As he walks away

Prompt from Inspiration Monday: Lights up when he walks away
(200 – 500 words)


Why is it always up to her to light the fire and cook dinner at the end of every day, while he leans back against the tree and swigs from that damned bottle of whiskey?

There was a time when she loved him. They were friends and partners.  He took care of her and their child. Their child. Tears threatened to spill over at the thought of Thomas. He was such a beautiful child. He was smart, funny, and charming, if not mischievous. And, he’d had his entire life ahead of him. Then it happened. He was helping his father, Dan, round up the cattle one evening when thunder cracked overhead and spooked his horse. He was thrown off and landed on a rock. His neck broke and he died instantly. If there was any blessing in his death, that was it — he’d died instantly and hadn’t suffered.

Within a month after that, Dan had started drinking, and heavy. He was becoming brutal to live with. He neglected the farm and they finally lost it to the bank. She had tried her darnedest to keep things running, but it was impossible for her to do alone.

Then one day Dan announced that they were going to California. He’d heard about the gold rush and he wanted a piece of it. She was at her wits end and feeling depressed herself much of the time. They sold the house, the only thing they had left, packed their saddlebags and a mule and left Hazewood and all their friends and memories.

Every day of this trip she gets angrier and angrier with Dan. The first few days, he’d helped cook, lay out their sleeping blankets, and hunt for birds or small game for supper. He still hunts during the day, but when they stop, out comes that damned whiskey bottle. He sits under a tree and eases his pains while she does the work. Well, if she doesn’t do it they’ll go hungry and she’ll be damned if she’s going to die of starvation because of him. Her love is slowly turning to hatred.

“Supper’s ready.”

“About time, woman.” He glared into the pot. “What’s that?”

“Rabbit stew, and there’s coffee.”

“Stew again? Jeez, woman, can’t you be more imaginative than that?”

“That’s what you got for us. Ain’t much choice now, is there.”

Dan grabs a plate and spoon and dishes up some of the steaming stew. He returns to his place under the tree.

Jess sighs and sits near the fire and eats alone in silence.

After supper she cleans up. She picks up his gun to put back on his saddle when she notices him heading into the bushes to relieve himself.

She lifts the rifle and points it at his back.

Her face lights up when he walks away. She smiles a little smile.

***

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