Jenny - A Short Story

Jenny

“Now what the hell?”

Johnny Dawson was just three days out of Juarez when he spotted the small, meandering tracks, trailing off to the north. He pulled out one of his canteens and took a long swallow. He eyed the tracks again sourly, and repeated himself.

“What the hell?”

He looked longingly to the south, where Mexico and Maria waited for him, along with balmy evenings at the cantina and the sweet, nighttime music of the mariachis. He missed Maria’s soft lips, her dark eyes and her flashing smile, but the tracks were those of a child; probably a small girl by the shoes. Noting the aimless direction and lack of other prints, he was sure she was somehow alone in the vast wasteland. Sighing, he reined his horse around.

Death wears many faces in the Chihuahuan Desert, and even a grown man has little chance of survival if he's on foot. Heat, thirst, and predators would combine to make short work of a helpless child, and the tracks looked to be hours old. He stood in his stirrups, but saw nothing. His horse sensed the urgency, and stepped out in a ground eating lope. He would probably find a body.

Her tracks wandered, but she kept mainly on a northerly route, which puzzled him for a time. Then he realized that she must be wearing a bonnet, and in the noonday sun, facing north shaded her face from the blazing sun. He knew she was wearing a long dress, because he could see where it dragged now and then in the desert sands. He also knew her dress was white from the threads snagged by a prickly pear. His respect for her stamina grew.

It was late afternoon before the tracks disappeared into a cluster of boulders and did not come out. Johnny dismounted and squatted down to child height.

“I’ve come to take you home. Don’t be scared.”

Several minutes passed before a small, white face appeared from behind a bush. Her eyes were wide and frightened, and she was wearing a bonnet.

Johnny smiled at her.

“How old are you, little girl?”

She hesitated, and then held up three fingers.

Johnny nodded.

“Can you say it?”

She nodded. “I’m ‘free years old.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jenny.”

“Where’s your mama?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“I got lost.”

He held out his hand. “You go with me and we’ll find your mama.”

She hesitated. “I’m 'firtsy.”

Johnny pulled a canteen from his saddle, poured out a capful of water, and held it out to her. “Drink this slow like, and then I’ll give you some more.”

She was in remarkably good shape, although her nose was sunburned, and she was very dirty and dusty. Johnny wrinkled up his nose.

“You ain't completely housebroke yet. You need a bath and them clothes washed.”

He gave her more water and then placed her in the saddle. He rode back to a stock tank he had passed, and dug out a bar of soap. While she took a bath, he washed her clothes and hung them from a nearby mesquite. He dried her, covered her with his blanket, and put her in his bedroll in the mesquite‘s shade, giving her more water. He put some salve on her nose, and had her drink a little more.

“You take a nap while we wait for your clothes to dry.”

She nodded, her eyes half closed and sleepy. A minute later, she was asleep.

He had pieced together enough of her story to understand that she had been on a stagecoach, but it was not clear how she came to be out on the Chihuahuan Desert all alone. The stage route went through Fort Stockton about ten miles to the west, so when she woke, they headed up that way.

The stage stop in Fort Stockton was the Emporium, run by Charlie Seeks. The interior was cool and dim, and smelled of new merchandise. Charlie looked first at Jenny and then at Johnny Dawson, with a question in his eyes.

“Found her some miles back, Charlie, lost and wandering about. She said she was on the stage, so I thought maybe you would know who she belongs to.”

Charlie Seeks picked up a jar of hard candy and came out from behind the counter. He squatted down to offer it to Jenny, but she clung to Johnny’s leg with both arms. Charlie gave the jar to Johnny, and she took a piece of candy from him. Charlie spoke to her.

“Is your name Jenny Dokes?”

She nodded.

Charlie rose and went back behind the counter. He fished around on his roll top desk, and came up with a piece of paper.

“Jenny there and her mother, Mabel Dokes, were on the stage to El Paso. The driver stopped to let the team have a blow, and Jenny must have got out. Her mother was asleep, having stayed up all night with a sick passenger, so no one knew Jenny was missing until her mother woke up, just a mile or so from here. By that time it was almost dark, so her mother took the first stage back to Langtry. I reckon she’s about there by now.”

He eyed Johnny Dawson knowingly. “Do you want me to find someone to take her there Johnny?”

“Do you mind Charlie? I’d like to head for Mexico.”

Johnny got down on one knee, and faced Jenny. “Charlie here will find someone to take to your mama.”

Jenny’s eyes filled with tears, and her lower lip quivered. “No! I want you to take me.” She began to cry in great sobs.

Johnny sighed and stood. “I reckon I’d best take her, Charlie. Thanks all the same.”

Mabel Dokes had hired two trackers, and was ready to ride to where Jenny was last seen. She was walking out of the hotel lobby when Johnny Dawson walked in with Jenny. When she saw her daughter safe and sound, Mabel Doke’s knees gave out and she sank to the floor, crying in relief.

Mother and daughter hugged each other and cried. Then they laughed and hugged each other again. Mabel got to her feet and thanked Johnny again and again as he explained how he came to find her. Jenny stood beside Johnny's leg, looking up first at him and then at her mother.

Johnny stepped back and touched the brim of his hat. “Reckon I’ll be on my way ma’am. Juarez is a five day ride.”

He turned to go, and the lobby door swung open, revealing a tall man with a badge. He glanced at Charlie, and nodded to Mabel. Another man with a badge came through the door and stood by the first. Both were armed.

“Hello Bob.”

The tall man nodded. “Hello Johnny. Surprised to see you here. Will you be going with me?”

Johnny grinned. “I reckon I have no choice, Bob. My guns are on my saddle.”

The tall man and Johnny left. Mabel Dokes took Jenny by the hand and approached the other man, standing by the door. “Would you mind telling me what that was all about? That man brought my child safely back to me. Why was he taken?”

He glanced at her, still looking out on the street. Finally he turned and looked at her. “Johnny Dawson broke jail a week ago. He was in for killing a feller in a bar fight. Now he’s going back to jail.”

“Oh dear! And he knew that when he brought my Jenny back, but brought her anyway. I do hope he won’t be in for long. Was it an unfair fight?”

“No, ma’am, it was a fair fight, and he won’t be in jail but just for the night.”

“Thank goodness for that!”

“Yes ma’am. We aim to hang him come sunrise.”


Johnny Dawson sat at the Hotel’s dinner table in Fort Stockton. He cut Jenny’s meat for her, and glanced at her mother. “I have to know what happened back there in Langtry, ma‘am. One minute I was to be hanged in the morning and the next minute, I was free to go.”

Mabel Dokes looked at him. “I simply informed the Judge that my father is a United States senator from Virginia, and if he hanged you unfairly, I would gather some federal marshals and attend the judge’s own hanging. He saw my logic and reduced the sentence to a ten dollar fine, which I took from my purse and paid on the spot.”

Johnny grinned. “Is your father a senator?”

“No. He’s a whiskey drummer, but the judge didn’t know that.” She sniffed. “I wasn’t about to let that old fool hang you. Just who in the world does he think he is?”

“He thinks he’s the law west of the Pecos. He’s Judge Roy Bean.”

...

The nighttime strains of the mariachis, wailing about a lost love, drifted out the open door of the cantina and onto the coolness of the patio, where Johnny Dawson sat with Maria. The lovely shadows of her face were illuminated by the flicker of a candle on their table, and her slim brown fingers caressed his hand lightly. Somewhere, a coyote yipped, and a door slammed down the street.

“I’m going to ask your father for your hand in marriage tomorrow.”

She smiled. “When will you ask me? I have to say yes, you know.”

He grinned, and then looked thoughtful. “What would you think of naming our first daughter, Jenny?”

Her eyes glittered warmly in the glow of the candlelight. “As you wish, my love.”

...

Author's note:

A grateful 'Thank You!' to my good friend Rosie for pointing out a glaring error.


More by this Author


Comments 97 comments

writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

WillStarr, It's good to see your still writing great short stories.

You've been miss.

Vote up and awesome.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

It sure 'nuff sounds like Judge Bean. Great story with more than one surprise.


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Excellent story, well told!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Interesting read on this one. You are so much talent!


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 4 years ago from Rural Arizona

Judge Roy Bean, been a long time since I have heard that name. Another great tale with a twist at the end. I have to ask, do you write the twist first or the story first?


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

Great ending!


Rosie2010 profile image

Rosie2010 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Another super story, Will. I got a little confused when Mabel Dokes found her daughter Jenny, she thanked Charlie again and again. Was it a typo? Johnny was the one who saved Jenny. Oh well, you might just have to explain it to me.. I'm a little dense. lol As usual I very much enjoyed the story.. and I'm glad you didn't let Johnny get hanged. Cheers!

Have a nice day,

Rosie


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 4 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Sooner or later, Will, I'm not surprised you came up with Judge Roy Bean, though, as usual, I wasn't expecting it. Good job, my friend!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Great story Will. I really like seeing your stories.


bmcoll3278 profile image

bmcoll3278 4 years ago from Longmont, Colorado

Knocked it out of the park again. Loved it


Sunnie Day 4 years ago

Wow loved this story! Perfect in every way with a twist that leaves one wanting more.

Thank you

Sunnie


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

Will, Will, Will. Great yarn. I love the ending and the woman's great comments. My god, you have supreme story telling abilities

"Who does he think he is."

This turns the old adage on its head, "A good deed never goes unpunished."

Your best among the best

Bob


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Will -- still waiting for the book containing your collection of superb short stories! There's few people who can write authentically about cowboys/the old West -- you're at the top of that list, my friend. Great work and excellent yarn. Best/Sis


Nan Mynatt profile image

Nan Mynatt 4 years ago from Illinois

Will this was the wild west, and now it's all over the US, violence law in the hands of the people. Keep writing! Your talent for surprise ending is very good. check this out - InstantPublisher.com. I am going to try them as soon as I complete my short book. it says - Publish your own book, as low as $97.50 for 25 copies.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

This was so good Will, I loved it. Once again i could see the little girl, her white dress dirty and dragging the ground. What about Mexico and Maria? Hee


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, writer20,

What a nice thing to say!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Don and thank you. I need to go see what you've been up to!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, xstatic!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, teaches12345, and thank you so much!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Mike,

This story evolved as I wrote it, and the twist changed three times! Sometimes, even I don't know how it will end!

^_^


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Levertis Steele!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Rosie and thank you so much for pointing out my glaring errors!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi James,

Roy Bean occurred to me about halfway through the story!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you as always, Becky!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, bmcoll3278, and thanks for the great comment!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Good to see you Sunnie, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Wow, Bob! Coming from a pro like you, that is very flattering!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Angela,

I may self-publish, so all of my Hub-friends can have a signed copy. I'll look into it!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Nan and thank you so much for that link! See my comment to Angela Blair, above.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Ruby!

I try to visualize my stories as I write, and so, what would a little, three year old girl look like after being lost in the desert for hours?


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 4 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Mr. Starr you are so good..it is a pleasure to read your very exciting stories and I am never sure just what will be on the next line as I read...God Bless...:O) Hugs G-Ma

P.S. I will gladly buy one of your books...


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

Will, It is always a pleasure to read your wonderful stories, and this was no exception. I enjoyed it very much.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, G-Ma Johnson, and hugs backatcha!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Pamela99!

So glad you liked it!


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

I'm with Ruby... wishing for Johnny to see Mexico and Maria...what a tender story, loved it, Will!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Maria,

Just for you and Ruby:

The nighttime strains of the mariachis, wailing about a lost love, drifted out the open door of the cantina and onto the coolness of the patio, where Johnny Dawson sat with Maria. The lovely shadows of her face were illuminated by the flicker of a candle on their table, and her slim brown fingers caressed his hand lightly. Somewhere, a coyote yipped, and a door slammed down the street.

“I’m going to ask your father for your hand in marriage tomorrow.”

She smiled. “When will you ask me? I have to say yes, you know.”

He grinned, and then looked thoughtful. “What would you think of naming our first daughter, Jenny?”

Her eyes glittered in the glow of the candlelight. “As you wish, my love.”


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Well, "this" Maria is dabbing her eyes... I love it!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Maria!


resspenser profile image

resspenser 4 years ago from South Carolina

Thanks for another fun & interesting story, Will


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 4 years ago from Asheville, NC

Another good one with great characters. You do it so well. Thanks for my morning read!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Ronnie!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, suziecat7, and thank you!


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Another great story Will, thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Lesley, and what a great avatar!


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Agreat story Will. I had to Google Judge Bean before I got the full impact.

Loved it and voted up


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Rosemay,

Judge Roy Bean is well known to many Americans. There were several movies that included him, because he was called the hanging judge. In reality, he only hung one man.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Thanks Will I read his story on Wikipedea, I believe he sentensed 2 to hang but one escaped after being left for dead when the horse didn't bolt. Just how lucky can you get. Wonder why he was known as 'the hanging judge"


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

That's Hollywood!

^_^


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

Will, I have to thank you for this wonderful story. Your work always brings me so much pleasure. Voted up an awesome.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Pop!


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 4 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

AWWWW........Now this is the way to start my week........another WillStarr Classic!

Up and away!

Chris


geordmc 4 years ago from Beliot, Wisconsin

Another winner, Will. Voted up+


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Chris!

Thank you.


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Definitely a beautifully written story. Well done!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, KDuBarry03, and welcome to HubPages!


Browergal68 profile image

Browergal68 4 years ago from Mexico, Missouri Population Approx: 11,500

Great job. I was hanging on every word. I also felt like I had been portaled in time, so that I was actually there amongst the characters.


BakingBread-101 profile image

BakingBread-101 4 years ago from Nevada

Thanks for the story. I enjoyed the twists very much. Never expected them!


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 4 years ago from California

It's near the end of my day; this was a nice way to unwind and enjoy reading. Good read,thanks.


Ghaelach 4 years ago

Hi Will.

Seems I'm a little late in reading your hub although the signal over at our caravan isn't to good. We are surrounded by trees, so I'll have to get some sort of high standing flag pole type of thing with a receiver on the top. Then I won't be missing out on stories like Jenny.

A story with two twists and I never saw either coming. Well done Will.

Take care and have a good day partner.

LOL Ghaelach


slcockerham profile image

slcockerham 4 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

Hey WillStar, Great short story! Really enjoyed it, especially how you used the story to point out how we all are capable of the worst things, including murder, yet even a wanted desperado will do the right thing even when it costs him.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

Great story! Artful story teller. I like Mabel Doke, risk taker.


JadeFitz profile image

JadeFitz 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Very nice. Really enjoyed it.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

A special story just in time for Mother's Day. Tweeted and shared. Congratulations on this one being featured as a Recommended Hub! Up all the way.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Browergal68, and thanks for reading!


Editor and Chief profile image

Editor and Chief 4 years ago from Ohio

Yippie Yie ow Kie ay


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, BakingBread!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi tirelesstraveler, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Ghaelach, and I wish we were there with you in our motorhome!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi slcockerham,

You are right! Most of us will do the right thing, no matter the danger.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi MsDora,

Stay out of mama's way if her child is in peril!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi JadeFitz, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi PegCole17!

I guess it is a Mother's Day story, isn't it?

^_^


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Editor and Chief.


Daniel Peebles 4 years ago

Awesome story... Great characters... Kept me in the whole time.


Bob Francis profile image

Bob Francis 4 years ago from Springfield, MO

Will, Great short story! One of these days I may finishh WWII, but pretty busy right now doing "Engineering Consultant work." Hope we get rid of that Cancer in our White House come November, so I can re-retire and write some more.

Bob


mckbirdbks profile image

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

Will you set the bar higher for yourself with this one. As I waited for the twist to come from one direction, a subtle change came from another direction. You own this genre.


Jeff Poirrier profile image

Jeff Poirrier 4 years ago from Washington

You know, I hadn't thought to even bother reading short stories on Hubpages until just now. Thank you for letting me know what I was missing.


retire4hire profile image

retire4hire 4 years ago from California

You made me cry- a compliment of the highest order.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Daniel!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Bob!

I'm looking forward to your WWII book!

And yes, we must stop the madness in DC.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Mike!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Jeff!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to read some others!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi retire4hire! What a great name!


Johnathan L Groom profile image

Johnathan L Groom 4 years ago from Bristol, CT

is cool- i've written a best-seller... if you like, contact me at heresjohnsmail@yahoo.com and i can refer you to a publishing house (im an agent:)


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

I cannot help but say congratulations on all this feedback on this Hub, WIllStar! Definitely a well written story fit for a large audience!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Well thank you, Jonathan! I'll do that.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, KDuBarry03! I appreciate that!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Ohhhh...another twist ending that tugs at this heart and brings tears. Thank you, Will!! :-)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Genna!


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Nice short story ..Thanks a lot


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, htodd!


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona

Great story, I love happy endings and the twist keeps it interesting. :)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks, April!


Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

Great story. I really want to read the wolf stories when I have a little more time! thank You!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you for reading me, Angela!


Johnathan L Groom profile image

Johnathan L Groom 4 years ago from Bristol, CT

Nice work Mr. Henderson.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Jonathan

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