One True Path
(Little Ezra - Old West)
Disclaimer: I don't own them, or the show they rode in on. I wrote this for fun, and no profit is made from it.
Archive: Twyla's Very Simple Magnificent Seven Page, Starwinder's, You Want Fries With That?, and The All-Ezra FanFic Archive --- all others, please ask. Some of these stories were posted originally on the Ezra's Littleverse list, and hence also on its archive.
Summary: Two philosophers.
Warnings: Ezra is a little boy, all the rest of the Seven are their adult selves.
Author's Note: Dear Reader, there stories are listed as they were written rather than in a timeline of the series itself. I am writing as the mood strikes and fitting in my small pieces helter-skelter. If the series is ever completed, I shall attempt a timeline for the stories. For now, as I publish, I shall try to note if the story doesn't follow sequentially with the preceding ones.
Completed: 20 January 2003
Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org welcomes comments
Back to: Aim High
Josiah Sanchez watched surreptitiously as Ezra rubbed the small bronze cross, a cross that the sisters had given Josiah on his last visit to see Hannah. It had its own base so he kept it on the cloth covered plank that served as an altar of sorts in the rundown church he was restoring.
When Chris had to take a three-day trip to Eagle Bend, to testify in the Hooper trial, Josiah had volunteered to watch Ezra. The boy could have stayed with Gloria Potter and her two children. That was the problem, though - Ezra simply didn't get on well with other children. None of the Six had been able to figure out why, and the boy was close mouthed to the point of silence on the subject. So, Josiah had sworn to Chris Larabee that he would not drink more than one beer a night while he had Ezra in his keeping.
Made for a dry spell. The ex-preacher chuckled quietly as he continued to rub walnut oil into the second pew's newly sanded wood grain. His fingers were dark with the greasy substance, but Jeffrey Holcombe, the undertaker these days, swore that it really did a treat on raw wood. He could see the definition of the grain now, dark stain seeping into the porous surface, and a sweet gleam from the oil. Very nice. He sat back to admire the effect only to find Ezra hanging over the front pew, quietly observing from where he knelt on the pew seat.
"Looks good, hum?" Josiah gave the treated area a swipe with the soft flannel cloth he was using. The sheen seemed to glow in the dim lighting.
"Yes." Ezra leaned forward and reached out one hand to delicately touch and stroke the wood. "It's beautiful." He looked up with what Josiah called his 'happy face', that is, a certain softening that made you think the boy might have a smile going inside.
"Like the souls of man and woman." Josiah liked to try out little bits of thought on Ezra. The boy was deeper than most of the rest realized, and the older man respected that. He waited for a reaction.
Ezra drew back and sat down on his heels, crossing his forearms on the rolled back of the pew's bench-like seat. He stared at the wood, then up at Josiah. "You think souls are beautiful?"
"Yes, Ezra, some are. Not all. I've seen too much evil to believe everyone has a beautiful soul. But, most do. Some just shine theirs up more than others."
"I've seen evil." Ezra looked away and up, to stare at the colored glass that Josiah had managed to acquire for one high window. The streamers of blue, red, and yellow light were like beacons of joy in the small, dark building. Or so Josiah liked to think. Ezra sighed, then turned back to Josiah and lowered his chin on his crossed arms.
When nothing more was said, Sanchez nodded. "I 'spect you have." He poured out a bit more oil and began to rub it into a new spot, breaking eye contact to give the boy room. He'd learned early on not to challenge the boy directly, he'd only withdraw. And questioning usually went unanswered, or was redirected with amazing finesse in one so young.
There was silence for a time. Then Ezra, who'd been contemplating evil and beautiful souls, asked, "Josiah? Do you think some souls might be hiding? Maybe look bad, but really be good, deep inside?"
Sanchez took a quick, deep breath. Oh, Lord, please guide me. He tried a slow smile. "There are many mysteries in life, Ezra. That might be one of them."
Dissatisfied with the vagueness of Mr. Sanchez's answer, Ezra shifted and gave a half-shrug. He really would like to know that his mamon would be safe, especially if Mr. Sanchez's god was the true one. In New Orleans, Madame Obigjeway had taken him behind the old stables at the Renoivoissiere Mansion. She was the cook there, but also a very powerful spirit guide. She'd shown him things, even done a ceremony for him, to give him a spirit name. She said the true way was buried deep in the roots of human spirit, that she'd known it from her Gramms who'd been a powerful priestess back in Africa. Before the slave traders had come. Madame entrusted Ezra with her secrets, not all of them, but enough for Ezra to know that the world had many secret places, secret layers that were unseen in day-to-day life. She'd said that Maude was a sly one, cunning as a rook, and mean as a snake. But that she was Ezra's mamon and as such, was to be honored. They'd had a ceremony to protect his mamon's soul from wicked spirits. He still wasn't sure how successful they'd been.
Mr. Tanner's friend Kojay was another spirit walker. He called Ezra the little coyote in an owl suit. Ezra didn't understand this but was glad that Kojay talked with him so seriously. He'd warned Ezra to beware of his nightbird and to listen with reservations to his trickster side. Vin had seemed very surprised and looked at Ezra differently after that. Kojay said Vin Tanner was a white buffalo spirit. Rare and courageous. Ezra wished he was a white buffalo spirit too. But he hadn't said anything. Kojay said all animal spirits were great in their own ways. I wonder if that means he thinks that they are beautiful? Are spirits souls? Ezra watched motes of dust dance in the colored light streams.
He looked back down at Mr. Sanchez who was polishing more of the wooden seat again. Mr. Sanchez was a kind man, except when he was drunk. Then he was a dangerous man. Ezra had seen that once so far since he'd been in Four Corners. It had been scary. Mr. Sanchez had woven his way across the street after knocking down two men and had bumped into Ezra who had been unable to dodge in time. He'd been watching pebbles drop into the watering trough and thought to hide behind it, when Josiah Sanchez burst from the saloon bellowing and knocking down the two cowboys who'd come out in a tumble in front of him. Frozen with shock, Ezra had shrunk against the trough, but then Josiah's big legs had staggered him to the water where he'd dunked his head and raised it blowing out water and air on another howl. That's when he'd tripped against the small boy's body where it huddled against the wooden watering spot. The man, who seemed like a giant to the boy, had looked down from his great height and wiped his mouth with one mighty paw. Blinked. Sighed. Dropped his shoulders which had been stiff and high in inebriated anger, and with a sad look, had turned away and stumbled off, muttering something about angels seen on high - and low.
So Ezra thought about souls and spirits and true ways. "Is there only one true way, Josiah?"
Sanchez stopped and hesitated. He called me Josiah. And asked me the hardest question in the world. "No, Ezra, I don't believe that. I do believe in the grace of a god, a great spirit, a oneness. I believe in a power of good, and one of evil, too. I've been many places, Ezra. Seen a lot. Met people who knew, knew that their way was the only way. Only, it was different from the ways of others, who equally knew, knew that their way was the only way. The one true way."
"So there are many true ways?" Ezra scratched at the tip of his nose and wrinkled it, then settled back on his forearms, staring at Josiah.
"Son, there are as many ways as souls to climb them. There is a true path for each of us, only it may be true for only you, not for any other."
"Then, you don't believe is religions?"
Josiah wondered how they had gotten here. The child seldom spoke, never volunteered information, and yet, somehow, they'd ended up in the deepest discussion of beliefs he'd ever had the honor to be part of. "Ezra, I do believe. It is the path I have chosen. But I've woven my path with the ways of several different beliefs. It's not for everyone. Maybe for no one else. But, it seems to be a compromise that I can live with. Go on with."
"And this place?" Ezra looked up at the new rafters.
"This church is a place to bring comfort to my friends and the folks of this town. It is my penance for things I regret. It gives my hands a purpose and," Josiah paused and really thought, earnestly, before continuing, "and, it fills my soul with simple beauty."
"So you do have a beautiful soul."
"I hope so, Ezra. A bit tarnished, but I'm working on polishing it." Josiah rubbed again at the wood, noticing how the shine seemed deeper now. He looked back up at the child. "And you, Ezra, you have a very beautiful soul, my child."
Green eyes blinked back at him. Nothing more was said.
Ezra thought about it all. He worried about his mamon. He knew that his six friends all had beautiful souls. Chris had a very big soul, Ezra was sure. Because it had room for Ezra in it. Now, he wondered, did owls and coyotes and white buffalo have souls? And, were they beautiful?
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