The Fifth Of July


lang_icon.gif odette_icon.gif tara_icon.gif

Scene Title The Fifth of July
Synopsis Joshua Lang plans for the future with his family.
Date July 5, 2018


Under warm evening sunlight, the tarnished muzzle of an old rifle points down range toward a row of wooden posts. A figure dressed in ratty jeans, a flannel shirt, with a cloth sack over its head is tied to one of them.


Small arms trembling, a tiny potato sack of a young girl holds up that small, tarnished .22 caliber rifle, one eye closed and squinting down the iron sights. Behind her is crouched a broad-shouldered man with a shaved head and shadowed beard one arm at the small of the young girl's back and the other helping her keep the small rifle steady.

"Breathe out. Three."

A gunshot rings out across the field.

Sedro-Woolley Colony

July 18th

5:19 pm

Downrange, a scarecrow now has a bullet hole in the leg of its pants. "Hot dog!" Joshua Lang exclaims, rising up with rifle in one hand and Odette Lang embraced around her midsection with the other. "Our little girl's a regular Annie Oakley!" Summer has been easy in Sedro-Wolley, and though the impending tumult of a massive eastern migration hangs heavily on the colonist's shoulders, the summer days themselves have rolled by peacefully and without incident, allowing for days like this.

Twirling Odette around, Lang sets her down on her feet and plants the .22 rifle butt-down in the scrub grass of the hill. In the distance, down the rolling, grassy slope, the Sedro colony spills out across the rambling terrain like so many wood and stone blocks dropped from a child's toy-chest. "This might be my ding-dangest proudest day." Ding-dangest?

Odette won’t say she had been aiming for the chest. Instead she’s too wrapped up in just how proud and happy the man is with her. The smile that graces her round face is wide, showing teeth (including a hole where a baby tooth had recently been lost, taken away by the Tooth Fairy, who she is convinced is what Usagi-Hime does in her spare time).

Across the way, one of her many stuffed animals sit, watching. She looks toward the little gray stuffed squirrel to see if he too is proud of her. Whatever she sees makes her give a small yell of enjoyment that’s somewhere between a squeak and a laugh.

“No bad scarecrow gonna get by me!” she calls out after a moment, cause obviously that must be what guns are for. Stopping killer scarecrows. Monsters who might come in the night. “Écurie says I’ll hit it even better next time.” Écurie is the stuffed squirrel. Full name, Écuyer Écureuil. The Squirrel Squire. Her stalwart defender against the monsters that hide under the bed.

Tara watches the pair from a few paces away, smile mixing between amused and admiring. When Odette makes her shot, Tara claps through the excitement, waiting until after the spinning is over to join them. “Lucky for us. We need all the protection we can get from those bad scarecrows,” she says, ruffling Odette’s hair gently. “Écurie has a good eye. You’re gonna be good just like your daddy.”

And speaking of, Tara straightens up to give Joshua a kiss on the cheek. Because watching him with his daughter is, like, her favorite thing. Her hand lingers in his shoulder as she turns to look at the target. “Inches from just the best target she could’ve hit,” she says lowly, smile sly and a bit impish.

“Oh yeah she's got her momma’s eyes,” Lang admits with a wry smile, “straight to the…” He cuts himself off, side-glancing at Odette before flashing a smile and laughing. “Okay pipsqueak,” he changes gears, picking up Odette like the tiny weight she is and then settling her to sit on his shoulders.

“You wanna go for a hike?” Lang asks, looking up at Odette and then down to Tara. “Ain't got nothin’ t’do today and if we go back into town somebody's gonna need us t’fix something, y’know?” There's a hopeful look in his eyes. “Lyman Hill ain't far.”

That joyful smile diminishes ever so slightly at the mention of momma. Odette, though she never says it herself, doesn’t seem to like Tara too much most the time, perhaps jealous of the attention that she is given, or for other reasons. The most she’s ever said was that Mister Tortuga (Tortie for short) didn’t like her, her stuffed tortoise that she sometimes drags along with her. She has many stuffed animals. And they all seem to have their own names. And personalities.

But her confusion at what her and dad are talking about make her forget her sideways glances, because instead she looks toward Tara with a question, “What’s the best place? What is it?” Like most kids, sometimes in her excitement she repeats herself. “What place, dad?” That one was looking up all wide eyed at Lang.

Perhaps they are saved from answering for now, because he mentions a hike, “Can we?” she brightens all over again. “Can Écurie come too, can he?”

As the girl voices her questions, Tara laughs lightly. There is the opportunity not to answer, but she doesn’t take the out. Mostly because it’s an important self defense principle. At least in her mind. “Well, it’s real good if one of those bad scarecrows manages to sneak up on you, darlin’. You gotta kick ‘em right between the legs with everything you got.” She even gives a helpful demonstration— on an imaginary figure of course. “Then you run away fast as you can and get your daddy. We’ll practice later.” She glances over to Lang, giving him a crooked smile. “On the scarecrow.” Don’t worry.

She looks between the two while they plan out a day of playing hooky. And she is never one to run off and volunteer them all for more work. There’s one thing she’s learned here: the work will always be there when you get back.

“Look at the two of you,” she says, “who could say no to those faces.” She laughs again and gives Odette a nod, “Of course, he can come along.”

If she has ever noticed that the girl doesn’t always like her, she doesn’t mention. And she doesn’t seem to mind. Perhaps she understands why she wouldn’t want to share her dad.

Flashing a smile to Tara, Lang tightens his grip on her ankles and looks out to the sunlit mountains in the distance across the rolling, patchwork fields and hills. “Might as well get a good, long look up over yonder. Might not get another chance to before we have t’head back east.”

There's a sense of uncertainty in Lang’s voice when he says that. The future has always been uncertain, but now more so than ever. Now that things are stable, pulling up tent stakes feels irresponsible.

Especially now that he has something to lose.


Lyman Hill

Sedro-Woolley Colony Outskirts

Far beyond the most distant farm in the Sedro-Woolley colony, on the northernmost edge of what could be considered the settled territory, Lyman Hill stands as a prominent outlook over the colony lands. The hill isn't even close to a mountain in height, resting in the snow-capped shadows of taller cloud-shrouded peaks. But the hill is an easy hike, heavily forested and clinging with a permeating scent of damp wood and moss. Even in daytime hours without a cloud in the sky and the setting sun at the left, the hikers making this ascent can smell the serenity of freshly fallen rain from the night before, retained in dewy pine boughs and old, rotting stumps shingled with white mushrooms.

Lang’s booted feet gallop a few lanky paces ahead of Tara and Odette, halfway to the summit. He climbs up a deadfallen tree, doubles back and hips off the tree onto a large, lichen-encrusted boulder, giving him a birds-eye view of the quilted fields below and the low-lying fog still clinging to the valley behind. Lang takes a knee, looking down to Odette and Tara.

“Now, would’ya look at that?” Lang motions out to the valley, gesturing from his eyes to the fields and farms. “Can't imagine there's a much more beautiful sight in all the world. That natural splendor,” he says with a squint, as if unable to really take it all in, like staring at the sun. “Why’d anyone ever want t’leave this?”

For too much of the trip, Odette has suddenly had a newfound interest in asking Tara questions. Like how hard she’s supposed to kick the scarecrows between the legs. She never asks why it would hurt in the first place, she seems to be taking that for granted. Which might be a good thing in the end. It saves from awkward answers.

Behind her father, she carries crushed in her arms that same stuffed gray squirrel that had cheered her on while she shot a scarecrow. He’s not complaining. “Do we have to? Are we joining Aunt Leenie?” She might be the only one in the whole world who could get away with calling Aunt Leenie that name, but she does it with a hint of a pout. “Will I get to take my friends?” By friends she most likely means the pile of stuffed animals.

Like most kids, the questions, once they start, just seem to roll out, not even waiting for the first ones to be answered. “Is everyone coming?” There may be someone in particular she’s wanting to ask about, but she doesn’t actually say it. But maybe she won’t have to. There’s only one other child who she spends any time at all with, after all. A part-hispanic boy, who has some shared history with her, actually.

Tara doesn’t seem to have a problem answering Odette’s questions. She has seemingly endless tips on the subject, and even expands to teaching the girl about other self-defense strategies. Some might call it dirty fighting, but Tara just calls it effective. By the time they reach the hill, Odette has learned that if she gets grabbed, she needs to bite between the thumb and pointer finger. She’s learned that heavy boots help a lot if she needs to stomp on someone’s foot. She’s even learned that her small elbows are extra sharp and painful if she can hit someone in the gut.

On the way back, perhaps she’ll learn about how exactly to punch someone in the throat. But for now, she lets the lessons and questions sit to the side and, instead, gives the girl a crooked smile while Joshua starts climbing.

“Eileen says she needs us out there,” she says, although she doesn’t sound terribly excited about the move, either. She’s been surprisingly happy here— with none more surprised than her, really. But, too, if they leave while it’s still perfect, then it always will be. And she’s alright with that. “We’ll ask about who else is going along. But, you know,” she says to Odette, “your daddy barely wants to go himself. I think if there was a chance you’d be unhappy there, he’d dig his heels in.”

Lang’s quiet for a bit, breathing the cool mountain air in and exhaling it with a close of his eyes. He climbs down from the rock, booted feet leaving a visible impression of his landing in the soil. “So here's the deal,” sounds like he's put some thought into what he's about to say. “We gotta’ go. That's my read on it all,” but the way he talks about it implies that Tara isn't wrong about his reluctance. “But that doesn't mean I can't ask about it. So, I'm gonna.”

Treading over to Odette, Lang takes a knee in front of her and ruffles her hair. “Everybody’s comin’, an’ that includes Usa and Tortie an’ all them others.” His coarse, calloused hand comes down to cup her cheek gently. “Now I promised I was gonna make a home fer you here where you could be safe, an’ I meant it. That's just what we’re gonna do…”

Slowly, Lang looks up to Tara. “Even if it's just… maybe not where we thought we’d make a home.”

The information on self defense is taken in almost as raptiously as a story at bedtime, and since Odette often seems to be able to remember those nearly word for word it’s likely she won’t need to hear about it too much more. She even holds up the stuffed squirrel as if he were listening to. Or as if she wants him to. All this information would be useful against monsters under the bed too, she’s sure! Either way it’s one of the first times she’s really looked at Tara in the same way she might have some of the others in the camp. The jealousy or dislike seems to have been forgotten (it was Tortie who hadn’t liked her really!).

“Is okay, daddy. As long as we’re all going,” she says after a moment. “We’ll be with Auntie Leenie again! She still needs to tell me what happened to Hector the Owl and his beloved prince in the end.” Whatever that means. Maybe the prince hadn’t been beloved in the story, but she heard things unsaid. And when she told the story again to Usa-hime she had said that the prince had to have loved the owl, obviously! What’s a fantasy story without love, romantic or otherwise.

Tara watches as he explains the situation to his daughter. Most people around the colony know her to be brash and blunt, but she’s less so here. Her expression is gentle when she nods to Lang. “We’ll make it safe, wherever we land.” The two of them, certainly, but Odette has a whole pack of people who will be doing the same.

She looks over at the girl at the mention of the story, her smile turning crooked. “Oh, I hope they got reunited. I like a happy ending.” And there’s plenty of dreary faces around, they could all use a good story. Or at least some entertainment.

Mouth crooked and attention fixed on Tara, it's clear Lang appreciates the addendum to Odette’s tale. He steps over, putting a hand at the small of her back, then offers a hand down to Odette. “My dad once told me that happy endings’r just in books an’ movies. That real life ain't got none…” With brows furrowed, Lang shakes his head. “Way I look at it, he was wrong.”

“Sometimes y’just gotta realize what you thought was a happy ending wasn't it at all, and look for what's real fer you. What's important.” Realizing what he's saying is a bit opaque for a child, Land smiles faintly, taking Odette’s tiny hand in his. “I'm sure Hector’n the owl’ll work out…”

“But why don't we go find out?”

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