The Rifleman
"Mark's Memories"
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
written by Michelle Palmer

Face of Yesterday Episode 95
Mark’s story

“Mark, what did you do to those pants?” I heard the disapproval in my father’s voice as I slowly walked into the house one Sunday morning. I had been taking my time riding home, knowing Pa wouldn’t be too happy when I got there. I just stood in thedoorway looking at Pa, who still held the receipts in his hands as he wrote them down in the ledger. I lowered my head as his eyes began to narrow. “Well?” There was a bit more edginess in his voice now.

“Well…I…” I slowly turned and shut the door.

“Mark, what’s this hole in the back of your pants?” Pa stood up and hurried over to me. “What have you been doing, boy?”

“Well, you see Pa,” I started to answer as I stared at the closed door. But Pa turned me around. “Well, it was sort of an…accident.”

“An accident?” Pa’s voice squeaked as he folded his arms. That was a sure sign that he was quickly becoming annoyed.

“Yes sir. You see, Freddie and I-“ I started to explain.

‘Ohhhhhh!” Pa groaned as he rolled his eyes. He quickly began unbuttoning my shirt. “Freddie and you. I might have known!”

“We had a race is all,” I answered as I took my torn shirt off and started on my pants. Pa’s hands froze on my shirt he was looking at. He looked at me and silently raised an eyebrow. “Well, Freddie said he could climb the tree faster then me, so we raced to see who could climb the tree.”

“And?” Pa asked.

“Well, I guess I lost. I fell out of the tree.”

Pa’s head shot up. “You fell-“ he started looking me over. “Are you hurt?” I showed him a gash on my arm he hadn’t noticed before. It was bleeding. Then I showed him my two skinned knees.”

Pa led me to the kitchen as he got his medicine box down. He rummaged through it until he found what he was looking for. He sat me down in a chair and started doctoring my wounds. “Pa, I’m not a kid!” I exclaimed as he started the task.

“Well, men don’t go around climbing trees!” Pa declared. “So if it’s all the same to you, I’ll doctor my boy’s wounds!” I stayed silent and let Pa have these moments. “You know,” Pa said as he blew on my knee to keep the medicine from stinging so much. “These moments are becoming further apart as you get older.” He paused in blowing my knee and lifted his head to look into my eyes. “A parent needs to hold on to these moments every chance he gets!”

“I thought you were raising me to be tough,” I teased him with a grin.

“I am,” Pa declared as he stood. He cocked his head to one side, put one hand on his hip, and wagged a finger at me with his other hand. “This is the third pair of pants you’ve ruined this month, boy! You’ve got to stop playing so rough!”

“Yes sir,” I answered with a sigh.

“I mean it, Mark. In the morning, we’re leaving here early so we can get you some new pants and shirts. I don’t want you wearing your good Sunday’s to school tomorrow, so go wash yourself a pair of pants and shirt. Then you’ll be spending afternoons working off the money I’m spending on your clothes!”

So now you know why I had to go into town with Pa the next morning. And remember it was a Monday morning – and Monday mornings at the McCain house could usually be compared to the Battle of Gettysburg – at least that what my Pa tells me! This Monday was no exception.

Pa walked into the bedroom as I groaned from the bed and told me that the next time he walked in would be with a spur in his hand. Now granted, Pa threatened that a lot, but he never did it. But then, I never made him come in there again either!

When breakfast was finally over, Pa threw the dirty dishes in the sink. He sighed as he threw down the dishtowel. “You’ll have to do these tonight,” Pa stated. “We’ve got to go. I want to get everything done in town today so I can work at the ranch the rest of the week.”

I followed Pa out the door. “Pa, I’ve been thinking,” I stated as I mounted my horse. Pa turned his horse around so he could look at me. “Well, I best just get to school. I can pick out some clothes some other day.”

“Well,” Pa commented as we started toward town. “I thought you like shopping at the store.”

“Not for clothes, Pa! Anything but clothes!”

“Well, I don’t need you to try on shirts – I can buy those just fine. But with all my good cooking I’ve been fixing lately, I’d say you best try on the pants before I spend good money on them. Don’t know if Millie will buy them back from me if they don’t fit you.”

“Oh, I’m sure she will.” Pa turned and looked at me from his saddle. “Well, you and Miss Millie…you two get along really good. I’ve seen ya-“ I stopped, about to reveal my spying on them when I wasn’t supposed to.

Pa raised his eyebrows at me. “What did you see?”

“Oh, I think we better go a bit faster! We need to get that shopping done fast!” I started to gallop off, but Pa grabbed Blue Boy’s saddle to keep him moving slowly. “What did you see?”

Now, I’m no dummy, and I wasn’t about to tell Pa that I spied out of my bedroom window last Saturday night and saw him and Miss Millie getting really cozy. Nor was I going to tell him what I saw in the General Store the other day when I was supposed to be long gone for school! “Well, I see that you two are becoming…more then just friends.” There, I didn’t reveal any wrong doing in that statement.

“Mm Hm,” Pa answered. “Get going, boy!”

When Pa and I got into town we saw men hauling off a couple bodies in a wagon. I was curious to know what was going on, but as usual I was sent off while Pa got the details. I walked into the store just as Miss Millie was opening it for business. But I turned to look out the door. “Say Millie, do you know what happened out there?”

“Oh,” Miss Millie brushed my words off. “Someone shot them.”

I turned and hurried up to the counter. “On purpose? I mean in a shootout? Darn, and we missed it!”

“Mark McCain, you watch your mouth or-“ Miss Millie started shaking a finger at me.

I held up a hand and laughed. “Pa says I need new clothes.” I walked over to the pants and started looking at them. Millie took a pair of pants and held them against my leg. She pressed the pants against me and began measuring and tugging. “Stop!” I declared. “Let me just try them on!”

“Will you hold still?” Millie asked impatiently as she tried measuring my leg again. But I wasn’t one to stay still very long and began squirming. “If you don’t hold still, I’m gonna give you a hard swat on the backside, Mark McCain!” Millie declared suddenly.

“No you will not! My Pa won’t let you!” I declared.

She stood and gave me a doubtful look. “Now, you just get yourself back there and try on those pants, Mark McCain!”

“Yes ma’am,” I smiled.

“And you make sure to let me see them before you take them off!” She ordered.

“Oh, I think I can be the judge of my own pants,” I started.

“Mark-“ she began to warn me.

I held up my hands in mock defeat. “Alright, alright! I’ll let you see them!”

I changed into the pants and began feeling and adjusting to see what I thought of them. “Mark, hurry! I don’t want you to be late for school,” Millie’s voice sounded from the other side of the door.

I opened the door and stepped out. Millie bent down and began adjusting my pants and feeling how they felt. She started tugging at the pants legs and everything. I began fidgeting again. “Will you hold still?” she ordered as she grabbed my shoulders to stop my fidgeting.

That’s when I realized Pa was in there picking out some new shirts for me. “I think I’d rather go to school then do this!” I groaned. “Are you almost done?”

Millie was still on her knees in front of me. She put a fist on her lip and got a really mean look on her face. “It’ll go a lot faster if you stay still, Mark!” she declared.

But as soon as she stared adjusting my pants legs again I began fidgeting. “Mark, I’m warning you!”

Pa came over and crossed his arms with a great big grin on his face. “I’ll hold him if you want to whip him, Millie.”

Millie turned and gave my Pa an evil glare. “Now Lucas, you know I’d never whip this boy anymore then you would! But I just may make him mop my floors after school if he doesn’t stay still!”

I rolled my eyes and made myself stay still through the whole thing. She tucked the bottom of my pants legs under then stood up. “Okay, you can take them off now.” As I walked toward the back of the store room, she walked up to Pa. “Leave them with me so I can make some adjustments.”

I turned around. “Ohhh!” I declared.

Pa and Millie both turned and shot me a stern look as they pointed toward the storeroom. I hurried in and firmly closed the door.

When I came out, I saw a big pile of clothes in Millie’s arms. I had enough with clothes and went to look at the candy. Maybe…just maybe Pa would let me have some since I allowed them to try new clothes on me. Shoot, who was I fooling? I didn’t ‘let’ them do anything! I wasn’t asked for my opinion in the matter!

Then some mooshy talk started about the church social on Saturday. Millie wanted my Pa to buy some sort of fancy shirt and Pa teased her about it. I rolled my eyes as I stared at the candy, trying not to listen. Mooshy talk like that really got on my nerves! I said something to Pa about it once, and he told me that it was only a matter of months now before I would understand why folks talked that way to those of the opposite sex that made their skin all clammy and put a flutter in their stomach. But watching my Pa and Millie…well…

But suddenly, the sweet talk was over. A man walked in and started being really mean to my Pa. He was talking rude to him and everything! I figured that Pa was taking it on account of my being there and his not wanting to mess up Miss Millie’s store cause he liked her so much and all. But then Millie tried to distract him by helping the man so he’d get out of the store. He came over to me and I tried to move away from him, but he kept getting in my way!

Boy, was I surprised when he suddenly grabbed me and yelled at me. Then he raised his hand up to hit me. My Pa was over there before he could do anything. Pa grabbed that mean old man by the shirt and shoved him across the room and against the door! Millie ran over and put her arms around me to protect me from the mean old man. I watched, proudly, as Pa got right in that man’s face and yelled at him! Boy, that man would learn fast that if he wants Pa to beat on him or have a shootout with him, the best way was to try to hurt me! There ain’t been a man yet who hasn’t learned that lesson fast!

Then I watched as Pa shoved that man out onto the street and ordered him to get out of there. I watched as Pa started pointing fingers and yelling at Micah, and I really knew my Pa was mad! Now, you know that I’ve seen my Pa mad, and he’s yelled at me more times then I could count. But the way he was acting right now, let’s just say I was really, really glad I wasn’t the one he was mad at because I probably would have really gotten the licking of my life if it had been me!

Pa suddenly ordered me out of the store after practically yelling Micah’s head off. Then he even turned and spoke to Miss Millie in an un-sweet voice. Then he walked out the door. As we stepped down from the steps, Pa grabbed my arm as we started toward the school. “Pa, what about my horse?” I asked suddenly.

Pa kept walking, not saying a word. I looked up at him and he was staring over at the saloon. “Pa?” I said softly. Pa looked down at me. “What about my horse?”

“I need the walk,” Pa muttered.

“But my school books!”

“Oh,” Pa suddenly stopped. “Alright, go back and get them.” I ran back and got them and then caught up with Pa. “Mark, I want you to stay at the school until I come and get you.”

“How come?” I asked.

“Because I told you to, son,” Pa snapped at me.

I suddenly backed off from his grip on me. “I think I can make it to school the rest of the way.” Then I hurried forward.

But Pa caught up with me and grabbed me by the arms to stop me. He stooped down in front of me. “I’m sorry, son,” he apologized as his eyes searched my own. “I- I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just been a bad morning.”

“What’s that man want, Pa?” I asked.

Pa started to shake his head, but then he looked into my eyes again and gave me a stiff smile. “Alright, son. I know we don’t keep any secrets. I think that man is trying to provoke me into a gunfight. And now he knows that…well, that you are the best way to do that.”

I stared back toward town. “But Pa, he wasn’t carrying a gun.”

“It’s not with him, son.” Pa closed his eyes to compose himself. I could tell he didn’t want to tell me. “It’s his son.”

“His son?” I didn’t understand why any man would want to see his son go up against anybody! My Pa told me he hoped I’d never ever have to pull my gun on another man!

Pa nodded. “I don’t understand it either, Mark. But he provokes his son into gun fighting.” Pa sighed. “So I want you to stay here until I get you. I don’t want you to be his weapon. Understand?”

I nodded. We started toward the school silently as I thought about all this. I stopped. “What about my lunch, Pa?”

“Well,” Pa patted my back. “I’ll either bring something over to you or I’ll send it over with someone. I promise.”

Pa stood on the edge of the schoolyard and patted my back. “Now, you better get going, boy. Tell Mr. Griswald that it’s my fault you’re late. If he needs a note, I’ll write one tonight.”

I started for the school, but turned and stared at Pa. I didn’t know why, but I was suddenly very worried about him. I just had this strange feeling that…something…terrible was about to happen. I stopped and stared at him, but he waved me to go on. I looked toward the school, then ran back to Pa and threw my arms around him. “I love you so much, Pa!” I declared.

Pa lifted my head and smiled at me. “I love you too, son. Now go on.”

I wasn’t ready for the embrace to stop quite yet. “Pa,” I looked deep into his eyes. “You will be careful?” Pa nodded. “You…won’t fight that man, will you?”

Pa gave me a light tap on the backside and promised me he wouldn’t fight him. “Now, get going, boy!”

I walked halfway across the schoolyard, but that feeling was there. I turned again to look at Pa. Suddenly, I heard the school door open. Mr. Griswald stood on the steps. “Come on, Mark.”

I turned back to look at Pa. “Yes sir,” I answered.

I walked up the steps and turned. Mr. Griswald gently laid a hand on my shoulder. “You worried about your father?” I nodded. “Well, I’m sure he can take care of himself. He’s a very good and powerful man.” He patted my shoulder. “Now come on.”

The door to the schoolroom closed as I stepped inside. I turned to stare at the closed door that was the final separator between me and my Pa. Then I walked into the schoolroom to work on my lessons.

I was able to get through the morning alright, but when lunch came, I didn’t see any sign of Pa. I looked around the school yard and saw others eating. Pa had given me strict orders not to leave the school. It wasn’t like him to say he’d do something and then not do it…

I started for the edge of the yard. “Mark!” I turned and saw Pa coming from the other side of the school. He held up the bag with a grin. “Sorry I’m late, son.”

He led me to a bench and we sat down. He pulled out the sandwiches he had picked up at the café in town. “Everything okay in town?”

Pa stood up and filled a cup with water. Coming back, he sat it down between us. “Pa?”

Pa looked up from his sandwich. “Yes, son. Everything’s fine.”

“That man…He didn’t try to come back?”

“No, son,” Pa answered as he chewed his sandwich. “He’s steered clear of me all morning. I think he figured out he was messing with the wrong man.”

I took another bite of my sandwich. “You going home soon?”

Pa looked at me and smiled. “I can wait until school’s over. I’ll come over and get you.”

“I can meet you at Micah’s,” I mentioned.

“No, no,” Pa shook his head. “You stay here. I’ll come get you.”

“Pa?” Pa looked at me. “I’m not a baby. I can take care of myself.”

Pa studied me for a second then smiled. “I know you can, son. But I need you to take care of me, if you know what I mean.”

“Alright Pa,” I laughed. Mr. Griswald announced lunch was over. I groaned as we stood up.

Pa took the paper from my hand and stuffed it in the sack. “Best get back in there, boy!”

“Yeah, wish I was going into town with you, Pa.”

“Well, I’m about to go to the General Store.” Pa started walking toward his horse.”

“Yeah, I suppose that’ll take you most of the afternoon.” Pa stopped and slowly turned around. “I mean with Miss Millie being there and all.” Pa pointed to the school. “Yes sir.”

The afternoon passed quickly. I was more relaxed knowing my Pa was out of danger. As I started gathering my books, Freddie announced he and some of the boys were going into the woods and invited me to come along. “I can’t,” I answered as we walked out of the school together. “I’m meeting Pa here. He told me to wait.”

But as I watched the kids leave, Pa never came. Mr. Griswald stepped out the door several minutes later and saw me standing there alone. “What is it, Mark?” He asked.

“Well,” I scratched my head. “Pa told me he’d meet me here after school. I reckon maybe he forgot so I’ll just go into town.”

So, even though Pa told me not to, I walked to town to meet him. But when I got there I didn’t see his horse tied up next to mine. I stood in front of the General Store and looked toward the door. Miss Millie was in there helping a customer. She looked at me and suddenly became distracted. After the customer left, she came up to me and placed an arm around me. “Millie, where’s Pa?” I looked around the store but didn’t see any sign of him. “Well, I mean he was supposed to meet me at school.”

“Well, he had to go run an errand. He’ll be back.” She led me over to the counter. “How about a piece of candy? Anything you like.”

I looked down at Miss Millie’s hand. It was shaking. I gently laid mine on top of it and lifted my head to look into her eyes. “What is it?” I asked in a soft voice.

Millie pressed her lips together but said nothing. “Here. Here’s your favorite candy.”

But I shook my head. “It’s Pa. Something’s happened to him.”

Millie turned from me and hurried around the counter to busy herself. But I could see the worry on her face. I saw her hands shaking. I knew she was upset. I leaned on the counter. “Please tell me, Millie.”

She suddenly came back around the counter and bent down so she could look into my eyes. “Micah’s with him, sweetie.”

“Does it have something to do with that man from this morning?” I grabbed her hands. “Does it?”

Millie couldn’t look me in the eye. I saw her worried eyes suddenly become moist. She quickly closed them. I could tell she was fighting back her tears. “I think so,” she whispered.

I started for the door. Millie hurried after me and grabbed my arm. “You can’t go, Mark.”

“I must!” I cried. “Pa-“ But I stopped. Millie was staring across the street at the saloon. I turned my head in that direction and saw the old man from this morning mounting his horse as he argued with who I assumed was his son. The son was yelling for him to shut up. Then they raced off together. “I thought you said-“

Millie put her hands on my shoulders as she stood behind me. “Oh Mark, I’ve never seen your father in such a state as he was. He was…” Millie paused. I could tell she was trying to keep her composure while she said the word. “He was crying.”

“Why?”

Millie shook her head. “I don’t know. He pulled out his rifle to fight the man’s son, then he turned and froze. I don’t know.”

I stared out the door trying to figure things out myself. It didn’t make sense. “Thanks for telling me, Millie.”

I started to walk out the door, but she grabbed my arm. “Mark, you must stay here.”

“Pa needs me!” I cried.

“Your father needs Micah at the moment more.” She led me back inside and firmly closed the door. “Mark, I know you don’t understand this, but there are times when only an adult…a good friend…can help you through something you’re dealing with. We carry things deep inside us that are way too dark – too complicated – to share with your family. Only a friend can help you, because they can see both sides of the problem.”

I didn’t understand that. I couldn’t imagine there was ever anything Pa couldn’t tell me. “Well, I’m sure he would tell Ma.”

Millie smiled at me. “I can’t answer that, Mark. But sometimes there are things we can’t even tell our wives or husbands. Micah will help your father.”

I slowly walked to the door and opened it. I stared out onto the street and shook my head. It didn’t make sense to me. What could have possibly happened to make Pa cry in front of everyone like that? It just didn’t make sense!

Millie again walked up to me. She put her hands on my shoulders and pulled me inside. “Let’s go see if I have any pie in the back.”

I sat down at the table and ate quietly as I spoke. I heard Millie helping those out in the store. Her voice still held worry in it, but she was trying to hide it. She couldn’t hide it from me, though. I knew her too well.

While I was sitting at the table looking over my history book, I suddenly heard Micah’s voice. I jumped up and ran out the door. “Micah, Pa’s back?” I asked excitedly.

Micah nodded. “He’s at the doc’s.”

I let out a gasp and grasped Micah’s arms. “What happened? Was he shot?”

Micah smiled. “No, son. Your father’s fine. He brought a young man in that was hurt is all.”

“Pa shot him?” I could tell by Micah’s hesitation that he had. “Why?”

“Get your books, Mark.” Micah told me sternly. “Then walk down to the livery and tell Nils to keep your horse overnight. Your Pa had to bring the buckboard for Simon to ride in.”

I obeyed Micah then ran down to the doc’s office. Pa was sitting quietly on the back of the wagon. I hurried up to him and threw my arms around him. “Oh Pa, I was so scared! I didn’t know where you were. Pa, Miss Millie said you were crying and really upset. What-“

Pa said nothing, but just stared down at me. “Mark.” Micah came up to me. “Let it alone.” I turned and looked at Micah. There was sternness in his eyes that told me to be silent. It was almost like…like he was protecting my Pa from me! I didn’t understand this, but when I turned and looked at the grief on Pa’s face, I nodded. “Yes sir.”

Micah went into the doc’s office as Pa and I waited for him to come out. There was a silence – an eerie silence. Pa put an arm around me at one point and kissed the top of my head. “I’m sorry, son,” he said with a sigh. But that was all he said.

Then Micah came out announcing that Simon would be fine. “But he’ll never make a fast draw with that arm again. I guess you did what you set out to do, Lucas.”

Micah’s words surprised me, to say the least. Pa wanted to go home. I climbed up into the wagon seat. This didn’t make any sense to me – Pa had intentionally shot him? That didn’t sound like Pa either. I started to ask him what Micah meant. “Nothing, Mark.”

But that answer didn’t satisfy me. I had to know. “Yeah, but-“ I started.

Pa suddenly turned to me. His voice held a deep sadness and there was strain on his face. But his expression was stern and his voice held a warning tone in it as he spoke to me. "Mark, let me tell you something. When you get a little older, your going to find out there are some thing's you want to forget. This is something I want to forget. Alright?"

I looked at Pa and nodded with a smile. I wanted to make him feel better. As we rode home, there was still an eerie silence between us. Suddenly, Pa patted my back. “By the way, how was school today?”

“Fine,” I answered.

“You and Freddie make plans to go fishing this afternoon?” Pa asked. His voice was still sad, but he tried to cover it with happiness.

I shrugged as I hurried the horses a little faster. “Yes, he mentioned it but I told him I was to wait for you.”

We were half way home now. Pa suddenly reached out and stopped the horses. The Valley Lake was just down the road. “I tell you what, son. How about if I drop you off right here and you can go fishing for awhile? One of the boys can bring you home later.”

My head shot around and I stared at Pa. “No, Pa. I want to-“ I started.

Pa put a hand on my shoulder and looked squarely at me. “Listen son, I need to be alone with the Good Book for awhile. I mean, really alone. There are times when a man needs to be completely alone to sort through his thoughts. This is one of those times.”

I studied his face for a minute. I wasn’t sure what was going on with him. “Well, I-“ I turned in the seat to face him. “I can work on chores outside. I won’t bother you.”

“Mark, please?” Pa stared into my eyes. There was a pleading in his voice.

I nodded, knowing that Pa needed this time alone. “Alright, Pa.” I climbed down from the wagon and looked up at him.

Pa gave me a small smile. “I’ll have supper ready in two hours. You come home then.”

I watched as the wagon disappeared down the road. I’d never seen Pa like this before. He was fighting something – it almost seemed like I could see a battle of good and evil on his face. I slowly walked over the hill as I thought on this, but nothing came to me. I couldn’t imagine Pa ever needed to seek forgiveness for himself – what could he ever possibly do…But that’s what I saw on his face. I can’t explain why except that Pa and me – we had this way of talking with each other’s hearts, and sometimes we don’t even have to say a word. Sometimes our hearts tell each other what they are thinking.

I didn’t have my fishing pole with me, but managed to make one really quick with the stuff Freddie and Billy had with them. As we sat on the bank and fished, I only half listened to the conversation around me. Suddenly, Freddie stopped talking. “Something wrong, Mark?”

“I don’t know…” My voice drifted off as I spoke. “Freddie, you’re my best friend. Can I ask you something?” Freddie nodded. “Well, has your Pa ever acted like…I don’t know…like he was fighting good and evil – like he was trying to decide rather he had done something wrong or not?”

Freddie looked out over the water. “A couple years ago Pa came home from a posse and wouldn’t speak of what was happening. My brother and Ma tried to get him to open up, but I knew he wouldn’t ever speak of that dreadful day.”

“Did something happen?” I asked.

“Yes.” Freddie turned and looked at me. “He betrayed a friend. Later, I asked Pa if everything was okay. He told me that sometimes adults do wrong things too. He said that his friend needed him and he walked away. It took a long time for my Pa to get over that.” Freddie threw his line out again as he sighed. “Pa was so quiet and he sent us kids away for the day so he could be alone and think. Mama took us over to my aunts house that day. When we came home, Pa was out working on some harnesses and whistling like he always had. He had come to terms with whatever was bothering him.”

“Well, how long did it take him to recover?” I asked.

“Pa came home one evening from the posse and didn’t talk much. He sent us away two days later after Micah came by and talked with him. When he got there, he said it was good news, but when Micah left my Pa was really quiet and stayed in his room. I think…I think he was crying.”

“Did your Pa ever tell you what was wrong?” I asked.

“No,” Freddie answered. “All I know is that you had been taken by the Indians and Pa went to help find you. He would never tell us if you were found or not.”

I stared at him. I suddenly realized what the battle was he was fighting. He had given up on the search – he had admitted it to me just a couple weeks ago. I said nothing though as I sat in silence. His father didn’t want Freddie to know the struggle he had to go through and I had to respect that.

And there was something else. I had to respect my father’s silence as well. I suddenly understood what Millie had told me earlier, and I suddenly found myself not wanting to know the truth. Some things were better left unsaid.

I rode back to the ranch double on Freddie’s horse. He dropped me off at the top of the hill and I hurried down to the house as fast as I could. But I suddenly stopped when I got in the yard. Maybe Pa was still coming to terms with his problem. I didn’t want to interrupt him. But I didn’t want him to worry either. I slowly made my way to the house.

When I opened the door, I nice aroma met me, though. I smelled fried chicken! I ran inside and saw Pa hard at work with smashing the potatoes. “What can I do?” I asked.

Pa smiled at me. There was a peaceful look on his face and the torment from earlier was gone from his eyes. “You can keep me company while I finish up,” Pa answered.

I knew the fired chicken was Pa’s way of telling me everything was as it should be once again. I didn’t mention anything about what happened until later. Pa was sitting out on the porch smoking his nightly cigar as he looked up at the stars. I came to give him my homework to look over. He helped me make the appropriate corrections on my arithmetic and listened to me spell my words for the test tomorrow. I started to stand, knowing it was my bedtime. Pa pulled me back down beside me. “Mark, thank you for not asking anymore questions.”

“Oh, Freddie explained it all to me,” I answered.

Pa looked down at me. He had a funny looking expression on his face. “Freddie?”

I nodded. “He told me about his Pa going through something similar a couple years ago. I knew then that there were some things it’s better I don’t know.”

Pa smiled and hugged me to him. “Good boy!”

*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.

The Wyoming Story 1

Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
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