January 29, 2005

Is there never anything good to read on Saturdays?

OK, so, no one blogs on Saturdays, right? Well, how about a bit of original fiction? Here is a quick short story I penned this morning from an idea I got on a drive to and from Abilene yesterday on a trip I took to take care of some family business. It is, as yet, untitled, so suggestions are appreciated.

Snakedance - by Terence A. (Tiger) Russell

"Dolt" was the term Jesse used to refer to Billy Wilson. He referred to Billy Wilson often. Billy was the older brother of his girl, Sarah Wilson, and, akin to Mary's lamb, where Sarah went, Billy was soon to follow. Jesse loved to spend time with Sarah, but hated having Billy constantly under foot.

Billy was a big boy, six-foot two inches tall, and weighing in at 220. A full head of never-combed rusty red hair topped a round smiling face and a pair of twinkling gray eyes. Being addle-pated as he was, he was unaware of his own strength. Often, he knocked the wind out of a man with a mere friendly slap on the back. How often Jesse had experienced that distinct pleasure.

Billy imagined himself to be a comedian and was too often coming up with the most inane jokes. When revealing the punch line, so as to emphasize the point, Billy would lift his leg, stomp it strongly upon the ground, and pound the back of the person nearest to him. All too often, that person happened to be Jesse.

"Hey, Dolt!" Jesse yelled to Billy, as he loped up the lane to meet him.

"Hey, Jesse," Billy replied, breathlessly as he neared. "Comin' to visit with Sarah?"

"Yeah, I am, Dolt, so buzz off, for once, won't ya?"

"But don't you want to hear a joke, Jesse? I made up a new one today. It is really funny."

"No, Billy," Jesse replied, "I don't want to hear one of your stupid jokes. Now go away."

"Oh leave him alone, Jesse," Sarah said as she crossed from the clothesline, 20 feet from the lane to Jesse's right. "You really ought to be nicer to him if you are planning on his being your brother-in-law, you know?"

"Yes, and he might be the uncle to our children, too, if we could ever find some time to be alone to make some."

"Shh! Jesse!" she retorted. "It's vulgar to talk aloud of such things."

"Jesse's talking vulgar, Jesse's talking vulgar!" Billy began to chant.

"Shut up, Dolt!" Jesse said, glaring at Billy.

Sarah huffed. "OK. That's the last straw, Jesse Johnson." She paused, taking a deep breath. "I am through with you for today. Just go on home."

"But, Sarah, sweetie. Billy knows I don't mean anything by it, don't you, Billy?"

"Yeah, Jesse," Billy replied, "It's all in fun, right?" he continued, slapping Jesse heartily on the back.

"Yes, it's all in fun, Billy," Jesse grunted, trying to catch his breath, in response.

"No matter," Sarah continued. "I have had enough of your continual derision of my dear brother Billy, and until you think up some way to make it up to him, don't come back." Without waiting for his response, she spun on her heels and went back to her chore.

"See what you did?" Jesse said to Billy, as he stood in the middle of the lane, toeing a dimple in its pale yellow dirt surface. "You done got Sarah riled at me."

"So, do you want to hear my joke now?" Billy asked, "Huh, do you?"

"No, I don't!" Jesse said sharply. He turned and began to amble off down the lane to his home place over the far ridge.

For three days, Jesse brooded. He would walk far enough to reach the trees bordering the Wilson place, where, unseen, he could watch Sarah walk to and fro, feeding the chickens, seeing to the livestock, and tending to the garden. Of course, Billy, as always, cheerfully dogged her every step.

Nothing ever came to his mind, though. All he wanted was some way to get Billy out of his way so that he could court Sarah. It seemed impossible. Jesse wondered if he should just give up on Sarah.

These thoughts were going through his mind that third afternoon, as he wandered among the trees at the edge of the Wilson place, following the little clear brook that trickled along its course through that thick copse of willow shoots. He had a long stick in hand, using it to prod among the shadows under bushy clumps and to overturn large rocks to examine what might be found beneath them. He was so deep in thought that he had not heard Billy's approach.

"Hi Jesse!" Billy said from directly behind him.

Startled, Jesse stood straight up, striking the crown of is head on Billy's chin. "Ouch!" he exclaimed. "Billy, you dolt! Where'd you come from?"

"Where ya been, Jesse? I been looking for you. Wanna hear my joke?"

"Not right now, Billy. I'm busy."

"What are ya doing, Jesse?"

"Hunting rattlesnakes."

"Oh, can I hunt rattlesnakes with you, Jesse?"

"You can't hunt rattlesnakes with someone else, Billy. Don't you know that? Rattlesnake hunting is a one man operation. The snakes won't come out if they see two people, so it is impossible to catch them if more'n one person is doin' the huntin'."

"Oh. OK. But I sure would like to learn to hunt rattlesnakes, Jesse. Maybe you could come over to the house later and teach me to do it."

"Do you think it would be all right with Sarah?"

"Oh, yeah. Sarah has been watching for you. I think she would like for you to come, especially if she knew you were coming to see me and teach me to hunt rattlesnakes."

"It's a deal, Billy! I'll be over later and I will bring you your own personal rattlesnake hunting kit and tell you everything you need to know about hunting rattlesnakes if you'll fix it where Sarah ain't mad at me anymore."

Whop! Billy gleefully slapped Jesse on the back. "Deal! See ya later." Billy turned and began to skip off toward home singing to himself, "I'm gonna learn to hunt rattlesnakes, I'm gonna learn to hunt rattlesnakes..."

Jesse searched the ground for a few minutes for the perfect stick, and, finding it, trotted off toward home. He quickly arrived there, darted toward the barn, and took one of several empty burlap feed sacks hanging over the rail in the stable, before turning to run back up the lane toward the Wilson farm.

As he crossed the last rise and was in sight of the Wilson house, Jesse could see Billy standing in the small yard that fronted the house, looking his way, jumping up and down, and yelling at the top of his lungs, "Here he comes, here he comes!"

"Hey Billy!" Jesse said, as he slowed to walk the last few steps into the yard. "Here's your rattlesnake hunting kit. I think this stick is the right length for you, and this is a good sack to put the snakes in." He proffered the sack and stick to Billy, who eager took possession of the items.

"Teach me to hunt rattlesnakes, Jesse, won't ya, huh? Huh?" Billy insisted.

"Nothin' to it, Billy. It don't take a genius. You just use the stick to prod around in the shadows and to flip over rocks. If you find a rattlesnake, you just use the stick to pick it up and put it in the sack. If the snake rattles its tail, it is thinking of biting you, so be careful. If they bite you, you can die, so try not to get bit. You understand that, don't you, Billy?"

"Yeah, I understand. Kinda like not bein' sprayed by a skunk, right?"

"Worse, Billy. You can eventually get rid of the skunk stink, but once you are dead, it is forever."

"Yeah, like when our old dog Coalie died, right?"

"Like that, Billy. Come to think of it, maybe you are too simple to be huntin' rattlesnakes. You better give me back that snake hunting kit," Jesse said, reaching out to take back the items.

Billy hugged the stick and sack to his chest and screamed, "No! I can do it! Don't be an Indian-giver, Jesse, please?" Billy began to cry.

"OK, Billy. I'm sorry. Just be careful, OK? I don't think Sarah will never forgive me if I let anything bad happen to you."

"I'll be careful, Jesse!" Billy exclaimed gleefully as he began to quickly amble away, holding his stick and bag aloft. "I'll be the best rattlesnake hunter you ever seen, you just wait and see!"

"I bet you will, Billy, I bet you will!" Jesse replied as Billy moved farther and farther away. "Good hunting."

Sarah had watched the entire scene from the porch. She approached Jesse as Billy moved father into the distance. "He'll be OK, won't he?"

"Yeah! I think so," Jesse said, as he reached for her hand. "Those snakes'll likely head for cover when they see him coming."

"I knew you'd come up with something. I always knew you had a pretty good head on your shoulders."

"Let's go sit on that porch swing and hold hands until the sun goes down."

"Let's," replied Sarah, her cheeks swelling slightly, as they pinkened.

Remarkably, the two of them were able to peacefully feast upon each other's company, without Billy's continual interference for an hour and a half. Jesse had been unaware of the passage of time as he gazed into the deep blue eyes of Sarah during their talk of their future life together.

"Are you going to stay over for supper, Jesse?" he heard Mrs. Wilson ask. He had not heard her approach.

"I guess I could, Mrs. Wilson, but I'll have to call and check," he replied.

"That'll be fine. You know where the phone is ... say, where's Billy?"

"He's off somewhere hunting snakes, Ma! Jesse gave him a stick and a toe-sack and told him it was a rattlesnake hunting kit, and Billy giddily ambled off in search of his prey. We ain't seen hide nor hair of him since."

"Ain't like that boy to wander off by himself like that," she muttered. "Billy!" she yelled through cupped hands into the distance. "Supper'll be ready soon, boy. You be gettin' home now!" She turned and walked back toward the door muttering to herself, "I guess that boy is finally growing up. Never ever went off like that before, no by himself," then eyeing Jesse, who had yet moved off the porch swing, "Boy, if you are planning on staying over for supper, you had better be getting to that phone!"

"Yes, ma'am," Jesse said, rising and following the woman into the house. The aroma of fried chicken permeated the home's interior. "It sure smells delicious, Mrs. Wilson."

"Thanks! I hope it is." She turned back into the kitchen. Jesse did not follow her down the hallway toward the kitchen door, stopping instead at the little alcove in the wall where the phone was placed. He lifted the receiver and dialed the number.

Following a short conversation, his mother quickly acceded to his decision to eat at the Wilson's. "You're now 20 and practically a full-grown man," she said. "I ‘spect soon that Sarah will be fixing all your meals, anyway, so I might as well get used to setting an empty plate at your place at the table."

He returned to the porch just as Billy was arriving from wherever he had been. He was climbing the steps onto the porch just as Jesse was exiting the door to the house. Billy tossed the sack to the surface of the porch with a soft thud at Jesse's feet.

"Already got four of ‘em, Jesse. Them rattlesnakes ain't so hard to catch."

Posted by Tiger at January 29, 2005 01:20 PM | TrackBack

Hmmm...how about "Rattlesnakes"? Or "A Sack of Snakes"?


Posted by: Denita TwoDragons at January 29, 2005 02:40 PM

Not being intimate with the exact details of rattlesnakes, I could be mistaken but I got the impression that he wasn't supposed to actually catch any...

Personally I wouldn't be trying to catch any because of something that happened when I was a kid... maybe I should post that story.

Posted by: Ozguru at February 2, 2005 02:27 PM