A Western Town Divided – Extended Epilogue

Doc Hyram Babbitt stooped over his cot, hovering above Abigail’s pelvic cradle. Caleb watched from a position next to the cot, holding his wife’s hand while Abigail panted and pushed and struggled to deliver his first child, their first child.

It had been three years since their marriage, and a child hadn’t been as quick to come as either had hoped. They’d had plenty of chances to try, to celebrate their love and their remarkable escape from cruel fate.

And they’d had the support of Gutter Gulch, its people freed from the tyrannical hand of Melvin van Horn, whose family line died with him. Caleb had made a popular and effective sheriff, having all the skill and experience necessary, as well as the trust of the people he served. 

But Mother Nature would show him no respect. She had his beloved Abigail in her cruel grip, and he already knew what a terrible grip that could be. It had taken his Margaret, and his greatest fear was that it would rob him yet again.

So much death, Caleb had to think but didn’t dare say. Is this the price for the many graves I’ve had to leave along the trail of my life? I never set out to kill anyone, other than Melvin van Horn himself, or his men. But they had earned their fates, and it had only been my sad duty to bring them to it.   

It was all in the past. He’d brought a new era of peace and respectability to Gutter Gulch, and his family represented a brighter future for the town, the desert, and the entire nation. But their own brighter future seemed in doubt.

It hadn’t been a quick pregnancy, and it hadn’t been an easy one. The doc had been dutiful, as much as his increasingly dense schedule would allow. But there would only be so much he could do. His arts seemed still in their infancy just three years into the eighteen-fifties. So much seemed left to chance, to luck, to God’s will.

Neither Caleb nor Abigail had ever been interested in any of those, and he was not willing to stake his new wife’s life on it, much less his child.

But this time, there was nothing Caleb could do but stand there and offer his wife as much love and support as he could. He held her hand, squeezing and receiving her own hard squeeze in return.

It was almost enough to break his hand, little bones threatening to shatter from the sheer force of her collected pain. A tear crawled out of Caleb’s eye, running down his cheek, too much emotion to contain.

“You can do this, Abigail,” he said, “I’m right here.”

Abigail nodded, her red hair plastered over the side of her face. She screamed out her pain, and Caleb felt that pain to the very center of his soul. Too much death, too much pain.

Doc Babbitt said, “Missus Crane, I’m gonna ask you to ease up on the pushing for a moment.” He spoke very slowly and carefully, telling Caleb how important it was that she follow his instructions exactly. His experience with the man had been that the slower he spoke, the more perilous their situation was. But it only struck Caleb as obvious that this also meant that time was precious, too precious to be wasted.

Abigail looked up at Caleb with pleading eyes. “If I fail, tell me you’ll forgive me!”

“You won’t fail, Abigail, you won’t!”

“I … Caleb, I … I don’t want to die, I don’t … I don’t!”

“You’re not going to die, Abigail, I won’t let you!”

Abigail shook her head in a new panic, which struck Caleb to his core. “But if I do, Caleb, if … if it’s about … if it’s about the baby or me, don’t let the baby die!”

“Abigail …”

“You’ll raise our child well; you’ll be a good father!”

“And you’ll be a good mother,” Caleb said through his tears, “for a long, loving life, my angel.”

Abigail fell back into the pillow, soaked with her sweat. “Don’t sacrifice the child for me, Caleb!” She said to the doctor, “Don’t you do it, Doc!”

“Listen to your husband and don’t put yourself to this kind of course,” the doc said, “We’re gonna try another push. But I need you to want to live, Abigail, I need your resolve that you and your child will get through this. Are you resolved?”  Abigail nodded, but the doc repeated, “Are … you … resolved?”

“Yes, Doc, I’m resolved, I’m so … oh-God-oh-God-oh-God …”

“Push with me now,” the doctor said, “on three. One …”

Caleb said, “Doc …”

“Two …”

Caleb barked out, “Doc!”

“Give it another push,” Doc Babbitt said, 

Abigail panted, her face bright red and contorted, lips pulled tight over her locked jaws.

“You can do it,” Caleb urged her.

“Okay,” Abigail said, “okay, okaaaaaaayyyyyyyeeeeeeeee … God, Doc, get this thing outta me!” She turned to Caleb. “You did this to me, you … yyyyyooouuuuuuuuuu …”

“We’ll settle all that later,” Caleb said, “once we’re back home with our healthy, happy baby.”

Abigail nodded, eyes rolling up into her head.

The doc said to Caleb and Abigail, “Allowing for the challenges of this birthing, I now have reason to suspect that the umbilical cord has somehow wrapped around the child. This has to be corrected before you an expel the child.”

Abigail and Caleb shared a fevered pair of nods.

Abigail said, “Go ahead, Doc, but be-yeeeeoooooowwwwwwwwww! Oh God, oh God-oh-God-oh-God-oh-God …”

Caleb said, “Just hold on, Abigail, everything’s going to be all right!”

“I can’t do it, Caleb, I can’t, I can’t …”

“Of course, you can! You can and you will … we’ll do it together!”

The doc went about his business, unseen under a bedsheet draped over a small metal frame set on the cot. He said, “I think … yes, there it is, there it is. Now just … hold … on. Your body is going to want to struggle, but I need you to resist that temptation, lest there be a …”

Abigail blurted out, “Just do it, Doc!”

“Okay, okay, just … just hold on now … almost … almost …”

Abigail screamed and pulled harder at Caleb’s hand, nearly pulling the elbow out at the socket, her grip strong enough to end his shooting career right there and then.

“Almost … aaaaaallllll … mmmmmmooooooossssssst …”

Caleb barked, “Doc!”

“Don’t rush me!”

“You’re killing her, Doc!”

Abigail cried out again, her wailing filling the little office and likely the entire street beyond. 

“You be strong for her, Sheriff,” the doctor said. Caleb knew what the stooped little doctor was saying, and that he was right. Caleb would have to remain calm, despite being trapped in the most urgent moment of his life, a life which had been filled with urgency and peril.

None of it meant anything to Caleb, none of the lives who had come and gone could compare to that woman whom he loved, that child he yearned to know and raise and love and hold in his arms, at least once. He’d go back and kill them all again if he had to if it would only release his wife and child from their suffering.

But it would not. And the doctor’s limited skills were falling short of what seemed like it would take a miracle.

Abigail screamed out again, her mouth gaping, her pretty face twisted in a mask of terror. 

The doctor wrapped the child in a sheet of fresh swaddling, seeing to the business of cutting the cord, pinching the child to instigate its breathing instinct before wiping the child down.

He handed the child over to her exhausted mother. “A healthy baby boy.”

“A boy,” Caleb repeated. “You sure he’s okay, Doc?”

“Sure as I can be. No reason to think otherwise.”

Caleb looked down at Abigail, who cradled their new child. She looked down at him, ready to greet him with the name his parents had already chosen.

“Hello, Thomas Trent Crane,” she said, planting a little kiss on his forehead.

The doc said, “Them what’s born under my care … stay born!” They all shared a little chuckle. “You can stay here the night, rest up, go on back home tomorrow.”

Caleb stood up and shook the doctor’s hand. “Thanks, Doc.”

“No need for thanks, I’m … I’m very pleased it all worked out. Children are very lucrative patients.” They all laughed again, the release of the tension palpable in the room. “Congratulations, you two.”

THE END


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15 thoughts on “A Western Town Divided – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Another excellent book Derek. From the beginning to the end action and wondering if love would prevail. Great work as always.

    2. Thank you for sending me the extended epilogue. I couldn’t get it on my phone .
      I like the story you wrote a very interesting story about a town in needof a lot of help. And help came to help a certain young lady & the citizens of the town.
      I don’t want to give to much . I just really circled the story.
      A must read.

  1. The extended epilogue was just wonderful, like the icing on the cake! The story left a lot to be desired, but the excitement in the end was just wonderful! Now we need a new Novel, with their new family! This Author really keeps you turning those pages! 🌬📚🎭🤠🐝🎶

  2. Thank you for allowing me to read this ARC copy I have enjoyed this story about Caleb and Emily Confused slightly by the change of names to Abigail in the epilogue. Another great western by a great authot. Always enjoy your novels.

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