Updated: Dec 5, 2018
Welcome to Whitcomb Springs!
This is a collection of short stories, and the occasional novella, written by multiple authors. The series is filled with stories of adventure, danger, romance, and hope, and is set in the fictional town of Whitcomb Springs, Montana Territory. The stories span the years of 1865-1885. Although each story may be set during a different time, they are stand-alone and may be read in any order. While the first stories will publish on March 15, 2018, this is an on-going project. New stories may be published at any time by one of the participating authors.
This first short story is written by talented and award-winning author, MK McClintock. It tells the story of Whitcomb Springs origins in a lovely valley of Montana Territory.
My first short story for this series is a tender one. It began when I imagined a very clear image of a blacksmith carving the lid of a child’s coffin. Strange that a blacksmith should also be a carpenter? I had recently read of how the job of undertaker often fell to the lot of the blacksmith in small towns on the frontier. Perhaps it was their access to tools needed to repair wagons. The memory of that article somehow gave birth to the first scene of “Healing Fire.”
Here is a preview of “Healing Fire”
Nora Hewitt cleared frost from the window with her dish towel. She peered across the yard at the open barn door. What was keeping the boy? Surely, he could gather a few eggs in the time she’d taken to stir the stove back to life and boil water for tea. She made a swipe at copper-colored locks which refused to stay restrained by hairpins. Spinning on her heel away from the window, she stamped across the wood floor and threw her dishtowel into the basin.
She braced herself, hands gripping the sides of the basin. A dim, inaccurate reflection shimmered in the murky water. The image glared back at her, those blue unseeing eyes, blinded by grief. What she wanted to do most was break something, anything! Hear it shatter as she could not hear the splintering of her own heart. The days of crying had done nothing to assuage her grief. Now, all that remained was this awful rage. So she held onto it, a grip of fierce desperation to feel something.
The boy, lost in boots too big for his feet, stumbled through the door. “Look, Mama! Three hens have started laying again. Spring is sure to be coming now.” He set the basket carefully on the table, but as he spun back to close the door, his jacket cuff caught the basket, sending it crashing to the floor.
Their collective intake of breath seemed to suck the air from the room. The boy looked up at his mother, face pinched. Before he could say anything, Nora grabbed his arm. “Matthew! How could…” She released him, taking one long stride to the broken eggs, bleeding yellow. Her boot heel came down on the shells, hard and deadly accurate, shattering fragile shells and sending rivulets of yolk in star-like patterns beneath her shoe. Each met the same fate.
Her chest heaving, she glared at the destruction beneath her feet. She brought her shaking hands to cover her face, savoring the emotion and hating it. The small hand that touched her back was warm. It trembled just a little.
“It’s okay, Mama. It’s okay.” The boy’s voice was uncertain, as though he wished it to be true.
Nora knelt before him, her hands on his shoulders. “I’m sorry. I should not have raised my voice.”
He wrapped his arms around her. “I know you hurt, Mama.”
The anger that had sustained her these past two days drained from her like the yolks into the cracks of the floor. In its place stood her son. A resolve flowed back into the aching chambers of her heart. She couldn’t steal his childhood by making him bear her grief. Rising to her feet, she lifted the boy into her arms. As she did, his father’s boots slipped from his feet.