Posted in Inspirational, Reading, Short Stories, Writing

Land of Judgment – a short story

I hated the way the other men picked on Papa. He was only doing what he felt sure was right. We were all going the same way, following the same trail – the same dream.

They all said the west was the place of new beginnings. Of prosperity. Of dreams come true. That was what Papa wanted. But what we found . . . it wasn’t what we’d set out for.

“Ya drive them animals too hard, Pickett.” That was Jason Pike. He was the one with the six oxen who scared me the most – he was always totting around that ox whip of his. “Them horses can’t take that. You shoulda brought a yoke eh oxen. They can take the trail. You’ll starve these beasts before they even see the Rockies, ya will.”

The night after Pike warned us, I heard Ma begging Papa to take us back home. Hearing her talk about New York almost made me cry.

But Papa didn’t turn around.

After a few more days, we began to see the horses getting hungrier. They didn’t want what the trail had to offer. Against the men’s warnings, Papa fed them all the oats they wanted from our generous supply. I started to worry about my little pony, the pretty one Papa had promised would be mine in Oregon.

Our wagon was something to see. Ma had made sure every detail was in check. Every curtain tucked away neatly, every piece of china secure, the piano dusted daily. She seemed happy with the order in which she kept our home. But she wasn’t. She pleaded with Papa each night until both were finally brought to tears.

But Papa didn’t turn around.

The horses got worse. They were finicky. The oat supply ran nearly dry before the Rockies. Storms made the wagon miserable to haul, but they also encouraged additional growth in the grass. And still the horses wouldn’t eat it.

The men chided Papa worse and worse, not just on account of the horses, but our wagon too. It was too fancy, they said. It would never survive the trip. Papa returned their bullying with insults. Only the trail captain stood in the way of it getting bloody.

“Ma,” I whispered late that evening while she tucked the baby inside his crib for the night. “I’m scared they’re going to hurt Papa.”

She wouldn’t look at me, but that didn’t stop me from seeing the redness around her eyes, the diminishing of the flesh in her cheeks. “Fear doesn’t help anyone, Ellen May.”

I still feared.

But Papa didn’t turn around.

Near the Rockies, two of our horses went down. One to snakebite, one to starvation. I cried. Ma cried. Baby Joseph cried. Papa did not. He plunged forward, stoic, unchanging, unyielding.

In the Rockies, we lost another. My pony was next. We all saw it. She couldn’t keep up. She was skin and bones. I spent hours searching for new food for her. Hours coaxing her to eat, to drink and eventually to rise. We left her behind in a Rockies’ forest. Papa had wanted to shoot her. Ma and I objected. He relented, but not without words that terrified me. Wolves would eat her alive, he claimed. But I couldn’t bear seeing her die.

“Pray,” Ma said to me, “that God will spare us. Maybe He’ll forgive our sins and remove His hand of judgment.”

Our wagon became too heavy for three horses. We abandoned the piano, the crates of books, the stove, even Ma’s treasured set of china. She never spoke a word.

But Papa didn’t turn around.

All but one family left us to fend for ourselves. We were slowing everyone down with our horses. They refused all grass now. Papa fed them the very last of the oats. Another horse went down within the week.

“Because horses are hard to please,” Ma explained with nary a tear. “We were warned.”

Days passed, one blending into the other. Another step. Another step. We faced forward. We didn’t look back. Was that Oregon I glimpsed as the sun descended one evening? Papa told us it was. We were nearly there.

I saw it as I laid my head down and succumbed to sleep. A beacon of hope in this land of judgment.

 

Thanks for reading, you guys! I wrote Land of Judgment a year or so ago, but it came in second in its category. I love historical fiction! What’s your favorite genre??? Let’s chat in the comments.

Advertisements

Author:

Hannah Gaudette is a home-school teen living in the hills of New England. When she’s not writing stories or training dogs, it’s a safe bet you can find her with some other animal, like cats. She’s a life-enthusiast who loves the ocean and The Piano Guys. Enough said.

3 thoughts on “Land of Judgment – a short story

  1. Woah… this is very interesting, Hannah. I kept looking forward to the part where “it all gets better” but it never came… Nice work with the plot line, and the pacing of each event.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Hope. 🙂 You don’t know how many of my short stories my mom has read and said afterward, “It’s got to be more hopeful than that!” 😉 Not that I don’t love to write hopeful stories, but . . . I like realistic, too.

      Thanks for reading! Phoenix barks hello!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s