The Magnificent Seven

From New Moon To New Moon
By MMW


October 11

I do my best to respect other peopleís beliefs and choices, especially given the intolerance I met in my youth from my father. Still, there are days when my resolve to respect other peopleís decisions is sorely tried, especially when those people are men I consider family.

The day itself passed without incident today. There was very little to distract me from my self-appointed tasks around the church. Though the work here goes slowly, I feel a peace in it that has been missing for so long in my life. And yet, as the church is slowly restored, I also find a certain restlessness and questioning within myself. Somehow I thought when I reached this age I would have more answers, instead I find myself with more questions. And the events, small and insignificant though most of them are, now have me questioning my own belief in the lack of a curse.

It bothered me to the point that at lunch I sought out some of my books and did research into the issue. I wasnít comforted by what I found. It appears that there are number of different types of curses and if I were the victim of a curse, there would be little I could do until either the curse wears off Ė which according to Vin would be at the next new moon Ė or the person who cursed me appears to remove it.

Perhaps this study is what set me slightly on edge and caused me to react as I did earlier. Still, when I think of the unnecessary risk Ezra took, I think he should be grateful all he received were a few bruised fingers.

Still, I feel bad for causing such an injury in my carelessness. YetÖ

As I stated earlier, I had passed the day in the church working on its restoration. After my discovery at lunch, I returned to my self-appointed tasks with a renewed vigor. Unfortunately, it was fueled by discontent rather than a desire to see things done. Twice I had to stop and repair what I had been working on when my efforts caused damage. Still, when it was time for dinner, my calm had once more been restored Ė or so I thought.

Making my way to the saloon, I settled in at the table next to Ezraís. Buck and JD were there drinking beers and waiting on their dinner. I watched as Ezra maneuvered the cards much as a concert pianist does the keys of a piano. I am frequently amazed by the elegance and economy of his motions.

He had obviously been playing for a while. His opponents were unknown to me, so I assumed they had arrived on the stage. As usual, Ezra was winning quite handily. Though I couldnít swear to it, I donít believe he was cheating them either.

Buck JD and I chatted together as we ate our meals. It was just as we were finishing that one of Ezraís opponents lost the last of his money and his temper.

This man was a poor poker player, though I fear he didnít know that. Even I could tell that much and I am far from Ezraís level. I had heard Ezra ask the man if he wanted to walk away several times, and each time the man refused. Now, with his money gone, he was accusing Ezra of cheating.

The other player at the table told him to sit down and be quiet, no one was cheating. The first man didnít listen and quickly things began to escalate. Ezra remained calm outwardly, but his eyes were flashing fire. Little appears to bother my brother on the surface, but he hides his hurts well and the accusation of cheating in this case did not sit well with him.

After Ezraís assurances, delivered in soothing tones and easily understood words, failed to diffuse the situation, I began to prepare to intervene before things escalated out of hand. Unfortunately, the man did something for which we were unprepared Ė he threw his cards at Ezra and drew his gun.

At that moment, all I could see was a bullet tearing through Ezra. So forgetting Ezraís own ability to defend himself, I dove out of my chair at him.

I caught Ezra, still in his chair and managed to bring both down. Unfortunately, I also managed to catch Ezraís hand between the arm of the chair and the floor. Given the velocity we were traveling as well as the strength of the impact, his cry of pain was understandable.

Still, I was greatly relieved a moment later when Buck gave the all clear without a shot being fired. Getting up, I helped Ezra and found him in pain. Asking what was wrong, I quickly checked his hand, relieved that nothing was broken. I could tell his fingers were beginning to swell, so I asked Inez to bring us some cool water as JD and I settled ourselves at Ezraís table. The disgruntled man had been led off by Buck to spend the night in jail and the other man had taken his remaining funds and left.

As Ezra gave us both a tongue lashing for interfering, we could see the gratitude in his eyes and knew his complaints were as much for show as anything else. The cool water helped and soon things were alright.

Determined to see the miscreant who had drawn on him, Ezra and I headed off toward the jail. As we approached, I entered first and released the door. I was unaware that JD had called out to Ezra and that my friend had turned to look back, resting his injured hand on the doorframe. Just at that moment a breeze blew through the jail from the back sending the door more quickly on its path.

Turning, I saw what was about to happen due to my inattention and reached out to stop the door in its path. Instead of stopping it, I only managed to knock it and send it toward closing with even more force.

Attempting to call out, I didní get a single sound out of my mouth before the door his Ezraís hand with a mighty crack and a howl of pain escaped the Southerner.

While I was at my brotherís side in a moment, I canít explain the emotions running through me that my own clumsiness would cause such an event. Without hesitation, I lead him to Nathanís clinic.

Upon the howl of pain, Nathan had stepped outside to see what was wrong. By the time we reached the landing outside, he was preparing what he needed, though he was very adamant that I remain on the landing and well away from him, his patient and anyone else who might happen by.

I admit to being put out by Nathanís response, still, Ezra being the third of my brothers and the fifth person I had inadvertently injured this month, I was hardly able to deny the wisdom of his words.

As I sat waiting, I could hear Ezra relating my actions and how he was injured with some vigor. I was hurt by his accusations, yet I knew much of it was from the pain and earlier happenstance. I admit that at this point my own temper was getting the better of me since I not only didnít believe in the curse, but it had been Ezraís own actions and profession that had caused the initial injury to the hand. After all, if he didnít gamble with people like that, didnít put himself in situations that encouraged that sort of response, then my stepping in to save his life wouldnít be necessary would it.

Having heard enough to know Ezra would be fine and the fingers werenít broken, I headed back to my church where I worked a few more hours.

I believe Iíll have to redo everything I did in those hours, but the work did its job of calming me.

Iíll apologize to Ezra tomorrow.

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October 12

I lift up mine eyes unto the hills - and I see Vin Tanner saying "I told you so". Perhaps it would be best if I secluded myself, but Ezra assures me he doesn't blame me. He assures me he doesn't hold me responsible. And he assures me there is no such thing as a curse.

Yet after today I struggle to believe him. I admit that at the beginning I scoffed at the idea, wrote it off as nonsense but as the days go by, I find myself hard-pressed to continue in my denials. Still, even today I find myself vascillating between believing in the curse and not. Between buying into the idea that these events will continue and passing them off as nothing more than accidents and unfortunate circumstances.

Perhaps if it all hadn't happened in front of Mrs.Sullivan and if I hadn't seen the look on her face...

Still, if Ezra doesn't blame me, perhaps I should let it go. Yet the scene continues to replay in my mind just as all the other incidents continue to play in my thoughts and dreams.

I had patrol this afternoon. Judge Travis was stopping over this afternoon to speak with Vin in Chris' absence. Since Vin is reluctant to remain in town with me, I volunteered to take patrol. Ezra, lacking anyone to play against, decided to join me, intrigued by the information he'd been receiving from Vin and Nathan and wishing to verify some of the more risque comments and incidences.

So, shortly after lunch, Ezra and I proceeded to begin a patrol of some of the outlying farms and farmhouses. Thing were going well. I was able to dispell some of the more outrageous tales he'd heard, though I feel he was stunned by some of what was true. He seemed to take particular pleasure in Vin's unfortunate situation at the stream with those ladies. I do admit to giving soft vent to my own amusement at that point for whatever else it was, it was funny.

As we approached the Window Sullivan's house, I noticed Ezra perk up somewhat and begin to primp. Catching me looking at him, he tried to play off that nothing was up. Honestly, I wasn't even aware Ezra knew the widow Sullivan existed, but I should have. I suppose I should explain. Earnest and Regina Sullivan moved out here just after their marriage several years ago. Earnest was in his late thirties and Regina was barely more than a girl. About two years ago, Earnest fell dead in his fields leaving the still young - I would estimate about 25 - and beautiful Regina to run the farm.

Unlike most women who would have headed back, Regina continued the work until her two younger brothers could arrive from back East. Once they arrived, they took over the heavy work and the task of watching over their older sister to keep her safe from scoundrels and rogues. Given his sudden attention to his appearance, I can only assume that not all the scoundrels were chased away.

I was unable to stop the grin that grew on my face. Ezra blushed slightly and shrugged his shoulders. "She is a beautiful woman," he offered in defense. I laughed.

We stopped in at the house and called from the yard to see if any of them were about. Regina and the younger of her brothers Reginald - or Reggie as he liked to be called - appeared. Regina from inside, Reggie from the near barn. Robert, apparently, was in the fields. As is proper we greeted both Regina and Reggie. I began talking with Reggie. He hadn't been able to make it to town recently, so I did my best to catch him up on all the news. I also asked him if he'd noticed anything unusual. He said no, but they always kept an eye out.

Sometime while we'd been talking, Ezra had turned his attention to the fair Regina and the two were talking, smiling and flirting. Reggie didn't seem to be too concerned, though I noticed he kept a close eye on the two of them.

When we were finished with our discussion I said goodbye to Reggie and turned to do the same to Regina. I somehow misjudged Ezra's position and managed to knock him backward with some force.

The force of the impact caused him to step backward. Unfortunately, we'd moved onto their front porch which stood about four inches or so off the ground. Needless to say Ezra's foot landed only half-on the porch and immediately lost his balance.

".. and great was the fall of it..."

That phrase is the only one that comes to mind to describe the sight. Ezra somehow managed to take a second step backward, a step which should have balanced him, and instead ended up landing his foot in some fairly fresh dog droppings.

Needless to say, that caused his foot to slip and his arms to flail.

Somehow, one of his arms managed to catch his horse on the rump, causing the animal to move quite suddenly and unexpectedly.

That movement somehow propelled Ezra in such a way that he landed quite spectacularly in a pile of somewhat runny horse droppings my own mount had just finished expelling.

I'll have to be sure to change his feed.

I have very little memory of what next transpired. I remember apologizing to everyone while Reggie was doubled over in laughter and Regina was doing her best to keep her laughter minimal. It wasn't until Ezra began chuckling that I released some of the tension that had been within me.

Regina assured me she would go prepare a bath and instructed Reggie to go get a change of his clothes - after all he and Ezra were about the same size. For my part I offered to help my brother up, but he held up his hands and, though I know it wasn't the christian thing to do, I withdrew my offer.

By the time Regina returned to say the bath was ready, Ezra had removed his coat and boots. A brief argument occurred as to whether he could, in good conscience enter the house in his current condition. A compromise was worked out where Reggie would retrieve a blanket and meet him at the back with it. Ezra would then remove his "offending articles" and proceed into the house to the bath.

This was done with little fuss. While Ezra and Reggie were handling that, I apologized again to Regina for putting her out as we had. She waved away my concerns and gathered the "offending articles" from the porch and the ones Reggie handed her. Bringing them to the pump she rinsed them and then added them to a pile of laundry I hadn't seen earlier. It appears we arrived on wash day.

Seeing I wasn't needed there, I looked for something to do. The thing that immediately came to mind was to clean up the mess my horse had made. Heading toward the barn, I found the tools I needed and quickly accomplished that task. With directions from Regina, I disposed of the mess in the proper location and returned the tools. I didn't have long to wait until both Reggie and Ezra appeared at the front door.

Taking the boot brush and rag from Reggie's hand, I proceeded to clean Ezra's boots for him, thinking it the least I could do in return for the embarrassment I'd caused him. He didn't object and soon we were on our way back toward town. Ezra not as upset as I would have thought he'd be at the idea of having to come back tomorrow or at what had happened.

Still, I worried when, after dinner while playing cards, he began stretching his back. I fear that the incident might have hurt him more than he would admit. I suppose I'll have to see in the morning.

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October 13

Ezra has declared me cursed and now sides with Nathan and Vin in avoiding me. Perhaps that's for the best. I certainly have done nothing to disprove the hypothesis.

This morning I was sent to retrieve Ezra who was running late for our meeting with Judge Travis. As I knocked on his door, I was met with a strained "come in". Opening the door, which was unlocked - a very strange state of affairs for Ezra - I saw him lying on his bed still dressed in the clothes from the night before.

As I approached, he groaned once and turned to look at me. The pain in his eyes was evident and I quickly became alarmed. When I asked what the matter was, he admitted that his back was causing him no slight pain and he asked I send Nathan to see to him.

I wasted not one moment in my haste to get Nathan. I explained what I found and watched Nathan and Vin exchange a look - obviously they had been speaking with Ezra again. As Nathan went up to check, I went with him, ready to run to the clinic at a moment's notice. He instructed me to wait in the doorway and not get too close. At this point I was worried enough about Ezra to take offense.

After a few minutes and a quiet conversation, Nathan gave me specific instructions about what he would need. I headed of immediately, thinking about what I'd heard. It appeared several of the muscles in Ezra's back were seizing or cramping and that was causing not only the pain, but his inability to move. Nathan planned to use the items I was retrieving to loosen the muscles and release the pain. He would have to massage them in carefully.

I was back in a matter of mintues and at that point was asked to leave.

I retreated to the remainder of our group, feeling guilty once more for it had been my own inattention that caused Ezra to fall yesterday. Had I only been more aware of his position, paid attention to my surroundings it could have been avoided. Of course, the same can be said for other incident today - if I'd only been paying attention to Ezra's position it never would have happened.

Within twenty minutes, Nathan appeared at the top of the stairs looking somewhat unhappy. The reason for his feelings became clear when Ezra, far more stiffly than I had ever seen him before, made his way down to us, Nathan walking beside in order to catch him. Apparently Ezra didn't want to delay the meeting any longer than necessary.

We had our meeting and Nathan insisted on bringing Ezra back upstairs to work on his back.

The day continued well. Ezra's back seemed to bother him much less after the second session with Nathan, though my friend insisted Ezra come to the clinic for at least one more session before retiring for the evening. But today was the day the stage came in.

We knew this and knew Judge Travis would be leaving on it so we had all gathered on the boardwalk to see him off.

Just as the stagecoach pulled away, the sound of a gunshot echoed down the street. I turned quickly to seek the source of the sound and ended up once more knocking into Ezra. I knew he was standing there. I had heard him and he had even rested his hand on my shoulder so I would be aware of him. However, instead of being aware of him, I managed to turn toward him, causing him to fall off the boardwalk and straight into the horsetrough which was filled with somewhat less than fresh water.

The splash was fairly spectacular and water flew several feet in all directions. Almost every face on the street turned from the sound of the gunshot to the sound of the splash, so almost the whole down was privileged to see Ezra's plight. The expression of pain on his face, however, quickly erased any and all levity I might feel at his situation. He was alternately holding his elbow and his back.

Nathan rushed forward and helped him out. Checking him out quickly, it was determined that Ezra had simply aggrivated his back again and hit his funny bone.

By the time Nathan was finished with his diagnosis, Vin had returned from his exploration of the shot. Apparently someone had seen what they thought to be a wildcat headed toward the back of Mrs. Potter's store. Vin had tracked the supposed wildcat to the telegraph office and Old Tom. Asking if this was the cat in question, the man who shot admitted that it looked about the same. Vin explained about the local tom cat of unusual size - last time we took bets the winning guess was 28 pounds and he's grown since then - took the man's gun and told him he could have it back when he sobered up. Somehow I'm not surprised the man was drunk. No person of good sense would fire off a gun like that in this town.

Handing the gun to JD, Vin then headed over to Ezra to make sure he was fine. When he discovered it was nothing too serious, he shot me a look and then exchanged a few words with Ezra before heading out on patrol. I found out later that he was going to stop by the Sullivan place and pick up Ezra's clothes with apologies to the Widow Sullivan for missing out on the pie she'd made for him.

The rest of the day passed well enough. The same can not be said for the night, however.

There was another brawl at the saloon. Nothing too serious, just a fight that began. Several cowhands had too much to drink and got into it. Swings were exchanged and then they manged to draw Buck and I into it. I really can't say how that happened, but we were swinging away. I had just laid out one man when I sensed another to my back. Turning, my arm was already in motion before it registered that the man behind me was Ezra. It was too late to stop the punch, though I managed to pull enough force that Ezra wasn't hurt too badly. Of course, after my fist connected with his cheek, he staggered backward and into Inez who lost hold of the tray and sent an entire pitcher of beer onto him.

If nothing else, it ended the fight.

I tried to approach Ezra to offer my apologies and aid. He held up his hands and told me to "Keep your distance, sir. Mister Jackson and Mr. Tanner are quite correct. You are cursed."

Shortly thereafter, with the instigators of the fight locked away, I retired here to my room.

I can only hope tomorrow will be a better day.

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October 14

One must admire the fortitude and spirit of the women who have come West - not to mention their tempers, though it is more like fear of said temper than admiration of it.

In my travels I have seen many things I never would have dreamed of seeing. I have experienced things in this world few men can boast of knowing. I have sought wisdom in the writings of the ages and in the gentle whisper of the morning breeze. But in all my days I have never seen a more terrifying sight than Nettie Wells stepping forth as an avenging angel with power and authority to stand over the unconscious form of her niece.

Even Chris Larabee would cower before the righteous anger of this woman. And, having seen both in a proper rage, I can honestly say Chris Larabee has nothing on Nettie Wells when it comes to scary.

I can only offer prayers of thanks and praise that Nettie forgave me once it was determined Casey would suffer no ill effects other than a temporarily black eye, which the young lady assures me is no worry.

Theonly thing left to be written is the record of this most current mishap and my role in it.

As has become my habit since returning to town, I was up early and made my way to the restaurant, making sure to bring a book. I entered and saw Vin smile and nod to me. Nathan did the same. I greeted them as well. I noted a hesitation on their part and could easily tell they wished to invite me to join them, yet they still feared the curse they believe I bear.

I smiled at them in understanding, lifted my book to show I wished to read and made my way to what had become 'my' table.

Settling in , I soon had coffee and breakfast before me and had become lost in the philosophies of Chuang Tzu wondering if I was a man dreaming I was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming I was a man.

So lost in my philosophy had I become that I failed to notice the arrival of Buck and JD - a feat that I believe is unparalelled in our time together since they are not exactly renown for their stealth and JD appeared particularly exuberant this morning.

Once they caught my attention, I set aside my book to enjoy their comeraderie. It didn't take long for the source of JD's exuberance to become apparent when he revealed that Nettie Wells and her niece were due in town this morning. I couldn't stop my smile at the news for, though he continues to deny it, he and the young Miss Wells are indeed more than friends.

Breakfast progressed quickly and smewhat noisily. After the completion of our morning repast, I proceeded to the jail for my morning watch.

True to JD's prediction, right around mid-morning Mrs. Wells and Casey arrived in town in their wagon. Parking it outside the general store, I watched them go into the building. I allowed my attention to wander a bit and watched as JD made his way quickly in the direction of Potter's store. I caught Buck's eyes as he stood across the street and we exchanged knowing smiles.

The morning continued to progress more or less peacefully and it was as I headed to lunch that everything seemed to fall apart.

I checked both ways and crossed the street, meaning to speak with several of the boys who were tossing a ball quite near several store windows. There were people walking up and down the boardwalk, but I wasn't really paying attention as I saw young Seth Simpson miss the ball thrown in his direction.

In my mind I could only see the spectacular show of glass as the ball shattered the window of the Hardware Store.

Reacting instinctively, I reached out to catch the ball.

The catch would have been easily made had it not been for the fact my slightly fisted hand was directly on-level and in the path of Casey Well's eye.

It wasn't until I felt the impact and the jolt relay itself down my arm that I had even the faintest clue there was someone there in front of me.

In my shock I was able to turn in time to see Casey's eyes roll back in her head.

With movements far faster than I thought myself still capable of making, I managed to get to Casey's side and catch her at the same time JD got his arms around her.

As for the ball... it hit my arm as my fist met Casey's eye and fell harmlessly to the ground.

Though JD is more than capable of carrying Casey's slight form, I had determined that I should be the one to carry her to Nathan's.

At least, that is what I determined until a shadow fell upon me and I looked up into the face of an angry Nettie Wells.

In no uncertain terms she insisted JD carry Casey to Nathan's.

Memories of standing before my father as a child sprang to mind as I stood and towered over Mrs. Wells. Yet my father never inspired the fear I felt at that moment.

I actually remember very little of the discussion that occurred at that point. I do seem to recall saying "Yes, ma'am" a lot and agreeing to go out to her homestead to help with some repairs, however.

Once she was done terrifying me, we headed off to Nathan's clinic where I was exiled to the landing to wait with JD for word on young Miss Wells.

Though it seemed an eternity, it was, in fact, only ten minutes later Nathan emerged with the news that Casey was awake and he could find no ill effects other than the swollen and blackened eye.

I offered several prayers of thanks and asked permission to see the patient.

Nettie hesitated, but Casey invited me right in and began talking aobut the 'punch' and what it felt like, what Nathan had said and much more. I could only shake my head in wonderment at her chatter.

The rest of the day proved uneventful - thankfully.

I can only hope that should something happen tomorrow, I will be as fortunate as I have been so far and no serious injury will occurr.

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October 15

Another day has passed. Tomorrow is the ides of the month. It's hard to believe how quickly the days are passing, yet pass they do.

Today we had a little bit of excitement. One of the families from the outlying farms came to town and one of their wagon wheels fell off right in the middle of the street, blocking the way for all other traffic. I remember seeing in some of the larger cities times when the roads become congested with carts and horses. I never imagined such a thing would happen here in our small town, yet within the twenty or so minutes it took us to determine how to proceed, several carts, wagons and a carriage managed to find themselves stuck in place, waiting.

Eventually we - Buck, Tiny, Yosemite and myself - determined that the wheel had just come loose and there was no actual problem with the wheel, hub or axel. So, with Tiny, Yosemity and I lifting, Buck managed to get the wheel back on and tightened down in no time at all. With the feat accomplished, congratulations went around, the street cleared as everyone began to move and , while Tiny and Yosemite returned to work, Buck and I cleaned up before heading over to the saloon for a beer.

Settling at our table, we ordered our beers and enjoyed some idle chatter. Our beers arrived soon and before long we had managed to discover a deck of cards.

After several games of gin, Buck spotted a lady friend and went to talk to her. That suited me as well since there was some more work at the church I wished to accomplish before day's end.

Finishing my beer, I rose to return the glass to Inez at the bar.

Had I planned and practiced what happened next, I still believe I could never repeat it.

As I stepped toward the bar, I somehow managed to trip over the leg of a chair. As I began to fall, I released my glass in order to try and catch myself before I hit the ground.

I did manage to stop my fall a moment later, but watched in horror as my glass continued on its course through the air, stopping only once it came into contact with Buck's head.

I watched my brother stagger at the impact and the young lady with him reached out to hold him steady.

As quickly as I could, I made my way over to him to ensure he was indeed alright.

Arriving by his side, I helped ease him into a chair and quickly checked for signs of concussion, just as I had seen Nathan do so many times before.

There were no overt signs of concussion and he seemed to recover from the impact quite quickly. There was a small cut, but the lady already had her handkerchief on the wound and was cooing over the injured man. I couldn't help but smile and shake my head at the scene.

Picking up my glass, I headed made my way to the bar wtihout further incident.

Later that day I ran into Buck and he assured me he was fine and suffering no ill effects other than a small bruise.

I am relieved he wasn't hurt any worse than that by my actions.

An early day on patrol tomorrow then an afternoon of working on the church. There is a certain comfort in routine.

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October 16

Lord, my bones are weary and my soul exhausted, please give me strength.

Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy were at it again today. I'm not sure how they've managed to stay married for so many years, but trying to keep them together does wear on a body.

Malachai Miller rode into town this morning to report a sounds of shooting at the Abernathy ranch. This, of course is not good since, as far as we knew, the Abernathys had surrendered all of their guns to us after the last incident.

Quickly saddling and mounting, JD and I headed out to the Abernathy hometead, knowing Nathan wouldn't be far behind once he gathered his equipment.

We could hear the shouting a quarter mile down the road and knew instinctively this was one of their bad fights. Had Ezra been along, he would have been taking bets on the cause of this disagreement, but I fear I wouldn't have taken that bet. With the Abernathys there's just no telling. Last time it was because Mrs. Abernathy burned the eggs they were having for breakfast. The time before it was because Mr. Abernathy came home with the smell of whiskey on his breath.

The heavy sigh I heard from my young friend summed up the entire situation quite eloquently, I felt.

Eventually we arrived at the front door and knocked. A harried and red-faced Homer opened the door to the shrill complaints of an equally red-faced Mable. JD took the lead, the couple well aware of his official status in the town and some of the few who showed him the respect he deserved both openly and privately. In moments JD had possession of the shot-gun Mable had used to display her displeasure.

With some rather forceful quiestioning, JD and I found out that she had "borrowed" it from a friend to scare off some predators. By the time we received that bit of information, Nathan had been and gone. JD left shortly after that, knowing that, as what passed for a minister in these parts, I was best able to handle the taciturn couple.

Morning turned to noon and then afternoon and finally, as the sun set and my voice nearly gave out, I discovered the source of this most recent disagreement was Homer's criticism of Mable's mending of his pants. Honestly, I couldn't tell they'd been mended until he pointed it out and it took him five minutes to find where the hole had been in the first place.

After the source came out, the reconciliation soon followed and I very quickly realized I was no longer needed.

Still, I did manage to get through the entire day without incident.

Well, there was the scene with Buck in the livery, but that could hardly be considered my fault. After all, the man shouldn't have been sleeping in the haystack. But then, it being Brother Buck, I should have expected it. The man does end up in some odd places.

After a long, hard day of counselling people who don't want to be counselled and a long ride through the gloaming alone, I was tired, managed to tend my horse who had been very patient in his waiting for me all day and then felt obliged to give him some hay.

And it's not like the pitchfork actually punctured his skin - the ends were too dulled and my thrust into what I assumed was unpopulated hay not hard enough to do damage - well, not much damage. It's not like he sits that much anyway and I'm sure the soreness will fade quickly. Besides, It was only one side of his... er... posterior that was affected.

I must turn in now. Morpheus is whispering sweet dreams in my ear.

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October 17

What beauty rests in the cool of the autumnal morn? The crisp clarity of air seeping in adding a bite to life that is missing in the hot, muddled days of summer or the freezing days of winter. Though Autumn is a time of dying and spring of renewal, it is difficult to miss the joy and exuberance that flows through the people and animals at the release of cruel Summer's heat.

Such wonder can only be magnified by the colors of the season - the yellow of Maude's hair, the russet of her dress...

Perhaps such idle feelings are inappropriate given my friendship with Ezra, but I find little wrong with taking pleasure in the beauty of God's creation.

Contrary to what several others believe, I am not blind when it comes to Maude. I understand who she is and the life she leads, but I also enjoy the feel of a beautiful woman walking beside me and I have to admit she is an interesting conversationalist. I harbor no romantic illusions about her, but a little chaste flirting can help pass the time and occupy the mind during the dark nights of winter.

While Ezra is suspicious of his mother's intentions, and though she denies it herself, she isn't hear to compete with him or run a con, she is simply here to make sure her son is doing well. One could say it would be difficult to find a woman more ill-suited to motherhood than Maude, but after her own way, she does love Ezra and always has. Maybe someday they'll both figure that out. But probably not during Maude's three day stay.

To the best of my knowledge she's back playing poker at the saloon with Vin and Ezra both watching out for her.

It's not that she's cheating - both Ezra and she assured it that given the current quality of card player, cheating isn't necessary - but some of the players react poorly to losing to a woman.

That happened earlier tonight. She had just cleaned out a rather drunk cowboy when he protested and accused her of cheating. Things had been brewing all night and this proved the spark needed to set off the powder keg of emotions.

Ezra quickly helped his mother retreat to the safety of the bar where she stayed with Inez and the rest of us were soon embroiled in a typical brawl.

I smile at that description. There was a time in my life when such fighting was unthinkable, but now I can rate brawls and severe, typical or light. I can only wonder what that says of me and the path I currently walk. An interesting twist for a former man of the cloth - a man of peace.

But the fists were flying along with glasses, bottles and the occasional chair. Fortunately, no furniture broke this time. At one point I was drawn into a crowd of men and found myself facing three of them. This is not as unusual a happenstance as I would like it to be, but I took care of them. It was while I was handling that situation that my elbow connected with the rather solid form of Buck's jaw. After that he was out of the fight for a while.

The crowd was soon subdued and the worst offenders were carted off by an unhappy Vin, Nathan and JD. I crouched down by my brother and helped him into a sitting position. Tilting his chin I winced at the sight of the bruise already forming. He looked dazed, but eventually was able to focus on me. Moving his jaw was not easy for him, but he could move it. I checked to make sure I hadn't broken it. A sigh of relief escaped me as I found it intact.

Helping him up, I headed toward Nathan's, knowing the healer would want to take a look at him. And I was right.

We met Nathan coming out of the jail. He ran ahead and I helped Buck maneuver up the stairs.

He was walking on his own by the time we reached the landing, so I opened the door and stepped inside Nathan's room. Buck came in and paused by the door. Nathan looked a little uncomfortable and I understood his desire for me to leave.

Apologizing to Buck once more, I left the room, pulling the door closed behind me.

The howl of pain registered in my mind a split second before the resistance against the door. In shock, I released my hold and the door opened once more, this time to reveal the sight of Buck dancing from foot to foot and waving his fingers. It appears his hand was on the frame when I attempted to close the door and I caught his fingers in it.

Nathan quickly checked and assured me nothing was broken, it was only painful.

After that pronouncement, I stopped by the saloon to make sure Maude was alright and then retired here to my room.

How does one live with inflicting pain on one's friends?

But that is a question I'll ponder tomorrow. Tonight I believe I'll let my mind dwell on more pleasant topics - like Maude.

<><><><><><><>

October 18

It was a beautiful day today and an afternoon worth storing away and remembering during those cold Winter days.

The sun was shining, there was the slightest of breezes and the songs of the birds filled the air.

I had patrol of the town in the morning, so I took my turn at it. As usual, I started at the jail to check over the wanted posters and make sure things were fairly orderly there.

As I left the jail to begin my tour of the town, I noticed Ezra and Maude heading for the hotel already talking. I smiled and couldn't help thinking 'like mother like son' when it came to their habits. Both preferred staying up late and rising late.

The town was quiet all around with nothing unusual going on and no trouble to report. While checking on Mrs. Potter, I happened to see Caleb Simpson trying to slip some marbles into his pocket without paying. I figured he could use a little bit of a scare, so moving as silently as I could, I moved up behind him and waited for him to turn around. Caleb is a little on the short side for his age and I made sure to draw myself up to my full height.

As he turned, I saw his eyes widen and then start to travel up toward my face. His head was tipped back almost as far as it would go by the time his eyes met mine. I smiled down at him and asked him how he was. He swallowed hard and said, "Fine sir." I then asked him what he was doing. He swallowed several more times and allowed his eyes to dart back and forth. Taking pity on the boy, I bent over and placed a hand on his shoulder. I quietly assured him that in my duty as a peacekeeper, I would keep him safe from all sorts of people including thieves who I would have to throw in jail. I wished him a good day and moved off.

Keeping an eye on him from around the corner of the shelf, I couldn't stop the smile that came when he took the marbles out of his pocket and returned them.

I received a smile and nod of thanks from Mrs. Potter and continued on my way.

By the time JD took over for me, it was slightly past my usual lunch time. Making my way to the restaurant, I was just in time to hear Maude and Ezra having an argument. Oh, to most people it wouldn't have sounded so, but I could tell by the fire flashing in both their eyes they were ready to go after each other.

Seeing that they hadn't yet been served, I asked if I could join them. It would have been rude to refuse, so they agreed and I settled into a seat. In a very strange moment, I found myself having to carry the conversation and neither Ezra nor Maude seemed to have anything to say suddenly.

Still, we survived that and Ezra excused him self shortly thereafter. Left alone with Maude, we were able to make pleasant conversation and I hope I was able to brighten her day slightly.

After lunch I asked if she would like to go for a ride. I believe the request startled her, but she agreed. I figured the time apart would do both of them some good.

We spent an enjoyable afternoon riding, walking and talking. By the time we returned, she was ready to have dinner with Ezra, the earlier argument having faded. I could see by Ezra's expression when he met us that he felt the same, though I had to suppress a laugh at the look he gave me. Someday, if he settles down, Ezra's going to make a fine father for some little girl.

As mother and son headed off to find dinner, I headed off to find my brothers and find out what happened in town while I was gone. Wandering into the saloon, I saw Buck sitting at our usual table. Oddly, there was no female nearby, but I assumed there had been earlier since his hair was rather mussed. I settled in next to him and inquired after his fingers. He assured me they were still a little sore, but no ill effects had resulted.

Inez stopped by and despite Buck's attempts at flirtation, we managed to place our orders for dinner before she stalked away in disgust. Buck was just finishing his beer and I offered to go up and purchase a bottle of whiskey. He agreed and I was soon on my way back to the table. Just as I reached it, I heard my name called rather anxiously by JD. Turning, I didn't realize how close I'd been to Buck who was lifting his beer to take a last sip.

As I turned, the bottle came into direct and rather forceful contact with his shoulder, causing him to lurch forward and the mug to come into contact, rather sharply, with his mouth. When I heard his gasp of pain, I turned again, somehow catching him on the collarbone with the bottle and knocking his chair backward. As he crashed onto the floor, I hastily placed the bottle on the table and crouched down beside him.

His lip was bleeding slightly and he'd hit his head again, but I fear it was his pride that had suffered most thanks to my clumsiness - or my curse.

Helping him up, I righted his chair as JD rushed up to make sure Buck was alright. Buck assured us he was fine, though I noticed he was walking rather gingerly. As he settled back in his chair, I moved around the table, knocking it when I tripped over the beer glass that had fallen on the floor. The jolt to the table caused the bottle to fly off the table and strike Buck in the chest before dropping on his lap. He managed to catch it and, with a certain irritation showing in his voice, ordered me to sit as he poured the liquor for both of us. Several shots later, he was feeling no pain.

Perhaps I have been cursed. I have never been this clumsy or awkward. And much as I'd like to deny it, it appears that I am the cause of all of these accidents. Yet I still struggle with that explaination. Perhaps tomorrow will be accident free.

<><><><><><><>

October 19

I fear Maude's leaving distracted me today. That seems odd because, while I find her an attractive woman, I'm not particularly taken with her - at least not to the point it would make me clumsy or oafish around her. Yet somehow today I managed to act very much like a schoolboy with his first crush.

The day started well enough. I woke with the sun and was able to get in some early morning prayers. That was followed up by a hearty and amusing breakfast with JD and Buck.

After the breakfast, I made good progress in the church before it was time for lunch.

I knew Maude was leaving on the afternoon stage and had decided to dine with her and Ezra. Normally I wouldn't intrude on such a situation, but they seemed to need a buffer during this visit - moreso than on previous occasions anyway.

So, I returned to my room, gathered a change of clothes and made my way to the bathhouse.

Once I was cleaned, shaved and looking respectable, I made my way to the restaurant where I was in time to follow Maude and Ezra inside.

Settled at our table, our orders were soon taken and conversation took on a genial tone as discussion topics ranged far and wide. I admit that I enjoy a good conversation more now than I did when I was young, but I'm not yet so old that it is all I enjoy.

Our meals arrived in due time and we all enjoyed them. When we were finished with our main meal, there was still time before the stage would leave, so Ezra and I ordered dessert - cherry pie. The restaurant does serve one of the tastiest cherry pies I believe I've ever had. Maude ordered another cup of coffee, assuring us she was quite full from lunch.

As the pie arrived, I must not have been paying attention to where my hands were as I spoke. I was in the middle of a particularly animated tale when my hand bumped into Sally, our waitress. It was enough to throw her slightly off balance and I watched in horror as the cherry pie slices slid off the serving tray and onto Maude's dress. Not unexpectedly, a slight scene ensued. Maude went flying up in shock. The waitress was horrified and immediately started apologizing. I stood to see what I could do. Maude took a step forward and lost her footing. I moved to catch her and, while I did manage to get her, I somehow caught the edge of the tablecloth in my arms and as she landed in my arms, I too lost my footing as it slid on a piece of the pie. As we headed down toward the floor, the contents of the table began falling with us. The first thing to make it over the edge was Maude's still hot coffee. That spilled on her chest. Next came the silverware, dishes, other cups and the vase with the flowers in it.

By the time we were on the floor, Maude was well coated in the remains of our lunch. I could see her cheeks burning in embarrassment and knew the woman well enough to know her embarrassment would come out in the form of anger.

Ezra, also realizing the problem, rushed to his mother's side and helped her up, ushering her out the door. I felt my heart plunge as I heard Maude state rather clearly, "You were right son, he is cursed."

An hour later, in a new dress and freshly cleaned, I made my apologies to Maude - from a distance since she seemed not to want me near. I watched as she accepted a pot of something from Nathan, I'm assuming for the slight burn I could see on her skin and then stepped into the stage to ride out of our lives again.

I'm sure she'll return. I can only hope that her comment doesn't fuel any gossip around the town. The last thing we need is for wild rumors like that to get out and around.

<><><><><><><>

October 20

Today was a busy day for me yet my mind dwells on the incident at the Wells homestead. I hardly think it was truly my fault, yet Buck disagrees and accuses me of being cursed. It isn't easy to see your friends hurt and then avoid you, though Vin assures me he and the others will only be avoiding me until the next new moon at the end of the month - only eleven days away. It will be a close thing to see if I can make it eleven more days.

Still, JD stands firmly in my corner, unafraid to be around me even with all that happened today and all that might happen yet.

Nathan was called away early in the morning and asked me to watch over Jacob Peterson who was in the clinic after having stitches put in. He would only be there until the laudenum wore off. I quickly agreed, knowing I would be able to fit it into my other tasks. At least until Mrs. Potter stopped by with her boy. As I was tending him, JD stopped by and saw that I was tied up. I was initially to help him out at Nettie Wells' place with some shingling. Normally Vin would offer to help, but he was waiting on a wire from the judge.

I assured him I would leave as soon as I could and be out there with him. He said he'd take Buck until I could make it.

I knew from that morning that Buck had evening plans with one of the ladies and needed to get back by dinner.

Eventually I was able to free myself from my obligations at the clinic and headed out toward the Wells homestead to relieve Buck of his duty.

Upon my arrival I saw no sign of my brothers, but their voices carried and clearly told me where they were.

Greeting Mrs. Wells, I tended my horse and headed back. As I rounded the corner of the house, I saw that JD was just off the top of a ladder hammering a nail. Buck was on the ladder holding the tools and shingles JD had just asked to have handed up to him.

I was about to call out when I tripped over a metal pail. The sound of the pail as it hit the side of the house was quite loud and startled everyone. What happened next was a comedy of errors.

At the sound of the bucket hitting the house, JD's head turned, but the motion of the hammer - which had been heading for a nail - did not stop. The hammer came down, rather forcefully, on his thumb. The resulting pain caused his foot to jerk, knocking against the top of the ladder.

The ladder then moved away from it's position on the house and began to fall backward. With the loss of the ladder, and JD still howling in pain, he failed to take note of his slide off the roof until he was near the edge. He did manage to catch himself on the edge and hug there, legs flailing, seeking some purchase.

While JD was trying to keep from falling, Buck was having difficulties of his own. When the ladder began falling away from the house, he dropped most of the supplies he had been holding and grabbed either side of the ladder with his hands. Struggling to keep the balance, he somehow managed to spin the ladder around several times before it began to tip him backward. At this point, his back was to the house almost 180 degrees from where he'd started. As he fell backward, his boots lost their purchase. Oddly, one leg slipped forward through the rung as the other slipped behind him. The loss of that support caused him to slip down and as the angle increased, his hands slid until he ended up strattled over the rung of the ladder. There is no way to describe the pain he had to be in considering how and how firmly he landed on the rung. I made sure, upon my return to town, to tell the fair lady that Buck was unavoidably detained, but asked for the honor of having dinner with her in a few days time.

The chaos wasn't done, though.

As Buck was trying desperately to control the pain and take a breath while maintaining his hold on the ladder so he didn't fall to the ground, the ladder finally came to rest against the side of the roof - right on JD's already sore hand. The new pain caused him to release that hand's hold on the roof's edge leaving him hanging by one hand and swaying slightly.

The jolt against the roof was enough to shake lose the hammer, nails and shingles that were up there and they all came raining down on the duo. Fortunately the hammer missed them both, so there was no serious damage.

JD's grasp eventually slipped and he fell to the ground, fortunately landing on his feet unharmed.

Buck, struggling to come to terms with his injury, eventually lost his hold on the ladder and fell off.

Unfortunately the majority of the items that had fallen were just about where Buck slipped off.

He did manage to land on his feet, but immediately lost his balance and landed hard on his behind. He sprung up as a howl of pain escaped. It appears that when he landed, his tailbone landed solidly on the head of the hammer.

I stood there too stunned to move, too shocked to respond. Nettie did respond, however, and took Buck away instructing JD and I to pick everything up.

I couldn't even look my brother in the eye as I went to apologize later that day. He was lying on his side, curled slightly and simply whimpered. The only words he said were in a strained whisper, "I'll see you next new moon."

It was with a heavy heart that I left that homestead and headed back here. I'm almost afraid to be around anyone, but JD still scoffs at the idea of the curse. He said most of what happened was his fault anyway since he was the one who kicked the ladder. That boy is a wonder.

His hand is slightly swollen and bruised, but nothing seems broken - not even his faith in me.


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