So this is the little project I’ve been working on the last few weeks. Months ago, Alison Kent had blogged about cool articles that had caught her interest, and the one bit about how many women had fought in the Civil War totally sent little ripples of Story tingling through my brain. Then, as if by magic, I needed a Civil War story, and the rest is history.
I’m putting the final polish on it tomorrow and turning it in, but here’s a taste now that I finally got the opening spiffed up a little. This is a Civil War era short story titled “Storms As She Walks.” And yeah, I’m a total sap — of course it’s romance! With a bit of Thunderbird myth and legend thrown in, too.
With wings of thunder and eyes of lightning, Thunderbird shall bring justice in our darkest hour.
A tattered rag flapped in the breeze above our new captain’s tent. Captain Steadman swore that old flag had been in his family for generations. He even claimed it had once hung above his great-grandfather’s tent in the Revolutionary War or some such nonsense. It did only have thirteen dingy white stars, and once the bars might have been white and red, but now they were so stained the rag could have been Stinker’s unwashed longjohns from last winter.
Around the campfire his first night in our regiment, Steadman regaled Company L with that old flag’s history. How a Redcoat bayonet had cracked the staff and damned near sliced the flag in half when it took the bearer’s arm off at the elbow. Or how an arrow had gone clean through and killed his grandfather in the uprisings that had led to the Trail of Tears. For a moment, Captain Steadman paused his tall tales and looked at me with a wary tightness about his eyes.
I made a point to touch the tomahawk hanging at my belt and leered in the general vicinity of his fancy hat.
Every man paled and drew back, even the two men I’d come close to calling friends in the past eighteen months we’d served in Pamby’s regiment.
That’s what I want, I reminded myself as I rose and swaggered into the night alone. I needed them to fear me. I played up my Comanche father’s blood as hard as the reservation teacher had paddled me every single day because I’d refused to answer to my Christian name. I couldn’t afford for the men to look too closely beneath the floppy hat I’d scavenged from a farmer, my father’s buckskin tunic heavily beaded for ceremonies, and the baggy blue trousers the lazy sergeant had shoved across the table to me when I’d enlisted.
They might see the truth.
I used the darkness to slip past the lazy sentries and found a tight, thick grove of trees. Straining my ears, I listened to the night breathing about me to ensure no one had followed. Then I dropped my trousers and squatted to relieve my aching bladder. Holding my water for the bulk of the daylight hours had grown easier with time, but I couldn’t get used to the way the men avoided bathing. After a month of smelling my own body’s odor, I’d given up. Now I took a dip in every river and creek we forded across Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas. The men just shrugged and decided my cleanliness must be an Injun oddity. As long as I shot and killed as many Rebs as possible, they tolerated me, although I never felt like I belonged.
A half-breed like me would never belong anywhere.