The Rifleman
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The Next Step…
Chapter 23 - The Race
Written by Deanne Bertram

It hadn’t been that cold when the snow started, but the longer Mark raced to Marionette, the colder the air became and the winds picked up as the snow started falling harder. He cursed at himself for being so forgetful, but this was supposed to be a quick trip to North Fork and then back home.

He guided Blue Boy the best he could, over the terrain and through the snow; knowing the urgency to get one of the doctors for his Ma. When he felt his horse tiring from running, he trotted him. As he rode, he hunched forward, hoping some of the body heat from his horse would help keep him warm.

Soon he came to a fork in the road and a sign pointing the way to Judge Tanner’s. He kicked Blue Boy into a gallop. As lights from a house came into view, he slowed Blue Boy, ultimately, stopping in front of the house as he saw a group of people standing next to a horse and buggy. He heard someone telling those in the buggy it was too late for them to try to get home.

He could barely step down from his horse when he felt hands lifting him down. He kept trying to talk, but he was so frozen. He heard someone say his name and then heard, “He’s saying something about his Ma and the baby.” He sensed that he was being carried, but he didn’t feel the hands grabbing on to him. He heard someone yell, “Get that horse in the barn and under blankets.”

He felt himself being laid down on something soft and inviting, so inviting he wanted to sleep. He felt a sharp slap to his face, and a man’s voice saying, “Mark stay awake! You have to stay awake! Mark, do you hear me?!” His face was slapped again, harder. He sensed hands removing his clothes and blankets being piled on him. He sensed someone rubbing his hands, his arms, his legs, his feet. He felt someone lift his head and place a cup to his lips. A woman’s voice softly urged him to drink. “Drink this Mark. Mark you have to drink this.”

He took a drink, sputtered and threw his head sideways, they forced the cup into his lips again. Again he was forced to drink. “Ma, I c-can’t. D-don’t m-make m-me.” Mark’s body shook violently as they tended to him. He heard the woman’s voice yell, “Is it ready yet?” Someone far off answered, “Yes.”

He felt the sensation that he was floating and then he was submerged in warmth. “S-sleep. J-just let m-me s-sleep, p-please” Mark begged. Again he felt the sharp slap to his face, heard a man telling him to stay awake, and the cup being forced to his lips. Again, he sputtered as the liquid burned going down his throat.

Mark’s body remembered, remember what every baby forgets that first moment after they take a breath. His body remembered, the warmth and the protection from the womb, as he curled up into a fetal position in the warm water.

Until the sun started peaking over the hills, Judge Tanner, his wife, and old Doc Burrage raced to keep Mark McCain awake and alive. Draining water as it cooled and adding more hot water to the tub. When they felt he was drifting too far, they’d slap his face to rouse him.

In time, his body stopped shaking and the urgency in the voices around him softened. He heard a voice call, “Make sure the fireplace in the room is going. I want it warm in there before we move him.”

He felt arms around him, lifting him. He felt the softness of a bed and towels drying his body. He sensed blankets being piled over him and hot bricks being placed around him. He felt a gentle, smooth hand caress his face. A woman’s voice told him, “Mark, it’s all right, you can sleep now. Go to sleep, rest easy.”

The Next Step — The Wait

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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