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Beef

March 20, 2013 1 comment

“Carl!”

Carl knew Michael wasn’t in good enough shape to waste precious breath to yell at him. The man was a little heavier and did not run unless he was chased.

Like they were being chased now.

Carl turned to look back over his shoulder, but his cousin wasn’t there. The only thing he could see was a large black mass crashing through the grass towards them.

The two men had both turned eighteen in the last month of high school. After graduation, their fathers had demanded that they get summer jobs and save up some money before starting college.

But that was not so easy in the little, rural town they had moved to. This red-neck, racist, back-water was horrible. It didn’t matter that they had both been born in Texas. It didn’t matter that Michael’s dad was from Hawaii and had come here to write computer software. It really didn’t matter that Carl’s father was a lawyer in the city and hour away.

Both boys looked Hispanic and that they had come into this cliché filled school for their senior year. Almost nobody wanted them around and most days, they heard someone call them a filthy beaner.

What mattered to them, both of them, was that they would only be here for three more months.

They hadn’t found jobs, nobody would hire them. Even the adults thought of them as outsiders. So they had given up.

That had been a mistake. When Michael’s father found out they had quit job hunting, he had went off the deep end. The parents agreed that the boys had to keep looking but that they would lose their cars until they could pay their own gas.

Josh Barnes, one of the only decent people in the piss-hole high school had told Carl about a farmer who needed help putting up hay. “its hard work, but he won’t care who you are if you work hard.”

They had walked two miles to get to the place. They could see the house, way off in the distance form the road, and Michael spat on the ground. “I don’t see a drive way.”

“Has to be one somewhere.”

“Yeah, on the other side of the fucking farm.”

Carl wiped sweat out of his eyes. “Well, either we walk around and find it or we turn around, listen to our dad’s bitch and continue not having cars.”

“We could cut through. It’s just a big field.”

Crossing the farm was a bad idea. Carl thought it was like cutting across someone’s yard. Most people would yell at you, but out here in bumble-fuck Indiana, there was a good chance of getting shot it.

“No, we need to go around”

“Why?”

“You want shot at?”

“Some old farmer isn’t going to shot at us for walking up to his house.”

Carl shook his head. “Then who else would shoot at us for walking through a field?”

Michael started climbing over the fence. “Stop being a pussy and come on. I want my car back.”

The grass was tall and golden. The wind made it look like an ocean with waves rolling across it as they made their way towards the farm.

“Look at the cows.” Carl said as they got closer to the buildings.

“You want to try tipping one or you wanting to pet one?”

“Screw you.”

They kept going, and as they got closer the animals noticed them. A few of the smaller ones ran away from them, but one headed in their direction.

“Good lord that is a big fucking cow.” Michael said. “That thing is freaking huge.”

“I don’t think that is a cow.”

“Ok Farmer Brown, then that is a big fucking bull.”

Carl shook his head and watched the big, black animal come closer. “You don’t think that thing is dangerous do you?”

“I doubt a walking hamburger is dangerous when it doesn’t have horns. That isn’t like a Texas Longhorn.”

The bull had come up to them and bellowed, which made them both stop walking. It snorted once, and then started running towards them.

Michael stood still for a second before he turned to Carl. “Shit!”

Carl, was already turning to run.

The sun was hot, it beat down on them as they walked to the farm, but now the breeze had kept him cool. Now that Carl was running for the road, he felt the heat of the summer air in his lungs, and the breeze wasn’t helping at all. Hot, humid air felt thick as he tried to breathe. Pain started up his side but to stop meant getting run over by a ton of beef. He wasn’t stopping for anything.

Until Michael yelled.

The bull was closer, making Carl think of a freight train as it pounded towards them. They couldn’t hope to get to the road. The field was huge and they had walked a long way to get here. There was no way.

Michael picked himself up and charged at Carl, every bit as frantic to catch back up to his cousin as the bull was to catch the both of them. Carl didn’t wait for him. He had not slowed much when he turned to look and now that Michael was back on his feet there was no reason to slow down.

They ran on, giving it there all. For a moment, Carl thought they might make it, that perhaps the animal just wanted to chase them out of the field. He could still hear Michael’s panting right behind him.

He could also hear the bull.

The hole in the field was small. It could have been the former home of a snake or maybe a rat. Carl could not feel the toe of his shoe go into it when he stepped down, but the sudden change in altitude caused him to turn his ankle. His foot caught, and he sprawled forward in the grass. Michael passed him in a second. Then, he felt the ground shake as the bull charged past after the boy that it could still see running away.

Carl rose up and tested his ankle. He couldn’t put weight on it but he didn’t think it was broken. His cousin and the bull were ahead of him and from where he stood he could see the beast catching up to its target.

Michael screamed when the animal made contact. A couple of thousand pounds of steak butted the boy’s legs with its nose. Michael went down in a tangled pile, followed by the bull pounding down with its feet as it wheeled and came to a stop.

Carl watched as the bull bounced the front of its body up into the air with a short hop so that it could smash its head down with greater force. He couldn’t see his cousin’s body, but Michael screamed as the bull crashed down, and then repeated the action. The animal pushed and rubbed its head on the ground, causing quieter screams each time. Over and over, the bull would back up a step and raise up to get enough distance to smash its head back down, but after a minute, the only sound Carl heard was its snorting breath.

Carl sat down, pulled his knees to his chest and prayed that the bull wasn’t smart enough to remember that there had been two boys in the field.

He started praying out loud when he felt a snort of hot air on the side of his head.

***

Sam perked up and looked toward the field. He growled and rose to his feet, then barked once.

Mike stopped hammering as he turned to look at his dog. “You hear something buddy?”

Sam looked at him, and then looked back towards the house and the field beyond it.

“You just stay with me. I’m sure the cats won’t eat whatever it is that Amy just scrapped into your bowl before I’m done.”

The hammer hit the nail a few more time, and then Mike moved back to the four-wheeler to drop his tool into the bucket on the back. As he stood admiring his work, his stomach growled to remind the old farmer how long it had been since breakfast.

“Alright, let’s go get some dinner.”

He mounted his ride, reached down and scratched the dogs ears, then headed back for lunch. Leaving his new “Beware of Bull” sign on a fence post at the end of his driveway.

~  End ~

We install my big project at work this weekend. Wish me luck.

L. E. White

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Categories: Horror

Misleading

March 13, 2013 5 comments

With every stroke, I could feel pressure building. Each motion of my hand brought my task closer to completion.

“Can you feel it?” My wife asked as she watched.

“Yeah.”

“I think you need more oil.”

I didn’t answer, opting to nod as I kept up the steady rhythm that had proven so effective in the past.

She leaned forward, extending one tentative hand toward me until she could dribble oil around the shaft. She stared with fascination from under heavy lids. I watched her watch, focusing on her expression as I listened to the sound of her shallow breaths from between lips parted in excitement.

The oil did its job, making movement easier, but in the process, I felt the change in friction, a sudden freedom of movement that meant the doom of our endeavor.

When I let go she asked, “Why did you stop?” The expression of disappointment on her face would have been comical if I had not been looking at it through lenses fogged over with frustration.

“The oil broke the vacuum seal. Now we don’t have any pressure.”

My girl made an inarticulate sound that was miles from gentle or dainty as she rose up from her kneeling position and stepped away.

“Sorry Sweetheart.”

“Why can’t we get this damned fish tank to prime?” She slammed the tiny oil can down on the table, causing a few drops to shoot up out of the top. “My fish tank can’t go without the filter for much longer. We have to get this working and I’m tired. I just want to go to bed.”

“I would love too, but as far as I know, pumping that little thing is the only way to prime the motor. Until that works, your tank won’t.”

If looks could kill I would have been so dead they would need to bury me twice. Her glare was both hot and cold and I held my hands up in surrender to try to avoid her wrath.

She stomped back to her tiny reef and grabbed the plunger, preparing to keep going. Any other plans, mundane or marital, would have to wait until the aquatic denizens of our home were guaranteed a fresh bowl.

*****

I drove to Cleveland and back this last weekend. A last-minute road trip to take my wife to visit our oldest child.

I love my family, but driving to visit takes a lot of the joy out of the visit. Our six and one half hour, one way, trip took over eight hours each time. This doesn’t include stopping to use the restroom or get food. This is just on the road time.

I have three words to explain this. Road Construction Sucks.

I am tired and that is all you get this week. I promise something scary next time.

L. E. White

Categories: Random, Uncategorized

Prompted

March 6, 2013 2 comments

I received a request for a story from Marilyn Parel (@mparel) on twitter a little while ago. I responded by asking for a prompt. This is what I was given.

“As I looked into his eyes, my soul fled my body.”

I couldn’t ignore that, besides, that is a really good line.

So here it is; my response to that prompt, and I only changed one word. I hope you enjoy, “Silence”.

Silence

Shelly watched Mark move around the room, doing his best to make it pretty for her. He changed the flowers, swapping out the dead roses from Valentine’s Day for a set of Lilly’s that were pink and white. The soft smell spread through the air and tickled her nose as the minutes ticked by and the fresh aroma won an air-born war against the dying flowers.

He straightened the blankets, tucking the edges down with as much military precision as he could when she was still in the bed. It wasn’t right, but he tried, because that was how she liked it.

These things and a million other little actions were how he started every day. Coming in and moving the room around so that she wouldn’t get bored. A difficult task in a long-term hospice.

What meant the most to her was that he tried.

He lowered himself down to the chair beside the bed, reaching out and taking her gnarled hand in his own. “Your hands are so cold,” he said as he began to rub them. “I may have to turn up the heat a bit before I leave.”

Don’t leave me, she thought, please don’t, but she hadn’t managed to speak in months. The stroke had stolen her body from her and all she could do was stare. She was lying, surrounded by pillows, watching her husband fuss and bustle, without being able to help.

Or speak.

Or cry.

No matter how much she wanted too.

Mark smiled down at her and started talking about the house. About the Dogs and cats and everything else he didn’t like taking care of, but that he wouldn’t get rid of since she loved them all.

“I swear, if I find one more pile on the floor I am gonna throw that little monster outside.”

No you won’t you crotchety old fart, she thought, you love that little dog and you just won’t admit it.

Mark stopped talking after a few minutes, just sitting quietly. Shelly watched his head nod as he nearly dozed off, despite having just woken up an hour ago or so. She wished he would crawl up into the bed and put his arm over her, like they had for the last forty years, but she knew he wouldn’t if she didn’t ask him to.

And she couldn’t ask him to.

“I am going to have to go,” he said, “I didn’t sleep very well last night and I would hate to have problems driving home. I will be back tonight so we can have dinner together.”

No, don’t leave yet.

He smiled down at Shelly, and began to sing. He could not sing. He never could. But one time, a long time ago, he had sung to her, a child’s song that he had started singing to her every day before he left.

“You are my sunshine”

Mark moved so that he was sure she could see his face.

“My only sunshine. You make me happy when skys are grey. …”

He paused, and Shelly watched Mark’s eyes widen as he slumped forward. He looked surprised, and she heard a tiny gasp before his head fell down on top of her leg.

She tried to scream for help. Her mind roared and if her body had followed suit, the windows would have rattled with the force of her scream.

But the windows didn’t shake, and her throat was not torn from the effort. Her husband died, and all she could do was watch the light in his eyes go out.

She felt the tear run down her cheek. The first thing she had felt in so very long. But that one sensation wasn’t worth the cost.

I want to die, she thought. I don’t want to spend another day in here without you.

She willed her heart to stop. Shelly, a woman who was never known for piety and prayer, begged god to take her life.

She would never know if her prayer had been answered, or if her force of will had been strong enough to stop her heart.

Or if grief was what did it.

Shelly felt her pulse slow down. She felt a chill rise up out of her body and felt her soul release its hold.

Shelly stood up, and since she hadn’t moved in such a long time, the first thing she did was stretch.

“What the hell?” She said as she looked down at the wrinkled shell, lying in the hospital bed. The shell that was holding her husband’s hand.

“Watch your mouth young lady.”

When she turned, it didn’t hurt her shoulder. She looked and could clearly see despite not having her glasses on.

Mark stood waiting beside the door. He was smirking at her like he always did when he teased her for cursing.

“You waited for me?”

“I waited for you. As soon as I was out of there, I could hear you. I promised to stay with you when they brought you in here. There was no way I was going to leave without you.”

“As I looked into your eyes, my soul fled my body. I felt it.”

He nodded, extended his hand and wiggled his fingers. “Come on sweetheart, time for us to go.”

Categories: Random