Hat Creek Trouble

By Bryce Blackburn

Adventure / Romance

The One about Storms

The next morning, my eyes felt heavy. I went through the motions of making coffee, frying bacon, starting biscuits, frying eggs. I hardly noticed when the men sat at the table with their coffee cups looking tired, or when they thanked me for breakfast, complimented my dress and filed out the front door.

I did notice that a big cloud covered the sun when I went to do dishes and I did notice the men watch me carefully. But I couldn’t be bothered. The more I thought of Gerry, the more unsettled I felt. It was as if a piece of me had been pulled out of me.

The next week passed like this. I was saddened by a thing I could neither fix, nor explain to the men when they asked. I knew they were concerned about me and I knew that Newt most of all wanted to help me with whatever I was struggling through. But I couldn’t tell him I was a time traveler that might never see her gay best friend again.

I didn’t figure that would play over well in 1877 Montana.

When I woke up, I hardly even noticed that the rain was starting to come down in a drizzle. The dream I had the night before clung in my mind. I was on top of a very high building. It had been so high; I could hardly see the ground through the black and gray storm clouds that had surrounded the building. I was in my pale green dress and I was crying. I heard myself say, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Then I stepped off the roof of the building and crashed into the ground below, leaving me in a heap. The dream felt familiar, as if I’d had it before and I spent the better half of the morning thinking about it. Then it came back in a rush to me. Gerry, the time travel, the plan to get back if I ever got through, and the dream. Gerry had told me almost every time he thought the storm was the real thing.

The only way to get back was when a storm rolled in, twelve days after when you got there. This is why he reasoned that there was a storm somewhere in the world every twelve days. He’d even done some advanced calculation and showed to me to prove his theory. But I had to jump from a building at least three stories tall to get back.

A loud clash of thunder nearly made my heart stop and I looked out the window to see a lightning storm move in. The men quickly finished their work before they came into the cabin.

“Don’t suppose I’ve seen a storm this wild in a while.” I said blandly as I looked out the window.

The guys seemed surprised by my remark, all agreeing. Newt came to stand next to me as he looked out the window at the lightning and his hand slipped into mine.

It was a small gesture, but I realized I’d been a zombie the last week. Newt deserved better, even if I hadn’t known I was doing it. I firmly took his hand, hoping he thought I was scared by the storm. I’d have actually liked to go sit in the open field below the house, but I doubted any of the men would allow that.

“How are you feeling?” Newt asked quietly as the other men took off their wet things and hung them to dry.

“A little better, I’d think. I’m sorry for my behavior.” I said, trying not to look at him.

He just shook his head a bit.

By the time the sun set, the storm was directly over the cabin. A few of the men whispered about a tornado sweeping the house away. But it was just blowing wind and spitting rain. I tried to talk Captain Call into letting the men sleep in the house, but he informed me that wasn’t right for a company of men to sleep in the same room as a woman.

When it came time for bed, the men put on their rain gear and ran from the cabin to the barn. Newt lingered for a moment, until Dish, who had gone in front of him, disappeared into the barn. He hesitated for a moment, but then suddenly leaned forward and kissed me.

For a moment, I didn’t quite know what was happening. But then my body responded by kissing him back and pulling him closer.

He broke the kiss with a smile as big as Texas itself. “Night ma’am.” He said and dashed off to the barn through the rain.

I watched him until he disappeared into the shadows of the stable. I was taken off guard by his actions, but I definitely enjoyed it. I smiled to myself.

Then a flash of lightning hit a tree on the hill behind the lake. But in that flash, I saw a figure on top of the barn, then it disappeared. I stood for a moment, straining my eyes to try and see it.

The realization was scary. The person I’d seen on top of the barn was me. Or it was supposed to be, at least. The barn was the only thing for miles that was at least three stories tall. If I fell off the barn into the storm, it’d take me back to Gerry. I took a deep breath and went back into the cabin. I had all night to get to the top of the barn. But I’d have to wait until the guys fell sleep.

I changed into my pale green dress, so that when time reversed back, the lady at the shop would still have her green and red dress. I sat there in front of the fire, watching it, waiting for the right time. The storm seemed to be getting more and more violent.

It felt like a long time had passed, despite the fact there was no clock to mark time for me. I put my hoodie on over the dress and pulled on my neon converse. I grabbed a square of cloth that was once a table cloth and tied it up to carry my shirt and jeans. With a deep breath, I opened the door to the cabin and gently closed it behind me, even though the lightning storm that raged around us was ten times louder than the door closing.

But I knew what I had to do. I pulled up my hood and dashed across the murky courtyard to the side of the barn. I waited for a moment, making sure the guys hadn’t seen me. Then I walked alongside the barn, trying to find the ladder to the roof. On the backside of the barn, there were wood footholds attached to the outside wall. I took hold of them and pulled myself up onto the roof.

I made a bit of noise as I fell onto the roof but I doubted with the wind and rain and thunder that anyone would notice. I was nearing the edge of the roof when I heard my name. I ignored it, figuring it was my imagination. But when I heard it again, I looked around. Newt, in all his rain gear, stood in the middle of the roof.

He looked confused when he came over to me. “What are you doing?” He yelled above the storm as he looked me over.

“Newt, I’m sorry. But I have to go home.” I told him.

“What are you doing on the roof?” He asked, seeming to ignore my previous remark.

“I have to go home. I’m sorry, Newt.” I told him, stepping closer to the edge.

He quickly grabbed the sleeve of my hoodie and pulled me to him. “You might slip and fall.” He said, looking concerned.

I was at a crossroads, but my choice was obvious. “Newt, I time traveled.” I said and watched the confusion grow on his face. “I fell through time and landed here. Where I’m from, it’s 2014. My clothes were funny when I came here because it’s a different time. And now it’s time to go home.” I told him.

His face looked saddened. “I’ll take you back to Denver, I promise. Just come down off this roof.”

I couldn’t help it; I started tearing up. “Newt. I have to go into the storm to go home.”

He just shook his head. “I can’t let you do that.”

“Do you love me?” I asked suddenly and he froze. “Yes.” He said without hesitation. “Then you have to let me do this. You have to trust me.” I told him.

He shook his head again and his grip on me loosened. I hated what I was about to do. I stood up on my tippy toes to kiss him and broke it suddenly, throwing myself over the edge.

Newt caught my hand before I fell and he hung on tightly, trying to pull me up.

“Newt, please.” I begged. “Let go.”

“I can’t let you die.” He told me, holding on tightly. He tried to pull me up, but the roof was slick from the blowing rain and wind. He looked panicked as my hand started slipping out of his. The drop I felt when I fell out of his grip was scary, but the last thing I saw before I was thrown around was Newt.

I felt like I was bouncing around a dryer that was colder and wetter, but then I landed against something hard. I groaned at the pain. I opened my eyes to see a dumpster; the dumpster that sat under my fire escape. I franticly looked up to see Gerry standing on the fire escape above, looking stunned into silence.

Another groan made me look around. Newt laid next to me in the dumpster.

“Newt! What did you do?” I all but screeched.

He looked startled to be in a big metal container. “I couldn’t let you die.”

“I didn’t die. I can’t believe you fell off the barn.” I said, standing up in the dumpster and giving him my hand to help him up. He looked around confused. I took a hold of the dumpster and pulled myself up so that the top of it was even with my rib cage, then I flipped forward and out onto the side of the alley.

Newt tried to clumsily follow my moves.

“Grab that bar. You’re taller than me.” I told him and he took hold of it and pulled it down. I scurried up the fire escape, Newt close behind me. When I was on the same expanse of metal as Gerry, I flung my arms around him. “Gerry! I was scared I’d never see you again. I landed on a cattle ranch in Montana in 1877. This is Newt, he’s a cowboy. They taught me to make biscuits and ride a horse. They even took me into town and bought me two dresses that were so pretty, but I didn’t want to wear them back here. And I’m serious. I rode a horse for real. I’ve been cooking all their food for the last twelve days and I was so worried.” I said, all on one breath.

Gerry’s eyes were the size of a dinner plate. He slowly turned to Newt, who looked so confused. “Newt. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Gerry.”

Newt shook his hand. “I’ve heard about you.”

Gerry just turned to me, taking in my appearance. “You did it.”

But I quickly shook my head. “You did it, Gerry. You said so.”

The next words out of his mouth scared me. “You have to go back.”

I just gapped at him. “Gerry… what? No. I can’t leave you. I struggled this entire last week because I was scared I’d never see you again. I can’t leave you again.” I told him, holding his hand.

He smiled genuinely at me, cupping my face in his other hand. “You got a fine cowboy and some nice clothes. No reason to leave that for me.”

“Gerry.” I said and he hugged me.

“Write me.” He said and I looked at him confused. “Write me about it and tell the postman to not deliver it until tomorrow’s date. April 15th, 2014.” He said with a smile.

I shook my head. “But James and Danny and football and ice cream.” I said, recalling just the events that had happened in this one day.

Gerry smiled. “What about love? Football is not a good replacement for love.”

I looked back at Newt, who still looked confused, but now he was looking concerned. “You said you loved me.” I said, meaning it more of a question.

He gently took my hand and nodded. “I did.”

As I stood there, looking between the two men, I knew what I had to do; I just didn’t know how. “Gerry.” I said quietly and he hugged me once more. Then he unzipped my hoodie and pulled it off my shoulders, taking the little table cloth from me that held my other clothes.

“Write me. Every week write me something. Even if it’s silly.” He said with a smile.

I nodded, then turned back to Newt. I took Newt’s hand. He leaned over and kissed me on the check and I couldn’t help but smile. As much as I was going to miss Gerry, now I needed Newt. “Are you ready to go back?” I asked him.

He took a moment to reply, just looking at me and Gerry, then the city skyline he could see from the fire escape. Then he nodded.

I turned back to Gerry. “I’m going to miss you so much.”

He smiled. “I know, honey bee.” He said as he and Newt helped me climb over the railing. Newt then followed me and the rain pounded heavily on the alley below us. I turned to look at Gerry one last time. “I love you, Gerry.”

“I know. I love you too.” He said, then set his hand on Newt’s shoulder. “You take care of her. Promise me.”

Newt smiled. “I promise.”

“Ok, go. Hurry, hurry before I start crying.” Gerry said.

I looked at Newt and we held hands. “On three, ok?” I asked and he nodded. “One, two, three.” I said and we both pushed off, away from the railing. It felt like we ended up back in the dryer as we tumbled, but I held fast to Newt. I didn’t want to end up in another time then he did.

Then I hit my head on something solid and wet and I groaned loudly. When I opened my eyes, I landed a few feet from Newt, who looked around to see where we were. It took me a minute, but I realized we had ended up where I had started.

“Newt,” I said, pointing in the direction of the light in the distance. “That’s the porch light I saw when I found your cabin.”

He stood up, helping me up as the wind blew wildly. Newt took off his jacket and wrapped it around my shoulders, trying to protect me from the onslaught of windblown rain. We forced our way through the rain until we got to the cabin. I was going to knock, remembering that to them, I’d never actually been here. But I forgot that Newt lived here, so he just pushed the door open.

I stepped through, shivering as he closed the door.

“Newt, where on earth-“ Captain Call started, before he spotted me. “Ma’am.” He said, standing from his chair.

I nodded a little. I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering and my hands were shaking so bad I couldn’t hold them still. I didn’t realize how cold I was until Newt handed me a blanket to wrap around my shoulders. “I appreciate the hospitality.” I said, pulling off Newt’s wet jacket and handing it to him before I wrapped the blanket around me.

“You’re a long way from civilization, Miss.” Captain Call said as he looked between Newt and I. “Newt, you have anything to say for this?”

“I took a walk around the fence border and saw her wandering around in the storm. She said she got turned around and her horse ran away.” He said, coming up with a brilliant cover story.

“What’s your name ma’am?” Woodrow asked me.

“Selene McCrae.” I told him, holding out my hand.

“Captain Woodrow F. Call.” He said, giving my hand a brief shake after an odd look in my direction. “This here’s Pea Eye Parker, Jasper Fant, Dish Boggett, Needle Nelson, and you’ve already met Newt.”

“Well, Captain Call. I really appreciate you and your men taking me in.” I said, looking between the guys.

“If you don’t mind me sayin’, ma’am, it’s awfully silly to be traveling in this kind of weather.” He told me.

“Well, someone in town said the weather wouldn’t be so bad.” I said, feeling my chest tighten a little bit from the cold.

“Ma’am, I think it best if you sat in front of the fire and warm up some.” Needle said.

I wasn’t in a mood to argue with him, so I nodded, sitting on the wood planks in front of the rock fireplace. I held my hands out, embracing the warmth the fire gave off. I was thankful that the hem of my dress was long enough to cover my brightly stained shoes, since I didn’t give them back to Gerry.

The cabin was so quiet, I almost forgot there was six sets of eyes watching me. “I’m not gonna just vanish, ya know.” I said, looking over my shoulder at Jasper, Pea Eye, Dish and Needle.

“Ma’am, if ya don’t mind me asking; how’d you get up here? We’re an awful long ways from the city.” Dish said.

“One of the ladies in town said that there was a cattle ranch out here somewhere and that they might be needing a cook and care taker.” I said, looking from Dish to Captain Call.

Woodrow nodded. “Well, I suppose we’re the cattle ranch you were looking for. But we can talk this over in the morning. Boys, best move your bed things out to the barn.”

“No!” I said quickly. “Let me sleep in the barn. Don’t move your men out of their own house.”

Call looked at me for a moment, but shook his head and off they went about collecting blankets and pillows and taking them out to the barn. “You suppose you’ll be alright in here by yourself tonight?”

“You didn’t have to kick your men out of your own cabin. I could have slept in the barn just fine.” I told Woodrow, feeling as guilty for the intrusion as I had the first time.

“Nonsense.” He said, sternly. “A woman wandering around in the dark, by herself while it’s raining. Couldn’t rightly let you sleep with the horses. My boys are used to it.”

“You’re being very generous to me, Captain Call.” I said, looking up at him.

He nodded, obviously not sure what to say. “If it’s all the same to you, ma’am, I’ll be sleeping on the porch. For your safety and for that of my boys’.” He told me.

I nodded. “Of course.”

He watched me for a moment, then nodded and told the boys to leave the cabin. He was about to leave himself when he turned to me. “McCrae.” He said simply, almost as if he was asking about it.

I nodded. “It’s from my mother’s side. She didn’t have anything to do with my father after I was born. I guess it came from my great-great grandma, Augustine.”

Woodrow nodded once but looked a little bit like he’d seen a ghost. “Good night.” And he closed the door to the cabin.

I huddled by the fireplace, feeling like I was at home for the first time in a long time.

Captain Call, as before, agreed to let me stay on in exchange for chores being done. I did all the things I had done before; make food, wash dishes and clothes, help the boys when I could.

The men were impressed with my biscuits and I told them I learned from a lifelong friend. Newt turned a little red around the ears when he heard me say this.

Newt used every excuse he could come up with to help me with dishes or food. I asked him one day why he did it when he knew the boys would make fun of him behind his back.

He just shrugged. “I don’t care for them like I care for you.”

Needless to say, that shut me up fast.

One day, after the chores I had been done and dinner finished, Newt asked me to dance with him. I smiled. “As often as you’d like, Mr. Dobbs.” I said as he walked past the porch, onto the little dirt patch in front of the porch.

It was an evening of swapping stories and liquor. All the men looked at us oddly when we stood in the patch of dirt. Newt took my hand and set his other on my waist. I smiled up at him and he danced me in a circle.

“Where’d ya learn that, Newt?” Pea Eye called from the porch.

“A pretty girl taught me a long time ago.” Newt told Pea, even though he never took his eyes off me.

“She sounds like quite a gal.” I told him quietly.

“She is.” He said with a smile. He stopped us and went to sit on the porch with the other boys.

“Dish, will you dance with me?” I asked, holding my hand out to him.

He suddenly looked mighty embarrassed. “I don’t, I don’t know how to dance.” He said, stumbling a bit.

“I’d bet money I don’t have that you dance better than me.” I said. He just sat there, making excuses. I shook my head at him. “Captain, what about you?” I asked, looking at him in the rocking chair.

He looked a bit surprised. “Oh, I suppose. Wouldn’t do to turn down a dance with a lady.” He said, standing and walking down the three steps to the dirt patch.

I smiled at him as he led me. “Where’d you learn to dance, Captain?” Of course, he’d told me before, in another time. But I liked the story and wanted to hear it again.

“Gus and I had to learn for a Governor’s Ball when we were rangers.” He said simply, looking curiously at me. “Before we had on Pea and Jake and Deets, of course.”

I smiled. “Did you dance with some pretty girls?”

“I believe so, if I remember correctly.” He said, with a bit of a smile.

After a pass or two, the Captain slowed us to a stop and took a bow. I gave him a small curtsy and he replanted himself in the chair. I looked at Dish. “I know you can dance so you don’t got one reason to turn me down.”

“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ ‘bout.” Dish said, trying to play dumb.

“Dish Boggett, are you going to lie right to my face?” I asked.

“Well, no ma’am.” He said slowly, standing up and coming to stand in front of me. He sighed, taking my hands and I smiled. He led me gracefully around our little dirt patch.

“Thank you.” I told him quietly.

“I don’t see how you coulda known I could dance.” He said, seeming a little bit annoyed at me.

I smiled. “Call it an educated guess.”

He shook his head, but seemed content to dance me in a circle five or six times. When we finally stopped, the stars were bright above us and the waxing moon gave enough light to see the lake and hills around us. “It’s awful pretty out here at night.” I said, more to myself.

Woodrow decided it was bedtime and sent the men on their way as he was still sleeping on the porch. I went inside and stoked the fire up.

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