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The Story Of Elaine And Old Mike

The Story of Elaine and Old Mike (Part I)
Mrs. Mac — 1 Oct 1998, 2:02 PM

Elaine hated it when her pa sent her off to do a man's job. As she strode indignantly past the saloons she pulled the pistol closer to her dress and pressed her thumb into the trigger pull. There was always trouble around Quark's and she wanted to be prepared - not that it would do her any good to use this particular pistol. Yesterday pa was out in Coffee Canyon shooting rabbits when the dang thing misfired and sent him backwards, over a rock and down an embankment. He limped back to town with a broken gun, hurt pride, and most importantly, no meat for dinner. Doc Holliday said it was just a sprained knee but it was damaged enough to keep him home and force Elaine off to the gunsmith to get the pistol fixed.

It wasn't safe to walk down the center of the road through the city. Elaine did her best to avoid the patchy mud spots and water-filled stagecoach ruts left by a rare thunderstorm but she favored both over passing too closely to either saloon. It was bad enough that she had to pass Quark's and bear the stench from the stockyards, but she also had to speak to Old Mike, the gunsmith. She had never met him but heard stories about him from the other girls at the opera house. She saw him from a distance once hanging out on the porch of Maxine's Provencal as she and her pa brought the pigs to the Stockyards for slaughter. At the time, she couldn't draw her own opinion of him from such a distance but she had heard that he liked his firewater a little too much.

She drew a sigh of relief as she cleared the saloons and found herself near an empty lot where she heard Maxine was going to build a new home. Elaine's mind wandered as she thought about the fancy dresses the women wore at Maxine's. She only had one dress - the one she wore to church, which was the same one she wore at the opera house to entertain the more reputable patrons of the city with songs of the great composers. She picked her songs carefully so as not to rankle the Reverend Windes. Elaine began to hum a song from "Lily of Killarney" when suddenly the earth near her shook. She was startled out of her whimsy and looked up just in time to see B'Elanna Torres cantering at her on her horse, Liberty.

"Look out!" B'Elanna cried out a warning with time enough for Elaine to step and slide just out of the way. The horse brushed by, spattering her skirt with the mud pitched up by the beast's hooves. Angry, Elaine looked up to give B'Elanna a piece of her mind but the chestnut filly and her rider had already disappeared down the road out of earshot. Elaine groaned as she examined her skirt. Mud was spattered in a neat line from hem to waist. Unbeknownst to her was a small patch of grime that had landed firmly on her forehead. I'm just glad I didn't have my church dress on, she thought to herself as she brushed away as much mud as she could.

The Story of Elaine and Old Mike (Part II)
Mrs. Mac — 1 Oct 1998, 2:04 PM

Damn rabbit hunting. Damn B'Elanna. Damn gunsmith. Damn town. Elaine knew what she wanted to do. The great diva Clara Louise Kellogg was organizing an opera company of Americans. Elaine knew that if she could pass the singer's audition and join her company she could put this town behind her and start a new life with fancy gowns, dinner in restaurants, and handsome men.

Crossing the railroad tracks, Elaine arrived at her destination. The gunsmith's house had a small front porch and 3 large shuttered windows. Evidently old Mike closed them before the rain and never reopened them. Not that it mattered. The thunderstorm did very little to pierce the heavy, stagnant air. There would be no breeze to capture this morning. Thin vines of ivy crept haphazardly up the clapboards surrounding the windows. What was surprising to Elaine was that for a bachelor man, this one kept a surprisingly neat home.

Elaine pushed cautiously on the front gate that yielded with difficulty. As she was to discover, most people visited old Mike via a wagon path, which led directly to the shop. She crossed the sparse lawn and followed the well-used path down to the back. A large brick extension connected to the main house revealed a considerable headquarters suitable for hand machinery and tools. The barn-like door was open and smoke billowed from the slightly crooked chimney. An empty bottle of spirits filled with a nosegay stood on a rain barrel under the nearest window. Elaine avoided the puddles and stepped cautiously near the doorway. It was dark inside but she could see the silhouette of a figure standing near an intense but tamed fire within.

Elaine thrust her neck forward to speak. "Hello? Is anyone there?"

The dark figure turned slowly...

The Story of Elaine and Mike - Part III
Mrs. Mac — 5 Oct 1998, 6:32 AM

Slowly a man stepped out from the shadow of the Gunsmith Shop. Elaine followed the light as it revealed the man before her. His Levis were tucked into "mule-ear" boots. Kirogen-skin chaps tied at the waist protected his legs from the intense heat of the hearth. Elaine's eyes wandered up and noticeably gasped as she saw his strong bare chest, covered with glistening dark hair that funneled to his waist, emerge from the darkness. Frightened, Elaine raised and pointed the useless pistol at the imposing figure who stepped toward her. Her knees buckled slightly as he paused before her but then quickly brushed past her toward an open rain barrel by the doorway. Elaine followed his movements with the barrel of her gun as he thrust a bullet mould into the water. It sizzled and steamed as it cooled in the liquid.

Propping the tongs on the edge of the barrel, Mike turned toward his visitor to speak. "Now if you go and shoot me, Miz Elaine, your pa ain't gonna have anyone to fix his old Colt anymore." Perplexed, her mouth opened as she lowered the gun. Without offering his hand he introduced himself. "I'm Mike. Old Mike."

" do you know my name?" Elaine studied his features while trying, impossibly, to avert her eyes from his uncovered chest.

Mike stepped toward her and gently took the gun from her hand. His deep, dark eyes twinkled as he spoke. "Your pa speaks of you very fondly and I've often seen you with him - helpin' out with the chores." He was glad his moustache hid the beads of perspiration that formed on his upper lip. He stole a glance at her crystal blue eyes as they moved from side to side to avoid his own. I could get lost in those eyes, he thought. Mike shook himself from his desire and looked up at some gathering clouds as a few drops of rain settled in his dark, somewhat curly hair. "Best you come in ma'am. Looks like we have another storm coming up on us." Mike motioned Elaine inside. As she cautiously stepped up and into the darkness Old Mike reached for a linen shirt that hung on a hook inside the doorway.

RE: The Story of Elaine and Mike - Part IIIb
Mrs. Mac — 5 Oct 1998, 6:33 AM

Old Mike's Gunsmith Shop was more advanced than anything Elaine had ever imagined - not that she spent any time thinking about shops where men plied their trade. The fire in the forge was still simmering, throwing shadows in all directions. Every caliper, tong and punch that hung neatly from the overhead beams danced like skittish marionettes. There were many tools and machines that Elaine knew nothing of. She knew that Old Mike also crafted spurs and stamp irons, and outlines of them could be seen against the back wall. There was an entire shelf full of carving and boring tools, and the workbench by the window was strewn with etching knives and designs on paper. He was thinking craftsman.

As Old Mike finished buttoning his shirt, he approached the forge. Near the base of the oven there was a pedal that connected to a lever, which he pumped several times with his strong legs. The cord that was attached to the pedal pulled on the giant bellows that hung overhead. It groaned as it forced air down through tubes of leather and clay that lead to the fire, which erupted and crackled with new life. Outside, the skies erupted simultaneously. A rumble of thunder rattled a tin bucket on its hook that startled Elaine. She gathered her shawl and drew it nearer to herself.

Mike held the pistol before the fire and using a fine tool he dismantled the 8472 Army Colt. "I keep telling your pa that this model needs modification but he's as stubborn as they come." He banged the cylinder against his hand to dislodge a piece of the inner mechanisms. "Look at this," he said as he held a small object before Elaine. He looked carefully at her face as she studied the small piece of metal. Damn she's beautiful. "The hook spring is broken again. This time I'm gonna replace it with a latch, which should solve the problem for now. All in all he should let me convert it." Mike had a good business converting the thousands of percussion Colts left over after the war into rim-fires. He was an expert at making metallic cartridges that could be broadly used with all his converted guns - even some rifles. Not very long ago he was paid handsomely for his model of a modified Colt using a longer cylinder and a cartridge with more kick. He had lots of good ideas like that and each time Major Schofield came by for a visit he shared one or two of them for a little piece of the profit. However, Mike kept his best ideas to himself. It could make him a very wealthy man some day.

The Story of Elaine and Mike - Part IIIc
Mrs. Mac — 5 Oct 1998, 6:34 AM

"How long will that take?" A clap of thunder outside signaled a downpour of rain. It pelted the roof with deafening persistence.

Eyeing a line of pistols on a table the thought of an immediate fix was out of the question. "Hopefully by some time tomorrow," Mike answered. "Besides," looking out into the storm, "looks like you'll be stuck here awhile."

"Tomorrow!" Elaine flustered. "How can pa possibly go hunting without his pistol?" As Elaine continued to dismay over the broken gun Mike peered closely at her face. He noticed a streak of mud on her forehead. He knew he didn't have a mirror in the shop and he didn't quite know how to tell her.

"Miz Elaine, I . . . I could . . ."

"But sir, we really must have a gun. The pigs won't be sold until the next auction . . ."

"Miz Elaine . . ."

". . . and we don't have any meat in the house that isn't near spoilt . . ." Mike untied the bandana from around his neck and dipped it in the pail of water that rested on the ledge of the forge. Elaine froze in mid sentence as Mike gently grabbed her upper arm and pressed the damp bandana to her forehead. Elaine immediately recoiled and swung her right hand briskly at Old Mike's bearded face.

Smaaaaaack! Old Mike reeled backwards, and nearly dipped one hand in the fire as he grabbed for the forge's edge to catch himself. "You SWINE! How DARE you touch me!" Elaine shook and began to backpedal toward the entrance.

Rubbing his jaw, Mike righted himself and stepped toward Elaine, "Miz Elaine, I was only . . ."

"If you take one more step I'll scream!" Elaine immediately turned and stumbled outside to be enveloped by the torrential rain.

"MIZ ELAINE, DON'T GO!" Mike started after Elaine but stopped at the doorway and watched her hurriedly slip her way up the wagon path toward the main street. He turned and ran to the back of the shop and quickly yanked a pommel slicker off a coat hook. He shoved his arms through the sleeves, grabbed his hat and vaulted out of the shop and into the angry weather after her.

Elaine was nearly in tears as she ran off of Old Mike's property and onto the main street of Voyager City. That pig! Pa! Pa! The wind and the rain came at her in sheets as she slipped and slid by the stockyard fences. Clip! Clop! Clip! Clop! Elaine thought she heard the sound of a carriage near her. Was she imaging things? She bent her left arm over her eyes to see but the pelting rain blinded her.

"Miz Elaine! Miz Elaine!" She could hear a voice behind her calling her name. The sounds of the horse and carriage grew louder and louder when suddenly, a horse whinnied and reared up directly alongside her. She heard someone yell a frantic, "Whoa!" from the carriage as the horse bucked and strained for footing. The carriage wheels slipped sideways in the mud, caught in one of the many ruts that lined the central road. Elaine gasped as the wheel caught the hem of her dress and pulled her toward the wayward carriage. She tugged on the wet material to release it from under the rim but to no avail. She could see a figure struggling with the reins above her - whistling and cracking a whip to encourage the horse away from her. Looking for balance, she reached up for the stockyards fence but instead grabbed a handful of barbed wire. Elaine screamed as watery blood flowed down her arm and into her rain-soaked sleeve. Darkness quickly enveloped her.