Ambush: Flash Fiction Friday Post

The Arrestra by Jay Richmond at http://bit.ly/1SsjrfT

The Arrestra by Jay Richmond at http://bit.ly/1SsjrfT

Zeke wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his wrist. The grit scratched like a rasp. He would have used his bandana but it was caked with the mud of his sweat and the dust. The donkey plodded around the arrastra, crushing the gold bearing quartz so he could get at the gold ore.

It seemed like it had taken forever to build the thing. He had to level the ground then water it heavily until he could smooth the caliches into a cement-like floor. Hauling water from the creek took more than a week with nothing but empty gunpowder casks to use as barrels, and that was using both donkey and horse to move the water.

Finding the wood to use for the arms and center of the arrastra was another problem. He’d had to cut, trim and haul the right sized trees to his site. The central pivot and the rock crusher pole had to be installed and assembled. He decided to attach the donkey to the rock crusher pole as best he could. Fitting it all together was a nightmare, especially as he should have put the center pole in the ground before he made it hard as cement and he’d only had some old-timer’s word on how it went together. Zeke had wanted to bash his own skull in with the pickaxe before he managed to get the set-up to work.

The crusher was the final problem. It didn’t seem possible to move, let alone carve rocks big enough to be useful. He walked around and around the empty arrastra trying to come up with a plan. The old miner told him he needed two flat-bottomed drag stones, one at the end of each arm. He had the chain. But finding rocks in the creek, then dragging them to the camp, then drilling holes in them drove him to distraction. After a long search he found two rocks, about the right size, beggars couldn’t be choosers, and with his mismatched pair of haulers, dragged the rocks to camp, drilled them out and hooked them to the newly assembled arms. It was easier to dig the damn quartz than to build the arrastra. When it was done he sank to his knees, and wept.

Three nights later a noise penetrated Zeke’s exhausted sleep. He heard his horse, Butter, whinny—it seemed wrong. Too far away.

He tossed off his wool blanket and rolled to his feet. If that horse has broken free again I’m going to shoot it. This is the fourth time in a month. He pulled on his boots without bothering with socks and grabbed his rifle.

Zeke stepped into the night. A half-moon in a star-studded sky provided a little light. At the picket line the donkey stood, looking to the west. “Damn horse.” Zeke patted the donkey to reassure it before moving in the direction the donkey was pointing.

He whistled softly then called, “Butter, Butter,” in a low voice. He didn’t want to spook her. Zeke stubbed the toe of his boot on a rock. I’m gonna trip and break an arm out here in the dark. If I had any sense I’d go back to my bedroll till daybreak.

Just as he decided to go back to his tent he heard Butter nicker. He followed the sound, grazing a prickly pear cactus in the dark. The thorns stabbed him in the shin and despite wanting to catch the horse, had to stop and pull the spines from his leg. Butter whinnied. She sounded close.

“Butter?” Zeke heard the horse stamping. “Come on girl. She’s close. He followed the noise and in a moment was at the horse’s side. “Hush, hush,” he whispered to her as he stroked her neck. Butter shivered. “Let me untangle your lead.” Zeke struggled in the dark to remove the reins from an acacia. “You couldn’t have got tangled in a shrub oak?” he asked the horse as the acacia thorns caught in the skin of his hands.

Something whizzed past his head. He dropped the lead and hit the ground. Butter danced around him. Zeke hoped he wouldn’t die by trampling from his own horse. More whizzing. Something hit the ground a foot away from him. He reached out and grabbed it. An arrow! The Apache were on him. The old timer’s stories raced through his mind.

“They take your horse in the night, boy. You think your stock has wandered off and you go out, barefoot and unarmed. That’s how they get you, sonny!” The old coot cackled at his bad joke.

Zeke tried to swallow around his dry mouth. Not so funny, old timer. But he had his rifle and a handful of rounds in his pocket. Please Lord. Let it be enough. Leaving Butter to her own chances, he rolled behind the acacia not knowing if the Apache were all in front of him or he was surrounded. He fired a shot into the dark where he thought the arrows came from.

He was rewarded with the sounds of scrambling. “There’s more where that came from.”

More arrows fell around him. The thickness of the acacia main branch saved him from one. Zeke fired again. More scrambling and a hoot. Did he hit someone? He fired toward the sounds and hoped, his heart beating out of his chest. Was he going to die?

Butter pranced left, then right, rearing and snorting. It was the distraction Zeke needed. He rolled to his left and crab walked on hands and feet what seemed a long distance ignoring the cactus spines that stuck in his hands. Butter ran off into the dark.

Sounds of running, then more horses, then horses running off. Was it over?

Zeke hid behind a boulder, rising with the sun to a deserted landscape. He swiped a dirty sleeve across his forehead and limped back to camp. He hoped Butter would be there but he called it a wash. He was alive and that’s all that counted.

 

 

Thank You!

1008 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Copper Dance

Quarry by Alex Malyon via www.DeviantArt.com

Quarry by Alex Malyon via www.DeviantArt.com

Salvatore Petrovici wiped the sweat from his brow, the dust and stone grit like sandpaper. The sun beat down on him fiercely as he worked the rock face, hotter than he ever remembered the sun in his native Italy to shine. A stonemason, he and many others had been hired by the Heartstone Mining Company to come to the Arizona Territory and cut rock.

The task for the last week was to large pieces to use at mine entrances. It was always a danger with these. A stone half the size he just finished cutting would crush a man to death if it wasn’t removed from the quarry wall with care. He finished attaching the cables to the stone and waved to the crane operator. The rock channeler, now blessedly silent, sat behind him. The crane sitting on the quarry floor made enough noise all by itself. Sal, as the American’s called him, stood back ten feet, out of the way, but close enough to see the rock as it was lifted from the track.

The crane operator waved back. Sal watched the tension increase on the cables while the rock groaned, cracked and popped, clearly heard over the whine of the crane engines. The cut stone rose one inch, then two. Higher the crane took it, then swung slowly to the right, away from Sal. Wait! The operator hadn’t raised the stone far enough, it was going to hit the quarry face.

Sal waved wildly, but the operator wasn’t looking at him. Shouting was useless—he was too far away to be heard over the roar of the crane engine. CRACK! The stone hit the rock face. It bounced back toward Sal, swinging now, out of control. He had little room to run—the channeler took up the whole width of the ledge behind him. The cables groaned as the crane operator tried to control the stone, now a pendulum, heading straight for Sal. He dived for the ledge floor, hoping the groaning cables would continue to hold the stone the three feet off of the ledge. He flattened himself and whispered prayers to Jesus and the Mother Mary as the stone passed six inches over his head.

The crane operator jerked the stone both up and back and just missed crushing the channeler. The stone swung back, higher than the first pass though Sal felt the breeze of it passing on his cheek. This time it cleared the rock face and the crane operator got the swinging stone back under control. Lying on the ledge, Sal watched as the stone was lowered to the waiting wagon and waited for his heart to slow its panicked beating.

He rose from the ledge, covered in rock dust, and crossed himself as he offered a second prayer of thanks. The quitting whistle sounded and Sal was glad. He was too shaken to work after that close call.

In the bar that night, the crane operator apologized. “I’m so sorry, Sal. The gears jammed. I had all I could do to get that damned rock under control.”

Sal clapped the man on the shoulder, a fellow immigrant from the north of Italy. “You did fine. I’m still here, you’re still here. It’s good.”

The man bought Sal a glass of wine shipped it in from the mother country by the mining company just for the Italian workers. Both men were toasting when the mining supervisor burst through the door. “Drinks on us, boys. We found another vein of copper!”

Cheers went up all around the room. Several of the miners broke into dance at the news. A new mine meant more work for all of them. Sal sighed as he sipped his dark red wine and watched the copper dance. He missed his wife and children. It was time to bring them over from the old country. It looked as though there would be work here for a long time.

 

The End

658 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Monday Blog Post: County Fair, Story Submissions, and Event Jitters

Quartz Rocks by Connie Cockrell

Quartz Rocks by Connie Cockrell

Gardening has picked back up. The Early Girl and Roma tomatoes are producing like crazy. The trellis is leaning way over due to the weight of the plants and fruit. I’ve had to do emergency tie-offs to keep everything upright. I harvested two more cantaloupes and took them to my daughter. We just can’t eat everything fast enough. Pears are still being harvested. The zucchini is slowing down. A good thing as I still have two giant ones in my fridge to use up.

Author Friend Boost! Lazette Gifford. She has just released her newest book, In the Shadow of Giants. Here’s a description.

In a future filled with starships, a gathering of Norse sail far wider oceans than they had in the ancient past. When members of the Chinese pantheon abduct one of the Norse, it will take all of Odin’s skills to convince an estranged Loki to help get her back.

You can find more at: http://www.lazette.net/

The Northern Gila County Fair is September 11- 13th. We’re in the ramp up. Tuesday starts the major lifting. I’ve been posting like crazy on the Facebook page: Northern Gila County Fair. There were four articles in Friday’s paper. Monday starts the KRIM radio spots. We’re all scurrying to tie up those last minute details. If you don’t hear from me next week, you’ll know why.

I received my editor’s edits this morning and finished my final corrections of Gold Dream. (The post picture is meant to represent this story.) I wanted to send this story to a particular contest. Don’t know what I was thinking but I overshot the wordcount by 4X. Sigh. I thought I could pull up a story I’ve already written. I found one I liked, edited it to a good place and realized that I had posted that on my blog. Since it’s been “published” I couldn’t submit that one either. The deadline for the contest is September 15th. I don’t feel that I can write and edit a good short story in seven days. So! I sent Gold Dream to a western fiction story magazine and I’ve saved the edited version of the second story, a scifi, to a file for a collection to release next year. Yay! No work wasted. I’ll try and get my act together for the contest next year.

Did something fun last Friday. Hubby, me and Mom took a ride up to Flagstaff. We had to get the car a service for some sort of computer update. Afterward picked up the daughter and her friend and went to the Pioneer Museum. Housed in what was once the Indigent Hospital, we learned a lot about early Flagstaff history and of the homeless population problem. If you’re ever in Flagstaff, this is a great place to visit.

The Pioneer Museum in Flagstaff is located in the historic Coconino County Hospital for the Indigent. The Hospital was built in 1908 using purniceous dacite from the Mount Elden Explosive Eruption about 500,000 years ago. The building was used as a hospital until 1938 and was considered a Poor Farm. The exhibits within the museum reflect the history of Flagstaff and northern Arizona. Visitors will learn of the local history of ranching, logging, transportation and life in Pioneer Flagstaff. Festivals and events are also held on the grounds including the annual Wool and Fiber Festival, the Folk Festival and the Heritage Festival.

2340 N. Fort Valley Road

Flagstaff AZ 86001

Phone 928-774-6272

Email: wpeterson@azhs.gov

 

The week after the Fair I’m at the InD’Scribe conference in Palm Springs, CA. http://indtale.com/indscribe-con-information  This is my first conference and I’m more than a little nervous. I want so much to learn a lot of stuff from all of the experienced authors that will be there. I want to connect with the readers that are attending and, obviously, sell a lot of books. If you’re around the Palm Springs area September 18th and 19th, stop on by. I’d love to chat with you.

On September 24th, I’ll be in Strawberry, AZ, speaking to the writing group there about CreateSpace. I’d love to see you there.

I’m totally up on conniesrandomthoughts.com.  I’ve put a notice up on my WordPress blog so my readers can find me. Be sure to follow me at my new website. I stopped posting to the WordPress site (www.conniesrandomthoughts.wordpress.com) after Friday August 7th.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

I put a special offer up in my July newsletter. Did you miss it? Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I make special offers to my newsletter people that I do not make on the website blogs. If you like the content, please encourage your friends to sign up, too. Don’t delay. The September newsletter is coming out soon. Sign up now so you don’t miss out.

Mystery at the Fair released July 15th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today! You can also see all of my books on www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com, Books tab. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a review on the site where you bought it. It’s a big help to me in the book rankings each vendor uses to promote the books on their sites. Thanks in advance.

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Gold Dreams

Australian, Gold, Nugget, NeroDesign

Australian Gold Nugget by NeroDesign via www.DeviantArt.com

Zeke Stanford pushed open the doors to the Oxbow Saloon and stopped to let his eyes adjust to the dimness. His fully packed donkey was tied to the hitching post in the mid-day Arizona sun but Zeke wanted a beer. Right now.

He left the door and walked to the bar. “Beer.”

“Just get in, Zeke?”

“Yeah, Earl. Just want to cut the dust before I go to the assay office.”

Earl put the mug of beer, foam dripping down the side, in front of the man, his eyebrow raised. Zeke picked it up and drained half of it in one swallow.

“Oh.” His eyes closed as he savored the brew. “That hits the spot.”

“You find something?”

Zeke opened his eyes to look hard at Earl. “Maybe.” He drained the rest of the beer. “See ya later.” He dropped a coin on the bar and left.

Back out in the sun he untied the donkey and pulled the lead rein. The donkey snorted and balked. “Come on, Jenny. We go to the assay office, then the livery, all right?”

The animal shook itself, dust rising from it in great clouds. Jenny snorted again then allowed itself to be lead. Zeke looked around the dirt street. There were a few men out on the porches of the Oxbow and the bar next door and the one across the street. It didn’t seem as though they were watching him any more than anything else moving in the street. Earl’s question had raised his hackles though. It didn’t happen often but claim jumpers could be anywhere and Zeke had worked too hard for him to trust anyone right now.

The assay office was just down the street. He tied Jenny to the hitching post there and went inside. There sat a man at a table, a ledger open in front of him, making an entry with a fountain pen, the gold tip glinting in the sunlight coming through the dusty window. “Howdy.” The man capped the pen and looked up expectantly.

“I have a sample for you to test.” Zeke glance out of the window, then the door behind him before he pulled a small bag from inside his leather vest.

“Well, young man.” The assay man stood up. “I’m John Markum. Let’s see what you have.”

“Zeke Stanford.” Zeke handed the man the small bag and watched as John took it to a work bench where there was a scale and glass stoppered bottles of liquids.

John hefted the bag then poured the contents onto the bowl of the scale. He added and took away weights until the scale balanced. He turned to look at Zeke. “Could be gold. The weight seems right.” He picked up the bowl of the scale and took a pinch of the contents and placed it in a glass bowl. John handed the scale bowl to Zeke. “You can pour the rest of that back into your poke.”

While Zeke did that, John selected a glass bottle from the bench and with great care, poured a little of the liquid into the glass bowl. It began to fizz, the gold specks dancing around in the few drops of liquid, a little smoke coming from the bowl.

“Is it supposed to do that?”

John grinned. “It is if you want your sample to be gold.”

Zeke finished pouring the gold from the scale into his bag. His heart was racing but he wanted to keep a clear head here. He’d seen men whoopin’ and hollerin’ about their strike. Next thing they were dead a few miles from town, their pack animals and equipment gone. Zeke eyed the assay man. “Good. You have the papers here to file a claim?”

“I do, young man. I do.” He walked to his table. Underneath was a filing cabinet. He opened the top drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper, placing it on the table top. John pushed his ledger to the side. “Have a seat son.”

Zeke pulled his bag closed and put it back into his vest pocket. At the table he sat down.

“You read, son?”

“A little.”

“Well this says that you’re filing a mining claim. You have to put down the location son, or it won’t be official.”

Zeke nodded, it made sense but he was reluctant to reveal the mine location. He picked up the fountain pen. Someday it might be my gold that makes these nibs. In the place John pointed out, Zeke wrote out the location of his mine. He signed at the bottom and sighed.

“I’ll make a copy, Zeke, and send it to the territorial capital for filing. I’ll make a copy for you, too. The original will stay here.” He held out his hand. “Congratulations, son.”

Zeke shook hands, a little light-headed. It seemed too easy after all of the digging and shoring up and cold nights.

“That’ll be twenty dollars, Zeke. And you can stay at Mrs. Entrada’s boarding house. It’s clean and not expensive. She gives you dinner along with the room.”

Zeke pulled out the coins and handed them to John. “Appreciate the recommendation, John. And I take it this business between us is private?”

“Aye. I wouldn’t be in business long if I told everything I know.”

They shook hands again. “Thanks, John.”

Zeke left the office and pulled Jenny along the street. He wanted a bath and a good dinner. Zeke thought about all the things he could do with the gold. A nice house for his Ma. Ranch hands for his Pa. Who knew, maybe he’d ask Mary Younger for her hand. He’d love to see her in a fancy house and pretty dresses. Yep, that was something to look forward to in his gold dream.

 

The End

963 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Farmer and the Superhero

So Let the Flames Begin by tearsintotime via www.deviantart.com

So Let the Flames Begin by tearsintotime via www.deviantart.com

Art looked around the barn. There wasn’t much here to fight with. The outlaws were closing in and they had revolvers and shotguns. Thank the heavens, Wanda and the kids were at her parent’s ranch, twenty miles away. That’s something, he thought as the back and front barn doors were kicked open at the same time.
“We know you have a cash box hidden in here, Sodbuster.” The leader of the gang called out from his horse in the barn door. The rest of the gang were on foot, nearing the center of the barn floor. Art was in the hay loft, pitchfork in hand.
They’d come riding in hard, dust blowing across the valley in the hot spring afternoon. Sure he had cash. He was saving it to buy seed and plant once the monsoons began.
The outlaws gathered at the base of the ladder leading to the loft. “Come on down. Don’t make us come up there,” a big brute with a scar across his left cheek yelled out.
Art considered throwing the pitchfork like a spear. He’d get at least one that way.
“Jimmy,” Scarface said to one of the men next to him. “Go up there and throw that sodbuster down.”
“You snoozer, I ain’t goin’ up there. He’ll kill me.” Jimmy backed up a step.
Scarface reached out a long arm, grabbed the young man by the scruff of his neck and shoved him to the ladder. He pointed his revolver at the boy. “Get up there or I’ll shoot you myself.”
Jimmy was none too happy but he began to climb the ladder. Scarface called up to the loft. “You come down nice and quiet. We won’t hurt ya.”
“You already burned down my house. You’ll kill me all right.”
Scarface waved his gun at Jimmy to get a move on. The boss, leaning on the pommel of his saddle snorted. “Sodbuster, we just want the money. Toss it down.”

Art could hear Jimmy nearing the top of the ladder. “I think not.”

The boss said, “We’ll burn the barn with you in it.”
“Then you won’t get the money, will ya?”
Jimmy stepped up to the loft. He had his revolver in hand, scanning the heaps of hay in the loft. “Come out, Mister. Give me the cash box and we’ll be on our way.”
Art flung the pitchfork at the boy. Jimmy dodged the fork but stumbled and fell off the loft. He screamed after he hit the dirt barn floor. “My leg! My leg is broke!” Art’s stomach rolled. He’d never hurt anyone in his life.
Over Jimmy’s screams, the boss yelled, “Shut the kid up. Get him on his horse. Mister, you made a mistake. Scarface, burn the barn.”
Art could hear the sound of the boss leaving. Through the open loft door he could see the gang forcing Jimmy onto his horse. The men rode away from the barn, Scarface’s horse with them. Below, he could hear Scarface lighting match after match, the sulfur smell rising in the air to his hiding place. He could see the boss send two of his men to the other side of the barn. There would be no getting out that way.
The smell of smoke filled the air and he could hear crackling. The chickens began to squawk and run from the building. He pulled the cash box out of the rafters and tucked it under his arm. Was there anywhere to put it so Wanda could recover it? A peek over the edge of the loft showed the flames licking the wooden support posts. At least the cow and her calf were in the field. Wanda would have that much.
The heat began to rise, sweat formed on his face. He grabbed a sack of corn, stuffed the box inside and put the sack in between two others. Maybe the corn wouldn’t burn. He peeked out of the loft door. The outlaws were having a smoke, waiting. Art wiped his forehead with his sleeve. If he jumped he’d be defenseless, the pitchfork was on the barn floor.
The flames crept up the support poles. Art paced back and forth between loft doors, desperate to think of some way out. He coughed from the smoke. When the flames licked at the front edge of the loft, he thought it was the end. Tears of anger, frustration and the smoke streaked down his face. He whispered a good-bye to his wife and children.

Kneeling in the center of the floor, he prepared to die when something crashed through the roof of the barn. Art’s arms went up to shield himself from falling shingles and splintered wood.
A man, dressed in sky blue with a red cape settled to the loft floor. He held out his hand. “I’m The Guardian, let’s get you out of here,” he said. Art took the man’s hand. He scooped Art up under his arms and flew through the hole he just made. The outlaws pointed and shouted. The man put Art down in the pasture next to the cow and flew back to the outlaws. They fired their guns at the man who swooped low over them, spooking their horses. The horses ran in every direction but the man followed, one by one, bringing each outlaw back and tying them up in the middle of the barn yard.
After the last outlaw was caught, The Guardian came back to the pasture. “I’m sorry about the barn,” he said. The barn was in full flame behind him. “But the bounty on those outlaws should be enough to pay for a new house and barn.”
With that, the man rose into the air until Art lost sight of him in the sun. Art walked the outlaws into town keeping them in line with their own dropped revolvers. The Sheriff looked confused at the outlaw’s tales. When he asked Art how he captured them all, he said, “I just surprised them.”
The End
1000 Words
Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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