Monday, July 7, 2008
The Filly excerpt by mark R Probst
Escaping into the fantasy of his books when he’s not working in the general store, Ethan Keller has lived a sheltered life in his mother’s boarding house. One day, an enigmatic cowboy passing through the small Texas town takes an immediate liking to the shy seventeen-year-old. Ethan is intrigued by the attention, and the cowboy eventually charms him into signing on to a 900-mile cattle drive. Ethan soon finds that his feelings for this cowboy run deeper than just friendship. He never knew that this kind of love even existed; and now for the two of them to make a life together in the untamed west, they must face nearly insurmountable odds if they are to survive.
The following excerpt from The Filly by Mark R Probst is from early in the story just after Miss Peet, the schoolmarm and good friend to Ethan, devises a plan to get herself introduced to Ethan’s new friend Travis. Her scheme involves having Ethan invite Travis to supper at his house, where she will drop by unexpectedly.
Cheyenne Publishing (October 2007)
The plan went off without a hitch. The next day Ethan stopped by the ranch and invited Travis to supper. Travis was extremely pleased and gratefully accepted, suspecting nothing out of the ordinary, but by Friday evening Ethan was even more nervous about the whole affair. He imagined Miss Peet bursting in the door, lurching into Travis’s lap and dropping broad hints about love and babies. At 6:05 there was a knock on the door. Ethan, dressed in his best Sunday suit and bowtie, answered the door. Travis looked fine as ever, his brown trousers and yellow cotton shirt neatly pressed. Ophelia was in the kitchen putting the final touches on the roast mutton. Mr. Pendegast and Mr. Ponce were playing a game of chess in the drawing room and Mr. Baker and Willie hadn’t come out for supper yet. Ethan made the formal introductions and led Travis into the kitchen to meet his mother.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Keller,” Travis said with a little bow. “The supper smells absolutely heavenly.”
“Why thank you, Travis,” she said, with an approving smile. “Just make yourself at home. Supper will be ready shortly.”
They went back into the drawing room and sat down to wait for supper.
“This is a very nice boarding house,” Travis said. “Are all the rooms occupied?”
“All except one. Mine.”
“Whenever there’s a vacant room, I get it. Otherwise I get kicked up to the loft.”
Travis gave a little chuckle. Willie came out of his bedroom to see if supper was ready.
“Travis, this is my brother, Willie. Willie, this is Travis Cain.”
“A pleasure to meet you Willie.” Travis extended his hand. Willie shook it and mumbled, “Much obliged.” Willie had washed up for supper but was still wearing his work clothes. Obviously it didn’t occur to him that it was customary to dress for supper when you had a guest.
They had just begun the meal when a knock interrupted them. Ophelia feigned curiosity. “I wonder who that could be?” Willie went to answer the door and retuned being followed by none other that Miss Peet herself. She entered the room lugging a big mantel clock.
“Why hello, Clara! Come right in.” Ophelia stood up and approached her.
“Hello, Ophelia, Mr. Pendegast, Mr. Ponce, Willie, Mr. Baker, Ethan.” There was a clatter of discarded forks and scraping of chairs as the men all stood and returned the greeting.
“And I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to this handsome stranger,” she continued.
“Oh dear me, I’m so sorry!” Ophelia said. “Clara, this is Travis Cain, and Travis let me introduce you to Miss Clara Peet, our schoolmarm.”
“Pleasure to meet you, ma’am.”
“Why the pleasure’s all mine, Mr. Cain.”
“Please call me Travis, ma’am. Nobody calls me Mr. Cain.”
“I will, Travis, and you may call me Clara. Oh dear, I’ve come at the most inopportune time. You’re all just sitting down to supper. I had brought this mantel clock for Mr. Pendegast to fix. It seems to have quit working and he is so handy with mechanical things.” Ethan knew for a fact that clock had not been working for at least a year.
“I’ll take a look at it right after supper, Miss Peet.” Mr. Pendegast’s face glowed a healthy, damp shade of red from the compliment.
“Please, Clara, join us for supper,” Ophelia said. “There’s plenty to go around.”
“Oh, no. I couldn’t impose! I’ll just be on my way.”
“Clara I insist, you must join us.”
“Well, if you insist.”
Ophelia got her a plate out of the cupboard and Ethan took her coat and pulled up a chair for her.
“Oh, Ophelia, this supper looks simply scrumptious! You are such a fine cook! My, oh my, what a layout this is. Are you enjoying your supper Travis?”
“Yes ma’am. It’s quite delicious.”
“So I take it you are a new boarder here?”
“Oh no. I’m just a guest.”
“Of whom are you a guest?” she asked coyly.
“I’m a friend of Ethan’s.”
“Really!” she said. “Ethan was one of my finest pupils. As you know I’m the schoolteacher here in town, and Ethan and I have remained close even though he’s completed school. I’m surprised he never mentioned you.”
Ethan barely kept his jaw from dropping. After the initial shock, he thought better of her. At least the deception protected him.
“And what is it you do for a living, Travis?”
Ethan reddened. Was she ever going to let him have a bite? The poor guy’s fork had been hovering for the last three questions.
“I’m a cowhand,” he answered. “Or as we are commonly called around here, a vaquero. I generally go from ranch to ranch wherever help is needed. I’ve been on quite a few cattle drives in my life. Currently I’m working as a ranch hand at the Haywood Ranch. We are leaving in about three weeks to move the Haywood herd north to Cheyenne in the Wyoming territory.” Seizing the opportunity, Travis took a big bite of food.
“Fascinating!” Miss Peet said, “but isn’t it dangerous out there in the unsettled territories? I mean with all the savage Indians and all?”
Travis tried to chew his food quickly. Ophelia shifted in her chair a bit. Once he finally managed to swallow, he answered. “Well actually the trail is pretty well established now. There’s very little Indian resistance. This particular route we are using is the Goodnight-Loving trail. They call it that because that was the names of the fellas who started it. Back then, maybe ten or eleven years ago, it was very dangerous. It was nine hundred miles of wild country. The Comanches lived there and they attacked the cowboys for invading their territory. In fact Mr. Loving was killed by Indians on their second cattle drive.”
“Oh, my,” Miss Peet said with great concern. “That’s just terrible. You are so very brave to make that trip.”
“Well, as I said it’s much safer now. I very much enjoy traveling the country. I love the outdoors and nature.”
“As do I!” Miss Peet said enthusiastically. “I’m a great lover of the outdoors.”
That was certainly stretching the truth to the breaking point. Miss Peet hated the trips even to San Antonio.
Travis brightened. “There’s nothing more peaceful than roaming this beautiful country and sleeping underneath the stars.”
“But certainly, you intend to settle down somewhere, eventually? Perhaps get married and raise a family?”
“Someday I’d like to build a ranch, and raise horses.”
Ophelia spoke up. “Clara, why don’t you let Travis finish his supper? It’s going to get cold.”
Willie jumped up and brushed the crumbs off his lap.
“I’m heading out,” he said to Ophelia. “I got stuff to do. I probably won’t be back tonight, so don’t wait up for me. And don’t worry.”
Ophelia looked like she was about to protest, but held herself back in front of the guests. “Don’t you at least want your dessert?”
“I’m in a hurry. I’ll just take it with me.”
She went to the kitchen and brought him back a piece of pie wrapped in a napkin.
“I’ll just take a look at that clock now,” Mr. Pendegast said as he got up from the table.
“Oh yes, I would so appreciate it if you could fix it. I don’t know what could have happened to it.” Miss Peet turned her attention back to Travis. “A horse ranch. That does sound quite charming. Where might you decide to build this ranch?”
“Oh, I don’t know really. I’ve always thought Colorado was a beautiful place, or maybe New Mexico. I’ve been all over this country, and it’s really hard to decide where I’d like to end up.”
“Well wherever it is, I’m sure the lucky lady you choose will be so happy to cook and clean for you.”
Ethan had just about all he could take. “Ma, if I could be excused, I’d like to go out and see Cleo.”
“Sure, honey. Go right ahead.”
“I’ll go with you,” Travis said, jumping up. Miss Peet looked a little bit startled, like she had just been slapped in the face. But Travis took no notice of her and he and Ethan escaped outside.