maelstrom of memories rushing back to him that made no sense, at first.
As he lay in the blackness of the warm July night, he let everything sort itself out and fall into place. What was it about this cabin? Calm engulfed his spirit, and he took a long, deep breath, then let it out slowly.
“Are you in pain?”
He started at the female voice. Lizzie. His eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness, but he could smell the sweet vanilla scent she carried before he could make out her features.
A cool, work-roughened hand came across his forehead, lingering briefly, hesitating as if she were trying to be certain—
“Fever?” he asked through dry lips, his tongue thick.
“I’m afraid so. Your thigh wound was becoming infected.”
“No wonder it hurts like it does.”
“I had to cauterize it,” she said, somewhat defensively.
“You—you did it?”
“Well, who else did you think might do it, Mr. Kelly? Ethan?”
“Lizzie—Miss Riles—I don’t mean anything. Just tryin’ to get my head on straight. I didn’t know—”
“Thankfully,” she interjected, a hint of laughter in her tone. “I promise you, it was much better you didn’t know a thing about—about what was happening.”
“Well…you’re right about that. There’s been a time or two I’ve gone through that and remembered every second of it.”
“Here…” She pressed a cup of water to his lips as she lifted his head.
He let the water slide down his throat, relishing the fresh crispness of it—cold, even on such a warm night as it was.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said, when he’d finished.
“Lizzie. Nobody ever called me ‘ma’am’ before—not too much, anyhow.” Her voice had turned self-conscious, and he felt her rise from beside him where she’d sat on the floor.
“Can you sleep now?” she asked.
“I think so. I’m still dog tired.” He watched her pause as if she had something more to say. Before she could, he went on. “Lizzie, you have nothing to fear from me. I’m much obliged for the hospitality you’ve shown and the care you’ve given me. If I could just stay a day or two—rest up before I move on—that would sure help.”
“Are you a dangerous man, Jake?” She leaned down again earnestly. “Be honest. I can’t have trouble here. Ma and Pa both passed this last year. So it’s just me and Ethan, now. He depends on me to keep him safe, and I aim to do it—no matter what it takes.”
Jake nodded in the darkness. “I understand. Look, I won some money at cards in Mosquero a few nights back---can’t even remember how long ago, now… Anyhow, fella I won from took offense, but—” he added quickly—“I didn’t cheat. I beat him fair. His ol’ man has a lot of money—he’ll never miss what he lost—but it hurt his pride.”
“Is he after you?”
“I—honestly don’t know. Last I saw of him, the sheriff was putting cuffs on him and marching him off to jail. But…I’ve heard he holds a grudge easy, so—yeah. It’s a possibility. I’ll…try to clear out soon’s I’m able.”
There was silence between them, and then he said softly, “You—been in here with me all this time?”
There was hesitation, as if she were trying to decide how to respond. Then, “Of course I have been! I—I had to watch your fever. Somebody had to take care of you. I said I would, and I…I did. Best I could.” As she turned to go, she added, “You’ve been asleep for two days. I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.”
“Twp days…” And she’d watched over him all that time? “Thank you, Lizzie.” Jake barely got the words out of his mouth before he drifted back to sleep again.
This would make a great Father's Day gift for someone, or just plain ol' good reading for yourself. It's available in the Kindle version as well as paperback.