On the Road Again (Short Story No. 32)
These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
Reverend Isaac Nelson joined the posse, without invitation. “You’ll need me if you run into any dead bodies,” he advised. “Nobody preaches a funeral better than me,” he boasted.
“Does he have to go with us?” Hannah grumped.
“Yup,” Shorty replied. “He paid me. Besides, what’s one more clown?” Leslie Baxter, also known as Shorty the sheriff and occasional circus clown, had dressed in his clown costume. So had the dwarf Wee Willie Wilson. Shorty was attired as a white clown, with a ruffled collar and pointed hat. Wee Willie was the red clown, wearing a colorful plaid outfit with a wide-collared shirt, long necktie, orange wig, and an oversized nose and shoes. Shorty commented, “If these outfits don’t scare them Injuns, I don’t know what will.”
Pinkerton agent Helen James whispered to May Ling, “You can go with us to try and find the kidnapped girls, your friends Yu and Yan Wong, but no more killing. Do you promise?” May Ling nodded. “Hand over that knife of yours,” Helen insisted and May Ling gave her the coffin-handled Bowie knife that she had used to cut Ku-Lang’s throat.
May Ling furnished some clothing belonging to Yu and Yan so Shag the dog could obtain the scent. Shorty then confiscated the undergarments and began sniffing them as the posse embarked on their journey.
Reverend Nelson made trivial conversation on the trip, much to everyone’s chagrin. Most of his talk centered around his King James Bible that he read aloud as he rode. They stopped for a lunch break around noon and sat around eating pemmican and jerky. Reverend Nelson asked, “So how did that stinking dog get the name Shag? Strange name. The dog smells almost as bad as the camel.” Shag growled ferociously and the preacher shuddered.
“I guess that dog put the fear of God into you, reverend,” Hannah noted. “Hex Hawkins named Shag after Abishag. You have heard of her, right? The concubine who comforted King David in his old age?”
Shorty whined about not being able to find trace of White Bear and his savages and the kidnapped girls. Or the other posse, led by Marshall Neil Howie and Sheriff Hiram Brown. “Some days you shag the dog, and some days the dog shags you,” Shorty said as he rubbed his sore from riding rear end.
“You said that before, Shorty,” Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald and author of a dime novel in progress about Shorty and friends. “I already got that quote in the book. We need some new quotes.”
Blackrobes and Penguins
“Incidentally Reverend Nelson,” Hannah interjected, “Camels have a long memory. She won’t forget that crack about her stinking. Also, that is camel jerky you are feasting on.”
“Hey Barnes,” Shorty snapped, “you can quote my new marching poem: Off to find Yu and Yan Wong, So they can service my dong. I miss them and the way they sang, While they twisted my big wang. Everybody follow my lead when I recite it.”
Suddenly four riders stormed into their midst. Two had arrows sticking from their backs. “Get them down!” Hannah ordered.
“What are you blackrobes and penguins doin’ in these here parts?” Shorty snarled as Hannah tended to the injured.
“I’m Father Joseph Menetrey,” one said, “and this is Father Adrian Hoecken. We are Jesuits from St. Peter’s Mission near Fort Shaw. These two ladies are Ursuline nuns, Sister Abigail and Sister Florence.”
“Oh great,” Shorty snorted. “Nuns – women who ain’t never had none, don’t want none, ain’t gonna git none, and don’t want nobody else to git none neither.”
“What are you doing in the badlands getting shot with Indian arrows?” Hannah questioned. “Was it Cheyenne or Sioux? Or maybe Arapaho?”
“A big Injun who looked white, except for the war paint, and his braves,” Father Joseph responded.
“Not Arapaho,” Sweet Water, the Arapaho princess, insisted. “Those are the arrows of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers.”
“We were sent out to persuade the Indians to participate in treaty negotiations,” Father Adrian added. “And to perform a few weddings, baptisms, and other ceremonies for the settlers.”
“Good job on the treaty,” Shorty noted sarcastically. “It looks like there was a failure to communicate. Yer dress is dreadful purty,” he complimented Sister Florence.
“This is called a habit,” Sister Florence responded, just as Hannah had removed Sister Abigail’s habit to better treat her wounds.
Shorty’s eyes bulged out and he said to her, “You is finer than frog hair split four ways.”
Hannah recollected how Delilah had treated arrow wounds suffered by Joshua Dorn in the early days of the expedition. She had since borrowed a bag of medical instruments from Doc Eberlin in Helena that he no longer needed. Hannah made incisions in Abigail’s back to enlarge the entry wounds and slid a finger down the shaft to determine if the arrows were lodged in bone. Fortunately, they were not. Then she took dental forceps and guided them to the arrowhead by following her finger into the wound. The arrowheads came out relatively easily. Then she applied an antiseptic salve that contained carbolic acid, pot marigold, and honey and bandaged the wounds. She followed the same procedure with the arrows stuck in Father Adrian.
“Reminds me of a story,” Shorty muttered. “The Mother Superior asked the little Catholic girls what they wanted to be when they grew up. Little Mary declared, ‘I want to be a prostitute.’ ‘What did you say?’ asked the head nun, totally shocked. ‘I said I want to be a prostitute,’ Mary repeated. ‘Oh, thank heavens,’ said the nun. ‘I thought you said you wanted to be a Protestant!'"
Reverend Isaac Nelson had been stewing while these conversations unfolded, and finally he jumped up yammering, something about the Mother of Harlots and whore of Babylon and he quoted from the Book of Revelation in his King James Bible.
“We have our own Gospel sharp as you can see,” Anne Hope, the circus bearded lady, offered. “He teaches dogs how to be mean.” Shag barked twice. and then she growled twice at the preacher.
Shorty frowned dramatically and asked, “How do you get a nun pregnant?” He quickly answered his own question with, “Dress her up like an altar boy.”
“Hey now,” Pinkerton agent Helen James objected, “I was an altar boy. At St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago. That church was founded on Easter Sunday, April 12, 1846, at first a wooden building at Randolph St. and Des Plaines St. Then it was rebuilt with yellow Cream City brick.”
Reverend Nelson took the opportunity to rant and rage. He protested that the role of altar server should be reserved for males only. By having males serve at the altar, a young man would be better able to comprehend the priesthood since he is involved with the Liturgy. He pointed out that long ago Pope Gelasius in a letter to the bishops of Lucania condemned the practice of females serving the priest at the celebration of Mass.
Shorty added, “These dumb Catholics could get more people kissing the Pope’s ring and giving money in church if they had altar girls wearing dresses like the lady with the beard, both places.”
Everybody else ignored Reverend Nelson, except Shag the dog who peed on his boot.
“And, Helen, you stayed in Chicago and went on to attend the Pinkerton Detective School,” Robert Barnes stated, “and became Alan Pinkerton’s third female agent? After Kate Warne and Hattie Lewis?”
“Yes, that’s right, Mr. Barnes,” Helen said.
Barnes responded, “That might make a better dime novel, about the female Pinkerton agent who used to be an altar boy, as opposed to a dime novel about Shorty the short sheriff who doubles as a circus clown, and his spiritual advisor, a sanctimonious prattling preacher.”
The voluptuous Anne Hope had worn a green and very short dress, along with shiny emerald green shoes. The two Jesuit priest gasped as she sat with her legs slightly apart, just enough to reveal that she wasn’t wearing anything under the dress.
A bug-eyed and somewhat under the influence of painkillers Father Adrian asked, “Father Joseph, is that Nookie Green?”
Father Joseph managed to calmly reply, “No, Father Adrian, I think it’s just the reflection from her shoes.”
Reverend Nelson, eager to change the subject, said to the priests, “Your horses look like crowbait. You must have been riding them real hard.”
“Hell yes, we were,” Father Joseph agreed. “We were being chased by those murdering savages. Your horses don’t look all that great either. Except for that big one with the humps.”
“That there is a camel,” Shorty corrected. “She is the only one that doesn’t need a drink of water real bad. It’s so bad the catfish are carrying canteens. It’s hot as a whorehouse on nickel night.”
THE WILD WEST JUST GOT WILDER
According to the blurb on the back of the book.