The following is a bit of short fiction writing. Awhile ago my hubby challenged a few of his friends and I to create a story based on a two sentence opening he gave us. This was my response to that writing challenge.
Jared walked through the door and tossed his hat and coat on the chair all the time watching Sophie. “My dear Sophie”, he said smiling, “put the gun down.”
“You needn’t make fun,” she said scowling as she put the gun on the rough hewn table. “A body cain’t be too careful around here after dark. You said so yourself.”
“So I did, but what makes you think you can shoot that thing straight?”
“I already told ya Jared! Before I left momma’s I shot one of her bastard clients who was gettin’ too fresh. Shot him good and dead. Now are ya gonna eat the stew I made or are you gonna just stand there grinning like you’re simple in the head?” She put both hands on her hips, comically reminding Jared of a half grown scarecrow.
“Alright, alright. But if you really want to learn to use that thing at least let me teach you to aim it right. Maybe we’ll try tomorrow.”
Sophie grunted, turning towards the oven and running her hand through hair that was more dirty than blonde. She muttered something about not needing to learn anything, but Jared decided it was better to sit and eat than debate the point further. He watched the girl carefully ladle the stew into two bowls. She placed one in front of him with a big grin.
“Go on try it. Jessina used to make big huge batches of this for mamma and her girls when it got to be cold out. It was always my favorite.”
Jared sipped what he supposed was some sort of vegetable barley stew. He had worse, he decided taking another careful sip. Sophie’s head was bent right over her bowl shoveling spoonful after spoonful in her mouth. He couldn’t help his amusement. For a girl who supposedly grew up in one of St. Louis’ finer brothels, she had the manners of a stable hand. You would have thought she’d learn some sort of etiquette or other womanly charms, he mused. When she felt disposed to talk about it at all, Sophie would say that her mother was a renowned beauty, using the money she had gotten from wealthy clients to start her own place.
I guess she never got any of her mother’s looks either, he thought. Sophie was a runty child, all knees and elbows with short hair that looked like she cut it with jagged glass. Her aversion to soap and water didn’t improve matters either. They made an odd paring, he with his Paris styled suits and her with grubbiness.
Jared found her about a month ago, scrapping with a group of boys in an alley. From what he could see, she put up a good fight, but at any moment she’d slip up and it’d be over. Besides, he recognized the malicious gleam in one of the older boy’s eyes and doubted she’d get out with only a beating. He stepped in, driving them off. Even in her half beaten state, Sophie said that she owed him fair and square for helping her out. “Not that I couldn’t handled myself anyway, but I pay my debts,” she said. She offered to work off her debt to him as a sort of valet, provided he “didn’t try no funny stuff.” Sometimes he wondered why he ever agreed to such an arrangement.
That’s not true, he thought. I know exactly why. Anna would be about the same age now if she lived. He looked down at his left hand. The twin of the solid gold band he wore was buried six feet under a plain in Illinois. He pushed the thought from his mind. No point dwelling on what can’t be changed.
The sound of Sophie’s chair scratching against the floor broke him out of his revere. She made a beeline for the stove to get a second helping of stew, chattering happily. “I’ll bet Jessina couldn’t done no better. And this isn’t a bad little stove. You sure are lucky you’re friends with the sheriff an’ he let us stay in this place.”
“Well, it isn’t exactly for free. Sheriff Harlow expects me to put some work into this house. He wants it to be in good shape for when his brother moves out here with his family next spring.”
Jared remembered his old friend’s words. “It’ll be good for you, some honest work as opposed to gambling. You used to be a fair hand at fixing things if I recall correctly. And you’d really be helping me out.”
Ruefully, Jared thought gambling was much luckier for him than a simple life as a farmer with a steady home. But Jake Harlow had been one of his best friends, and he thought maybe he could find a stable place for Sophie too. A nice family with a mother and a father that didn’t mind her roughness and appreciated her hard work. He broached the subject to Sophie, but she adamantly rejected it. “Thanks, but no thanks Jared. I’m gonna try an’ find my pa. Mamma said he was some sort of chief among the Lakota.” And then she’d babble off everything she knew about the Lakota Indians, never mind that her source of facts were cheap dime novels.
Jared noticed a bit of chill in the air. “Sophie, I think it’s going to be a cold one tonight. Do you think you could bring in some wood from the woodpile before you sit down again?”
“Course Jared. I’ll be right back.”
She hadn’t been gone less than a minute when the front door burst open. Jared recognized the intruders as Eddie Jenkins, and one of his boys. Both had their guns aimed right at him.
“Hello Eddie,” Jared said casually. “To what do I owe this social call?”
“You know exactly why I’m here. You cheated me at cards earlier this evening and I want my money back!”
“If you’ve got a problem with me, why don’t you bring it up to the sheriff?”
“Everyone knows you and he are friends!”
Before Jared could reply the back door opened. Another of Jenkin’s goons shoved a pale looking Sophie in front of him. “Look what I found out back boss.”
Eddie smirked. “Ain’t she a bit young for you Jared?”
“She ain’t too young for me Eddie,” the first thug said.
Jared snorted, “You can do what you’d like with the girl.” Ignoring Sophie’s stricken face he went on. “She doesn’t mean anything to me other than another mouth to feed. But I think you and your boys can find something that better resembles a woman over at Flo’s. Why don’t you just let her go while we discuss this like gentlemen?”
“And have her run and tell the sheriff? I don’t think so. I want my money Jared!”
“I’ll tell you where it is,” Sophie burst in. “If I don’t mean anything to him, he don’t mean anything to me either. Take me to the Lakota reservation and I’ll show you right now where to find the money.”
“How about you show me where the money’s hid and I don’t let my men take a poke at you, runt.”
Sniffling, Sophie meekly went to the back door with Jenkins right behind her. “You two watch him and make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.” The two men sat down across from Jared, guns pointed at him the whole while.
Jared scanned the room with his gambler’s eyes, trying to see if there was anything within reach he could use as a weapon. There was a solid iron poker he might get to, but he couldn’t make a grab for it without Jenkins’ boys noticing.
Suddenly a scream came from out back, followed by the sound of one shot, then another. Both men lowered their weapons just a bit as their heads turned towards the back door. Jared grabbed the poker and struck one squarely on the temple. The man slumped right onto his friend who let off a shot into the table. Snatching the gun from the unconscious man’s hand, Jared rolled out of the line of fire of the second thug. Cursing, the thug shoved the limp form off of him, standing up. Jared shot him squarely in the stomach.
“Jared!” Sophie screamed running through the back door, holding a gun in her right hand.
“Fool girl,” Jared swore as he embraced her. “What if one of those two was still alive? You could have gotten shot.” He looked down at the girl and realized there wasn’t a mark on her. “What happened to Eddie?”
“Dead, I think. I took him to the old tree stump, where the mamma raccoon’s been hiding out with her little ones. He stuck his hand in and she must have bitten and scratched him up good. He dropped the gun an’ I picked it up an’ I…” she started to tremble.
“It’s OK Sophie,” Jared said stroking her hair.
“I’m sorry I lied about killin’ someone before. I did shoot at the fella’ who was getting fresh, but I only got his foot. I was so scairt by what I done, I just dropped the gun and ran. I ran and I never went back. I’m sorry I told such a terrible lie.”
“I think we’ve both told our share of lies tonight.”
Sophie gave a weak smile. “I knew you was lying about that ‘other mouth to feed’ stuff.”