The Overland Stage

Author: Western

“Bugles! That damned bugle,” Robin cursed quietly. “Why is he always blowing that damned bugle?” she asked to the empty, rocking stage. It was dark outside. The dusty interior was filled with baggage and Robin Petosa. Robin was trying to make her way from Cincinnati to Los Angeles to live with her uncle. The trip to St. Joseph had taken 9 days, the trip from St. Joseph to there had taken 4 days so far and she was still in the middle of the desert. She could take the bouncing, the dust, and the bad food, but why the bugle?

“Waystation,” the conductor shouted down at her. She sat erect and looked out the window. She could see one pale yellow square of light ahead. Another sod house with dirty food, she presumed. Luckily they had just left Salt Lake, where she had bought a box of sandwiches from a restaurant. They would last for several days, if they didn’t go bad in the repulsive heat. She couldn’t stand the dirty food they served in those places. But she did need the outhouse, if the man had bothered building one. Some didn’t. She paused by the outhouse in the darkness, looking off into the distant sky. Stars blinked as bright a lanterns. The fresh smell of woodsmoke blew across her from the chimney of the nearby station. It was a better smell than that which came from the outhouse. A cricket sang somewhere out in the darkness. She could hear the sound of dancing hooves and the jingle of trace chains. The silence was broken by the sound of pounding hooves. The station was getting visitors. She had better hurry before they wanted the outhouse. It had only a blanket for a door. She mustered her courage and stepped inside.

Robin returned to the coach just as a large man escorted a slender woman to the opposite side. Robin took her seat and watched as the woman was forced in through the door. She was harshly pressed into the seat.

“Don’t come back, Carrie,” the man said in a low growl. “I mean it this time. Your father doesn’t need the kind of trouble you bring.”
“Who the hell are you?” Robin demanded.

“The sheriff,” he said, glowing at her. “Shut up and mind your own business.”
“Say that again, and I’ll shoot you in your fat gut,” Robin spat. “Waystations don’t have sheriffs.”
“Yeah?” he said as he slammed the door in her face. “Don’t come back, Carrie,” he repeated as he disappeared into the darkness.
“Why do you let him talk like that?” Robin asked.
“I had it coming.”
“Why?”
“None of your business,” she said, turning away and cushioning her face against a bag of mail.
“Well,” Robin huffed. She positioned her canvas bag so she too could sleep.

“Tadadadadada,” the bugle shattered Robin’s dreams, and her nerves. She sat up and screamed, covering her ears.
“What’s wrong with you?” Carrie demanded.

“That damned bugle,” she said, pointing at the driver.
“The bugle is necessary. They blow it so the man at the waystation knows we’re coming, and that it’s a friendly stage approaching, not a war party. Didn’t you know that?”
“No, and I really don’t care. I just want this trip to be over with.”
“Where are you going?”
“California.”
“Hell, it will take you a week yet.”
“I know,” Robin said in an agonized voice. “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“Huh?”
“Sheriff Gardener told the driver to take me as far as I want to go, he will pay for it. Just as long as he doesn’t bring me back.”
“Why hell, I’d go to California just to spite him.”
“I should,” Carrie agreed, “but I don’t know anybody there,” she said apprehensively.
“You know me. Why did Sheriff Gardener kick you out of town?”
“That’s…” she started to hiss it out in annoyance, then clamped down on her temper. “I have sexual perversions,” she said, turning her face away in embarassment.
“You what?” Robin snorted.
“Never mind, we’re stopping.”
“Don’t eat there, I have sandwiches,” Robin said, making a nasty face.
“No, it’s alright. This is the Paulin place, his house is clean and his wife is a good cook. Come on in,” Carrie said, grabbing her hand and pulling her out of her coach, “I’ll introduce you,” she added in a conspirital tone.

Robin stepped out of the coach into a brightly lit courtyard. She looked at the bright lit lanterns, each one surrounded by moths. They batted at the bugs as they hurried inside the screen door. Robin heard a shout. She turned and watched the conductor helping the team handler back the new team into place. The driver was already eating at a table with a white table cloth and blue pictured dishes. Carrie pulled Robin into a seat. Carrie was looking around the room with a sad look. She seemed to shake herself and turned back to Robin.

“You have to hurry, they don’t wait if you’re late,” she said, pouring herself lemonade from the picture. She filled a glass for Robin. The caretaker, a middle aged woman, came into the room, wiping her hands.

“Carrie? It’s been along time, girl. Where have you been?”
“Hi Hannah. I was at Salt Lake for a while. They kicked me out again.”
“That horse thing?”
Carrie hissed, holding up a hand to forestall Hannah, giggling nervously. “Shhh, not so loud.”
Hannah glanced at Robin and nodded. “I thought you two were together.”
“Sort of, we are just riding together,” Carrie said in obvious embarassment.
“I’ll talk to you later,” Hannah said, waving her hand.
“No, Hannah, no. I’m going to California tonight. I’m not coming back.”
“No?” Hannah asked in obvious disappointment. “I thought… You could stay here girl. You are always welcome.”
“Daddy’s friends would rather see me dead. I think they would shot me as a favor to daddy. I really need to leave this time.”
“Damned. This place will be lonelier without you. Luck,” Hannah said, kissing her hand and waving it at Carrie. Robin thought this was very peculiar. A strange man came into the room, glaring at Carrie as he passed.
“Her husband,” Carrie explained with a giggle.
“Carrie, I don’t want to pry, but this all seems very strange. What the hell is going on?”
“Eat and I’ll figure out how to tell you… and how much,” she said under her breath.
“Aboard!” the conductor yelled. He accepted a newspaper-wrapped bundle of food from Hannah and waved farewell to her husband. In mere seconds they were rocking and rolling inside the stage. This time Carrie sat beside Robin. The lanterns glowed from each side of the stage, lighting the surrounding area, and a little of the interior of the stage.

“I told you I was kicked out from sexual perversions,” Carrie said in some embarassment.
“I don’t know what that means,” Robin lied. She had heard of such things. But it meant different things to different people. For the Mormons it could mean almost anything.
“Well, Hannah was one of my lovers.”
“You and her?” Robin gasped in sudden understanding. Now a whole lot of things made sense.
“Oh yes, and many more,” Carrie said, hugging herself.
“What did she mean, by that horse thing?”

“Oh shit, I knew you’d pick up on that.” She waited in silence for almost a mile, before she turned and looked out the window, speaking so quietly that Robin barely heard her.

“Men are not the only animals with a cock,” she muttered. Robin absorbed the full implications of that statement. With a silent “oh” she slapped her hand over her mouth. A vision of Carrie and a horse filled her mind. Her breath came faster and she squeezed her legs tightly together. Despite the vulgarity, it was very exciting.

“I have to have sex, like all the time,” she said hurriedly. “My daddy says the devil lives inside of me, but it’s something more. Do you know how you feel when you are really hungry?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“It’s the same thing, but in a different place. It’s here,” she held her hand to her heart, “and here,” she placed it between her legs. “I need it all the time, any way I can get it,” she said, hoping that Robin would understand her.

“Is it some kind of disease?” Robin said uncomfortably.
“I don’t know. I wish there was a cure for it. I’ve made love to Hannah several times and she’s never caught it,” Carrie said, thinking quickly. “I don’t know,” she sighed, looking out the window into the darkness. Her shoulders began to shake. Robin glanced at her in concern, then realized that she was crying. The poor things. She couldn’t be more than 18 and for her life was over in her hometown. No wonder she looked so sad.

Robin put her right arm across Carrie’s shoulders and pulled her close. Carrie cried quietly against her shoulder. Rocking gently Robin looked out the window and tried to imagine how it would feel to have such a disease. There would be no way to have the semblance of a normal life, with such a disease. No friends, no family who would claim you, fear at every strange face. Life would not be worth…

Robin felt a soft hand slide into the top of her dress. Before she could object, hot slender fingers curled around her left breast and gripped it gently. Desperate, horrified and excited, Robin turned her face to object. Her lips were immediately captured by Carrie’s soft, warm lips. She gasped in surprise and felt a tongue slide into her mouth. This had never happened to her before. She had heard of tongue kissing, but nobody had ever had the nerve to try it on her, until now. Her mouth clamped down on Carrie’s active tongue. She sucked it lightly as it explored her mouth. It had the definite taste of lemonade. Robin nearly laughed as she realized this.

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