This story is a continuation of my Christmas Story, A Home for the Holidays
"Ezra." The call to wake the soundly sleeping man went unanswered. The gambler seemed dead to the world, but oh how grateful they all were for that figure of speech. Dead to the world. It was better than the alternative, though the person attempting to wake the man was starting to wonder if waking him wasn't just as complicated as waking the truly dead. The young sheriff wasn't too grateful for the job he'd been assigned. He looked over to the healer, but could see that he was busy preparing the other bed, too preoccupied to notice any troubles of his own in rousing the healing seventh member of their team. The enforcers of the law in Four Corners had been worried about their friend and how easy it would have been for that kick to the head to have resulted in a fatal blow. But J.D. Dunne didn't have time to dwell on might-have-beens right now, especially since the sleeping man had, thankfully, dodged that bullet. "Nate!" he called urgently, yet still managed to keep the plea under his breath, in spite of the fact that the task he had been given allowed him free rein to speak in, at minimum, a normal pitch.
Nathan Jackson looked up as he finished arranging the bedding on the second cot. He had already instructed Inez Recillos on his way in of the plan afoot, and she was quickly put to task to assure a steady supply of hot water and clean towels and cloths. Gloria Potter had also been contacted and was on her way, having agreed to make herself available when the time came. She'd had previous, intimate practice herself in what lay ahead – those moments in her life vivid and unforgettable to this day – and in the role of surrogate, both in Nathan's absence here in town on occasion, and also from a couple of times back east, before moving west with her late husband and two young children.
"J.D., you gotta get him awake. We need to get him repositioned to make way … " the former slave ordered as he finished checking and double-checking that he had everything that he would need. He was interrupted by the young man who had been given the task that no one in their right mind would volunteer for. J.D. sure hadn't, but he was the only one around. He'd be getting back at his best friend somehow, as it was supposed to be Buck Wilmington here and J.D. over at the jail. He should have known something was up when the ladies' man had suggested the switch.
"I know that, but he won't wake up," J.D. explained as he continued in a near whisper.
"Talkin' that quiet ain't gonna help." Nathan walked over and called, "Ezra!" The resident card sharp sighed, coughed lightly in his sleep, and then kept right on sleeping. Nathan sat down in the chair next to the gambler's bed and practically yelled, right into his ear, "Ezra!" He immediately placed a hand on each of the slumbering man's shoulders, knowing what the reaction would be.
The gambler's eyes shot open, his upper body making an attempt to leap off of the bed, his right arm going for his gun, having noted rapidly upon waking that his Derringer and the requisite rig were not in place. Ezra Standish was grateful for whoever had stalled his movements because pain became known to him instantly from the very little movement that he'd made; he could only imagine the agony if he'd been left to his own devices. His right arm was definitely feeling sorry for his actions earlier.
"It's just me, Ezra." Ezra blinked rapidly, trying to clear his bleary, sleep-encrusted eyes. He breathed through his coughing as his heartbeat settled back to something resembling normal. He finally could see, having taken his left hand and rubbed away the gook from his eyes, and acknowledged the healer's presence.
"Is there a fire?" he asked, wondering what all the urgency was about. "I trust that there is and this is why you would risk furthah injury to mah person." He turned his head to the fire in the nearby stove. His brow furrowed in confusion of where exactly he was, but the healer was able to tell the exact moment when Ezra recognized where he was and why. He yawned as he looked to his friend for an answer.
"No, Ezra, ain't no fire," Nathan said. "Here, drink this," he went on, handing the gambler a warm mug. He took a long swallow and scrunched his face up at the miserable flavor. No honey, lemon or whiskey. What the hell? He was interrupted from his musings as Nathan continued, "Just got Missus Mannion close and Missus Irons in labor at the same time. Storm's whipping around out there, so we decided to bring them in here to wait it out. Likely have two new babies before the new year. Sooner, most like."
Ezra nodded as though he understood what Nathan just said, but as his sleep-addled mind started to clear out the fuzziness, and the pain in his arm receded, and he saw one extra cot already made and another one waiting to be made up sitting not far from the first, he finally realized what the healer was actually saying.
"Nathan, surely you do not expect … ." The gambler stopped, seeing in the healer's face that he expected exactly what Ezra feared: he would have two new roommates here in the back of the saloon, and life was going to develop into a frightening thing for one Ezra P. Standish.
"Ain't got no choice," J.D. said as he stood beside Ezra's bed. "Nate, you ready?"
"Drink it up," Nathan said as he saw that there was still half of the tea to go. Ezra did as he was instructed, knowing that the tea had helped, despite how disgusting it tasted today. "All right, J.D., better get it done now. We're gonna need that third bed soon enough." They both reached down to Ezra, J.D. taking a hold of his left forearm and shoulder, Nathan carefully working around the con man's broken right arm.
Ezra's eyes grew wide at suddenly being put upon by his two friends. He immediately forced his body into his pillow, despite how much it hurt to do so, presenting a veritable dead weight, so to speak, to the two men who were attempting to extricate him from the cot. Oh, the irony. His dilemma? He had no desire whatsoever of staying in the room and being party to the goings-on to come, the birthing of babies having been one of the few activities in his life that he'd not yet experienced, and he had no intention of changing that fact this day. But he also knew he could place a winning bet on the odds that Nathan would allow him to go upstairs to his room to continue mending from being trampled by a horse just a short five days ago.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen, surely with the two mothers-to-be you can use all the room you can get." Ezra looked first to Nathan, but seeing nothing but intransigence on his visage, turned to the only other occupant of the room.
"Don't look at me," J.D. said. "I'm not staying for that," he insisted.
Ezra glared at him as he continued. "Ah will take mah leave and head to mah room, if Ah could bother one of you for some assistance," he suggested confidently, hoping that he'd kept his trepidation at being moved and the pain it would cause him well hid.
Nathan stood up and stared at his friend. It had only been five days, and Ezra was still sick and badly hurt. His cold was hanging on, though Nathan was fairly certain that they'd managed to successfully fend off even a remote possibility of lung fever, but it had been a struggle once they'd gotten past the first couple of days and Ezra grew more and more restless. But his knee still pained him terribly, even with the gentlest of touches, and was not likely to hold the lawman's weight, even if he wasn't overcompensating, balance-wise, because of his broken arm and occasional dizziness from the knock to the head. It had also become clear the first time Ezra had urinated after the accident that his kidney had been affected: he'd been expressing blood for days, and the only medicine Nathan had prescribed for that had been bed rest, after the healer had properly admonished him for not mentioning the pain he must have felt, even without relieving himself.
"You ain't leavin' this room," Nathan said, a hint of challenge in the framing of the comment, managing to just barely say it without making it an order.
"Ah b'lieve you are mistaken, Mistah Jackson," Ezra answered huffily as he attempted to push himself up off the bed with his left hand. He groaned, looked to J.D. and said, "Are you not heah to assist me in risin' from this … contraption?"
"Ezra, you can't make it ten feet with just J.D. helpin' you, and you really shouldn't move much until you give that kidney another couple of days."
"Ah will take it very slowly, and Ah am confident that Mistah Dunne can acquire the assistance of Mistah Wilmington … " He was cut off by the sound of the voice that he'd hoped not to hear until the deed of getting to his room had been done.
"Whaddya need Buck for?" Chris Larabee asked.
"Because this room is soon to be known as the 'Territorial Birthin' Center', and Ah refuse to be forced to … "
"Afraid of pregnant women, Ezra? Seems kind o' sad if you ask me," Vin Tanner noted as he entered a few paces behind their boss. Both men removed their wet hats and coats at the door before making their way closer to the bed where Ezra lay.
"Ah do not recall anyone askin' you, Mistah Tanner. However, since you are here, you will do just fine."
"Do what just fine?" the tracker asked, worried that he'd gotten himself into something he wouldn't be able to get out of.
"He's looking for help getting to his room, and I'm telling all of you to forget it," the intimidating black man warned.
"Nathan, you and J.D. were just asking me to rise from mah sickbed. What would going just up to the room above us … Oh, good lord!" Ezra said, realizing that though he'd be out of sight of the goings-on here when he was comfortably ensconced in his room, he would most assuredly not be out of earshot, the sounds emanating up would no doubt paint a vivid picture, the sounds impossible to hide due to the thin wood structure of the hastily built building. He could certainly vouch for the fact that neither the floor nor the walls were insulated for either unwanted heat or cold … or disagreeable noises from the saloon, or activities from adjoining rooms. He never minded the saloon noise; in fact, he drew comfort from that familiarity. But the occasional raucous sounds of carnal activity that he could hear on those nights – and days – when Inez had rented out the few empty rooms to help fill the coffers when business was down, was something that would take a lifetime to truly erase from his memory. He was by no means against carnal activity, of course, but he saw very little pleasant – or satisfying - about hearing it going on across the hall. No, what went on in those rooms lacked romance and even a hint of sensuality. He sighed, which led Nathan to the wrong conclusion.
"See. Nothin' much to be gained … " he said, but Chris wouldn't let that thought be the last of it.
"Nathan, you can't really expect him to sit through … " The former gunslinger thought carefully about how exactly he should phrase what he wanted to say. There were no women around, but still, he'd thought better of what he planned to say; he didn't want to scare the gambler if Nathan ended up refusing to let him leave. He settled on, " … all of that."
"Thank you, Mistah Larabee," Ezra said, truly grateful that their leader would take his side in this.
"You can use the room next to mine," Chris offered.
Ezra frowned. "The room next to yours?" he asked worriedly.
"In the boarding house?"
"I don't mean my cabin, Ez."
"You mean … "
"Buck's room!" He shuddered as though from a sudden chill. "Are you trying to kill me? Ah am already ill." His aptly timed cough couldn't have been better scripted if he'd written the scene himself.
"I can get Miss Maude … "
"There is some lovely, lovely irony," Ezra interjected, smiling happily. Vin and Chris smiled knowingly, understanding the frustrations their friend continued to deal with in regard to his mother, and the pleasure he found in the fact that the new proprietress of the busy boarding house shared Maude Standish's given name.
"Anyway," J.D. continued helpfully, not wanting to be a party to Ezra talking badly about his mother again, "I can get her to put on clean sheets."
Ezra looked at his young friend, aghast. He smirked, bitterly. "Mistah Dunne, you will do no such of a thing. What you will do is go to mah room and retrieve the extra quilt and set of sheets in mah wardrobe. After Miss Maude," he said, giving the name extra emphasis, "puts the new sheets on the … bed," he said, another involuntary shudder forcing its way through his body at the thought of what-all might be in that bed, "you will place the quilt over the sheet-covered bed, and then add mah sheets to the top. We will henceforth consider this mah donation to the runnin' of the boarding house."
"Seems extreme," Vin said.
"You would think so," Ezra said, his tone unmistakable in displaying how he felt about such a thing being said by the man who chose more often than not to sleep in his wagon where his bedding was likely cleaned less frequently than was his buckskin coat.
"I ain't said you can go," the healer said, the words sounding as though he was addressing Ezra, though his deep brown eyes glared into the light-colored and totally un-phased eyes of their leader. A series of 'Mistah Jackson', 'Nate' and Nathan' was heard as the four lawmen stood – or lay, as the case may be – firmly as one in support of the right thing to do.
"Oh, fine. But someone has to be with him at all times." They all agreed in varying ways to the contingency. "Vin, can you go fetch the wheelchair from … "
"I know where it is." The tracker left to perform the errand.
"It's pretty muddy out there. Don't know about the chair," J.D. said, having had experience riding in the chair and knowing how unreliable its steering was, even in good weather.
"Most of the way has boardwalk. You'll have to carry the chair across the road and alleys," Nathan suggested.
"I'll go get the bed set-up," J.D. offered.
"Mistah Dunne … "
"I'm headin' upstairs first," the young sheriff said as he went to retrieve the gambler's spare key from Inez.
"Thank you," Ezra called, the raised voice causing a breath-taking cough. As he finished, he suffered a jaw-cracking yawn. "Mah apologies."
Nathan turned to Ezra, but deciding that it was the tall blond's fault that he'd been put in this situation, turned to him instead and said, "Need you to listen up, Chris. Ezra just took some tea and he'll be falling asleep soon."
"Ah have not fallen asleep yet," the card sharp argued, annoyed at being ignored as though he wasn't in the room that he'd occupied these last days.
"He won't be awake for long," Nathan said to Chris, ignoring Ezra, "and there are instructions that need following."
"Nathan, Ah am sure … "
"I ain't kidding on this, Chris. These things need to be followed. He's not well, no matter how much he tells you he is."
"Haven't Ah just admitted to bein' ill?" Ezra asked softly. He could feel the tea working hard to put him back to sleep. At that moment, Vin came back in, rolling the wheelchair in front of him.
"How did you get that so fast?" Nathan asked.
"J.D. saw Tiny on his way. He brought it over from the livery."
"That's good. Now, about Ezra … " Nathan started again.
"We'll take care of him. We're gonna have to bundle him up good for the trip over. It's cold and wet and windy," Chris said.
"Gentlemen, Ah must insist on bein' acknowledged in this conversation." They had thought he had dozed off, but the softly spoken but insistent demand said otherwise.
"When ya get him over there, you need to make sure he gets out of his wet clothes quick and next to some warmth."
"Lucky Buck has one of the rooms with a fireplace."
"You need to watch his urine." Vin snickered at the instruction, whether because Ezra needed to have it checked, or because Chris was being given such an instruction, was not clear.
"How very juvenile of you, Mistah … " Ezra yawned and then finished, " Tanner."
Vin grabbed Ezra's jacket and headed to the bed. "Best get you all 'bundled up' before you fall asleep."
"Ah will require clothes b'fore Ah put on mah coat," Ezra insisted as his head lolled on his neck. He blinked his eyes, but they were staying mostly closed now.
Nathan continued talking with Chris, only more quietly so as not to agitate the gambler any more. "His urine still had blood in it last we checked."
"Nathan, good lord, must … we … discuss … " Ezra never finished the thought as he fell asleep.
"Shit," Vin said.
Chris and Nathan looked over, and both agreed in the same manner. "Shit," said one, "Damn," the other.
"All right. Let's get this done," Chris demanded.
"Mr. Jackson, I have Mrs. Irons here," Gloria Potter said as she walked a ready-to-burst Helen Irons into the room.
Vin and Chris shared a look of their own. Neither would call it scared or frightened, at least they sure as hell wouldn't admit to it. They rushed to get the gambler ready and had him out the door just as Frances Mannion showed up, holding tight to her husband's arm on one side, Josiah Sanchez's on the other. They shared a relieved chuckle at their good fortune as they rolled Ezra to the edge of the boardwalk. They picked up the chair, each grabbing hold under the seat, near the con man's knees, and also grasped the back of the seat, where the back actually met the seat. They carried it over the muddy ground to the next section of boardwalk. They were forced to perform this task five more times. The last one required them to carry the chair a much longer distance than just the width of an alley, as Miss Maude's place was to the far edge of the town, as the street widened to accommodate the more sparsely populated area on the way out of Four Corners.
The door to Buck's room was open, the warmth from the fireplace obvious.
"Nice job, J.D.," Chris said.
"I got some towels and a clean nightshirt, and two blankets warming by the fire."
Vin and Chris looked dumbfounded.
"Don't need Nathan getting mad at us. You know how angry he was last time Ezra got real sick." They had all managed to miss the signs the last time Ezra had developed a cough, and it had put the man far too close to lung fever than any of them ever wanted to see again.
"Nope. Don't need that," Vin agreed with a warm smile.
The three men spent the next while getting Ezra dried off, dressed appropriately for bed, and under warm covers. And they were grateful to do it, as it kept them from the back room of the saloon, where Nathan, Josiah, Mrs. Potter and some of the other ladies of the town were working through two women going through labor at the same time. It felt good to be on the other side of town, even if they did have to check the color of the urine after the gambler relieved himself. Once they were sure Ezra was settled in and would sleep for a while, Chris left J.D. and Vin with the healing man as he headed out for assorted refreshments for each of them.
Josiah Sanchez entered the room the gambler now called home. It was Buck's room, but J.D. had done a job on it, clearing out all of the 'presents' from his female visitors. He'd made so much room that there was now space for a small table and four chairs, which is where Josiah found Vin, Buck and Chris, playing cards, drinking whiskey and snacking on tortillas, beans and a cheese and green chili confection Inez called 'queso'. The preacher headed toward Ezra, but not before a detour to try a corn tortilla with some of both toppings.
"Delicious," he said as he stopped in front of Ezra in the bed. He saw some moisture on the man's forehead. "Hmm … " he added.
"Such is mah life, Josiah. Ah run hot and cold."
"Seems to me there's only one temperature with you, Ezra," Vin suggested.
"And what would that be?" Ezra queried. He looked up to Josiah. "Could you help me to sit up, please?"
"Boilin'," Chris answered for Vin.
"Ah … will … " Ezra started, grunting in between efforts to sit himself up. "Take that … as a complement," he finished.
Chris snorted, as did Vin. Buck said, "Reckon that's the only way you can, hoss."
"What are all of you gen'lemen doin' heah?" Ezra asked, his accent thick with weariness. "How long have Ah been asleep?'
"Near six hours," Vin answered.
"Really?" Ezra was not happy. What the hell was wrong with him? He'd felt better yesterday than he did today, but he wasn't going to admit that to anyone.
"You got a fever," Chris said, as though that was all that was needed to explain why he'd slept the afternoon away.
"Ah always get a fever," the gambler said.
"Nathan hoped you wouldn't this time," Josiah said as he grabbed another tortilla.
"Yes, well, as Mistah Pope famously said, 'hope springs eternal'." Ezra sniffed the air. "What is that tantalizing aroma?"
"Inez sent some vittles over," Vin answered as he took a huge bite of his stuffed tortilla.
"Vittles?" Ezra asked. He'd never actually heard anyone say that, though if he was going to hear it, he wasn't surprised to hear it tripping off Vin Tanner's tongue.
"Yeah. Tortillas, beans and this nice cheese sauce," Vin explained.
"Queso? The lovely senorita made queso?" Ezra asked.
"Ya hungry?" Chris asked.
"I could eat," Ezra answered. He saw what appeared to be a wistful smile briefly skitter across Buck's face. Chris made him a portion and handed it over, on a napkin. Buck took it and gave it to the healing man. "Is everything all right, Buck?" the observant man asked.
Chris looked up to see what would have prompted Ezra to ask such a question. Buck answered, "Of course. The question is, how are you feeling?" It was Buck's way of diverting attention from himself, and Ezra accepted it. As Chris finally looked away, Buck sent Ezra a wink, and with it, a promise to talk to him about what really was bothering him some other time, in private.
Ezra refrained from answering Buck's question. Instead, he took a bite of what he'd been handed and chewed, savoring the smoky aspects of the beans, and rich creaminess of the queso, and the earthy corn bits in Inez's tortilla recipe. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the flavors and the textures. It was just perfect, exactly what he would have asked for; Inez knew him well. He finished his first tortilla, the others' worry over his fever dampened because he still had an appetite. He asked, "What of Missus Irons and Missus Mannion?"
Josiah shook his head. "I'm only here because Nathan wanted me to check on you. He'll be happy with my update." He looked to Ezra, a promise to keep the fever news from Nathan, unless it should become something more. "Both mothers-to-be are heavy into labor." He looked around the room. "Don't suppose any of you would want to come and spell Nathan for a while?" he asked.
"Now, you know what they say, Josiah," Buck answered. "Too many cooks can spoil the soup." The rest of them, save Ezra, kept their heads into their hand of cards, the poker game continuing on as they ate.
"I think it's broth, brother. So I take it the answer is no?"
Nobody replied, so Ezra answered for them. "Ah believe the consensus is no, Mistah Sanchez."
"Ah trust that the … blessed events take place swiftly. Does our fine healer expect these labors to go on for very long?" Ezra asked. Now that he was removed from all of the action, he had no qualms about discussing the details; he knew they would never get to the down and dirty of what was transpiring over at the saloon.
"First time for each. Gloria says her first went near twenty hours," Josiah noted.
"Twenty hours?" Vin asked, whistling and then shaking his head.
"Well," Josiah said as he prepared an overstuffed tortilla for the road. Everyone smiled at the creation. He lifted the tortilla up and said, "As that fine poet William Shakespeare said, in the guise of King Henry the Fifth, 'Once more unto the breach,' … " he paused and then added, "so to speak." With that, he opened the door and left.
"Whew," Buck said. "Don't know how many of those bullets we can dodge."
"Maybe we'll get lucky and things'll pick up in there," Vin said hopefully.
"Don't count on it," Chris said.
Buck's eyes went wide at a shared memory. "He speaks from experience," is all he said. Nobody pushed for any more of the story, and no more was offered.
"Mistah Larabee," Ezra said, interrupting the blond's musings into his past, "could Ah bother you for another of those delectable tortillas? Ah do not require mine to be as overflowin' as Josiah's." They all laughed. Chris obliged the con man with more food as more eating and drinking went on. It was a testament to how not quite up to snuff Ezra was feeling that when he was ready for a drink, he simply asked for a glass of water and not some of the rotgut left in the soon-to-be empty bottle.
"So, Ez, you got any New Year's resolutions?" Buck asked.
"Ah b'lieve mah primary goal this next yeah is to keep mah person in one piece. Ah must admit, this body is growing weary of the weah and teah," he admitted as he looked at his tortilla, not sure if he still had the appetite to complete it.
"That would be one of mine, too, Ez," Vin agreed. Ezra tipped an imaginary hat to his friend. They smiled at one another, and weariness seemed to peel away from the gambler, like magic. He was so lucky to have such friends, who cared so deeply to say such things to him, out loud, in front of others. His life had never held such relationships before he'd made his appearance in Four Corners those three years before. He couldn't imagine the loss he would feel if he no longer enjoyed their company. And that would be a resolution he would have for the new year: keeping their company. They didn't need to know it, hear it verbalized, but he would be sure to make sure they knew it, someway.
"And you, Mistah Wilmington? What do you wish to accomplish in the new yeah?"
"Well, I don't rightly know. I know that I like this," he said, nodding his head as though encompassing everything within the room – everyone within the room – and those important to him who were now in the back room of the saloon, or taking a turn at patrolling the town. "I want to make sure I still have this, no matter what," he said, looking Ezra in the eyes. Buck was getting better and better at saying things without speaking them. Ezra had to remember that he and Buck had a conversation yet to complete; the con man had said something a while back that had bothered the ladies' man. But since they both had similar resolutions – one spoken, the other one not but no less heartfelt – they would have time for that talk … in the new year.
"Chris, what about you?" Buck asked. He knew it was like stepping foot into … well, he would used to have said quicksand. Talking to Chris Larabee about the past or the future usually was asking for a punch … or a bullet, depending on how much he'd imbibed that day. It was telling that of the three of them sitting in Ezra's … er, Buck's room, minding Ezra, that Chris had drunk the least amount of the bottle of whiskey ... by just a hair. It said a lot about how far Chris had come.
"You know I don't make resolutions, Buck. I figure you just live day by day."
"It is not a bad philosophy, Chris," Ezra said. He finished the last bite of his tortilla and lay back comfortably to listen to his friends.
Chris shrugged. He decided that Ezra was right, but he also, like Vin and Buck, and even Ezra, who said more about his plans for the year and where he would be by saying nothing at all, wanted these men - who he cared about so much – he wanted them to know that they meant more to him than he could ever have thought, could ever have hoped for. So he said so … in a round about way.
"I figure my New Year's resolution is about the same as I spent this year, maybe with one or two fewer bullet holes." He received warm, knowing smiles from his three companions. They all four of them raised their glasses. Fewer bullet holes? They could all raise a toast to that.
"You realize it is bad luck for me to raise mah glass with just water," Ezra told his friends.
"Nice try, ace," Buck laughed.
As they all laughed, enjoying the camaraderie of good friends, bad liquor and tepid water, they heard J.D. Dunne yelling outside of the building. They couldn't tell what he was saying, but the racket was getting closer, so they would soon know what the brouhaha was all about.
The doorknob was grabbed and turned and the door pushed open with enthusiasm. He breathed in and out, clearly having rushed to get there. He panted, pointed back down the avenue to the other side of town, swallowed, breathed in again. He pointed back again toward the saloon.
"Gentlemen, maybe Mistah Dunne could use a glass of water?"
"No, Ez," he said, breathing heavily. "I'm okay."
"You got somethin' to tell us?" Vin asked with a wicked grin. All the rest of them joined in on the fun, already pretty sure what J.D. had to tell them.
"Yeah. They had 'em."
"They had 'em?" Ezra mimicked. "Is that any way to announce … "
"Mrs. Irons had a boy and Mrs. Mannion had a girl. About five minutes apart."
"Well, hell, boy!" Buck said as he poured a shot glass of the redeye for his friend.
"Ah believe this moment calls for a toast. A New Year's toast, a few days early. Gentlemen," Ezra said as he encouraged all of his friends present to raise their glass, "To the end of the year, not the best in every way, but certainly worth note in that we are all still heah, and our dusty burg continues to thrive, this day two tiny citizens larger than it was the day before. And to a New Year, filled with happiness."
"And good health," Nathan said as he stepped in, followed by Josiah.
"Ah will drink … water, to that," Ezra returned. "Happy New Year!"
'Happy New Year' was heard from one and all over the clinking of glass on glass.