"The Telegram"

A "Gunsmoke" story

By Molly, Nov 23, 2006 (MarMar1 on "Gunsmoke" is not mine and I seek no profit, mores the pity. I expect no financial gain, no gain at all, other than the silencing of my muse who gave me this story and demanded I give it voice.

As always, my too late thanks to the incredible people who embodied these wonderful characters and the world of Dodge City.

SETTING: sometime after season 20, just when and the physical location should become apparent.

"The Telegram"

Kitty Russell tipped the delivery boy, then watched him skip down the walk before quietly closing her front door. She looked at the paper in her hand, undecided.

Mail was always a welcome receipt and a nearly daily event at the home of the lovely, mature redhead. Due to the nature of her personality, her travels, and her business activities, Kitty had friends, acquaintances, some business interests in every state and territory, or so it often seemed. She also enjoyed the occasional missives from a few friends who lived in other countries.

The letters and business correspondences were nearly routine, even an occasional letter from the Dodge City post office was not a new experience. The arrival, though, of a telegram was something else again. Perhaps a telegram brought a glad announcement, but more often it would contain some unwelcome, unhappy news. A telegram originating in Dodge City was what she contemplated now.

For years she had expected the telegram. For a few years, nearly three she hated to admit, even to herself, she had hoped for such a delivery. A telegram from Dodge City held a firm place in her dreams back then. Dreams woven like the shimmery treads of corn silk around hopes that did not easily die. Hopes held for too many years.

In those dreams, the telegram would arrive on a clear, bright day just like this day, or, sometimes, late on a lonely night. In those dreams, even those dreamed while she was awake, her heartbeat would quicken as she began to read. The words were never many, as fit his manner, and consideration for the cost of a telegram. Never many, but to the point and so full of promise.

"Arrive New Orleans twenty-second STOP Will look for light still burning STOP

Matt"

The dates might change, some words might change, but the message remained the same throughout her dreams in those early years. He was coming, he was hoping she would be waiting. That telegram had never come.

Slowly, stubbornly, those dreams had given way to reality. They each had chosen and held to their choice. She had survived the pain, the amputation of half her soul, and she had made a fulfilling life. She prayed he had done the same. The occasional letters from Dodge City were mostly careful to not mention him. She knew he had gone into the mountains. She had known for sometime that he would, had known his drive to be what he had to be until he felt he no longer could. She had known his desire to remove himself from the temptation of others wanting to make a name, to take the danger away from his town. Toward the end, she had known how desperately he needed to be alone, to recover from all the years spent carrying the mantel of responsibility for so many others, alone to let his own soul rest. As always, she had made it easier for him. She had left before he had even finished his job. She consoled herself with thoughts that, perhaps, her own leaving had hastened his acceptance that he no longer needed to carry that heavy burden. She tried to believe that she had, in her own small way, helped to save his life.

She had put away the old dreams and built her life in the reality they had made.

For several years now, Kitty had dreaded the arrival of this telegram. It was not unexpected, though the time had never been sure. It was not welcome. This was not the telegram of her long ago dreams. This was something else. She knew, after all this time, that such a telegram would bear the news she had so feared for nearly thirty years.

Standing in the cool foyer of her elegant home, Kitty Russell hesitated, unwilling to face the final truth. No matter the walls she had built around her heart, no matter the efforts she had spent making a good life for herself, no matter she had forever put that part of her life behind her, she knew with certainty the toll the news would take. It was a toll she no desire to pay; it was news she had no desire to read. For all that she had told herself she had gotten him out of her system, she knew that once she opened the telegram her life would be forever changed and the pain of loss overwhelming. She hesitated, as if to not read the message would change the facts.

At long last, she moved her hand to unfold the paper. Closing her eyes, as if in silent prayer, she drew in a slow, deep breath. It seemed hours since she had last breathed. She stood, unconsciously bracing herself for the assault. She made no move to sit, knowing without thinking that her grief would not tolerate the slightest confinement. As if once removed from herself, she opened her eyes and let them focus on the words, the dreaded words.

With a gasp, her heartbeat started once again. Clutching the telegram, Kitty swiftly moved through the doors onto the terrace, leaving the dim foyer for the daylight. Once again she read the message.

"Matt injured STOP survival doubtful STOP Bess"

Dear Bess; no suggestion, no demands, simply what had to be said, leaving the rest to Kitty. Survival doubtful. Words she had lived with too many times to count. Words they had lived beyond. The paper floated to the terrace tiles, released from her hands as they gathered up her skirts. Even as she dashed up the stairs, calling for her house maid, her mind raced to what must be done: packing, tickets, business instructions, speed. She wasted no movement and spared no thought for doubt. In no more than three quarters of an hour, she was at the platform as the train pulled in.

As one heart calls to another, as one soul spreads its wings with just one other, she knew what she must do. He had not come to her, but she would go to him.