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  • Mark Wm Smith

Short Story: Desert Miles, Scene 8


Miles flicked a chunk of leftover drywall from the kitchen remodel, keeping one elbow tight against the bandaged rib.

The scrap passed beneath a bright white sign announcing the Desert Miles Bed and Breakfast before bouncing off the dump pile and rolling into the newly sewn grass.

Juneau perked his ears, watching the rubbish sail across the freshly painted porch. He mewled, peeked at his wounded owner and then replaced his chin on his paws.

Miles stepped over the dog and clumped down the steps. “This is your job, mutt.”

Emmeline Thurman touched flowers in the front garden of the Desert Miles Bed and Breakfast. Her floppy yellow rain hat dripped welcome moisture onto the spring petals. “Myrna Riley is expected to return from visiting her mother,” she said, “There’s talk she’ll be running for County Sheriff.”

“Too soon.” Miles contemplated the unruly piece of wallboard. “Whittling Jim has a better chance at sheriff, and people still believe he’s crazy.”

“Seems unfair. She saved your life.”

“And kept Sheriff Mentz from getting away with murder.”

“John.”

“What?”

“He’s no Sheriff, Miles.” Emmaline flicked a bead of water from a dark leaf. “That man went to a lot of trouble to frame Whittlin’ Jim, not to mention my dear husband, for cold-blooded murder.”

The unobliging lump of garbage at his feet grew distant and trivial. “A slip of the tongue, my dear. He spent so many years in the role.” Miles wondered if he might cry. It made him more thankful for the rain. “A stupid mistake and—”

“It’s a mistake when you accidentally shoot an innocent boy,” Emmaline blurted. “It’s much more when you plant evidence, manipulate forensics and try to shoot someone else to cover your tracks.”

Her anger plunged through Miles’s heart. He pinched his eyes to shut out the loss.

Emmaline shifted topic to calm her ire. “Is Jim staying on, once Deputy Riley gets settled?”

Miles shook his head, grimacing at the month-old stab of pain in his side. “Jim says pigs are easier to control than drunks. Had enough of deputy work. Farm life suits his country spirit.” Miles bent at the waist, twisting away from the injured arm. Reaching to pick up the bit of trash gave birth to a yowl in a minor key.

“Miles!” Emmeline scolded. “Leave the heroics to Juneau.”

“That hound wouldn’t save a fly.” Miles tossed the hard-won prize toward the debris heap. “Why not invite Jim for dinner?”

“He’ll be our first guest.” Emmeline stopped at a new rose bud and ran her finger along the edge of a petal. “How about your father?”

“Sure. We can listen to him extol the virtues of the traditional investor.” The sarcasm didn’t resolve his anger.

His wife smiled at the flower. “Well, the town needed the bed and breakfast whether or not the base closed, is what I think.”

Miles sighed, shifting focus from his father’s disregard. “You’re too good to me, Emm.”

“Invite Deputy Riley, too. If you want.”

Miles studied her. “Are you teasing, dear woman?” He wove the flowery maze, tiny droplets of long overdue precipitation splashing his face. He wrapped his healthy limb around the soaking raincoat that kept his wife dry and planted a firm kiss to her cheek. “You know you’re the only girl for me,” he said with his nose pressed against her skin.

Emmeline blushed and nuzzled him. “Miles! What are you doing? You’ll catch pneumonia!”

“Thank you for coming home.” He squeezed her again. “And for hanging my landscape drawings in the parlor.”

“Well,” she said, dropping her gaze, “somebody’s got to watch out for you. You’re crazier than Jim at times.”

Miles laughed. He released her, lifted his arms, and let the drizzle knock sense into him, drop by drop.

END

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