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Sagas of the Wild West
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A New Broom Sweeps Clean or The Littered House on the Prairie


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 "Yes you do." Jemima said, bluntly. "I know Arabella, and I know all her little secret ways and how she 'ain't right'. I know what she's like about other women and I reckon you do too, by now."

 

Miriam frowned, "She most certainly is right, she is a fine person."   Not that she exactly knew what 'right' meant coming from Jemima though she had a hunch.

 

Arabella had indeed shared her secret with her but Miriam was a friend and not about to break such a sacred confidence.

 

"She is no different than you or I around other women. Why almost all our customers are women, you know that. There have been no complaints from any of them either.  So - as I just said - I have no idea what you are going on about," the mousey girl summoned up some gumption to face down this other girl.

 

And she dearly hoped she wasn't about to be punched in the face for it, she wouldn't put it past the scary Jemima.

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"Well, you could indeed pass as sisters to be honest, you both have the dark hair and are quite petite," Clara actually agreed there with Arabella, for once.

 

"Oh I know!" Arabella enthusiastically agreed with Clara agreeing with her. "We're just like two peas in a pot! And Mirm's helpin' me to make a smock just like hers so we'll look even more the same-y!" she filled Clara in with her latest plans to make her and the Jewish girl blend into one. However, her information about Jacob's new job seemed to come as a surprise to the older girl.

 

"That is LAWFULLY married husband."

 

"Glad to hear it." nodded Arabella, not realising she was being corrected. "Else you'd be 'livin' over the brush' I mean, I guess it's bad enough you got your roof rusted before your weddin' day, but that's all water under the bridge now..." rambled Arabella, but Clara had honed in on the part about the 'dangerous mission'.

 

"And what do you mean perilous job? Jacob said it is quite simple just involves him being away for a stretch of time," Clara frowned.

 

Arabella just shrugged. "I dunno, that's just what Jemima told me, you'll have to ask her." she said truthfully. 

 

@Wayfarer

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"She is no different than you or I around other women. Why almost all our customers are women, you know that. There have been no complaints from any of them either.  So - as I just said - I have no idea what you are going on about," the mousey girl summoned up some gumption to face down this other girl.

 

Jemima looked the brave little dormouse up and down, gave a slow knowing nod and a sniff that out sniffed all her previous sniffs.

 

"Nahhhh, she ain't right. She likes girls in a 'wrong way' and I reckon you're the girl she likes. And what's more, I reckon you like her right on back. And if I'm right, well I only got one thing to say to you, Miss Miriam Kaufmann..." she dropped her buckets and put a hand on each of Miriam's shoulders, her piggy little eyes staring into the lustrous brown orbs of the Jewish girl.

 

"You'd better both just... well just don't go breaking each other's hearts, that's all. It's hard to find real love in this world, some of us've never found it and ain't ever likely to. Just you both take care of each other and if anybody ever gives you any trouble over it, you just tell me and I'll bash 'em up for yuh!" she declared, letting go of Miriam and reaching down for the buckets.

 

"Now come on, this water ain't going to fetch itself!" she chided, as if it had been Miriam's idea to stop and talk about these things in the first place. "Dunno what's getting into everybody these days, all this soppy talk going around!" she chuntered, walking at a brisk pace toward the creek.

 

@Wayfarer

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"Bearing a resemblance to each other does not necessitate you having to try and dress alike?" Clara wondered aloud but knew better than to try and convince the girl of anything. And it was none of her business anyhow. But she did have to point out the correct use of the word 'lawfully', not that it seemed to do any good.

 

"Else you'd be 'livin' over the brush' I mean, I guess it's bad enough you got your roof rusted before your weddin' day, but that's all water under the bridge now..."

 

"Arabella!" Clara was stunned she would say that to her face so matter of factly, the girl really needed to learn to rein in her opinions at times. 

 

But something else focused her attention, the bit about Jacob being involved in a dangerous enterprise?

 

Arabella just shrugged. "I dunno, that's just what Jemima told me, you'll have to ask her." she said truthfully. 

 

"Oh I most certainly will," Clara declared. She wanted answers, sure answers not wild rumours.

 

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"Nahhhh, she ain't right. She likes girls in a 'wrong way' and I reckon you're the girl she likes."

 

"I have no idea what you mean, besides there is nothing wrong with a girl liking a girl, it is called friendship," Miriam continued to defend Ara.

 

"And what's more, I reckon you like her right on back. And if I'm right, well I only got one thing to say to you, Miss Miriam Kaufmann..." she dropped her buckets and put a hand on each of Miriam's shoulders, her piggy little eyes staring into the lustrous brown orbs of the Jewish girl.

 

Miriam tensed, so was this when the bigger girl was going to get physical with her? She just froze, too frightened to try and defend herself. Turned out nothing like that though.

 

"You'd better both just... well just don't go breaking each other's hearts, that's all. It's hard to find real love in this world, some of us've never found it and ain't ever likely to. Just you both take care of each other and if anybody ever gives you any trouble over it, you just tell me and I'll bash 'em up for yuh!"

 

"Oh....ummm, well....." Miriam had not expected that from Jemima, it was as if a completely different person suddenly took over the bigger older girl's body.

 

"That was kind of you to say," she paused to try and come up with something more but failed miserably.  Jemima, for all her intimidating looks and usually words too, was acting very nice!

 

"Oh but please....don't bash anyone over us. I would hate to see anyone get hurt," she now pleaded.

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"That was kind of you to say," she paused to try and come up with something more but failed miserably.  Jemima, for all her intimidating looks and usually words too, was acting very nice!

 

"I am kind!" Jemima frowned, as if surprised that anyone would ever think anything different "And if anyone says I ain't, I'll give 'em a fat lip!" she advised Miriam, who didn't seem to like all this talk of good old fashioned healthy violence. 

 

"Oh but please....don't bash anyone over us. I would hate to see anyone get hurt," she now pleaded.

 

"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it, Squirt." countered Jemima: she had enjoyed plenty of practice at exacting revenge, sometimes quite nasty revenge, on various people who had annoyed her, especially her brother, and was something of a connoisseur in the field. Of course, although applying physical violence was a quick and effective method of 'teaching someone a lesson', and the one she had learned first from her oft-times violent mother, it lacked the finesse of other, more devious and humiliating, courses of action.  

 

Eventually they got back from the creek: Jemima in the lead, totting two full buckets of fresh water with ease, Miriam lagging behind with her once-full, single bucket slopping all over the place due the rough ground underfoot.

 

"Here you go, Missus, three buckets' full. Well, two and a half, the Squirt spilled most of hers." Jemima announced gruffly to Clara as they entered. 

 

Arabella grinned at hearing the nickname for Miriam, even though it was such an obvious one and the girl didn't seem too happy about it. This might have seemed strange, but as she jumped down from a chair that she had been standing on to do some dusting and helped her diminutive friend with the bucket, she whispered excitedly "She gave you a nickname, that means she really likes you!"

 

Indeed, when Jemima had started to call Bridget Monahan 'Peg' and Arabella herself had become 'Skeets' it had symbolised, despite their faults and imperfections, their acceptance into the hoydenish female's circle of trust and protection.

 

@Wayfarer

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"Squirt?" Miriam raised one eyebrow. Well she supposed she could be called worse - like back in New York where she had heard 'dirty little Jew' more than once. And after Jemima had said nice things about Ara and her, she was not going to complain.

 

Jemima was as strong as she looked, maybe stronger and easily carried two pails. Miriam, not so much, struggled with hers and did spill some on the journey back, her dress was such that it looked like she had wet herself. But they got back and into the cabin once more.

 

"Here you go, Missus, three buckets' full. Well, two and a half, the Squirt spilled most of hers." Jemima announced gruffly to Clara as they entered. 

 

"Thank you, Jemima, and please....call me Clara," the taller brunette replied also glancing at the new girl, "Oh, that is fine. It is near full and admittedly the journey to and fro is a long one."

 

Arabella joined Miriam with the pail heft and whispered, "She gave you a nickname, that means she really likes you!"

 

Miriam nodded and grinned then whispered, "She actually does. And...well, I will tell you something later."

 

And with fresh water for cleaning, all four girls tied into the difficult job of making this long abandoned wreck reasonably clean and liveable. Miriam hummed some little ditty to herself as she scrubbed one section of floor, Clara glancing at her for a second then shrugging and getting back her own efforts.

 

 

 

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Miriam nodded and grinned then whispered, "She actually does. And...well, I will tell you something later."

 

Arabella, who was curiosity personified, was burning to know what Jemima had said to Miriam, but they had shilly-shallied enough, and there was work to be done. She would find out later. 

 

And with fresh water for cleaning, all four girls tied into the difficult job of making this long abandoned wreck reasonably clean and liveable. Miriam hummed some little ditty to herself as she scrubbed one section of floor, Clara glancing at her for a second then shrugging and getting back her own efforts.

 

The tune that the Jewish girl hummed so beautifully was not some reel or schottische or folk song brought to these shores by the descendants of Japheth, neither was it a negro spiritual or sprightly banjo tune culled from the songbook of the dusky great grandchildren of Ham. No, this was the third and final ingredient into the great melting pot of American music: it was the music of the children of Shem: a soulful, prayerful sigh of fortitude in the midst of the misery  of persecution and diaspora.

 

The melody's beautiful and haunting strains soon caught and tangled in Arabella's ear and drew from her own lips a sad but apposite harmony. Jemima couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but she inadvertently timed the sniffs of her permanently runny nose to sound on the off beat every twelve bars. To hear them sing the Yiddish harmony, you would have thought the trio Jewish slave workers, building great Pharaoh's pyramids: not three Western gals, cleanin' up a shack.

 

The work was hard, but it was worth it to see the transformation of the place. Eventually, even the table was so clean that you could eat your dinner off of it: so they did. 

 

"Oh I do love dill pickles!" sighed Arabella in a sing-song voice as she shoved her fingers in the jar, rather than pick one out with a fork "Say, Clara, why don't you ask Jemima about Jacob sayin' he was goin' on a hair-raisin' dangerous mission!?"

 

@Wayfarer

 

 

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All of them were quite satisfied with their labors as they then took a break to eat the lunch the girls had brought with them. Clara glared at Arabella's shoving her hand into the pickle jar though.

 

"Honestly, do not do that. I have forks," she pointed out.

 

Even Miriam was a bit taken aback by the lack of manners but since it was Arabella she chalked it up to the girl being a poor orphan child. Besides Clara had already dealt with the issue, she would never criticize the girl  with others around.

 

"Say, Clara, why don't you ask Jemima about Jacob sayin' he was goin' on a hair-raisin' dangerous mission!?"

 

Pickles forgotten instantly, Clara decided to take Ara up on that idea and turned to Jemima then.

 

"Yes, if I might ask what exactly did Jacob tell you about his new job? He told me it was quite simple and paid well. Do you know more details by any chance?"

 

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"Honestly, do not do that. I have forks," she pointed out.

 

"Oh, I don't mind!" said Arabella with her mouth so full of pickle that it sounded more like "Wow, Wa Won Wind" She didn't pay too much mind to what Clara thought about these matters because she was far too prissy in her manners anyways. If she had known that Miriam didn't approve, she would have acted a lot more daintily, of course.

 

"Say, Clara, why don't you ask Jemima about Jacob sayin' he was goin' on a hair-raisin' dangerous mission!?" she asked once her pickle was at least half eaten, then let out a "Yow!" as somebody kicked her under the table.

 

Pickles forgotten instantly, Clara decided to take Ara up on that idea and turned to Jemima then.

 

"Yes, if I might ask what exactly did Jacob tell you about his new job? He told me it was quite simple and paid well. Do you know more details by any chance?"

 

"It wasn't Jake, he's not worried about the jaunt." Jemima started off "Just my no-good, cowardly brother." Poor Hector, he would have been mortified, had he known that he was being thus abused in front of the diminutive Miriam Kaufman, upon whom he had a crush as enormous as she was tiny! Conversely, Jemima couldn't help but still hold something of a torch for Jacob, even though she knew that any hopes there were long gone yeas ago. She was worried about Jake on this trip all right, and felt a sort of empathy for Clara on the matter, despite her burning jealousy of the woman. Who knew that such a mixture of emotions could writhe and squirm beneath such a placid, almost zombie-like exterior?

 

"They've gone to see a tribe of Indians, friendlies." she provided elucidation "Take them gifts and renew the peace pipe betwixt them and the Western Union." 

 

"Uh?" asked Arabella dumbly, shoving another pickle in her mouth.

 

"Indians don't think like white folks" explained Jemima who, despite the fact that she regularly toted a veritable arsenal of weaponry  around to kill them with, was quite interested in a culture that would accept, say, a girl with a body like a man's, or two women being in love with one another.

 

"They think the Telegraph Company workers are a separate tribe to the soldiers and the settlers; just cause they're at war with one bunch, doesn't mean they're at war with the other. They don't realise that the telegraph wires carry the army's orders, they think they're just big totem poles." she informed them, looking a bit uncomfortable at being the centre of attention of the little group. 

 

"Hector was getting cold feet and  wanted to borrow a gun off of me: I wasn't going to give him one but then I thought it'd be extra protection for Jake so I let him have it. But they'll be all right... Arabella, will you stop gobbling up all them pickles?! My Ma sent them for Clara in case she was getting the cravings!" she shouted at the girl, who was just shoving a third slice of vinegary, dill-peppered cucumber into her maw.

 

@Wayfarer

 

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