by Helen Chavez
Disclaimer: Fellers aint mine, so jist borrowed em and will promise to give em back at the end of the day. Although I wouldnt mind hangin on to the preacher man fer a while
Comments: Well, I did it again I got myself into trouble with the Jezebelles List-Mom Melody, and she gritted her teeth, slapped my wrist and issued me with another Penance.
Want to know what I did wrong this time? Well, it was pretty big, I can tell you. I forgot my THUD!!!!! Warning. Now whats that, you may well ask. Its like this. Now, all of the Belles have this terrible habit of falling off their computer chairs when they see pics of Josiah and/or his alter ego Mr Ron Perlman, deliciously handsome man that he is. This leads to a lot of bruises and raised blood pressure, so they have to be warned well in advance when pictures are posted on list. It gives em a chance to put cushions around their chairs and have the BP pills at the ready. And I forgot. Hence the Penance.
This time, I had to write a Christmas story based on a picture from the files, and this is the one they chose, darn it! I know its from One day Out West, but Ive just made it a little bit of a ponder from Josiah, and isnt anything to do with the episode in question.
It turned out a little bitter-sweet, Im afraid. But I was in a melancholy mood, so Im sorry if its not the usual jolly, festive fare one would expect. Dont ask me why it turned out this way, it just did. Josiah has always struck me as having had a hard, hard life, and is still questioning his own beliefs and principles. This is his first Christmas with the Seven, and I dont think theyve been together that long, so theyre still getting to know one another.
Well, Lord, its that time of year again.
And here I am, Josiah Sanchez, sittin in a saloon, sippin whisky and thinkin about how the years been, as always. Seems to me Christmas always turns out to be a time for hopes and wishes, prayers and celebration. At least, thats how its supposed to be, I reckon.
Yknow, thinkin about it, I aint had a happy Christmas since damn, I dont know when. When I was a boy, it all seemed to be hymns and candles and bein quiet and solemn if my father had anythin to do with it. Even when Momma was alive, it was well, it certainly wasnt what you would call fun. And after she went, Pa just became kinda fierce, if you get my meanin. It was so hard, Lord, tryin to explain to Hannah why he made everythin so goddamn difficult. Took him a few years to drive both of us away from him. Me, I was the lucky one. I could leave and get on with livin, or so it seemed. But Hannah he drove her into insanity, Lord, and I didnt do a damn thing to stop it. I shouldve but I didnt. And now, the only family I got is livin in Vista City, not knowin who she is or who I am, most of the time. Hannah didnt deserve that, Lord! She was so beautiful so so helpless, and I wasnt there to stop what he did to her. What he beat out of her with his fists and his belt and his words.
My guilt made me angry, Lord. At You, at my Pa, but mostly at myself. But You already know that, dont You? Maybe I still am angry at You, especially when I go to see Hannah. Thats hard on a man, seein his only livin family the way she is. It hurts so bad all I want to do is die for a week afterwards.
But then, Lord, You did somethin pretty damn strange.
You sent me here, to Four Corners.
And then You sent me them.
Those six men that spend most of their time drivin me crazy worryin about em - either that, or makin me want to tear em limb from limb for bein so well, you know what I mean. Theyre enough to drive a man to drink. If I didnt already like a whisky, that is. Oh, by the way, Lord, this is pretty good whisky. Its Ezras, his celebratory libation, he calls it. Its a single malt Scotch. One of Your more interesting creations, I must say. God Bless the Scotsman who invented it.
Anyway, these past few months have kept me on my toes, at least, although I didnt particularly appreciate the bullet holes in my leg and back, Lord, thank You very much. Damn near killed me. Still, we saved the Seminole village, killed that mad sonofabitch Anderson and made it out of there alive. Just.
The Judge asked us to stay on for thirty days to help keep the peace in town I thought itd never work. One or the other of us would high-tail it out of there pretty soon, I figured. But thirty days later, we were still together, and we hadnt killed each other into the bargain. And so thats what its been like the past few months. The seven of us, workin together tryin our best to stop the bad guys and not get ourselves killed. It works pretty well, really, although were all different.
But as for Christmas
I dont know how the hell were goin to deal with it, Lord. I mean, just look at em. All of em. Sittin here with me playin poker and takin some down time.
All except for Chris, that is.
There he is over in the corner the whip-lean feller in black, pouring his pain down his throat along with a couple of bottles of that rot-gut he drinks. Hes been there all night, and Im pretty sure hell either punch Buck or Buckll punch him before the nights out. Buck Wilmington, Chris oldest friend wholl probably get a mouthful of abuse for carin whether Chris lives or dies. And that, Lord, is because You took his wife and son from him. Some crazy, vindictive bastard killed em, burnt em alive in their home while Chris and Buck were in Mexico sellin horses. Why You allowed such a thing, Ill never know, but You turned him into this bucketful of hate that is Chris Larabee. A good man, Lord, a decent man, who doesnt care if he lives most of the time. How the hell he copes at Christmas Ill never know. Well, maybe I do. Salvation is at the bottom of a bottle of Red-Eye, and in the bed of some whore in Purgatorio. But at least well be here for him when he gets back. If he gets back, and some crazy gun-totin kid doesnt blast a hole through him when hes drunk and brag about how he took the great Chris Larabee.
Talkin of kids what about JD, Lord? A boy. A greenhorn, at that, who came out here to the west because he read about it in a dime novel. A dime novel, for Gods sake! Hes a good kid, though. A tad eager well, more than just a tad and always tryin to do whats best, and usually gettin himself into trouble no matter how hard he tries not to. The Judge made him sheriff, yknow. Have You ever heard of such a thing? Why, the boys still tryin to figure out which ways up, if you ask me, and there he is, doin his damnedest to keep law and order in a place like Four Corners. Craziest thing you ever saw. Still, along comes Buck and kicks his ass once in a while and does what he can to keep the lad alive long enough to grow into a man.
But JD finds Christmas hard. This one will be the first one without his Momma, and hes all alone. Why take the boys mother, Lord? Hes a good kid, just young, and he needed his Momma for a while yet. She must have been one helluva woman, Lord, as hes got a heart as big as Texas and the whole world is still black and white in JDs eyes. No grey. He wouldnt know deceit if it stood up and whupped him. Hes a credit to her, and thats no mistake.
But, You sent him Buck Wilmington, and I suppose thats a point in Your favour. Big, fun-lovin, good-natured, hard-as-nails Buck Wilmington. He served his apprenticeship lookin out for Chris, so the boys easy to watch and make sure he dont get holes drilled in him. But Bucks got his own hardships, Lord, and Youve not been easy on the man.
Ill tell you one thing, though. He sure loves Christmas. He has enough yuletide cheer to light up Kansas City and then some. He loves the whole thing the carols, the gifts, the whole shebang. Now, it aint got anythin to do with Jesus birth, Lord, Im sorry to say. It has absolutely everything to do with lovin his fellow Man or woman, in Bucks case. As You know, he just loves the ladies, and they love him, and it sure dont matter what they look like theyre all beautiful in Bucks eyes, and he respects the hell out of em. And do you know where he got that from, Lord? Not from the Good Book, I can tell you. Nope, he got it from his Momma, who was a fine lady. Maybe not in the eyes of those prissy, church-goin do-gooders who wouldnt know good intentions if they were handed to em on a silver platter. No Lord, Bucks Momma was a whore. A prostitute. A lady of ill-repute.
Perhaps, though, that was Your intention. You gave him a Momma who loved him and brought him up to be a fine, fine man. Hed give his life for that boy, just to keep him safe, and Buck dont judge, Lord. He just protects those he cares about, and to hell with the conventions. But sometimes sometimes I wonder just who the hell is supposed to protect Buck. Theres a sweetness and heart to Buck thats as rare as hens teeth, and Id sure appreciate it if You wouldnt send him any more pain, because he has enough with Chris. You do know he blames himself for Sarah and Adams death, dont You? I know Chris dont blame him for stayin that extra night in Mexico, but Buck sure does. And I dont know if hell ever get over it. No sir
Damn! A full house! Just how the hell he does that I have no idea! But thats Ezra for you I should know better than play poker with Ez, thats for sure.
Thats Ezra P. Standish, to You, Lord, and he couldnt give a damn about Christmas unless he could make a profit out of it. He sure is a challenge, and I aint talkin about playin poker. Goddamn popinjay, all gold tooth and flashy words, and a soul more twisted than a sidewinder. Why the hell You inflicted him on the rest of us Ill never understand, unless it was just to keep us on our toes. But then maybe Youve decided that inflicting us on Ezra was the way to go. He needs something to put him on the right road, but you sure as hell cant force him to do anything. Hes lazy, self-centred, acquisitive, deceitful, childish and thats just for starters. And that, Lord, is because You gave him a Momma like Maude. All right, shes a handsome woman, but shes used and neglected that boy all his life. But and thats one helluva big But theres something in Ezra thats so so endearing, if thats the right word. You should see him with children. They put a look on his face that would break your heart, and he doesnt talk down to em like a lot of folks. They see something in him that no one else can, and Im damned if I can find out what it is. He keeps it buried deep, deep inside, Lord, underneath fancy words and slick smiles. Damn, that boy can talk nineteen to the dozen and not say a darned thing that means anything. Not like Vin.
Vin Tanner, the man-boy, all blue eyes, long hair and short words. Sometimes I can go a whole day and only hear Vin sigh. Oh, he smiles sometimes, that shy, slow smile that makes his eyes light up, like when he sees an eagle up in the high places. Or when that goddamned horse of his tries to take a chunk out of his ass and Vin just slides past those teeth like a fish in a mountain pool. His Momma was nothin like Maude. She gave Vin a pride in himself that Ezras never had, even though Vins Momma died when he was five. Now that was an awful thing to do takin a young childs Momma like that. He was raised all on his lonesome, and its been hard and left a lot of scars. But hes a fine young man, Lord, despite all thats happened to him. And he has a bond with Chris that might be the savin of Larabee yet, if Vin dont get himself killed for that five-hundred-dollar bounty on his head. And that for a murder he didnt commit. Why did You make it so hard for the boy, Lord? Why did he have to grow up tryin to make sense of a world thats done nothin but kick him in the teeth. And yet and yet he has a wisdom I aint never seen in someone so young, although I know it aint from books because I got a sneaky suspicion Vin cant read, and if anyone could get somethin from book-learnin its Vin Tanner. It would bring him alive Lord, and hes been denied so much for someone so young. A damn shame.
And then theres Nathan.
If anyone has a cause to dislike Christmas, its Nathan Jackson. Born in chains and slavery, Nathan knew nothin but hardship and pain. I know, because Ive seen the scars on his back from the whip. Yet hes a God-fearin man, Lord, and I cant imagine why. What did Nathan and his family ever do to deserve the life they had? Because their skins were dark instead of white? How in Your name could You allow such a Godawful thing? His owners were church-goin folks, I know, because Nates told me. And Ive no doubt that they thought they were allowed to own other human beings in Your eyes after all, Gods a white man, isnt He? Why did they think that, Lord? And why did You allow Nathans beautiful Momma to be violated by the man who owned her, and allow her to kill herself when she found she was carryin his child? Why?? Yet Nathan is a good, kind man who seeks to do nothin but help his fellow man, white, yellow or black. Nathan doesnt care. He could be bitter and twisted by it, Lord, but he isnt or if he is, he doesnt show it. He likes Christmas for the hope it brings. And this from a man who went through slavery and a war, seein all that is evil in Mankind. I dont know how he does it, I really dont.
So, Lord, if Youre wonderin what all this ramblin is about on my part, then Ill tell You.
Why did You bring us all together, here, in Four Corners? What is it about we Seven that makes You decide we should hang around together, watchin each others backs and makin sure we all make it to the end of the day?
Because if You think Im here to be some sort of shepherd to this strange little flock, then think again. My shepherding days are over long ago, and all I am now is a burnt-out ol preacher-man with a taste for whisky and a talent for self-destruction. All right, Ill patch up that old church, because it sure needs some care and attention and a town needs a church, but thats as far as it goes. My penance stops there.
Maybe You sent them to watch over me. But I thought You were tellin me with those crows my time had come, and I can tell you when Nate was diggin that damn bullet out of my back I would have been glad to meet my Maker. But You wouldnt let me go, would You? Even when I begged You to take me all those years. When I woke up Buck was there, all bandaged up but still grinnin like a loon. Vin and JD hollerin outside like a couple of kids, playin the fool, and Ezra tellin tall stories to the Seminole children and showin them card tricks. Chris sittin beside me and Buck both, the look on his face tellin us he was glad to see us alive and kickin. And Nathan just pleased as punch that wed made it.
Maybe Youve decided for some reason that we are each others salvation, although I have my doubts. But still, I have to admit it seems to be workin so far.
I suppose You think thats pretty funny, Lord, dont You?
But then, You are supposed to work in mysterious ways.
Feedback welcome at MASKS2003@hotmail.com