Winter Stop, Moreno Valley

There was no grass visible, covered as it was by three feet of snow. Clouds obscured the mountain peaks, meaning there’d be more snow in the night. The lower branches of the aspens had clearly felt the teeth of hungry deer and elk. There’d no doubt be wolves shadowing their flanks.

Old Pete cut branches for the two pack mules and created a feeding pile. They came eagerly to investigate.

What they left would clearly indicate the passing of a stranger, but he didn’t expect anyone was watching for him, anyhow. And by midday tomorrow the pile would be just another white-mounded windfall.

He added wood to the fire and pulled the buffalo robe tighter around his shoulders. He wished he had some coffee or Taos lightning. The snow-melt water was hot enough to warm him, but something with a kick in it would feel mighty handy right about now.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Decision Point

Three years after the Great Rebellion, Henry still drifted. There was nothing behind him in Georgia and nothing further west than San Francisco. Not that he wanted to go there. The California gold fields were played out.

But he needed to get out of Denver. A man could stand town life only so long and he’d been here three months. The Colorado gold fields were collapsing, anyway. Played out before he even got here.

“Been too late since the day I was born,” he muttered, putting his whiskey glass on the long wooden bar.

“I hear tell there’s gold in Elizabethtown,” the bartender said. He reached for Henry’s glass and began wiping it out. He knew Henry’s pockets were empty.

“Where’s Elizabethtown?”

“New Mexico Territory. Near Taos somewheres.”

Henry nodded and pushed himself away from the bar. “Elizabethtown,” he repeated as he hitched up his trousers. “Now there’s an idea.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Eagle Nest Lake Vacation – 15 of 15

“Well, this is goodby then,” Daniel said.

Katie nodded, looking out at Eagle Nest Lake. They were standing near the old Model T, waiting for her parents. Her father was talking to the lodge owner while her mother chatted with the desk clerk.

“I’ve really enjoyed our time together,” Daniel said, taking her hand.

She looked up at him. So tall and good-looking. So serious. In spite of herself, she said, “So have I.”

“Will you be back next summer?”

She grimaced. “Maybe sooner.”

“Really?” His fingers tightened on hers.

“My Dad wants to work here.”

“Do you think he will?”

Her parents appeared in the doorway. They were both beaming.

“Looks like it,” Katie said.

And then Daniel’s arms were around her and he was kissing her, hard, on the lips. He released her and she looked up at him, half-laughing.

“I’m so glad that you’re coming back,” he said.

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Eagle Nest Lake Vacation – 14 of 15

“You’ll be leaving us soon enough,” Katie’s mother said. They were walking along the lakeshore north of Eagle Nest Lodge.

Katie tossed a stone in the water. “I want to finish high school where I started.”

“We wanted that, too. But it looks like your father’s job won’t last that long.”

“He could get something else.”

“Not there. He’s been looking.”

Katie tossed another stone. Her parents wanted to move here, of all places. Where there was nothing but lake and mountains and trees. Only a handful of people.

“You can stay here this winter and study at home, or board in Taos and attend high school there.”

She nodded reluctantly. Daniel would be in Taos. At least she would know one person there.

“I know you don’t like change,” her mother said. She reached to hug her, but Katie moved away.

“It’s not fair,” she insisted.

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Eagle Nest Lake Vacation – 13 of 15

“Maybe he’s just shy,” her mother said.

Katie looked at her blankly. They were on the Eagle Nest Lodge verandah, pretending to read but really watching the clouds and Daniel by the rowboats.

Her mother nodded toward Daniel. “He’s very nice and extremely polite.”

“Too polite,” Katie said, lifting her magazine. They’d gone fishing, visited his family ranch, and explored the forest together, but there’d been nothing more than a few moments holding hands. “Besides, we’re leaving in three days. There’s no point.”

“Just a summer romance,” her mother agreed.

Katie nodded and looked away.

“But I don’t know that we’re leaving. Not permanently, anyway,” her mother said.

“There’s nothing here,” Katie protested. “A vacation is one thing, but we can’t live here forever.”

“Your father and I might.”

Katie stood up. “You never think of anyone but yourselves!” She turned away sharply and went inside.

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Eagle Nest Lake Vacation – 12 of 15

Katie’s father had taken the afternoon off from the Eagle Nest Lodge bookkeeping. He sat on a bench by the lake chatting with Daniel.

Katie was on the veranda, trying to read and overhear what they were saying, but the wind was in the wrong direction.

Finally, her father got up and came toward her. Daniel went back to cleaning rowboats.

“He’s one of a kind,” Katie’s father said, stopping by her chair.

“Who?” she asked.

He nodded toward the boats. “Wants to be a wildlife biologist. All of life is sacred, he says.”

“He’s nice,” Katie said. “But a little odd.” Daniel confused her. His eyes lit up when he saw her. He took her fishing and into the forest to observe elk and turkey. But he hadn’t even tried to kiss her.

Her father patted her shoulder and went into the lodge.

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

BQE Stories Available in Print!

Wish these stories were available in a paper version? Wish there were more of them? Well, you can and there are! We’ve compiled the stories we posted in 2013 and 2014, plus a few never-before-published stories in a print edition. titled (what else?) BQE Stories. It’s available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692390723/ and at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/530521.