Friday, March 6, 2015
"Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories" by Elisabeth Grace Foley (Short Stories)
Type of Short Story: Short Story Collection
Summary: From the author of The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories come six more short stories exploring the joys, heartaches and laughter of life against the backdrop of the Old West. In “Single-Handed,” a gunfighter’s courage comes in doubt when he refuses to explain to his friends the real reason he backed down from a fight. The capable proprietress of the busiest eating-house in town handles a day of disasters large and small in the light-hearted “The Rush at Mattie Arnold’s,” while in “Room Service,” a hotel night clerk finds himself in on odd position after he allows an exhausted traveler to stay in a reserved room. And in the title story, the novella-length “Wanderlust Creek,” a young rancher and his wife struggle to hold onto their land and their dreams in the face of adversity from weather, enemies—and even doubts of each other.
(from “Wanderlust Creek”)
He reached up toward the reins with his other hand and his hard fingers closed round her wrist. Gloria had not expected it and could not use her quirt, which had slipped down and tangled around her other wrist. The bay horse slewed around sideways in displeasure at the pull on its mouth, but she could not twist her hand free. “Don’t touch me!” she said, a little breathless, hoping her anger concealed a sudden touch of panic.
The younger man put in, though doubtfully, “Hey, do you think—”
A rifle shot cracked and a bullet kicked up the sod a foot behind the other man’s riderless horse. All three horses shied violently; the man on the ground lost his hold on Gloria’s wrist and stumbled as the bay pulled away, and swore as he turned round angrily to look for the source of the shot. Relief leaped through Gloria as she steadied her spooked horse. Ray!
Ray Collins emerged on foot from the brush bordering the meadow, a little to the rear of the scene and closer than any of them had realized, a Winchester in the crook of his arm. In a few purposeful strides he crossed the intervening space and joined them, coming up alongside Gloria’s horse. He looked up at her, catching her eye for a second to see if she was all right, and then he spoke sharply to the men. “What do you think you’re doing here?”
“I been getting that question a lot lately,” said the man on foot, his face still dark with anger. “You crazy, shooting at us like that? What business you got doing it?”
“You’ve got no business at all trespassing on my land, or laying your hands on my wife,” said Ray. “Get out of here before I put another shot a lot closer to you.”
Here the younger rider, whose face at sight of Ray had registered first surprised recognition and then slight guilt, cut in. “Hey—Ray—”
Ray glanced at him, his own recognition failing to make any impression on his restrained anger. Chris Borden tried to smile uncomfortably. “Gosh, Ray, I didn’t expect to see you here,” he said. “I’m sorry about all this. I—I didn’t know she was your wife—”
“And if she’d been somebody else’s wife, it wouldn’t have mattered?” said Ray cuttingly. “Thanks a lot.”
His glance took in both of them. “You’d better ride out—now.”
With little else they could do, the two men complied. The one on foot gave Ray an ugly look, and glanced once more at Gloria before turning to his horse. “You’ll be sorry if you ever try something like that on me again,” he said to Ray, and then turned away.
As the men rode away across the meadow, Gloria turned her horse back in the direction from which she had come, towards home, and Ray fell in to walk beside her. His own horse waited in the brush from which he had fired. Gloria looked down sideways at him. She had learned to know his moods well enough in a year of marriage to tell that he was still simmering with anger, though outwardly contained. He ejected the spent shell from the Winchester and slung the gun under his other arm. The rifle shot had shaken Gloria a little, though she could not say it was a surprise. Ray’s patience had been short lately, for a number of good reasons.
He looked up at her again after a few minutes, and the expression in his eyes had nearly returned to normal. “Are you all right?” he said.
Gloria nodded. “I—I think they may have cut our fence.”
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