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The Adventure Begins.....

Lucas Managed to Stay Awake - part 2
Written Donna Hume

After a few hours, Mark started pacing between the campfire and the wagon, constantly peering out into the direction his father had started walking; there was no sign of him or the horses.  Mark moved the coffee pot out of the campfire, still leaving it on the stones surrounding the fire to keep it warm.  Hoping the smell of cornbread might bring his father back to the campsite, Mark tried his hand at baking; his hand was pathetic at best.  “Bessie, I guess I’m just no good at anything,” sobbed the small boy as he wrapped his arms around the only living creature there for him.  Bessie just mooed and continued chewing her cud, tolerating his arms around her.

Mark soon lost interest in hugging the cow as she didn’t offer the consolation he was seeking.  Still, he did feel lost.  He could trust his father alright, but as a partner; Mark could not be trusted.  After he made sure that Bessie was securely tied to the back of the wagon; and he checked twice, he pulled his bedroll back out of the wagon and laid it on the ground near the camp fire. The only other thing still sitting out was the coffee pot.  Mark crawled into his bedroll and cried himself to sleep, hoping that if his father returned; when he picked up the coffee pot, he would also pick up his son as well.

Mark awoke to a night sky; the first thing he looked to see was if the coffee pot was still there.  Next he looked for the wagon.  Finding both, he called out, “Pa, are you out there Pa?”  No answer.  Was his father injured?  Was that why he hadn’t returned?  Or was he just angry with Mark, was he ever coming back for him?  Mark didn’t know what to think but the sounds of the night were more frightening in his current dilemma and he couldn’t tolerate being outside and alone any longer.  He dumped the coffee onto the fire and kicked some dirt on the rest of it, making sure it was well put out; he picked up his bed roll and climbed into the back of the wagon.  He fumbled around in the wagon as best he could in the dark, he found a hatchet, next he searched to find a place to lay out his bedroll, and then he cried himself back to sleep, believing he was all alone in the world.

Just before the sunrise, there was the sound of horses making their way to the wagon; the sound woke Mark and there was fear in his heart.  Surely his father would have called out to him to let him know he was returning.  Whoever these riders were, they did not call out; they were just riding into Mark’s campsite.  He froze in place; he had no real way to protect himself or his possessions?  If his Pa wasn’t coming back, he would need these things even more, in order to survive.  Pa took the rifle, he was 6 years old and had only the hatchet left for defense; what would that do against a gun?  He just tried to stay hidden in the back of the wagon, hoping no one would notice him; at least for now.

The horses came closer, the closer they came, the harder they rode.  Suddenly they came to a halt.  A single rider jumped down off a horse and seemed to be searching through things.  Mark tried to hold his breath, trying not to move.  Then he heard, “Mark, where are you Mark?”  He couldn’t believe his ears, “Pa, is that you Pa?” as he was struggling to get out of his bedroll; hatchet still in hand.  Lucas ran back to the wagon and saw Mark struggling, “Mark, Mark, why were you hiding?” and he saw the tear stained face of his son he could not help but grab him up into his arms and hug him.  “I didn’t know it was you Pa.  I wasn’t sure if you were coming back.”  Lucas held him closer, “Why wouldn’t you think I would come back?”  “Because I let you down, I’m not a very good partner.  I let the horses get away, and”  Lucas stopped him before he could continue with this berating of himself, “Mark, you didn’t let me down.  I should have checked the tether line, it was just as much my fault as yours.”  “No Pa, partners should be able to trust each other; not have to double check, it was my fault,” and he buried his head into his father’s chest, sobbing once again.  He still held the hatchet, as though it were a part of him.

Lucas did not know how he was going to convince Mark that it wasn’t his fault, that accidents happen; nor did he know how he was going to get Mark to let go of the hatchet.  He also had to explain why it took him so long to return, why he left a 6 year old alone for two days in the middle of nowhere.  It took some time to console Mark, to convince him to stop crying and to listen, “Mark, partners do trust each other.  They trust each other to keep their word too.  I should never have left you here alone but I had no one else to trust.  I should have left you with something to protect yourself though.”  Mark lifted his head, tear stains still on his cheeks, “Pa, I had the fire and the hatchet,” he offered up.  Lucas smiled down at him, grateful that Mark was finally able to relinquish his hold on the hatchet, “Mark, you must have been very frightened but why would you think I would not come back?  I promised you that I would always come back for you.”  “That was before I let you down,” Mark whimpered.  “Mark, no matter what ever happens between us, nothing will ever keep me from you, do you understand boy?”  Mark nodded his head, and put it back into his father’s chest.  Picking Mark up, “Why don’t we go fix that tether line and tie these horses up proper, what do you say?” and he bounced Mark a little as he held him on his hip.  When Lucas picked up the tether line, he looked at it very closely, “Mark, did you notice that this line was tampered?”  “No Pa, what do you mean?”  “Look at it, looks like somebody was cutting at it,” and he was showing the rough edges to Mark.  “Why would someone want to let our horses get away, Pa?” Mark looked up at his father, no longer feeling sorry for himself; instead he was concerned that someone would try to hurt them.  “I don’t know son, but I guess we’ll need to be a bit more cautious from here on out.”  Then he tousled his son’s hair, “Guess maybe we should get your face washed off and I could sure use some coffee.”  Mark told him he would have to make some fresh and he was very adamant about Lucas making the cornbread.  Lucas did not ask questions, Mark had endured enough these last two days.  Questions could wait for another time.

Weeks later

There had been no sign of anyone following them, still no reason why anyone would have let the horses loose.  Still, the thought weighed heavily on Lucas’ mind.  Surely no one from North Fork would have done this in an attempt to discourage him from travelling.  No one would have endangered Marks’ life by doing such a thing.  They were all his friends, yes, they thought he was crazy; but they were his friends.  Even Ann Dodd, she was on her porch waving to him.  He heard her say to a neighbor, “There goes wild, wild, Lucas.”  Was she angry with him because she lost her husband and her son to the fever after helping him with Margaret?  Did she think he was being too crazy, risking his son on this wild expedition?  No, she understood that feeling of loss all too well; she would never put Mark at risk that way.  Why would he even suspect her?  He was overthinking this, maybe it really was just an accident; but still, it didn’t seem right.  It was like he could feel something was wrong.

When they stopped that night, as Mark was double checking the tether line, “Pa, do you still want me to tie the tin cans to the line?”  “Yes Mark, I’m still not sure what happened and I don’t want to spend another 2 days running down horses.”  Mark just put his head down and went to get the cans.  “Mark, we discussed this before, it wasn’t your fault; remember?”  Mark just replied, “Yes sir,” in a defeated monotone voice.  “Mark, do you trust me?”  “Of course I do Pa, why would you ask me that?” Mark’s voice sounded of hurt.  “Because you act like I don’t trust you.  Usually that’s an indication of one partner not trusting the other,” Lucas said very softly.  “Pa, you know I trust you.  Nothing has happened with the horses since that night, I still think it must have been me,” Mark’s voice was so pitiful it could make a grown man cry.  “Mark, I think the only reason we haven’t had more trouble is because those cans have been there.  Do you want to take the chance of not hanging them on the line and losing the horses again?”  Lucas still kept his voice very soft.  This seemed to brighten Mark’s mood some, “No, I guess not.  I’d rather not spend the night by myself in the wagon again either,” he almost chuckled.  With that, he bounced over to the line and tied the cans to the line, making sure they were tied securely and he double checked the tether line again while he was there.

Returning to the campfire, Mark looked at the plate of beans his father handed him, “Pa, do you think maybe you could try to shoot something tomorrow for supper?”  “What’s wrong, son, you tired of my cooking?” Lucas asked.  “I’m not tired of your cooking, Pa.  I’m tired of the food,” Mark stated as he grimaced at the beans on his plate.  Lucas laughed, “I understand what you mean.  Let’s hope we see something tomorrow and I’ll see what I can do.  For now, we have beans, eat up.”  Reluctantly, Mark said, “Yes sir.”

2:00 the Next Morning

Lucas awoke to the noise of cans clanking and he jumped up, rifle in hand.  The horses, startled, were attempting to break away from the tether line.  Lucas could not see anyone, but he moved quietly over to Mark and covered his mouth as he woke him.  Mark almost screamed until he saw it was his father who had him, Lucas signaled for him to keep quiet and they moved toward the horses.  One had already broken free and as Lucas tried to grab its’ lead, it reared up on him and came down on his arm.  There was something about Mark’s presence that seemed to quiet the rest of the horses.  Lucas grabbed again for the one that caught his arm, as he caught the lead, he saw a figure running in the distance.  With the use of only one arm, he could not shoot; but now, at least he knew that someone was out there.  Someone was trying to stop them, but why? And who?

Finally, Mark was entirely relieved of all guilt he had been harboring.  Lucas was grateful that Mark saw the stranger, knowing it would relieve his mind but it caused a greater concern within Lucas as to who was tracking them, and why.  Now he had proof but what could he do?  What should he do?  Was the stranger out to get Lucas?  Did he care what happened to Mark? Lucas could not leave Mark and track the stranger, he would just have to stay more vigilant and hope that the next time he would see the stranger before he could wreak any havoc upon them.  After they has secured the horses, Mark noticed that his father was holding his arm unnaturally.  “Pa, what’s wrong with your arm?”  “The horse just jolted it some, it should be fine in a couple of days.” Lucas lied, “Sure could use your help in putting on a bandage, just to hold it in place though,” he added.  Mark looked at his father questioningly, “Are you sure it’s going to be alright Pa?”  Lucas just nodded and had Mark wrap his arm close to his body, over his shirt so that his son could not see the actual damage.

Days Later

Lucas and Mark arrived in a small town, just outside of the Great Plains Salt Lake.  It was a place to get fresh supplies and fill up with fresh water.  As for Mark, it was a place to get a meal other than beans.  “Pa, they have apple pie,” he almost shouted.  “What do you say you eat your meal first?” suggested his father.  Mark agreed but when the waitress came over, he asked, “What kind of apple pie do you have?”  She looked at him very oddly, “Excuse me?”  Lucas started to explain but Mark interrupted, “You don’t use those Dutch apples, do you?”  Again, the waitress was stymied.  Lucas did explain this time, “My son was introduced to what they call a Dutch Apple pie and he was not impressed.”  The waitress smiled at Mark, “I can assure you, we make good old American Apple Pie here boy.  If you eat your whole meal, I’ll let you have a slice; how does that sound?”  Mark couldn’t believe his ears, “Did you hear that Pa, she’ll give me a whole slice.  Hurry up and order.  I haven’t had a good piece of apple pie since Gramma died.”  The words sliced through Lucas like a hot knife through butter.  He knew that Mark had not intended to hurt him but the pain was felt just the same.  The waitress noticed Lucas’ arm, looks like you need a doctor for that arm, Mister; we got a good one here in town.  Mind you, he’s likely not in his office now but he’ll be back by morning.  Feeling the need for a good night’s sleep, Lucas felt leaving the horses in the local livery and staying over to see the doctor in the morning would be a wise choice.  Mark was overly impressed with supper being anything other than beans, getting apple pie for desert, a real bed to sleep in and a proper breakfast that he almost whooped right there in the restaurant.  Fortunately, Lucas caught his attention before that happened and while looking at his father, he sat back down in his chair and nodded at the waitress with a great smile instead.

While at the hotel, Lucas asked if anyone else was new in town, but the desk clerk assured him that he and Mark were the only ones in the last two days so Lucas didn’t seem to think much about it.  While Mark was still marveling over the taste of his apple pie, he had not paid attention when Lucas requested a hot bath for their room.  They walked around to the livery to make arrangements for the horses and the cow and by the time they arrived back in their room, the bath was ready.  Mark was appalled by the thought of a bath.  “Why did you have to go and spoil a perfectly good day, Pa?”  Lucas laughed, “Because I’m the one who’s going to be sleeping next to you and I’d rather not be sleeping next to your bugs.  Now, don’t forget to wash behind those ears either, you hear me?”  Mark’s smile had left his face as soon as he had seen the tub; all he could do was to answer, “Yes sir.”  He got into and out of the tub as quickly as possible, his father checking behind his ears and between his toes before he was pronounced clean.  Then Lucas took his turn in the tub, unlike his son, he took his time to relax in the hot water; enjoying the opportunity to soak off some of the dust they had been gathering since they left Enid.  Besides, the water felt good on his arm.  After a while, Mark came around the screen, “Pa, are you alright?” and that was the first he actually saw his father’s arm.  “Pa, your arm is broke, ain’t it?”  “I think it might be, son.  That’s one of the reasons we’re staying over.”  Lucas said.  “What do you mean one of the reasons,” Mark inquired of his father.  “This might be the closest town to where our horses were tampered with and I want to wait around for a bit and see if someone shows up.”  Now Mark was more concerned, “But Pa, with your arm broke like it is, what can you do?”  Lucas was trying to finish drying himself and get dressed, while maintaining some semblance of modesty in front of his son, Mark did not seem to notice or take a hint, “Mark, I only have one broken arm; I can still use the other one to shoot.  Now, could you please give me a little privacy so I can get dressed?”  Mark just lowered his eyes and a smile creped across his face, “Oh, heh, yes sir,” and he walked to the other side of the screen, his face flush with color.

Mark McCain slept very well that night, however Lucas did not fare as well.  The bed was very comfortable but between the pain from his arm and the thoughts running through his head, he found sleep to be quite elusive.  Around 5 in the morning, his eyelids became very heavy and his mind finally let loose of its’ tortured thoughts.  The pain was still in his arm but that being the only problem keeping him awake, his body gave in to sleep.  About 6 O’clock, Mark awoke and was overjoyed to see his father lying next to him, “Pa, wake up Pa.  We have to get dressed and go get breakfast.”  During his enthusiasm, Mark happened to bump his fathers’ arm, causing Lucas to sit straight up in the bed.  Mark lost all color in his face, seeing the pain in his fathers’ eyes, yet his father said nothing.  “Pa, I’m sorry, Pa.”  Lucas just sat there, holding his arm, staring off into nowhere, saying nothing, leaving Mark to wonder what he should do next.

Mark got dressed, ran down the stairs of the hotel and over to the doctors’ office.  He started knocking on the door, as hard as he could.  Finally the doctor opened the door, “What seems to be the problem?”  Mark was half crying, half talking, but mostly not making sense.  The doctor had him come inside, asking him to explain again, more slowly, while he  got dressed.  “My Pa, he got his arm broke a few days back when a horse reared back on him, then I broke it again this morning.  You got to come and fix it for him.”  The doctor came out of his living quarters, bag in hand and assured Mark that his father would be fine, “Let’s go see him now, alright?”  Mark grabbed his hand and tried pulling him along to the hotel and up to their room.  By the time they arrived, Lucas had composed himself and had even managed to put his pants on.  When the doctor looked at his arm, he understood why Mark was so upset.  “Looks like a pretty bad break.  How did this happen?”  Lucas explained to the doctor what had occurred, trying to play it down with Mark in the room; the doctor seemed overly concerned.  “This may hurt a bit more when I try to set it, than it did when it happened.  It would be best if the boy were not here when we do this,” the doctor told Lucas.  “Doctor, my boy and I don’t keep secrets.”  The doctor looked Lucas right in the eye, “You may not keep secrets, Mr. McCain, but no boy needs to see his Pa in the pain you’re going to be in when I take care of your arm.  Now, please send him away.”  The doctors’ look was so intent, Lucas called for Mark to go over to the restaurant and see if they had any more of that apple pie.  He didn’t have to ask Mark twice, Mark was out the door in a flash.  The doctor had the desk clerk and a gentleman with whom he had been playing checkers come up to help with Lucas’ arm, when everything was ready, he gave one really hard pull, and then another, and another.  Lucas’ eyes rolled back in his head and he was unconscious.  A few seconds later, he found himself lying on the bed with a cold cloth on his head, “What happened?” he asked.  “You are much stronger than I gave you credit, Mr. McCain,” said the doctor.  “Everyone will lose consciousness but most all will cry out in pain first, you did not.  I could see it on your face that you wanted to, but still, you did not.  Still, I am glad that your son was not in the room.”  Lucas was just staring at him, “I have seen a lot of men get their bones set before doctor, none of them have fainted,” Lucas was quite put out.  “Mr. McCain, you did not have just a broken humorous, your shoulder was also dislocated.”  Lucas interrupted the doctor, “I broke my what?”  “Your humorous, your upper arm; and as I said, you dislocated your shoulder.  Quite frankly, I don’t know how you stood the pain until you arrived here.  Much longer and you would not have had the use of your arm; as it is, it will take quite some time for it to heal properly and then you will have to be careful not to injure it again.”  The doctor was wrapping Lucas’ splinted arm tightly to his body, “This will keep both your shoulder immobilized so it has a chance to heal properly.  It is imperative that you do not use this arm, do you understand?” Lucas did not care much for the demeanor of this doctor but he seemed to be the only one in town, “How long before I can travel?”  “Mr. McCain, did you not understand what I just told you?  You will not be able to use that arm for at least 8 weeks.”  Lucas stared into the doctors eyes, “But how long before I can travel?”  The doctor shook his head, “I would say 8 weeks, give or take.”  Lucas nodded, “Thank you doctor, for your recommendation.  I will take it under advisement,” Lucas said as he was ushering the doctor out of the door.  “I’ll be by later today to settle up on the bill.”  With that, Lucas closed the door behind himself and walked over to the restaurant to meet up with his son.

Mark jumped up from the table as soon as he saw his father, pie dropping from his mouth, “Pa, I’m over here.”  Lucas really did not need Mark to identify himself or his location, he was the only person in the restaurant.  Although he carried his rifle, he was fully aware of the pain in his arm, dulling his senses and therefore his capabilities.  The doctor may be right, it was going to be some time before he could travel.  He joined his son, ordering a cup of coffee, trying not to show any pain but Mark could see it, “Pa, it must hurt really bad.  What did the doctor say?”  “It’s not that bad Mark.  It will just take some time to heal,” Lucas tried to assure him.  Mark got up from his chair and stood next to his father, “Pa, you said we would never lie to each other, you’re not telling me the truth now about your arm, are you?”  Putting his arm around his son, “Well now, when did you get to be so smart?” he asked.  Mark just smiled at him and started to hug him, bringing Lucas much pain.  Noticing the tension of his father’s body, Mark suggested they go see the doctor.  Lucas explained that he had not been very pleasant to the doctor and Mark told him he needed to be nice this time, causing Lucas to laugh and then to cringe from pain it caused.

Lucas knocked on the office door of the doctor, rather gently, hoping the doctor would not be in; he was disappointed.  The doctor opened the door with a knowing smile on his face, this made Lucas want to turn and leave but Mark had his hand and walked his father inside the office.  The doctor invited Lucas to have a seat on the table and remove his shirt.  Mark was ready to leave the room when the doctor asked him to stay.  Lucas raised his brow, “Why would you want him to stay?”  “In case you decide to leave before my recommendation, the boy will need to know what to do,” the doctor stated somewhat sarcastically.  Lucas cast his eyes downward, “Guess I deserved that, didn’t I?”  The doctor just nodded.  He showed Mark how to unwrap and rewrap his father’s arm, explaining how important it was to keep it aligned properly and wrapped tightly to keep it from moving.  Mark was paying very close attention.  Then the doctor gave Lucas some laudanum for his pain, telling him to take it only when the pain was too much.  “I’ve only given you enough for a couple of days’, come back if you think you need more.”  With that, Lucas thanked the doctor, paid for his services and he and his son left the office; heading back to their room at the hotel.

Having had a good night’s sleep, Mark was revved up and ready for action.  Lucas, however, was anything but ready.  The hour of sleep he had did not fortify his body, nor did the setting of his arm.  He was tired and in pain, and he had a young son who wanted to do something other than sit in a hotel room and watch his father sleep.  This was a new town, there was no one with whom he could leave charge of his son; there goes wild, wild, Lucas.
 
The Adventure Begins...
Lucas Managed to Stay Awake - part 3

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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