Monday, February 9, 2009
Calico excerpt by Dorien Grey
An old-fashioned 'they-don't-write-em-like-that-anymore' feel-good Western romance with a kick--and enough mystery and adventure to keep you riveted to the very end.
Zumaya Publications (October 2, 2006)
They set up camp in a small clearing between the town and the wagon train. After unsaddling the horses, Calico set up the campfire after urging Josh and Sarah to wander down to the train in search of young people their own age. Josh made it clear that he would just have soon have remained with Calico at the campsite. But Calico was well aware that, other than for himself, the twins had had no other company since leaving Hutchinson. Perhaps, he told himself, much of what he perceived to be going on between himself and Josh was largely his own imagination responding to Josh's natural need for male companionship.
Loneliness was a part of Western living, and Calico had long since accustomed himself to it, even to the point of enjoying being by himself most of the time. But for active teenagers used to the bustle of city life and a social circle
unimaginable to him, Calico mused, the crushing loneliness of vast open spaces and few people would be a heavy burden.
Josh returned alone shortly before sunset.
"Where's Sarah?" Calico asked.
"She's at the wagon train, with one of the families," Josh replied. "They've got a
son just a little older than us."
"What about girls?" Calico asked. "Wasn't there any girls there your age?"
"None that I saw, except one, and she was married and had a baby. But, then, I
wasn't looking for girls," Josh said dismissively. Looking for a reaction from Calico and receiving none, Josh hunkered down beside Calico at the fire. "Sarah wants to know if its okay if she stays to supper with that farmer and his folks."
Calico shrugged. "Sure, it's okay with me. Didn't they ask you to stay, too?"
Josh stared into the fire, picking up a stick to push a few unburned pieces of wood into the flames. "Yeah," he said without looking up, "but I said I had to get back. I'd rather be here with you."
Calico remained silent a moment, filled once again with the sense of a developing relationship in some ways like his own relationship with Uncle Dan, yet in other ways far, far different. He wasn't sure he was ready for it.
"Well," he said, reaching into the saddlebags for food, "we might as well have our supper right now. Then later on, you go back to the train an' fetch Sarah. Close as it is, I don't want her walkin' back here alone."
While they ate, Josh pried Calico with questions about life on the range, about
ranching, raising cattle, dangers commonly encountered, and a myriad of other subjects of interest to a city boy suddenly thrust into a new and, to him,
adventure-filled lifestyle. Throughout their talk, though, Calico detected that Josh had something else on his mind. Finally, after a slight pause in the conversation, Josh said "What do you think of me, Calico?"
Caught completely by surprise, Calico was at a loss for words. After a moment, he said "I'm not sure what you mean, boy?"
Josh was staring at him, and it made Calico once again both nervous and...he couldn't pin it down, but the sensation was warm, and good, and like he'd never felt before.
"That's just it: 'boy.' You think I'm still a boy, don't you?" Josh asked. Calico
started to speak, not having any idea at all what he was going to say, and was grateful when Josh continued. "You think I'm a kid who isn't old enough to know what I want."
Calico felt,in his gut, that he knew exactly what Josh was getting at, but he could not be sure, and so he just shrugged, hoping Josh would continue talking.
"I do know what I want, Calico. I've known what I wanted since I was six years old. It's not a something I'll grow out of. It's not something I've ever been ashamed of, or feel I have to be ashamed of. It's who I am—who I've always been and who I'll always be. I said I always knew what I wanted, but I never found it until…" he paused, staring at the fire, then raised his eyes up to look into Calico's, who had been watching him at him intently, unable to take his eyes off the young man.
"Somehow," Josh continued, forcing himself to keep eye contact with Calico, "I've felt since the day you met us at the train station that you understood that. Sarah thinks so too. If we didn't, I couldn't be talking to you now. You do know what I'm talking about, don't you, Calico?"
Calico felt almost dizzy; he was flooded with feelings that were both familiar
to him and yet at the same time, alien. He realized they had been with him all his life, but which he had never fully acknowledged before. He nodded.
"Yeah, I think I know, Josh."
"Did you ever…do you...feel the same way, Calico?"
Calico sighed deeply, a little embarrassed at the thought that even Sarah had apparently seen something in him that he had not fully acknowledged himself. "Yeah, Josh," he said finally, "I guess just about everything you said's pretty much the same fer me, 'cept you're a lot more aware of it than I been. I always just figgered I was different'n most men. Not that it ever bothered me much, or that I ever thought there was anything wrong with it, but feelin's are kind o' private out here—folks,'specially men, don't show 'em all that much. So 'til you come along, I just sort o' kept everythin' inside. I gotta tell 'ya it feels kind o' funny puttin' words to things I never spoke out loud about before in my whole life."
They sat in silence a long minute, Calico staring at the fire, trying to sort out he flood of feelings washing through him.
Finally, Josh spoke again. "You think there might be a chance, Calico?"
Calico looked up from the fire, thinking but again not quite sure he knew exactly what Josh meant. "A chance?"
"For...for you and me," Josh said quietly.
Calico ran one hand over his face and thought another long moment before replying. "You sure do know how to bowl a man over, bo...Josh," he said with a weak grin. "I'd be lyin' if I didn't say that a big a part o' me wants t'say 'yes' . But out here,the law means a lot to decent folks, and by the law, you're still a kid."
Josh nodded. "I know. And by the law I'll be an adult in a little over a week and
nothing will have changed except that I'll be at Aunt Rebecca's and you'll be somewhere between there and your ranch and we might never see each other again."
The thought of never seeing Josh again had been in the back of Calico's mind long before the conversation they were now having but, like so many things actually being spoken about for the first time in his life, the impact of the thought only now surfaced.
Calico said nothing for a moment, then sighed deeply. "We're talkin' about somethin' that's mighty hard f'r me t' find words for, Josh. I thought about it a lot, I uess, an' I guess it's somethin' I wanted all my life, too. And what you say is true about your just about bein' an adult in the eyes of the law. But we only knowed each other less than two weeks, an' much as an adult's you might be already, you still got a lot o' livin' t' do." He smiled and raised his hand to forestall Josh's objections. "If there's one thing I learned, it's that it's lots better t' grow int'a somethin' than t' jump int'a it."
"But we'll be at Aunt Rebecca's soon, and you'll be leaving us there!" Josh said.
"True enough," Calico said "An' that'll give ya' time t' think. I got nine years on
you, Josh. I never put words t' it before, but I think I been waitin' all this time, too. So I reckon I can wait a while longer. I just want you t' have the time
t' be sure you know that what ya' really want is what ya' think ya' want now. You understand me?"
Eyes downcast, Josh nodded.
"An' one more thing…'bout me callin' you 'boy' so much. My Uncle Dan called me 'boy' right up t' the day he died, an' I know he didn't mean no disrespect by it. I think I know now it was his way a lettin' me know that he cared about me."
Calico stirred the fire with a stick, then looked into Josh's face. "You just keep
that in mind if I should call you 'boy' again sometime."
The two sat in silence until Calico said: "Well, it's 'bout time we had our supper
an' then you c'n go get Sarah."