The River Runs Deep – Episode 08

Sailesh Thakrar © Billy-Bob picking apples Illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

“That boy is a hard worker,” Myrtle remarked, watching Billy-Bob on his hands and knees in front of the mercantile, repairing a board in the store’s wagon.

“He reminds me of his Grandpa William.”

Myrtle was housekeeper at the Hawthorns, Captain and Mrs Leasowe’s elegant home outside the town.

She and Adelaide had been friends for 20 years and more, ever since the Leasowes arrived in Deep River and bought Myrtle, her daughter and a half-dozen more slaves as household servants.

“I’ve noticed that, too,” Adelaide agreed, adding to the stack of goods on the counter as she filled the Leasowes’ order.

“Only a day ago, Billy-Bob was asking me about William’s old Indian remedies!

“Speaking of remedies, how is Josephine? Did the lotion help?” she asked.

“Cleared her skin like a charm. That granddaughter of mine is vain and sassy as ever!” Myrtle laughed. “Putting on airs now, too.”

Myrtle fell silent when the store’s door opened and Dr Booth, the town’s slave-owning physician, came in.

He strode to the counter as Myrtle moved aside, her eyes lowered while Dr Booth made his purchases.

Billy-Bob loaded the Leasowes’ order on to the wagon and was driving towards the Hawthorns when he saw a bunch of folk gathering out front of the post office.

Sheriff Pearce was nailing up a “Wanted” poster.

“Turns out money’s gone missing from the mine!” Pearce announced, his loud voice carrying to the cluster of men pressing closer for a better look.

“No wonder Caleb Robertson lit out,” Pearce went on with a laugh. “He’s a thief and there’s this here reward for his capture.

“Dead or alive,” he added with a smirk.

Summer was almost over.

After a season of sunshine and enough rainfall, the trees and bushes at Pipers Creek were heavy with ripe apples, pears, plums, damsons and apricots.

Since early morning, Billy-Bob had been apple-picking with Laura and Bea.

From atop the ladder he could see across to the house where his mother and Mrs Sinclair were in the flower garden with their sewing, talking and keeping a watchful eye on Walter, playing on the warm grass.

It was kind of Mrs Sinclair to bring his mother over to visit, and Billy-Bob said as much when he took the filled bushel down the ladder to Laura and Bea.

“Going out does Ma good,” he stated, helping himself to water from the pitcher.

“I’m glad she never goes into town, though. I wouldn’t want Ma seeing those posters.”

“I thought you tore them down?” Bea remarked, dropping to her knees and sorting the picked apples.

“I did, but Sheriff Pearce’s deputy just pins up more. They’re everywhere.”

“I’ve seen them.” Getting to her feet, Laura went to Billy-Bob, looking up into his troubled eyes.

“Folks who know your pa know he isn’t a thief.”

“I don’t understand why Pa went away. I don’t care if he has done something bad,” Billy-Bob blurted out.

“I just want him to come home. I want my pa back!”

To be continued…

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