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Historical Fiction Drama Adventure

Jeb hitched the horse to the post and walked into the nearest saloon. There were only two other customers. He sat at the bar and ordered a beer. The bartender was a short, round man with a big moustache that almost covered his entire face. He said nothing as he placed the filled mug on the wooden countertop. It was full of holes. Jeb could figure out where that came from, but he was tired of thinking. Tired of moving.

 

His horse was on its last legs. Jeb as well. They had rode hard through the night to make it to town in time. Jeb wasn’t sure why he had come. The letter from his sister had sounded so urgent, but they hadn’t seen each other in 20 years. He couldn’t understand why she had even written. He could understand even less why he had even come.

 

The journey was treacherous through a mountain pass. It was summer, but it could still be snowy and icy in the mountains of Montana. Jeb had left town years ago and lived in a small commune on the other side of the pass with a few friends and fewer horses. They hunted and farmed and managed to survive year after year.

 

He knew it was rebellion against his upbringing. His father had been the local minister and his mother ran the local dry goods store. His parents had been wealthy but strict. There was no fun in that, so he ran away the first chance he got. His sister took over the dry goods store when their mother died. The minister had died long before and so his sister married the new minister. He was ten years older than her, but that didn’t matter. He spent most of his time in the church, which his sister preferred. She managed the store and their 8 children as best she could.

 

Jeb had planned to go to her house first, but he realized he needed a beer to refresh himself from the journey and steel himself for the reunion.

 

Remembering his tired horse, he asked the bartender if someone could tend to his horse. The big-mustached man yelled in the back and a tall twenty-something man answered the call, then went to lead the horse to the stables in the back. He winked at Jeb as he went by. Jeb looked away and blushed.

 

Jeb stared down at his beer then sipped it slowly. He was in no hurry to get to his sister’s house, no matter the apparent emergency. She should be happy he came at all.

 

He glanced around the bar and stared at the two other customers. They had their backs to him, otherwise the staring might have gotten him a bullet in the back.

 

He sighed and took another sip.

 

Reaching into his jacket pocket he pulled out the letter. It had been hand-delivered. There was definitely no post office where he lived. The man who delivered it hadn’t even waited to water his horse, but just turned around and dashed back. Jeb wasn’t sure how he or the horse would make it, but he didn’t see either on the mountain pass so he assumed they had made it back ok.

 

He pulled the one sheet of paper out of the envelope to reveal a short letter in his sister’s hand.

 

Dear Jeb,

 

Miles has left me. He took all the money in the house late last night and one of the horses and disappeared. His short note told me he was leaving the ministry and moving to New York.

 

I am desperate. I don’t know what to do. Please come.

 

Your loving sister,

 

Edith

 

Jeb refolded the letter and slid it back into the envelope.

 

He had never met Miles, so had no idea why he would just up and run. But he didn’t understand his sister’s panic. Their parents had left them, well his sister, a large legacy and the store. She also got their spacious five-room log cabin just outside of town.

 

He had hesitated for a few minutes as he considered whether he should come at all. She wouldn’t have written if the situation weren’t dire, but he still wasn’t sure whether it was true.

 

Part of him had been curious to find out what happened and another part was actually concerned about his sister.

 

So he had hitched his horse and made for their home town right away.

 

He forgot to pack food but he had brought some water.

 

Food. Ah he was hungry. Banging his hand on the counter, he asked the bartender for something to eat. The bartender grumbled and went in the back. Returning, he placed a bowl of steaming soup in front of Jeb with three thick slices of buttered bread.

 

Jeb tucked into it, burning the roof of his mouth in the process, but boy did it hit the spot.

 

The beer was almost gone. When the soup and bread were finished Jeb knew what he had to do.

 

He slowly slid the last of the soup onto the spoon and sopped it up with the last of the bread.

 

Putting on his worn green coat he threw some coins on the table and said nothing as he walked out. As he was leaving the other two customers finally gave him a glance but quickly turned back to their beers. He had recognized them, though luckily they hadn’t recognized him. Twenty years did a lot to a fella.

 

He went around to the back to get his horse. The man smiled at him as he handed him the reins but said nothing.

 

Jeb decided to walk to his sister’s rather than ride. The horse needed a long rest before they headed back home. Jeb hoped this would be not too long from then. He hadn’t been away for more than a few days and whatever the problem his sister had, it wasn’t going to make him stop his life.

 

It took 30 minutes to walk out of town to the log cabin. He wondered what he would find. The house was big, but 10 people living in it seemed too much. His oldest nephew Bill had just turned 18, so he probably had moved out. And if he knew what was best for himself, he fled the small town already.

 

As he approached the house, the sun was still high in the sky. He realized he had forgotten his hat at the saloon but he could get it back or if not buy a new one.

 

His sister had seem him and came running out of the house holding her bonnet down so it wouldn’t blow away in the stiff breeze.

 

Edith gave him a big hug and walked him back into the house. He had grown up here so it was really a homecoming.

 

When she led him in, she told him that Bill had gone with his father and their second child Matthew had followed them a couple hours later. She had tried to stop them all, but she had no fight left in her.

 

Edith was a strong person, but she had broken down. She didn’t know how she would raise the younger kids on her own and run the store.

 

Jeb tried to comfort her, though he knew he wouldn’t be staying more than 2 days. His sister could manage on her own, he knew that. She just needed her older brother with her to help set things in motion.

 

Edith planned to keep him there forever. Well that was the plan she had. Of that he was sure.

 

They walked into the kitchen and he planted his sister down in a chair. Dinner that night was on him.

 

 

June 01, 2020 13:02

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4 comments

Marsha Ralston
14:33 Oct 16, 2021

Great! Enjoyed it. thanks for sharing.

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Erik Meyers
07:59 Oct 17, 2021

Thank you!

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:45 Jun 07, 2020

A very realistic portrayal of the relationship between siblings. Well- written.

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Erik Meyers
18:56 Jun 07, 2020

Thanks so much!

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