The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 37 – Anticipation
Written by Deanne Bertram
It was a couple days before New Year’s Day when Lucas rode to
town and stopped by Sweeney’s, after hearing Micah was there. He
was trying to recover from his unexpected Christmas presents and
trying to set his sights on celebrating his daughter’s upcoming
second birthday. Everything had seemed unreal to Lucas, ever
“So LucasBoy, how are you feeling?” Micah asked.
“Lost,” Lucas answered after he ordered a beer.
“Lost, well, let me tell you where you are, you’re in North
Fork, New Mexico Territory, at Sweeney’s Saloon,” Micah stated
has he slapped Lucas on the back and laughed.
Seeing his friend not respond to him, Micah continued, “Guess I
can kind of understand how you’re feeling. A son who’s turned
twenty and daughter getting ready to turn two in a couple of
days, then finding out you’re going to be a father again AND a
grandfather at the same time. Proud to know you still have it
boy!” Then grinning, Micah added, “So you thinking the two
McCain women conspired against you?”
“Micah, you’re not helping matters.”
“Nope, but I’m having fun. LucasBoy, you should be happy about
the upcoming births,” Micah stated as he took a drink from his
“I am happy, it’s just that I know Mark and Hope are going to
want to start building a home of their own, for their family.”
“Oh, I see. Separation anxiety.” There was a twinkle of
understanding in Micah’s eye. “Lucas you knew this day would
come. I mean, you couldn’t expect Mark to live under your roof
for his entire life.” There was sympathy in Micah’s voice, he
realized now was not the time to tease his best friend.
“Lucas, you’ve experienced something I’ll never get to. You and
Margaret created a life and you’ve guided him through his
growing up years and he’s become a well respected man in this
community. Lucas, you raised the boy right. You had to know that
someday, he’d leave the nest, they all do eventually.”
“I know, just doesn’t seem possible that he’s old enough.”
“Drown your sorrows, LucasBoy. Many a man never gets to
experience what you have. Many long to have a good woman waiting
for them. A son they can be proud of AND a son who’s just as
proud of their father. If they do choose to build their own
home, I’m sure it will be close by. Can’t see Mark having it any
other way. Go home to your family and count your blessings. I
think you’ll live.”
Lucas’ mood seemed to improve as they celebrated Myra’s
birthday. Her laughter was more infectious than Mark’s had been
at that age, at least from what Lucas remembered. The family
enjoyed watching Myra grab her piece of cake in her hands and
squeeze it as she brought it to her mouth.
Later that night, after Milly had bathed Myra and put her to
bed, Milly came to sit next to Lucas.
“Well, Lucas, I must say, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that
look on your face,” Milly stated as Mark and Hope looked up from
their books. “I’m more used to seeing that on Mark’s face when
he would sit around and daydream.” Milly reached over and put a
hand on Lucas’ arm, slightly startling him. “Lucas?”
“I’m sorry Milly, you were saying?”
“I guess you were lost in your memories.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry,” Lucas stated as he looked to the window.
Everyone else thought Lucas was looking outside, but he was
really looking at Mark’s reflection. Remembering back, twenty
years worth of memories.
Milly and Hope excused themselves for the night and went to
their bedrooms. Mark set his book down and came to sit next to
his father. “Pa, you care to talk?”
“Just remembering Mark.”
“Back home to Enid?”
“No son, remembering our home. I can’t believe it’s been ten
years that we’ve settled in North Fork. I still want to see you
as that small boy, throwing your hat up in the air and yelling
when we decided North Fork would be our home. It just doesn’t
seem possible that you’re… grown.”
“Pa, I guess this is another one of those times when you’ll tell
me I’ll understand when I’m older?” Mark asked, curious.
“Mark, I meant it when I said I didn’t want you and Hope to move
out. Even though this family is set to really expand, we can
build on to the house. I guess what I’m trying to say is… I’ve
gotten used to you and Hope here and this house would seem
rather empty without the two of you.”
“I think I understand. We’ll talk about this some other time,
when you’re not so melancholy. Goodnight Pa.”
Spring was arriving and in between shifts in town as a deputy
and still helping out at the school, Mark spent a lot of time
working the ranch. Even though it had been a mild winter, the
fence posts that in previous years had been sound, needed
replaced. The cattle decided this year would be a bumper year
for calves. Lucas and Mark had to locate cows from their
birthing locations and move them back to the main herd on a
daily basis. The hog even gave birth to her largest litter to
Between the livestock and planting, teaching, and working as a
deputy, Mark barely had time to think on a home for him and
One night, mid-May, after Mark and Hope retired to their bed, he
marveled at the new life growing within his wife. He placed his
hand on her side and quickly pulled it back when he felt the
baby kick. “Seems our son is quite active tonight, my love.”
“And why couldn’t this child be a daughter?” Hope queried.
“As active has he is, the baby could only be a boy.”
“Well, your son has been active all day. I just wish he’d settle
down some before he’s born, I want to be able to sleep the night
through, some day.”
“Hope, he’s a McCain, and if he’s anything like I was…” Mark
quieted as he placed his hand back to Hope’s growing belly and
then leaned over and whispered, “Son, your Ma would like to get
some sleep tonight. Tell you what, why don’t you settle down for
the night. Hope, would you like for me to ask Doc Burrage for
something to help you sleep?” he whispered.
“I don’t think I should,” Hope rolled over to her side, with her
back to Mark. Mark took the time to rub her back, focusing a lot
on the small of her back. As he rubbed his hands across her
back, Hope sighed in appreciation. He continued to work Hope’s
back, even after he realized she had fallen asleep.
Mark was concerned, this child, his child, appeared it was going
to be a large baby. Mark worried whether Hope would be able to
carry their son to term. The strain this baby was already
putting on Hope’s body was more than what Milly was
experiencing. To begin with, Hope was smaller than Milly; was
that why the morning sickness she experienced lasted so much
longer? Even though she tried to take it easy, Hope tired so
much easier than Milly. Mark worried; maybe Hope was too young
to be pregnant. He hid his thoughts from Hope during the day,
but at night he couldn’t hide his worries from himself.
Mark was thankful when Miss Hattie offered to take over watching
the children at the day care, a few weeks before. As Hope
progressed in her pregnancy, Mark had grown more concerned about
her traveling to and from town, even traveling with Milly, Mark
worried. Besides, Hattie was enjoying all her new grandchildren
and Micah was spending more and more afternoons at the day care.
Mark knew it wouldn’t be too much longer before Micah retired,
he’d overheard Micah and Johnny talking a week before. This gave
him and Hattie something to do, to still feel needed.
School was fast approaching summer break. One night, after Milly
and Lucas retired to bed, Milly discussed with Lucas, that once
this school year was over, the town council should really think
about hiring another teacher. With two children, plus a
grandchild, Milly didn’t think that she could continue to devote
full time as a teacher. She’d hoped that she could continue as a
tutor, if there were a need.
Lucas was pleased his wife came to the conclusion on her own. A
he laid beside her, he rubbed his hand over her very pregnant
belly. “Two more months to go my love, unless this one decides
to be like Myra and make an early appearance,” Lucas stated.
“So, are you happy?” Milly asked.
“Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve you and soon, you’re going to give
birth to another child.”
“Lucas, have you talked with Mark lately?” Milly asked as she
turned on her side to look at Lucas.
“We talk each day. Why do you ask?” Lucas asked, concerned.
“Lucas, this is his first child. I can see worry in his face
when he thinks no one is watching -- when he’s walking from the
barn to the house or out chopping wood. I know Hope is having
difficulty with her pregnancy, but as someone who’s also
expecting a child, maybe you should talk with Mark. He’s
probably not said anything because he doesn’t want to worry
“Are you concerned about Hope too?”
“I am Lucas. That’s why I asked Hattie if she wouldn’t mind
taking over watching the children at the day care. Trying to
make things easier for Hope. I guess that’s also the reason why
I’ve decided to give up teaching full time.”
“When is Hope’s next appointment with Doc Burrage?” Lucas asked.
We both have an appointment on Thursday.” Milly replied.
“Tell you what, why don’t Mark and I go with you.”
“I’d like that Lucas.”
Soon they were asleep.
Lucas, Mark, and Hope waited in the front of Doc Burrage’s
office, while Milly was in a back room. Doc pronounced Milly
quite healthy and everything was progressing nicely.
“So, before I let you go, do you have any questions for me?”
“Not about me Doc, but Hope…” Milly started. “Doc, she’s having
a real tough time of it this past month. She tires so easily and
the baby seems to be taking so much out of her... I mean I had
difficulty with Myra, but it passed by the beginning of my fifth
month, we’re both seven months into our pregnancies and she’s
still having difficulties.”
“Okay, I thought it would have passed by now too. Let me check
her out, next. When you’re ready, head on out front and send
Hope back here.”
As Hope’s exam started, Doc asked her how she was doing. When
she answered fine, Doc stated, “You and I both know you’re
lying. Hope, I’m your doctor. I can see it in your face.
Truthfully now.” He smiled as he patted her arm and removed his
stethoscope from around his neck.
“Doc, I’m just so tired. I don’t get much sleep from the baby
being so active. Each night Mark rubs my back to help me feel
better, but it doesn’t last. When I get up in the morning, I
still feel sick to my stomach.”
Doc placed his hand on Hope’s belly when he saw her flinch, he
felt just how active the baby was, but then concern grew on his
“Hope, just lie down. I want to listen for the baby’s
“Doc?” Hope asked, scared.
“It’s okay Hope. Just lie back.” Doc supported Hope as she laid
down, Abigail came into the room at that time.
After listening for several minutes and repositioning his
stethoscope several times, he ‘Hmmm’d” to himself.
“Hope I think I just found out why you’re so tired and still
experiencing morning sickness symptoms.”
“Abigail, would you bring Mark back here?”
“Should I bring Lucas and Milly, too?”
“Yes, go ahead and bring them all.”
Doc helped Hope sit up on the examination table.
“Doc? What’s wrong with our baby?”
“Hope, nothing’s wrong.”
Shortly Abigail returned with Mark, Lucas, and Milly. Mark
walked to Hope’s side and picked up her hand and kissed it.
“Doc? Are Hope and the baby okay?” Mark asked, not taking his
eyes off Hope.
“Hope’s doing fine, but I’ve news about the baby.”
“He’s going to be okay, isn’t he?” Panic could be heard in
Mark’s voice. Lucas and Milly held tight to each other.
“The baby is quite active, but… Mark I think you should sit
down. Please sit down next to Hope.”
Once Mark was seated and had an arm around his wife, Doc looked
over his shoulder to Milly and Lucas, smiled and gave a slight
“Mark, Hope told me about the difficulties she’s still
experiencing. Now, it’s not too common with young, first time
mothers for their symptoms to last longer than normal, but...
Well, I listened hard to the baby’s heartbeat. I found something
more than I expected.” Placing a hand on Mark’s shoulder, “There
was more than one baby’s heartbeat that I heard.”
“I don’t understand, Doc.”
“Mark, I’m pretty sure Hope is carrying twins.”
“It would explain all her symptoms, two babies are developing
and pulling their nourishment from Hope. I think if Hope starts
eating a little bit larger meals and then more frequently
throughout the day, that will stop the queasiness, but she’s
still going to need to take it easy. Carrying two for someone of
her size, we just need to be careful.” Then turning to Hope,
“Hope, you only have two more months to go, so from here on, I
want to see you every week. Then during your last month, I’ll
want you to stay here in town. Medical literature indicates that
twins generally arrive a little premature, so if they do come
early, you’ll be close by and I can get to you quickly.”
Doc turned back to look at Mark, who was still gaping his mouth
open and stating “twins”.
Lucas and Milly stood to the side, grinning and trying to keep
from laughing as they watched the expression on Mark’s face.
“Twins,” Mark stated as Lucas place a hand under Mark’s arm to
get him to his feet.
“Come on boy. Let’s get lunch at the hotel before we all head on
home,” Lucas stated as they left Doc’s office.
Abigail looked to her husband, “So just when do we make our next
house call to the McCain Ranch? Do you think Mark will need
something a little stronger than brandy we offered to Lucas?”
Doc pulled his wife into an embrace, “I wasn’t sure who was
going to take it harder, Lucas or Mark. Mrs. Burrage, maybe we
should think about starting our own family.”
“Well, Mr. Burrage, I have some news for you. I think we already
Thadd looked to Abigail in askance. “Yes, I think I’m pregnant,”
she stated as she gave her husband a kiss.
The McCain’s enjoyed a very slow evening at the Summer Social.
Father and son were happy to just sit down next to their wives
and enjoy the food, the conversation with various citizens of
the town, and just enjoy the evening. Mark knew that soon it
would be time for Hope to start living in town, until their
babies were born. Hattie had offered them Hope’s old room.
The McCain’s and the Drako’s watched as Myra was dancing with
young Connor. More often than not, Connor ended up on his fanny,
still unsure of his legs. Though he would clap and smile at
those around him watching.
Before the social officially came to an end, the McCain family
headed for home.
The Next Step — Father
and Son, Side by Side
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch