Miles from Town: Chapter 10

The cool water from the faucet felt good on his face and neck. He watched, surprised as the gray cement puddled up with dirt and grim as he rinse the filth from himself.

Before to long, Nancy came out the side door, keys in hand and unlocked the old truck whose step-board, Gil rested on. “Was my daddy’s,” she said of the truck, “but he gave it to me.”

Within minutes, they were passing behind the state capital building. “You can drop me right here. I can walk the rest of the way.”

“Okay,” Nancy complied. “You gonna pass through or are you planning to stay awhile, Gil?”

“I’m gonna stick around, see if I can get a job in town,” he answered.

“Well, my daddy owns the largest Hereford ranch in Nevada, north of Reno,” she said. Seeing a bit of a puzzle sweep across Gil’s face, she added, “That north of here a few miles. I can get you a job if you want. If you want one, you know where I work.”

“Even if you don’t wanna job, you know where I work,” she winked.

She smiled as Gil closed the door. He stood on the sidewalk and watched as she disappeared from sight.

Gil turned and walked up the street towards the Smith’s residence. While he was a bit perturbed by the fact that the old man had forgotten about him, he decided to ‘play it cool,’ and show no anger until he got his pay.

He rapped at the door. A few seconds later a woman answered, “Yes, can I help you?

Hat in hand, Gil answered, “I’m looking for Mr. Smith. I work for him.”

“Come in,” she directed.

She shut the door behind him and pointed to a chair and motioned for him to sit. “I guess you hadn’t heard that Frank, my dad, Mr. Smith, passed away the middle of last month.”

Stunned, Gil leaned back in the chair. He felt the wind live his body.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he responded, “I didn’t know. So that’s why he didn’t show up to get me. Explains a lot.”

“You worked for Dad?”

Gil answered, “Yes. I’ve been overseeing the mine.”

“Which one?”

“The one out by the reservation.”

“Really? How did you get back here?”

“Walked.”

The woman shook her head, “Dad was so certain that when the next war came, the federal government would want all the manganese it could get, but his war never came. We had no idea he had anyone out there at the worthless old hole. I am so sorry!”

“I am too, ma’am,” Gil said as he stood up, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Where do you think you’re going?” the daughter asked.

“Well, with Mr. Smith…uh…Frank passed, I figure I need to be on my way.”

“Are you owed money?”

“Yes, ma’am, but with him gone and all, I…”

She interrupted, “I’ll not hear of it. You’ll sleep out in the guest cottage out back and in the morning after breakfast, I’ll take you to the bank and we’ll get your money.”

“But you don’t know how much that is or if I’m even telling the truth.”

“Look, you look like hell, no – worse than hell, so I believe you. No one walks 80 miles and leaves empty-handed on a handshake.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Molly. Please call me Molly.”

She showed him to the kitchen, where she poured him a cup of hot coffee and ladled out a bowl of thick mutton stew, before directing him out the back door to the cottage. It would be the first hot shower and clean bed Gil had slept in over half a year.

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