A Western Story, 1 of 10: Alone

Dan Borden had ridden through the sage all day. He was tired from the heat, his mouth dry. He hadn’t shaved in three days. As the sun reached the horizon, he found a stream bordered with cottonwood and willow. Dismounting, he laid out his saddle and blanket on the bank of the stream, built a fire, and placed his cooking utensils and rifle beside it.

A shot rang out, the bullet snapping through the trees. He rolled over the bank, cocking his rifle. Nothing. Who could be out there?

It was dark before he ventured onto the bank again. The fire had gone out. He did not think he would rebuild it.

He ate a dry crust of bread and rolled up in his blanket. Several coyotes began yipping. He would get an early start in the morning, as soon as first light broke. It was better to keep moving.

Copyright 2013 George Lowell Tollefson

Family Mystery 8: Impulse

When Stanley found his hands hovering over the piece of paper with his half-sister’s phone number on it, he was surprised at himself. He prided himself on never acting impulsively. Careful thought before action was a protective mechanism he’d discovered as a child and it had stood him in good stead.

But it had been a long week at work. As they hired more young people, he felt more and more isolated. And two of his bowling buddies had died in the last nine months.

He stared at the piece of paper laying in the drawer where he’d tucked it two and a half years before. “Why now?” he asked himself. “What kind of coward am I? Can’t face loneliness? I have nothing in common with this woman and her sister but a parent I never knew.”

But he pulled out the paper and reached for his phone anyway.

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Birdman, 4 of 4: A Good Day After All

In the afternoon, the birdman reached the American housing area of Balabago. Since it was closest to Clark Air Force Base and he worked the neighborhoods inward, it was his final run of the day. He would begin again the following day and continue through the week, until he sold all his stock. Then he would go home to Manila. Sales on the morning of this first day had not been good.

Walking the streets of Balabago, the birdman met a twelve year old boy. The boy ran out of his yard as the birdman approached. His eyes were large with anticipation. “I have pesos,” he shouted, running up to the birdman. “I’ll take three of those and four parrots.” The birdman smiled. He wondered if the boy’s mother knew what he was doing. But it was not his concern. He put the birds in one cage and sold them.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson

Family Mystery 7: Giving Up

“It’s been two years since I made that phone call,” Kari murmured as she changed the calendar page to the month of October. She moved to the window and pulled back the curtain to stare out at the overcast sky.

“All I wanted was a brother,” she whispered tearfully. She shook her head impatiently and dropped the curtain. She was an adult. She needed to grow up. After all, she had her sister and her dad.

But ever since her mother had died and they’d found the old photos, she had wondered about the child her mother had borne in her late teens. And wanted to meet him.

Kari pulled back the curtain again. She took a deep breath. It was what it was. She expelled the air in her lungs and leaned her forehead against the glass. “Divine Spirit, you know,” she whispered. “I leave it with You.”

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Birdman, 3 of 4: Hitting the Streets

Early in the morning, the birdman hit the streets. That is to say, he trod the dusty paths of the American housing areas outside Clark Air Force Base. He walked all morning in the rising heat and made only a few sales. One lady wanted a pair of Java Rice Birds. He knew his birds. He sold her a young, healthy pair. Another lady, a neighbor of the first, wanted one of the small green parrots.

“I bought one before from another man, and it died of parrot fever,” she complained.

“I cannot guarantee their health,” he said honestly. “They are good when I buy them in Manila. After that…” He turned his hands up. “I do not know.”

She bought the one bird.

In the noonday heat, the birdman stopped to eat his lunch. He fretted over the issue of sick birds.
But what can I do? he thought.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson

Family Mystery 6: A Change in Narrative

Stanley wandered restlessly toward the pond at the back of the park. Five ducks and two geese came to investigate, but waddled off when they found he didn’t have any bread. He gathered a handful of pebbles and tossed them one by one into the water.

He had been fine by himself. As an only child with little emotional support, he’d learned to be self-sufficient. Now these two women had shown up, claiming to be his sisters. They didn’t seem to want anything but acknowledgement. Their mother—his birth mother—was dead.

He’d told himself long ago that he didn’t care, that it didn’t matter that he’d been abandoned. But now these women were changing the story he’d told himself about his birth and adoption. He crouched down to gather more pebbles, but these he simply held. What would it be like to have siblings? Did he want to know?

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Birdman, 2 of 4: Arriving at the Place of Business

Having arrived in the town of Angeles, the birdman took lodgings. These were inexpensive, for he was only a peddler. Angeles was a town located near Clark Air Force Base. Outside the base were several housing areas occupied by Americans. The largest was Balabago, located just beyond the main gate.

The birdman always spent a week in this area, walking the dusty streets in his flip flops made from old tire rubber. He would carry half a dozen cages full of the birds he had brought from Manila. They would be suspended three on a side, balanced on a split bamboo pole that would cut into his shoulder. But he was used to it. It was his trade.

“I am very good with the birds,” he would tell himself. “The Americans will buy them.” But he was not sure. Some weeks he returned to Manila with almost his full cargo.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson