The Day I Lost My Mother

Today on Stories That Must Not Die, we are honored to bring you the words of Alicia, an innate serving with Rara who has bravely reached out to our community to share a story of loss, strength, and resolve. Please head over and leave her a comment of RawrLove and support.

Stories that Must Not Die

The following post was submitted by Alicia.  She gave it to Rara, and Rara mailed it to me to share with all of you.  Please read her words and leave her a comment of support in the comments, and/or send her a letter.  I’m going to print this post in a couple days and mail it to her, so anything you leave in the comments she will get to see.  Thank you.

On Feb. 26, 2012, I received horrible news that changed my life forever and my life hasn’t been the same since.

During that time, I was incarcerated at Glen Helen Jail.  I was working at visiting and the Chaplin came and asked if he could speak to me.  What he had to say brought my world crashing down around me.  He told me my mother had suffered a massive stroke and was on life support.  The stroke had…

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green

The street was crowded with a swirling and writhing mass of revelers.  Their green outfits and accessories blurred together into a stormy sea that made my eyes swim and my head spin.  I tried to look away, I tried to find a hidden corner where I could hide and settle my jangled nerves but there were party shenanigans happening everywhere I looked.  They poured out of the alleys.  They congealed on terraces and behind the windows that lined the street.

I pushed through the crowd, desperate for an escape, but there were too many people.  My pleas for movement, for a small opening to pass through, went unheard in the roaring swell of noise.  Green hats.  Green beers.  Green horns.  Green arms.  Green noise.  My head throbbed.  My arms and chest ached where stray elbows continued to press into me as the crowd spun around and around.

My claustrophobia took control and I began to hyperventilate.  My legs grew weak.  In another minute I would collapse and then be trampled by a thousand feet.  Oblivious.  Unconcerned.  I clutched my head, holding on to something real, something solid, and focused on getting my breathing under control.

Closing my eyes I blocked out the dizzying street party, and pushed the thumping beats of the live band to the back of my mind.  There was only me.  There was no music.  There were no other people.  Nothing was green.  There were no colors at all.  There was just my slow, regular, breathing.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.

In…

Out…

I let loose a sigh of relief has my heart rate returned to normal.  The pressure behind my temples eased.  My legs regained their strength.  The ground was solid again.  I opened my eyes and looked beyond the throng, over their heads, through the notes dancing in the air, to the brick buildings that lined the street.  They too were solid.  Everything was going to be okay.

Slowly, I let the music creep into my consciousness again.  It started as a tingle, a slight vibration in my ears, and then became a warm hum that further calmed my previously tense muscles, and then the driving bass and earnest lyrics filtered through the rest of me, it was a song I recognized, a song that made me feel like dancing.

Then I noticed the people around me.  I could pick out individual faces again.  The crowd was no longer a threatening mob, but a fun and delightful gathering of fellow Flogging Molly enthusiasts, singing drunken lullabies.  Someone next to me smiled.  It was contagious and spread from their lips to mine.   My feet moved, my arms waved, my voice joined the cacophony in song.

It was the best party I had ever been to.  It was the best St. Patty’s day I’d had in years.

And then, while my eyes swept over the crowd again, I noticed Jennifer Aniston and a leprechaun walk into a bar.  I thought it was funny and smiled even more deeply, the day was just getting better and better.

But then my feet stopped.  It was funny to have watched that odd pair walk into a bar.  It was funny because it was impossible.  It was impossible but I had seen it because I was dreaming.

I woke with a start, and checked the alarm clock.  3:33AM.  I still had a few minutes before the alarm went off.  I still had several hours before I would be leaving work and heading to the concert.  I laughed at myself for having a silly dream and then settled back in to catch a few more minutes of sleep, drifting away on thoughts of the possibilities the day held and to try and remember to wear green.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Word Count: 625

As much as I’d love to take full credit for this one, it was inspired by my brother getting to see Flogging Molly on Monday at the 10th annual concert they’ve held in Phoenix on St. Patty’s day, and, by this week’s Papi Prompt!:
What: 500-1000 word flash fiction story
Use the following:  Jennifer Aniston and a Leprechaun walk into a bar…
When: Due before next Monday (3/24/2014) to be included in the results.
How: Ping back to the post on The Literary Syndicate linked above, or leave your link in the comments there.

How silly and awesome is that prompt?!  What would you have done with it?  Can you think of any jokes that start with “Jennifer and a Leprechaun walk into a bar?”  I would love to hear it!

Chapter 34

It’s that time again.  I wonder what Brig is up to this week…?

(And don’t forget all previous chapters can be found here.)

…..

Since I know you are worried about it, yes Brig and Cole got breakfast.  Cole had previously arranged to start having their meals delivered to them for safety purposes.  He wasn’t going to shirk all of his responsibilities about the town but if he didn’t have to worry about fetching food for himself and for his prisoner three times a day that was one less worry on his mind.

Miss Marsch and Mrs. Sorensen had volunteered to deliver meals to the jail for the next few days, though in reality Mrs. Sorensen wouldn’t actually be doing the delivering.  She’d enlist the help of a neighborhood boy to carry the food down to the jail when it was ready or ask one of her tenants to run the errand for her on the days when Miss Marsch wasn’t handling the duty.

It was a simple, classic and hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and coffee and it was delicious.  Mouth wateringly good, actually.  The biscuits were golden brown, flakey, and warm still having only been pulled from the oven moments before they’d been packed up to be delivered to the jail.  The bacon was thick cut and crunchy without being burned.  The eggs were fluffy and topped with a handful of cheeses.

It was a much better breakfast than a normal prisoner would have gotten at the jail but Brig wasn’t a normal prisoner.  It was also much better than Cole had requested when he’d broached the idea with Emmalou and Mrs. Sorensen.  He put down the extra effort Emmalou put forth to whatever was budding between her and Brig.  He certainly wouldn’t expect the same kind of meals from Mrs. Sorensen.

We’ll be lucky if her contributions show up lukewarm.

After polishing off their meals, Cole left the jail to walk about town and get a feel for the comings and goings.  He left Brig the pack of cards before he left so his prisoner could entertain himself with some solitaire if he wanted.  Sheriff Brown didn’t think he’d be gone for very long but didn’t want to unduly punish his friend anymore than he already was.

I’ve already got him locked up for crimes he didn’t commit and have slandered him by saying he started drinking again.  I don’t need to bore him to death on top of all of that if I can help it.  I’ll need to remember to ask around for a chess board.  Hopefully, though, he won’t have to “rot” in their much longer.

Cole was just about finished with the first leg of the circuit he was going to walk through the busiest sections of town when he spotted Edward Sans walking towards him.  The Sheriff stopped in a bit of shade and made Ed come all the way to him.  He saw no need to have whatever conversation was about to ensue out in the exposed heat of the day.

Ed only has two of his cronies shadowing him at the moment, that’s good, though it does make me wonder where the rest of them are.  I don’t really want to worry about his hangers-on as well as the two gun men.  With any luck they’ve left town but I …

“Sheriff, I’ve got some troubling news I think you ought to hear,” Ed interrupted Cole’s thoughts.

“What’s that?”

“Brig Coyle is in town.”

“And?”

“And I thought you ought to hear that.”

“I know he’s in town, Ed, I’ve got him locked up in my jail.”

The cow puncher was a bit taken aback at that and didn’t quite know how to respond.  One of Ed’s cronies found his voice first, “What was he arrested for?”  All three men seemed somewhat surprised that Sheriff Brown would have been able to get Brig Coyle into a cell.

“Disturbing the peace, and some other minor charges; he’ll be locked up for a few days.”

The sheriff shifted his weight forward preparing to step away from the group but was halted by Ed’s hand placed firmly on his shoulder.  He looked down at the hand impeding his progress and then looked into Ed’s face.  The sheriff’s expression was not pleasant.  He didn’t like being touched in general and being touched by someone of Ed’s caliber was near intolerable.  “You’ll be wanting to remove your hand from my shoulder,” Cole practically growled.

Ed’s hand withdrew immediately and hovered an inch away before his whole arm fell back to his side.  His body weight shifted slightly away from Cole as he prepared to take a step away before his machismo kicked in and forced his body to stand firm.  He would not be frightened by the sheriff.  Well, he wouldn’t be frightened anymore than he already had been.  His two cronies, however, didn’t have the same level of machismo and they both took a step backwards.

Ed’s mind worked feverishly.  He saw the gunslinger being in town as a chance to have some real fun.  He didn’t want to challenge the famed shootist or anything as foolish as that but imagined all sorts of entertainment on display having the man unleashed about town.  He noticed Cole still glaring at him and realized he needed to say something.  “Do you mind if I stop by the jail later on and have a chat with your famous patron?”

The result was instantaneous.  Cole couldn’t help the smile as it spread and he wouldn’t have stopped it if he could help it.  Ed Sans, you are a fool.   “No, I don’t have a problem with that.”

Sheriff Brown took a step forward and the three men parted to let him pass.  As he finished making his rounds about the town he decided that letting Ed come by for a visit may not have been the wisest decision.  Once he sees who Brig Coyle is he’ll know I played him for a fool and then he’ll be out for vengeance against me every bit as much as he is against the man he knows as Jack Smith.  I doubt those other gun men left town and having them to deal with along with a stupid Ed Sans would have been bad enough.  The gun men and a stupid and angry Ed could end up being a disaster.  Then again, the whole situation is pretty much already a disaster.

 Besides, the look on Ed’s face is going to be priceless. 

The sheriff chuckled just thinking about it.

As he entered his jailhouse again and engaged the locks another thought occurred to him.  I wonder if he was going to try to hire Brig to cause trouble for “Jack?”  The thought was too much.  He doubled over, his hands on his knees, and laughed.  When he looked up to see the look of confusion on Brig’s face the laugh became so boisterous it forced tears to streak from the corners of his eyes.

When he finally calmed down enough to tell Brig the story of his encounter with Ed Sans and the ranch hand’s request the look of sheer mirth on Brig’s face sent Cole teetering towards the edge of laughter oblivion again.  The sheriff managed to control himself until Brig’s broad grin broke so the caged man could say, “I sure hope I don’t have to duel it out with myself in the street.  That could be awkward… and confusing.  I don’t see how that could possibly work out well for me whatever the outcome.”

Their eyes met, Brig tried to stay straight faced, failed, and the two men burst out laughing.

Chapter 26

Have you been following the story of Jack, er, um, Brig?  You know… Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?

You can find everything you need to know to get caught up right here.

…..

“Why are you looking for Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?” Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, asked.

“Have you seen him?”  The question was posed by the man seated closest to Dan and the door to the Gunnison Inn.

“I thought he was dead,” Brig replied.  The regular, onto his second drink, looked up in surprise and then quickly went back to his drink.  Dan immediately engaged the man in conversation to keep him occupied and thankfully the two newcomers didn’t notice.

“Have you seen him?”  This time the question was posed by the second man.

Brig donned a look of confusion, “That’d be hard to do if he is dead.”

Neither man was pleased with that response as evidenced by their dark glowers and the second man spoke up again, “Are you avoiding the question?”

Yes.  “No, it just seemed a bit odd that you were asking if I had seen a dead man.  Have I seen Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?  Have you seen Wild Bill Hickock?  I mean, he’s only been dead a couple years, maybe I should be on the lookout for him too?”

The two men did not appreciate his sass or his tone and their countenances darkened further.  I wouldn’t have thought that possible.

“Listen here, son,” the first one spoke, “there’s no call to get flippant with us.  Sure, we’ve all heard the rumors that he was dead but we’ve also heard rumors he was spotted on the Shavano train before the Gunnison station but not at any of the stops afterwards.”

“Why are you looking for him?” Brig asked again.

“Have you seen him?” The two men replied in unison.

This could go on forever.  Well, probably not forever, eventually they’ll get fed up with me and show me how good they are with those tie-downed pistols.

“Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?”

“Yes.”

“I haven’t seen him recently, no.”

“Have you heard if he is in town?”

“Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?”

“Yes!”

“I’d heard a rumor that he was spotted a few days ago.  I’m not sure if there was any substance to those rumors though, and I’m fairly certain he hasn’t been seen since.”

“Why didn’t you tell us that immediately!”  They glared at him for a moment and then the two men dropped their voices and began to confer in such soft whispers that Brig couldn’t pick up a single word despite his close proximity.

“So, what can I get you gents to drink?”

They looked up, glared, said nothing to him in response and then resumed their quiet conversation.

“If you aren’t going to order something I’m going to have to ask you to leave.  You’re taking up spots for paying customers.”

They looked up, scowled, looked around the empty bar, glared at Brig again and then went back to ignoring him.

At that moment the door to the Gunnison Inn swung open and some more regulars came in.  This could get interesting, Brig thought as he moved away from the two gunslingers, greeted the newcomers with his normal smile and said, “Good morning, what can I get you?”

The men pulled up the chairs at a table near the door, their usual table, and mumbled their own greetings.  Luckily, most of the novelty of having a famous gunslinger for a bartender had worn off quickly for the majority of the regulars.  Plus, it was still really early in the day and they were only partially awake.  Brig got them their drinks and took them to the table with only a small spattering of audible words passing from their lips.  Once they were squared away, Brig returned to his place behind the counter, placed the coins he’d received from the regulars in the strong box and then tried to appear nonchalant as he edged his way as close to the gunslingers as he dared.  He was hoping to pick up the thread of their conversation but they kept their voices low enough he wasn’t able to catch any part of it.

The door opened and shut again, more regulars coming in for their pre work send off, and Brig came out from behind the counter again to get their order since they took the seats at another table by the door.  He returned to the bar briefly to pour their requests and then took them back to their table.  The gunslingers continued their whispering and Dan continued to chat up the man seated next to him at the counter.  Well, I can’t imagine the two men staying much longer and for now things seem to be going as smoothly as could be expected.

The door opened again and in walked Emmalou Marsch.  Every head in the place turned to catch a glimpse of her as the first rays of the morning’s sun streamed through the open door, illuminating Emmalou in all her beauty, before the door swung shut and she was left standing in the dingy light thrown by the flickering oil lamps.  The men at the bar went back to their conversation.  The men at the tables near the door went back to their drinks.  Dan picked up his dialogue right where he’d left off.  Brig’s mind was working a mile a minute, a veritable switchyard with hundreds of thoughts piling in at once and each one clamoring for attention as they thundered down their tracks.

My god, she is stunning.  What is she doing here?  I hope she doesn’t say my name out loud.  That could really complicate this situation.  Is she here to tell me she won’t be able to sit with me in the afternoons anymore?  Is she here to tell me that she’s decided I can stay as long as I want?  Is she here to walk me to the train station and see me safely out of her town?  Considering the two men seated at the counter right now I couldn’t really blame her for that.  Is something else wrong?  Does she need my help?  She’s here, she’s here, she’s here.

Consequences be damned, Brig couldn’t help but smile at Miss Marsch.  She smiled in reply.

Chapter 25

What do you think so far?

Don’t know what we are talking about?  You can find the previous 24 chapters here, and here we go again.

……….

As Brig headed to work the following morning it dawned on him that he hadn’t thought about drinking since he’d told Emmalou his tale.  That may not seem like all that great of an achievement since he’d slept most of that time, but for el borracho it was a monumental step in the right direction.  The last time he had allowed himself to re-live that memory he’d woken the next morning curled up in a horse trough, surrounded by empty bottles, smelling of far worse things than manure and unable to recall what had transpired the previous evening.

He couldn’t remember how many times he’d woken up unable to recall the events of the preceding night, and to spill my story and not find myself waking up in a hung-over stupor or even immediately think about dulling the pain with some whiskey shows progress, doesn’t it?

Feeling pleased with himself, Brig got to work sweeping and mopping with an extra jump in his step despite the early hour.

Dan rose from his short nap, rummaged up a breakfast of yesterday’s leftover biscuits and a cup of piping hot coffee, and hung out at the counter as Brig finished up his morning duties.  The bar was quiet except for the occasional squeak of wood on wood as Brig moved chairs about and the slurping sound Dan made while trying to sip down the coffee without completely scalding his tongue.  After so many years of burning his mouth on the dark brew he didn’t have that many nerves left in his mouth to react to the pain of the hot drink but he slurped anyway out of habit.

When Brig finished wiping down the tables, he poured his own cup of coffee and pulled up the stool next to Dan.  Then the only sounds were the two of them drinking.  Slurp, slurp.  Slurp, slurp.  Slurp, slurp.  You get the idea.

The day’s first customer entered the bar and Brig lowered himself down from the stool and took his place behind the counter.  A regular, Brig recognized the man and got his drink poured before he’d made it up to the bar.  He sat at the stool Brig had just vacated and slid the necessary coins across the counter as Brig offered the first of three shots the man would down before heading out for the mines.

Brig had never worked in a mine and had been surprised at first that men would drink before starting their shifts.  It was dangerous work to begin and adding alcohol to the mix seemed like a stupid thing to do.  When he broached the subject with Dan, his large and jovial employer had replied, “Well, the ride up to the mines is long and they are sober enough to do their jobs by the time they get out there or their foremen wouldn’t let them down into the ground.  Plus, sometimes you have to be partially drunk to be stupid enough to go below ground in the first place.  They know each time they go in that they may never see the sun, or their families, or a get to taste another drink again so they might as well go down with its sweet taste in their mouths.  Honestly, I’m surprised more of them don’t drink on the way out.”

They almost all stopped in somewhere for a drink on the way in.  That part Brig understood.  Even though el borracho was a drunk he couldn’t understand drinking before going to work.  He didn’t judge them though.  He couldn’t fathom earning a living in the mines, nothing would be worth the odds those men faced.  He understood the irony of that thought though, a gunslinger thinking about odds of survival in other professions.  To be fair, Brig had never really considered his profession to be “a gunslinger.”  He had just been fast and accurate, accurate being the more important of those two, and the term had been thrown about and then fastened securely to him.

There was a time, just before the incident in Wyoming, where you would have never heard his name without the added tagline of “gunslinger.”  He was never just “Brig,” or “Brig Coyle,” or “Mr. Coyle,” or even “Mr. Brig Coyle.”  It was always “Brig Coyle, the gunslinger.”

“Did you see that Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, is in town?”  “Did you hear about the latest shoot out with Brig Coyle, the gunslinger?”  “I heard that Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, was headed this way.”

It’s not as if he went around introducing himself that way, ever.  He had never liked the term being affixed to him and who he was, not even in the very beginning when his fame was just beginning to be spread about and he had enjoyed the celebrity.  People seldom have a choice in these matters though and Brig was no exception.

Two more patrons entered and Brig didn’t recognize them so he welcomed them to the Inn, “Good morning gents and welcome to the Gunnison Inn.  What can I pour you?”

The first indication that something was wrong should have been that Brig didn’t recognize them from around town.  Strangers don’t often enter bars for a drink so early in the morning.  Where did they come from?  What are they doing in town?  Why do they need a drink?  Those are all questions that would have normally sprung up for Brig the second they entered, but with the added foot traffic the bar had seen for people coming in just to get served a drink by Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, it wasn’t enough anymore to concern Brig.

The second indication that something was wrong was the fact that neither man returned Brig’s greeting.  That Brig Coyle, the gunslinger, did notice.  (Sorry, couldn’t help that one.)  With his interest piqued, Brig studied them closely as they ambled up to the counter.  They were both tall, lean, tanned from days riding the ranges. Their eyes scanned from side to side as they made their way forward brushing over everything in the bar, and their clothes were covered in a layer of dust and grime.  So they’ve just come into town this morning, in the dark. 

 That’s not good.

The third indication that something was wrong was the tie-down revolvers each man had strapped across their hips.  Men with guns coming and going from the bar weren’t out of the ordinary.  Local cowboys and bronco busters and ranchers and other such tradesmen frequented the bar often and usually carried the tools of their trade when they did so.  However, those sorts of men wouldn’t have need of tie-downs and their revolvers would show the wear and tear of their professions.  The sidearms of the two men who had just entered were polished to a brilliant shine and well oiled so they would slip easily, and quickly, out of their soft holsters, as befits their profession.

Crap.

Why didn’t I get the gun back from Sheriff Brown?  I’d sure feel a lot better if I had it right now.  Then again, why am I worrying?  Maybe they aren’t here for me.

As the two men pulled up two stools a bit further down the bar from Dan and the other patron, Brig made his way down to take their orders, “What can I get you?”

“We’re looking for Brig Coyle, the gunslinger.”

Double crap.