The homestead’s called Campo Mirada, something that means Field View, a fitting name as Jack looks back at the vast landscape behind him. John’s the first off his horse, and Jack’s close behind him. Outside the small house, Luisa and who the two assume to be her family are hauling crates and bags onto a nearby wagon. A girl, a year or two younger than Jack, sits on the steps with a wrinkled woman, her mother, outside, comforting the crying woman. As the two approach, Luisa sets a small box on the wagon as she notices them. She climbs onto the porch, calling to her parents.
“Mama, Papa,” She says in Spanish, “These are the men who have helped me,”
Luisa’s father, a man with a beige hat and blue blazer, gives the Marstons a nod as he carries out a basket. “Thank you,” He says, “My family is indebted to you. Forgive my English.”
John tucks his thumbs into his belt, tilting his head towards Luisa. “What’s happening?” He asks.
“Great and terrible things,” Luisa strains, “The revolution is coming.” She turns away from John, heading back into the small house. “The country will be in turmoil once again, this time, we hope is the last time.”
She begins to haul out folded blankets as John responds. “Does that seem likely?”
Luisa looks back at him as she places the blankets onto the wagon with a huff. “With Abraham Reyes, anything is possible.”
Jack follows Luisa off the porch, while John leans against one of the support beams of the shack’s wooden roof. “Where’s your family going, Miss?” Jack asks.
As Luisa’s father carries out a large vase on his shoulder, Luisa sighs. “My parents and brother are headed to the hills,” She then gestures to the girl on the steps. “My sister has to flee. The army have an unfortunate way of treating women.”
Jack shakes his head. “So I’ve heard.”
John, from the porch, eyes her. “And where will you go?” He asks.
Luisa looks to Jack, then to John, a hardened look across her face. “Do not worry about me. I am living in history, I am not afraid to die.”
Jack, impressed by her bravery, nods. “You’re real brave, Miss Fortuna.”
John, unimpressed by her bravery, sighs. “Your nobility's almost as affecting as your naivety.” He says, while Jack gives him a narrowed glance.
As Luisa bends down to pick up a sleeping bag, she eyes John. “I would rather be dead than be a cynic like you.” As she lifts it up, she trudges to John, shoving it into his arms.
As John accepts it, he pauses before nodding. “I would, too.”
Jack accidentally bumps into Luisa’s father as he walks into the shack, grabbing a heavy box and carrying it to the wagon, John following him to place the sleeping bag onto the wagon. As they pack the baggage up, Luisa crosses her arms. “I know you're not really like that. You saved me.” She tells John, while Jack looks at her with a kind of look that says ‘Yes, he is like that.’
Luisa’s father puts a wrinkled hand on her arm. “Who will save Miranda,” He whispers to her. “We have to get to the port, her boat departs at dusk. There's no time,” He hisses, worry in his tone. Jack and John turn to him as Luisa nods. She takes a step forward.
“Jack, John. I must ask of one more favor from you,” She says.
John watches as Jack quickly steps onto the porch, nodding. “What do you need, Luisa?” He announces, while John nearly scoffs at his rushing to help. Always the knight in shining armor, he thinks.
“Can you take my sister to the docks?” She asks, “We are sending her to work for a kind man in the Yucatán. She is too young for revolution.”
The young girl looks up at her sister, then to the Marstons as she puts a hand on her mother’s back. Jack almost waves, but to keep up the serious persona, he simply looks back at his father, who looks like he’s contemplating the task. John sighs before joining Jack’s side. “Okay. Anything I can do to help out.” John says.
Luisa smiles at them before turning to her sister, waving her arms out. “The boat leaves at sundown, Miranda, go!”
As Luisa’s mother sobs, Miranda gives a kiss to her mother’s forehead. “Goodbye, Mama,” She whispers.
Her mother wipes her tears. “Goodbye, Miranda, be careful,” She sobs.
As John walks down the steps, he hears Jack say something. When he turns around, Jack’s knelt down, putting a hand on the woman’s back. “Don’t worry, Ma’am. Your daughter will be safe, I’m sure you’ll see her again soon.” He comforts, “You take care of yourself, alright?”
The woman offers him a tired old smile, sniffling as she says, “You are a good boy.”
Jack nods before looking up at his father, who quickly nods in the direction of Miranda, who’s gesturing for them to follow her. He leaves the woman and quickly joins John’s side. Jack’s about to apologize, but instead, he stops himself. “I felt for her.”
John actually smiles. “You still continue to surprise me, Jack.”
The two quickly jog to keep up with Miranda. “My brother, Emilio, works as a driver. We will take his stagecoach,” She commands, leading the two Marstons to a large wagon. Jack quickly catches up to her, and is the first at the coach as she climbs into shotgun. John glances at him with a strange look. Jack climbs up, and before he even gets his feet on the footboard, he looks at John.
“I’ll drive,” He says.
John’s left to the seats in the back of the stagecoach, so as he climbs into the back, he grunts. “You sure?” He asks.
Jack flicks the reins, and the horses begin to canter along the path. He looks back at his father. “I’m better than you think, Pa.”
Miranda shifts a little in her seat, almost antsy. “It is not far, I will show you the way.”
Jack leans forward, gripping the reins tightly as they ride past a canyon. He glances at her, and her uneasy look. “Don’t worry, Miranda, we’ll get there,”
Past a hill, and taking a left, John pokes his head out from where he’s sitting. “Jack,” He warns.
Jack gently pulls the reins. “I see them.”
Three men stand in their way, each of them carrying some sort of weapon. The middle one steps forward, raising a hand for the wagon to make a complete stop. Miranda gulps.
“Stop,” The man, clearly military, says. “This road is prohibited.”
“What do they want now,” Miranda cries, before turning to Jack, leaning closely to whisper to him. “Act normal, it’s nothing to worry about,”
As John leans back into his seat, he quickly retrieves his revolver. He gives the back of the driver’s seat a tap, as if to signal Jack to stand guard. Jack’s hand idly drifts to his hip.
One of the military guards nears the coach, narrowing his eyes. He turns to his comrades. “I know them, they’re fucking rebels,” He hisses.
Another one of them quickly points his rifle towards the wagon. “Shoot,” He commands, “Do not let them escape,”
As the trio point their weapons, John steps up, poking his head out from the back seat, pointing his revolver out from between Jack and Miranda, while Jack unholsters his own gun, placing a hand in front of Miranda as she shields herself. The Marstons are quick to kill the men before they can gun them down, watching as the men fall to the ground. Jack whips the reins, causing the horses to neigh loudly, taking off past the roadblock. John holsters his revolver, and quickly retrieves his own rifle, standing on his knees on one of the seats in the wagon, keeping his head poked out while aiming the rifle, while Jack keeps his hands on the reins. “Oh god,” Miranda cries, shutting her eyes and grabbing onto the seat for stability as the wagon rumbles.
“Shit,” Jack hisses, eyes widening at the sight of another army roadblock.
“Language,” John says, before aiming his gun towards the checkpoint. “You sure you don’t need me to drive,” John questions with a rather loud voice.
“I got it,” Jack responds, voice just as loud. As the army takes notice of the charging stagecoach, they open fire.
“Take a left here,” Miranda cries, “Stay away from them!”
With assault rifles, holes are left in the wooden wagon as it races by them, Jack leads the wagon through a path between two cliffsides. Miranda turns to Jack. “I will show you the way, we must avoid the army, or they will kill us all,”
John’s about to respond, but Jack’s quick. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep us as far away as I can,”
As the descend down the hill, a wagon filled with soldiers rides down the path to the left to greet them. John elbows the back of Jack’s seat, to catch his attention. “On the left, boy,” He shouts.
As Jack sees the wagon, Miranda’s quick to gesture to the path ahead. “Turn right, turn right,” She yells. Jack yanks the reins, the horses forced to make a sharp turn to avoid the army. As they pass, John jumps to the other side of the wagon to face the army, shooting the two men in the driver’s seat to avoid being followed. The wagon rides against a rather narrow road, threatened by the cliff right by the path, not helped by the winding pattern of it. Jack’s met with a split in the road, greeted by another roadblock on one end, soldiers hiding behind sandbags and others waving at the wagon to stop.
“Drive through it,” Miranda commands, just as Jack’s going to turn the wagon away. He obliges, ramming the wagon through the roadblock, forcing John to provide cover, gunning many of the men down as they race through it. The men still left proceed to shoot at the wagon while Jack continues to spur the horses to go faster, and faster, just to avoid their deaths. John holds onto the wooden side of the wagon, the other hand holding tightly onto his rifle.
“This a good enough driving practice for you, Jack?” John remarks.
Jack huffs. “Now’d be a great for you to not joke around, sir,”
John turns his head towards Jack, and although Jack can’t see him, he can feel his eyes. “What?” He asks.
Jack inhales deeply before responding. “I said shut up,” He hisses. John’s taken aback at first.
“You getting cocky on me, boy?”
Jack’s voice gets increasingly louder. “I’m getting shot at! That’s what’s happening right now! Shut up!”
Miranda taps Jack, pointing forwards to the bridge they’re approaching. “There’s more of them, near the train tracks!”
Jack nods. He retrieves a revolver, while his other hand remains on the reins. He kills one of the army soldiers, while John takes down the others. As more approach over the hill, Jack’s forced to turn the wagon, riding under the train tracks and off the main road. On some other path, it grows quiet as Jack rides through, offering the trio a moment of peace. Miranda lets out a shaky breath, holding a hand over her heart.
“That was so scary,” She says, breathing heavy and fast.
Jack keeps up the speed, and he turns to her, offering a comforting smile. “Don’t worry, Miranda. You did good, keeping us on track, even as people were shooting at us,”
Miranda steadies her breath, swallowing as she leans forward. “Thank you, Mister,”
Jack snorts. “Mister? I ain’t much older than you, I’m Jack,”
“Oh,” She says, “Thank you, Jack,”
John gets himself situated on a seat, rifle on his lap. His son stood up to his old man during a shootout with the army. Alright, then. As he listens to the young girl and his boy, he can’t help but think back to when Jack was about thirteen, acting about the same way as Miranda now, shaking and stuttering, though Jack must’ve been much more severe. In Jack’s own way, he’s helping Miranda though the shock, just as John did years ago.
The moment’s cut short, as Miranda points ahead, to the path on the right. “Another roadblock,” She cries out. “Take a left, here,”
John elbows the backseat again. “It’ll just delay us again, Jack, you gotta ride through it,”
Jack lets out a heavy breath before turning to Miranda, “Keep your head down,” He instructs.
The army men hide behind cover, others simply point their guns towards the wagon, but as it charges through, destroying much of the cover, many of the men are sent staggering back, jumping to avoid getting run over. John’s quick to dispose of many of them, climbing onto the seat at the back of the wagon, breaking off one of the boarded walls of the wagon with the stock of his gun to provide a window for shooting, keeping one knee on the blanketed seat, the other on the floor. As Jack rides past the block, all of the men are dead by John’s smoking barrel.
Past a hill, Miranda and Jack take notice of the river greeting them from afar. “We’re almost there,” She announces, “Don’t stop now!”
Stuck down a single path, a rather large wagon’s in their way, filled with soldiers tough and brittle. Jack nearly halts the wagon, but time’s almost up. He glances back, to his father, then back to the road ahead. “Hold on,” He commands the two passengers. Miranda holds onto her seat, while John quickly grabs onto one of the wooden planks providing support for the wagon. Just as soldiers take aim, Jack yanks the reins, and the wagon runs off the road, nearly sending it tumbling to the side, evading the enemy wagon as Jack forces the wagon back onto the path to avoid running right into a boulder. He looks back at the wagon, taking his revolver and shooting at the soldiers pouring out from the back of it, while John’s quick to gunning them down with his rifle. As they’re far enough away, Jack turns back just as Miranda gasps.
“Look, over there,” She cries, a smile on her face, “They’re still here!”
Indeed, as they ride across the riverbed, the dock’s still holding the boat to be Miranda’s ticket to safety.
As Jack stops the wagon in front of the dock, Miranda climbs off, but before she’s on the ground, she looks at Jack. “Thank you, Jack. Will I see you when I return?”
John jumps out from the back of the wagon, holstering his rifle. “Not likely, we’re not planning on sticking around.”
Jack shrugs, practically ignoring John’s answer. “Maybe we will see each other again. Stay safe, Miranda.”
Miranda smiles. “Thank you, again. Both of you,”
John waves her off. “Yeah. You should get going.”
As the people on the dock wave at Miranda, she’s quick to run to them, taking a second to turn around, giving the Marstons a wave goodbye. When she reaches the docks, she gives the two people there a hug, and they’re quick to return it.
John climbs up to sit in shotgun just as Jack leans forward to rest his arms on his knees, letting out a relieved sigh. The man and woman lead Miranda into the boat, and they set off shortly, while John reaches for the reins.
“We should get this back to Luisa and her family,” John says, while Jack snatches the reins away, avoiding John.
“And I’ll keep driving, thank you very much.” Jack replies.
John gives Jack a strange kind of look, eyes narrowed. “What’s gotten into you, boy?” He asks as Jack begins to ride.
John leans forward. “Sure as shit seems like something,”
Jack’s quiet for a bit, head hung low. “Just,” He mumbles before speaking up. “Just stressed, is all.”
“Why?” John asks.
Jack tilts his head, “Well,” He gestures his hand forward. “All of this. Worried that girl was gonna die, that you was, uh, that you were going to die.”
John hesitates, but slowly gives Jack a gentle pat on the shoulder. “Well, we both made it. You did good, son. Kept us both alive.”
Jack huffs. “Yeah,” He sighs.
John and Jack are both quiet for awhile, the sun slowly fading into the night, and the moon taking it’s shift.
‘ I ain’t the one taking Jack on fishing trips, ’ John once said, voice immature and loud.
‘ Just do one thing or another, ’ A voice replies in John’s mind, ‘ not be two people at once, is all I’m saying. ’
As John looks at the moon, bright and waning, he speaks. “Y’know,” He says, turning his head towards Jack. “You ever been hunting before?”
Jack, caught off guard, looks at him, brow furrowed. “What?”
“You heard me, Jack.” John replies, while Jack pauses.
“Uh, no sir. You never took me.”
John punches himself in his head. “Well, you wanna change that?”
“Ain’t you worried about Bill and Javier?”
John waves the thought off. “Those idiots ain’t going anywhere. You wanna go hunting or not?”
“Well,” Jack says. “Sure,”
“Alright, then, we return this wagon to Luisa’s family, then in the morning I’ll teach you how to hunt.”
Jack snorts. “Do you even know how to hunt?” He asks. John almost looks offended.
“I know enough. Hell, when I was younger, I was earning my keep by hunting.”
Jack blinks. “What does that even mean?”
“When we ran with,” He’s about to say Dutch. “Them, uh, the old gang, we all had to earn our keep, remember?”
Jack looks down for a second, thinking, remembering, before returning his eyes on John. “Yeah, I think so.”
“Well, I was off hunting all sorts of things, selling what I could skin. Probably because I couldn’t,” Rob a house without getting caught, steal a stagecoach without getting it damaged, steal from a man without accidentally killing him, “Do other things.”
“Pa,” Jack mumbles, giving a grim look to John as he gently shakes his head. “You don’t have to dance around things. I know what you did, what all of you did.”
“I ain’t stupid, I know you were a criminal. Stop sugarcoating it.” Jack details, and John’s left quiet, turning his head away from Jack. Jack sighs, closing his eyes as he does so. “I’d like to go hunting with you, Pa,” He says, “As long as we leave all of this behind when we do. I don’t wanna think about it, just for a day.”
John looks at Jack. “Yeah.” He says. “Alright.”
When they arrive, Luisa’s the only one left in the small house. She thanks them for their help once again, they mount their own horses, and they return to Chuparosa in the dead of night.
When they reach their hotel room, and Jack places his hat on the table, John gives him a strange look. “What?” Jack asks.
“Your hair’s getting long,” John remarks. “You wanna cut it?”
Jacks hand goes to the back of his head, running his hand through his hair going down his neck. “No,” He answers, “I think I like it.”
John chuckles. “At least keep your bangs maintained, before they blind you.”
Jack scrunches his face. He likes his bangs, thank you very much. “Whatever you say, sir,” He responds offhandedly as he places his gun belt on the nightstand by his bed, taking a seat on the bed shortly after. “Go to bed, old man, before you get cranky.”
As John leans against the wall right by the window showcasing the whole town, he shrugs. “I’ll sleep soon.”
And so, as Jack falls into a deep slumber, Johns smoking, the window opened and elbows leaned against the window sill. His heads hung low, and he watches the people still awake carry on with their lives. He burned down a town, and he knows he won’t be able to rectify that by simple tasks given to him by Luisa, or anybody else. Even now, years and years past, he dances around the past at a distance, and it still hurts. Sooner or later, Jack’s going to confront him, about everything, and he’s not sure he’ll be able to take it. Later, the cigarettes chucked out from the window to be crushed under whatever, and John’s hands are around his hand-me-down journal. Many pages are still yet to be filled.
‘ I can’t be a stranger one day, then be a father the next, ’ He writes, ‘ I’m taking the boy hunting, something I should’ve done a while ago. ’
When Jack wakes up, the sun shines through the opened window, and John sleeps seated in the chair by the table, head rested on his hand. He gets up, rubbing the back of his neck, and slowly approaches John. When he gives him a shake, John jolts awake.
“Shit!” John yelps, leaning forward, eyes widened. Jack takes a step back.
“Sorry,” Jack says on instinct. “You were sleeping,”
John remains leaned forward, his elbow on his knee as he rubs his face. “Yeah,” He grumbles, “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,”
“Bad dream?” Jack asks.
John shrugs. “Something like that,” He replies.
It’s a quiet morning, the two eat at the saloon, and they’re out of the town an hour later. The day’s hot, as usual, and the two’s hats are the only shield from the unrelenting sun. They don’t stay on any path, simply riding through the dead grass, past the cacti stout and tall, and past the critters that skitter on the ground around them.
Jack turns to John. “What are we even going to hunt out here? It’s a wasteland out here.”
John chuckles. “Have more faith, Jack. You’d be surprised at what I run across out here.”
They’re heading down south, riding at a steady canter. Eventually, Jack leans forward, huffing. “This is really boring, Pa,” He whines.
John stares at him. “You are so quick to give up, boy, I swear. The only thing you’d stick to is reading,”
Jack rolls his eyes. “With a book, you don’t gotta wait five hours for the words to appear.”
Soon enough, John stops Jack in his tracks, a hand raised. “You see that?” He asks.
Jack sighs. “What?” John points out, towards a large, yellow field, and Jack settles down. “Are those deer?”
John smirks. “Sure looks like it. And you said this was a wasteland.”
Jack slowly retrieves his rifle. “Yeah, shut up.”
As Jack readies his gun, one of the deer, a large buck, brings his head up, his large antlers like the branches of an old tree. Jack thinks the buck is staring at him, so he hesitates.
John brings his own rifle out. “What are you waiting for, Jack?” He asks.
Jack pulls the trigger, and misses, sending the herd into a panicked shock, many of them scattering. “Damn,” He hisses.
“Language,” John says. “Let’s get after them, alright? Kill two, then we’ll sell what we get, alright?”
John’s the first to ride after the herd, and Jack’s close behind. John’s quick to take down one of the does on her own, and as she falls to the ground with a thud, Jack stays on his horse while John hops off his.
He retrieves his hunting knife from his hip, giving Jack a glance. “This is how you skin a deer, you watching?”
Jack gives him a look as John gets on his knees. “Is this going to be gross?” He asks.
John rolls his eyes. “Just look.”
John pushes the deer onto her back, cutting the fur with an incision down the stomach, walking over the deer as John tugs the skin off. Jack makes a disgusted look as John rolls the flesh up.
“That’s really gross,” Jack says.
As John makes his way to his horse, he throws the pelt over the back of it. “Quit your whining, Jack. You’re up next.”
Jack watches wide-eyed as John then returns to the doe, picking her up and hauling her over his shoulder, then stowing it onto his horse, tying her to keep her safe and sound. John pats his hands together. “There. That’s how you do it, genuine venison meat, good for selling. Or eating.”
“So I’m going to do that?” Jack asks as John climbs onto his horse.
“Yup,” John answers. “And get to it, too. Those deer are probably scattered all to Hell.”
“Alright, did you see where that antlered fellow got off to?” Jack asks, looking around.
“The buck? Ran off back where we came, maybe a bit more east,”
“That’s the one I want, I missed it the first time.” Jack replies, turning his horse back. John gives him a look.
“Well, then, you lead the way,” John says, gesturing his hand out for Jack to take the lead, and so he does.
With no tracks left in the dirt, Jack’s running on pure luck, riding back where they came with his rifle in his hand. He’d show that deer, and he’d show his father.
And then, he catches him, the buck.
“That’s a buck,” Jack announces, looking back at John.
“That is a buck,” John replies. So, as Jack takes aim, John offers advice. “Aim for between the eyes,”
Jack shuts one eye, watching the buck graze. “I got it,” He licks his dry lips, then whistles. The buck quickly raises his head in surprise, and with the opportunity there, Jack shoots him, right in the head. The buck tumbles to the ground, and Jack smiles.
“Nice shot,” John says.
“Thanks, Pa,” Jack responds, quickly jumping off his horse and running towards the poor animal. As he pulls out his knife, he looks back at John. “Do I really have to skin this thing?” He asks.
John rolls his eyes. “You kill it, you skin it.”
“Alright,” Jack whines. He gets down on one knee, trying to recreate what John did just earlier, skinning the buck. As he yanks the pelt off, John’s quick to speak up.
“Get the antlers, too,” He says.
Jack grumbles, but obliges, grabbing the buck’s antler in one hand, and cutting it off with the other. He does that with the other antler, and soon he rolls the pelt up, the antlers sandwiched in the middle. “It’s done,” He announces.
John scratches the side of his face. “I doubt you’re gonna be able to fit that big guy on that horse, with the pelt, too. You oughta just leave him here for the vultures, and sell what you got.”
As Jack walks back towards his trusted steed, he looks at John. “You sure?” He asks.
“Yeah, you’ll be able to make good money off that pelt, I’m sure. The antlers, too.”
Jack stows the pelt onto the back of his horse, whistling quietly to himself, listening to the birds above. He gives the horse a gentle pat, and just as he’s about to mount the horse, he looks at John, eyes staring straight forward, wide like saucers, lips slightly parted.
“Pa?” He asks.
“Get on the horse,” John advises, voice firm.
“What?” Jack asks, turning his head around, and eyes quickly widening.
Wolves, about ten or so, near at the smell of the newly deceased deer. At the sight of the two men, they snarl.
“Jack, get on your horse, dammit,” John hisses.
Jack quickly climbs onto the horse, hands clinging to the reins, yet the wolves are quick to charge. Jack yelps, nearly falling off his horse as one gets dangerously close, yet John’s quick to respond, killing the wolf with a shot to the head. “Ride,” John commands, “Go!”
The two spur their horses into a quick gallop, half of the wolves giving chase, keeping up with the horses. “What the Hell, Pa,” Jack shrieks, hands shaking as he attempts to aim his rifle at one of the wolves.
“This wasn’t my idea of a hunting trip, believe me,” John responds, taking down one of the dogs with the shot of his revolver.
Yet, as Jack’s behind John, the wolves focus on him. The horse, terrified, suddenly kicks up it’s front legs, sending Jack tumbling to the ground and running off. John yanks the reins, sending his horse to an immediate halt as he throws himself off the horse.
Jack, hands still around his rifle, kicks himself away from the wolves, taking aim and blasting one of their brains out. John sprints to Jack, and without a second thought, he kicks the last remaining wolf in the head, casting it away from Jack.
“I ain’t afraid to get scarred again, you furry son of a bitch,” John growls at the wolf, while Jack catches his breath, still on the ground, watching as John gets between him and the wolf.
The wolf runs forward, and before it can wrap it’s jaws around John’s arm, he fills the wolf’s opened mouth full of lead, and it falls to the ground dead.
John whips around, eyes wide as he holsters his gun. “Jack, you alright?”
Jack shakes, and slowly pushes himself into a seated position. “Fuck,” He says, and John lets him off the hook. “My back really hurts.”
“Can you walk?” John asks.
Jack sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. “Yeah, I think so.”
John offers his hand, and Jack takes it. On his feet, his knees buckle slightly before he steadies himself. John lets out a relieved sigh. “I’m just glad those wolves didn’t turn you into their next meal, or God forbid you end up looking like me,”
Jack pats his shirt off, cleaning off the dirt. “That was terrifying, but,” He exhales. “Exciting, I think,”
John gives him a funny look. “Exciting?”
“Yeah, when we were running from the wolves, that was real exciting, before the horse threw me off.”
John looks around. “Speaking of which, we should find your horse.”
So, as John approaches his own horse, he looks at the deer on the back. “Sorry, ma’am,” He says, “My son needs this seat,” John throws the deer off, leaving only the spread out pelt.
“Did you just talk to that deer?” Jack asks.
“Does it matter?” John responds, offering a hand to help him onto the horse.
As Jack pushes his hand away and climbs onto the horse himself, he shrugs. “I guess not.”
Jack whistles, hoping for the horse to come, but with no response, they’re forced to follow the horse’s trail. “Can’t believe we wasted that time for a deer we’d just throw into the dirt,” Jack grumbles.
“There’s always more deer, Jack. Let’s hope our friends appreciate our gift to them, the ones we didn’t kill.”
Eventually, they do find the horse, spooked all to Hell off back towards Chuparosa. By the sound of Jack’s whistle, it calms, allowing Jack to approach it, giving it a calming pat on the neck. “There, there,” Jack coos as he climbs onto the saddle. “Should we head back to Chuparosa?” He asks.
John nods. “Yeah. You can relax, and I can sell the things I still got from that deer. What happened to your things?”
Jack pauses. “I, uh, think it got thrown off when I did.”
“Well, some hunter will come across it. He’d be a real happy bastard, then.” John muses.
So, as they ride back, they’re mostly silent, but eventually, Jack turns to his father. “Did you really get your scars from a bunch of wolves?” He asks.
John nods. “Yeah, I did.”
“And how did you not die?”
“Wolves usually get scared off once you shoot one of them in the skulls. Usually.”
“I think I remember when that happened. You were hurt bad,” Jack says.
“Mm, yeah. Wasn’t fun, being cooped up in a bed for weeks. Your mother had to treat me,”
“Wow, real romantic,” Jack deadpans, while John chuckles.
“Wouldn’t say that. When you was a boy, I wasn’t the best gentleman. I’m surprised she didn’t kill me in my sleep, by the way I was acting.”
“I’m surprised she hasn’t killed you, too. That woman could take on an army.”
“And that’s what I love about her,” John says, ending it with a gentle chuckle. “Puts me in my place when I ain’t acting right, making me see the truth,”
“Yeah, guess your right. I hope we see her soon. I hate to say it, but I think I miss her cooking.”
John then laughs, a real one, loud and endearing. “Yeah, yeah,” He wheezes. “Me too,”
And so, the Marstons return to their hotel room after John sells off the remaining things he had from the deer he skinned, giving Jack half of the profit, even if it isn’t much. In their hotel room, John sharpens his knife, and Jack sits on his bed, reading the book all the way from Armadillo. Soon, John tears his eyes away from the knife, and looks at Jack.
“What’s happening in that book of yours?” He asks.
Jack swings his legs, his boots clicking against the wooden side rails of the bed with each kick. “Uh,” He sings, “The main character, Joey, found out that his brother faked his own death, and is currently running after him. He just shot down four men with one bullet,”
John pauses. “How the Hell do you do that?” He asks.
Jack snorts. “The bullet ricocheted off a bunch of walls, I think.”
“I don’t think that can even happen,”
Jack shrugs. “I think that’s why it’s in a book, Pa, it’s fiction.”
“Wow,” John deadpans, “I had no idea.”
Jack laughs, and as it dies down, he looks up from the book. “You wanna hear a part?”
John leans back in his seat, placing the knife on the table. “Yeah, sure.”
“Okay,” Jack announces, sitting up and coughing into his fist. “Uh, lets see, ‘You saved me,’ The beautiful woman cried,’” John nearly laughs at Jack’s fake high-pitched voice, “‘She then threw her arms over Joey’s neck. ‘Sorry, lady,’ Joey snarled, pushing the woman away as she gasped. ‘I don’t do romance,’ And with that, Joey blew the smoke from his very large revolver, putting it into its holster. He tipped his hat to the woman, then walked out of the town, his cape flying behind him. The day was saved, yet Joey was no closer to finding his brother.’”
With the finale of that passage, John laughs. “Is that right after killing four men with a single bullet?”
Jack nods. “Yeah, she was captured by them because they knew Joey wouldn’t let an innocent woman die. He’s too heroic for that.”
John returns to sharpening his knife, giving a final glance to Jack. “And don’t be getting any ideas from that book. If I catch you trying to kill four men with one bullet, I’ll smack you upside the head.”
“Yeah, yeah, old man,” Jack remarks, snickering softly.
It’s a moment of peace, and it’s nice.