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Authors: Mark Souza

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The Comfort Shack

BOOK: The Comfort Shack
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The Comfort Shack

Mark Souza

 

 

Copyright 2011 by Mark Souza

Smashwords Edition

 

 

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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to
any actual person, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely
coincidental.

 

 

Table of Contents

Story

The Comfort Shack Tidbits

About the Author

Upcoming Titles

Connect With Me Online

Second Honeymoon Excerpt

 

 

 

The
Comfort Shack

By Mark Souza

 

 

T
he mini-van pulled
to a stop in the nearly empty parking lot. Its headlights lit a
sign mounted to a rustic stone rampart.
Welcome to Historic Fort
Cavendish
. A family of four crawled out, stiff and weary. They
unloaded the van and followed a concrete walk through a set of
gates dragging their roller-bags.

“Mom, why can't we stay in a real hotel?” the
oldest daughter complained.

“Shut up, Jenny. We're here now and this
place has meaning to your father.”

Inwardly, Leanne Brown didn't want to spend a
cold night in a drafty pre-Revolutionary-War fort any more than her
daughter. But the decision had been made. Her husband, Stu, had
ancestors who had lived there during the eighteenth century. To him
this was a romantic adventure, a reconnecting with his past.
Letting Jenny's mutiny go unchecked would only invite a spat. She
clenched her teeth and hauled her bag dutifully, bringing up the
rear like a ramrod driving reluctant cattle down the trail.

Light spilled from the office windows casting
intersecting crescents of light onto the walk. Panes of wavy glass
flecked with bubbles bracketed a heavy door crudely fashioned from
hand-hewn timber. Inside, functionality trumped historical
accuracy. Overhead fluorescents cast a pallid glow over a heavy
wooden reception desk fitted with a computer. The office walls had
been finished with sheetrock and painted a cheery yellow.

Behind the counter, a woman looked up from
her terminal screen when the door opened. She was young and pretty,
and had a ready smile. Hair black and shiny as a starling’s eye
flowed over her shoulders down to her waist, boldly framing a
heart-shaped face with high cheekbones and bronze skin.

“Hi, you must be the Brown family. I’m Ellie,
welcome to historic Fort Cavendish. We’ve been expecting you.”

Stu gawked at the girl with a stupid grin on
his face. Leanne shot a quick elbow to his ribs to bring him back
to Earth.

“Uh, yes, that’s us,” Leanne said.

“We have you in the Commandant’s Cottage.
After you’ve settled in, would you like the tour?”

“Sure,” Stu said.

The girls rolled their eyes. They remained
silent though their posture sagged like snow burdened willows.
Under other circumstances Leanne would have taken them to task, but
it was late, everyone was tired, and it was enough that they didn’t
complain.

The receptionist picked up on their
reluctance. “I promise to make it fun,” she said. “Let me show you
to your cottage.”

She led the Browns out the door and across
the courtyard on a lit cobbled path. Suitcase wheels clattered as
they bounced over the joints in the walkway and no one spoke. A
stone structure jutted from the interior bulwark. Ellie held the
door while the Browns shuffled inside.

The Commandant’s Cottage was better
accommodation than Leanne expected. A wood fire burned in the
hearth of a massive river-rock fireplace. Oil lamps lit the space.
The front room had an upholstered sofa and two leather club chairs,
antiques, though not old enough to be authentic to the fort by a
long stretch. A short hallway led to a bathroom with a tub-shower
combination and modern plumbing. Leanne was glad to see some
concessions had been made in the name of guest comfort.

On either side of the hall were bedrooms. The
one on the right was furnished with a pair of twin beds and an
antique armoire. The girls shuffled in and chose beds without a
fight. The room to the left was nearly identical in size, and
furnished with a queen-size bed. The mattress was smaller than
Leanne was used to, but for one night, it would do.

“I’ll give you a few minutes to get settled
and we’ll start the tour,” Ellie said. She closed the door and left
them. The Browns unpacked.

 

 

Leanne answered the light rap at the door
fifteen minutes later. Ellie stood on the stoop holding a set of
brass pans fastened to long wooden handles. She set them down next
to the fireplace, folded back the lid on one, scooped up embers
from the hearth, and clapped the lid shut.

“In the old days, people used these to warm
their beds before they climbed in. Your sheets will be nice and
toasty by the time we get back.” After placing the bed warmers,
Ellie joined the Brown’s in the main room.

“Are we ready?”

The girls looked less than excited. Leanne
didn’t feel much enthusiasm either and tried to come up with a
graceful way to beg off. It had been a long drive, the hour was
getting late, and the cottage was warm.

“Who wants to hear about the slaughter of
1759?” Ellie said.

Lisa shot a hand in the air and looked over
at her older sister who was trying to decide. Slowly, Jenny’s arm
crept above her head. Ellie smiled.

“All right, the tour starts now. Fort
Cavendish was built in 1750 by the British to protect Cavendish Bay
and the towns nearby from French marauders, and Indian attack.
Cavendish Bay was a major seaport at the time. Ships left for
England heavy with tobacco, furs and cotton. They returned with
supplies like cloth, tea, and gunpowder.

“This cottage was the home of Commander
Jonathon Smythe. The only record we have of what happened is from
the diary of his wife, Rebecca. The story of the slaughter centers
around a prostitute. Is that going to be okay Mrs. Brown?”

The girls, Jenny fifteen, and Lisa thirteen,
smirked with their gaze glued to their mother. Maybe they thought
she’d squirm at the word or forbid them to hear the story.

“It’s no problem. They’re old enough to know
what the word means,” Leanne said.

“I’m related to Commander Smythe on my
mother’s side,” Stu blurted. “He’s my great, great, great,
grandfather nine generations back.”

The girls looked embarrassed and a little
peeved. Initially opposed to the tour, they were now eager to get
started and their father was slowing things down. Ellie’s story had
two elements they were keen to hear; slaughter and prostitution.
And they had their mother’s permission. Leanne was peeved too, but
for different reasons.

Ellie smiled graciously. “Wow, what are the
odds? A blood relative of Commander Smythe? That doesn’t happen
every day. Welcome home, I guess.”

Stu grinned like a smitten schoolboy. Leanne
glared. She muttered under her breath, “She’s half your age,
moron.” Stu’s eyes slid toward his wife and his expression soured.
Her words had hit their target.

“Where did I leave off?” Ellie asked.

“Prostitutes,” Lisa chirped. She looked over
at her mother with fretful eyes and a wide grin exposing her
braces, to see if she was in Dutch.

“That's right,” Ellie said. “Let's head
outside.”

Ellie pointed out the various buildings
scattered inside the fort and explained how the largest structure
at the center, the barracks, housed the enlisted men. The cottages
along the walls were assigned to officers and their families on the
basis of rank. With one exception. Ellie pointed out a small
building next to the Commandant’s Cottage.

“That cottage held prostitutes. The army
recognized that since the enlisted men were mostly single and
weren’t permitted to have anyone live with them, having ready
access to prostitutes might relieve tensions before they came to a
head.

“It was a cold winter day in 1759 at about
this time of year. The days were short and the nights long. A new
girl was brought in, a Native American girl named Libby, and that’s
when the trouble began...”

 

Rebecca Smythe watched the wagon pass through
the gates. The buckboard carried supplies up from the harbor. She
scaled the wall after hearing the sentry's call of ‘ship ahoy’ to
watch the unloading through a spyglass. The Harbinger set anchor
late in the afternoon and wagons off-loaded her cargo, coming and
going well into the evening. Rebecca had ordered a hand mirror
months earlier and met each wagon as it arrived. Her initial
excitement festered into simmering frustration as load after load
arrived with no sign of her mirror.

As the wagon drew nearer, she noticed it
carried a passenger, a woman. A woman arriving alone meant one
thing, a new whore for the
Comfort Shack -
as the men called
it. This one was different. She was an Indian. There had never been
an Indian whore at Fort Cavendish. And she was young and pretty.
Not just pretty, she was beautiful. Unlike the other prostitutes,
she wasn’t plump, pimple faced, lazy-eyed, or missing teeth. Men
scrambled off the wall and hustled across the parade ground to meet
the wagon with stupid, leering grins.

“Flies to rotted meat,” Rebecca muttered.

The wagon slowed to a stop in front of the
supply house. The driver tipped his hat and offered Rebecca a
smile.

“Hello again, Mrs. Smythe.”

She dipped her head in greeting. “You know
why I’m here.”

“Yes ma’am and I have it for you.”

Rebecca placed a hand over her chest and let
out a relieved sigh. The hours of fruitless waiting had seemed
longer than the weeks and months that had come before. But the
waiting was finally over.

Soldiers arrived at the wagon and crowded
around the sideboard. They jostled for position to be the one to
help down the new girl. They behaved like idiots. If her husband
hadn’t been away in town, Rebecca felt sure he would have had them
put in stocks or had them whipped. Another group of men arrived to
unload the wagon.

“May I have it?” Rebecca asked. The driver
reached under his seat and pulled out a parcel wrapped in cloth and
bound with string. She could tell from the shape it was her mirror.
The driver handed it down as a soldier swung the girl off the seat.
Rebecca watched in horror as the girl’s leg clipped the mirror and
it tumbled from the driver’s hand. Time seemed to slow. It felt to
Rebecca as though she’d stepped outside her body and unable to
react. The mirror ricocheted off the sideboard and spun like a
windmill till it hit the cobblestones. When she came to her senses
she was still screaming the word, “No.”

The soldiers backed away. Some returned to
their posts. The new girl looked scared and chewed on her lower
lip. She bent down, picked up the mirror and timidly offered it to
Rebecca. Rebecca snatched it away and snapped the string with a
jerk of her fingers. She peeled off the cloth and threw it to the
ground. The silver handle was cold in her hand. Intricate filigree
decorated the back. She turned it over. A crack extended diagonally
across the glass. The girl shifted her gaze from the mirror to
Rebecca, a smug grin on her face.

Rebecca's neck tensed with rage, her words
came out in a raspy hiss, “It’s ruined, ruined.” Her tone scattered
the remaining soldiers.

“I will pay for a new one,” the girl
said.

“What is your name?”

“I will pay.”

“Of course you will. What is your name?”
Rebecca demanded.

“Libby.”

“Your full name.”

The team of horses, whose ears pricked up
when the commotion started, now folded them back as if checking for
a safe path to retreat.

“Libby, ma’am.”

“Don’t you have a proper name?”

“My name is Libenasequa. White people call me
Libby because they have trouble pronouncing it.”

“Do you know how long I waited for that
mirror?”

“No ma’am.”

“Four months. I ordered it in September and
it’s only just arrived. Can you replace my time?”

“No ma’am.”

“So what do you have to say for
yourself?”

“I am terribly sorry. I didn’t mean any harm.
A beautiful woman with golden hair such as you has no need for
reassurance from a mirror.” The girl spoke softly, her gaze fixed
on the ground. From her posture, she looked to be an innocent
begging for sympathy. But it was all for show. She was no more
remorseful than a cat atop a mouse. Rebecca wanted to slap her.

BOOK: The Comfort Shack
5.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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