This is the first of this month’s Story a Day posts. I won’t be writing every single day, though I’m planning for each weekday, and one story over the weekends(may correspond with my weekly SOCS post). I also may post some of them to my Patreon instead of here on the blog. And I’m choosing one of the prompts at random each day instead of going in order.
Note: This is pretty rough, since I just wrote it today. Just a quick proofread for obvious typos. So, here you go:
The problem with going through life one day at a time, each in order is that it leaves too many questions unanswered. Just why did that event happen, what was the other side thinking, what would have happened if that one person had been standing in a different spot.
Thankfully, I’ve never had to worry about living that way.
I stepped out from behind the building where I had come into this place. It wasn’t the first time I’d been here, and I knew this was a safe time to suddenly appear. Mostly because there was no one else around.
I adjusted the bowler hat on my head and fixed the way my string tie sat. I could pull this look off better than that of a cowboy or miner. No one would question a slightly fairer looking gambler. But, it would get me into more places than if I’d traveled here as a woman.
On my last trip, I’d managed to listen in on a meeting of a couple members of the Vigilance Committee. I knew exactly what they had planned. I just hadn’t been able to make it to the boat in time to stop it. I wouldn’t waste the opportunity this time.
I’d grown up listening to stories of the bravery of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather and could never believe the stories the history books told of him simply getting drunk and tripping over the side of the boat into the river. I was determined to prove exactly what happened to Old Tommy. I had been from the moment Uncle Thomas, a name that had apparently been passed down through the generations, had shown me what we could do.
‘It is a serious responsibility,’ he’d told me that day. And I’d always taken it seriously. You couldn’t just change history at your whim. But what had been done to my all those greats grandpa was wrong. And that was something I would rectify, whether it made it into the history books or not.
No one stopped me as I walked down the street or when I rented a horse from the livery stable. If I’d come here as a woman, that never would have been the case. Uncle Thomas had been right when he’d said to go in whatever guise would get me where I needed to go.
I rode as fast as I could. Now, all that time Uncle Thomas had spent teaching me to ride, shoot, and play cards—I think he spent more time with me than my own father did—made a lot more sense. I’d always wondered why he’d taken so much more interest in me than my brothers.
When Fort Benton came into view, I slowed the horse but kept to the other side of the river, glad for lights from the steamboats on the river, providing enough light to read the names on the sides of them. When I came to the G.A. Thompson I slid down from the saddle, leaving the reins trailing on the ground. I didn’t know if the horse would stay or not, but if not, he’d likely return to town and the stable he called home. No harm would be done.
I could already see a figure standing at the railing of the ship. Was that him? It had to be.
He started to turn away, but another figure came up behind him, swinging something toward his head. I opened my mouth to call out a warning, but it was too late even for that. I watched as the first figure scrabbled for the railing but then he shot straight down for the churning water of the river.
A moment later I moved. The horse hadn’t moved, so I tied one end of a length of rope around the saddle horn and the other around my waist. Then, I moved closer to shore and dove in. Falling into that water would likely mean instant death, but I couldn’t fail now.
The current carried me until I caught up to the body that had caught on a log. I tugged him free and started swimming toward the shore. The rope must have almost uncoiled all the way. I was surprised I hadn’t reached the end of it before I found him. I never would have made it back to shore without it.
It felt like I was being pulled the last few feet, then I was on solid ground and dragging a historical figure up with me. Once I’d cleared the water out of his lungs, and he was breathing, I sat back on my heels. His eyes finally opened, and he looked up at me. “Who are ye?” he asked, his voice hoarse.
“Today I’m your guardian angel, Thomas Francis Meagher.”
This one was inspired by a biography of Meagher I listened to earlier this year. Since his body was never found in the river, it made me wonder if he actually died(probably yes, but my writer’s mind ran away from me).