The Writer's Corner
The Rifleman -
Sharper: Part 2
Written by Duchess McCain
The afternoon was grey and humid. The clouds gradually masked the
sun until it was almost dark. People were scurrying to finish their
business in town. Among the scurry, three boys ran up the road,
passed the church, and stopped when they reached Louis Baxter’s
“Thanks for comin’ fishing Mark! We had a swell time!” The older boy
started in to the house that was co-joined to the clinic. The
“Can you come again tomorrow? Maybe it won’t rain.”
“I’d like to but I’ve got to help Ms. Julia at the store. Bye Adam,
see you Henry!”
With that, two of the boys entered the house, the other dashed off
towards the front of town.
“Catch any fish Mark?” A young woman stepped into the lobby followed
shortly by tall man holding a rifle.
“Yes ma’am I did! I got 4 big ones and 3 little ones. Only we had to
come in early because of the storm that’s coming.” Mark noticed his
father. “What did you need your rifle for Pa?”
“Oh I had told Marshal Adams about it. He was interested in looking
at, so I took it down there.”
“Did he see how good you are Pa? He is gonna hire you right? I mean,
you’re the Rifleman!”
“Lucas, what does he mean ‘the Rifleman’?”
Lucas blushed slightly. “It’s just a name I picked up, oh I can’t
even remember when. I tricked out the rifle; I use it when most men
would use a six-shooter. There are others that are a lot better than
me though. I don’t mind, I’m not looking for a fight. Although Mark
has a time remembering that it’s not something to brag about,” Lucas
said, giving Mark a swift pat in his seat.
Eliza laughed as she took the fish from Mark. “I’ll clean and fix
these while you two get washed up.”
Lucas spoke up. “How about I clean the fish and you make some mashed
potatoes and beans to go with them. No sense in you getting messed
She smiled, and handed the fish over in concession. She rolled her
sleeves up as they walked into the kitchen. Mark’s question came to
mind, and she once again asked Lucas about the prospect of getting a
“Well, Marshal was impressed with the rifle, and said I was a good
shot. But he keeps saying that it’s a peaceful town and that he
doesn’t need help.”
Eliza began peeling a potato. She could hear the anxiety in his
voice. They had been here 5 days already, and there was no sign of a
“Something will turn up Luke. Just keep praying.”
Mark looked at the crates piled around him. The General store had
just opened and he was supposed to help stock. Well, it had been his
idea. Lucas had given him a surprised look when he offered, but he
had told him that it was better than doing nothing all day long. So
here he was, with crates all around him, putting bags of flour and
sugar on the shelves. There were the upsides though, Ms. Julia was a
“Now Mark, you know whenever you get thirsty just go and get some
lemonade to drink. I’m glad you’re helping me out, just don’t work
yourself too hard.”
“Yes ma’am. Thank you for the lemonade.” He looked up to see Lucas
coming in the door.
“Well, looks like you’re going to be busy for a while.” Lucas leaned
on his rifle. “I’m going by some of the ranches around here; see if
they need any hands. I’ll be gone for a good spell. I want you to
stay either here, or at the hotel, don’t go anywhere else. Be sure
you mind Ms. Julia and Eliza. I’ll see you tonight Mark.”
“Will you be here for supper?”
“I should be back by then.”
“I’ll be praying you find a job Pa!”
Lucas laid his hand on Mark’s shoulder. “Thank you son.” Lucas
turned, and left the store. He hated the idea that his son was
working and he wasn’t. He had no reason to tell Mark he couldn’t
help out. Without their own house, he didn’t have any chores to do
anyway. Lucas stepped from the boarded side walk and untied his bay
from the post. Then he heard it.
“Lucas McCain, what an interesting weapon you carry.”
Lucas turned to see Thomas Freeman standing there, with the
disturbing, confident grin.
“I was deputy, Mr. Freeman. Got used to being ready.”
“Oh but you’re not a deputy now. Unless of course you have some job
that I haven’t heard about.” He took a step closer Lucas and the
horse. “It’s a pity your boy has to work, while you’re ‘unable’ to
find a job.”
Lucas swung up onto his bay. His temper wasn’t going to stay silent
much longer. “Good day Freeman,” he replied shortly.
“I’ll be seeing you McCain.”
Mark looked around their room anxiously. He’d finished his work at
the General Store, and gotten a very nice lunch to go with it! And
to get a whole quarter for a morning’s work! He was happy to help
out, until Lucas got a job. “Please God, let him get a job. I know
You can.” He looked around again. The room was spotless; he hadn’t
had anything better to do. He sighed, and went down the stairs.
“Ms. Eliza, is there anything I can do for you?”
Eliza sighed. She had grown very fond of Mark in the short time they
had been there with her. He was a very polite boy, and always
“I’m sorry Mark, I’ve given you everything I know that you can do.
There just isn’t anything left.”
She looked down, and realized how bored he must be. “Tell you what
Mark, I have this book I bought a couple of years ago, that I think
you will enjoy. It was a book that I got for a boy just about your
age. Would you like to read it?”
“Sure!” he said with a grin. “What is it?”
“It’s called Tom Sawyer. It was written by Mark Twain. I think
you’ll like it.” She went to her room, and emerged with a book that
looked like it had only been read once, if ever. “I hope you enjoy
it. But don’t be neglecting your work because of it!”
“No Ma’am!” And with that Mark raced up the stairs with his newly
Another week passed by. Mark fished, Lucas hunted for a job. Mark
stocked at the General store, Lucas fixed everything he could get
his hands on at Eliza’s, hoping to pay off their bill. Mark read his
book, Lucas tried to figure how long the money would last. . . and
what to do when it was gone. He looked around their room, trying to
choose what they could sell, and how far it would get them. He was
late getting in that night, he had gone to the store to discuss
selling things to Julia. “Don’t say anything to Mark. He’s not ready
for it yet,” he had told her. As he walked into Hotel O’Neal, Lucas
felt the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Lucas let go of the monkey that had latched his arms and legs to
Lucas. Mark was grinning, until he looked up at his Pa.
“MARK! Don’t ever jump on me like that again! What did you think you
“I’m . . . I’m sorry Pa,” he said quietly.
Lucas was about to let him have it. Here he was tired from being out
all day, and Mark has to fling himself on him with absolutely no
warning! Lucas was fuming, and had never bothered to notice Eliza in
the room. Now she had quietly moved to stand behind Mark. She put
her hands on his shoulders.
“Mark, I think it’s time for you to go up to your room.”
Lucas gaped in astonishment at her. The audacity of this woman! It
wasn’t her boy.
“Go on,” she said quietly, giving Mark a reassuring look. He wasted
no time leaving.
Lucas focused on her, trying to figure out where to start with his
frustration with her!
“Before you say anything Lucas, go sit down and I’ll bring you
something to drink. What do you want?”
“Beer,” he said sarcastically, taking a seat in the other room
“No. Have some coffee.” She took a seat across from him. They were
in her parlor. The chairs were comfortable, and the room was
pleasant. But the mood masked all pleasant feelings, and Lucas felt
his temper still welling up inside of him.
“What did you think you were doing?! Do you think I’m incapable of
raising my own boy!?”
“No Lucas, you’re the only one who’s ever thought that. However, I
felt like right now was not the ideal time for you guys to spend
“And what makes you say that?”
“Just look at yourself Luke. You’ve only been here two weeks, but
the change I’ve seen in that time. . .it hasn’t been for the better.
Your son loves you, he has faith in you. Every day you’ve gotten
more and more upset, and shut up inside. I knew that all you would
do was hurt him, and that you’d end up regretting it.”
“I regret moving here. I don’t know what led me to do it. I guess I
got to thinking that my gun would be of use everywhere, or that I
could work with cattle. But instead my little boy finds a place to
work, and I can’t even get a job! I’ve failed everybody, myself,
Mark . . . Margret. I’m a failure who’s in debt, and can’t manage to
even maintain my relationship with my son!” His eyes dropped to
stair at he wrinkle in the carpet.
“Do you think that you’re the only one who’s been through hard
times?! Mark has told me; I know about the Margret and the ranch.
But guess what, some of know what it’s like to take risks. Did you
ever think that other people struggle too?!”
Lucas looked at her with sudden contempt. What did she know? She
wasn’t taking care of a family! “Oh, and what have you been through?
You haven’t had a spouse die, or your son offer to give his earned
money to you! What could you possibly know about it?!”
Eliza’s eyes flashed. “A lot more than you have the decency to
think! I raised a family and managed a ranch. I was 17 when my
parents died. I had two kid brothers that I was now responsible to
raise. Papa was a very successful rancher, and he wanted me to keep
it going. Mama wanted the boys to stay in school. I ran that entire
ranch for 5 years!! By the older of the boys had gone on to study to
be a doctor. The ranch was successful, and I sold it for a fair
price. And then I brought my little brother, who was about Mark’s
age, and we moved out here. I didn’t know if it would work, I just
knew I couldn’t stay there any longer. My brother died on the trip
out here. That was 5 years ago. When I saw Mark all I could think of
was Andy. Now you tell me Luke whether I have right to be here
talking to you or not?”
Lucas wanted to answer, but he couldn’t. Tears were in his eyes and
the lump in his throat was too big to swallow. Eliza got up, and
stood near him.
Lucas paused outside their door. He took a deep breath, and then he
opened it. Mark was sitting on his bed, reading the Bible that had
been Margret’s. Lucas crossed the room with big strides and sat in
the chair nearest to Mark.
“Mark. I’m sorry about tonight. I was wrong to get angry. I’m so
sorry. . .”
Tears came to Mark’s eyes. “I know Pa! I know it’s been hard on you.
I didn’t mean to do anything that would upset you. But Pa, you’ve
got to have faith! I’ve been praying for a job! I just know that God
will give you one!”
“I’ve been praying too. And you’re right. I guess I’ve been trying
to handle what really is up to God.”
“Pa, you remember how when I had a bad day, Ma would read to me from
“She did the same for me.”
“Well I don’t want us to forget. Let me read to you Pa.”
“I’d like that Mark.” Lucas leaned back in the seat. The Word flowed
over him, and refreshed his soul.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in
me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health
of my countenance, and my God.”
The sun was just peeking over the horizon, sending its rays to spot
the misty blue sky orange and red. The birds, delighted at the
scene, struck up a jovial tune. Among these many delights, Lucas
could also smell breakfast cooking. He looked around, and noticed
that Mark was not there. He dressed in a hurry, and grabbed his
rifle on his way out.
“Eliza, have you seen Mark?”
“Yes. He said he was on some early morning errand,” she said with a
“You know where he is?”
“Yes, but I promised not to tell.”
“Pa! Pa! I saw him!! I know it was him!” Mark ran into the room in a
“Who Mark? Who did you see?”
“Jesse Evans, from Lincoln. His gang is a lot bigger now Pa. There
were at least 8 men that I saw!”
Lucas grabbed his rifle, and said something about going to talk to
Marshal Adams. Suddenly he heard a voice come out of nowhere.
“Won’t do you any good mister.”
Lucas turned to see an older man sitting at one of the tables,
drinking coffee. He glanced at Eliza, then addressed the man.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I’m an old friend of the Marshal’s. You see, I saw him grow
up, him and his brother. His brother, Mike, was older, and he was
Marshal here before Jake. Mike had a deputy named Will. Will Evans.
They worked well together until Will got greedy, and it led him to
shoot Mike in the back. Jake helped them track down Will, and he saw
him hang. Only thing is, now Will’s kid brother has come for
payback. I’ve watched you Mr. McCain. By all accounts I’ve heard,
you fit the description of the Rifleman. Am I wrong?”
Lucas shook his head. “I’m him.”
“Our town could sure use someone like you, and so could Jake. He
wouldn’t take too kindly to you telling him you are; so if you want
to help, just cover his back.”
The sun was climbing now. It looked down on the impending fight
below. Two men, facing each other: one with a badge, the other with
a thirst for violence. The words they exchanged where heated, and
much passion poured out of their mouths. The latter went for his
gun, the man with the badge had a swift reaction. Kapow! Both froze
as they saw a third man face first on the ground. Mayhem erupted.
Marshal Adams took a shot at Evans, but it seemed now like there
were half a dozen men around trying to shoot at him. He heard it
again: Kapow, Kapow, Kapow!! The two men closest to him both fell.
Before he could blink, the rest of the men had mounted and fled.
“Did you get Evans, Marshal?” Lucas stepped from the shadows.
“Shot was too high, barely nicked him.” Jake frowned. “Why did you
fire the first shot?”
“Evans had given him a cue, and the idea was for him to shoot you so
that there was no way you could draw first.”
“I’m. . .I’m mighty grateful Lucas. Suppose we step into my office
and get you deputized.”
“That would be just fine Marshal!” Lucas started to cross the street
to the office, but he stopped, and looked up. “Thank you Lord! You
are truly my hope.”
“And he gave you the job?” Mark stared wide eyed at his Pa. He was
never allowed to watch the fights, but he sure loved to hear about
“Yes he did Mark.”
“Wahoo!” Mark shouted for joy. Then he grabbed his hat and started
to run for the door. “I’ve got to tell Adam and Henry!”
Lucas reached out and grabbed his arm. “Wait a minute son, you never
told me why you were out this morning.”
Mark face turned a little pink. “Oh,” he licked his lips. “Well Pa,
you said that I could use my money for whatever I wanted to, because
I had earned it. And I’ll I wanted to do was make you happy. You
wouldn’t let me give it to you . . . so, well, I got you this.”
Mark handed him the package that was on the table. Slowly Lucas
undid the string, and unfolded the brown paper. It as a large book,
and the title read BEN-HUR: a Tale of Christ.
“Mark, this book is brand new, I mean, he just published this. You
must have spent all of your money on it!”
“I did, but I wanted to Pa. I know how hard things have been, and
you love books so much!”
Lucas smiled. “I love it Mark, thank you. Now you can go find Adam
and Henry.” As Mark ran out, Eliza walked into the room, wiping her
soapy hands on a towel.
“I’m so glad you’re all right.” Then she noticed the book, and
smiled. “What do you think?”
“I think I have the best boy a man could possibly wish for!”
Suddenly Eliza remembered something, and brow wrinkled. “Mark said
that you had a run in with Evans before . . .”
“No, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen him. But that’s a story for
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