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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · History · #2117784

Mary McInnis threw the last bucket weakly. That was it. There was no more.

But the fire was a hungry thing while the well was empty of water. She brought her soot-black fingers up in front her eyes to view the blisters on them in sorrow. Looking up, she put her fingers over her eyes to cut the glare of the blistering sun, but there was nothing for miles but the sight of billowing black smoke with glowing eyes of fire in it.

She was unable to see the other people from miles all over who still fought along with her, for hours, since sunrise at least. Her precious Alberta prairie was gone, at least for this year. When she saw the hut that was their first house, she began crying to see it in smoking ruin.

Mary became lost in memory at the sight. They first met in steerage on the ship over from their homes in the British Isles. Her entire family was lost in the wars to be free of British rule, while her love, Patrick O’Hara, was left without kin by the Potato Famine.

It began with a look, then came a brief touch while they took walks out in the fresh air of the outer floors of the ship. Soon, they were inseparable. From the start, Patrick thought they must marry the minute they got to shore.

Because she was passionate in her love for Patrick, Mary chose to live with him without benefit of marriage while on the ship almost at once. She got the occasional twinge about it, but she was too happy to let it bother her for long. As for Patrick, he got on one knee every time he was able to ask her to marry him.

But Mary’s memories were fraught with a poor example of marriage because her parents fought almost continuously, even just before the British took their farm. She was only one of the whole family who got to escape into the Scottish hills where she kept out of sight until the foe left for other farms. Mary took what she able, plus the small bag of coins from the hayloft.

So Mary kept refusing the proposals that came so often. They got jobs in to save enough to marry. Until Patrick came home to their tiny place in the Quebec City rooming house bursting with exciting news.

“There is going to be a rush for free parcels out West, we just have get there in time!”

Seeing the prospect of having their own farm far from the stink of the city, Mary reluctantly let him use their savings to buy the tickets to get there in time. There were so many people waiting for the gunshot, Mary was unsure of their chances of success. But Patrick ran with the wheelbarrow full of their belongings until he was unable to run further.

Mary took the marker flag they got before the race from him so she was able to finish for them. Triumphantly, she then stuck it into the last parcel left. Life after they got the farm was backbreaking as well as exhausting, yet it was always home as long as Patrick was there.

It took taken even more toil to get to what she was watching go up in smoke in front of her eyes. Mary was about to pick up the empty bucket so she might go to see if there was any chance of more water somewhere else, when an ear-splitting crash came to her ears.

“It’s the barn! Oh no, Patrick!” was all she was able to think of as she began to run.

She was sure she was screaming as she got to the barn, but there was no noise except the whoosh of burning timbers with combustible hay. Horses began to stream past her, extreme panic in their rolling eyes. Cattle were mooing fearfully while milling in the nearby corral.

She swept the corral gate open in passing, not bothering to watch the precious cattle scatter as they ran for the hills. There was no one or nothing she felt she must see but Patrick. Still, she ran.

Panic took her by the throat as she saw that he was not anywhere in sight. She kept going on to the fiery inferno that was once Patrick's favorite possession. She was only able to sob while trying to scream his name.

Just as she put her fingers out for the latch on the big entryway, there was an explosion that became a runaway fireball. She was thrown to the water-less soil like a rag moppet. Merciful blackness took her away.

A trickle of water fell on her lips like an angel's kiss. She began to open her eyes slowly. The fear in them was palpable.

"Mary.... Mary me love.... Speak t’ me! "

It was the precious voice she was sure she was never going to hear again. She lay blinking then threw a grin at the black scarecrow that was apparently her loving Patrick. His brows as well as his lashes were gone while he was sooty from crown to heel, but she began a move to reach out to touch him just to make sure he was real.

When she was met with a flinch, she knew he was. She was about to struggle up when Amos Talbot's voice spoke sternly. As he was the only physician for miles, she compliantly sank back onto the clean white cot, although she never took her eyes from Patrick’s.

"Now, Mary, tell this fool of a man o' yours to let me take care of him now, before he gets infection."
Mary sent a frown at Patrick then sent him sternly to the exit. Almost meekly, he began to follow Amos out, while continuing to look back at her as if to make sure she was all right.

As he was leaving, she got her voice long enough to say as noisily as her raw throat let her:

"Oh, about what we were talkin' about earlier Patrick, the answer's yes."

Both men began to stare at her. Then like the sun bursting through a grey sky, Patrick's smile lit up his sooty face as came back to take her gently in his arms.

In all the excitement that came after, no one in the room knew the rain was here at last. Yet it fell on the fire-black soil much like the gentle kiss Patrick gave Mary.

On their marriage morning, there was a barn raising with a chiveree for the happy couple. Mary took a hammer to a final nail then began to lean back precariously so she was able to view the sign.

“Phoenix Farm” was burnt on the sign that now hung over the main gate. It began to swing in the light breeze almost at once.

Patrick got her off the portable steps carefully then they put their arms about each other's waists for an embrace. Mary’s fingers went lower to smoothly rub the little secret her new marriage gown put out of sight. She threw a soft smile at the newborn green that was Nature’s way of showing the return of her piece of the Alberta prairie.

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