Disclaimer: All the characters from the "Magnificent Seven" T.V. series are property of Trilogy Entertainment, The Mirisch Group, MGM Worldwide. I repeat this to myself daily. Though they have way more fun with me. The story is just for entertainment, I want no profit from this story.
Josiah was working in the church late, making use of the full moon. He knew the others were probably waiting on him, but he had just a couple of things he wanted to finish. It was when he was wiping wood shavings off his clothes that he noticed the boy with the gun. His clothes were tattered and his feet were bare, and it looked like he'd just been crying.
Josiah turned and asked gently, "How can I help you, son?"
"You ain't my pa."
"No offense intended, I just call everyone, my brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Now, how can I help you, young man," Josiah stated in his calm, easy-going way.
"You think I look like a man?" the boy's eyes showed interest.
Josiah smiled, "Yes, it shows."
"My pa don't, he'll say I am, but he treats me like I don't know nuttin," his face almost scrunching as he said this.
Nodding, Josiah asked, " Is that what's got you upset?"
The boy looked at the floor, pushing one foot back and forth and said softly, "Jus don' want it to happen again." Tears filling his eyes.
"I don't want to kill my pa." The boy looked very serious as he said it.
+ + + + + + +
The saloon seemed more crowded than usual to Chris as he approached the counter and took a spot next to Vin. He signaled the barkeep for a whiskey, and threw back a shot before commenting to Vin, "Seem more crowded to you?"
Nodding, Vin said, "Yup," then smiling, continued, "Full moon."
Chris nodded his understanding, and then checked around the room for troublemakers. Seeing no one to cause concern, Chris decided to relax, or as much as he ever could, and joined Ezra's game.
Vin moved over to the table and joined him. JD didn't want to be left out and headed toward Ezra's table. Vin, Chris and Ezra took turns winning the hands, and JD felt like he had lost enough money when Nathan came over to the table.
"Any of you seen Buck or Josiah?" Nathan asked of them.
"I saw Buck leave with a lady a little while ago," offered JD.
"Last I saw of him, Josiah was at the church," Chris told him.
"What's wrong Nathan, you seem worried," asked JD.
"No, no, not worried, but, well, it is the first full moon of the autumn," Nathan said cautiously.
"Well, what are you expectin', the bogeyman," JD said laughing.
"No, but it is the night that the ghost of Elliot Nelson rises," Nathan stated with a deep voice.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah offered some coffee to the boy, but he turned it down, saying the smell was enough. Josiah took his coffee and sat at the back table, pushing the other chair aside and indicated that the boy join him. The boy slowly made his way over and took the offered chair. Josiah knew the boy needed and wanted to talk but he had to ease into it.
"Ya know, it wasn't to long ago, that I was still angry about the situation between my father and myself. Tough part there, was that my father had been dead for ten years. Sometimes it's hard to resolve problems with the dead, but it can be done. Still, it always better to try and work it out while they're alive. "Josiah noticed that the boy was paying rapt attention. Taking a sip of his coffee, Josiah then continued, "My father was a preacher, but I didn't believe he practiced what he preached. Therein our problem lie, along with the normal growing rebellion added in. We fought, and we parted on angry words. I never did get to set things right when he was alive, and I lived with that anger at myself for years. It took a wise friend to set me on the right course, and I would like to share that with you."
The boy nodded, looking transfixed by the story Josiah was weaving.
"My friend, Ko Jea, told me I was out of balance, and I did not understand what he meant. He wouldn't tell out right, instead we discussed my father, and the things that bothered me. He helped to see my father through the eyes of another father. This in turn allowed me to see my own anger with different eyes, and not the ones I had as a young man. My balanced returned when I understood that what my father really was trying to achieve with his anger and yelling, a good life for me, and it came out of his love for me, one that I never recognized." Josiah then sat silent for a few minutes, letting the words sink in. Then he looked up at the boy and asked, "Would you like to talk about your father?"
+ + + + + + +
"Ghost!" JD nearly yelled, "Come on Nathan, this is a joke, right." JD figured he was at the butt of some joke again.
"No joke," Nathan held his hands up, fingers spread.
"Well, I've never heard that," JD crossed his arms across his chest.
Chris and Vin bowed their heads to keep from laughing out loud. Ezra decided to help the kid out, so he asked Nathan, "Pray tell, Mr. Jackson, from whence did this story appear."
"Out on the fringes of James place was the Nelson farm, and it was in the autumn of '49 when old man Nelson and his son shot and killed each other. Ever since, the son appears each year jus after the first full moon in autumn. It seems that he's lookin' to understand what happened. So every year about this time, folks around here git real worried like, wondering who'll have the bad luck to be chosen." Nathan sat back and took a shot of whiskey.
JD sat forward, so absorbed in the story, he didn't even notice that Buck had joined them at the table. Impatiently JD urged Nathan, " Chosen for what?"
"Chosen to be the one to help him," Nathan said it like it was common knowledge.
"Now, come on, help a ghost? Hey they're probably ain't no real ghosts. Well I know I ain't never seen one," JD said, still half-afraid that he was being kidded.
"I haven't neither, JD, I'm jus telling you the story the folks 'round here believe," Nathan told his friend.
"Well, come on Nathan," Buck chimed in, "We gotta hear the rest now."
Nathan looked around, then continued, "Each year he picks someone to help him, and if they fail, somethin' bad happens to 'em."
"Bad, like what?" JD laughed.
"Claim that a couple of 'em died, or their barn got burned. For some, they lost their crops, or their cows dried up. Some of the recent settlers blamed the war on him, but the old folks don't cotton to that one. Ya see, no one has ever been able to help the boy. So the folks are worried who'll be hurt this year."
+ + + + + + +
Josiah knew that the boy was feeling awful bad and he was hoping that he would be able to help him. So once again he suggested, "Do you want to talk about him?"
"I don't understand my pa, we don't agree on nuttin'. He's always nipping at me, never says nuttin' good. He's always saying how I'm growed, an' I should do stuff like a man, but then he's always telling me what to do, like a baby."
Josiah nodded with understanding and asked, "What kind of things was he telling you to do?"
"Things about the plow and makin' rows, also about selling eggs, like I didn't know or hadn't been with him before," the boy shook his head, then hung it down.
"There are times fathers forget that the child they have watched grow has gone and done just that, grown up," Josiah said sadly.
"My pa doesn't think I'm growed, he never let's me even try, how can I learn if I don' get to try. He makes me boiling mad," the boy gripped his gun tightly.
+ + + + + + +
"Nathan, you're serious, aren't you?" Buck sounded confused, "I kinda thought you teasin' the kid here." Buck turned and smiled at JD.
"No, no, I'm not joking here. I've heard the folks talk of this the last four years, and things really do happen. Last year, nice Mr. Johnson died in his barn. His wife said he was talking to a boy in tattered clothes and that the boy carried a gun," Nathan was very earnest.
JD again sat forward in his seat and said, "Was Mr. Johnson shot?"
Nathan shook his head, and replied, "Five bales of hay fell on him, and he was crushed."
"How did the town's people lay the blame of the hay on the boy with the gun?" Ezra asked, curious, despite himself.
"It's the association with the boy, each year folks have mentioned seeing a red-haired boy in tattered clothes. The person with him either dies or bad luck befalls 'em," Nathan told them all.
JD got up from the table saying, "Well, I'm gonna go warn Josiah, I don't want any back luck for us." Buck just grinned as JD hurried out of the saloon.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah knew the boy was angry, and searched for a way to help diffuse the anger. He figured another story might keep him distracted. "Well, my friend, I need to thank you, " Josiah didn't get to finish that thought because the boy interrupted.
"Thank me? For what." The boy's voice was truly baffled; he hadn't had anyone thank him in longer than he could remember.
"By explaining how you felt about your father's constant suggestions, makes me have to look at how I treat one of my friends. He is much younger than me, and I have thought of him as little more than a boy." Josiah paused, as he half smiled at himself. " Now you said to me earlier, how can you learn, if you don't' get to try. I feel that maybe I have failed my friend, for I try to teach him, and don't let him try to learn that he can do it himself. I'm thinking that we older folk forget how we learned our own lessons."
Josiah took a moment and looked directly at the boy, eye to eye, "I know that my friend is a capable young man, but he probably doesn't know that. He doesn't know that I would trust him with my life. I should have let him know these things, but we older folk sometimes jus figure you know we harp cause we care." Josiah paused again, thinking on his own words. He had no way of knowing that JD, who came in through the side door, had just overheard all that he had said. At that moment, JD felt so good he'd forgotten why he'd come over. Then when he heard Josiah start up again, he went out the way he'd come and rushed back to the saloon to tell the others about the red-haired boy.
Josiah had started talking again, still looking directly at the boy, "Do you know that your pa cares for you?"
"How would you know that, he never said nuttin' to me," the boy said sadly.
"You told me yourself,"
"You said how he was going on about plowing, other farm duties," the boy nodded, "And you never thought that he was doing it because he was helping you to do better than he did? It probably just sounded the same as when you were a child." Josiah nodded, knowing what he wanted to get the boy to understand.
"It was the same," the boy returned.
"No, I don't think it was. Now, I want you to stop and think back to what your pa said when you were much younger. Then think if the words aren't different now, said differently, explained differently. Pa's sometimes want their children's life to be better than their own, and then ride them kinda hard to try and make it so."
"You're saying that my pa really cared about me, that's why he harped?" the boy sounded almost hopeful.
"Yes son, I believe he did," Josiah said softly.
"So, harping meant he cared, then he must of cared a lot," the boy said.
Then a voice from behind said, " Yes, son I do."
The boy turned around, then as he saw who it was, his eyes opened wide. "Pa," he said.
Josiah stepped back, as the older man's eyes met his, and gave him a grateful look. The man then said, "Son, I always cared, a lot."
"Pa, I didn't know," then the boy approached his father, stopping just before he reaches him, and turns to face Josiah. "Thank you, for helpin' me understand." The boy smiled for the very first time, then continued toward his pa.
The old man held out his arm and rested it on the boy's shoulder and said, "Let's go home, Elliot."
The two figures then disappeared out the front door as six came in the side door.
"Josiah, you ok?" JD asked.
"Yes, JD, just helping some lost souls."
"Those weren't no lost souls, Josiah, they were ghosts," JD said.
Josiah smiled at JD, "Ghosts or not, JD, they needed tending. So I helped how I could."
"Nathan said that someone usually dies after the ghost visits, so I brought help," indicating the others, who all were smiling at JD's idea that they could even fight ghosts.
Nathan then said to JD, "Looks like this is one tale that ends here, with a happy ending."
"Ah, gee, who's gonna believe me when I tell 'em Josiah saved the ghost and he won't be returning," JD said, already hearing the people laughing in his head.
Chris looked at JD and said, "People are gonna believe what they want, no matter what you say."
The others just nodded as they all left to make their way back to the saloon. JD caught up with Nathan and said, "Hey, at least I got to see a real ghost." JD smiled to himself.
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