The Rifleman
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The Next Step...
Chapter 33 – Myra, the Toddler
Written by Deanne Bertram

Summer’s official arrival was still a month away. It was early morning when Mark returned home from working in town to find Myra standing up, holding on to the chest in living room, trying to walk. He placed his hat on the table and picked his sister up, when he heard her calling, “Mak, Mak”.

“Well Gabby, seems you’ve finally found your land legs. Ma, why didn’t you say that Gabby’s started walking?” Mark asked.

“Myra’s what?” Milly called from the kitchen.

“She was holding on to the chest and walking.” Then turning to his sister in his arms, “Yes, you were walking weren’t you,” as he nuzzled his nose into her face, causing Myra to squeal.

“Me wak, me wak,” Myra said as she started clapping her hands.

Milly lifted Myra from Mark’s arms and held her on her hip. “So young lady, I turn my back and now you’re walking.”

“Me wak, me wak,” she called again.

“Better watch out Ma, soon she’ll be walking down the aisle,” Mark said and then turned to avoid a swat from Milly.

As they were laughing, they heard Lucas enter and ask, “Who’s walking down the aisle?”

“Just your son trying to be cute,” Milly stated with mock anger in her voice.

“My son?”

“Teasing me that Myra’s soon to be walking down the aisle. Lucas, our daughter just took her first steps!” Milly stated as she handed Myra to Lucas, who raised her sky high over his head, causing Myra to squeal.

“Now, you both are hurting my feelings. I’m beginning to think that you don’t love me any more! Maybe I should just leave!” Mark continued the banter.

As Lucas lowered Myra, she started reaching for Mark, calling, “Mak, Mak, me want Mak.”

As Mark reached for his sister he added, “Well at least someone in this room loves me. Come here Gabby.”

As Hope entered from the back door, carrying the milk pail, she heard Mark exclaim, “Well maybe I should just take Hope and Myra, the only people who love me, and set out on our own.”

Not missing a beat, Hope asked, “And just who said that I love you?” as she set the pail down on the counter and then stepped to the family. Mark wrapped his other arm around Hope and pulled her close.

“Well, seeing as how you share my bed,” Mark replied as he tried to give her a kiss.

“Your bed!” Hope declared as she pushed Mark away from her. “Seems I’m the one who sleeps in it all the time, while you go off being a gallant knight, protecting the town and leaving me, way out here to defend myself!” Hope enjoyed the banter.

“Well, Gabby,” Mark stated. “Seems it’s just you and me, sis,” as he headed towards the door, only to feel his Pa’s hand at his shirt collar and being pulled into a hug.

“Mark, you know no one can ever replace you,” Milly stated as she joined in the hug, followed closely by Hope.

*****

The few weeks later, Mark woke to feeling a tug on his arm hanging off the side of the bed and hearing a small voice call, “Mak, Mak, wake up.”

“Gabby? What?” He quickly sat up and lifted his sister off the floor and into his bed. “Gabby, just what are you doing in here?”

“Me wake, me ‘elp.”

Shortly Hope started to stir. “Mark, what?” she asked half asleep.

“Hope, its Gabby,” Mark said, only to hear Milly yell, “Myra! Lucas, Myra’s missing!”

Mark called back, “Ma, its okay. She’s in here with Hope and me.” Shortly, both Lucas and Milly were standing in the doorway. “She woke me just a few minutes ago.”

Milly rushed in and took Myra from Mark’s lap, only to have her cry, “NO! Me want Mak, me ‘elp Mak.”

“Young lady, you will behave yourself.” Milly chided her daughter, still trying to settle her own rapidly beating heart. “Or you will learn your first lesson of sitting in a corner, quietly. The corner is for bad little girls.”

“Me no girl, me Gabby,” she called as she continued to squirm and reach for Mark. Lucas came up to Milly and took Myra from her arms.

“Young lady, you’re going to learn a very important lesson this morning. Girls, and that include Myra; get punished when they are not good.” Lucas carried her out of Mark and Hope’s bedroom and sat Myra in the corner of their bedroom. “Now, you sit there and don’t move until I come back for you.”

“Mak come?” she asked.

“No, Mark’s been good,” Lucas replied.

“Myra, not good?” she asked as her lower lip started to quiver.

“No, Myra’s not been good,” Lucas stated as he tried not to laugh at his daughter. He pointed his finger towards her and told her, again, to stay put.

When Lucas turned around, he saw tears in Milly’s eyes and a smile on Mark’s face, knowing he was remembering some of the times when he was younger and was sent to the corner.

As Lucas walked into the front room he heard Mark state, “Guess it must be from the McCain side of the family.”

“Mark, Hope, we’re sorry Myra woke you this morning,” Lucas declared.

“That’s okay Pa, we needed to get up early anyway. You wanted to get a jump on checking the fence line, especially the bluffs that separate our place from Mr. Jackford’s. Let me finish getting dressed and I’ll get the barn chores started.”

Milly and Hope had breakfast ready when Lucas and Mark returned to the house. Lucas peaked into the bedroom and saw Myra still sitting in the corner. “Well?” he asked.

“I think it’s been long enough,” Milly answered as she placed breakfast on the table.

Lucas walked to the bedroom and called Myra. She turned at her name and slowly, got to her feet and toddled over to Lucas.

“Well young lady?”

“Me good now?” she asked. Lucas bent down and lifted his daughter into his arms and carried her to the table for breakfast.

*****

Now that Myra was walking, Milly and Lucas tried to explain to her the rules of not leaving the house unless one of them or Mark or Hope was with her. They constantly had to tell her she couldn’t go outside alone, when they’d find her reaching for the door knob.

*****

A week later, Milly and Hope were outside, just finishing laundry and watching Myra playing in the dirt. They stopped working when Lou and Johnny arrived with Connor. Lou was talking of how they were looking forward to celebrating their second wedding anniversary at the Summer Social next week.

Lucas and Mark had just returned from the range, when Mark offered to take the horses to the barn so Lucas could talk with Johnny. Mark had just put both horses in their stalls and was preparing to unsaddle them when he heard the calf in the corral bawling. As he entered the corral, he saw Myra had crawled under the railing and was reaching for the calf. Mark yelled, “Gabby!” as he ran to get her out of the corral. He heard Milly scream as he picked Myra up and shoved her through the fence. He saw the calf running away when he felt the impact and everything went dark.

*****

Milly and Lucas turned towards the barn when they heard Mark yell “Gabby!” Lucas immediately was on the run. He saw Mark push Myra from the corral and then watched as the cow charged and slammed into Mark’s back, causing Mark to strike his head on the fence post. Lucas started yelling, trying to chase away the cow, which stood, striking out with a front hoof, over the prone body of his son. Johnny was quickly at Lucas’ side, firing his gun into the air. As the cow ran to its calf, they climbed the fence and dropped down to Mark’s side.

“Careful Lucas, let’s turn him over, we can drag him under the fence, then pick him up and get him to the house.”

Milly and Hope ran and picked up the scared and crying Myra, watching as Lucas and Johnny pulled the unconscious Mark from the corral. They followed as Mark was carried to the house and placed in his bed. Hope filled the pitcher with water and carried it and the basin into their bedroom. She set them on the night stand next to their bed.

“Lucas, you want me to go get Doc Burrage?” Johnny asked.

“Johnny, take Razor. He’ll get you to town faster than your buggy,” Lucas stated without looking up as he removed the bloody shirt that Mark wore.

Hope dipped a towel in the water and then placed it over the gash along Mark’s temple. Lucas picked up another towel and wrapped it around Mark’s bleeding arm.

Milly stood in the room with the crying Myra. Through her crying, Myra asked, “Mak wake?”

“Mark’s hurt, sweetheart” Milly answered.

“Me not good girl?” she asked through her tears.

Milly pulled Myra’s head to her shoulder, trying to quiet her crying, she heard Lucas call, “Milly, she doesn’t need to be in here. Please, take her to the front room.”

Milly carried Myra to the front room, sat down in her rocker, and tried to soothe her crying daughter. Lou followed with the sleeping Connor and sat down in Mark’s chair. Myra had finally fallen asleep when the sounds of approaching riders could be heard. The door opened as Johnny showed Thadd into the house and then to the bedroom.

Milly rose and placed the sleeping Myra in her crib. She returned to see Lou and Johnny out the front door. Before she sat back down in her chair, she picked up her bible.

*****

The sun had set the next time the bedroom door opened. Milly searched her husband’s face, before she asked, “Lucas, how is Mark?”

“We don’t know yet. He’s still unconscious,” Lucas then turned and escorted Thadd out the front door. When he return inside, he saw Milly crying, he walked over, knelt in front of her, and placed a hand on hers.

“Milly, he took a beating from that cow. His arm isn’t broken, but the muscle took some damage. Doc thinks he has a few bruised ribs. His body is bruised and contused. The gash over his temple should heal without stitches, but the longer he remains unconscious…” Lucas faltered, he laid his head in his wife’s lap.

In time, Lucas rose, picked up his bible and sat in his chair, while Milly warmed up a stew and bread for supper. Knowing that Hope wouldn’t want to leave Mark’s side, Milly carried a bowl of stew and a plate with some bread into their bedroom. As she returned to the front room, she heard, “Mama,” plaintively coming from their bedroom. Milly entered and saw Myra standing in the crib. She picked her daughter up and brought her out to Lucas. Lucas set his bible down and cuddled Myra in his arms.

“Papa, Mak ‘wake?”

“Not yet, Myra,” Lucas answered and his daughter leaned into his chest.

Milly set their supper on the table, where they ate in silence. Later, Milly put Myra to bed for the night. She and Lucas then went to check in on Mark and Hope. From the faint light of the lantern, they saw that Mark hadn’t moved from how he was originally laid in his bed. His face was pale under the bandage wrapped around his head. Hope was curled up beside him, eyes closed. They prayed that she was asleep as they closed the door.

*****

The following morning, Lucas and Milly rose early, not that they got much sleep during the night. As they opened the door, they saw Mark raising his hand to his head. He turned his head at the sound of the door opening.

Quietly they entered and Lucas said, “Good morning son, how do you feel?” Mark struggled to understand, he saw his Pa’s lips moving, but the words he was saying didn’t made sense to Mark. He wanted so much to say Pa and ask what happened, but he couldn’t even think of how to get the words out.

Milly walked around to the other side of the bed to wake Hope, to let her know that Mark was conscious. Hope quickly sat up in bed, seeing her husband’s eyes open, she picked up his hand and pulled it to her cheek.

Mark saw the tears falling down Hope’s face, he pulled his hand to wipe away her tears. Struggling to understand why his wife was crying. Soon the throbbing in his head forced him back to sleep.

“Come along Hope,” Milly stated as she reached for Hope’s hand. “He’s going to be okay. Let’s get breakfast ready.” Milly pushed Hope and Lucas from the room. Hope walked to Lucas and Milly’s bedroom when she heard Myra calling “Mama.”

*****

Lucas had finished the chores in the barn. It had taken a lot longer than usual. His worry caused him to not focus on the task at had. He was returning to the house for lunch when Doc Burrage arrived.

“Lucas, how’s Mark? Any change overnight?” he called as he stepped down from his horse.

“He woke before breakfast, he looked confused and didn’t speak, after a few minutes he fell back asleep.”

“Doesn’t surprise me. His brain took a good rattle yesterday. Mind if I look in on him?”

Lucas escorted Thadd in to see Mark. While Thadd was examining Mark, he woke again.

“Mark,” Thadd stated. “You took a pretty hard blow to your head yesterday. Do you understand what I’m saying?” He nodded. “Good, that’s a good sign. Does your head hurt?” Mark nodded. “Do you know who I am?” Mark tried so hard to say Doc Burrage, but he just couldn’t put his thoughts to words, so he just nodded. “That’s okay Mark. It’ll take a while before everything settles down in your head. But before I take your nod as gospel, I need to ask some questions. Do you understand?” Mark nodded.

“Good, then, is my name Micah Torrance?” Mark shook his head.

“How about Johnny Drako?” Again Mark shook his head.

“Am I Jay Burrage?” Same answer.

“Am I Thaddeus Burrage?” Mark nodded his head.

“Okay Mark, I’ll let you rest. First, take this medicine, it will ease the pain you’re feeling.” Thadd gave Mark a couple of pills and then lifted his head and helped Mark drink from a glass.

He stepped from the room and pulled the door closed behind him. He turned to face Lucas, Milly and Hope.

“He woke while I was examining him. He has his faculties about him, but can’t yet put his thoughts to words. He took a pretty serious concussion. Hope,” Thadd stated has he handed a bottle to her. “I want Mark to take two of these pills, every four hours. It will help ease the pain in his head and it will also make him sleep. I don’t want him trying to get out of bed until I know how things are.”

“Doc?” Lucas started.

“Lucas, because of the severity of the blow, I feel his brain might have been bruised and his body will try to compensate. His balance will be off and he could hurt himself more by falling again, were he to try to get up before his brain has had a chance to heal. I want him in bed for a week, maybe less. I’ll stop by in three days to check in on him again. But please, keep him lying down, in bed.”

Milly and Lucas showed Thadd back to his horse.

Mark slept most of the time. When he was awake before the others realized it, he tried to remember what happened. It was the third evening after the accident when Hope entered their bedroom to find Mark pressing the heels of his hands to the sides of his head, she rushed to Mark.

“Mark, please…” she said as she pulled his hands away from his head. She saw the tears falling from his eyes. “Does your head hurt? Should I send for Doc Burrage?”

She handed him the pills and held the glass of water for him to drink. After he had swallowed the pills, he licked at his lips and faintly said, “No.”

Surprised, Hope begged, “Mark say something else, anything, please?”

Mark concentrated hard, then opened his mouth and whispered, “I love you, Hope.”

Hope wrapped her arms around Mark’s neck and cried into his shoulder. Mark wrapped his arms around her, “I love you, Hope,” he said a little louder.

In time Mark said, “Hope, Pa hasn’t said anything about Gabby. Is she okay? Did she get hurt?”

“Mark, your sister is fine. It scared her a lot. She’s not left her bedroom unless one of us is there to lead her out. She’s not even reached for the door knob to come into our bedroom or to leave the house. Mark, I’ll be right back, let me get Ma and Pa.”

Hope returned to their bedroom with Lucas and Milly right behind her. Milly sat down on the edge of the bed, Lucas standing beside her, hand on her shoulder, as she brushed her hand against Mark’s cheek.

“Hope says you’re talking again,” Milly stated as tears fell from her eyes.

“I’m glad Gabby’s okay. I’m sorry I scared you…” Mark’s voice faded away as he fell asleep.

*****

It was the fourth day after his accident when Thaddeus returned to check up on Mark. Mark was awake as he entered the room.

“Hi Mark! How are you feeling today?”

“Better,” Mark replied.

“Well that is an improvement from the last time I was here. Are you still feeling headaches?”

“A little, the medicine seems to help,” Mark answered.

‘Well, it’s supposed to. Now, the next few days are going to be a little harder for you. I want you to stay awake longer than you have recently. I’m going to ask Hope to only give you the pills every eight hours and I want you to start sitting up in bed for a few hours at a time. If you’re up to it, I think maybe Myra would enjoy seeing you and having you read to her. It’ll give you something to do until I say its okay for you to get up and out of bed.”

“Thanks Doc. By the way, how are things in town? How are Micah and Johnny doing without me?”

“Missing you. But Hattie sees that Micah takes it easy, and Johnny…, what with Lou and Connor. They’ll be fine, but I’m sure they’re looking forward to you returning to duty. But they know it won’t be until I say so. Here let me help you sit up. You might be light headed for a few moments, but that should pass.”

After sitting up and getting re-acclimated to no longer lying down, Mark asked, “Doc, the Summer Social is in a few days…”

“Mark, I might let you go, but you won’t be doing any dancing. If, and I mean, IF I allow you to attend, you’ll be sitting on the side. You won’t be healed enough to do any dancing.”

“Okay. Doc, before you go, could you have someone bring Myra in?” Mark asked.

*****

Mark saw his father enter his room, with Myra hiding behind his leg.

“Gabby,” Mark called. “Hey sis, come here.”

Myra shook her head.

“Gabby, its okay. Won’t you come sit with me? I’d like to read to you, I see you have a book. Doc said I need your help to get getter.”

“Gabby bad,” Myra stated. “Mak ‘urt.”

“Gabby, you’re not bad. Come here sis. I need you. Doc said one of your hugs would make some of the hurt go away. Please?”

Myra looked up to Lucas, “Papa, me sit wi’ Mak?”

“It’s alright Myra. Doc Burrage even said so.”

Myra toddled over to the side of the bed. Lucas followed and picked her up and sat her in the bed next to Mark. Myra reached her arms around Mark’s neck and gave him a hug. “Gabby a good girl?”

“Yes Gabby, you’re a good girl. Now, let’s see what story you have.” Brother and sister settled in and Mark began reading aloud.

*****

It had almost been a week since the accident and it was a little before supper when Milly checked in on Mark and Myra, they were quietly sleeping. Myra’s book lying against Mark’s chest and his bandaged arm wrapped around her. As Milly finished setting the table she started hearing squeals of laughter coming from Myra in Mark’s bedroom. She ran to open the door, to reprimand Myra for disturbing Mark. When she opened the door, she saw Mark busily tickling his sister and holding her up-side-down on his lap. He stopped as he saw Milly in the doorway.

“Uh oh, Gabby, we got caught,” Mark stated as he set Myra upright.

“Well, if you’re feeling that well, maybe I can put you to work!” Milly stated as she put one hand on her hip, while the other was still on the door knob.

“Mak not well yet,” Myra stated.

“Thank you Nurse Gabby,” Mark stated as he pulled Myra back to him and started tickling her again.

“Mark Warren McCain, I’m not sure that Doc Burrage would appreciate you being this active. And Myra Gabriela McCain, you’re supposed to be a lady. What would your father say?”

“Guess we’re really in trouble Gabby, especially when Ma uses our full names.”

“Papa say me ‘elp Mak.”

Milly tried hard to keep from laughing. She heard Lucas and Hope return to the house from town.

“Lucas McCain, tend to your children. They’re totally out of control and won’t listen to a word I say,” Milly called and laughed as she walked back to the doorway.

Lucas and Hope stepped into the room to see the faces of both Mark and Myra flushed as they tried to stop laughing.

“Pa, we were just having some fun and Ma comes in here, calling us by our full names, like were some kind of criminals.” Mark stated, unable to keep a straight face or stop the laughter.

Myra tried to say criminals, but it came out kwimnals. She squealed again as Mark resumed the tickle fest. Hope jumped up into the bed and added to the melee’.

“Milly, let them be,” Lucas stated with a smile. “It’s good to see them smiling and even better to hear laughter coming out of this room after the week we’ve had.” From behind, he wrapped his arms around his wife and rested his chin on top of her head. “Besides, I think you need to focus on getting supper on the table. I’m hungry.”

“Okay Lucas, but you can be the one responsible for pulling your daughter out of there,” Milly smiled as she returned to the kitchen and removed the food from the stove.

*****

Doc Burraage arrived late the following morning. After examining Mark, he asked Milly and Hope to take Myra from the room. He closed the door after they left.

“Lucas, I want to get him up on his feet and if he passes out, it would be better if the ladies didn’t see it.” Then turning to Mark, “Are you read to try to stand?”

Doc pulled the covers back from Mark and helped him swing his legs over the edge of the bed. He motioned for Lucas to stand on the other side of Mark and they helped him get to his feet.

“Just stand for a moment Mark, get your bearings,” Doc said. “How you feel?” he asked as he felt Mark sag in their arms.

“Really light headed,” Mark replied.

“Okay, just sit back against the bed. We’ll try again in a minute.” Seeing the expression on Lucas’ face, “Lucas its natural, he’s been lying in the bed for a week and we swung his legs off the bed, the blood flow to his head reduced for a moment. He’ll be fine. Mark, you ready to try again.” Mark nodded.

With Doc and his Pa’s help, he stood. Soon he felt both of them relax their grip and he was able to stand on his own.

“Okay Mark, try taking a few steps.” They stood by his side as Mark tentatively took a step forward, wobbly at first, but then more assured. Doc and Lucas stepped back as Mark turned around and then walked to his bed.

“Any headache Mark?” Doc asked.

“No sir,” Mark stated as he sat back down on the bed.

Doc stepped to the door and opened it.

“Ladies, you can come back in. Okay, if you promise to take it easy, I’ll allow you to go to the dance tonight, but no dancing. You can enjoy the food and listen to the music, and only walk the food table for a little while, but NO dancing!”

Mark pulled Hope into his embrace, “Well Mrs. McCain, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the Summer Social this evening?”

“I’ll have to check my…” Mark didn’t let her finish as he kissed her.

“Me go to,” Myra called as she leaned from Milly’s arms and grabbed at Mark.

“Yes, Gabby, you come too. It’s going to be a family affair,” Mark stated has he reached for his sister.

*****

The McCain family rode into town in the buckboard. Lucas and Milly in the front seat, with Mark, Hope, and Myra sitting in the back.

Johnny was first to greet them and assisted Mark from the back of the buckboard.

“Good to see you up and about Mark. How you feelin“Better. Can’t wait to get back to work. Doc said maybe in another week. Oh, from what Hope says, I owe you a thank you.”

“Not necessary. How’s the arm?”

“It’s healing. Getting stronger each day,” Mark replied, as he flexed his arm.

“Good, Lou said she wanted a dance with you tonight,” Johnny stated.

“Well, I don’t have permission to dance. Doc’s only letting me come tonight with strict instructions to sit and I can do a little walking, but only to walk the food tables,” Mark stated with an embarrassed grin on his face.

“I’m sure Lou will understand.”

Mark and Hope briefly walked the food tables and filled theirs and Myra’s plates. They found a seat nearby and sat down to enjoy the music and the food. Mark sat on a hay bale and leaned back against a wall, his arms wrapped around Hope as she sat in Mark’s lap, leaning back to him. Myra enjoying dancing in the street, in front of them. By sundown, Myra was curled up asleep between the two of them.

“Mark, how are you feeling? Are you getting tired?”

“Just a little.”

“Maybe I should go find Ma and Pa and we should get you home.”

“Hope, please, let them enjoy themselves. I’m enjoying myself, just sitting here with you. We’ll have plenty of time to sleep once we get home.” Mark leaned over his sleeping sister and gently kissed Hope and smiled as he leaned back against the wall.

Micah stopped by and chatted with Mark and Hope for a while.

“Mark, you know I once teased your Pa about the two of you getting married, I mean, your Pa marrying Milly and then you marrying Hope,” Micah stated as he fumbled with his words.

“I seem to remember something about that,” Mark said as he smiled. “So does this mean that you might be thinking of asking Miss Hattie to marry you?”

“It might. I want to do this proper and since, well, you and Lucas are practically family to us, I thought that maybe, I should ask Lucas’ permission and his blessings, before I officially ask Hattie.”

“Micah, I’m sure Pa will say yes.”

After Micah left, Mark turned to Hope and asked, “Can you believe that? I can’t believe it took him this long to get up the nerve to ask.” Mark leaned over to kiss Hope, again.

*****

Later that evening, before the McCain’s headed for home. Micah stopped Lucas and asked for a moment of his time. Micah stood to the side, rubbing at his chin, looking anywhere but at Lucas, and licking at his lips.

“Pa, just say yes. I’m not sure that his heart can take the strain of asking you what he wants to ask. Something about being sorry he teased you about one or both of us getting married a few years back,” Mark stated as he sat down in the back of the buckboard, holding a sleeping Myra in his arms.

“Micah are you trying to tell me you want to marry Hattie?”

“Well LucasBoy, she always said you were like a son to her and since you’d be her only living family, I thought maybe I should ask your permission before I ask her.”

“Micah you have my blessings. It’s about time you joined the married ranks.”

The Next Step — Never Too Old

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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