The Way of Jayne, Part 4
Friday, December 23, 2005

Jayne gets a job that seems to foreshadow his later career. This fic will lead up to Jayne's first-time with a woman. I'm working on that part, will post within a week, I hope. Please feedback, will ya? Need to know if it's still fairly interesting...


The Way of Jayne, Part 4

Six months had gone by since Ma Cobb had been delivered of the demons that had plagued her mind. A freed mind enabled the body to get back up and out of the rocking chair she’d been living in for too long. She hadn’t been an invalid even while in her self-made bondage, more of a prisoner of her own lack of will to live, but her friend and midwife Maeve Burlee had provided a conduit to break the shackles, had let her get back to being a mother to the Cobb children, a member of the community and a healthy human being again.

Marie Cobb stretched her arms high overhead, arched her back and issued a big old sigh. She had just finished feeding the one year old triplets, Peter, Mary and Paul. They were lively and quick, sure squirmers, but the restraining trays on the Shaker-like bench that Jayne and Timmie had fashioned for their mealtimes was a help, keeping them pent up long enough to get them to eat at least a handful of whatever was put before them.

At this age they still ate with their hands, of course, pink dimpled fingers slapping at the mashed carrots and chicken or swirling it on their trays. The Picassoan orange and beige palette was wasted on their doting mom’s non-artistic eye, but she smiled and encouraged them to, “Come on, y’all. Put some of them groceries in your mouth, please, for momma.”

Googles and hollers of “Ma-ma-ma,” or “Dowg,” “Bird,” or “Peeese,?” (for ‘please’,) were intermittently punctuated by grunting baby mumblings whenever a child decided to temporarily appease his mother by transferring a small amount of food/paint from tray to inside a cupid’s bow mouth.

Jayne clomped up the front stairs banging his boots hard on each step to dislodge thickly clotted mudballs. Timmie tromped right behind him clomping her boots likewise with the added necessary maneuver of dodging Jayne’s clumpy missiles, some of which could be large enough to make her trip.

He looked behind him at her progress as he held to the porch post on the top step. When he saw his twin sister doing the thunking two-step he slyly continued his own shoe cleaning by reaching down with his bowie knife and flicking the largest clingers up toward her face as she bent down to see to her own boots’ hard-mud status. Her concentrating on her feet so hard and looking at him so little, allowed his aim to deliver a thumb-sized nugget square at her snub nose.

“You wang bao dahn, you ruttin’ fool, Jayne! STOP it, hear? I’ll make you eat the next one that hits me in,” she stopped questioning her brother’s hygiene and legitimate parentage, quit her next thought of promising him a bit of terrain-consuming as she saw him straighten up, noted the direction of his gaze across the porch and into the house.

Through the big front picture window they could see ma playing pat-a-cake with one food-covered triplet’s messy hands after the other, small chubby hands whapping against their mother’s work-worn ones, Madonna and children laughing fit to bust as food splattered every which way.

“Shiny, ain’t it Jayne?,” his eldest sister asked, voice hushed in wonder. All he could do was nod, lump in his throat choking out any hope of recognizable speech. She leaned against his broad shoulder and went on, sensing his inability to comment, “You’d never know she was a straw woman six months ago. Leave it to the herb woman ta pull a miracle outta her bonnet.”

Timmie patted Jayne on his big shoulder and went on in the house to demand in mock anger, hard to keep up even a semblance of fury while laughing and dodging a pelting rain of carrots and meat, “Momma? What in tarnation’s going on in here? Would you look at this mess! Yesu, you babies are a sight!”

Jayne turned away from the domestic welkin in his home, wiped sweat and grime off his face as he looked out across the dried out, played out Cobb family farm.

Nothing was gonna grow this year, he knew it, could ignore it no longer. The seed they’d planted was sub-standard, irrigation wouldn’t, couldn’t help none of that go-se grow.

Still, might coulda achieved something besides a crop of stunted corn and peas if it hadn’t been for pa sloughing off on them this year. His all-consuming drinking and shirking had left only Timmie, Jayne and little Mattie to do the farming. Ma helped when the kidlets were asleep. But it weren’t enough. All they could do would never be enough to bring even one more good meal to their table.

Jayne heaved a heavy sigh that would have fit better on a man three times his age of fourteen summers. “Time comes to cut your losses. We’ve been cut too deep, and we gorramdamn sure lost too much this year.” His eyes squinted against the searing sun of summer. His assessing glare peeled across the land taking an inventory of devastation and a giving a quick certain farewell to a life of farm work.

The family depended on him alone now, and it was no small family that needed supporting, neither. Three toddlers, Mattie at eight, he and Timmie at fourteen, ma and pa.

He spit on the ground. Nah, pa was on his own. Rat could starve or get his nutrition from the home-brew he loved more’n life, for all he cared.

Jayne was damned if he’d let the others starve even if pa seemed more’n willing to. While Jayne had breath and a strong back, he’d make sure they had food on the table. No, they deserved better than to just barely eat. They’d never had nice things, fine and good things, his ma had never had a new dress, Timmie’d never had one either. They had cast-offs, used goods, calico hand-mades from food and flour sacks. If he found the right work they’d never look back at the hardscrabble existence he was saying goodbye to right then. He swore to himself he’d get a job that paid, paid good, there were jobs like that to be had, ‘long as a man weren’t too picky about legality.


A scant two days later Jayne stopped coming home for supper for a whole two weeks. Wood Harbinger was the cause and cattle-rustling was the result. Jayne’s first paying job turned out to be thieving cattle for the greasy varmint.

Wood was relatively new to town and ill-suspicioned, well-liked by nobody, not even by what passed for the dregs of society out here on a border world. He came wearing scandal like a stinking duster coat swirling death round his ankles. Folks feared he’d dealt death on account of crazy ol’ Inga coming up missing not two days after he moved hisself into her little clapboard house outside of town.

Nobody knew for sure what had happened to the old girl, but before she disappeared she’d been heard to tell a kindly neighbor that Wood was nice to her, made her feel like she was 16 again. Said he didn’t smell too nice, but since he was so nice to her, she could overlook his odor. There was serenity in Inga’s expression, but it was spoiled when her hand kept creeping up to her face, pulling a goodish swatch of graying hair over one eye.

When a light wind blew the hair back from her face a sudden clear view arose of the eye’s orbit blackened and blue before Inga turned hurriedly and walked back into her home to hide.

The neighbor woman called after Inga, urging her to be careful and then promptly forgot the conversation. A field hand working on the fence nearby had seen and heard the whole encounter but he’d not sought out the sheriff to tell it until long after it was too late to give any aid or stop the succession of tragedies that followed.

Inga’s neighbor realized sooner than anybody else that she should have contacted the authorities instead of just forgetting about it. Unfortunately, by the time she recognized the folly of her lapse, it had cost her own life. For the simple want of her few head of cattle and horses, Inga’s killer sent her neighbor to take a dirt nap right next to Inga’s beaten body in a deep hole under the ramshackle barn courtesy of a bullet through the eye.


Whenever Wood went into town he carried with him a note from Inga that said she was going up north to see her ailing sister (nobody even knew she had a sister) and giving Mr. Wood Harbinger full use of her small house and all her pitiful possessions. Nobody protested since there wasn’t nothing Inga had that anybody wanted and nobody had ever really wanted anything to do with Inga herself. Truth to tell, if the old loon had finally found love, even if it was housed in a very bad man, she was welcome to a wee bit of happiness so late in a comfort-less life.

Jayne was on his way to the busy town saloon, figured on lurking outside the front door, asking around until he found work of a profitable kind. A quick stop-off at the general store to get some rock candy for Mattie and the toddlers was first on his list, however.

Jayne first saw Inga’s note in the dirty hand of the man who presented it to him inside Luck’s Gen’ral Store & Ladies’ Notions. The smell of the scoundrel greeted Jayne Cobb even before the stink’s origin plodded up to him and shoved the note in his face.

“I aim to git me some s’plies, an’ this here’s how I aim to pay,” he gargled as Jayne read the short, poorly spelled note and looked at the gilded trinket in Wood’s other dirty paw. Jayne didn’t reply immediately owing to his fear of taking the deep breath required in order to speak. The miasma surrounding Harbinger was plenty strong without worsening it by rasping its molecules toward one’s lungs on the wings of a concentrated inhalation.

Instead, the Cobb boy quickly pointed to Luck behind the counter, waving toward him frantically in a dual effort to clear the air immediately in front of his own face and to send the putrid personage walking over to somebody who had a reason to ignore rank odors in favor of making a small profit.

Curious in spite of himself, and now in possession of a small improved cocoon of clear air, Jayne listened in.

“Ya want ta do business, Feller?,” asked the customer.

“Sure, mister. What can I do for you?,” Luck looked wary.

By way of introduction, the customer began, “Wood Harbinger. I’m a dear friend of Inga’s out at the old white clapboard place outside a’ town?,” he proferred the note to the store’s proprietor. “She’s vistin’ fambly, her sister ta be ‘zact, and wanted me to be able to keep things running whilst she’s gone, left me this note, givin’ permission-like for to see me along.” The last words ran out in a rush, and the man stood with jaw set, daring contention.

No hesitation from the store proprieter,“What do you need, Sir? I’m sure we can do business,” Luck offered, eyeing the pretty gewgaw. It appeared to be a gold eagle set against a gilded flag with some kind of maltese cross device engraved all over it, arrows clutched in lifelike talons. Shiny gold, and solid, for certain…

“Need me some privacy, first-wise. Second, need your word you’ll keep your mouth shut. I’m a hard man, Mr. Mercantile. You don’t want to mess with me and nor have an opinion on any business of mine,” he threatened. Luck swallowed, nodded, looked at Jayne, whom the bad customer appeared to have forgotten was the only other one in the store.

Not forgetting the lingering youth, quite the opposite, the unkempt man shouted, “You boy, by the door. Get in here if you want a job. Leave the store, if’n you don’t,” Jayne started, unfolded his arms from across his chest, hesitated a moment, then approached Mr. Harbinger smiling in nervousness and hope.

Wood wasted no time but straightaway directed his brand new employee, “Help the man get my supplies down for me, Son, and we’ll talk about your future oncet we’re done here, dong ma?” Jayne nodded, ready.

His new boss rattled off a list that included metal rods of two sizes, low temperature solder paste and a butane powered torch. Going to whichever shelf or box Luck pointed, Jayne obediently gathered all, anxious to work, glad to be busy after having spent his life thus far a profit-less dustbowl farmer.

Looking at the pile of supplies he’d gathered on the counter, Jayne had to wonder what brand of metal-working he was being apprenticed to. The operative word in that bit of pondering later turned out to be “brand.” Had he known it at that time, known the consequences that’d begin with this day and end with him escaping to the arse-end of the ‘verse, he might not have been quite so thrilled with starting this new job.


Outside the general store, Jayne’s new boss led him to the sorriest horse he’d ever seen. The bay held his head way down, dejected and spiritless, a ragged brown place the size of a man’s palm on the animal’s rump oozing with flies.

“Git aboard, Boy, I ain’t got all day,” Harbinger ordered. Jayne complied, apologizing quietly to his mount. If the horse made it to wherever they were going, his rider committed silently that he’d clean the wound and apply some healing salve he’d been carrying around to use on his own chapped lips. The horse quivered at being mounted, but after a gentle “tch tch” from Jayne, he limped forward, obediently following the bigger palomino Wood Harbinger was mounted on.

The supply sack Jayne carried slung across his shoulders rattled and jangled musically as they rode out of town. “Where we headed, Mister?,” he called. “Gots us a far piece to ride, boy, I’ll tell ya when we get there.

“How good can ya ride a hoss? I ain’t talkin’ bout that piece of go se you’re on right now, can ya ride an animal with sprit?”

“Yes, sir. Won a picket riding contest a year back. Rode a feisty mare, didn’t break stride, turned through the toughest obstacles like we was one animal,” Jayne didn’t mind bragging, especially when it was the truth.

The older man grunted, pleased. “How you feel about the law? You partial to it?”

“Ain’t had no cause to care one way or the other. I aim to make money to support my fam’ly. It’s a big fam’ly, and I’m all they got. Kinda figured if I was to get that kinda money, it might not be by doin’ something the sheriff would rightly sanction,” Jayne hoped that was a reply the man could be satisfied with. And again, it was the truth.

That was the last piece of conversation they shared until their destination was reached a good hour later.

Jayne knew the house. Everybody knew crazy Inga. He and Timmie had thrown rotten eggs at the door one All Hallow’s Eve a couple years back, secure in the anonymity their ghost costumes afforded, taking a dare to do the egging in promise of the reward of having a shiny credit apiece from a school chum of Jayne’s. The old lady hadn’t come out to protest, as far as they knew. They’d run so far away so quickly, never turning around to check results of the prank. Next day they’d felt so bad about it, they told the idea-man they didn’t egg anything, told him they’d chickened out.

The old lady was gone now though, off visiting her sister, or so Wood had told in town. Jayne eased into more even breathing at the realization that he wouldn’t have to face her today, not have to try not to color at remembering his mean trick.

Behind the house was a series of hills, almost mountains, with cliffs and caves aplenty etched in the stone. Wood passed the house by and led Jayne to a gorse covered patch at the biggest hill’s base. “Git down, boy and move the blind.”

Jayne dismounted and approached the prickly foliage, grasping a less thorny portion and pulling hard, harder than necessary it turned out when he fell back onto his butt, a shroud of thorny bracken adoring his prone form like ants on a picnic.

“Hee-YAH, but you’re a strong ‘un, aintcha, Boy? Git up off your keister and hurry it up, now. Somebody might pass along and see.”

Jayne gingerly crept from beneath the bracken and stared into a long dark passageway that was revealed at his removing the blind. The natural hallway went deep into the hill about 4 feet wide by 6 feet high. His boss passed through the hole, head bent as he went. Jayne took his horse’s bridle, leading him after. Recalling the need to hide the hole, Jayne let his horse walk on to follow Wood as Jayne dutifully went back to drag the bristly shield back over the entrance effectively hiding their path.

The hallway went another fifty yards then opened into a kind of courtyard of a cave. Three hundred head of cattle and horses milled about in the cavernous space, hooves stomping, tails swishing at flies. Light filtering down from a natural skylight above allowed Jayne to see many, many brands, some he knew, others unfamiliar adorning the hides of the animals.

Wood was already dismounted and wrangling up a nice fire near the center of the place where smoke could waft up and out. Now realizing the obvious need for secrecy this horse and cattle-thieving operation required, he wondered about the wisdom of sending smoke up out of the hollow barrel of a mountain for all to see. His concern was unfounded he soon saw, as his upwards glance caught the network of brush high above that should disperse the worst of the smoke on its way up the shaft.

The cattle rustler snapped greasy fingers at Jayne, pointed to the bag on the boy’s shoulder. He hurriedly brought it over passing a shallow bubbling spring along the way. At a motion from Wood, Jayne emptied the bag at the impatient man’s feet.

The next two hours were a learning session for Jayne wherein he caught lessons on soldering fit to create intricate-tipped branding irons. The design on the branding head was odd, appeared to Jayne to be almost a snowflake without the fancy fripperies in between the spokes. The main device reminded him of what was on the eagle’s flag, the golden eagle gewgaw Wood had traded at the store. Jayne saw right away that such an all-encompassing pattern was like to completely obliterate almost any other previous brand beneath its bite.

Four nearly identical irons were completed by the time they were done. The man and almost-man used spring water to quench the fire bringing to the cave a new dimness, sun gone from the sky over the topmost venting hole testament to the lateness of the hour. After dumping hay off a high shelf to feed the herd, they headed out of the cavern toward Inga’s house in the night.

Back at the house, Wood walked in like he owned the place, which it appeared he just might. Filthy boots strode right over the threshold onto a pretty carpet embroidered of pale greens and blues, tracking ash and soot over other slightly older dirty boot prints. Jayne’s boots were left on the porch, out of habit. He walked silently on bare feet behind Wood, gaze taking in a home that had been neat as a pin, now partially ravaged by he knew who.

Wood went into the kitchen, flipped open a cabinet, a cold storage box and the door to the wood-burning stove. “Can you cook any, Boy?,” he half-shouted over the racket he was making opening doors and rummaging on shelves.

“Yeah, I can cook, cooked for my family some. And my name ain’t Boy. It’s…Bob,..Sir.,” he finished lamely.

A fake name, ANY name would be better than having to give his real one up to severe frolic by way of this criminal, his boss.

“Well git to it then, Bob, rustle us up some grub. Don’t care if it ain’t fancy, just make it quick-like. I’m hungry.” That said he plopped himself down on a dainty chair in the parlour and put his booted feet up on a nearby velvet settee.

“Gonna clean myself up in the horse trough first,” Jayne remarked as he walked out the back door, sliver of soap and linen towel off the counter in hand before Wood could voice a protest. He grabbed a lantern, lit it, then hurried out to the lean-to that sheltered the two horses they had ridden that day, Jayne clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth softly to the wounded bay.

The horse raised his head only a little at Jayne’s approach, barely interested in anything that went on around him. Jayne hung the lantern on a post, got a bucket full of water from the horse trough and placed it at the foot of the post in readiness for a bit of pioneer horse doctoring. He backed the big animal up to the side of the lean-to and used his body to keep the bay penned between that and the corral fence. Talking softly to the horse as if to one of the triplets back home, Jayne used one hand full of unkempt mane to steady the beast. His other hand clutched a hank of wet hay with which he attacked the angry-looking sore-rotting place on its flank.

The horse barely flinched and made no sound as Jayne hurried the task of scraping the crust from the wound. He grabbed more hay soaked in water, rubbed soap on the mess and worked at the spot some more. A good dousing with water from the bucket later, and he could finally see what he had to work with.

The area was the size of his palm with fingers spread. Was an old brand that looked to have been hacked at by a pen knife attempting to obliterate the original marking. Not deep, the slashes were nevertheless festering, looked much cleaner now.

Satisfied by his quick work, Jayne took a can of salve from his jacket pocket and smeared a goodly amount on the freshly cleansed area. The stuff always felt good to Jayne’s chapped skin so he figured it’d do the same for the horse, while also protecting the wound from further infection. The horse seemed to agree, reaching his long neck back to nudge Jayne’s shoulder gently and snuffling softly where he worked the salve in. Patting the horse on his bent neck, his impromptu vet took his leave, heading back to the house and the cooking detail.


Jayne awakened the next morning on a cot in the spare bedroom, unsure of his surroundings and mistaking the horrible snortings and squealings from outside the window for a pig being skinned alive. Leaping out of bed, he rushed outside in his skivvies to find a fully-dressed Wood Harbinger rush out of the cold water of the small pond only to leap back in, canon-ball style, arms and legs tucked up into his body to make a shallow splash, killing himself laughing, cackling all the while.

Scratching his head, dumb-founded, Jayne sat down in his undershorts on the top step to watch the morning’s entertainment.

Wood ran out of the pond water once more, and took himself slopping with water over to the horse trough. He picked up the soap Jayne had left the night before, rubbed it briskly under his still-shirted arms, under his filthy neck, rubbed some into his beard, and lastly, between his legs over the sopping colorless pants he still wore.

Dropping the soap, Wood set off at a dead run toward the pond again, canon-balling into the deepest portion. ‘Gorram man’s taking a bath with his ruttin’ clothes on,’ Jayne thought. Laundry and bath all in one, neither task done particularly well. Shaking his head at the image unfolding before him, Jayne realized his boss’s clothes’d most likely stand up on their own if he ever DID remove them.

Way out in the water, an ungodly hooting fart flattened by several layers of dirty wet clothes blatted like a foghorn. With one more shake of his head, added to a grimace as if he could smell the noxious vapor from here, Jayne went back into the house to see about getting breakfast on the table.


Friday, December 23, 2005 7:06 PM


Itsa you are amazing. As the reader I find myself getting lost in all the descriptions...not a problem though, I just have to reread. It's a toss up, cause you just write so beautifully. Descriptive and imaginative!

Friday, December 23, 2005 9:13 PM


I love this series. Keep it up I think it's going to be great when it's done

Saturday, December 24, 2005 12:38 AM


Nearly injured myself in the rush to read this! It weren't a pretty sight. ;P

I can see Wood becoming a possible role-model for Jayne here, what with the crude behaviour and all. Can't wait to see how that happens.

More, as soon as you can.

Saturday, December 24, 2005 3:09 AM


This is a great series. The back story you've created is so real. Can't wait to read more.

Saturday, December 24, 2005 6:53 PM


I've said it before, but I love this look at youngJayne. It's like seeing all the hidden parts of his personality, before they got hidden by life. His innocence is endearing. I love how he is honest in his answers to Wood. And how determined he is to take car of his family, but we can see some of the future man in his attitude toward his father.

Great Job as always. I honestly can't wait to see where you're going with the rest of this.

Saturday, December 24, 2005 9:29 PM


Jayne's first time with a woman? Oh that will be a wacky adventure...I can see it now. :P


IMAGERY!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!! I know there's an award out there for the best imagery writer. I may still be crazy... but I know my brain loves this! Cant wait for the next chapter!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 10:14 AM


wood: he's smelly, he's dirty, he's rude, he farts. obviously jayne's mentor, no?


Thursday, April 27, 2006 4:10 PM


Wow, Jayne as a caring pseudo vet. Nice.

Also, I never commented on your choice of names for the triplets, but nice going there.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 2:03 PM


Jayne...continuin' his daddiness....and the little ones, with their little phrasing. I was thinking, how does a young man like that become.....

Then, he's not a scoundrel, he's just a nasty reprobate, with the repulsive smell to boot.

I dern near fell out of my seat reading of Jayne's dumbfoundedness to the old sleazeball's morning bath though!

Scratching his head, dumb-founded, Jayne sat down in his undershorts on the top step to watch the morning’s entertainment.

Wood ran out of the pond water once more, and took himself slopping with water over to the horse trough. He picked up the soap Jayne had left the night before, rubbed it briskly under his still-shirted arms, under his filthy neck, rubbed some into his beard, and lastly, between his legs over the sopping colorless pants he still wore.

Dropping the soap, Wood set off at a dead run toward the pond again, canon-balling into the deepest portion. ‘Gorram man’s taking a bath with his ruttin’ clothes on,’ Jayne thought. Laundry and bath all in one, neither task done particularly well. Shaking his head at the image unfolding before him, Jayne realized his boss’s clothes’d most likely stand up on their own if he ever DID remove them.

Way out in the water, an ungodly hooting fart flattened by several layers of dirty wet clothes blatted like a foghorn. With one more shake of his head, added to a grimace as if he could smell the noxious vapor from here, Jayne went back into the house to see about getting breakfast on the table.

Gorram Funny Washie!!!

*Thunder rumbles* Part 5........

Monday, August 7, 2006 8:09 AM


The description of everything is so very vivid and it makes this story a real pleasure to read.

The foreshadowing to what kind of career Jayne would eventually make for himself is very telling. Though born of a good heart and a desire to help support his family.


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