By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 32

Brick carried his suitcase into the bedroom to unpack.  He reached over to the dresser behind him to turn on the A.M. satellite news program from the HCBC (Holy City Broadcasting Center)  The news was non-stop reporting about things going on in the Holy City in the heart of Washington.  (It was no longer known as D.C.)  The radio blared,    

“When a reporter from our very own Fox news today asked what he thought about Kwanza, the Holy Prophet replied, ‘Don’t rightly know; ain’t never driven one.’” everyone in the news room laughed.

“Wasn’t that a charming response, Jim?” The female news anchor with the highly teased, bee-hive hair asked her companion.

“It really was, Nancy.  The Holy Father can be so clever and funny sometimes.  Of course he knows what Kwanza means, he just saw a chance to make a funny, and he went for it.  In retrospect, I think it pretty well sums up what the rest of the country thinks about it without being mean-spirited.” Jim, the hair, gushed.

“I have to agree with you, Jim.  Praise the Lord for our wonderful Holy Prophet; long may he be our leader.  You know, Jim, we’re jes’ so lucky to have such a wonderful man of God for our leader, . . . well, ever since Saint George W. Bush, a true man of God if there ever was one, took control of the government from the ruthless hands of the Godless liberals in our country in 2008.  May his sainted soul rest in peace.” Nancy, the bubble head, responded.

“We really are blessed, Nancy.” Jim, the hair, agreed.
Somehow, Scudder’s remark struck Brick Armstrong as insanely funny, and he laughed his ass off.  He knew better.  He knew Scudder had no idea what the reporter was talking about.  There was a knock on the door of Brick’s apartment in the Holy Tabernacle plaza.  He reached over and turned off the radio.

“Come!” Brick hollered.  He heard the door open and close. “I’m in the bedroom.” Brick spoke loudly.  He turned and looked.  Standing in the doorway was his young friend Tim.  Brick threw the shirt he was unpacking onto the bed and opened his arms.  Tim was in them in a moment.

“I thought it might be you.  I hoped it might be you.” Brick said.

“I’m so glad you’re back, daddy bear.” Tim cooed.

“I was going to call when I got unpacked to see if I could drop by.  Glad you’re here instead.  Are you on call for the Holy Father this evening?”

“No, Sir.  I’m free for the evening.”

“How ‘bout supper and a movie?”

“I’d like that.” Tim knew ‘supper and a movie’ meant ordering take-out and watching a movie in the comfort of Brick’s apartment, his huge, black leather sofa and his big arms.  It made Tim’s dick get hard just thinking about it.

“Is Stan getting settled in at the induction center?” Brick asked.

“I went by his room before I came here, introduced myself and gave him as much of a pep talk as I could.  While I liked Stan, my heart really wasn’t in the pep talk.  There was an understanding that passed between us.  I didn’t have to clarify my position.  I think he knew where I was coming from.  He seemed to like you a lot.  Told me I was really lucky to have you as a buddy.  He said you told him we was a little more than just buddies, and I admitted you were right.”

“I think he’s a good kid, Tim.  I hope you take him under your wing.  You don’t have to hide anything from him.  Let him know how you really feel about things around here.  I know sometimes that can be dangerous, but in Stan’s case, . . . well, I just got me a good feeling about him.  Let him confide in you, and I promise, I won’t ask you to share a confidence.  That ain’t why I’m asking you to be nice to him.  It’s just you’re older than him and you know the ropes already.  Just let him know what he can get away with and what he can’t.” Brick was serious.

“You’re so funny.” Tim teased.  “You give me that same speech about every kid who comes into the Prophet’s harem.  It’s part of your charm.  It’s who you are.  You care about all us boys.  That’s why I love you, Officer Brick.”

“Yes, but I care more about you than all the rest.  I love you.”

“I’m glad.” Tim said softly.

They shared a deep kiss.  Tim could feel Brick’s penis growing strong and erect underneath his hard leather cod piece.

“Has daddy bear been naughty and not taking his shots?”  Tim whispered in his ear so if the place was bugged it wouldn’t be heard.  Brick looked at him and grinned.  Tim didn’t need any further answer, he could feel the rock hard truth poking him in his own crotch.

“Praise the Lord of host!” Tim said as reverently as any priest blessing the sacraments.  “Hear my prayer, oh Lord.  May your humble servant, semi-vestal virgin prove worthy to feel this brave, strong, proud Officer of the Holy Temple move into the deepest depths of my fundament this evening and spill his hot seed into my needy, hungry, hungry holy vessel.”  he mouthed as a mock prayer.

“If I have anything to say about it,— your prayer will be righteously answered, my handsome vestal virgin.”

“Semi-vestal virgin.  Let’s not forget the ‘Semi’ part.” Tim corrected him in jest.

“I don’t care what they wanna’ call it, I wanna’ call it ‘mine.’” fired back Brick as he grabbed himself two big handfuls of Timmy’s firm buttocks.

“It’s yours, Officer Brick.  You know it.  Don’t never doubt it!  The Holy Prophet might use it, but it ain’t his.  Just between us, I think he knows it, too.  There’s only one man on this Earth worthy enough to claim my ass for his own, and it’s the big daddy bear what’s holding me in his arms right now.”

They kissed again and both got very excited.

“A quick one before supper?” Brick asked. “And a nice, long leisurely one during and after the movie?”

“You don’t even have to ask.  I’m clean.  I’m yours.  You want a piece of the ass what belongs to you, I’ll serve it up hot for my daddy bear anytime he wants it.”

“Damn, that turns me on.” Brick growled like an old bear.

Clothes were thrown all over the room in a fury to undress.  Brick took his young mate like a big bear should take his cub, with strength and a lot of good natured mauling.  They were exhausted when they finished and only put on enough clothes to be decent for the delivery boy when he brought the Chinese food.  They gorged themselves on oriental delicacies and settled down for a good Sci-fi movie and more loving.  It was an oldie but goodie, "This Island Earth."  They made more love than actually watch the movie; but, it didn’t matter, they were together, they were in love, and they were happy.
* * * * * * *

Stan spent his fifteenth birthday by himself, alone in his cubical at the young men’s dormitory in the Holy Tabernacle Plaza.  He wasn’t particularly sad, but he was a little lonely.  He searched his room for hidden microphones, listening devices or video cameras.  He was very thorough and took his time.  He was just about satisfied there were none when he heard a small voice behind him he would recognize anywhere.

“Howdy, Master Stan.”

“Moe, is that you, little buddy?”

“Yes, yes, yes, it’s me, Master Stan!  It's me!  I’m here with all your brothers, Master Lazarus, Master Charlie and just everybody to wish you a happy birthday.”

“You’re kidding me.” Stan said.

“No, he ain’t.  We’re all here, but we can’t be too loud due to you being in a dormitory.  Otherwise, we’d break out into a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.” assured Waco.  "We ain't using the holoprojectors on the robo-cams because we don't want nobody walking in and catching you with a pup running around on the floor of your room."  Waco chuckled.

"That's okay.  Jes' to hear your voices again is a comfort."

Everyone said ‘hello’ to Stan and wished him a happy birthday, but when he heard Ole and Hattie’s voices he broke down in tears.

“Don’t cry, Son.” Ole encouraged him.  “We’ll be together again soon.  Just have faith.  We ain’t forgot about you.”

“Oh, Stan.  My sweet boy, I love you and miss you so much.” cried Hattie.  It broke Stan’s heart to hear her cry.

“I'm jes' so glad they saved you from them Christianist Nazis.  It means the world to me to know ya'll are safe and with our people.  I’ll be with you afore ya’ know it, Ms. Hattie.  I got me a job to do here first.  I ain’t gonna’ be able to come home for a little while.  I know that now.  I’m here for a purpose.  I don’t know what yet, but them taking me weren’t just by chance.  There’s greater forces at work here than I originally thought.”

“How do you know that, Son?” Lazarus looked at Jesse who had a wry smile on his face.

“I just do, Captain Long.  I hear voices and they tell me I’m safe, and they’ll take care of me.  I believe them, Sir.  I know in my heart I got something to do here.”

“You’re right, brother.” spoke Waco.  “I hear the same voices and they tell me the same thing.”   

Jesse nodded to Lazarus.

“We’ll be monitoring you constantly, Son.  Kyron knows when you need us, and if things get really bad, you know we’ll be there in a minute.”

“I know.  H’it ain’t like I’m having to go through this alone.  I just miss my little buddy.”

“Oh, oh, oh!  I miss you, too, Master Stan.  You come home to Moe.  You’re Moe’s bestest buddy.  I love you so much.”

“I love you, too, little brother.  You’ll be back in my arms afore you know it.”

Everyone wished him well again and signed off for the evening.  It was almost better than a birthday card.  He wouldn’t have minded some cake though.  Maybe if he wished hard enough a magic fairy would bring him some.  He thought about Keekepata, smiled to himself as he sent his birthday wish to her.

* * * * * * *

In their love making Brick’s big foot knocked some papers off the end table next to the huge leather sofa they’d been wallowing around on for a couple of hours.  Tim went to pick things up and saw Stan’s picture.  It was his vital information.  He saw Tim’s birth date.

“Oh, my God!  Brick?  What’s today?” Tim asked.

“Friday, June 13th.  Why?”

“Shit!  Hell!  Damn!  Fuck!  Piss and fart!”

“Woah!  What’sa matter, little brother?  Ain’t never heard you use language like ‘at before.” Brick mockingly chastised Tim.

“Today’s Stan’s birthday, Brick!  He’s fifteen years old today.”

“Doh!” Brick slapped the palm of his hand against his forehead.  He sounded like Homer Simpson, “All them words you jes’ said and double ‘em!  How could I have missed that?  Get chore’ clothes on, brother.  There’s still time.”

The two men dressed quickly.  They rushed out the door and stopped at the local supermarket.  While Tim ran to pick out a birthday cake, Brick went to the frozen food section for ice cream.  He threw four half gallons of different flavors into a shopping cart.  He returned to the bakery section just as the baker on duty was putting the finishing touches on  Stan’s name.  It looked great.  They got small paper plates and a box of plastic utensils.  Brick had the presence of mind to get a half gallon of milk and some plastic glasses.  Brick paid for it all on his Holy Ghost charge card.  He knew no one would question the charge for a small birthday celebration for one of he Holy Prophet’s newest semi-vestal virgins.

They arrived at the boy’s dormitory and knocked quietly on Stan’s door.  Stan opened the door and was surprised to find the only two men he knew standing there with grocery bags in each hand.  Tim handed him a couple as they barged into his room.

“Why didn’t you tell us it was your birthday?” Brick gently chastised him.

“I didn’t even think about it until about an hour ago.  My little buddy from home contacted me to wish me a happy birthday.”

“Master Waco you spoke of?” Brick asked. “How could he contact you here?”

“No, no, my little buddy, Moe.  My pup.  My pal.”

“I don’t understand.” said Brick.

“Him and me, we communicate in our heads.  Sort a’ like telepathy ‘cept’n it ain’t.  I can really hear him, and he can hear me.”

“Uh, okay.  If you say so.”  Brick looked at Tim.  Tim just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.  Tim sat everything out as Stan and Brick talked.  Stan’s eyes got bigger and bigger.

“Did you eat supper?”

“Yes, Sir.  I had supper in the dinning hall.  It weren’t bad.  I had halibut in some sauce with some vegetables and a salad.  It was good.  I enjoyed it.”

“We’ll take you out if you’re still hungry.  Sorry we didn’t discover it was your birthday earlier.”

“That’s okay.  I’ve had a good day and hearing from my buddy helped.”

“I ain’t never heard of anyone having a pet here in the dormitory, but if you want, I’ll ask the Holy Father if he’ll let your buddy come stay with you.”

“Naw, that’s okay.  I ain’t gonna’ be here that long anyway, Officer Brick.  Besides, Moe’s a country dog.  He wouldn’t be comfortable here in the big city.”

Brick didn’t quite know how to respond.  He just looked at Tim who smiled at him, but he didn’t respond either.

“I thought you told me you’d never lie to me?” Brick confronted Stan in a joking manner.

“Oh, you mean about me hearing from my little buddy?  I weren’t lying to you, Officer Brick, . . . was I, buddy?”

Waco cued Moe, and he gave a sharp little bark.  Brick and Tim looked around and then at each other.

“How’d ju’ do that?” Brick grinned at Stan.

“T’weren’t me.  T’was ma’ buddy, Moe.  I just proved to you I spoke with him.  Now do you believe me?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe you’re a ventriloquist.”

“Naw, I’m mostly a pretty good football player.  I gave you ma’ word, I wouldn’t never lie to you, and I won’t.  I can’t all the time prove to you something I say ain’t a lie.  You gotta’ show some faith in me like you ask me to show you.”

“You know, you’re right!  Sounds fair to me.  Okay, I believe you.  You spoke to your little buddy.  How ‘bout you, Tim?”

“I’m a believer!  I believe him.  I heard a bark same’s you did, and I was looking right at Stan when it happened.  It wasn’t Stan.”

The men enjoyed their ice cream and cake.  A couple of other boys dropped by to welcome Stan and were invited to join the party.  Soon every boy in the dorm was in Stan’s room having a good time including a young man a couple of years older than Stan.  He was big and obviously a country boy.  He introduced himself to Stan as Jimmy-Bob Dodge.  Stan thought he was just about the best looking cowboy he'd seen since he left Reason.  He wondered if the Ancients sent him Jimmy-Bob for his birthday?  The robo-cams did a close up of him shaking Jimmy-Bob's hand and caught Stan blushing in three dimensions and vivid color.  There were many hoots and much laughter went up from his cowboy brothers watching.  Fortunately, the sound was off on Stan's end.  Everyone back on the Mighty Bee was enjoying watching Stan have some fun and not having to be alone on his birthday.  Keekepata looked at Jesse.  She smiled and winked at him.  He smiled back, gave her a thumbs up approval, and nodded his head.

* * * * * * *

“Who’s gonna’ tell ‘em?” Charlie asked Lazarus.

“I thought about having Blake tell ‘em, but they’re ma’ boys.  I guess it’s my responsibility.  Besides they sort of look up to me now.  Since we initiated Burt into the Grange and we’re gonna’ initiate Phil next week, I’ll take them aside and tell them first.  I’ll discuss it with them and let them have a say how they wanna’ break the news to their younger brothers.”

“You gonna’ buy the old man?” Charlie asked him.

“I can’t rightly say.  Any input you might have would be helpful.  He ain’t on any of ma’ lists.  A, B or C.  Don’t have no D list.  If so I’d probably be the only one on it.” Lazarus laughed.

“No, brother, mine would be sit’n right along side a’ yours.” Charlie laughed.

“You’re one of the best men it’s ever been my pleasure to know, Charlie Goodnight.  How can you say that?”

“Whither thou goest, friend.”

“Thanks, Boss, I appreciate that.”

“Since when do slaves have to be on a list?” Charlie changed the subject.

“Good point.  ‘Cept’n have you looked at the number of your and Angus’ slaves on the list?”

“No, I leave that up to you.”

“Damn near eighty percent of ‘em’s names is on the A list and the others’s on the B list.  Don’t matter none, if they’re a slave they go where their master goes.”

“That many, huh?  That’s interesting.”  Charlie allowed.  “When is old man Stamper going to trial?”

“Thirty days I guess.  It ain’t been announced yet.  Don called me early this morning and woke me up.  Thank goodness Lucas was sleeping in his own room last night.  He decided I ain’t been resting too well with him next to me.  He’s right.  He keeps my old mule standing all night.” The men shared a laugh, “H’it ain’t hit the news yet.  I wanted to talk with you before we started our day.  We can tell the boys at breakfast.  I ain’t even told Lucas.  We gotta’ watch him close.”

“I think you have a tendency to brood-hen that boy too much.  I think he'll handle it better'n you might think.  You wanna’ take today off?” Charlie offered.

“Naw, it’s our heaviest calving season.  Too damn much work to do.  I gotta’ be out there with them men.  I’ll leave it up to you and his brothers to keep a close watch on him.  Hell, we got Cable, Blue, Keeke and the lummox men to watch over him.  Ya’ll‘ll let me know if he ain’t doing well and needs me.  I have a feeling he’s gonna’ handle it better than Caleb’s brothers.”

Charlie smiled at Lazarus’ use of the term “Caleb’s brothers.”  He really wanted to disassociate Lucas from the Stamper boys in his own mind.  He admired Lazarus for being so honest about his feelings.  Lazarus’ love for Lucas was palpable.  He tried hard to be the dad Lucas never had.

“I think you should buy the old man, but give him to a rancher who’s in the colonies or one of the Steele men.  Maybe Ole or Sonny.  Pay Bill Birdsall to train him.  Throw a little business his and Angus’ way.  Bill’s baby-slave training program is just what old man Stamper needs.”  Charlie said with a twinkle in his eye and then chuckled.

“You’re wicked, Boss.” Lazarus allowed.

“I had a good teacher, Ramrod.” Charlie laughed at Lazarus.  They laughed together as they hugged each other.

* * * * * * *

The boys came in for breakfast and were a little surprised to find Charlie and Lazarus already sitting at the table having coffee.  The boys did their usual to help Ida Mae get breakfast ready and came in to stand around the table.  Jesse came in with Utah to join them.  They joined hands and Charlie said a quick prayer.  They sat down to eat.  Lazarus took his time.  Jesse looked at him like he already knew what he had to tell the boys.  Lazarus didn’t doubt he probably did know.  Lucas looked at Lazarus and smiled.

“How bad was it, Dad?” he asked as he took a biscuit from the plate and passed it on to his brother next to him.

“Pert-damn bad, Son.” the rest of the boys perked up.

“I saw it last night.  A cowboy was shot in the back by Elam Stamper out to the local honky-tonk on Farm Road 49 called Slim Pickin’s.  You know the place.  It’s got a wooden sign hanging out front.  It’s a painting of a cowboy with his finger shoved up his nose.  Elam Stamper left the bar and drove drunk into the side of the Pentecostal church and set it on fire.  It burned to the ground before the fire department could get there.”

Lazarus looked at Jesse.  Jesse put his fist to his mouth to keep from laughing.

“You notice, this has been happening a lot with them boys.  First Waco, then Stan, and now Lucas.  Is it normal, Jesse?” Lazarus asked the man to his right.

“Why do you think me and Utah’s stayed around so long?  We saw it coming.  We discussed it and wanted to be around to see it happen.  Utah told me this morning he’s glad we stayed.  Fasten yore’ seat belt, brothers.  This is just the beginning.  It’ll grow.” Jesse said as he dipped his whole-grain bread into his olive oil.  Lazarus looked at Charlie.  Neither blinked.

“That was the sheriff what called this morning early, Son.”  Lazarus continued with Lucas, “According to him Elam Stamper got roaring drunk last night and fought all comers at the bar.  He tore up the place.  Nobody could settle him down.  Finally the owner called Elam’s buddy Jack Hall who’s in town to come down to talk some sense to him.  Jack came down and sat with him for a couple of hours trying to get him to go home with him and pass out for the night, but something seemed to be stuck in his craw; something was really upsetting the old man.  Finally, Jack had enough and went to leave.  The bartender talked him into it thinking Elam would follow him.  Elam got mad because Jack wouldn’t stay and drink with him, pulled out his gun and shot him in the back.  I guess, cowboys will be cowboys even in the Twenty-first century.” Lazarus shook his head in wonder.

“Jack Hall’s in bad shape.  He ain’t expected to live.  Sheriff said them doctors don’t give him much hope.  After he shot Jack, Elam was powerful sorry, but ran out the back jumped into his truck and headed off through town like a bat out of hell.  Someone said they saw him swerve to miss a deer what was crossing FR 49, Elam’s truck jumped the curb, went off down the embankment into the Church yard, and slammed into the side of the Pentecostal Church.  Elam got out of his truck and staggered away without a scratch; howsomever, a few minutes later his truck burst into flames, exploded and burned down the church before the fire department was even notified.  The only people who could do anything was the Steele’s son-in-law,  Preacher Yates, and a couple of neighbors with garden hoses.  It’s totaled.  Ain’t so much as a hymnal left.  The sheriff’s got Stamper in jail.  He’ll be arraigned Monday, and his court date will probably be thirty days later.”

Little Bear whistled long and low.  Whistling wasn’t allowed at the table, but Little Bear was just expressing what they all felt.  They were shocked.  They felt bad for their brother.  Lucas felt it, but he was going to set the record straight.

“Don’t even think it, gentlemen.  My dad ain’t in no jail.  He’s sitting right here at this table.” There was a palpable silence followed.

“Thanks, Son.  To be honest I was a little worried about you.”

“That’s just the kind of man your are, Dad.  You’ve allowed me to come to expect that from you, and you’ve never let me down.  My dad would never shoot a man in the back for any reason nor would he set fire to a church, as much as he might like to.” Lucas smiled wickedly and got a laugh out of his brothers.

“You gonna’ be okay, Son?” Lazarus asked Lucas with concern.

“Nice of you to ask, Dad, but ain’t no need really.  I didn’t wish for this to happen to Stamper.  If I was present I might’ve tried to stop him, because he’s a human being who was being irrational, but he did this himself just like he condemned Caleb to be dog food.  I don’t have any sympathy for him.  I’m not elated this happened to him, but neither am I surprised.  I saw more in my dream than I’m telling you, but no one needs to know that part until I talk with Mr. Hall.” Jesse nodded his head in agreement with Lucas, “Can Mr. Hall be saved, Mr. Watkins?” Lucas put to Jesse.

“Yes, Blue can save him.  I could save him.  Cable and the Kryscellians can save him; however, without our immediate intervention, he will die in that hospital.  They’re doing almost nothing for him because they can’t confirm his insurance through his company back in Lubbock.  His company heard rumors about how bad his wound is and refuse to give authorization for payment of medical care.  If he dies, they don’t have to pay anything.  They ain’t even removed the bullet yet.  If he don’t die from bleeding, he’ll die from lead poisoning.”

“Any suggestions, Son?” Lazarus deferred to Lucas.

“I know I’m only a slave, Dad, but one consideration I would beg from you and Master Charlie.  If you men, in yore’ wisdom, decide to buy Elam Stamper he never sets foot on this ranch or the ranch where Caleb’s brothers are living.  If we save his worthless hide from a murder charge by saving Mr. Hall’s life, then I don’t want him tainting anyone’s life ever again.”

Charlie nodded agreement to Lazarus.  It sounded right to the boys, too.  Jesse beamed at Lucas like the kid was saying the right words.

“It’s a done deal, Son!  You got our word.” Lazarus confirmed.

“Secondly, we have to bring Mr. Hall here as quickly as possible.  There ain’t no time to waste.  Am I correct, Mr. Watkins?”
“Absolutely right, Son.” Jesse confirmed.
Lazarus whipped out his cell phone and punched Don Lassiter’s number.

“Howdy, Sheriff!  What’s the fastest way we can get Mr. Hall out here to the ranch?”

“He’s on the way, Ramrod.  I hope you and Mr. Goodnight won’t think bad of me, but I could see they weren’t gonna’ do squat for him.  I sent him by county medivac chopper a few minutes ago.  You should be hearing the engines any minute now.”

“You done the right thing, Sheriff.  We’ll get back to you as soon as we know something.”

“Thanks, Ramrod.  Give my best to Mr. Goodnight and the boys.  Give ma’ boy Lucas a hug for me.”

“Will do, Son.  See you soon.” Lazarus closed his phone and slipped it back into his vest pocket.  “Maybe we should let Hank go on without me for a while, until I’m sure everything is under control, Boss.  The medivac chopper should be here in minutes.”

“Good idea.  Hank, after breakfast get them men out to work and the ramrod will join you and Curley as soon as he can.”

“Yes, Sir, Boss.  Me and Curley can handle things today if you need him here.”

“We’ll see.  I’ll leave it up to him.”

The men just finished breakfast when the chopper landed in the compound.  The Medivac men wanted to assist in getting Jack Hall into whatever medical facilities they had at the ranch, but Lazarus tipped them heavily and assured them they could handle Mr. Hall from there.  As soon as the chopper lifted the men rushed him to the old barn and onto the Mighty Bee.  Cable was ready for him and ran test to find out his blood type.  There were five cowboys on the ranch that matched his blood type and volunteered to give blood.  Cable had him hooked up with blood in a matter of minutes.

They operated on him, removed the bullet, repaired his lung and set his broken clavicle.  They couldn’t figure out how his clavicle got broken.  Cable thought it might have been from him falling into a door when he was shot.  Lucas had other suspicions.  The bullet itself was lodged in a front rib but broke one upon entry to his back.  Two others were cracked in the front.  They had to tape him up tight.  They managed to stop all the bleeding and Cable reduced his prognosis from critical to stable.  He still wasn’t out of the woods, but he was certainly better than he was.  Jesse watched the bio-mechanical men work with great skill, speed and unity to save Jack Hall’s life.  He was impressed and told Cable he would trust him with his own life.  Cable was very flattered.

They had Jack Hall in recovery still under heavy sedation.  He had tubes coming out of every opening and one in his penis.  He had a tube down his throat to keep him breathing and IV’s in both arms.  The Kryscellians floated in and parked themselves by him and started their healing process.  He didn’t wake up until the afternoon of the following day.  He was fully conscious but a little taken back by being taken care of by three remarkably good looking nude men.

That was just the beginning of the weird things that began to happen to him.  Next thing he knew there were young cowboys all around him talking with each other about him like he wasn’t there.  One who looked exactly like the one who seemed to be in charge placed his hands on him and a strange blue light emanated from his hands that would considerably reduce his pain.  He could actually imagine the young man was healing him with his hands.

If he wasn’t strapped down tightly to his bed he would’ve jumped up and ran when he saw the huge hairy monsters who joined the young men, but they hugged and kissed them like they were old friends.  They towered over the young cowboys and smiled down at Jack.  He was in too much pain to fight or run.  He just lay there and shook from fright.  One of the boys called to one of the naked men.

“Cable.  He’s having some reaction to us and our lummox friends.  He needs another sedative.”

The handsome naked man came in with a hypo and gave it to him in his IV drip.  He immediately relaxed but didn’t drift off to sleep.  It didn’t seem so bad.  Obviously the boys were friends with these monsters.  Then he saw something incredible.  He knew he was hallucinating.  There was a beautiful fairy who was hovering over his bed and came to land on the shoulder of the biggest monster.  He reached up and placed his hand to brace her.  She sat there quietly looking down at Jack and smiling sweetly.  She was beautiful and made old Jack’s cowboy penis get an erection.  Everyone laughed at his hard-on.  He blushed a deep red color.

Several other cowboys came into his room.  One he recognized as Sonny Steele, champion cowboy.  He didn’t know who the other man was, but he looked too young to be Sonny’s dad.  Maybe it was his older brother?  They looked a lot alike.

“I don’t think he recognizes me.” said Sonny.  Jack slowly nodded his head he recognized Sonny.  They laughed.  “He does.  Howdy, Jack.  Long time no see.  You don’t look so good, Son, but you’ll be getting better real soon.  Them fine looking naked men saved your life.  Well, hell, truth is, all these men saved your life.  You ain’t got no worries about this place.  It may seem a bit strange what with the big furry monsters and little fairy lady what flies around, but trust yore’ old cowboy brother, you got the best care here you can get on this planet.  By the way, this here good look’n old codger next to me is ma’ old man, ma’ dad Warren Steele.” Jack couldn’t believe the cowboy was Sonny’s dad.  He was too young.

Two more middle-age cowboys came into his room.  He recognized both of the men.  They were pointed out to him as leaders of the Grange.  One was a rancher Charlie Goodnight whom he went to high school with and played football.  The other was Charlie’s right hand man and foreman of his ranch, Ramrod Lazarus Long.  Charlie gently took his hand and spoke to him.

“You comfortable, cowboy?” Charlie asked.

Jack nodded his head, but pointed to the breathing tube.

“I’ll ask for you.  Cable, does he still need his breathing tube?”

The naked man came in the room, took his pulse and leaned over him to listen to his respiration with a stethoscope.  He smiled at Mr. Goodnight.

“I think it’ll be all right to remove it; however, if he has trouble I might have to put it back for a while.” With that the man took hold of it and with one swift, fluid motioned literally ripped it from his throat.  Jack was glad to get rid of it.  Cable had some spray and motioned for Jack to open his mouth.  He did and Cable sprayed something that deadened the scratchiness in his throat.

“Thank you.” he whispered to Cable.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Hall.” Cable replied.

“Where am I, Charlie?”

“In a hospital on my ranch.”

‘I ain’t never hear’d of no hospital like this.  This place is like being in a science fiction movie.” Jack grinned.

“I’ll admit, it has its moments of credibility; like naked doctors and attendants.  Bigfoot monsters walking the halls visiting people.  A small, beautiful winged fairy-like creature flying around bringing a smile to folks.  Dogs what talk to you.”

“Where?  Ain’t seen me no dog what can talk yet.  Bring 'em on."  Jacked grinned like he didn't believe.

Charlie whistled.  Patty, Shep, and Larry came scurrying around a corner followed closely by their parents and Utah.  The pups put their front paws upon the bed to stand.  They looked right at the wounded cowboy.

“Howdy, Mr. Hall, I’m Patty and these two yahoos next to me are ma’ brothers, Shep and Larry.  They should a’ named ‘em Larry one and Larry two.  They’re just alike.”

“No we ain't, are we Shep?” complained Larry.

“I should say not.  We don’t agree on nothing.”

“Yes, we do!”

“No, we don’t!  You know damn well we don’t!”

“See what I’m talk’n about, Mr. Hall.” Patty rolled her eyes in disgust.  

Jack Hall laughed for the first time since he’d been shot.  Pain wracked his body, but it was worth it.

“Who do you belong to, Patty?” he asked.

“We don’t belong to nobody.  If you mean who do we live with, I live with Master Long and his son Lucas.  Ma’ brothers stay around the ranch where they please.  We be cow dogs during the day, and I ride herd on Ramrod Long’s twin sons in the evenings.”

“Do all these dogs talk?” Jack laughed.

“Ma’ dad, Scraps, he talks.  Ma don’t.  We been working with her to get her to speak, but Ma’s happy just being dad’s mate.  That’s her name, Happy.   Mr. Utah is Mr. Watkin’s companion.  He can talk.  He can talk real good; better’n us pups.  He don’t say much, but when he does us pups listen.  He don’t speak less’n he’s got some’um important to say.”

“Remarkable.” sighed Jack.

“Okay.  That’s enough, guys.  He’s gonna’ be here for a while and you can visit when he’s feeling better and answer all his questions.  Let’s not tire him out.  He’s got to get up and start walking a little later this afternoon and he’s gonna’ need all the strength he’s got.”

“Me?  Walking?  I don’t think so.  Not yet.” Jack objected.

“Got to, Mr. Hall.  If we don’t get you up, things will start to go wrong.” Cable backed up Charlie.

“We went to too damn much trouble to save your life to let you backslide now.”

“Why did you do this, Charlie?  Why ain’t I in a regular hospital?”

“The company you work for wouldn’t give the hospital in Reason authorization to pay to fix you up.  When they found out how bad you were wounded, they decided it would cost them too much money to save you, and it would be cheaper in the long run to let you die.  You don’t have no heirs or next of kin listed, so they figured, if nobody cared nothing about chu’ there wouldn’t be no one to come after them.  It takes money or someone who gives a damn to fight ‘em.  So much for health insurance, brother.”

“You still ain’t answered ma’ question, Charlie?  Why would you do this for me?”

“‘Cause it seemed like the right thing to do, Jack.  Does a man need any other motivation?”

“No, I suppose he don’t.  It’s, . . . just, . . . . ah, hell, nobody’s ever done nothing for me since my parents died.  How can I repay you, Charlie?”

“Who said anything about repayment?  Cable do you have a bill made up for Mr. Hall I don’t’ know about?”

“No, Sir, Master Charlie.  There ain’t no such thing as a bill in this hospital.  You know that, Sir.” Cable smiled.  He knew where Charlie was going with his line of questioning.    

“There, you have it, Jack.  No bill.  You’re home free.”

“What can I say?” asked Jack.

“Thank you, will do nicely.” said Charlie.  “And enjoy your stay.  Get to know these folks.  You might find you like ‘em.”

“I already like them.  I’m a bit wowed by some, but I think I could adjust.”

“Good, glad to hear it.” smiled Charlie.

Jack lay back into the depths of the soft, clean bed and pillows.  His body had been completely washed and cleaned.  He’d never felt so pampered in his life since he was a child.  He thought about the wild dreams he had of leaving his body; watching the paramedics come into the bar, lift him onto a Gurney and shove him into the waiting ambulance.  He watched the doctors fighting about whether to operate on him or let him die.  What the hell was a hospital for if it wasn’t to help folks?  The funniest thing was, he didn’t give a shit!  He could’ve cared less.  He wanted them to let him die.  He saw a bright, white light, and it was calling his name.  It was the most beautiful thing he ever saw.  He heard about people seeing a white light when they died.  Was this what they were talking about?  He walked into it and found himself in a beautiful garden.

His parents were there, and while they were happy to see him, they were restrained.  There were friends and others who had gone before him who came to greet him and wish him well.  Then he saw her.  >From afar he saw B.B. in a long, beautiful white dress coming toward him.  His soul sank to the bottom of his boots.  It was heavy like a lead weight.  It was the first time he thought about shedding tears, but they seemed to flow from his eyes unprompted by him.  She walked up to him and smiled at him.  She looked deep into his eyes, leaned forward and kissed him lightly on his cheek.

“Hello, cowboy.  Welcome to the other side.”

“Am I dead, B.B.?” Jack asked her.

“Not yet, but damn near.  I have it on good authority you won’t die this time.  You gotta’ go back, darlin.’  In fact, you’re gonna’ live a very long life and have many buckaroos and cowgirls.”

“Do you remember ever’ thing what happened to you, Darlin’?” Jack fished.

“Yep, everything, lover.”

“I’m sorry, B.B., I was weak.  I couldn’t help myself.” Jack moaned.

“Don’t be.  It was probably the purest form of love I never had shown to me when I was alive.  At least it told me no matter what I done, you loved what I had to offer.  I never fooled myself you were a deep-troughed lover, Jack.  Cowboys jes’ ain’t the type what does a lot of poetry spouting and make’n loud protestations of faith in love and romance.  A good pony, a six-pack of beer, a two-dollar gee-tar, a fine pair of boots, a chunk of cow warmed over a mesquite fire, and a warm hole to sleep in is about a cowboy's biggest needs.  I walked away happy I could provide you with one out a’ six.  It meant a lot to me, Jack.  Sorry I didn’t have time to fix my makeup.”  B.B. laughed at her own joke then continued.

“My death weren’t chore’ fault, cowboy.  It was ma’ own damn fault.  I don’t even blame old Elam, but he don’t need to know that.  You done the right thing by burying me out there in the desert.  If you hadn’t you’d a’ been in a peck a’ trouble you didn’t deserve.  Thanks for saying them words over my grave, Jack.  Probably wouldn’t a made it if’n it weren’t for you.  I guess I had one redeeming thing going for me.  I’s able to forgive others.  Keep that in mind as you journey though your long life, cowboy, and remember there’s a cowgirl buried out there on the prairie what thinks about you.  Send a thought her way from time to time.”

They kissed and Jack found himself falling,. . . falling?  No he wasn’t falling, he was flying!  He was flying through the air along side a helicopter.  There was a body in a plastic bubble strapped to the side and he was flying right along side of it.  He knew the body was his, but where were they taking him?  He looked down through the early morning light, down through the clouds and saw a beautiful ranch they were headed towards.  He thought he might have been there before.  He couldn’t remember.  Down and down the chopper went until it landed in the compound of the big ranch.  He took a deep breath and passed out again.

* * * * * * *

Lazarus sent for Bert and Phil.  He asked Blake to come along with them.  They came though the gate about eleven in the morning.  They had been busy and nobody had time to listen to local news.  Charlie invited them to have lunch with him and the boys.  They were thrilled to be included.  He and Lazarus took them to the canteen on the Bandersnatch and offer them coffee.  David and Jonathan served.

“Since you’re now a part of the Grange, Burt, and you will be next week, Phil, we decided it was time you men started having some say in your and your brother’s future.  I don’t need to remind you you’re still my slaves; however, there’s room within that framework to consider your thoughts, opinions and needs.  We brought you men here to tell you something about your dad.”

Lazarus went on to tell the boys the trouble their dad got into the night before.  He was a little surprised they weren’t more upset.  When he finished he waited for them to say something.  Burt looked at Phil, and he nodded for Burt to speak for both of them.

“We’ll tell our younger brothers, Master Long.  Boss Blake will help us.  I don’t foresee any problems with us men.  I’m so embarrassed by what he done it makes me ashamed I have to wear his name the rest of my life.  I just wish our last name weren’t Stamper no more.”

“Me, too, Master Long.  I feel the same way as ma’ brother.”

“Now, don’t you men go blaming yourselves.  Weren’t nothing you could a done about it.” Lazarus tried to comfort Burt and Phil.

“We know, it’s just we been working so hard to separate ourselves from what we was, it’s like it’s all come back to haunt us.”

“You men have done damn good, and I have no doubt you’ll continue to do well.  Master Charlie and I are proud of you and your progress.”

“We’ve come to look on you, Master Charlie, Hoot, and Cotton as our real parents.  We think on Boss Blake as our big brother.  I know that probably ain’t the right thing for a slave to say about his Masters, but we got more as a family now than we ever had with our old man.  We got so much more family with our cowboy-slave brothers over to our ranch and our brothers here on your ranch, Master Charlie, and the Grange.  I ain’t never been a part of anything what meant as much to me as you folks, even if I am a slave.  If we’d stayed with him no tell’n where we’d be today.  Most likely me and Phil would be in prison or lifetime slaves under terrible circumstances and our younger brothers would be sent off to State Orphanages only later to become indentured.  Wait a minute!”  Burt exclaimed.

Burt stopped dead in thought and a crooked smile came across his face.  He had an epiphany.  His face started glowing with his moment of personal understanding.  It took a tragedy happening to his old man to bring him to this point, but he suddenly saw the larger picture.  He looked at his brother and smiled.  He knew Phil didn’t have a clue; he hadn’t figured it out.  Burt looked at Lazarus and Charlie and saw their eyes were misting.  He looked at his boss-man and saw the same welling up inside him.  They knew, at that moment, Burt understood why he was a slave, but he didn’t always have to be a slave.  It all depended on him.  He thought back on how many times Lazarus, Charlie, Hoot, Cotton and Blake told him and his brothers the same thing, over and over again, but the reality and truth of it never fully sank in until that very moment.  It was only a matter of time, and how he conducted himself.  He could live peacefully with that thought.  Burt let go of all preconceived notions, and his very soul relaxed.  The bigger picture was, he and his brothers were being cared for.  They were being carefully trained.  They were becoming a part of a larger family.  They were being gently but firmly led into the light of a new future for them; one which offered hope and promise.

“How can I ever thank you men?” Burt broke into sobs.  His brother put his arm around him to comfort him, but Phil didn’t have a clue what just passed between his brother and the other three men.

“You just done it, Son!”  whispered Lazarus in a choked voice.

* * * * * * *

Jack woke up again.  He’d been having a strange dream about a beautiful bullet shaped craft that came floating through the air and was parked right by his side.  In it were beautiful crystals and they were all aglow shining their lights on him, but there was more to them than that.  They were singing to him.  At first he couldn’t make heads or tails of what they were singing or why but as time passed he began to pick up a word, a phrase that kept repeating itself.  He didn’t feel the least threatened by these, these, . . . what could he call them?  Were they alive?  He came fully awake and in his darkened room the wonderful lights from the Kryscellians flooded over him and filled the room with their rainbow of colored lights.  They were real!

“Yes, we’re very much real.  We’re a different life form from you, Mr. Hall, but we’ve been relating with your species for sometime now and we’ve formed a symbiotic relationship.”

“What’s symbiotic mean?” Jack spoke softly.

“Companionable.  Mutually helpful.  Equally beneficial.  Our rays have great healing powers for carbon based life forms like yourself.  We were asked to help with your healing, and we’ve had a couple of sessions with you while you were unconscious.  We learned much about you and have found your healing paths.  You’re mending quite nicely.”

“So beautiful.” Jack whispered almost to himself.

“Thank you, Jack.  It’s nice to be appreciated.  We hope we can make your body heal faster.”

Jack didn’t try to say more.  He just lay back and relaxed in the warm glow of the creatures, or whatever they were.  He knew they weren’t from around these parts.  In a little while the Kryscells departed and Jack was left alone in the dimly lit room.  He was never fully alone.  Within ten feet there was a naked man attendant or the main doctor as he called Cable.  Jack looked up to see another big cowboy walk into his room and look down at him.  He recognized him immediately.

“Ranger Gibbons, you old son of a gun!  I ain’t seen you in a while.  I know you live in the area, but our paths don’t cross much.  What are you doing here?”

Ranger took Jack’s hand and shook it.

“I heard you was here, Jack.  Jes’ thought I’d stop by and say ‘hello.’  I come to visit my missus.  She’s in the next room over from yours.  They’s treating her for cancer.”

“Is she gonna’ be all right, Ranger?”

“They don’t know.  We’re hoping for the best.  She’s on her third week of a new treatment and is showing great signs of progress.  Them crystals what just left your room a while ago are very optimistic and several of our other community healers are optimistic.  I hear you’re out of the woods.  I’m happy to hear you’re gonna’ make it.”

“Yeah, they got me up walking twice a day.  It’s a bitch, Ranger, but I realize I gotta’ do it.  I think I’m git’n stronger and they be feeding me like a hay hand in mowing season.   Damn, I ain’t never et so good in my life.  They been giving me some sweet milk to drink that’s the best damn stuff I ever tasted.  It’s like drinking melted ice cream.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s good stuff all right.  It’s good for you, too.  Ma’ wife drinks it along with her rice she’s allowed.  Great stuff!”

“How do they make it?” Jack asked.

“You don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“You seen them Bigfoot monsters the boys have with them all the time?”

“Yeah, I kind a’ got used to ‘em.  Scared the crap out of me the first time I seen ‘em.”

“Aww, they’re mostly peaceful creatures.  Wouldn’t want one mad at me.  The milk you been drink’n is from them.  The males produce the most nutritious milk in the universe.  In their species the males are the ones what’s responsible for feeding the young.  The females just birth the young, the rest is up to the male to take care of ‘em.  The milk has great healing properties for humans.  That’s why they’re giving it to you.”

“Yore’ shit’n me?”

Ranger laughed at him.

“I said the same thing when I first found out about ‘em, but I ain’t pulling yore’ leg.  Me and ma’ slave’s babies are being raised on it.  Them young cowboys drink it right from the tap.”

“You mean they. . .?” Jack grimaced.

“‘At’s right, pardner, right from the old teat.  They love it.”  Ranger chuckled.  Jack just shook his head.

“What about that fairy creature what’s been flying about.”

“She’s over playing cards with ma’ wife right now.  I waved at ‘em but come to see you for a minute.  That’s Keekepata.  She’s from another planet from Earth.  She’s a princess of her people and is hiding out here from another race what’s at war with her planet.”

“Wait just a damn minute!  You’re telling me these creatures are from outer space?”

“Yep, cowboy, ‘at’s exactly what I’m tell’n you.”

“Son of a bitch!  Then all them stories about flying saucers was true?”

“E’aup!  You’re on board one right now.”


“Trust me, Jack.  It took me a while to get used to the idea, but now I don’t know how we got along without ‘em.  Them Bigfoot monsters live on our world, but they originated on another world in another galaxy.  It’s a long complex stories how it all came to be, but you’ll learn as you get to know everyone.  You can’t understand it all overnight.  It will take you a while, but when you do understand, it will blow your boots off, buckaroo.”
“Are them nude male nurses and doctors human, Ranger.”

“You mean Cable, David and Jonathan and several others of their kind?”


“Well, they is and they ain’t.  They’re bio-mechanical men.”

“Robots?” asked Jack.

“No, much more sophisticated than a robot.  They’re a sentient life form.  They’re capable of feeling, pain, hurt, love, disappointment, and a host of other feelings.  Yet they’re part mechanical and part biological.  They’re body parts work just the same as yours, cowboy.  If you want to know more about them, just ask.  They’ll be happy to tell you.  They’ll even let you feel ‘em up if you like.  Lord knows I have more’n a few times.  I’ve even played a little stink finger with a couple of ‘em.  Fucked one of ‘em, too.  They be so damn tight you won’t believe it.”  Ranger winked at him and laughed.

“Not you, Ranger.  You’re all man.”

“I shore’ am, cowboy, and don’t chu’ never forgit it!  That’s why I can appreciate a fine looking piece of ass on another man when I sees it.”  Ranger roared with laughter and the look on Jack’s face.

“Then, I guess them crystal critters is from outer space.” Jack said rhetorically.

“Now you’re catching on, cowboy.”

* * * * * * *    

Blake let Burt and Phil tell their younger brothers about their dad’s drunken rampage.  It was Burt who mostly told them.  Phil pretty much listened and backed him up.  To Sam, Jeb and Zeke there was something different about their oldest brother.  He was softer in his approach to them.  He was more understanding and took time to listen to what they had to say.  He was like the big brother they always wanted him to be.  Even Blake noticed a decided difference in the way Burt handled his younger brothers.  Sam and Jeb seemed to accept it pretty good but Zeke was quiet.  He didn’t have much to say.  Burt tried his best to bring him out to get him to say what was on his mind.    

“I don’t know.  I’m just think’n about what a waste it’s all been.”  Zeke said shaking his head.  The rest of the boys gave him their full attention.  “If what I’m hearing from my oldest brother is true, then Master Long bought us to protect us from our dad and the sort of shit he put us through all our lives.  We’re missing our youngest brother because of him and our lack of understanding.  I blame him for that, too, because he didn’t teach us to work together or love and respect each other as a family.  We was like animals.  We treated Caleb worse than an animal.  The way we treated him was a direct result of what we were taught and allowed to do to him. The more I’ve learned how to treat people, the worse I feel about the way I treated ma’ little brother.  If we’d stayed with our dad I can only think I would’ve taken Caleb’s place and then Jeb would’ve been next.  As far as we’ve come and for all we’ve learned we still can’t escape what we was then.”

“There’s a lot of truth to that, Zeke.” spoke up Blake.  It was the first time he’d said much of anything.  “However, you ain’t today what you was then.  I don’t think it’s fair to hold it against your brothers or yourself what might have been.  It didn’t happen to you or Jeb that way because you’ve all been under Master Hoot and Master Cotton’s care, and I’ve been your Ramrod for the last couple of years.  Burt said you guys come to think on me as an older brother and that’s all right with me, but we all know each of us are first and foremost slaves of Master Charlie and Master Long.  Truth is, you ain’t the same men what walked onto this ranch two years ago.  You’ve come a long way and you’re growing up to be fine young men.  So, where’s the waste in that?”

“I didn’t mean with us, Boss.  I meant for Captain Long.  He paid our daddy a lot of money to keep us out of harms way, to bring us along like decent men, and it’s all gone for naught.”

“Maybe it ain’t, brother.” said Jeb, the bright one.  “We know where the old man hides everything.  Since we been sold as slaves, we ain’t around no more, he wouldn’t think to find new places to hide his stash, and you know damn well he never believed in banks.”

“‘At’s right!” exclaimed Sam. “Between us, I’ll bet we could find what he’s got left of the money in about thirty minutes.  If we don’t get it for Master Long, somebody else is gonna’ get it.  Better our Master, what’s been looking out for us for the last two years gits it than some damn stranger what buys the place and stumbles onto it.”

“You know they’re gonna’ sell the farm immediately to pay back some of his damages.” chimed in Phil.  Burt laughed.

“And he ain’t gonna’ need no defense fund.  He’ll be charged with attempted murder and willful destruction of community property.  It’s a slam dunk case he’ll be sold as a lifetime slave.” Sam added.

“You know, it never crossed my mind, Boss, but ma’ brothers has got a great idea.  You think Master Hoot and Cotton would let you drive us over there for a quick search?” Burt asked Blake.

“Wouldn’t do no harm to ask.  C’mon, let’s go ask ‘em.”

The boys were really psyched and talked about the different places they knew their dad hid money.  Blake explained the idea to Hoot and Cotton.  Hoot said it sounded like an adult Easter egg hunt.  They laughed their ass’s off at the boys and told them to go ahead.  

“Whatever you men find, c’mon back here and we’ll all take the gate to the Goodnight barn and you can give it to Master Long.”

The boys jumped into the back of the old work truck, with Blake driving, and took off for their old homestead.  It took them a little longer than they thought, but when all was counted they found a little over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars of old American dollars, which were worth almost twice as much as the newer Amero dollars.  They were thrilled.  They were laughing, hooting and hollering when they drove back into the compound at Hoot and Cotton’s ranch.  They felt like they’d really put one over on their old man.  Hoot contacted Charlie and Lazarus and asked if they could bring the boys through the gate, they had something they wanted to give their master.  Charlie and Lazarus had no idea what it could be.  Hoot gave them no clue.

They all came though the gate and Lazarus invited them on board the Mighty Bee for refreshments.  David and Jonathan waited on them.  The boys were in great spirits.  They loved the men on the Bandersnatch.  Burt handed Lazarus the paper grocery bag containing the money with a great big smile on his face.

“It’s from all us Stamper boys, our Boss and our Master’s Hoot and Cotton.  It’s our way of saying ‘thanks’ Master Long.”

Lazarus looked in the bag and smiled.  He handed it to Charlie and he took a look.

“My God in heaven.  How much is in here?”  he asked.

“A little over a hundred and fifty thousand, Master Charlie.”

Waco and his men gathered around to look into the sack.  Everyone was amazed.  Burt went on to explain how and where the money came from.  Lazarus wasn’t shocked nor did he have any misgivings about the money.  As far as he was concerned, the boys had every right to take advantage of their dad’s situation.  He took advantage of them, why shouldn’t they do the same.    Lazarus couldn’t stop laughing from the irony of the whole thing.  He knew immediately what he would do with the money.

“You men have any idea where this money will go?” They looked at one another.  They hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“The Grange needs an ally in this town.  When the fundamentalist became a threat to us we took the preacher down a notch or two, but as you know, with Stan Edmunds and his family being taken by the Federal Government we got us a bigger problem.  Better to smooth things over with the Christianist and have allies in our community against the Holy Prophet.  It’s just good politics.  This money will go a long way to building a fine, new church for them.”

“Yes, Sir, you’re right, Master Long.” commented Burt.

The boys looked like they understood the wisdom, but didn’t see the benefit for their master.  They had no idea of the accumulated wealth sitting in a huge section of the Mighty Bee.  The only other man who knew about those bays and what they contained was Charlie Goodnight.

“Howsomever, don’t mean we can’t use some of the money on some things we need for you boys, like new clothes, computers, and one hell of a party for all of us to celebrate.”  Lazarus laughed.  The men cheered.  That was more to their liking to hear they were going to get to share in some small token of reward for their effort.

“And another thing!”  Lazarus exclaimed, holding up one finger as if to make an important point, “For thinking outside the box and action above and beyond the call of duty for common slaves, I think calls for something more than just a blowout party.  I’ve been promising you men a trip into space for over a year now, but there’s been so damn much happen we ain’t never seemed to have the time for it.  We’ll just damn well make time!”  He slammed is closed fist down on the table.  The boys cheered.

“Captain Waco, you think you and your crew are up to piloting a group around our solar system for a day or two vacation?”

“Say the word, Admiral Long.  My crew and I stand ready, Sir.  By your command.”  Waco snapped to and stood at attention; which had it’s comic overtones in his Western clothes, but he managed to pull it off without too many laughs.  The Stampers boys looked at each other in surprise when Waco called Lazarus ‘Admiral.’  Waco saw their surprise and continued, “What?  You didn’t think the Mighty Bee was the only ship in this fleet, did you?  Where do you think Captain Jones and Bryce come from?  Where do you think Captain Strom and his mate Commander Fielding come from?  There’s ships hidden all over this planet.  There’s one hidden beneath the great pyramid of Cheops.   There’s one hidden less that two hundred feet in solid granite next to the NORAD command center in Colorado.”

The boys looked at Lazarus with a new respect bordering on reverence.  They’re owner, they’re master was the Admiral of a huge fleet of ships trying to save them and the Earth from a final holocaust.  They were impressed.  

“Fine!  We’ll take the Buttercup and visit every planet in our system.  For that we need overnight accommodations and supplies for a large party.  There’s several folks we need to take along because of their loyalty to the Grange.”

The Stamper boys asked if they might visit Mr. Hall to express their sorrow for their dad’s actions.  Lazarus sent David to ask Jack if the boys might visit him.  He returned quickly and related Mr. Hall said he would be pleased to have them visit.  Lazarus led the boys to sickbay and into Jack’s room.  The rest of the men stayed in the canteen.  It would’ve been too crowded for all of them to go.  Besides, Waco and his men were in to visit Jack several times a day.  Lazarus introduced the boys.

“Mr. Hall this is Burton Stamper, Elam’s oldest son.  We call him Burt.  The next man here is his next younger brother, Phil; next we have, Sam; Jeb and last but not least, Zeke, the youngest.”

“It’s good to finally meet you, gentlemen.”  Jack shook each one’s hand.

“We jes’ wanted to tell you how damn sorry we are, Mr. Hall, for our dad’s actions.” said Burt and the other boys agreed.

“I appreciate you men coming to me to tell me.  It means a lot, but h’it weren’t your fault.  To be honest, I don’t hold no grudge against Elam.  He and I were pretty good friends.  I like yore’ dad a lot.  Drank with him many evenings without ever a bad word between us; however, the other night something was stick’n in his craw and he jes’ couldn’t get over it.  I did ma’ best to git him to come home with me and pass out on my parent’s couch like he done a hunnert times before, but he jes’ wanted to stay there and raise hell.  I gave up and started to leave.  The next thing I know’d I heard a gun shot and a searing pain in my back and chest.  I thought fer sure I was a dead man.  Almost was, if’n it had’n a’ been for these good men saving my life.”  Jack motioned to Lazarus and Charlie.

“You’re in the best of hands here, Mr. Hall.  I can guarantee ya.’” said Sam holding up his hand.  “See them three fingers?” he wiggled his three fingers, “Cut them off with a table saw what kicked back on me about a year ago.  Them men put ‘em back on and them crystal critters healed me up real good.  I got full use of ‘em today because of them.  They’s jes’ a little shorter, but what the hell, they git the job done.”  he smiled at Jack.

“They’s been awful good to me.  Don’t you men worry none.  I don’t plan on press’n charges against yore’ old man.  He was drunk out of his mind.  I forgive him for shoot’n me.  From the care I’m git’n I can tell I’m gonna’ be jes’ fine.  I heard he went and burned down the Pentecostal church.  He’s gonna’ have a lot to make up for with a charge like ‘at against him.”

“We didn’t come to say we’s sorry to try’n talk you out of press’n charges against him, Sir.  As a matter of fact, we hope you do press charges.  Not because we’re angry with him for selling us into slavery; we done forgive him for that; but, because we’re ashamed of him, and we don’t want him hurt’n nobody else.  Hell, Mr. Hall, we got us better lives being Master Long’s slaves than we ever did living with our dad.  They treat us good, feed us well, they let us go to school, we git to play football, but we work hard, and we’re learning to become a family.  Since we been slaves, we been working hard to separate ourselves from him and his lifestyle.  In a way, you’d be doing us a favor by pressing charges against him.” said Phil sincerely.

“Well, I never thought you men would come to me for either purpose.  It’s something to think about, but don’t be angry with me if’n I don’t choose to press charges.  I need to think on it, but my gut reaction is to just let it be.  My daddy didn’t teach me much either, but my grand daddy, he taught me the cowboy way.  Yore’ daddy’s got enough on his plate with burning down the church.  He’s probably looking at lifetime slavery for that and attempted murder even if I don’t testify against him.  There were just too many witnesses, Son, what seen him do it.”

“Whatever you decide, Sir, you have our word we won’t hold no grudges.  We’ll leave it up to you, but we appreciate you hearing our thoughts on the matter.”

“Glad to do it, and I’m really glad to meet you men.  If it’s any consolation I think what he was so upset about was he missed you men and jes’ couldn’t admit to himself he made a mistake.”

“That’s just the thing, Mr. Hall, he didn’t make no mistake.” allowed Burt.  “He don’t know it, but it was the best damn thing he could a’ done for us.  We understand it weren’t necessarily his intent or motivation in selling us.  We didn’t understand it at the time and hated him for doing it.  His intent was nothing more than to get money for his’self and his motivation was greed; however, he unwittingly saved us from a world of hurt by selling us to Master Long.  We were running wild and at each others’ throats most of the time.  Me and Phil would a’ been in prison or sold as lifetime slaves by now and ma’ younger brothers would be in state run orphanages looking at a lifetime of indenturement to payback the state.”

“Maybe you should go to him and tell him.” Jack said quietly.

The boys looked at one another, but didn’t respond.  There was a silence in the room you could feel.  The younger boys looked to Burt for an answer.  Burt blushed red from embarrassment being placed in a position of authority.  He wanted to prove he understood what Master Lazarus and Charlie were trying to do for them.

“‘At’s a good point, Mr. Hall, one we ain’t thought about.  Two years ago we was so angry at our old man, we would’ve told you to go ‘f’ yourself at such a suggestion.  Today, things is different.  Today I can tell you I’ll talk it over with my brothers, our Masters and our boss-man, and we’ll reach a decision together; however, like you done told us, I can’t promise we’ll agree to do it.”

“Sounds good to me, young man.  You men drop by again.  I’ve enjoyed your visit.”

“We will, Sir, it’s good to meet you.  We’re in and out of here all the time.  We’ll stop by and say ‘hello.’” Phil promised.

Jack shook the boys hands again and they left.  Lazarus took the boys back to the canteen to join the Goodnight men.  Charlie indicated to Lazarus to go on he wanted to speak with Jack for a minute, and he’d join them in a minute.

“Were you serious about not pressing charges against Elam Stamper, cowboy?” Charlie asked quietly.

“Yes, Sir.  What he done was wrong but I’m gonna’ live. I thought we’s suppose to forgive.”

“Another good point, Jack.  We are.  I guess I jes’ ain’t had time to think it out thoroughly.  Well, like the boys, whatever you decide, we’ll stick by you.”

“Somehow, I jes’ know that, Mr. Goodnight.  I really appreciate what you and yore’ ramrod has done for me.  I do, however, plan to go after my health insurance company with a vengeance though.”  Jack chuckled, “When I get through with them they’ll have to hang out a new sign that reads: “Hall Medical Insurance Company.” They shared a laugh.

“You should go after them.  They almost cost you your life.  We’ll back you on that, too.  You could end up becoming a very wealthy man, Jack Hall.  If you decided to stick around here, we hope you’ll consider joining our Grange.  We can use more good men like you.”

“I ain’t never been a joiner, Charlie, but I got to know more about what’s going on here.  You, Ramrod Long, and all these folks fascinate me.  Even your slaves act like it’s natural for them to see such wonders.  If that means becoming a part of your Grange, count me in.”  

* * * * * * *

A date was set for the first weekend in August for their trip.  Charlie and Lazarus talked about limiting the Grange meetings from every Sunday afternoon after church to once a month.  The rest of the time it would be just immediate family; however, when they got to counting who would be included in immediate family it included almost all the Grange.  They gave up and thought they’d just start delegating more help to come from individuals.  It turned out fine.  Folks started bringing more food and drink for everyone and it equaled out.  They planned for a Thursday through Saturday trip and be back in time for the Sunday Grange meeting at Angus’ ranch.
Lazarus talked with Charlie and they decided they needed to take care of some much needed business and the time was perfect to strike at the heart of the town’s Christianist loonies, and that included Preacher David W. Yates and his wife.   Charlie drove the big ranch wagon Ida Mae used most of the time for Hank to drive her into town for shopping.  They called Ed, Angus, Ranger, Sonny and Warren Steele to come through the gates and drive in with them.  They met Sheriff Lassiter and Chief Tin Penny at the preacher’s parsonage.  The were a representative body of the Grange.  They all knew and agreed before they got there what Lazarus and Charlie proposed to do.  Sonny Steele and his dad Warren couldn’t believe what the men planned to do, but they thought it was nothing short of brilliant.

They called to make an appointment.  David was stunned he was getting a visit from the Grange.  It made him very nervous.  He knew they were aware of his vicious plots against them.  Abigail tried to calm him.

“They probably just want to express their sorrow for our loss of the church, David.”

“Yeah, maybe, but your dad and grand dad are coming with them.”

“Well, that’s all the more reason you shouldn’t be concerned.  Dad would never be a part of anything that would put you in a compromised position.  I just have a feeling these men aren’t that way.  I have faith my daddy and I know my granddaddy wouldn’t be a part of something that would harm us.”

The men arrived.  David and Abigail received them warmly.  Also present was the associate pastor and minister of music, Raymond Trowbridge, and the president of the church’s board of directors, Quincey Throckmorton.  The men shook hands all around.  Abigail had a couple of women from the ladies auxiliary of the church there to help her serve coffee and desserts to the men.  The first order of business was, the visiting men wanted to take a look at the remains of the church and David took them out to show them.  Don was right.  There was nothing left.  They hadn’t even moved Elam’s old Dodge pickup truck out of the way.  The men expressed their sorrow and ‘tisk-tisked’ at the destruction.  They returned to the living room of the parsonage.

“Thank God the parsonage was built far enough away from the church it wasn’t disturbed.” said Sonny Steele.

“The parsonage was built quite a while after the church, and as you can see, it’s a rock quarry stone structure.  It was able to withstand the heat of the fire without much damage at all; however, we did manage to wet it down during the fire.”  explained David.

“It was very heroic of you and your neighbors to get out there with nothing more than garden hoses and try to fight the fire.” allowed Chief Tin Penny.

“We’ll come right to the point, Pastor Yates.  While we ain’t members or attend your church, we recognize the right and the need to have other religious viewpoints represented within our community, and in the spirit of Christianity the board members of the Grange you see represented here today met and decided we'd like to offer a hand to help you rebuild.”  Lazarus handed David a business envelope with the church’s name on it in care of Reverend David W. Yates.

David opened the letter inside, read it, took one look at the enclosed check and collapsed.  It was a check for a hundred thousand dollars.  His family and church friends got him to a chair and Abigail brought him around.  She saw the amount of the check and smiled at her dad and granddad.  David was stunned.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do.  Our treasury is at an all time low, gentlemen, and this is like an answered prayer, like manna from heaven.  I don’t know how we can thank you.”  he broke down in tears, much to the discomfort of the men of the Grange.

“It’s just a beginning, Sir.  Consider it a goodwill gesture.  We know you're in a tough spot right now.” said Lazarus. “We assume you had insurance on the church.”

“Yes, Sir, we did.  The appraiser has been out, but it was such an old structure we couldn’t get a hundred percent replacement policy.  They will only settle for about fifty thousand for what they consider and act of God.  I don’t know how they could consider a drunk man driving into the church an act of God but they do.”  David complained.

“Okay, here’s what the Grange is willing to do for you and your congregation.  Accept their fifty thousand as a base.  Hire a competent local architect and have him design a new church for you.  The Grange will stand ready to backup a loan for five hundred thousand dollars, not including this gift donation to your church and ministry.  When the building is complete the Grange will stand ready to pay half the construction cost not to exceed two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  If you can bring it in for that or under the Grange will cover all cost.  If you need a loan, the rest must be paid by the church.  If those terms are acceptable, your handshake will confirm our agreement.  You and your board have forty-eight hours to confer and accept or reject our offer.”

There was a silence in the room that was palpable.

“My God!  Why would you men do this?” David caught himself before he said more.  

“Because it’s the right thing to do, Reverend.”  Charlie told him. “We feel certain, if the Grange was in trouble, you and your congregation would be the first to offer us a helping hand.”

“Well, yes, of course we would.” David said in a stunned voice, all the while thinking in the back of his mind, ‘Ain’t a snowball’s chance in hell I’d help you Godless heathens, but I’d kiss the Devil's butt to get myself a shiny new church.’  David W. Yates couldn’t see farther than the end of his nose.  He was a petty, selfish little man with many problems.

“You have the major members of the church right here, David.  Why don’t you go into your study, discuss it with them and give Ramrod Long and the Grange your answer today.” Abigail suggested sweetly.

“Good idea, Dear.  Would you gentlemen excuse us for a few minutes.  Please, have more coffee and some cake or pie.” David gushed, and left with the president of the board of directors of the church and his second, the associate pastor.  They went into David’s study and closed the door.

“What do you think, Quincey, Raymond?”  David asked.

“I don’t know.” said Quincey suspiciously.  “You’ve preached pretty heavy against the Grange.  What is the congregation gonna’ think when you announce to them you’re planning on crawling in bed with ‘em.”

“Contributing money to us and backing up a building loan ain’t exactly crawling in bed with them, Q.  What do you think, Ray?”

“I got the same feeling Mr. Throckmorton has.  You’re gonna’ lose a lot of credibility with your congregation.  For a while there, we had them Grange folks backed into a corner.  Don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden they’s off the hook, so to speak.  Quincey’s right.  If you accept this from them it’s gonna’ make you look like a first rate hypocrite.”

“Well, maybe it’s time we rethink our position about the Grange.  Maybe we should think about co-existing with them.  They’re just folks like us.  They’re Christians, too.  They just ain’t as good Christians as we are.  My father-in-law and his dad are faithful members of the Grange.  Since they joined I ain’t seen or heard about any Satanic goings on out there.  They’d let me know if there was.  My father-in-law is a cowboy of the first magnitude.  He would never lie to me.”

“Yeah, what about that Watkins man, they call him, what’s living out there with the Goodnights.  He goes about heal’n folks, but not in the name of our Lord.  He don’t never tell nobody he’s from God, or he heals in the name of Jesus.  He says he’s no more or no less than we are, he just has natural gifts.  Where did he git them gifts, David?  I ask you, where did he get them?” Quincey pressed him.

“I don’t know.  I’ve heard about him, but I ain’t met him.  Let’s look at facts, gentlemen.  Quincey, you’re on the board of directors of our bank, are you and your bank willing to stand behind as large a building loan as them men just offered us?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think so.  We’d have to have a meeting on it first, but I can guarantee you it wouldn’t be anything near that close.  We’d probably match the fifty thousand you’re getting from the insurance company and that’s it.  If we plan it right and cut corners, a hundred thousand would probably replace the old structure; however, I can’t even promise that much until the board meets to discuss it and votes on it.  It’ll take about two weeks.”

“Two weeks?  You’re the damn president and chairman of the board of the only bank in town and you can’t give me something more definite when we got men waiting in my living room willing to rebuild our church on a handshake, bigger and better than it was, for cries sake?  Get out of here!  There are many avenues for gifts, but they always start from the same spirit; there are lots of ways to serve, but it's always the same Lord who benefits.
  If we benefit at the same time, why not?  I say we take their money and run.  Let’s take what we can get.  If they're foolish enough to think thery're gonna' buy their way into heaven by cozying up to us, let 'em think it.  We know better.  If the rapture comes as soon as most folks think, we'll be gone and leave them holding the bag.  We'll get us a brand-new church, but they won't git jack-shit.  I think this is a gift from God, gentlemen.  It’s an answer to our prayers.”

“Or it’s from the Devil.  My daddy always taught me if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” added Raymond sarcastically. “I think we should make an appeal to the Holy Father, since you’re an old friend of his.”  

“Are you kidding?  The last time he came shopping for young kids for his deviate sexual purposes I couldn’t even get him to preach in our church.  What makes you think he’d give a rat’s ass about us?”

“That’s not true!  Our Holy Father ain’t no deviate.  Them’s blasphemous words, Preacher!” said Quincey.

“Oh, grow up, Throckmorton?  You wanna’ see the mail I got from him asking me to be his pimp here in Reason?  He was gonna’ try and make off with half our damn high school football team, but I put my foot down and told him ‘no.’  As it is, he trumped up dissident charges against Ole and Hattie Bloom and sent them to a re-education camp so’s he could scoop up their young slave-boy, who was, for all practical purposes, their son.  Young Stan was taken off to the Holy City to become one of Scudder’s sexual toy-boys.  Remember, I know him a lot better than you men.  We lived together while going to bible college.  I know him inside and out.  I know his sexual habits and tastes.  Trust me, a man like him don’t change those things over night!  Remember how many times they had that silly, grinning imbecile Ted Haggard in and out of rehab for cocksuck’n.  They never did cure him.  They never admitted it, but they finally realized there weren’t no cure.  They just give up on him and cast him out.  He died in an alley somewhere sucking off a bum; a man’s penis in his mouth and a bottle of Thunderbird wine under his armpit.  What a way to go.  Who’s to say?  Maybe he found his own personal bliss.  At least he died ministering to the poor.  It’s time to fish or cut bait, gentlemen.  Let’s take a vote, right here and now!”

David was betting Raymond would vote with him, after all, he had to show his pastor loyalty. “My vote is for accepting their generous proposal.  What about you, Ray?”

“I guess so.  A reluctant ‘aye.’” he said.

“Well, for the record I’m voting against it, and I’m hereby resigning my position as president of the board.” Quincey Throckmorton said belligerently.

“No, you ain’t, Quincey!  Jes’ get that thought out of your head, and climb down off'n that damn high-horse a' yours!  You’ll continue to be president of the board until I tell you, you can step down.  Got that?  Furthermore, you little tin-plated, would-be bureaucratic weasel, you will announce to our congregation it was a unanimous decision of the church board.  Two fuck’n weeks, my ass!  No wonder this damn town is dying with men like you running the main financial institution.  Yore' daddy put the wrong damn son in charge before he died.” David said firmly.  

Quincey Throckmorton glared at David, but David Yates didn’t back down.  Raymond Trowbridge’s mouth dropped open.  There was no doubt in his mind, his pastor’s statement was a direct threat about something of which he had no knowledge.  He wasn’t about to ask either.  He didn’t want to know.  He could see the lights flashing from one man’s eyes to the other.  He could see himself being struck by a stray bolt of lightening, but he wouldn’t want to be in Quincey Throckmorton’s boots at that moment.  Raymond could smell the ozone, . . . or was it brimstone?  He couldn’t be sure.

End Of Chapter 32 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com