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 Category:  Western Fiction
  Posted: January 15, 2020      Views: 24
Chapters:
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 FORESTPORT12 
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 ABOUT
FORESTPORT12 

I've had some interesting years on this big blue dot in the solar system. Syracuse area for the past twenty years. Twelve years in Texas. Married for twenty six years. Five children and two grandchildren.

Since winning a publishing contr - more...

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Chapter 2 of the book Hosea and the Lost Souls
Hosea keeps his word to an old man and his expired wife.
"Tender Mercies" by forestport12

Background
After the tragic death of his family in a fire in Chicago, Hosea is a man without a country and in search of a purpose and redemption. He finds the west is full of people who have tried to leave their


The morning sun prodded Hosea from his weighted but dreamless sleep. Like broken yoke, the sun spilled over the vast horizon revealing the deceptive and deadly beauty of the salt flats.

Hosea stretched and turned to see Delbert, the old man by the fire's ashes with knees drawn into his chest. For moment he wondered if the old soul had expired. He took the butt of his rifle from the sleeve of his saddle and poked him. "You still here, Mr. Dunham?"

Del snorted and stirred from his slumber. The horse blanket fell from his face. His blind cue ball eyes targeted the sound of Hosea's voice. "I'm still here," he barked.

"Reckon so," replied Hosea, "But you don't seem none too happy about it."

"Didn't expect you were real. Figured you for imaginations or a dream."

"I don't fit too good in someone's dream."

Del stumbled to his feet and swayed near the hot coals. He steadied himself before Hosea could latch on to him. "More like a puzzle you are. Can't believe I'm still here," He said.

"Don't fret yourself none over Mary," she's in a better place than us. Hosea wanted him to have time to think over his death wish from last night. "You got your son. He needs you."

"I fear something vile may have happened to him. He should have found his way back by now. What if I'm truly alone?"

"No one is ever really alone. Just lonely sometimes. Best we get ready to leave while there's still a chill in the air," said Hosea, as he hoisted his saddle from the ground and heaved it on to his horse. "I'd say we make the foothills before the sun goes down."

"It is right nice of you to get Mary to a place where I can lay her to rest. She'd be madder than a hornet in heaven at my lack of will. She always was the one with an iron will."

Hosea's eyes moistened. He was faced with the unenviable task to perfume his wife's withered body then wrap her in a burlap sack so he could flop her on to the back of his horse. He scraped the horse blanket from the ground and draped it over the old man's bony shoulders.

Del flinched over the unexpected weight but then grinned. He crouched and swept the ground for his straw hat, threatened by the coals. He shook it in the air, then tucked it on his head.

Hosea took up the ladle on the nail and dipped it in the barrel near the buckboard. He swished the water in his mouth, as it splashed over his blistered lips and trickled down his chin.

Dell shuffled over to the wagon until he bucked up against it where he reached inside for his wife. He took his gnarled hands into her dead ones and kissed them where she laid, as if in a coffin, covered by net for a veil.

Hosea filled his skin of water and a canteen from the vase in the buckboard. He doused his deceased wife with perfume found nearby. He tied two burlap sacks together with cordage and carried her over his shoulder where he eased her over the rear of his horse. "It's your turn Del. Follow the sound of my voice."

Dell stumbled over to the horse and found the knob of the saddle. He stuck one foot in the stirrup and took his place on the horse's back.

Hosea tugged on the reins and led horse and rider toward the mountains.

"If you don't mind," asked Del. "Could you describe for me the scene before you. It must be a wonder to behold."

Hosea looked ahead under the brilliance of the sun and looked at the horizon. "I see snow-capped peaks and rock domes piercing the sky in hues of purple majesty. I see craggy mountains like God's cathedral to the heavens. And below it, I see the greenest grass, so green it's the color of spinach."

The old man reared up on the horse. "Amen preacher! Here comes the promised land. My heart is a floundering like a fish out of water."

Hosea couldn't hide the smile that spread across his sunburned face.

Hours later, the sun reflected from the salt basin, causing Hosea to shield his eyes as he led Del and Patches. Cracks in the ground appeared like fractures on bone. In the distance with his hand to help sight himself, he could see the changing landscape where pockets of rocks and sprouts of grass formed a new world.

Hosea's horse stopped him in his tracks, where Patches found and chewed on a dandelion sprouting through a slit in the earth.

Hosea turned and looked up to see Del with a horse blanket for a poncho and a straw hat to shield him from the sun. He dozed and looked in danger of falling off the side of his horse.

"Mr. Dunham wake up. Almost there."

Though Del couldn't see and his eyes drifted, he sniffed the air. "I can smell the moist fresh land. Milk and honey too."


Hosea picked up the pace with his caravan and found a game trail. Prickly bushes appeared and scrub trees marked the trail. The trail thickened and the grade steepened. He halted on the next rise where a small but transparent creek meandered below. "I found fresh water!"

Del chimed. "Hear that Miss Mary, a place of rest for the weary."

Before the sun went down Hosea had dug a deep enough trench several feet from the stream. The dirt was a soft sandy soil. Birds sang on ridges and hickory branches. He removed his gloves, walked over, and sat beside Del on the round rocks of the bank. Del sipped water from a tin cup while Hosea chewed on a blade of grass.

Hosea dreaded his next move, but the sun was melting over the mountains west, and soon it would be time to hunker down for the night. "It's a shame you can't see the setting sun. It looks as though the mountains have been set ablaze by it."

Dell's face glistened in the bright reflection from the meadow. He looked as contented as ever, a man at peace. Hosea stood where his shadow loomed over the old man.

"You still there, preacher?" There was only the sound of crickets between them. "One thing bothers me so. Shouldn't a few words be spoken over Mary's grave?"

Hosea backed away and retreated to his horse. He took Mary's bundled remains and hoisted her over his shoulder, then he staggered to the trench. An unmistakable thud sounded, and a cloud of dirt choked the air.

"Is that you, preacher? Sounds like it's time for me to say goodbye. You about to say a few words then?"

A Heavy silence fell between them


"I'm all done. My minds made up. I can't go no further. You hear me preacher? It's my free will.

No answer. But Hosea's mind churned inside, trying to smooth his grated thoughts.

"Should you find my son James please tell him, me and Mary found a sweet spot between here and heaven."

Hosea stood over the fresh grave and removed his hat. "Dear Lord, open up the heavens and receive Mary Dunham, bless them both, as you see fit. There is a time and purpose under heaven. In Jesus' name."

The birds flocked away, sending a shrill echo into the canyon. The shadows of the foothills crept toward the pair.

Hosea eased himself behind Del, but instead of putting a hand on his shoulder, he slipped his burnt and scarred hands over his neck. A solitary tear trickled down from Hosea's left eye like smelted silver. But before Hosea's hands clamped down on the old man's windpipe, Del slumped over and appeared to take his last breath.

Hosea fell to his knees and looked at his cruel hands but managed to cradle Del in his arms. He looked into the heavens. "Why did you mark me so Lord?"

He wept into the black bottomless well of his darkness.

The book continues with Highest Calling. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.
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