[Welcome to Y’all Hazred, a tale of the Weird West! You’re joining a story already in progress. To start at the beginning, click here.]
“So what do you think, Elmer?”
“I think you look prettier’n a picture with your face all lit up from that smiling.”
“Oh, you!” Cora playfully swatted Elmer’s arm. “I mean about the mine.”
“Hmm.” Elmer crossed his arms and assumed a thoughtful expression. “I think we should leave the silver in there. Looks real pretty there underground, and it’d be a right shame to go moving it around just so’s we could get rich.”
“El-mer! Be serious. You know the company’ll come back. You want to sell when they come asking? Or should we stick it out and do for ourselves?”
“Well, they’ve got the fancy machinery and equipment to get it all hauled out and processed, that’s for sure. An’ they got the men to work the mine. Not to mention all kindsa ological experts to tell ‘em when and where to dig. So with all that, I suppose a man’d be a fool to think he could go against ‘em.”
Cora’s face registered surprise. Elmer continued with a grin, “Which is why I guess it took that fool Taylor causing a cave-in to find what all them missed. So no, we ain’t selling. This is our silver. We put in the time, we stayed here when no one else did, and now we’re gonna reap our rewards.”
“What’re we gonna buy, Elmer?”
“Everything! Anything we want. I’ll buy you shoes and ribbons and bows. Heck, I’ll buy you every dress in that Sears catalog. You’ll have ‘em all.”
“Where are we gonna put all them dresses?”
“We’ll buy us a house, someplace with a little bit of land. Not like this, real land, something that ain’t just dust waiting to blow up into your eyes. It’ll be close to a town where we can just walk in and buy whatever we need, so’s we don’t have to wait for no weekly delivery wagon.
“And I’ll get myself a suit for when we go into town, and a proper hat for tippin’ at the ladies.”
“You sure are gonna look fancy in your new suit,” sighed Cora, her eyes sparkling.
“We’ll go out hand in hand, walking. All the men calling me sir, all the ladies talking about your fancy dresses. And we’ll never work ‘cept for how we want to. Just sit comfortable in our home and enjoy life.”
Elmer took Cora by the hand and twirled her around, her feet stepping lightly across the rough wooden floor. Her patched, faded dress swirled around her legs, and in both of their eyes it seemed rich, silken and vibrant.
Cora spun back and leaned against Elmer with a happy sigh. As he wrapped his arms around her, she leaned back and met him for a kiss. With their eyes closed and their lips pressed together, they held themselves in their fantasy for a long moment before letting it fade away.
“All right,” sighed Elmer. “All right. First we need to get the silver, I suppose. No good drawing up grand fantasies involving a buncha rocks we don’t even have yet. We’re gonna need to do a full count of what we got, find out what’s still good and what ain’t. Them rocks Taylor brought back ought to be good enough to get us a loan from the bank, so long as we get there before the company tells ‘em not to lend to us to try to squeeze us out. So we gotta make haste.”
“He’s not a fool, y’know,” Cora said.
“What? Who’s not?”
“Who ever said he was?”
“You did, just earlier. You said ‘that fool Taylor caused a cave-in.’”
“Oh, so what if I did. It was just a figure of speech. And what do you care anyway?” Elmer raised an eyebrow at his wife, one side of his mouth raised in a slight smile. “You sweet on him?”
“Good, ‘cause you better not be! You got me, and that’s all you need.”
“Oh yeah? Does that go both ways? ‘Cause I’ve seen you looking at…at….”
“At who, Miz Blaumer?” laughed Elmer. “She’s Ma’s age.”
“Yeah, well.” Cora turned away from him. “I seen you looking when there was other women here. Loose ones. You looked plenty.”
“And that’s all I ever did,” Elmer assured his wife, crossing to her and wrapping his arms around her waist. “You’re all I need or want.”
“And you’re all for me,” murmured Cora. After a moment, she added, “But if you get to look, then I reckon I do, too.”
“So you are sweet on Taylor.”
“Elmer!” Cora huffed and pulled free of his embrace. Elmer let her go, laughing.
While Elmer busied himself making an inventory of their mining supplies, Cora sat down at the table and tallied up the costs of replacement parts, lamps, chemicals and more. She used old receipts where they had them, her memory where they didn’t, and occasional guesswork when even her memory came up empty.
Looking at the numbers, Cora bit her lip. The total was grim. The fact of the matter was, they were stone-broke. Worse than that, actually. Elmer’s talk about getting a loan missed one key point: they already had a loan with the nearest bank, which they hadn’t paid back in a year or more. Chances were that if they went into town to ask for a new one, the bank would just have them thrown in jail to work off their debt.
Cora looked over at her husband who was happily humming to himself as he sorted through their dented and decrepit equipment. She shook her head and refocused on the numbers. They’d make it work. This wasn’t the first time life had tried to kick them while they were down, and they’d always managed to get through. They’d sell what they needed to, borrow what they had to, because once the silver started flowing again it would all be simple.
A knocking at the door caused them both to look up.
“Elmer! Cora! Y’in there?” came Taylor’s voice.
Elmer crossed to the door and opened it, beaming. “Taylor! Man of the hour. Welcome!”
The two men clasped hands briefly and Taylor stepped into the house, doffing his hat. “Miz Everill. Pretty as always.”
Cora turned her face away to hide her smile, flipping her slate facedown as she did so. “So you’re bringing life back to Rosin’s Hollow?”
“I aim to! Actually, that’s why I’m here. Elmer, you got time for a quick sojourn? I want to take you out to the mine, show you what I found. You can see what’s what, figure out how you’re gonna set up business, get everything set.”
Elmer looked at the piles of equipment stacked haphazardly around his small house. “This ain’t that time-sensitive, is it? I’m right in the middle of something right now. If we could do it maybe tomorrow morning, that’d suit me better.”
“Elmer,” said Cora, “I think maybe you oughta take opportunities when they come literally knocking at your door.”
“I’m right in the middle of this, Cora.”
Taylor raised his hands placatingly. “We can do this tomorrow morning. Tain’t no skin off my nose.”
“Don’t be silly. You’re free now, we’ll go with you now. If Elmer’s too busy, I’ll take a trip out to the mine with you, Taylor.”
Elmer frowned. “Let me just get my hat. I’ll finish this up when I get back.”
He shot a glare at Cora as he and Taylor left the house, which Cora returned. She rolled her eyes as the door shut behind them. Here they were in debt past their eyeballs, and her husband was too busy to go out to see where their salvation was about to come from? She loved the man, but he was thicker than a river of bricks sometimes.