Chasing Dawn – Speakeasy #145

I have spent years chasing the tail of my Darkness.   A path of brokenness tracing across the West leads to this crowded saloon.  In the swirls of tobacco smoke, I can’t see a future any different from my past.

The Darkness spans generations.  Pa says Papa uprooted him from Minnesota to San Francisco in October of 1848.  He’d been only five at the time but old enough to pick rock, sift silt, and look for anything shiny.  Papa heard stories and had been convinced gold would change his life.

It did.

Pa don’t talk about it much, only once.  Memories loosened by a poker loss followed by copious amounts of Jim Beam, he revealed that Papa had found several ounces of gold, but before he could cash in, nearby prospectors took it. Papa died from the dagger wounds before sunrise.

It seems Pa never felt the sun again.  The same vein ran through him, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when he decided to chase silver in 1879.  Ma died when I was seven, so leaving wasn’t hard.  We stabled our horses and I followed him into the saloon.  Tombstone.  My gut told me peace could not be found in a town named for markers of death.

While Pa inspects his cards, I see the two other men cast glances.  The one on his right touches the brim of his hat and the man to Pa’s left gives a slight nod.

“Pa,” I whisper and touch his arm.

“Not now, boy!”

His sharp tone stings, but I remind myself it’s Beam talking, not Pa.

I fidget in my chair behind Pa, my hat brim bending between my fingers.  At thirteen, I’d seen enough hands to know he had nothing but a bluff.  I’d nursed enough black eyes and broken ribs to know that a bluff never won.

“All in,” Pa pushes his coins to the center of the table.

The two men toss their cards down and Pa reaches out to pull his haul in.  Before I could scream, the man on his right hooks his elbow around Pa’s neck and the other plunges a knife into his side.  No one pays the scuffle any attention.  The knife blade comes out, dripping blood.  I watch in horror as it enters Pa’s neck.

I run.  I push through the saloon doors onto the crowded street.  I don’t stop until I get to the stable and untie my horse.

I know the dangers of riding at night, but the way I see it, chasing dawn is my only chance to escape the Darkness waiting to engulf me.

So I ride.


This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 438), (1) using “I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.” as the first sentence, and (2) make some reference to the art prompt, The Card Players, one of a series of paintings by Paul Cézanne.

The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’re inspired, click the badge below to check out the challenge details!  On Tuesday, the challenge opens up to post links to our stories.


54 thoughts on “Chasing Dawn – Speakeasy #145

    • jannatwrites January 19, 2014 / 8:41 AM

      Something like that! Thanks for reading, Becca 🙂

  1. Michael January 19, 2014 / 7:26 AM

    Yeah, you don’t want to go into a bar named after a Tombstone…. Tombstone pizzas, on the other hand, are often quite tasty. Go figure.

    • jannatwrites January 19, 2014 / 8:42 AM

      “What do you want on your Tombstone?” Sorry…I can’t think of those pizzas without remembering the commercials. Good marketing, I guess 🙂 Thanks for reading, Michael!

  2. Debbie January 19, 2014 / 7:45 AM

    Yikes, what an awful thing for a youngster to have to see! I know we learn from our mistakes, but I’ll bet this kid learns from the mistakes of previous generations. Intriguing story, Janna!

    One teensy correction: “His sharp tone stings, but I remind myself its Beam talking, not Pa.” Probably ought to be “it’s.”

    • jannatwrites January 19, 2014 / 8:44 AM

      I find the Old West fascinating… so many difficulties that some couldn’t survive. In all the years I’ve lived in Arizona, I still haven’t visited Tombstone. I would like to see it, though 🙂

      Thanks for the correction note, Debbie. I should’ve gone with my gut because I had “it’s” to begin with. It was late and Word didn’t like it, suggesting “its” instead and I went with it. I’ve fixed it now 🙂

  3. nrhatch January 19, 2014 / 9:23 AM

    It’s always darkest before the dawn.

  4. rerodan January 19, 2014 / 1:02 PM

    Great story, I wonder why western towns had names like Perdition and Tombstone . I wonder why the famous fighting Earps did not help the young man, its a shame he was allowed to ride beyond the sunset.

    • jannatwrites January 20, 2014 / 12:06 PM

      I know, right? Those towns didn’t have very encouraging names. Maybe the Earps were otherwise occupied, you now, rousing trouble in another saloon! I like to think that he found peace at some point after he rode off into his new life. Thanks for reading, Rerodan!

  5. momtheobscure January 19, 2014 / 5:08 PM

    Wow, that was some ride! I was on the edge of my seat

    • jannatwrites January 20, 2014 / 12:07 PM

      I’m glad it held your interest, Momtheobscure. Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  6. bottledworder January 19, 2014 / 6:49 PM

    Great characterizations. Very somber. Both the boy and Pa.

    • jannatwrites January 20, 2014 / 12:09 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing your comment, Bottledworder! I appreciate it 🙂

  7. widdershins January 20, 2014 / 12:00 AM

    Excellent story … It would be interesting to find out what sort of man this lad grew into, and what sort of life he had.

    • jannatwrites January 20, 2014 / 12:13 PM

      Thanks for reading, Widdershins. In my mind, he realizes the danger in chasing riches and finds his peace elsewhere 🙂

  8. diannegray January 20, 2014 / 2:57 PM

    Beautifully written, Janna 😀

    • jannatwrites January 20, 2014 / 7:56 PM

      Thanks, Dianne! I appreciate you reading it!

  9. Jim Lawlor January 20, 2014 / 3:34 PM

    ‘So I ride.’ Very nice. (Is that the opening to the novel written?)

    • jannatwrites January 20, 2014 / 7:57 PM

      Thanks for reading, Jim. I’m glad you liked the story! It’s not a part of a larger piece… maybe someday!

  10. Lance January 20, 2014 / 4:40 PM

    Love the theme and identify with the character. This is string writing. The urgency is terrific.

    • jannatwrites January 20, 2014 / 7:59 PM

      Thanks, Lance! I’m glad you could identify with the story… I really wasn’t sure how this one would be received 🙂

  11. Sandra January 20, 2014 / 6:38 PM

    Wonderfully crafted story in 438 words! I saw it all as if your story was on the big screen. Makes me wonder what will happen to the boy and his Darkness.

    • jannatwrites January 20, 2014 / 8:05 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Sandra! I’m glad you liked the story. I like to think he finds his peace 🙂

  12. Silverleaf January 21, 2014 / 10:49 AM

    I can’t believe you did that in so few words! Great story.

  13. Valerie Milton January 21, 2014 / 3:46 PM

    Nicely written. I loved your ending, especially this quote: “I know the dangers of riding at night, but the way I see it, chasing dawn is my only chance to escape the Darkness waiting to engulf me.”

    • jannatwrites January 21, 2014 / 10:53 PM

      Thanks, Valerie. I’m glad you liked the ending – thanks for taking time to read it!

  14. J. Milburn January 21, 2014 / 4:53 PM

    Whew! Dark story that fits perfectly with the prompt. Very tight and well-written. Great story, Janna!

    • jannatwrites January 21, 2014 / 10:54 PM

      Thanks, J. I appreciate you reading it!

  15. Natalie DeYoung January 21, 2014 / 9:27 PM

    I love the tone of this – feels raw and rough, just like the old west. :0

    • jannatwrites January 21, 2014 / 10:55 PM

      Thanks, Natalie. I had hoped I captured the era 🙂

  16. Eric Alagan January 22, 2014 / 12:37 AM

    Well presented tragedy. I enjoyed the read.

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 1:16 AM

      Thanks for reading, Eric. I’m glad you enjoyed the story 🙂

  17. BCIJo (aka Joanne Edith) January 22, 2014 / 4:28 AM

    Once again, your writing sucked me in and blew me away. You have quite a talent for creating fascinating characters and story lines.

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 1:16 AM

      Thanks so much for reading, Joanne! I’m glad you liked the story 🙂

  18. Lala Rukh January 22, 2014 / 7:18 AM

    A wonderfully dark tale….Classic take I must say. Love the character of Pa and the ending is such brilliant. Love your stories always Janna 🙂

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 1:17 AM

      I really appreciate you reading and offering your support, Lala!

  19. 40 Stories for 40 January 22, 2014 / 10:13 AM

    Great writing as always. It’s amazing how much story you told in so few words!

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 1:20 AM

      Thanks, 40! I appreciate you taking time to read my story.

  20. Peggy Smith January 22, 2014 / 10:23 AM

    This has to be just the beginning of a wonderful novel. You left me wanting to know more. How many sunrises were left for this young boy? Loved it.

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 1:21 AM

      I hadn’t thought about this being a longer piece, but with the couple of novel comments, maybe there is something there. Thanks so much for reading, Peggy!

  21. ranu802 January 22, 2014 / 12:24 PM

    I love the way you used the prompts.Nice story.

  22. YeshuM January 22, 2014 / 6:58 PM

    Great story Janna! It’s funny how history repeats itself. I’m sure he’ll be fine, though; he’s a strong kid

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 1:27 AM

      Yes, their family history is a loop of greed and pain. I’m hoping he forms his own destiny 🙂 Thanks for reading, Yeshu!

  23. Joe Owens January 23, 2014 / 8:41 AM

    I guess part of the mentality of the Old West has a lot to do with the names selected for the towns. Perhaps it is part of the legend too.

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 11:40 PM

      You’re probably right, Joe! Or maybe it was to scare off people so there was less competition for resources 🙂

  24. Suzanne January 23, 2014 / 10:48 AM

    This is fabulous, Janna! I love the sense of family history that runs through it. Oh, and the line “The same vein ran through him” was just excellent. Great voice. I hope he manages to outrun the family darkness.

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 11:41 PM

      Thanks, Suzanne. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. It was a bit different from my usual type of story, but I couldn’t resist doing the Old West since the painting was done in the same era 🙂

  25. Esther January 23, 2014 / 1:13 PM

    I love your descriptions here, in particular this sentence: “My gut told me peace could not be found in a town named for markers of death.” Gave me shivers.

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 11:45 PM

      Thanks, Esther! I’m glad you enjoyed that line. Tombstone in particular has always struck me as creepy!

  26. mandyblake95 January 23, 2014 / 1:54 PM

    Great story Janna, I hope he doesn’t fall into the same cycle as his father and grandfather.

    • jannatwrites January 23, 2014 / 11:46 PM

      Thanks, Mandy! I hope he’s learned lessons as well 🙂

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