The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 24 - The Wait
Written by Deanne Bertram
While Mark slept, his dreams took him back to a Christmas when
he was younger. Back to Enid, Oklahoma and his Ma. As if
watching someone else’s dream, he watched as his father pulled a
small child behind him on a sled, through the snow. He heard the
child squeal with laughter, yelling, “Faster Pa, faster!” He
heard his Ma, warn his Pa, “Lucas, not too fast!” His dream
showed the three of them making snow angels. His dream took him
to later that night; his Ma and Pa were tucking him into bed
after watching him say his prayers.
Next, his dreams took him to Christmas, just a few days ago. The
prospect of, standing as a man and asking permission for Hope’s
hand in marriage. Watching the love his Ma and his Pa shared for
each other. The reality of a new life being brought into the
world in the next few weeks. The love that abounded in the home,
the warmth. Showed him kneeling, asking for Hope to be his wife.
Mark’s dreams took him to his dream of his future. Of sitting on
the porch talking to his Pa, watching as his eldest child came
running over the rise, barely stopping before hugging Grandpa
Lucas and warning his Pa he best get home to finish his chores,
lest he sleep in the barn.
He smiled and sighed “Hope” as he dreamed of his past, his
present, and his future. Mrs. Tanner was working on her
needlepoint in the room when she heard the sigh escape Mark’s
lips. She set her needlepoint down and walked to the bed. She
brushed back the hair from his forehead. Pleased to feel his
body temperature having returned to normal, also that fever had
not set in.
That evening, before they returned to North Fork, both Doctors
checked Mark over one last time. Pleased with how clear his
lungs sounded, pleased to see the return of color to his face.
Please that no sign of frost bite or pneumonia had set in. They
instructed the Tanners to keep Mark warm, and when he woke to
get a hot meal in him. Said he’d probably be woozy for a while
because of the brandy they had forced in to him. If all
continued well, they would see that Lucas came for the boy, day
after tomorrow. They didn’t want him out of bed until then.
New Year’s afternoon, Micah and the Lane’s returned to the
McCain ranch, unaware of the blessed and tragic events that has
befallen the family. When they received no answer to their
knock, they entered to see Hope curled up in Mark’s chair,
asleep and Lucas was asleep in his chair, his bible lying on his
chest. The men could tell both had been crying.
Micah stepped further into the room and shook Lucas’ shoulder.
“LucasBoy, what happened?” he asked.
Hope woke as Ethan gently shook her shoulder and called her
“Micah, Seth, Ethan, I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you arrive,” Lucas
stated as he wiped the moisture from his cheeks.
“The baby came this morning,” Lucas stated.
“Why that’s good news! Why the tears, did something happen?”
“Milly and the baby are fine, but Mark ended up racing all the
way over to Judge Tanner’s in Marionette, without his coat. Doc
Burrage went back to help his uncle tend to Mark. He said he was
half frozen when he arrived.”
Lucas stood as he heard Milly call his name. He again wiped the
tears from his eyes as he walked to their bedroom. From behind
the closed door, all heard Milly cry out when Lucas told her the
news. Hope broke from her brother’s embrace and ran to Milly.
Hope entered the room and saw Lucas trying to calm Milly,
soothingly stroking her back, holding her tight. Hope picked up
the crying baby from the cradle and carried her to Milly. She
stepped back as Milly prepared to let the baby suckle at her
“Oh Lucas,” Milly whispered. “How can such a blessed occasion
hurt like this? Lucas, it seems like every time I bring
something joyous to you, there’s a dark side and you get hurt.”
“Milly, please don’t think that way. Every day of my life, since
you returned, has been a joy in my life. Remember our wedding
night and every night since then. Milly, don’t blame yourself
for what’s happened.”
Milly turned her face away from Lucas and looked at their
“Milly, please,” Lucas pleaded. “Don’t turn away from me. Don’t
shut me out. You’ve told me in the past how strong Mark is, we
have to have faith that he’ll pull through. Milly, you’re my
wife and his mother. You’re a McCain. And you’re the mother of
Lucas reached to caress the back of his daughter’s head. In
time, the suckling sounds stopped and the baby lay asleep
against Milly’s breast. “Milly, we’ll wait until Mark gets home
to name her.” Lucas stated as he leaned to give his wife a kiss
and wiped the tears from her cheek. Milly leaned back against
Lucas and fell asleep in his arms and Lucas fell asleep with the
two most important women in his life, in his arms.
When Hope stepped from the bedroom, Seth and Ethan stated that
it was time for them to return to duty. They apologized for not
being able to stay longer, but duty called. They promised they
would return to North Fork for the wedding.
“If there is one,” Hope stated as she looked to the floor.
“Hope, have faith. Your love for him might just make the
difference for his choice to live,” Seth told his daughter.
Micah stated he was going to return to town, see if either Doc
Burrage had returned and had any news. Hope asked Micah to let
Miss Hattie know she was going to stay at the McCain’s.
Hope fixed a small dinner for the family that evening. They
quietly ate, until they heard the sound of a horse and buggy
arrive. Lucas opened the door to see both Doc Burrage’s walking
across the porch. He invited them in.
“Lucas, Milly, Hope,” old Doc Burrage started. “We have good
news regarding Mark. It took time, but when we left Marionette,
he was peacefully sleeping and his body temperature had returned
“Doc,” Milly asked. “What of frost bite or pneumonia?”
“Milly, your son will be fine. No signs of frost bite and his
lungs were clear. I asked the Judge and Mrs. Tanner if they
minded keeping him until day after tomorrow, I’d prefer he not
get out of that bed until then.”
“Doc, thank you. I don’t know how we’ll ever be able to repay
you for saving Mark’s life, again,” Lucas stated as the men
turned to the door.
“You just keep talking to your daughter and tell her about her
Lucas watched as the buggy drove away on the snow covered lane.
He shivered, looked up to the heavens and thanked God.
Thaddeus Burrage waited inside his home for Lucas McCain to
arrive; he intended to travel with Lucas to Marionette. He
wanted to check Mark over one more time before allowing him to
Before starting their return trip, they made sure Mark was well
bundled for the return home and tied Blue Boy to the back of the
buckboard. Lucas was concerned over his son’s silence as they
headed home. Lucas waved goodbye to Thadd as he started the
final leg home.
“Mark you seem awful quiet, is everything alright?”
“Pa, I’m sorry about all this. I was so concerned about Ma and
the baby, I didn’t think before I left to get Doc Burrage.”
“Mark, you couldn’t have known both would be in Marionette and
with the baby coming early, let’s just put this behind us.
Besides, you have a new sister to meet once I get you home.”
They were a short distance from the ranch, “What were you
thinking about that made you laugh?” Lucas asked as he heard a
small laugh come from Mark and saw a smile on his face.
“I was just remembering a dream I had while I was sleeping. I
felt like Ebeneezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas
Carol’,” Mark stated.
“Mark, how could you compare yourself to someone as miserly as
“I didn’t feel so much like Scrooge, but I dreamed of Christmas
past, when we were back in Enid, Christmas present, from just a
few days ago, and my future, the dream I’ve had ever since
before I met Hope.”
They arrived home and Lucas assisted Mark into the house. Lucas
helped Mark remove his coat before making sure his son sat down
in front of the fire place. The door to his parent’s bedroom
opened and he saw his Ma carrying a bundle in her arms. Milly
walked over and placed his sister in his arms. Hope stood in
front of Mark and watched.
Mark pulled open the blanket to take a look at his sister. He
counted her fingers and her toes. She grabbed at his finger. “I
have a sister? What did you name her?” he asked.
“We haven’t named her yet Mark. We wanted to wait until you came
home,” Milly stated.
“Have you chosen a name?” he asked.
“We were thinking of naming her Myra Gabriela McCain,” Milly
“Sounds like a good name. Welcome to our family, Myra Gabriela
McCain.” Mark raised his sister to his face and nuzzled noses.
She started cooing.
Lucas walked to the chest and pulled their family bible from
within. He set it on the table and then went to retrieve the pen
and ink well. Milly sat down and printed:
Myra Gabriela McCain, born, and the date.
Lucas and Milly returned to stand next to their son. Lucas stood
with his arms around his wife and his future daughter-in-law,
and watched his two children meet each other.
The Next Step — Hope's Graduation
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch