12 Days of Fiction, Day 4: Four Calling Birds

by E8 Album HQR Initiative

Welcome to the fourth post of the “12 Days of Fiction” series, where a volunteer writer is assigned a random writing prompt from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” All writing on the prompt must be done in 10 minutes or less.   Volunteers have been cultivated through the original 12 Days of Fiction invite, the Catholic Writers Guild members-only Facebook page, my Facebook page… and I think that’s it.  Thanks to for the random number generator.

If you’d like to join in, we only have “6 Geese A-Laying” and “8 Maids A-Milking” unclaimed.  Comment on this post or on the original 12 Days of Fiction invite (or on any of the above, if you have clearance to get to them), and I’ll comment back with your day and writing prompt.

Today’s piece is by Amy M. Bennett, author of “End of the Road”, available from Oak Tree Press,, and  Amy writes, “Spent the day in Santa Fe visiting our Carmelite family members, got my story written but no internet access!  I think I went a little overtime (10  minutes fly when you’re having fun!)  Hope you like it!  It’s a spin-off of my Black Horse Campground series!”

Thanks, Amy!  It’s a great piece, and I especially love the tie-in to the meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  PS: See, people?  I told you I wouldn’t get upset if your post doesn’t go up on the exact day you’re assigned!


Four Calling Birds

 Corrie sighed as she hung the phone up and rubbed her temples. Eight calls to eight different contractors and handymen and not one of them would be available to fix the concrete walk around the Black Horse Campground office and store for at least two weeks.

She looked out the window and winced inwardly as she studied the condition of the wooden steps leading from the building’s porch to the walkway. Just this morning, the UPS delivery man had nearly lost his loaded hand truck off the top step and rescued Corrie’s shipment at the cost of a splintered step and broken railing. And no one would be available to fix anything for a while.

She had given her employees, the Myers and the Pages, the day off to do the campground’s shopping in Las Cruces, 150 miles away, and would be gone until late, so neither Red nor Jerry could do any repairs until the next day. Her maintenance man, Buster, had offered, half-heartedly, to make some repairs, but his enthusiasm was only matched by his skills so Corrie had let him off the hook… much to Buster’s relief.

And Rick and J. D. were both on duty and unavailable.

She tried not to grow irritated at the situation, but it hadn’t helped when a guest’s son had tripped over the broken walkway and skinned his knee. Corrie had placated the child and his mother with a bandage and an ice cream, but she cringed to think of a guest being injured more seriously. She had called Father Eloy, the pastor at San Ignacio church, and asked if he knew any parishioners who were able to do the work and might want a little extra money and he’d admitted that everyone was busy now.

“All the ones who were hurting for work during the heavy rainy season are overwhelmed with projects now that the weather is drier,” he’d told her. “I’m sure they’d do it if they could, Corrie, but the church repairs have been put off as well.”

“Well, if you hear of anyone looking for work, Father, would you have them give me a call?” she’d asked.

Now she turned as the bell over the front door rang and her old black Lab, Renfro, let out an unenthused “Woof” of warning before resuming his snoring. Two men stood just inside the door with two boys around the age of 13 standing with them. One of the men stepped forward and removed his battered ball cap. “Ma’am,” he said, his voice quiet, “my brother and I are traveling through town with our families and we’re looking for a little work to boost our funds. Noticed that you might could use some work on that walkway out there.”

“You do concrete work?” Corrie said hopefully. Fr. Eloy must have found someone and sent them down to her right away. The two men nodded.

“I’m Marcus and this is my brother, Lucas,” the man said and the other man inclined his head. “These are our boys, Jonathan and Matthew. Mind if we get started right away?”

“Not at all,” Corrie said, breathing a silent prayer of thanks. “Do you need any…?”

“We got our tools and materials with us. We just need a place for the night and some money for gas and groceries. We got our wives and other kids with us.”

“Make yourselves at home,” Corrie said immediately. She reached under the counter for two keys. “Two of my cabins are empty right now and you can use the bathrooms and laundry room. There’s even a grill you can use to fix a meal. How soon can you start?”

“Let us get our families settled and we’ll get right to work, ma’am.” Marcus replaced his cap and he and his companions backed out of the door.

Corrie shook her head in wonder. She watched as they drove their trucks to the cabins and unloaded two women and several younger children, then pulled up beside the walkway.

It seemed like not more than a few minutes passed before they were pulling the broken stair apart and breaking up and removing the concrete from the walkway.

As the day wore on, she glanced out the window from time to time and watched them work without pause, except for when one of the wives would come over with sandwiches or a bottle of water for them. It was close to four o’clock and she saw that the work had gone amazingly fast. She stepped out on the porch and held out an envelope to Marcus, who stopped working long enough to accept it with a grateful smile. “God bless you, ma’am,” he said with a slight bow.

She returned to the office and busied herself with paperwork. When the door bell rang, she looked up, expecting to see Marcus and his crew, but it was Rick and J. D. who walked in. “Hey,” Rick said, removing his Stetson and shades. “Looks like you got the walkway fixed.”

“Yes,” she said, then frowned at Rick’s use of the past tense. “Those men have been at it all day and are making amazing progress.”

J. D. raised a brow and shot a look at Rick. “What men?”

Corrie pointed out the window. “Well, the men who are….” She looked and gasped. The walkway was finished. Only the barricades to keep people out of the wet concrete were still up. She stood and went to the side door. The trucks and all the men’s families were gone as well. She turned back to Rick and J. D. “Did you see two pick up trucks pull out of here?”

They both shook their heads. “When would this have been?” Rick asked.

“Well….” She shook her head, dazed. “I could have sworn they just left, but….

“Who were they?” J. D. asked, and both he and Rick had the wary expression of concerned lawmen.

“I don’t know,” Corrie said. “I thought maybe Fr. Eloy sent them to do the work, but they never told me their full names.”

“What names did they give you?” Rick asked, pulling his pocket notepad out and flipping it open.

“Two men and two boys. Marcus and Lucas and their sons, Jonathan and Matthew.”

Rick’s eyes narrowed. “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John fixed your walkway?”

Corrie stared at him and J. D. and said, “Yeah… I guess they did.”