Summary: When a troupe of actors comes to Four Corners, Chris is anything but pleased, until a unique actor opens a door for Vin to
a world of words. Chris can see an opportunity for Vin to learn from another poet and encourages his friend to enter
that world and soar above the clouds. But the actor has a dark secret. A secret that could invariably destroy
him and anyone else who enters his life. Will Chris' desire for Vin to stretch his wings blind him to the danger?
Soar Above The Clouds By: Myristica (Formerly White Ravyn)
Vin Tanner, Chris Larabee, and Josiah Sanchez watched from the porch of the jailhouse
as the owner and editor of the Clarion Newspaper went down one side of the street, then another, tacking up posters.
She was smiling and telling people to anticipate the arrival of...WHAT?
right, Folks, we'll be having The Hathaway Traveling Performers. These fine actors will be arriving this coming Friday.
They'll be here for a week. Be sure to tell your family and friends. Tickets for their performance's will range anywhere
from fifty cents to one dollar."
and Chris exchanged furrowed brows. "Actors? Here?" Chris asked. "Damn, this town's going to hell in a hand
smiled, bemused at the gunslinger's reaction. "Not much into plays, Chris?"
are fine, Josiah, it's the excitement actors bring that I'm none too thrilled with," Chris replied with disdain. His
face grimaced as if to emphasize his point.
and Josiah exchanged looks and Vin shrugged, impassively. Chris' ways were his own and though he was curious as to why
Chris was immediately put on guard with the mention of the actors, the tracker was content to not draw him out on the subject.
If his friend wanted them to know why, then he'd tell them.
Mary walked over to them, her long blond hair hanging over her shoulders and pulled
back from her face with a clip. "Gentlemen? I couldn't help but overhear Mister Larabee's opinion of this wonderful
news. I'll have you know I've been working very hard to acquire the talents of these actors, and after a year of playing
in places such as the White House and New York, they
have graciously accepted my invitation. I understand Mister Larabee's apprehensions, but I assure you, these people
are as genteel and as professional as they come. I've seen them perform twice before and I am a good friend with the
troupe's organizer, James Hathaway. Besides, this town could stand some cultural influence."
couldn't agree more with Mrs. Travis," the southern drawl of one Ezra Standish chimed in as he walked up to the porch and
pulled a lit cigar from his mouth. "I believe it would be a glorious distraction from the mundane stagnation this town
has acquired over the last several months."
a point, Chris," Vin spoke out softly as he leaned his shoulder against the porch post. "I for one would like
to take a gander at some play actin'. Somethin' other than a fist fight in the saloon."
just shook his head. "Each to his own, I guess."
just looked at him.
Chris felt the gaze and turned to him. (What?)
(You tell me.)
Chris shook his head again and sighed. (Later.)
Wilmington and JD Dunne stepped up to the porch and watched as Mary tacked another poster to the jailhouse wall.
"Actors?" JD read. "Actors coming here?" His face lit up. "Hey, Buck, maybe you can perform with them."
whacked JD upside his head and gave him a hard look. "Boy, quiet down."
eyes turned to Buck. Ezra cast him an amused grin. "Something you would care to share, Mister Wilmington?"
smiled. "Been telling JD about your days on the stage, Buck?"
rolled his eyes, "Jeeze, Chris, could you say it any louder?"
grinned at the tall man. "Why, Bucklin, I didn't know ya' acted. Course, with the practice ya' get, don't reckon
anyone would be surprised."
cast Vin a cold glare. "It just so happens I was involved in a stage production of Shakespeare. Once. And
I was very good, I might add. I got a standing ovation."
chuckled. "From his mother."
and Josiah turned their heads to hide their snickers.
beamed. "Would you care to try the stage again, Mister Wilmington? I'm sure I can work it out with the leader
of the troupe."
a chance, Mary. Being embarrassed once is enough. Though I have to admit, the acting company was impressed with
me enough to ask me to stay on."
smile faded. He looked at Buck with something close to admiration. "Ya' really got up in front of a lot of people
and acted, Buck?"
did, Junior. And even though I didn't stay with it, it was fun while it lasted. Pretending you're someone else,
saying words written by the Bard himself...it takes you to another time and place and allows you to feel, for awhile at least,
that you are not who you are." Buck seemed to lose himself in the memories. "I did it for my mother. And
though I was embarrassed by a few hecklers in the crowd, to see my mother's pride in me that night...I'll never forget it."
part did you play, Buck?" JD asked.
brought himself back to the present and cleared his throat. "What part do you think, Kid?"
eyes widened. "Not...Romeo?? You played Romeo?"
chuckled. "JD, could anyone else play that role and do it so convincingly?"
straightened his hat. "I was a hell of a Romeo, JD."
the former Thespian would care to dazzle us with a few lines?" Ezra suggested. There was a mischievous gleam in his
Buck, come on. I gotta hear you recite some Shakespeare."
looked at JD and grinned. "I'm not sure I can remember after all these years, Kid." Then he looked up into Vin's
face and saw what appeared to be anticipation behind those blue eyes. He knew Vin was learning to read, the news had
come out not long after Chris had discovered why Vin was seeing Mary every afternoon at a certain hour.
The hidden talents of one Mister Vin Tanner had been revealed and his poetry had
been printed in the newspaper. Suddenly, Buck figured if Vin could showcase his talent and make himself vulnerable to
the town of Four Corners,
there was no reason the former performer couldn't do the same with his friends.
reckon I'd like to hear some, too," Vin said, quietly. And the look the two men shared sealed the request.
nodded. "All right, then. Let me think." He rubbed his chin and pondered over any lines he could remember
from the play.
do remember some lines from that play, myself, Buck," Josiah said. "If I can be of any assistance?"
looked at Josiah with a raised eyebrow. "Mercutio?"
inclined his head. "After the Queen Mab speech?"
snapped his fingers. "Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace. Thou talk'st of nothing."
took his cue. "True, I talk of dreams; which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy; which
is as thin of substance as the air; and more inconstant than the wind, who wooes, even now, the frozen bosom of the north,
and, being anger'd, puffs away from thence, turning his face to the dew-dropping south."
and Josiah cringed. They had forgotten Benvolio's small part in between. Suddenly, from a source none had imagined,
Vin's voice took up the slack. "This wind you talk of, blows us from ourselves. Supper is done and we shall come
heads turned to Vin who kept his gaze locked on Buck's.
Ezra's mouth had fallen open. JD gazed at Vin with something akin to awe.
Chris turned to Vin, pride emanating from his gaze. Mary's eyes were wide and she stared at Vin, unable to speak.
Josiah looked at him as well, and a look of knowing filled his eyes. I'll be damned, he thought, a slight smile gracing his lips.
ignored the surprised looks. "That's your cue, Bucklin," he urged softly.
shook himself. He had not expected Vin to have even heard the words before, let alone have any of them memorized.
He cleared his throat. "I fear too early. For my mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars, shall
bitterly begin his fearful date with this night's revels..." Buck stopped as he tried to remember more of the part.
looked at Vin who lowered his head and once again surprised them all. "And expire the term of a despised life, clos'd
in my breast, by some vile forfeit of untimely death: But He that hath the steerage of my course...direct my sail."
what seemed an eternity to the tracker a silence laid over the others. He looked up at them and saw Mary's delighted
grin. "Vin, that was wonderful," she said, and her voice could hardly maintain control.
lowered his head, abashed.
walked up to Vin and put a hand on his shoulder. "It seems our own poet has a flare for the stage as well."
shrugged, keeping his gaze lowered. "Just liked to watch plays is all. Since I couldn't read, seein' plays was
the next best thing."
smile went from ear to ear and he put his hands together. "Well done, Vin. Bravo!" JD joined his larger
friend and applauded Vin as well. "That was great, Vin. Really great! You should try out for that traveling
shook his head. "Hell no! Recitin' in front of y'all is one thing, but to do it in front of a crowd of strangers?
I'd rather get shot."
must say, Mister Tanner, it seems as if you have proven the old saying true. Appearances can be deceiving," Ezra said,
tipping his hat to Vin. "You have surprised us all with your uncanny talent for words, yet again."
sat there his left elbow on the armrest of his chair, his chin resting against two fingers. Under the brim of his black
hat, a hint of a smile emerged.
glanced up and caught his look. It was like a brother beaming with pride at a younger sibling. Unable to handle
the attention he was getting, Vin took off down the street, not saying a word.
we shame Mister Tanner in some way?" Ezra asked, perplexed at Vin's abrupt departure.
don't think he expected our reaction," Mary suggested. "Mister Larabee, I hope we didn't embarrass him too badly?"
shook his head. "He'll be fine, Mary. It's the first time he recited anything in front of all of us. I think
he surprised himself."
it goes without saying that he certainly surprised us," Ezra commented.
stood and watched Vin disappear down the street toward Nathan's clinic. "He recited it beautifully. I don't think
he missed a word."
she realized that two others had also performed. She looked at Buck and Josiah. "Of course, all of you did wonderfully.
I hope you'll come to the performances. I believe the play they'll be doing first is Hamlet."
be there, Mary," JD said. "Hamlet was one of my mother's favorites."
clapped the youth on the shoulder. "If he's going then I'll be there."
certainly will not miss seeing a production of Shakespeare, Mrs. Travis." Ezra tipped his hat to her.
I," Josiah chimed in. They all turned to Chris who looked at them cautiously.
think about it," he said. "Someone will have to be on the outside to keep the peace should the town get too rowdy."
shook her head with exasperation, then walked away. Suddenly she stopped and turned to Chris an idea forming in her
He saw the look in her eyes and stiffened. What was she planning?
heard the knock on his door and looked up from his desk. "Come," he called out.
door opened and Vin walked in. "Nathan?"
botherin' ya' am I?"
I could use a break. These medical texts are interesting but sometimes I forget I need to rest my eyes."
nodded as he walked in, closing the door behind him. He stood there, rubbing the back of his neck. After a few
seconds he started looking around the small clinic and then headed over to a cabinet. "Josiah made ya' that medicine
cabinet y'all were talkin' about?"
He brought it in just last night. Don't have much in it, yet, but the stage will bring what I need in a few days.
Until then neither of ya' better get shot. I'm runnin' low on Laudanum."
smiled. "Don't reckon we'd be willin' to step in front of a bullet any time soon, Nathan." Vin opened the cabinet
doors and looked inside to see a few jars of herbs and liquids, but other than that it was practically empty. He rubbed
his hand over the woodwork. "He does mighty fine work."
usually do, Vin."
watched Vin carefully. The young man obviously wanted to talk about something, but sometimes trying to get anything
out of the tracker was like pulling teeth. "Vin?"
know ya' didn't come up here to just look at my cabinet."
closed the doors of the cabinet and stuck his thumbs into the top of his gun belt. He took a few seconds to think; then
he went over and sat on the chair that was located to the side of Nathan's desk chair. "Nathan, how old were ya' when
ya' began to learn to read?"
turned thoughtful. "I guess it was about ten years ago, Vin. Why?"
ya' start learnin' even before ya' learned your letters?"
put his book down on the desk and leaned forward, listening intently. "I'm not sure I follow."
shook his head. "I don't know. I guess I'm askin' if'n ya' heard things and they stayed in your mind, like words
mean like someone recitin' and then I walked away rememberin' word for word?"
Vin. Can't say I have that ability. Do you?"
leaned back in the chair. "Would I be weird or somethin' if I could do that?"
grinned. "My friend, you may be a bit strange, but to remember word for word something ya' heard...no, that's not weird.
I've heard it said some people have what is known as a photographic memory. Like when a photograph is taken of a place
or people. All details are captured in the picture. People capture things in their mind like a picture, too.
Reckon ya' have that talent, Vin?"
turned thoughtful. "Reckon I might."
studied him. "What brought this on?"
shook himself and leaned forward. "Ya' hear about the actors comin' to town?"
I heard. Saw Mrs. Travis this morning, she told me all about it. What's up?"
there was talk among us about Buck once bein' on stage."
Nathan's eyes widened. "Really? Buck? Our Buck?"
chuckled. "Yeah. Anyway, JD wanted him to recite some of Romeo and Juliet and he and Josiah did this bit, but
when Buck couldn't remember the last part of a speech, well...I finished it fer 'im."
leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his stomach. He grinned. "Ya' surprised 'em, didn't ya'?"
so. Point is, I don't know why I did it. I knew the words from listenin' to them performed over and over again.
I ain't never read Shakespeare in my life. JD said I should try out fer these people and perform with them while they're
ya' like to do that?"
looked at Nathan, uncertain. "I'm not that good a reader, Nathan. I couldn't perform or read from a script.
I'm learnin', but to read Shakespeare in front of a crowd? I think even if Mary asked me to do it I couldn't.
Not even fer her."
Shakespeare wrote something that I always believed in. 'To thine own self be true.' Ya' have to follow your heart
on this one. If ya' absolutely do not want to do it, then don't. What ya' do with the talent God gave you is between
you and Him."
smiled. "Ya' sound like Josiah."
chuckled. "I probably do. Been a friend of his for many years."
nodded once to him. He stood and headed for the door. "Ya' gonna come to the plays?"
might. Dependin' on how rough it gets when those actors come to town."
you're soundin' like Chris."
waved him off. "Go on, get out of here, I got some more readin' of my own to do."
opened the door and tipped his hat to his friend. "Thanks fer takin' the time, Nathan."
Vin. You remember that. My door is always open."
inclined his head and stepped out, closing the door after him.
sighed. Why Vin had sought him out for this conversation was beyond him, but the healer couldn't deny it warmed his
heart that he had.
closed the book and looked up at his 'teacher'. Mary sat behind her desk and smiled. "Would you believe you've
gotten to another level, Vin? You've jumped three grade levels in as many months. You're doing wonderfully."
smiled, pleased with his progress. "I owe it all to you, Mary. Thanks."
I owe Mister Larabee a 'thank you'. After that slight misunderstanding a few months ago I thought for sure you'd never
try to learn to read again. He encouraged you to keep at it."
smiled fondly at the memory. He still carried the poem Chris had written for him in the inside pocket of his buckskin
coat. Whenever he had some time to himself, he would pull the paper out and re-read the words. He had them memorized
by now, but to actually see the written words on paper and to be able to 'read' them and know what they meant, it was a feeling
of accomplishment to him. The paper was getting worn now, and the pencil markings were starting to fade after so much
handling. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the paper. "I was wonderin' if ya' would do me a favor, Mary?"
Vin, what is it?"
ya' take this poem and print it up on a new piece of paper? It's gettin' kinda' faded and I don't want to lose it to
time and use."
took the folded paper and looked at Vin curiously. "Did you write this?"
Ma'am. I'd like to have the handwritten copy back when you're done. But if'n I could have a more permanent copy
of it, I'd appreciate it."
was curious, but she hid her curiosity behind a smile. "Certainly, Vin. I can get it back to you in two days?"
smiled and nodded as he stood from the table and took his hat. "That'd be fine. Thank ya', Mary. Oh, and
no one is to know about this. It's just between you and me, all right?"
course, Vin. I understand."
nodded once to her and put his hat on as he left the Clarion. When he was gone, she unfolded the paper and read the
words. She knew then why Vin didn't want anyone else to know about it. Chris Larabee, it seemed, was a man full
of secret wonders.
wagons pulled in with all the pomp and pageantry of the entertainment field. Chris and Nathan, who were on patrol that
evening, just shook their heads in disbelief. "Here it comes," Chris muttered.
there they go," Nathan said, pointing to the wave of townspeople gathering around the newcomers to welcome them.
so far it looks like we're being a civilized town."
Nathan smirked. "Until everyone starts getting drunk with celebration."
grimaced with disdain as he took his seat outside the saloon. "Might as well sit back and...enjoy the show."
grinned as he followed Chris onto the porch. He leaned against a pole and gazed out over the crowd gathering.
Then he saw Mary as she headed out to greet a large robust man wearing a black top hat and black coat with tails. "That
must be the man himself. Mister Hathaway."
looked and saw Mary hug the larger man, smiling as she did so. Then he tensed as she grabbed the man's hand and started leading
him over to the saloon. "Ah, hell! Is she bringing him over to introduce him?"
it would seem," Nathan replied.
leaned back and tilted his hat down over his face. He hoped Mary would take the hint.
Nathan, Chris," Mary's voice called out with cheer.
groaned inwardly. He raised his hat back up and saw the two in front of him. "Mary," he tipped his hat to her.
like you to meet Mister James Hathaway. The man who put together the Traveling Performers."
looked at the man and nodded once to him. "Mister Hathaway."
man tipped his hat to Chris and Nathan. "Mister Larabee. It seems my troupe of actors are not the only famous
people. I know all about your fast draw."
rested his feet on the porch railing and crossed them at the ankles. He grinned up at the man sarcastically. "I
hope you're not looking to see me perform, Mister Hathaway."
from it, sir. It is simply an honor to finally meet the man known as Chris Larabee. I was also informed as to
your apprehensions regarding us being in your town. I assure you my fellow performers will not cause any trouble during
our stay here."
like to believe that, Mister Hathaway, but experience has taught me that trouble follows performers no matter where they go."
grinned. "Well, I must confess, we do stir up excitement within towns that have little or no entertainment venues.
I will work very hard to see to it any embers of trouble are dowsed before they ignite into infernos."
almost chuckled. Actors and large words. He wondered if Ezra had ever been on stage before? He nodded to
Hathaway. "Appreciate that. Will make our job a lot easier."
tipped his hat to the gunslinger again. "If you will excuse me, then, I must see to it my people are taken care of.
Mary, would you show me where we will be performing?"
James. This way." She hooked her arm through his and the two turned to head off in the direction of the old meeting
hall. Chris had been wondering why Mary and a handful of women had been working on the place for the last month.
Now he knew. The old Opera House near the end of town had been boarded up and abandoned years ago when the miners had
taken up residence in these parts. No one had time for plays or entertainment as the claims were continually worked
on. The Opera House had been laid waste to time and the elements. It would take a good rebuilding to make it safe
for patrons once again. It was on Mary's agenda to raise money for the rebuilding, but it seemed that for now the meeting
hall would have to do for this current project of hers.
felt a familiar presence come out of the saloon to stand next to him.
they're here, then?" Vin asked.
nodded without turning to look at his friend. "They're here. God help us all."
that dead set against actor people, Chris?"
turned to him and sighed. "I got my reasons," he replied as he stood and headed into the saloon.
and Nathan exchanged curious looks. Whatever those reasons were, it looked as if Chris wasn't about to reveal them any
looked around the small meeting hall. Mary stood off to the side, waiting for his response. She had taken the
last few weeks with a group of volunteers to clean up the hall and set up a stage. "It holds up to fifty people?"
Hathaway asked, a hint of reservation in his tone.
afraid if we fill that much space, we'll be lucky. A lot of people here aren't too thrilled with..." she stopped, unable
to think of a way to put it nicely.
the likes of us traveling actors. Yes, I know. Unfortunately our kind of people have been placed in a class of
troublemakers. A fašade I hope my troupe of actors will negate once they are seen by your town."
smiled. "I hope so, too. And I was wondering...maybe some of our local talent could help ease away any doubts
the people have about traveling actors."
studied her for a moment. "You mean allow us to become accessible to your people?"
nodded with a hopeful look. "I know of at least two people, maybe even three that could, if given the proper incentive,
draw a crowd in and give them a taste of the cultural benefits you and your performers have to bestow."
have you spoken to these two, maybe three, people about this plan of yours?"
twisted her head to the side and down, somewhat abashed.
really...not yet. I wanted to ask your thoughts about it first."
grinned. "Talk to them. I am always willing to see new talent. I love my family of actors, but at times
it gets boring even watching them night after night. Perhaps we could even hold a town audition in the morning, encourage
the people to get involved."
eyes beamed. "That's a wonderful idea. I hadn't thought that far ahead, but I'm sure the people would find it
interesting. I could even help with the readings. I held a poetry contest a few months ago and, surprisingly,
people submitted their work. Even Vin Tanner submitted a poem and he couldn't even read."
looked surprised. "A poet who couldn't read? That's impressive. And who is this Vin Tanner?"
Mister Larabee's second in command. You have yet to meet him, but I would love to show you his work. He has a
would love to read this poet's work, indeed."
grinned. "I was hoping you'd say that. Earlier today I happened to bring his work and some other poems for you
to look over." She walked over to the front row of chairs and lifted a folder from where it rested on one of them.
joined her and took the papers offered. He read over the two Vin had written and marveled. "This from a man who
cannot read? He has more than a great talent, Mary. It's pure genius. How could he have written them, though,
if he couldn't read?"
memorized them, quoted them to me and I wrote them down for him. The one entitled 'A Hero's Heart' was the winner of the contest."
reread that one as he walked over to the edge of the stage. He shook his head. "I am truly impressed." He
carefully handed the poems back to Mary who placed them in the folder and set it on the stage. "Perhaps I can meet with
I'm not sure he can be persuaded to join in the audition you're planning, but some praise from you might encourage him to
would be honored to do my part in helping a talent such as his," Hathaway agreed, then leaned back against the edge of the
stage. He looked over the place once more and sighed.
caught the melancholy look the older man held and knew what was going through his mind. "How are you doing, James?"
she asked with sincerity.
looked at her for a long moment. "It shows, then?"
stepped up closer to him and took his arm in both her hands. "Your letters told me some, but I still get the feeling
you don't want to discuss it with me."
patted her hands and took in a deep breath. "He was too young, Mary. I still find it hard to believe he's gone."
shook her head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up painful memories."
didn't, sweet woman. Don't worry yourself over my pain. I'm healing, but it's taking so long."
rested her head against his shoulder. "I know what you mean."
reached up and patted her head. "Perhaps we can find some time to talk about both our losses."
looked up at him and smiled. "I'd like that."
think I would, too. But not tonight. Tonight we have much work to do."
no, you have a business to attend to. We'll be fine."
smiled up at him. "Let me know if I can help in any way."
I was wondering if you could do me the service of printing up the programs for tomorrow night?" He pulled out a folded
piece of paper and handed it to her. "About sixty should do it."
took the paper and read it over. "I can set it up tonight and start printing tomorrow. It shouldn't be a problem."
good. When I'm finished here, I'll stop by your place to discuss the audition tomorrow morning. Perhaps we can
announce it at the saloon later tonight?"
nodded. "I think with your actors in town the saloon will be the best place to meet with the townsfolk. Many of
the homestead owners are here tonight, mostly out of curiosity than anything." He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Thank you, Mary."
gripped his arm then turned to leave. "I'll leave the poems for you to take and read later."
will do that. Please tell Mister Tanner that I will look forward to meeting with him."
turned and waved as she headed for the front doors. "I'll do that, James."
she was gone, Hathaway turned to the folder and sighed. 'A young poet,' he thought.
sound of someone coming onto the stage from behind forced him to turn and see his stage manager come onto the stage.
"Teddy, your impressions?"
man stayed in the shadows. "The stage will be ready by morning, sir. It will suit our needs well."
nodded. "Good. Get to work." The leader of the troupe headed for the doors, the folder forgotten.
stage manager waited for him to leave and then walked over to pick up the folder. He opened it. He had heard the
conversation between the woman, Mrs. Travis, and his boss. He wanted to see for himself the work of this Vin Tanner.
When he finished reading them...a tear rolled down his face from his one good eye.
front doors opened again and he looked up to see Hathaway walk towards him. "What are you doing with those, Teddy?"
he asked, anger in his voice. "Your job is to set up the stage. I suggest you get to it and stop reading things
that don't concern you." Hathaway held out his hand and the man closed the folder gently over the papers inside.
He handed it to his boss and lowered his head. "I meant no disrespect, sir. I couldn't help but be curious after
hearing Mrs. Travis praise Mister Tanner's work."
Tanner's work...anyone's work...is no longer your business, Teddy. Your life is mine, now. Words have no more
place in your meager existence. You'd do well to remember that."
man lowered his head and turned. He walked to the back of the stage; his shoulders slumped with defeat.
glared at his retreating form. He clutched the folder tightly, forcing his rage at bay. "Bastard," he whispered,
as he turned and headed back out of the meeting hall.
evening after the actors had unloaded their wagons and set up shop in the meeting hall, they checked into the hotel and settled
into their rooms. Then they headed down to the saloon. A group of twenty performers, mostly women, about seven
men, congregated within the establishment and among them was Hathaway with Mary on his arm.
was seated at his customary table in the far corner of the saloon, enjoying his third shot of whiskey when the saloon erupted
with laughter and applause. He suddenly felt the need to get out of town. He hated that closed in feeling.
Ezra, Nathan and Josiah were all seated at their poker table. Soon Buck was making his way up to the women, introducing
shook his head. His friend would never change.
and Vin were out on patrol that night. He was glad of it. JD wouldn't have minded the pomp and charged atmosphere,
what with his taste for gen-u-ine celebrity worship, but Vin would be like a caged tiger, stalking and nervous.
Hathaway stood in the middle of the crowd and lifted his glass of whiskey. "I must say to all of you that have welcomed
us to your town, it is with great honor and unbridled appreciation that we toast Four Corners and hope to deliver a grand
array of entertainment to thrill you all."
shook his head again. 'Unbelievable,' he thought to himself as he downed the last of his whiskey. 'Here comes
the wrapping-everyone-around-our-little-finger bit. Next thing you know everyone around here will be star struck, if
they aren't all ready.' Chris wondered if he should just sit back and watch it happen from a distance? Well, so
far no one was being molested and no fights had started, but the night was still young.
"I must also inform you wonderful people of our talent contest that will be put
on in honor of the those in your town who wish to try their hand at acting or recitals," Hathaway continued. "If anyone
is interested, there will be tryouts starting tomorrow at in the morning.
Just bring your material and your talent to the meeting hall and we will be very willing to audition you. The winner
of the contest will receive twenty dollars and free admission to next week's performances as well as a chance to exhibit their
said talent for the rest of the town. We will call it The Four Corners Tribute to Local Talent Showcase!"
applause was deafening. Chris finished off another shot of whiskey, put on his hat and stood. He doubted he would
be seen leaving with all the people in the saloon. He had to hand it to Hathaway, though; the man knew how to draw a
crowd. Then again, he was an actor. Chris simply could not trust actors. They hid behind masks and costumes
and pretended to be people they weren't. It was great to lull people away from reality for awhile, but what happened
when the masks came off? When the lights dimmed and the audience went home? What kind of people were actors then?
What happened when the pretending stopped and reality loomed over head?
masks up to keep people from knowing you more than you would like them to was one thing...if it was the way you survived.
Those kinds of masks were more like walls, providing safety. Chris knew enough about those kinds of masks. The
masks that actors wore were different. They were meant to lure people into a world of make believe, to create an escape
from reality's pressures. That was fine...writers did the same thing. There was nothing wrong in that. It
was when those false worlds became real to you. The masks then revealed the cracks in their surfaces. No balance...no
safety. Reality and Fantasy meshing together, no fine line between...no separation. Therein lied the danger.
late wife, Sarah, had once been a victim of an actor's inability to find his balance...to find that line that separated his
profession from his person. If Chris had not been there to intervene...he shuddered at the memory. It had all
turned out right in the end, but the thought of what could have happened...Chris simply didn't want anyone in this town to
fall under that aura of pretense. It wasn't worth it.
he reached outside, suddenly he felt the cool air wash over him and he could breathe. JD was out walking the street.
He saw the youth and nodded once to him as he approached. "JD."
Seems everyone is either in bed or at the saloon. Real quiet around town."
could see the younger man was craning his head over the batwing doors to sneak a peek into the saloon. "Go on, Kid.
Might as well get a taste of what it's all about."
smiled. "Thanks, Chris." He started to eagerly head into the saloon, when Chris said, "Just do me a favor?"
turned to him. "Sure, Chris."
stepped up to him and rested a hand on his shoulder. "Don't believe everything you hear, all right? Actors get
paid to act. Make sure you know the difference between them playing a part, and them being real. Can you do that
for me, son?"
thought the request strange, but he could see in Chris' eyes that there had to be a reason for this warning. He took
the words to heart and his face turned solemn. "Sure, Chris. I won't let my guard down."
patted his shoulder and released him. "Go on, then. Just remember what I told you."
won't forget, Chris. I promise." With that JD walked into the saloon and lost himself in the festive air within.
night wore on and Chris had settled himself outside the jailhouse, sitting on his chair. The laughter and song that
came from the saloon had not ceased for the last few hours. He could see Vin walking over to him. The two merely
inclined their heads to each other in greeting. Vin took a spot next to a porch post and leaned his shoulder against
it, resting a hand on his gun belt. He looked over at the saloon.
on over if you've got a mind to," Chris said.
shook his head. "Not fer me. I prefer the quiet."
filled the air between them. After a few minutes, Vin finally took a seat in the chair beside Chris and stretched out
his legs, resting them on the porch railing.
unvoiced question hung in the air and Chris knew what Vin was wondering. "I don't trust them, Vin."
slowly turned his attention to his friend. "I gathered that," he replied in a quiet voice.
knew he didn't have to go into an explanation. Vin was willing to trust Chris' judgment on most anything. This
time, though, an explanation needed to be given. "When I was first courting Sarah, an acting troupe came through our
town. One of the men had been playing a part for so long he began to think he was that character. Sarah and I
were walking down the street one night, when he came out in his costume and attacked her. I stopped him before he did
any real damage, but I saw he had lost his mind. Have never trusted actors since."
the point. Message received. Vin nodded. "Understandable," was all he said.
two fell into their comfortable silence. Chris basked in it. It was good to not feel the need for masks when a
good friend was around.
crash caused Vin and Chris to sit up in their chairs. Their attention turned to the hall. One exchanged look and
they were on their feet heading in that direction.
hurried out of the saloon and met them in the street. He had also heard the crash from where he had been standing just
inside the saloon doors.
nodded to him in acknowledgment. "JD, no one else heard?"
the noise in there is getting louder, what with all the singing and laughing. There's Nathan." He pointed to the
dark skinned man heading their way. "Boys," he greeted them. "Where'd that crash come from?"
the hall," Vin replied. "Could be nothin', maybe a dog or cat wreakin' the place. Could be robbers."
shrugged. "Best to be sure."
Chris pointed to the back of the building. "You and JD go in from the back. Vin and I will take the front.
Remember...it's dark in there. Try to keep a level head." He rested a hand on JD's shoulder and gave the youth
an understanding look.
nodded once. He knew what Chris was worried about. Four months before, JD had accidentally shot a woman while
trying to subdue a pair of bank robbers. Though it had been an accidental shooting, the woman had died, leaving JD gun
shy and wanting nothing more than to return East. It wasn't JD's being unsteady with a gun that the leader of the Seven
was concerned with. It was his being too afraid to use one.
worry, Chris. I'll be all right."
smiled, giving the youth's shoulder an encouraging squeeze. "Good man. Let's go."
four men drew their guns and went to take their positions.
and Chris were at the front doors. The younger man looked in through a window. "Whoever it is, don't care
if they're seen. There's lights on."
Chris replied. "That'll make our job easier. Let's do it." He took the lead and slowly opened the doors,
walking inside. Vin followed close behind; his Mare's Leg aimed to the left of Chris as the gunslinger covered the right
it turned out their guns were not needed as they saw what appeared to be an unarmed man standing on the stage, his back to
them. He was dressed in black pants. Suspenders hung over a white shirt with rolled up sleeves. His long,
black hair was tied back, but looked disheveled. Around his feet were the remains of a thick wooden screen, obviously
the culprit of the crash.
aimed his gun at the man. Vin lowered his, but kept both hands on it. "Mister? Ya' wanna tell us what's
goin' on?" he asked, his voice calm and soft...as always.
me," the man said, a nervous laugh coloring his voice. "I seem to have caused a slight mishap with this stage decoration."
He waved his arms out and Vin saw burn scars on his left forearm. He wondered if the scars went further up the arm.
It was hard to tell with the sleeves. "I did not mean to disturb the mood of the town this festive evening."
all right. Ya' ain't hurt, are ya'?" Vin asked. He glanced over at Chris who was letting him take the lead for the moment.
came in from the left, JD from the right. The man remained still, his head lowered.
Nathan," Chris finally said. "It's all right."
two peacekeepers lowered their guns.
the man said. "I ask that the young man not come any nearer. Ask him to leave."
looked at him questioningly. "Excuse me?"
Nathan spoke out. He understood what the man was asking. He could see the man's face clearly from his location.
"I, uh, I think Chris and Vin can take care of things here."
looked at Chris, confused. "I don't understand."
looked at Nathan who casually rubbed his finger down his left cheek. The gunslinger nodded. "JD, I want you to
go with Nathan. No arguments."
no questions, Son. Just do it."
voice was patient yet firm. JD knew that tone well enough not to argue. He holstered his gun and looked at Nathan.
The healer gestured with his head for them to leave the way they came in.
nodded, but turned to the man. "I hope I didn't disturb you in some way, sir."
man allowed a small chuckle. "It is I who fears disturbing you, young man. Perhaps your dark skinned friend will
explain it to you."
I will," Nathan replied. "I'm the healer in these parts. If you need anything..."
the man spoke out swiftly. Then more softly he repeated, "Nothing, thank you."
tipped his hat to him. "Come along, JD."
gazed at the man who stood mostly in shadow before him. "Good night, sir."
man lowered his head. "No one has called me 'sir' in a very long time, young man. Thank you. Good night."
nodded to him, then followed Nathan out the back of the theater.
man sighed heavily, raising his face, but not allowing Chris or Vin to see it. "A beautiful youth must never gaze on
ugliness too early in life. Scarred innocence comes soon enough to a man. I see no sense in hurrying it along."
placed his Mare's Leg back in its holster. Chris did the same with his gun. "Is there anything we can help you
with?" Chris asked.
looked at him, furrowing his brow. "Do I know you?"
me. I was told you are the lead peacekeeper. And the man next to you must be your second in command. Vin
Tanner, is it not?"
right," the younger man replied.
hope you don't think me rude for not greeting you both properly. My scars...run deep. My ugliness is...difficult
for others to gaze upon."
glanced at Chris then took a step toward the stage. "We are two men well acquainted with scars, sir."
Mister Tanner, but I am not well acquainted with showing mine."
gazed at the man's back curiously. "Your voice sounds familiar. Are ya' an actor?"
man laughed as though an ironic joke had been spoken. "An actor...once, yes, but no more. Unless of course the
part requires a deformed appearance."
turned to Chris, a look of recognition on his face. "Theodore Marcus," he spoke out and the man visibly tensed at the
mention of the name. "Your ear is as sharp as your sharp shooting eye, Mister Tanner."
leaned to his right. "How would ya' know about me bein' a sharpshooter?"
me, again. I took the liberty of asking around about you and the others you work with. Some of the actors have
all ready acquainted themselves with the people of your town. But to answer your question, yes. I was once an
actor named Theodore Marcus. Now...I am nothing more than a stage manager. I set up the props, construct the backgrounds...I
suppose I should be grateful Mister Hathaway chose to keep me on at all. The stage is a harsh mistress. When beauty
disappears...so do the lights and applause."
tone of melancholy was not lost on the two men behind him. Vin took another step closer. "I saw ya' once play
the lead in Hamlet. I'm not a man who can be moved to tears easily, Mister Marcus, but that night I allowed a few to
kind of you to say, Mister Tanner. And may I return the compliment?"
blinked. "Beggin' your pardon?"
Mrs. Travis was very proud of your poetry. So much so that she showed your printed words to Mister Hathaway. I
discovered them quite by accident, I assure you, but discover them I did and was grateful for the opportunity. You have
been twice blessed, Mister Tanner, both with beauty and the love of beauty. Do not squander the gifts God has given
you. As easily as they were given...they can be taken away."
lowered his head, abashed.
was silent, listening to this exchange with interest. He was proud of Vin's talent and to hear a total stranger compliment
his friend filled the gunslinger with even more pride.
"Have I embarrassed you, Mister Tanner, by calling you beautiful? I have
seen your face. You have inherited a comely appearance. I have read your words. You have seen ugliness yet
you are still able to touch on the beauty that lies beneath its horrific surface...its truth, if you will. How rare a man you are."
shrugged, his head still lowered. "I'm just a man who's seen less than most and more than others."
if you saw me, Mister Tanner, would you be able to see beyond the surface?"
lifted his eyes at that question. "I can only see what ya' show me, Mister Marcus."
body seemed to shake with controlled laughter. "A good answer. I am impressed. Sharp eye, sharp ear and
a sharp mind. Mister Larabee, Vin Tanner must be invaluable to you."
won't deny that," Chris replied, softly, not looking at Vin. "When he's not giving me hell, that is."
smiled and Marcus chuckled. "It is better to receive hell from a friend than from an enemy. But perhaps I am comfortable
enough, now, to reveal my face to you. It is not easy to reveal one's ugliness to those who are not prepared to look
upon it." The man slowly turned to face them.
Vin nor Chris flinched or jerked back at what they saw. The left side of the man's face looked as if it had melted from
his head. The lips on the left side of his face were gone and his left eye was covered in a patch. Part of his
scalp on that side was hairless and his ear was half way burned off.
swallowed. "Are...are ya' in pain?" he asked with sorrow. It was the first question that came to his mind.
Mister Tanner, although sometimes the memory of the pain haunts me. I normally wear something over my face so as not
to scare anyone, or I keep to the shadows. Tonight I was not expecting visitors. I applaud you both for not reacting
took a step forward. "Sometimes people are just afraid because their ignorance blinds them."
Mister Larabee, had I not conversed with you before showing you my face, would you not have cringed away with disgust?"
Mister Marcus. I won't deny that would have been a possibility, but I would have known enough to ask how you came to
be this way."
smiled as much as his deformed lips could smile. "As you no doubt deduced I was in a fire over a year ago."
turned to Vin a look of recognition on his face. "The actor that was burned."
gazed at his friend curiously.
Chris turned back to the man. "The town hall fire in Kansas City. The newspapers didn't give
the name of the actor that was burned. That was you?"
scarred man sighed with remorse. "Indeed, Mister Larabee."
noticed Vin's questioning look. "Over a year ago, a fire broke out backstage after a performance Hathaway's actors gave.
I remember reading about it in the paper. Hathaway lost his son." Chris turned back to Theodore Marcus.
nodded. "I don't remember much about the reasons behind it, though."
reports were thankfully discreet, stating only the facts. It...is not something I wish to delve into, forgive me."
shrugged, giving Marcus a small grin. "Every man holds onto a few secrets, Mister Marcus. I wasn't insinuating..."
held out his hand. "Understood, Mister Larabee. Needless to say what was given to me was taken away, never to
be returned again. Now, instead of gracing the stage in character, I dress it and prepare for others to go on and receive
the accolades of the public."
was a sadness in the man's voice that touched Vin's heart. He had remembered Marcus' talent and had been moved by it.
Now that talent had been put to rest, never to be appreciated again. "I understand somethin' of what you're sayin',"
you, Mister Tanner? I am curious to know how you would." The question was not snide. There was a hint of
genuine interest in Marcus' tone.
hooked his thumbs through the top of his gun belt, making his lean more prominent. "There was a time not too long ago
when I lost my sight. Never thought I'd be able to track or sharp shoot again."
looked at him curiously. "When did that happen?"
year, Cowboy, 'fore I met ya'."
smiled. "Yes. You felt as if you had died inside, didn't you, Mister Tanner?"
nodded, not taking his eyes from the man that so bravely showed himself to them.
you regained what was taken from you. Imagine those talents stripped from you forever, not just temporarily. Would
you then understand the depth of my pain?"
nodded. "It would be like havin' your life sucked out of ya'. Never bein' able to do what ya' had been gifted
Mister Tanner. And so, I settle for hearing and watching the performances. I settle for being the admirer, not
the one being admired. Perhaps the fire was God's judgment for my pride. My boasting of my talent was indeed the
result of pride. It is a harsh lesson, but as the Scripture says: 'Deliver up the flesh to destruction, that the soul
may be saved.'"
sound as if you've made peace with it," Chris opined.
chuckled again. "Perhaps I have at that, but what I miss is the opportunity to emote. To recite the words I once
one rehearses with ya'?" Vin asked, astonished.
of course, for I know the lines far better than anyone in the troupe. They come to me for coaching. But the recitals
are dry, meaningless, done strictly to test their memory. To recite the lines opposite one who feels them like I do...to
have that feeling for one day, for one hour...nothing would compare to it. Not even the applause of a crowd who admires
looked at Vin, a question in his gaze.
turned to Marcus. "Would you excuse us for a moment, Mister Marcus? We need to discuss something."
took Vin's arm and led him a few feet away.
what's going on inside that brain o' yours?"
just grinned at him.
Vin knew exactly what Chris was thinking and he wasn't sure he liked the idea one bit. He shook his head in vehement
protest. "You're crazier than I thought, Larabee."
You love words, don't you?"
Buck's got the experience, hell, even Josiah would be better at what you're plannin'. Marcus is a trained actor, a professional.
I've only just been learnin' to read fer the last four months."
raised a hand to stop his protests. "And learning fast, too, from what Mary tells me. The point is; Buck's got
the flare but you've got the passion. That's really all that Marcus is lookin' for. Just an hour, Vin. We
can ask him for something simple. If you're willing to do it, what's the harm?"
began to pace. "I ain't got the education, Chris. This man does Shakespeare fer cryin' out loud. How can
I measure up to that?"
smiled. "How can I measure up to your sharp shooting or tracking skills? It's a sure bet he can't measure up to
your knowledge either."
does reading have to do with trackin' or sharp shootin'?"
things that need to be learned, Vin." Chris gestured with his head to Marcus. "Consider him a teacher."
continued to pace, shaking his head. "It's crazy, Larabee."
Ezra were here I'd put money down that you'd do it."
if that were the case, I'd agree just so's he'd lose."
turned and started walking toward the exit.
do ya' think you're goin'?" the tracker inquired sharply.
stopped and shot a mischievous grin to him. "Gonna get Ezra."
hell you are," Vin almost shouted, but stopped himself. He glanced over at Marcus who had left the two to talk in private
as he continued to work on the fallen backdrop. If the man was hearing any of this, he wasn't letting on.
walked back to Vin, smiling. "Then you'll do it?"
looked away, thoughtful. After a moment he turned to Chris. "Ya' really think I can?"
just said so, didn't I? And you know I don't say things I don't mean. Try it for an hour, like I said. If
it's too uncomfortable for you, you don't have to go through with it."
turned thoughtful again, rubbing his chin, keeping his other hand hooked through his gun belt. He looked over at the
scarred man who continued to work as if nothing else was going on around him. "What if I fail?" he almost whispered.
trying...you won't fail."
took another moment to consider the request. He watched Marcus work. Then he remembered back to the time when
he had been unable to see. When he got his sight back, Vin had seen the world through a grateful soul. "I reckon
an hour couldn't hurt," he whispered.
grin broadened. "Tell him."
ducked his head and removed his hat. He went up to the stage, holding his hat between his hands. "Mister Marcus?"
scarred man turned to him, a questioning look in his one good eye.
seems to think I can be the one ya' recite with."
smiled and he laid his tools down. He walked over to the edge of the stage and sat down again. "And you, Mister
Tanner? What do you think?"
looked down at his hat, kneading it. "Well, I ain't educated. Fact is I've only just begun to learn to read a
few months ago. I know two other men who would be better at this than me."
looked at Vin amazed. "You couldn't read a few months ago, and yet, you were able to create such vivid words and hold
them inside your mind. That is impressive, my young poet. Very impressive indeed."
said nothing. He kept his gaze lowered to his hat.
exchanged a look with Chris who was by now leaning against the back of one of the chairs, his arms crossed over his chest.
Chris' look was elusive. It was clear he had intervened as much as he was going to. Marcus turned back to Vin.
"I can assist you with the pronunciation of words, Mister Tanner. It's the comprehension I yearn to glean from.
Only a poet's heart can truly grasp the pictures painted by a poet. Perhaps if I quoted a sonnet for you...then you
can tell me what you feel it says. That is what I desire most of all...the point of view of a stranger regarding a poem's
cast a look over his shoulder to see Chris nodding to him. He turned back to Marcus. "I'm willin' to give it a
smiled. "Excellent! Mister Larabee, would you be kind enough to reach into that coat on the chair beside you and
pull out the book from the inside right pocket?"
looked down to see a black coat draped over the back of the seat he was leaning against. He reached in and pulled out
a palm sized black bound book. On the binding it read: "The Sonnets of Shakespeare." He walked over and handed
the book to Marcus. "If you'll excuse me, then. I best head outside and inform Nathan and JD things are all right
Mister Larabee, it is within you the desire to stay...is it not?"
grinned softly. "I don't want to intrude."
but we need an audience. Mister Tanner, you wouldn't mind would you?"
seemed caught. He didn't want to do this in front of Chris, but it was obvious Marcus wanted the gunslinger to stay.
He looked up at his friend and shrugged. "Ya' know what they say about starvin' the soul," he said, hoping Chris would
get the hidden meaning. That had been a line in the poem Chris had written for him to encourage him to keep learning
had gotten the meaning...loud and clear. "Well, if I won't be intruding, I guess I can stay."
assure you it will not take very long, Mister Larabee, then you and Mister Tanner may rejoin your friends."
nodded once and went back to the front row of seats where he sat down.
Larabee, are you familiar with the Sonnets of the Bard?"
of them, yes."
one would you recommend?"
smiled. "I'm partial to number seventy-eight."
it is, then." Marcus opened the book and began to read. The actor's voice filled the air with the words, and he
quoted them with such sincerity it was as if he had written the words himself. When he was finished, Vin had taken on
a lost look. A look in his eyes that said he had gone where the words had taken him. It was a look that Marcus
knew well. "Now, I shall go through each line, Mister Tanner, and you explain to me what you feel the Bard is saying.
Do not worry if your interpretation is right or wrong...what matters is what meaning you obtained from it."
understand," Vin replied. He closed his eyes as Marcus began to quote the sonnet again. "So oft have I invoked
thee for my Muse and found such fair assistance in my verse."
kept his eyes closed, shutting out all the sights of the hall. Shutting out Chris, even shutting out the man sitting
next to him as he leaned back against the edge of the stage. "I reckon he's talkin' to a person who inspired him to
said nothing in response. He continued to quote. "As every alien pen hath got my use and under thee their posey
interpreted. "He uses whatever's within his reach to write, even pens that don't belong to 'im. With this person's
inspiration leadin' him on, the words flow out on the paper."
smiled over at Chris who was smiling himself. He nodded to the actor in affirmation. Marcus continued. "Thine
eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing and heavy ignorance aloft to fly..."
person who inspires sees beyond the sky and gives the writer knowledge, helpin' 'im to open up more to his writin'...to fly
beyond his limits."
added feathers to the learned's wing, and given grace a double majesty."
writer is able to fly higher than he ever thought he could go, his talent is doubled."
be most proud of that which I compile, whose influence is thine and born of thee."
askin' this person...this...teacher...not to look on other works they've inspired, but to see the words he created with that
other's works thou dost but mend the style, and arts with thy sweet graces grace'd be."
writer's are simply touched by this person. They've been blessed with grace all ready. The one who inspires just
brushes up their style."
thou art all my art and dost advance as high as learning my rude ignorance."
writer's sayin' this person who inspires 'im is his only source of inspiration, and that they're able to take his ignorance
and push 'im forward with his gift."
opened his eyes and looked over at Chris who studied him knowingly. The meaning of the sonnet became clear to Vin and
he lowered his head. "Pardon me, Mister Marcus." Without another word he walked passed Chris, putting his hat
on as he did so. He didn't look at the gunslinger as he headed for the front doors.
stood and watched him leave not saying anything to stop him. He could tell by the determined steps that Vin was uncomfortable
with what had just happened.
watched after Vin, a troubled look on his face. He turned to Chris who walked over to him. "Is there something
wrong, Mister Larabee?"
Mister Marcus. Vin just got a message I delivered to him, that's all."
sighed heavily and closed his eyes. He closed the book and clutched it in his hand. "For one who's had no formal
education your young friend is able to encompass in his mind the meaning. Never have I heard such an interpretation
given so quickly or so full of understanding."
stood there, looking down. What could he say? Vin had amazed him as well.
again,' he thought, 'when did that young cuss ever stop amazing me?'
he be auditioning tomorrow for the talent show?"
chuckled. "Not Vin. I can guarantee it."
you inform him that if he wishes to continue, we can meet tomorrow after the auditions, backstage. Where he can further
learn to fly. I will understand, however, if he refuses."
be sure to tell 'im." Chris held out his left hand. Marcus reached out with his scarred left hand and shook it.
In that moment of friendship and respect...the scars were no longer seen.
saw Vin leave the meeting hall and he and JD walked up to him. "Everything all right?" the healer asked.
Vin replied. He turned and headed toward the livery.
watched him leave. "What do you think happened in there, Nathan?"
shook his head. "Not sure. Whatever it is, though, has gotten Vin wound up tighter than a drum."
Mother used to say that we always think we have the worst lot in life until we see someone else who's worse off than we are."
clapped a hand on the youth's shoulder and smiled. "Your Ma was very wise to teach you that."
heard Chris step out and looked over to him. "Is he all right, Chris?" Nathan asked indicating the scarred man inside.
nodded. "I think he simply needed someone to talk to, Nathan. Seen Vin?"
pointed. "He headed for the stable."
knew what that meant. Without another word he headed after Vin, hoping to catch him before he rode off.
saw the light on inside and walked in to see Vin brushing down Peso's coat. The horse was busy munching on grain and
so was oblivious to his master's ministrations. "Vin?"
continued brushing. "Thought I'd head out and scout the perimeter tonight before hittin' the hay, if that's all right."
be doin' that later this evenin' with JD. What's got your guts in knots?"
message ya' sent me tonight. Wanna explain why ya' chose that particular piece?"
do you mean?"
continued to brush. "Don't play dumb, Larabee. Ya' know exactly what I'm talkin' about."
remember when I told you how I would never stifle your talent? Well the reverse is true. If I can see a way for
you to grow in that talent then I'll show you that way. I think Marcus can help you."
help me. Mary helps me." Vin stopped brushing, clutching Peso's neck with his empty hand. His body was tense
and his voice was on the edge of anger.
was not the reaction Chris had been expecting. He had seen a kindred spirit for Vin in Marcus. For a fleeting
moment the gunslinger thought he had overstepped his bounds, then he shook off the feeling. For the first time Chris
could see Vin was running scared. What he was afraid of was failing. Chris knew, though, that Vin would not fail
as long as he didn't run. "Marcus is different."
Because I don't know 'im?"
"You do know him, Vin. He's what you can become."
ain't no actor. Don't reckon I ever want to be one neither."
is he...not anymore, but that doesn't stop him from loving words. I can tell he's been lookin' a long time for someone
like you. Indulge his passion, Vin. Give him someone he can talk to."
is it so important to ya' that I do this?" Vin turned on him, his eyes pleading for a reason. "I just wrote a few poems
and suddenly everyone thinks I can turn the world on its ears with a talent I didn't even know I had a few months ago."
let out a breath. He knew Vin could go either way. If he pushed too hard, then an opportunity would be lost.
"Tell me you don't want anything to do with words, Vin, and I'll stop pushing you. Tell me what happened in that hall
just now didn't open up another door for you. Tell me you're not curious to see what's on the other side. You
convince me that's true and I'll let it drop."
looked down. He walked over to a chest that held livery tools and put the brush back inside. He closed the lid
and sat down. He shook his head. "Ya' know I can't tell ya' that, Chris. Just...why is it so important to
ya'?" He looked up at his friend, the pleading look returned. "No one has ever given a damn about what's inside
o' me," he pointed to his heart. "Mary was curious and she encouraged me to write those poems. You encouraged
me to keep learnin' how to read. Now...now ya' see me runnin' and ya' want me to learn to fly. What difference
does it make to y'all if I don't?"
Chris took a seat next to Vin and clasped his hands together between his knees.
There was a silence between them as Chris put his words together. "Marcus is not able to do anymore what he once was
able to do so well. His gift is still there, but now it's stifled. He's dying inside, Vin. You've been living
so long watching over your shoulder, knowing at any moment someone lookin' to collect that bounty on your head can just cross
your path and shoot you dead. Every breath you take is a gift, Vin. I see this glorious talent within you, I see
the world of words opening up before you and I don't want to see you waste a single moment. I encouraged you to keep
learnin' how to read for the same reasons I'm encouraging you to seek Marcus out. He can take you another step farther.
He can teach you how to fly. That's
something neither Mary or I can do for you."
did not look up at Chris. The blond man hesitated. He had put his arm around Vin once before and the young man
had not shied away from the contact. Chris somehow knew Vin didn't stand for that kind of display with just anyone.
He wondered if Vin would shy away now. He threw caution to the wind and put an arm around his friend's shoulders giving
him a slight hug. "Think on it, Vin. That's all I'm askin'." Vin had not pulled away or tensed with the
hug. Were they that comfortable with each other? Deciding not analyze that part of their friendship too deeply,
Chris let Vin go and stood. Without another word he started toward the livery doors.
know I may love words, but I'm not much of one to speak 'em. Least ways not when I don't have somethin' to say."
smiled with understanding. "Maybe 'cause you ain't had nobody to listen to you before."
grinned a bit, nodding slightly. "You listen."
looked at him.
lifted his gaze once more. "I guess I just wanted to say 'thanks'." The 'thanks' went deeper, though, than the
lowered his head with a smile. "They're having auditions tomorrow morning around ten. Marcus said if you're still
interested, he can meet you at the hall after the auditions are over."
stood and went to pat Peso on the neck. He walked up to Chris. "I'll be there," he said and headed on down the
street toward his wagon.
went up to the lantern and blew out the light, but the conversation he and Vin just had would light his soul for a long time