A cold breeze brushed past JD's old coat, Sam's old hat, the comfortable old britches she wore with immense contentment. At their feet, a long slope whispered mesquite dreams, while below the town drowsed in dying sunshine. The stage would be in tomorrow, and when it left, it would take the three Yarbroughs with it. John Frame meanwhile lay in a cold, silent shed, with arrangements made to return him, too. Sam could breathe, now, but was grateful for this moment of distance.
Vin's nudge turned her attention to the brass spy glass he held. Sam took it, held it to her eye and waited briefly for optic nerves to adjust.
"Someone's laundry is about to blow over the fence . . . And the grocer's wife got pies coolin'."
"Hm," Vin replied. Then he said, "I wonder which window got Buck and Miz Blossom behind it?"
Their eyes met, and Sam laughed at the boyish mischief she saw there. "I don't think we wanna know."
"No, likely not." The tracker paused thoughtfully. "Then again, we could always get a bit of dry grass, and let it smoke and go under their door . . . "
"Vin Tanner, you will do no such thing!"
Tanner bit down on a grin and shrugged, then chuckled. "I ever tell you about the time Buck fell off a roof in his underwear?"
"His what? Oh, Vin, what did you do?"
Living in the back of a church, she reckoned, was not altogether a bad thing. She would be a long time in finding real peace, however long it took to feel that her life had begun to weigh on the scales of good. All was a blank page, now, awaiting only her hand on the pen. Frightening, exhilarating, sobering thought. Buck teased - God love him, his thoughts never strayed far from a single path - that a pert little gal like her would find the right feller, and all would be well, again. Perhaps. Yet that was not even a consideration, now. When she cut off her hair and pulled on those britches, behind the green stink of their old privy, she left more than just Tennessee behind. Before she ever let another share her life, she had to make sure that life was whole, on its own account. Sam wanted to be sure that, this time, she could stand up as tall as she needed. This she had to look at as building a house, one board, one nail at a time. Time. At least she had that, now.
And laughter, laughing out loud right now, as Vin told his tale and drew images with his hands in the air. Vin didn't often give in to real laughter, and she delighted in the rare moments when he did. Just as she treasured JD's smart-aleck humor and Buck's generous foolishness. Just as she cherished Josiah's enigmatic strength, and Ezra's acid wit, and Chris's cool composure. Nathan, ah, Nathan. She would take time for that man, to learn things, to dredge her memory for the bits of folk medicine she knew, from the old women of the Tennessee hills. Her heart warmed to these men, frighteningly so, she realized. Sam owed them everything, hope, a chance, even her life, but had she given too much, too fast? With the storm now past, what would remain?
Vin lay stretched on his back with his fingers locked behind his neck, his story finished, the ghost of laughter still on his face. How many kinds of love were there, anyhow? And how did one define its boundaries? The one constant in all her life had been Papa, her only real kin, but he had stayed true until Heaven took him home.
"I got me a thought. You reckon it's all right if I 'dopt you?"
"Wha-a-at?" The word tumbled out in a startled chuckle, and both of Tanner's eyebrows jumped almost to his hat band.
"'Dopt you. Ye know, make like yer kin, even if ye ain't. I always fancied brothers, myself."
"Well - I - ah - I reckon."
"You and Ezra and Buck and JD." Sam talked fast, lest Vin somehow object, or laugh, or otherwise make her feel even more the fool. "Now, Josiah's kinda old, though, so he can be . . . an uncle? And Nathan, too, he'll be the wise brother. But I don't know about Chris, he ain't quite brother material. He's too young to be a daddy, though. All right, he's a brother, too, the bossy one." Then she sucked in a breath, fingers clenched on the cool brass of Vin's spy glass. "So, what ye think?"
For an instant, Vin studied her in mute astonishment. Then the slanting sun illuminated his eyes, warming them even as did his slow smile. His reply might have been no more than the passing whisper of November in the mesquite.
"I think that'd be mighty fine, lil' sister."
Sam held the spy glass but did not use it. One could see far with it, but not a great deal. The things to be seen took more than just ones' eyes. Once again, deep shadows pooled purple-blue in the arroyos, and long fingers of sun painted common stones in gold. A night hawk plummeted earthward in a hard whir of speeding wings, nimbly twisting after some unseen insect. Wings tipped and it swept aloft again, like an animated arrow, and drew her heart up with it.
Sam wanted to see the stars. Wanted to lie on her back and stare up at them, until she fell off the turning world and into the great, spangled lap of God. She wanted to see morning, to watch grey dawn creep back from the silent shout of the sun, and watch clouds catch fire, and see the first shadows be born. She wanted to throw out her arms and lay into the breast of the wind, and shout, just to let the lazy earth know she was there. She wanted. Yet Sam wanted for none of the things that had for so long left her hungry and alone.
Thank you seemed too small a phrase, but she said it. Whispering, but with all her heart and soul, she cast it into the vast dome of golden sky. Someone would hear.
At last, Sam McLachlan rose up and followed the tracker downward, towards a dusty little town held together by nails and dreams and stubborn hope. Behind her drifted a thin, keening cry, high and wailing as the voices of all sad winds that blew. Yet she smiled to hear. It was not mourning the coyotes sang, but celebration. They were none of them alone. And her soul sang with them.
~ ~ ~ FINIS ~ ~ ~
"La Corrido del Coyote" is my very first attempt at Fan Fiction, so I hope I have done the original characters of the Magnificent Seven justice. This was my intent, besides the goal of just plain telling an enjoyable tale.
Comments to the author, G. M. Atwater, may be made at: