Ma was dead.
It was simple as that, really. Theo was sorry to cry. After all, Amos didn’t cry. He never cried.
The sickness came and went, but Theo was quick to get better. Ma, on the other hand, weakened by giving birth to him six years prior, was gone in a night. He remembered clearly; she was shivering, all clammy and fish-like, but she never let go of her little boy. Theo cried and cried that early morning, as she fell asleep with a soft smile on her face, and she suddenly wasn’t shivering any longer. Then, he’d forgotten what happened next, but he awoke and Ma wasn’t there. He’d been wrapped around her since he had been sick, and it felt wrong not to have her hugging him to her, kissing his mousy brown head.
Ma was dead. No more words to put it. Gone and dead.
Amos was lucky for having been gone during the settlement’s epidemic. A little too lucky. Now returned to the homestead from a long trip to the Cheyenne territory, Theo could have sworn the old man didn’t notice his wife was gone.
Amos was Theo’s own pa, but he never called him that. Ma called him nothing but Amos, and when she was angry, Mister Porter. Theo then thought that he didn’t need to call him nothing but Amos or Mister Porter.
Either way, Theo never really liked Amos.
Sometimes the boy doubted he was his actual father. Being gone for more than half a year at a time would put a lot of ideas in a small boy’s head. Amos, a fur trapper, would often leave, with no warning, to some new province. Sometimes far as the Yukon. Ma and Theo were never told how long he’d be gone, or even if he’d return. It scared the boy half to death, really.
But Ma made him not worry. She instead occupied his time with games and stories. She sang him to sleep. She had all the time in the world for her boy.
But now, he was stranded with a father he didn’t even trust.
Theo stood on his toes to reach the window of his room. He hoisted himself up and rested his elbows on the sill, expecting to see Amos return from the service. Two hours already had passed, and it wasn’t like Amos to linger. There was no drip of sensitive blood in him.
How come Theo didn’t get to go to the service? The boy was less grumpy and more disheartened at the thought of never seeing his Ma in her last moments. How many people cared? Ma wasn’t well loved around the settlement. They called her nasty things, and all sorts of excuses were thrown at her. “She’s an Injun,” Theo remembered hearing, “an Injun like all them rest o’ the savages!”
Theo would look up at his Ma, who walked silently through those insults, unaffected. She was a Virginian, not an Indian, he reckoned. She had mousy brown hair like himself, a soft British face, and lovely blue eyes. She was taller than any Indian women he’d met.
Ma was never insulted by them or their terms. Sometimes, she even smiled, as if she liked being called an Indian.
But it didn’t matter anymore. No one would be calling her anything any longer.
The sound of horses trotting up alerted Theo. He set his gaze to the upcoming carriage. Two fine speckles carried that pest along in a proud trot, riding high in a trapper’s rig. He spied Amos - old, gnarled Amos - halt the rig and jump off.
Theo was happy to say that he himself resembled his Ma, despite the fact that he had green eyes like Amos. His father was just about sixty when he was born, already silver-haired and suffering wrinkles. Perhaps he was rehearsing for the grave, as his eyes - however green they were - were lifeless and dead. Even now, when one would suppose he was mourning, Amos was just as insensitive as before. He walked up to the house with his saloon swagger and swung open the door.
“Get some water boilin’,” he ordered, not bothering to say ‘hello’ or anything consoling to his son. Without a look or an acknowledgement of the boy, he turned into the kitchen and tucked into some dry biscuits. “I want coffee.”
His greetings hadn’t changed in years.
Theo, lips pursed, fetched the water and brought it to the stove to boil. Amos hadn’t moved from where he contentedly ate. Crumbs fell into his oily spiderweb beard.
The boy was moved to crinkle his nose in disgust. This man was the reason he was living, and yet, to be honest, if he was gone forever, he would feel no remorse. A man who should have been his father was now his only rightful guardian.
“Did she look peaceful, Amos?” he quietly asked. The water shot up in bubbles, and prompted by a stern look from the old man, Theo quickly added the coffee. “Did anyone cry for her?”
Amos huffed, as if that was the stupidest thing he’d heard. “Your Ma looked dead,” he replied curtly, “an’ she was one of them Injun lovers. No one cried.”
Not even you, I’d reckon, he thought as he stiffly stirred the beans in, watching the water turn black.
“Well,” Amos sighed, leaning back. “I reckon findin’ a new girl ‘round here won’t take long. ‘Specially not one who’d be glad to raise a boy like you.” He cleared his throat and slicked his thin white hair back. “Coffee done? Good. I’m off.” He roughly poured himself a mug and, with a small sip, turned out of the kitchen.
Theo frowned. “Where’re you going?” he asked, just above his small voice.
Amos shrugged indifferently. “Gonna see where them girls go off to.”
Again, he was gone. Things never stopped for him. He was never done. He never considered.
He never loved.
With the presence of his mother, Theo never felt so angry. This rage was something new and unprecedented. The feeling bubbled up in his chest, allowing him the want to go out and attack something. Ma was able to calm him before this ever happened.
But now, he had to survive.
Now without anyone to chastise him, Theo collapsed on the rough wood of the floor and wept.
I was also challenged to try a different writing narrative, so I'm trying very very very hard to capture a 'Western' feel in the style. I hope you catch it and I hope you like it!