Annie's Lonesome - A Short Story

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Annie's Lonesome


Her mother had always called a new moon, “God’s fingernail”, and Annie herself loved a night sky, especially the spectacular night sky seen from her cabin high on the Mogollon Rim.

Tim had been gone for nearly a year now, and she held out no hope that he would ever return. He was a good humored sort, and handsome enough, but not cut out to be a husband and father. Tim loved a good time, and he loved the saloon life, but he cared little for hard work. He had left promising to find a job in Show Low, and that was the last time she had seen him. Davy was almost three now, and did not seem to remember his father.

The land, outbuildings, and cabin were hers, left to her by her father. She managed to scrape by on her egg money and the sale of an occasional hog. Al Halsey had promised to brand and sell her cattle come spring, along with his own, She had good neighbors.

Annie Winslow checked on her sleeping son, and then took her tea out on the dark porch. The cabin was on a high bench, overlooking a heavily wooded valley that sloped off to the south and west for twenty some miles. The sliver of new moon reflected off the low, silvery mist blanketing the valley floor, far below. Overhead were the late fall constellations, and the breathtaking beauty of millions of stars, highly visible at her altitude. For a long time, she marveled at the beauty of her surroundings, and then she rose to go to bed. As she turned to the door, something caught her eye, and she turned back.

At first she saw nothing, but then she caught the faint flicker of a distant campfire on the far side of the valley. She wondered if he was as alone and empty as she felt tonight. Finally, she shrugged and went off to bed.

In the morning, she fed Davy, and sat him down to read. He was only three, but she had already taught him the alphabet, and he could read simple words, and an old New England Primer her father had, so she laboriously printed out children’s stories of her own making, and he delighted in reading them because he was the main character.

She gathered the morning eggs, and slopped the hogs, before returning to check on Davy. As she approached the cabin, she was startled to see a piece of rolled paper tied to a bush in front of the porch. She looked all around, but there was no one.

She opened it and found a simple poem:

I know you wait

Lost and alone

Perhaps some day

I shall call you my own

Until then, I shall watch over you.

There was no signature and it was an unknown hand. Tim could barely write his own name, and he was never romantic anyway. She read it again, and then placed the paper in her dresser drawer, and left to check on Davy.

That night, she again took her tea out to the dark porch, and again marveled at the beauty of the night sky. The arc of the new moon was already larger, and she basked in its shimmering silver glow. She read the scrap of paper again, and found the words of the poem to be comforting, because it promised that she would be looked after. Just the same, she was little uneasy. What if he was not a good man? And what about Tim? She was, after all, a married woman.

She glanced at the slope on the far side of the valley, This time, there was no campfire to be seen. Finally, she went to bed, but sleep did not come easily, as she pondered on who might have written the note. At last, she drifted off.

For a week, there was nothing else, and she had about decided that it was a rather cruel prank, when she walked out on the porch one morning to find a lovely bouquet of red roses, tied up with a red ribbon. There was no note.

Two weeks later, she saw the glow of another campfire, but in a different spot. Probably just a traveler, she thought to herself. There was a trail over there that led down the Rim to the town of Payson. The next morning, there was another note.

A lonely heart

And empty arms

Long to hold

Your lovely charms

She smiled. His simple verse was a combination of sweet, and awkward…almost boyish. She folded the note and placed it with the other. The next morning, there was a tin box on the porch containing some beautiful red ribbons, and some stick candy for Davy.

That night, she sat on the porch wrapped in a blanket. There was a chill in the air, and the late afternoon clouds had a promise of snow. She had wood to last until after New Years, but she needed more. She would talk to Mister Baker about hiring someone one to deliver. The next morning, she gathered more eggs and dressed Davy for the long walk to Baker’s store.

The path led them through groves of towering pines that whispered of their passing. Davy’s small legs churned to catch up with his mother as he stopped often to examine one new marvel after another.

Annie carried the basket of eggs in one hand and her Winchester in the other. There was a large black bear in the area, and although he had not attacked anyone, he had menaced the Cook family in their wagon. She waited for Davy to catch up and smiled at his excitement. In his hands was one of the large beetles common to the area. She made him put it down, and they walked on.

There were two wagons and one riding horse at the rail when she arrived at Baker’s store. She recognized the horse as belonging to Sheriff Dan Peters, a rather plain but steady man. He had checked on her now and then, since Tim had disappeared, and she appreciated his concern. He tipped his hat to her as she entered the cool darkness of the store. Harvey Baker nodded to her as he tended to his customers. Then he looked toward the bowl of stick candy and down at Davy, who was staring wide-eyed at it. He smiled, and nodded at Annie, winking, so she took one out and handed it to Davy.

An hour later, they were on their way back. She had made a deal with Harvey Baker for a cured ham and a side of bacon in exchange for a hog she was feeding out. He also threw in one sack each of flour and sugar, and some coffee, all to be delivered in the morning. She also made a deal with Ralph Dugger to deliver three cords of stacked wood for his choice of a beef.

The empty basket was a blessing to her aching arm, and they were approaching the cabin when she heard a small voice filled with alarm.

“Mama?”

She turned as Davy hid behind her skirts. Less than fifty feet away was a huge black bear, and he was watching them intently. She jacked a shell into the chamber, and began to slowly back away. The bear snuffled at their tail, and then rose to his full height on his rear legs. He was enormous, and a chill went down her back. She could see he was a male, and that his left front paw was deformed. He went back down on all fours and slowly began stalking her. Suddenly, he roared and charged so quickly that the distance between them was cut in half before she could bring the rifle to her shoulder and fire.

She was certain that she hit him, but he kept on coming. Frantically, she jacked another shell into the chamber and fired again. Off to her right, she heard the tremendous roar of a large rifle, and the bear went to his knees, his momentum skidding him to within a few feet of her before finally coming to a halt. His eyes stared up at her and his jaws snapped a few times as he huffed his life away. Then his eyes were staring at nothing and he breathed no more. He was dead.

Her face was white with shock and her shaking legs were collapsing as strong arms went around her shoulders and beneath her knees, swooping her up. She saw the face of Sheriff Dan Peters, just before she fainted dead away. Somehow, he looked quite handsome in a way she had not noticed before.

“Good thing I was coming this way. You hit him both times, but it took my big fifty caliber to stop him.”

She had regained consciousness in her bed, and now Dan towered over her. He had gone back to check on the bear.

“We’ll skin him out and butcher him. There a lot of meat there, and a good pelt. Harvey will pay you for the meat. Lots of folks like a good bear roast. Tastes like pork. Makes good sausage too.”

“Pay me? You’re the one who killed him, Sheriff.”

“No Ma’am. You killed him. I just stopped him. Both of your shots went right to his heart. That was some shooting on your part, and I’m right proud to say that. And please, call me Dan.”

She made some coffee and poured him a cup.

“I’m lucky that you happened along Sher…Dan. He was still alive enough to have killed one or both of us.”

The sheriff looked uncomfortable. “Well, actually, I had business with you, Mrs.Winslow, and a sad business at that. I received a letter concerning your husband Tim.”

She nodded. “He’s dead, isn’t he? And it would please me if you would address me as Annie. It seems fitting after you saved me and Davy”

He nodded. “Well, it seems he was playing cards in Denver when someone accused another player of cheating. For some reason unknown to anyone, Tim sided with the accused and ended up getting himself killed.”

Annie nodded again. “That was Tim’s way. He was a good-hearted sort, but foolish, very foolish. He always sided with the one he considered the underdog., so it comes as no surprise to me that he died needlessly.”

She patted the sheriff’s arm. “Don’t trouble yourself over being the bearer of bad news, Dan. I had assumed that Tim somehow met his fate and would not return. I shed my tears months ago.”

She walked him to his horse, and stood by as he mounted. Something hanging out of his saddlebag caught her eye, and she stepped closer. It was the end of a roll of red ribbon, and she pulled out a foot or two. He saw what she was doing and his face reddened.

“So it was you all along.”

He looked uncomfortable. “I’m no hand with women, Annie, so I usually pay them no mind. But you were alone, and a woman needs her pretty things now and then, so I brought them when I could. I meant no harm.”

She watched him for a moment, her hazel eyes searching his as her long black hair blew gently in the breeze.

“An hour ago, you informed me that I am a widow, Dan Peters, and now you have also informed me that you are my secret admirer. What am I to make of that? Are you now going to back out? Are you going to leave me alone again, or will you honor your commitment?”

His mouth dropped open, and he stared at her. “Commitment? Back out?”

He took off his hat and scratched his head. “I never figured you’d want me to come a-courting, Annie. I just wanted to bring you a little happiness. But if you’re willing, I’d be honored. I surely would.”

She smiled up at him. “Yes Dan, I want you to come courting…some more. I like the way you court.

Folks talked some when Annie married the Sheriff scarcely two weeks after learning she was a widow, but Annie paid them no mind. Dan proved to be a hard worker, a good husband, and the romantic lover Tim had never been. One evening as an exhausted Dan was drifting off to sleep, Annie whispered to him that she would love to have him write her some poetry.

He replied sleepily. “I can do most things, Annie, but I never could write a word of poetry. The words just never came to me. I’m sorry dear.”

After he began to snore, Annie quietly made herself a cup of tea and took it out on the porch. The night was chilly, so she pulled her shawl around her. For a few moments, she did not notice the small tube of rolled up paper pushed between the floor board cracks.

Your heart is full

So I must go

But ne'er forget

I loved you so

She looked across the valley at the far slope and saw the dim flicker of a lonely campfire. She gave it a small wave, knowing that it was an empty gesture, and went back to bed with her sleeping husband, tossing the note into the wood stove as she passed by.

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Comments 77 comments

Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Ah a lovely romantic story Will. She will never know who her other admirer was but is happy with a ood man anyway.

Awesome writing as usual. Voting up and more


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

You kept me guessing on this story. The drama really is intense and I am an incurable romantic so I love this one. Perhaps a Part Two concerning the lonely campfire?


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Will your words light up a page. You have mastered this form of short story.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

This is a beautiful story. Nice for her to know she had two admirers. Glad she found a good man.


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

Your story is truly wonderful . I'm sure you could get this printed by Smashwords, and if you need an editor let me know because he did great work on my story. I think your story doesn't need editing.

Vote up awesome beautiful and interesting, Joyce.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Beautiful story, Will -- I'd surmise the long lost husband's ghost left the notes and warmed himself by a distant fire -- after all, he was a good man just foolish? Congratulations on a magnificent tale -- Best/Sis


Patriette profile image

Patriette 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

What a great story, Will! Voted up as always.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

Got blindsided by that one, Will. Just shows that faint hearts don't win fair ladies and that the girls really go for uniforms...or none of that!

Another good tale...the end was the sting in the scorpion.

Bob


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Romantic tale. She probably got the best man for a realistic life. sharing.


Nan Mynatt 4 years ago

Great romantic story. It gives us a look in the old wild west. I marked you up. Empty hearts often find a mate!


Ghaelach 4 years ago

Evening Will.

Another top ten story Will. Kept me guessing all the way.

Nice little twist at the end.

LOL Ghaelach


SilverGenes 4 years ago

I'm so glad I have some time again to read your stories! I have missed them and this morning's read reminds me of why - you have a tremendous talent for sweeping the reader away into another world and creating characters that live and breathe. Thank you so much for sharing your talent once again and opening the window into another world.


Lynn S. Murphy 4 years ago

Beautiful story that drew me as my granddaughter is named Annie (not Ann or Anna just Annie which I love) and I like that I can make my own ending.


Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

What an enigmatic, beautiful love story. Now I'll go nuts over the "ghost" writing poetry by the campfire? A lovely cliffhanger ending. Enjoy your talented writings so very, very much. Thanks for sharing them!


lilyfly profile image

lilyfly 4 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

Just these Beautiful nuggets Will, they need a home, they need a book... love yaz, lily


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Your story, Will, took me through a gamet of emotions. I didn't know exactly why at the time, but the conversation between Annie and Sheriff Dan left me feeling like something was missing. For an admirer who left romantic poetry and flowers, the Sheriff seemed too surprised that Annie would welcome his interest. I was settled into just misreading the shy sheriff until another poem appeared. I'm happy that Annie and Dan are contented, but I feel a sense of "what might have been". Unbelievably complex short story, Will, that once again illustrates your mastery in the art of storytelling. I have to ask if you and your wife collaborate especially on the perfect construed romantic aspects of your stories? I think, although I've been wrong many times, it is rare for a man to have the degree of insight of a female perspective on romance, where your stories consistently hit just the right note so well. I love the mystery, intrigue and human interest in this story.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

You're a great story-teller and I especially like that unexpected sting in the tail that leaves us wondering just a little bit.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Aha, I wonder who it was? Shoot! we'll never know unless you write a sequel. This was great Will. I love your stories. The Bear scene was intense and seemed so real. Thank you...


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 4 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Great story, Will. The romance in this story is the sort of romance we all long for.


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 4 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

Hi Will,

Maybe it was one of the Sackett boys (Tell) down there writing sweet words to Annie...that was his territory around that rim.

Another warm saga to start off my week!

Always a pleasure to read!

Chris


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Lovely story, Will, that leaves us wondering if Tim's spirit is the poet although "he could barely write his own name." He watched over her in his own way. "Your heart is full so I must go." He knows that Annie has moved on. I loved this. . :-)


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 4 years ago

Hey you don't fool this ole romantic fool--- your great talent with writing could not be there without a romanctic heart within. LOVED IT.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Rosemay50, and thank you!

Sorry for taking so long.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Ruby!

A sequel? Maybe!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Mike and congratulations again on best fiction writer!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Becky!

What's better than the mystery of a secret admirer?


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Joyce, and thanks for the help. I can write a little, but some of the requirements for publishing are over my head!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Angela!

You've given me an idea!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Patriette!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Glad you liked it, Bob! Good to see you again.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Don, and an astute observation.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Nan!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Ghaelach , and thank you!


slcockerham profile image

slcockerham 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

Another great short story Will, This one had more romance and intrigue, my wife enjoyed those aspects as well. One of your followers was very right in suggesting that your many great stories deserve a book for a home! Loved it Will.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Good to see you again, Alexandra!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Lynn!

I knew an Annie once who would have fit this story quite well.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Teylina, and thank you for the kind comments!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Lily!

A book of short stories? Hmm.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Amy!

You are getting too good at reading me!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Blossom (what a great name!),

This one had me guessing too!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Ruby!

So glad you liked it!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, James,

Romantic writing is just a matter of looking into your own heart. We are all romantic in our own way.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Chris!

If memory serves, that was 'The Sackett Brand".


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Genna East,

Maybe that is what happened.

Maybe not!

^_^


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Ginn!

I was around your old stomping grounds yesterday, and I waved to your youthful spirit!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, slcockerham,

Tell your lady that Will Starr says howdy!


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Another great story, Will. Annie has a new hard-working husband, her ex-husband is conveniently dead, and so is the Bear. Only mystery left is who wrote the poetry?

Could her son, Davy, be a prodigal poetic genius? Naw, too far-fetched.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Some things will forever be a mystery, drbj!

Thank you!


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 4 years ago from Rural Arizona

Another awesome story by my favorite author. I had the honor and privilege of meeting WillStarr in person, you should all be that lucky. He can write about anything and leave you wanting more, and more of these great stories.


Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 4 years ago from United States

Great story, Will. Truly filled with awe and beauty.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 4 years ago from Asheville, NC

I'm so happy for Annie. Another great story that kept me guessing. Thanks so much for always offering a wonderful read.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you Mike, but the pleasure was all mine! Next time will be an expensive steak house, since it's your turn to buy!

^_^


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you so much, Dex, and I look forward to working with you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Suzie, and thank you!


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 4 years ago from Rural Arizona

WillStarr - I would be honored to buy you and your beautiful wife a fine steak dinner, just pick the place.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

LOL!


Wr1t3r profile image

Wr1t3r 4 years ago from Oregon

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Wr1t3r!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Well, I'll be. That ending sure leaves room for a part two! I pictured my mother as a young woman with the hazel eyes and long black hair. (part Indian) I loved it!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas

Now you got me thinking that the bear might have been the one writing the notes! LOL! Good story as always, Will. ~ WB


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Jackie!

Should a sequel occur to me, you shall have one!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Wayne,

I suspect it might be a shy and lonely cowboy, and someone she met briefly.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

I hope so. I can always picture the country life with the farm animals and isolation, just love it for some reason. The hardships and the rewards.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Farm and ranch live is hard, but there are huge rewards, like watching the seeds you planted turn into produce, or just sitting on the porch enjoying the peace.

There's also nothing better than fresh foods you grew yourself, like home cured bacon and eggs right out from under the hen who laid them just minutes ago!


jemmamcg profile image

jemmamcg 4 years ago from Scotland

I really enjoyed your short story - I loved the twist at the end - that it wasn't the sheriff who had left her the romantic poems. I look forward to reading more of your short stories. Voted up for being awesome. :)


marshacanada profile image

marshacanada 4 years ago from Vancouver BC

You are such a master story teller Will. Voted up and awesome. Well I was sort of hoping the bear was her secret admirer-but you are not into that kind of fantasy. The sherriff is a good catch and if he ever dissapears she always has the mystery poet.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, jemmamcg !

My ancestors are from Scotland. Thank you for your kind comment!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Marsha!

Are you old enough to remember the 'John and Marsha' record from back in the fifties?


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Beautiful as your stories always are. Each story reveals the soul of a sensitive man and I apologize if my last comment hurt you. It was unkind- a reflection of my frustration with politics. I am so sorry, Will.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Barb and thank you!

We all have our views, so no apology necessary!


Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

drbj, came back here and saw your comment -- don't you know by now nothing is too far-fetched for Will (shall we include Colin?- ha) Liked your answer.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

LOL @ Teylina!

Than you!


Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

You are more than welcome; keep thinking we're going to be surprised w/a bestseller short collection by the infamous WillStarr (perhaps w/a dedication to drbj who always seems to nail your stories in a different way!)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Funny you should say that....!

Guess what I'm doing with the invaluable assistance of Sunnie Day and Mike Friedman!


Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

Oh! I am so, so very, very happy for you--all it takes is a "little help from our friends" - if it were that easy -- can't wait for all your (and their) hard work!!!!!


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Sweet, satisfying and simply lovely. Annie's happy.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, dear Maria!

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