In the previous episode, a late night visitor knocked on the door of the Goodnight home. Readers voted that it was the local sheriff looking for someone who disrupted their evening.
It wasn’t late. Not yet 10 p.m. But when you’re alone and in the middle of nowhere, why not go to bed early? And though father and son were both there, they were also both alone. If you live in the middle of 100 acre ranch in West Texas, you have to deal with stillness. The nights are dark and all of nature is still. Only the wind moves, and it’s invisible. You can’t allow the stillness to get to you. You must make stillness your friend; otherwise, you go mad. But Max rather enjoyed the stillness. That’s what he knew. It was his “normal.” That’s why he jumped when the stillness was disturbed by the sound of an approaching car. Who could it be? Nobody came onto the property uninvited, especially this late.
Max hopped out of bed, threw on his jeans, and raced into the main room. Zane was already there, staring out the front window, a .44 magnum in his hand. Max was about to ask what he saw, but considering Zane was holding a hand-cannon powerful enough to blow a man’s head off, he decided not to run the risk of startling his dad.
Zane watched the car, and Max watched Zane. Finally, Max saw the tension leave his dad’s shoulders as he sighed and slipped the .44 into the backside of his Wranglers. His dad swung the front door open and called out,
“That’s a good way to get your head blown off, Sheriff.”
“I’m sorry, Zane. I didn’t want to call in case you were sleeping.”
“What brings you out?” Zane asked.
“A young fellow over in Abilene robbed a Piggly Wiggly about two weeks back. He’s driving a 1975 yellow Ford pick-up. We got an anonymous tip that the vehicle’s been spotted out in these parts. You ain’t seen nothin’, have you?”
“Naw. I just got back tonight. You want me to wake Max and ask him?” Zane asked.
“I’m right here.” Max said, softly.
“Oh. Well, how about it, son? You see this pick up?”
Max shrugged, shook his head.
“Speak up, boy.”
“No sir!” Max blurted out a little too loudly, which Zane interpreted as a show of defiance, which he did not like one bit. The Sheriff sensed the tension in the air. He tried to cut it by continuing to talk to Zane, asking him for permission to have a look around the property. While Zane talked to the Sheriff, Max took the opportunity to slip back into the darkness and hop back into bed. Stillness. But only for a minute. What Max heard next frightened him even more than the car. It was footsteps. Zane was coming. Max’s stomach churned. Is this it? Is this the night they’ll finally talk?
The footsteps approached… stopped. Max waited for the fist on the door, the courtesy knock. But it never came. Instead, after a moment of nothingness, the footsteps turned and marched away. It had been two years since his mother died — Zane’s wife, his one true love. Two years of silence. This is rugged country, Zane believed. Home to rugged men. Cowboys understand that emotions are part of being human, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to blubber. What’s done is done. There’s nothing to say. No use crying about it. You just understand what is, and you move on. But Max wasn’t a cowboy. He was more like his mom. And as much as talking about his feelings scared him, especially to his dad, he knew that his sadness would only grow if he didn’t. Max knew that expression of feelings–talking, being heard–is how people connect. And it’s how people heal. There is no “moving on” until this is done. And it’s true for everybody, even cowboys.
* * *
The next morning, Zane drove Max to church. He personally hadn’t been to services in two years, but he was happy Max went. Maybe he’d go back someday, just not yet. The only conversation between them was when Max asked his dad if the Sheriff found anything — he hadn’t. Otherwise, stillness. And the rush of the wind outside.
Once inside, Max was greeted by Miss Elaine. She was an old family friend. She’d grown up in Palo Duro Canyon, even graduated high school with Zane. She knew everybody and everything — at least around there. So it was really no surprise to Max when he heard her say,
“We need to get you a babysitter. Two men alone in a house with no civilizing presence? Have mercy. I’m surprised you haven’t burned the place down. Hey wait a tick,” she rambled on, “I know the perfect girl. Bessie Mae’s daughter is back from college. She’d be perfect, and Lord knows, Bessie Mae could use some extra income, bless her heart. Tell you what, you go on in, but don’t leave here without letting me know.” And with that, Miss Elaine was off. But even though she walked away, she continued to talk to no one in particular, about Bessie Mae, her daughter, Zane — anything that came to mind. Her voice finally faded into the overall hum of conversation as she disappeared into the crowd.
Max looked around for a friend. He then decided to go on into the auditorium and see what was what. But something was pulling him to the window facing the side of the church. He couldn’t help himself — he went over, and looked out. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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