We had a crazy idea late one night. Inspired by Mumford and Son's Timshel and Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon -One song, one story, four riders, four writers, and four separate pieces. This is Buck's story.
I take a deep breath and try to ground all my anxious energy, but it doesn't work. My mind keeps racing. I keep focusing in on different things trying to find all the different times I could have made a different choice and stopped what happened from happening. If I had been cooler headed in the saloon, could I have stopped it there? Could I have tracked these guys faster? Gunfire erupts. Could I have done something there? Emma was being held in front of man with a gun. Was my aim off when I fired at him? My balance sure was. I won't tell any of them that. I couldn't have them blame me along with Emma getting hurt, even though I blame myself. I am left handed and I was shooting at that man from a place where being left handed is definitely a disadvantage. I have so many questions and my mind is starting to make up the things that happened, I think. I can't remember anything clearly anymore. My mind is full of worry and concern.
I hear Sam. He's yelling at us. I can't understand him. We're riding to Doc Barnes place. Emma's bleeding. I'm in a fog of thoughts trying to remember what happened, but all I can think of is Emma and how with each drop of blood she loses, means she drifts farther away from us. My face feels wet and I realize that tears have fallen down my cheek. I wipe them off.
I'm standing on the ground near the entrance of the Doctor's office. I don't even remember getting off my horse. My head is starting to clear and I could hear Cody's voice as he started to tell Sam the story of what happened to us today. I would like to think I wasn't responsible for any of the bad things that happened, but that would be a lie. I should have known better and I will next time. I should know better than to react to people who just want to get a rise out of me. Those men came in looking to pick a fight and we couldn't wait to oblige them. I couldn't wait. For the first time I felt like I could win a fight. I had more than one friend to back me up and I wasn't really outnumbered or out classed. It should have been a fair fight.
I guess it all started when Emma took us to town for the weekly station supplies and that's where Cody started telling the story. Not all of us went just Ike, Jimmy, Cody, and me. We had all been feeling restless in the last week. I think I was feeling it the most. Sometimes in the village I lived in growing up, it felt like I was raising myself. The children in the village are raised by everyone, but no one but my mother and my brother ever bothered with me. Maybe that's why sometimes I don't feel attached to people. I met Ike in the mission school we both went to and we have been inseparable ever since. Ike is different though. He is a complement to me. To most people he would seem like a burden, but he is my best friend. He knows when to give me space, which is sometimes a lot of the time and he knows when I need to be around people for conversation and contact. I can fall inside myself pretty easily and Ike never really lets me stay there. He just knows when I need people and when I don't. The riders and I are still learning each other that way. Most of us have been loners and outcasts so it is easy for us to get on each other's nerves.
Take Jimmy, I know he gets on a lot of people's nerves but the two of us are kindred. I can see in his eyes the trials he has had to endure. It reminds me of the village I grew up in. I always had t prove myself to everyone else. Jimmy is labeled a hot head, but I know he's just scared and protective. There is something about him that tells me that he would stand up for any of us even if it meant his life. I let him know the same in a way he could understand. Jimmy's not big on sentiment so when I threw my knife and killed the rattlesnake that was about to strike him, most folks including him would think I was aiming at Jimmy because they didn't see the snake. Jimmy sure didn't, but I let him know that I was watching out for him and I would protect him just as he would protect me.
Cody is still a mystery to me in many ways. It is almost like he has yet to experience the same kind of losses the rest of us have. He's so happy all the time. Maybe it is his defense. He is probably the most closed mouthed about his family though. It is almost like he is hiding something from us. Still there is something about him I trust. He helped Jimmy against Longley so I guess that was something.
Ike has been my brother since we were both going to the mission school. It took a while to get to know him, but he came to my aid when no one else in the world would and for that he will be forever my brother. I know I can trust him with my life and he knows he can trust me with his.
I hear Cody again and it jolts me back into remembering how everything started. My mind can sometimes wander when other people are telling stories.
Emma let us go out for a while on our own. The supply order was getting filled and I'm sure she wanted to visit with some friends. We went to the saloon to watch the poker games. I don't think I ever want to play, there are much better ways to lose my money, but it is always interesting to watch. It is so much more than just who has the best hand. There is also this secondary game of trying to fool everyone else into either thinking you have a better hand than you do or a worse one. I'm not really good at deception. Maybe someday I will understand why this is fun.
We were watching and it wasn't that exciting a game really. Cody got bored and went up to the bar to flirt with the saloon girls. Truthfully that looked like a little more fun, but none of them would ever pay attention to the likes of me.
The hand was down to Mike and Pete -a couple of frequent players. Mike had the winning hand, and I think Pete knew it, but he was still trying to scare Mike into folding. Mike finally called and it was over, but before Pete could deal the next hand a group of men came in. I should have known they we just looking for a fight. The way they looked us up and down should have given them away, but I felt if they started anything we could handle it. I felt strong with Jimmy and Cody there, but we should have resisted. They took one look at us and started to pick on us. They figured out pretty quickly that Ike didn't talk and I was really an easy target for them. They started in on my heritage and wouldn't quit. I think they also questioned Jimmy's manhood and if his fancy gun was really just to make up for his short comings. I thought I could resist the harassment until one of the guys spit a glob of chewing tobacco juice in my face. Something inside of me snapped at that moment. I have never liked getting spit on.
I think the others started fighting about then too. Come to think of it, I don't really know who threw the first punch, but I think it was me. I heard Jimmy yell to Cody for help at one point. It felt good to lose control and just slug away at someone who hurt me. I hit the man a couple of times before he dove at me. I was able to duck down and use his forward momentum to flip him over the table. He rolled off the table and grabbed a chair and held it unsteadily above his head. I didn't stop to think I just hit him as hard as I could in the stomach and he dropped the chair. He stood there in a daze and I punched him again and he fell to the ground. He wasn't out cold, but he wasn't getting up anytime soon. I know it wasn't right and at the time I didn't regret it. I do now. I should have left the saloon when the men started harassing me. Then maybe Emma wouldn't have gotten drawn into this.
She burst through the doors and she was angrier than I have ever seen her. I immediately felt bad. I have always felt bad when I disappoint someone, but this went beyond disappointment. I remember just hoping she wouldn't fire the four of us for something I did. She yelled at us quite a bit and I took her words to heart. The company has rules about fighting and things that can cast us riders in a bad light to the public. We broke the rules. I swore right then it would be the last time I fought.
Then she started yelling at the men we fought. She was just as hard on them possibly more. The things she said in our defense made me feel good. I knew she cared about us, but I didn't know how strongly. At that point I started thinking of her as my mother. My mother argued with Red Bear all the time about how the other boys treated me and how the rest of the village treated me. She was so passionate in my defense and refused to back down. She never wanted the others in the village to treat me as less because my father had been white. That is what Emma was doing now. I was so distracted by happiness I failed to notice what was coming.
Emma had stopped yelling and I was about to apologize to her when a man grabbed her from behind. He had come in with the four men we got into a fight with. He had stayed out of the fight. I have no idea why, but he didn't join in with the others. I don't even know why after the fight was over, he grabbed Emma. They must not have wanted to have any tangles with the local law or something, because he seemed to be using Emma as a means of escape from something. Maybe he was just angry at us. It didn't really matter. Emma was now in danger because of us. She looked so scared, but then her face changed. She recognized the man. I think my heart about stopped when she asked him if she knew him. One thing I've learned in my short life is to never give someone an excuse to hurt you.
We all tossed our guns on the floor when he told us too and I tossed my knife too. I've never felt more helpless. The men tied us up and then took Emma out with them. We all struggled. We had to. We were so worried about Emma and I was really glad when the barkeep came out from behind the bar and untied us. If it hadn't been for Jimmy yelling at him I don't think he would have though.
When we got outside, I was really hoping we would find Emma safe and sound, but we didn't instead some old lady and a bunch of men pointed us in the direction they went. It didn't take them long but the men split up. Three horses went each direction. We had no way of knowing if they were going to join up with each other or which group Emma was with. Ike and I followed one set of tracks while Cody and Jimmy followed the others. I was positive that Ike and I were following Emma. I couldn't trust Cody to track her. I sent him to follow the other set. I was pretty sure that we would all meet up again, but I wasn't going to take that chance with Emma's life. Cody is a bit of a braggart and I knew if these guys had put even a little bit of effort into hiding their trail, Cody would lose them.
Cody took a breath in his telling of our story. He looked at the rest of us for support and I think I gave him a weak smile. I could tell by the tightness of the skin on my face there was still tobacco juice there. I really want to wash it off, but I don't want to leave Emma. I have to be here when the doctor comes out. I need to know she's alright. The cool water will feel good on my skin, but right now I don't know if I deserve to be clean.
About that time Teaspoon showed up. Sam was yelling at us again. I don't blame him. Cody was taking forever to tell this story. I'm surprised at Sam's restraint. I think if I were in Sam's shoes I'd have hoisted Cody over a pit of rattlesnakes by now. Honestly I am just glad that it's Cody telling this story and not me. I'm not sure I would still be speaking English if it were me telling this story I'd be that scared. I looked down at my hand. It was bruised from the fight. I pretended the colors were interesting. Then I wouldn't have to look up and see the disappointment and anger in Sam and Teaspoon's faces.
Cody got back to the story and I drifted back into my thoughts. I was taking extra care tracking these guys. I didn't want to lose Emma. She was the closest thing I had left in this world to a mother and I wasn't about to let her down. Not like I had let my own down. That isn't exactly true, I wasn't in the village when she was hurt, but I should have been. My intended, Little Bird, had begged me to stay in the village, but I went out on a hunt with my brother. Several women had come with the hunting party to clean and prepare the kills for the rest of the village. Most stayed behind in the village including my mother. Hunters came and raided the village and they killed everyone except for Little Bird. Since she was white they took her with them. I don't know what I would have done if I'd been there, but I have to believe I could have saved my mother.
I jumped down from my horse several times while I tracked this man and Emma. He was being a little tricky and I was being overly cautious. Ike was quiet. He knew I needed to concentrate. I think I could see in his eyes that he was thinking of his real mother too. Emma was a very special lady to all of us. I don't know of anyone in the world that could inspire four boys like us to think of one woman like her as our adoptive mother, but she did. The nuns at the mission hadn't been able to do that for Ike or me. Emma was special. We had to find her. I had to find her.
I saw the tracks from the other three horses join the ones we were tracking and I knew Jimmy and Cody should be arriving soon. I was conflicted. I didn't know how long it would take Jimmy and Cody to get to this point and Emma's life was hanging in the balance. I have to say if they hadn't come into view when they did, I would have suggested to Ike that we keep going without them. Emma's life could depend on our speed in rescuing her.
We waited for them to catch up and then I tracked them all to an abandoned farm. We took cover in a stand of trees a good distance away from the buildings. We all looked over the layout of the farm and we decided where we were all going to go.
I decided to go inside the barn. It looked like the guy who spit on me was keeping a lookout in there. I hid in the corral and watched Ike get to the tree. I thought it was too risky for him to go there without cover the whole way so I just waited for him to get into position before I went inside the barn. I could hear the guy the other's called Hutch walking in the hay loft. I knew I needed to be careful. I holstered my gun and pulled my knife from its sheath. I am much more comfortable using a knife than a gun. I feel like I am one with my surroundings and the knife is an extension of my being. I have never felt that way about guns. They belong to the white world and my knife keeps me in the Indian world. I am more comfortable hunting in the Indian world. I climbed up into the loft. I heard the floor creak as I stepped on it and knew I needed to find cover. The man in the loft turned and fired at me as I dove out of the way. I saw the bullet splinter the wood behind me. I rolled to my feet and threw my knife. I just stood there and watched as the realization hit the man. He looked down at the knife I had thrown. It had plunged into his chest. He looked at the knife and then looked at me. He tried to raise his gun again, but his strength had left him. I started to walk toward him as he fell to his knees. I watched the light leave his eyes. When I was sure he was dead. I removed my knife from his body and descended the ladder down to the main part of the barn. I had heard other gunshots fired outside, but I didn't know if the others were alright. Not until I heard the man who had Emma call to us.
"I've got nothing to lose boys! I'll kill her, don't think I won't!"
His voice was still cold and unfeeling, but there was panic in it now too. He had something to lose and we all knew it.
I came out the barn door after wiping my knife off on some straw. I was too far away to throw my it at this man. I sheathed it and drew my gun. I stepped out from the barn and saw the rest of the riders closing in on the man who held the closest thing any of us had to a mother. I knew he wouldn't hurt her. If he did he'd be full of holes. His only choice was to bring her with him to his next hideout and the four of us were not going to let him get away. Not again.
I could see Emma start to struggle and I knew what was coming. She made eye contact with all of us as she tried to dive to the ground and she yelled while she did it.
I was not in the best position to be firing a gun. I was a little off balance, but the surge of energy that ran through my body took over and I fired at the man. He fell back and dropped Emma.
Then I heard it -a scream from Emma. One of us had shot her. I was transported back to my village. We had just come back from our hunt and the village was smoking from the fires the hunters had set. I rushed to my families tipi and looked for my mother she was there bleeding. She was still alive when I found her. I cradled her as she let go of this world to walk in the land behind the sun. I was only twelve years old.
I snapped back to Emma as she's laying there. Ike and Jimmy are using Ike's bandana to bind her wound. I am still just standing there watching. Then Jimmy and Cody start asking and then accusing each other as well as Ike and me of shooting Emma. I look down at Emma as Ike holds on to her. Jimmy is standing toe to toe with Cody and I know this isn't helping.
"We don't know which one of us shot Emma and it doesn't matter, who did it, what matters now is getting her to a doctor," I think I said. I'm pretty sure it was something like that. I probably sounded absolutely calm while my insides were screaming in a full panic.
It was tough to keep my mind on the scene on hand. I could smell the smoke from the gunfire and it reminded me of the smoke in my village. I saw Ike sign something and I think I may have translated it for everyone else. I think he said, 'we are all brothers and she needs us to help like she is always helping us' I could be imagining it. I feel almost dizzy. I put my hand on Ike's shoulder to steady myself.
That is when Jimmy took charge and lifted Emma into his arms and started to carry her to his horse. I just followed. It was like I couldn't think anymore. We got to the horses and we were soon racing toward Sweetwater.
All I could think about was that Emma couldn't die. She treated me the same as she did the other boys. I didn't have to wait for everyone else to have eaten before I could have some food, like I did in my village. There was always plenty too, very much unlike the mission school Ike and I went to. I couldn't lose her. This place was slowly becoming my home. It was already more of a home than I have ever known in my life. The other boys are starting to feel like brothers, just like Ike already were. The fight in the bar proved that. Jimmy stood up for Ike and me and Cody had jumped into the fight when he didn't have to. We live together, we eat together, we fight together…we are becoming one. Together we had almost gotten Emma killed, but together we were going to save her too.
It seemed like we found the farm faster than we were getting back to Sweetwater. I could see Emma move and touch Jimmy's face. I was learning how Jimmy dealt with things pretty quickly. I knew he was probably blaming himself the most and that is what made him carry Emma to his horse. She was probably mothering him even as he was trying to get her to the doctor. That was Emma, she was always more concerned for us than herself. I wanted to tell Jimmy that it was my bullet that hit Emma, but it wouldn't have the desired effect. I would tell him to relieve his guilt, but he would pound me into the dirt and then probably shoot me. No, he would stop blaming himself eventually. All of us would.
I caught Sam's eye looking at us ride in with Emma and his face went from shock to anger very quickly. He came over to the Doc's to meet us and had a bit of a hard time getting Jimmy to let Emma go. I think if I'd had Emma in my arms the struggle would have been the same.
From that part Sam new the rest of the story and I looked up as Cody finished telling our part. Sam didn't seem less angry and Teaspoon was really concerned. We all were.
Teaspoon spoke to us. I think he was trying to make us feel better. I don't think there was anything he could say to make it better. I had failed. Everything from start to finish was my fault. I keep thinking if I hadn't thrown that punch in the saloon, none of this would have happened.
I heard the door open and saw Doc Barnes come out. The only things I heard were 'tough lady' and 'fine' and I began to breathe again. Emma was going to be alright.
The doctor let us in and to tell you the truth, I was terrified at how angry Emma would be at us and me in particular. I knew she would be able to see the guilt on my face and she would know everything was my fault.
We all filed into Emma's room and Emma took my hand and looked at me. In that one look she told me that all was forgiven. I think I felt another tear slide down my cheek and she smiled at me. She took everyone else's hand too.
Cody asked her who the man was and she said he was someone she knew from the past. I let it drop from my mind. He was dead and Emma's past was her own business.
Emma stopped and looked at us with such pride it forced me to try to think of the good things that happened today and not only the bad. She asked us to forgive her and to forgive ourselves. I know I wasn't the only one of us who started to disagree with her. This was in no way her fault. She just held up her hand and we knew not to argue with her. Then she started to tell us how we saved her life and that she was proud of us.
The last thing she said to us before Sam came in, I hope, will stay with me for the rest of my life.
"You're not alone boys, as long as you remember that you have a family here in this room, we'll all be just fine. We all have our demons to fight, and pasts to overcome… You have a choice, to walk a cold and lonely road or to let each other in and trust. I love each and every one of you… and I will fight for you, but I can't move the mountains for you."
Truthfully, I'm glad Sam came in when he did. I was feeling choked up with emotion and I could see the others were too, but I don't think they would ever admit it. Emma was right though. We were a family and becoming a tighter one every day. All of us had emotional burdens we were carrying and if we learned how to lean on each other, we really would be one.
Timshel by Mumford and Sons
Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance
But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand
And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars
But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand
And I will tell the night
Whisper, "Lose your sight"
But I can't move the mountains for you
A/N Thank you Silenthorse, JennaLynn, and Signefalls. This project was so much fun!