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Strangers In Town

A story by e

© 2002 SunShine DayDreamers UnLimited

DISCLAIMER: This story contains descriptions of sexual encounters between minors that are homosexual in nature. If offended by such things or if you are not of legal age in the country where you live, then read no further. The characters and events depicted in this story are completely fictional and any resemblance to any real persons, places, or events is purely coincidental. This story may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the expressed written consent of the author.

I watched as he rode into town. He was in no hurry, this young stranger. He couldn't have been any older than I was. A sodbuster from the looks of him. Mid teens, faded, tattered clothes, weather-beaten boots, and a broad-brimmed hat, rounded on top with no crease. That's what gave him away. No self-respectin' cowboy would wear a hat like that, only a sodbuster, or hillfolk. His horse wasn't much, neither. Looked like it'd been pullin' a plough most of it's life as it plodded along.

It was the undertaker's front porch that caught his attention, or maybe it was the dead body lyin' on the front porch. He stared long and hard, nearly passing by before quickly swingin' his horse around, hopping down, tetherin' it to the post, and steppin' inside.

I s'pose iffin I hadn't already knowed, I'da been a mite curious as well. It ain't every town that leaves a dead body to rot in front of the undertaker's. Most towns'd take care of their dead. But this was jus' an old miner's son, he didn't belong to no one. The boy had come down out of the hills. Said he and his Pa'd been bushwacked, robbed of the gold they'd mined. Then he set about to accuse the local sheriff and his deputy. He drew on 'em and was cut down before he could get off even a single shot.

It didn't set well with the townfolk that some stranger'd come ta town and tried ta murder their sheriff. Not a one of 'em gave so much as a plug nickel to pay for his burial, an' ol' man Thornton, well, let's just say the undertaker'd rather put up with the stench of a rotting corpse before he'd bury him fer free.

"Well I'll be gittin' started on the coffin straight away. Make certain he gits a right fine burial, too." I looked up ta see ol' man Thornton appear in the doorway, just behind the young stranger who was steppin' out and mountin' his horse.

The kid nodded and rode on down the street 'til he got to the hotel. He went inside.

Now he'd done more than just catch my interest. I was down right curious. Who was this kid that he'd go and pay fer the burial of a stranger, an' a murderous scoundrel at that. Kin maybe? Dunno. But I was intent on findin' out. I followed as he rode down the street and I leaned up agin' the wall next to the lobby window. Jus' close enough to hear what was bein' said without lookin' obvious.

"Eight dollars! I only want it fer tha night." His voice was deeper than mine, though still not quite a man's voice.

"It comes with a free visit to the bath house. That'd cost you five dollars by itself." Good ol' Ernest Johnson, He'd of made a fine horse trader, iffin he didn't run the hotel.

"Then why can'cha jist charge me three an I'll skip tha bath." This boy was pretty sharp himself. Someone had learned him cipherin' too.

"Sorry son, It'll only cost you two if you head on down to the livery. Ol' Abe'll let you sleep in the barn for that, put up your horse too." Mr. Johnson pointed down the street the same way the boy had rode in.

The livery was jus' across from the undertaker's and I took a step in that direction. My curiosity had not been satisfied. I was in such a hurry to get there before he did that I wasn't payin' no mind to where I was walkin' and stepped in front of the door just as he was steppin' out. We bumped shoulders, noggins, an knees as we crashed into each other and fell onto our backsides.

I looked over at him. "'Scuse me. S'pose I oughta be payin' more mind ta where I'm goin'. I blushed. He was even cuter with the surprised expression he was wearin' on his face.

He giggled and glanced down at the walk. He reached out his hand and I took it. "No harm done." He said as we pulled each other up. "Name's Jeremiah, but most folks jus' call me Jeremy."

My knees shook a bit as he looked me right in the eye and a chill ran up my spine. "Jesse." I squeaked more than spoke my name. "Pleased to meet ya, Jeremy." Now that we was both standin', I gave his hand a proper shake. "You stayin' at the hotel?"

"Naw. Wanted to, though. Jus' don't have tha money." His face turned a bit red and he glanced downward. Looks like I'll be stayin' at the livery."

"Well, whata ya know. That's where I'm stayin' too." I had intended to head back into the hills for home. It woulda taken most of the night and the better part of tomorrow. But this kid seemed friendly enough so I reckoned I'd stay. I could set out to walkin' fer home in tha mornin'.

"So yer not from 'round here neither?"

"Naa, my Pa an' me, we got us a place in tha hills. We don't get us inta town much, an' when we do, it's usually over Corcoran way. Never been here b'fore." We turned and walked towards the livery with him guiding his horse as we spoke.

Abe Carter not only ran tha livery, he were the town blacksmith. A big, tall, strapping man, he could be a mite gruff. I was more than just a bit frightened of him. But there was no place else ta stay, lessin' I wanted ta spend the night in the cold.

"Iffin ya don't mind my askin', what was that business at the undertaker's? You know that boy?" I needed to satisfy my burning curiousity, but also hopin' he wouldn't think me to forward.

Jeremy smiled an' looked at the ground, just a bit embarrassed. "Naw, never seen him b'fore."

"But you did pay fer his burial? An' now ya can't even afford ta sleep at the hotel." I didn't understand this fer sure.

"Well, I do have enough left to stay at the livery, an' maybe even git me a hot meal besides."

"That ain't much left. An' that burial musta cost a pretty penny."

"Twenty dollars."

"Twenty dollars? How did a kid like you come by twenty dollars?" I stopped walkin' an' he turned back towards me.

"It were three months worth of wages. I only come ta town so's I could spend one night in a real bed. Well, that an' to git me a sack of beans for the trail. I reckon I'll hafta find me some work b'fore I can move on."

Jeremy's look had grown sad. I could tell he was a mite disappointed. Payin' fer that burial had cost his life savings, an' the one pleasure he had ta look forward to..

"So why'd you do it?"

He grinned sheepishly. "I s'pose it's on account of my Ma. She told me once that everyone deserves a decent burial so's they can rest in peace."

I chuckled a little. "Didn't Thornton tell ya he was a no good murderous scoundrel? Not likely someone like that'd git inta Heaven whether he was layin' on the ground or under it."

"I reckon especially a no good murderous scoundrel like that." He was mockin' me just a little. "Iffin he can find peace at all, he deserves the chance, don'tcha think."

"Yeah, I s'pose he oughta get the chance." We arrived in front of the livery. You go ahead." I motioned for my new friend to enter the stable. "I have no money. I reckon I'll sneak in after dark." It was dusk already. "I'll wait 'round the back. You come fetch me when the coast is clear."

Jeremy looked back at me as a big smile spread across his face. He shook his head and entered the stable. I walked 'round back and found an out of the way spot ta sit 'til tha sun went down.

Wasn't long b'fore the smell of food had my stomach growlin' away. I hadn't et fer days. I could feel the tears wellin' up in my eyes. I never been alone b'fore. I didn't like the way it felt. Losin' my Pa had been even worse than when Ma died from the fever. I was jus' a young'un back then. Eight years old. Pa 'd been a fortyniner. Made out pretty good too, 'til he met Ma. He gave up the mine and settled into bein' a farmer fer her. But he never really cared much fer farm life. So after she died, he sold the farm an' we headed fer the hills. But he was gone now, an' I was all alone.

"You hungry?" I looked up to see Jeremy standin' over me with a spoon in his hand.

"Starved!" I proclaimed as I jumped to my feet and wiped the tears from my cheeks. "You got food?"

"Yeah, Ol' Abe's wife brought us a mess a beans an' some corn biscuits to sop up the gravy. She reckoned it'd be enough ta satisfy two hungry boys." Jeremy was grinnin' from ear ta ear.

"Two?" I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at him with apprehension.

"She overheard me tryin' to talk her husband inta takin' three dollars fer the two of us. He wouldn't hear of it. But later, she come down and said it'd be ok jus' as long as her husband don't find out. I tried payin' her, but she said she would't hear of takin' a young man's last dollar."

I shook my head an' smiled. This boy were too honest fer his own good. I had to wonder jus' how he'd managed to survive.

It were pretty good grub too. A lot better'n what Pa or I could make. We washed up the plates in the trough after supper.

"I only got one blanket, but yer welcome to it. That is iffin ya don't mind sharin'." It weren't late, but it was pretty darned amazin' the way a full belly could make a young man tired.

"Not at all." I tried ta contain the excitement in my voice at the offer, but I wasn't for certain that I'd be able ta contain that excitement once we bedded down. My heart was poundin' and I found myself a bit short of breath as we dug a small hole in the straw pile, climbed in, snuggled up together, and pulled the blanket over us.

I never really had me a friend b'fore. Not livin' on a farm that were miles from town, then at a mine hidden in tha hills. I didn't hardly know no one an' fer sure didn't know how to meet no one. Even so, I realized I was lookin' at Jeremy an' hopin' fer a lot more than jus' friendship.

I wasn't for certain what was happenin' ta me. I had't never felt this way 'bout no one b'fore. We was both dusty and dirty as could be, an' I was certain that we both stunk ta high heaven. But I thought he was the most beautiful and pleasant smellin' person I ever knowed.

"Jesse." He paused to wait for a answer.


"I sure do hope you don't take no offense, but why was you cryin' earlier?" His voice were tender and gentle. I could tell easy enough that he was sincere and not pokin' fun at me.

"Jus' scared, I reckon. Ain't never been alone b'fore." I told him what I'd been thinkin' when he found me. "What about you? Where's yer folks?" I hoped he wouldn't take me for bein' too forward.

He rolled over so that he was facin' me. We both had tears in our eyes. "My folks don't have no need fer me no more. Told me ta git out and never come back."

I reached my arm around him and pulled him tight agin' me. "How come they'd go an' say a thing like that?"

His tears poured out faster now. He sniffled an' closed his eyes."You'll... you'll hate me too, iffin' I tell ya."

"Naa, Jeremy. I lo..." I caught myself in the nick of time. I nearly told another boy that I loved him. And he thought what he had to say woulda made me hate him. "I... I couldn't ever hate you."

He continued to cry.

"Please Jeremy. Please. I... I want ta understand." I couldn't think of a thing that would make me hate him. Not one dad gummed thing.

"I got... caught... with... Oh God, Jesse. Please say you won't hate me. Please say you'll still be my friend." It weren't only his voice that was beggin'. His eyes was beggin' too.

"I... I promise. Jeremy, there's nuthin' you can say..."

"But do you swear?" He interrupted.

"Iffin we had 'em, I'd swear on a whole stack of Bibles. Cross my heart an' all." This were scarin' me 'most as much as it were scarin' him.

He swallowed, closed his eyes, an' took a deep breath. I could feel him trembling and held him even tighter. "I was caught... with... Eli Johnson. We was... I was... Oh hell, I was showin' him how to relieve himself. You know... like ya have ta do now an' again... ta keep from goin' crazy."

I held my shaking friend even tighter, iffin that was possible. "So you showed another boy how ta milk hisself. I reckon everyone's got to learn sometime."

"It weren't the first time, Jesse. I was caught with Jeffy Wilkins a couple weeks b'fore. An' I was doin' it for him." He paused to catch his breath. "I ain't never had me no girl, Jesse, I ain't never even wanted one."

I closed my eyes and thanked the Lord as I realized what he was sayin'. Jeremy was jus' like me. An' somehow we managed to find each other. I leaned forward and kissed him gently on the forehead. "It still ain't no cause ta throw out yer son like he was some sorta garbage."

"Naw, I don't reckon it is. But I forgive 'em and I still love 'em."

I drew back a bit and looked at him. "Now I jus' don't understand that. How could ya still love 'em an forgive 'em after what they done?"

"They're my Ma an' my Pa. Them that brung me inta this world an' raised me up from nuthin'. Iffin I can't love an' forgive them, how can I love an' forgive anybody? It jus' wouldn't be Christian.

"I don't s'pose it'd be Christian, but I don't think I'da done it."

"Can... can you forgive me?"

"Fer what?" Far as I knowed, he hadn't done nuthin' needin' no forgivin'.

"Fer like... likin' other boys?"

"D... do you l... like... me, Jeremy?"

He slipped out of my arms as he curled into a little ball and began sobbing loudly.

"It's ok... Jeremy. It's ok iffin you do."

The sobbing stopped and he looked at me. I could see the wish for acceptance in his eyes. I smiled. "I love you." I mouthed the words, but there weren't no sound. My heart stopped as I watched for some sort of reaction, anythin' ta tell me that he felt the same about me.

He lay there, motionless for a moment. Then slowly his pout became a small grin growing ever larger 'til it were a full blown, toothy smile. He uncurled hisself and rolled inta my arms. Our lips met.

We made love until the wee hours of tha mornin'. Leastwise, I reckon that's what we was doin'. We milked each other, anyhow. An' not jus' once. We even used our mouths! An' when we was too exhausted to go on, we fell asleep in each other's arms.

Oh how I wanted this moment to last forever. But with dawn came the realization that this jus' weren't meant to be, an' with that came sadness. I brushed the hair from his eyes and wiped the tears from mine, then gently kissed his forehead.

Jeremy's eyes opened and he smiled. "Mornin'."

"Mornin'." I tried ta smile back, but try as I might, I couldn't keep tha tears from getting' in tha way.

"What's wrong, Jesse?" I could see the hurt in his eyes.

"There's somethin' ya gotta do fer me, Jeremy." I was tryin' ta hide tha sadness in my voice, but wasn't for certain that I was succeedin'.

"What is it, Jesse. I'll do anything?"

I sat up and put my hand under my chin, tryin' to work up the courage to tell him. I sure didn't want to. Iffin I said anything more, it'd be over fer certain. I closed my eyes an' took a deep breath. It didn't matter iffin I told him. It couldn't last beyond the mornin' anyways.

"That boy, he's got a map. It's sewed inta the linin' of his coat. It leads ta his Pa's mine."

Jeremy moved back away from me a little, a look of bewilderment on his face. "How... how do you... Wait a minute. Yer not tha one... the one that killed his Pa, are you?"

I could see he was about to bolt right out of the stable. I couldn't let him do that. Oh lord, he'd misunderstood. "NO! It's not like that. I ain't killed no one. Jeremy, you gotta believe me."

He looked like he wanted to and he hesitated fer a second. "Then... tell me... tell me how you know 'bout the map."

I caught my breath. "B'cause, 'cause I'm the one that sewed it there. His Pa... his Pa... was my Pa."

"You never said nuthin' 'bout havin' no brother." He still looked like he was havin' trouble believin' me.

I'd already told him. It didn't matter that he didn't yet understand. I could feel myself beginnin' ta fade a little more with each passing second. There weren't much time left fer convincin'. "I got no brother, Jeremy. That... that was me... on the undertaker's porch."

He looked at me with horror on his face as he realized he was talkin' with a ghost. Tears was rollin' down his face. "I... I don't understand."

"It's b'cause of you, the kindness and love you showed, b'cause of you that I'll get ta join my Ma and my Pa in Heaven, 'stead of that other place I was s'posed to go. I come ta town ta kill the sheriff an' his deputy fer what they done. I was shot down in a act of vengeance, Jeremy. My soul condemned to wander the earth without rest. But you... you showed me what I forgot. Kindness, love, an' forgiveness. That mine has a heart o' gold even bigger than the one you already got. Get the map, Jeremy. B'fore ol' man Thornton nails the lid on the coffin. The mine an' the gold, they b'long to you now. It's tha only way I can show you jus' how grateful I am for what you done." I could no longer hear my voice. I jus' hoped he could. "I love you, Jeremy."

I reached out a hand and touched his cheek, wiping away a tear. "Hurry." I leaned forward and the spark that flew from my lips to his marked the last moment of my existence upon the earth.

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