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Ficlet: Under a Tree

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It took D.C. an extra twenty minutes to make it up that god damned hill, but that’s where Monty was. Under his breath, he cursed the cane. He cursed the lead fragments still stuck in his knee. He cursed the ever-present pain in the limb. He cursed the tightness in his chest.

D.C. bit his lip to keep from shouting every colorful word he knew in English and Spanish. He shook his head and muttered out loud. “Nope. Old man Prescott’s up there, too. Have to be respectful.”

He was almost drenched in sweat and panting by the time he reached the top. He stopped a moment to catch his breath. He felt the sun beating down on the back of his neck and shoulders.

He limped over to the small Prescott family cemetery. He took his hat off and held it over his heart. He’d never known Prescott’s wife or son but nodded to the crosses marking their graves.

He turned his attention to the new cross. “Sir, I mean no disrespect being up here. I only come up to talk to Monty.”

He swallowed and put his hat back on. He made his way over to the large tree a few feet away. He leaned against it and eased down into a sitting position. It took him a couple minutes to find the most comfortable position for his leg. He blew out a long breath. “Dang. It’s hot. At least you picked a shady spot.”

He put his head back to rest against the trunk. “Riley’s kept his word. The railroad’s gonna reroute around the house.”

He shut his eyes. “To be honest, I never thought the railroad would go for it, but that little man’s a firecracker. When he says he’ll do something, he does it.”

A soft breeze helped cut though the oppressive heat. He gave a small smile. “And Jo’s roped Luke into getting hitched.” He snickered. “I never thought I’d see the day. Well, I never thought I’d see the day where Luke could call me a do-gooder, either. He should keep his mouth shut. I’ve got a reputation to maintain.”

He shook his head ruefully. “As soon as I can ride, I’ll have to be movin’ on. I can’t have them two turnin me respectable.”

He reached out and ran his fingers along the rough-hewn cross. “You shoulda gone home, ya dang fool.” He touched the words of Monty’s name. “Ya just had to go and die on me.”

D.C. suddenly jerked his hand away. He struggled to his feet. He straightened up and set his jaw. “Luke was wrong. We couldn’t a had anythin.” He grunted and started limping away. “Goodbye, Monty.”