An Improper Derailment: Chapter 23

Where Mary gets a big stick
limestone pillar formation near Castle Rock in a prairie of western Kansas 
Catch up with Chapter 22…

Start the series from the beginning…

When we last left Mary, Mary was pouting as Mary is want to do.

She spent the next several days pouting as she realized that the men in her life had done nothing but make her miserable and that the man she would want to stay with, wanted nothing but a paycheck.

The prairie grasses gave way to more rugged terrain.

“This is where I leave you,” Hanska announced. “Kim much prefers to wade through the grass than she does to wade through rocks. Plus, this is not the territory of my friends. I would not be welcome here.”

“Would we be welcome?” Mary asked.

“We’ll be safe enough,” Marshall said. “It was good to see you, my friend.”

They grabbed each other’s arms and then embraced.

Mary embraced Hanska. “Thank you, my friend. I have learned so much and I will miss you.”

She hardly knew who she was, embracing a man to who she wasn’t related to. Embracing a man who her entire life she had been fed stories of fierce warriors and noble savages. He was noble, he was fierce, and he was kinder and more generous than others she knew who thought themselves to be better men. They were not. Mary was convinced, Mr. Hanska was the better.

She rubbed she patted Kim on the flank. She couldn’t quite bring herself to embrace the sauran. But Kim too had also changed her perceptions of the world around her.

Marshall handed her her coat. “You’ve got to carry your own things now. We no longer have a beast of burden to accompany us.”

“I thought that’s what you were,” she smirked up at him.

Marshall chuckled deep in his gut. It was the kind of sound that Mary could grow to love.

Mary kept her complaints to herself as they trekked through the even terrain. Marshall found a small branch that he used as a walking stick.

After watching Marshall with the staff her day she finally questioned him. “Why do you have a large walking stick? You are hardly a feeble old man.”

“This isn’t just a walking stick. It’s going to be a handy club if needed.”

“Why on earth would you need a cudgel?”

“For the wild animals out here.”

“But we haven’t seen any. Why would you need a cudgel to protect us from any wild animals? What do you expect to be out here?”

“We haven’t seen anything because we were traveling with a sizable saraun,” Marshall started. “Big cats, wolves, foxes. There are all kinds of predators out here that think we look a lot like lunch.”

“Oh! Should I have a big stick too?” Mary scurried in close behind Marshall, not wanting one of the aforementioned predators to think she was an easy meal. “

“It wouldn’t do you no harm.”

“And how does one pick a stick?” Mary asked as she started to look at the ground they were walking over.

“You just start picking them up and you’ll find one that feels right.”

“I don’t know if I can do this.” She let he hands fall uselessly to her sides. Every time she turned around she was overcome with the enormity of their situation.

“Miss Mary, you have learned to trap and cook a rabbit. If there’s anybody who can do this. It’s going to be you.”

“I think you have more faith in my abilities than I do than I do myself.”

Marshall stopped and turned to look at her. “Mary, you’ve been leading the life of a lady but now it’s time to learn to live a life on the land. And you’ve been doing a fine job of it. You’ve done much more than I anticipated.”

She could hardly believe her ears. Marshall was paying her a legitimate compliment. She dabbed at tears that suddenly formed in her eyes. She knew exactly why his simple compliment was causing a surge of emotion in her breast. He was the first man to ever think her capable of doing anything.

Marshall turned from her. Ignoring her sudden display of tears. “Come on, Mary don’t dawdle. You see those ridges up there?” Marshall pointed out into the distance. “We need to make them by nightfall so so I need you to pick up your pace. We need to go a little faster.”

“But my stick?”

“If we find one, we find one. You’ll be fine without it. What won’t be fine is if we don’t make it. We should be able to find some caves or at least a canyon wall to shelter up against.”

“But we’ve been sleeping in the—” she cut herself off. “We’ve been sleeping in the open with Kim. And Kim scares off the beasts, the little beasties that would want to eat us.”

“Precisely.”

It was hard walking in the hot sun somewhere along the way, Marshall stooped to pick up a nice hefty branch and handed it to Mary.

It was a decent walking stick a little on the big side, which was probably important if it also needed to serve her as a potential weapon.

The sunset, just as the terrain changed yet again. And cliff walls began to form around them. The sounds of nature changed from the random buzzes of bugs and chirps of birds to a mournful lowing sound that carried on the wind.

“That’s probably a herd of cattle over yonder,” Marshal pointed somewhere vaguely North. “We don’t have to worry about cows. And if there are cows close by, we may not have to worry too much about predators.”

“Maybe they’ll go after the cows instead?” Mary asked.

“Exactly. What I’m concerned with is…” he paused and held his finger up. There was a chittering sound. He raised his eyebrows nodded and pointed at Mary. “That. That’s the sound we have to be aware of.”

“And what is that?” Mary asked.

“Well,” Marshall hemmed and hawed, drawing out his answer. “You’re not gonna like this.”

Find out in the next installment what it is that Mary is not going to like.

©2022 Lulu M Sylvian

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